Thursday, June 30

Impressions of Shriek Show's new ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST Blu-ray

Instead of reiterating the same thoughts on this lovable piece of shit, here's a recap from this old entry about Paragon's VHS release: "I love how absolutely terrible this Italian schlock outing is, even by the usual Italian schlock standards. Girolami's film plays like a rip-off within a population of trashy trend rip-offs, like vomiting up pasta and then eating it again. Okay, perhaps that's a bad analogy. It's as if Fulci's Zombie had been filtered through cannibal flicks like Holocaust or Ferox with a generous dash of Martino's Mountain of the Cannibal God."

I've been waiting for this Blu-ray for quite some time. With Media Blasters BDs, patience is a virtue. It seems like many months ago now that I initially pre-ordered this one. After several missed dates, Amazon sent me an e-mail to verify if I still wanted to keep the pre-order. I did, but after more missed dates, I cancelled in frustration. Then I guess I must have pre-ordered the disc again because I totally forgot about it until a Monday shipping notice. Was the wait worth it?

Not particularly, but then again Media Blaster's releases (both Tokyo Shock & Shriek Show) on the high-def format have been racked with issues. Charges of standard definition upscales passed off as HD, actual shot-in-SD material passed off as HD (Machine Girl), video/audio glitches, framing quibbles, and most recently even missing opening footage on D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (Buio Omega) compared to their old DVD.

The 1.85:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC widescreen transfer is "adequate", but rarely ever looks high definition even by low budget early '80s standards. Colors are stable, objects on-screen appear more "solid", clarity is slightly improved, and impressively there's hardly any film damage. It's just that finer detail expected with the Blu-ray bump simply isn't there. There's some digital noise reduction, introducing some ghosting with fast motion and a sheening away of grain, yet it's not too obtrusive. There's rarely a moment when detail "pops" but even when it's not impressive. It doesn't help Girolami's camera is often out-of-focus, so there's many instances of random shots being downright blurry. The best portion is actually the last half hour, right around the time McCulloch destroys a zombie's face with a boat prop straight through to the credits. Although the difference is still slight.

My theory is that Media Blasters is utilizing the standard definition masters created for their old DVDs for their new Blu-rays. Basically we're seeing the best possible representation of their SD masters without the limitations of the DVD format and their shoddy authoring. Or just a much better version of their existing Zombie Holocaust DVD on the grounds of picture quality. Whether that's worth the upgrade is up to you. I've seen better pictures on regular 'ol DVD, but this is the best Zombie Holocaust "DVD" to date, if that makes sense.

The upside is that this presentation is fully uncut, like their DVD, running 1:24:05 (DVD runs 1:24:02). If you're a bitrate hound, no matter how murky or "kinda" sharp the picture gets, the AVC encode never drops below a surprisingly high 36 megabytes-per-second. This either means their encoder is incredibly inefficient or working double time to ensure the source is faithfully re-created. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track (locked at 1.6 Mbps) is as good as it's ever going to get.

Aside from the questionable "HD" treatment, the other story are the missing/new supplements. The fifteen minute interview with Roy Frumkes, director of American Doctor Butcher M.D. opening, is gone along with that opening sequence. Despite this, some of Frumke's on-set photos are included in the high-def Still Gallery. (as noted by Bruce in the comments, and checking the disc again, these extras are indeed on the Blu-ray, although Shriek Show's access to them is dumb) The VHS-quality deleted jungle trap scene is the only thing under "Extra Scenes from the US Version". Interestingly, there's Italian-text and textless opening/ending credits in the extras not found on the DVD. The Italian Zombi Holocaust trailer is in HD while the German and U.S. trailers are in SD. The included DVD is the same as the existing one, so you still get all the absent extras in this BD/DVD package (although the standalone DVD had a reversible Doctor Butcher M.D. cover and fold-out insert with notes from Chris Poggiali and filmographies).

Oh, and there's this one little mysterious binocular shot change...?!


DrunkethWizerd said...

Interesting to know. At least they included the old DVD.

Anthony1138 said...

I sold my Buio Omega DVD to upgrade to Blu-Ray, with the idea that at the very least the DVD will be included with the BD. I was iffy about Zombie Holocaust, because it's part of the Zombie Pack and it's not one of my favorite Euro Horrors. I'm glad I held off now. The DVD is just fine for me.

Craig Edwards said...

Once again - vital information to those on the fence - thanks for posting the skinny on this one, Jayson.

Lee Russell said...

Heh, such a terrible film. Now we can get an even sharper view of that dummy they throw off a building, in place of the character who commits suicide, where the arm can be seen to break off when it hits the ground. When they examine the body later on, the arm has magically reattached itself. Lovely stuff.

Jayson Kennedy said...

Here's a DVD vs. Blu-ray screenshot comparison (not by me), I'm still sticking to my assumption Shriek Show is using SD masters, there is clearly a difference between the DVD and BD, but it's more because their DVD sucked so badly.

bruce holecheck said...

All the supplements *are* included on the blu ray, they're just not labeled properly on the menu. If you watch the Maurizio Trani interview, the Frumkes interview plays afterwards, then comes the TALES TO TEAR YOUR HEART OUT footage. The GG piece about its NYC debut plays after the stills gallery, which is then followed by Chris Poggiali's liners.

Also, it's definitely a new transfer -- the alternate optical proves that. I thought the disc actually looked really good, and I've seen the film practically every way possible, including projected on 35mm.

Jayson Kennedy said...

Thanks for the info, Bruce, entry updated for my mistake! (SS could have done a better job of laying out what's on the disc)

I still don't think it looks that good. It very rarely has any natural looking grain structure with much of it dissolving into electronic noise. Though it's not as bad as BU's City of the Living Dead or Arrow's Tenebre Blu-rays.

I know many seem to want to settle for that under the whole "low budget can only look as good" perception, and that is true to a certain extent, but outside the color and a few more detailed shots, it looks like a really solid DVD without the artifacts when upscaling SD to HD. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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