Friday, October 19, 2012

Arrow's House By The Cemetery Blu ray

Arrow's blu ray release of Fulci's House By The Cemetery has been available since May, and Blue Underground's has been out for even longer, so why post about it now?

I ordered the Blue Underground version last Christmas time from Horror Movie Empire, during their infamous B.U sale, along with four other titles. Like many others who ordered from them, I am still waiting ten months later for either a refund or my discs, but that's another story! Anyway, I really wanted to watch the movie, and saw the Arrow version was reduced, so despite reviews suggesting the B.U disc was the better transfer I went for it.

Having never seen the B.U transfer I can't comment on it, but what I can say is the Arrow version is one of the worst examples of a blu ray I've seen. All the reviews I've read of the disc are quite favourable, and I just can't understand why. As an example the DVD Beaver comparison suggests the B.U transfer is "more robust" but doesn't criticise the Arrow version at all, indeed the screen caps on the link show only a subtle difference. This is a perfect example of how screen caps are not enough to judge the quality of a blu ray disc. When seen in motion the Arrow presentation is a real horror, far more terrifying than the murderous Dr. Freudstein in the movie! While I certainly wasn't expecting a reference quality disc, the least we should be able to expect from a blu ray is a "transparent" transfer of the best available elements. By transparent, I mean the disc should be free of visible faults introduced during the conversion from film to digital, so any faults that are there are down to the film itself, rather than the production of the disc.

A combination of video noise and truly awful video compression create an image that feels like it's alive, crawling with clumpy digital artefacts that just cannot be seen in a still shot. There are a number of possible reasons for this, the first and most obvious one is the video bitrate. As the DVD Beaver info shows the blu ray is a BD-50, yet the disc uses only around 30GB of the 50GB available, even worse the film itself uses only around 15GB. This makes absolutely zero sense, and makes me wonder if anyone even checked the encode prior to pressing the disc, so readily visible are the compression artefacts. There is simply no excuse when so much space is available on the disc. Another potential reason could be that the image has been tinkered with in regard to boosting contrast and brightness, making it appear that you can see a little more detail but instead it highlights the problems inherent in the transfer.

Rather than taking screen caps to try to highlight how poor the disc is, I've experimented with making a video of a comparison between the previously released Arrow dvd, which looks similar to the Anchor Bay dvd in the DVD Beaver piece. Turns out it wasn't very successful and is no better a way of highlighting blu ray quality than screen caps are. The compression of the camera and then youtube's compression makes it impossible to see what I'm getting at but I'm posting it out of interest anyway.

Click the link to see it on youtube House By The Cemetery dvd and blu ray comparison 

The two discs were played on the same player and projected onto the same screen, where I tried to capture roughly the same part of the image. The dvd is first, followed by the blu ray.

I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone who has either the Blue Underground or Arrow blu rays. Are you happy with the quality of your version?


Wes Moynihan said...

Many thanks for this Mart, yeah that vid is telling alrite. I haven't picked up this particular Arrow BR because I knew the BU had the upper hand but what I didn't know was how disastrous the Arrow Blu is. I watched the Arrow Blu of Funhouse last week and was very pleased - I thought the Blu was a bigger leap up from the Universal DVD than most reviewers gave it credit for, but I'll admit my eyes do not always pick out weaknesses in transfers, and the finer points of grain structure and DNR are sometimes lost on me. Anyway, this post is to be commended for warning off potential buyers - especially when there's a far better alternative in the BU...

A hero never dies said...

Thanks Wes, I'd love to see the BU disc, I'll let you know if I ever receive it, I'm not holding my breath though.

I completely agree re. The Funhouse blu, I saw it via lovefilm when it came out and did mean to post about it, as it's probably as good a blu as Arrow have released. I don't have any kind of axe to grind with them, but I do want to see genuine reviews of their product, rather than the mostly sycophantic ones we usually see. The Demons disc is pretty good too, at least image wise.

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