Collins’ Crypt: The Return Of The DVD Special Edition

BC gives Shout! Factory's new Scream Factory horror and sci-fi DVD series its due.

NOTE - for all of the below information regarding releases, I am referring to Region 1. You overseas guys tend to be luckier with this sort of stuff and I hate you for it. (kidding!)

A while back, I lamented the seeming death of DVD special editions, even highlighting the then recent bungled Halloween II special edition from Universal (which included Terror In The Aisles and little else) as an example of the sort of half-assed release that was becoming the rule instead of the exception. Luckily, Shout! Factory evidently doesn't want to join that trend, and it looks like the special edition is making a comeback. In the time since I posted that article, Shout has launched an off-shoot series titled Scream Factory, which is focused on doing previously released movies "right" and also releasing films that were never released on DVD at all. I've reviewed a couple of them on this site and Horror Movie A Day, but I thought it was time to highlight their output in general and thank them for fighting the good fight.

There are thousands of movies that have never been released on DVD, which (I assume) is why folks still champion the VHS format. But Shout clearly feels that there are a lot of genre films that deserve better than a washed out, cropped, muffled-sounding tape can provide, so it truly warms my heart to see almost monthly releases of films that were never even given a bare-bones disc release. This month saw a double feature of TerrorVision and The Video Dead, two cult horror films from the '80s that probably weren't at the top of the priority list for their distributors, hence the fact that neither of them had ever made it to DVD during the ten year period between its inception and the birth of Blu-ray. See, that's part of the problem - there's a new toy out and the studios are worried about their big titles, not the goofy horror movies they probably acquired as part of a library when they bought out a smaller company. With so many movies still unreleased on DVD, what are the odds that they will get there now, when the format is seen as "dying" and even its successor is struggling to compete with VOD and streaming services?

For some of these movies, that fear is no more. I don't particularly care for either of them, but I can't deny that Shout has done right by the fans of these flicks: both The Video Dead and TerrorVision (only available as a double feature at this time) boast terrific transfers and plenty of bonus features - new interviews, commentaries, etc. And the Blu-ray comes with a DVD, so even if you haven't upgraded yet (why?) you can still pick the set up fairly cheap and enjoy on good ol' standard def, something you never got to do (legally anyway) throughout the format's heyday. Ditto for Prison, a movie I do like that was also never given the respect of a new release (I reviewed that one in full last week). Other titles that they've given life to are Death Valley, the Michael Caine flick The Island (previously only released as an Amazon exclusive), and Wes Craven's Deadly Blessing, which was a glaring hole in my Craven collection for many years.

But the big catch is yet to come: Phantasm II! For whatever reason, Universal had held on to its rights for the 1988 sequel (all of the other titles are currently owned by Anchor Bay), refusing to part with it or release it properly - in 2009 they finally dumped it to disc with the damn trailer as the only bonus feature. What made this an even harder slap in the face was that in the overseas markets, "Phans" were blessed with a "Silver Sphere" boxed set featuring all of the films and tons of bonus materials on each - the material existed and Universal couldn't be bothered to license it for their release or even put any effort into creating their own. But thanks to Shout's partnership with Universal (just about all of the Scream Factory releases have past ties to Universal or MGM), we're finally getting the proper release it deserves, and somewhat ironically it will be the first R1 Blu-release of any film in the series - time to step it up, Anchor Bay! And all the bonus features UK audiences have been enjoying for years will be included, plus a brand new retrospective documentary, some deleted scenes (not sure if those were on the boxed set), and even a "Rare short film starring Angus Scrimm as Abraham Lincoln," which I believe will be the first thing I watch. That disc hits in a few weeks - check back for a full review.

That same day, Shout will release From Beyond, which has been released on special edition DVD in the past (via MGM) but will still offer up some incentive for a double dip - new interviews with the awesome Barbara Crampton, for example - while retaining all of the old extras. As an OCD completist, I truly hate when a new edition comes out that lacks a commentary track or something from the last one, "forcing" me to hold on to it and take up even more room on my shelf, so it's great that they're porting this stuff over and adding to it rather than replacing it outright*.

Oh, and they're pretty cheap. Someone recently got annoyed with me for groaning about the high prices of Criterion discs ($39.99 for some of their standard def single disc releases!), claiming that their licensing fees were to blame, but Shout is doing the same thing and delivering even more extensive special editions for less than half that cost. With so much focus on streaming and the like nowadays, I feel Criterion is pricing their discs out of contention with some fans (there's a reason their occasional 50% off sales are so popular - it makes the discs comparatively priced with everything else on the shelf), but these are 15-20 bucks - perfectly in line with Hollywood new releases. Yes, a Criterion movie is "classier" than Terror Train or whatever, but I've never subscribed to the notion that you should pay more for better movies - after all, your ticket to Argo at the theater costs the same 10 bucks that you have to pay to see dreck like A Haunted House, so why should DVD be different?

And there are more on the way; roughly two a month for the foreseeable future. In April we will get The Vampire Lovers and Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce (both cuts!), and in May - The Burning and another title that's never been released on disc at all over here - the 1976 oddity The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which I for one can't wait to watch in high def (that trombone will look AMAZING!). More are on the way as well; none of the titles have been revealed as of yet**, but given their track record so far, I'm optimistic that I'll be excited about the bulk of them. Even when it's a bad film like TerrorVision (sorry, I know some folks like it, and it has its moments, but Gerrit Graham is unbearable in it), I'm willing to give it a second chance if it's at least given a proper presentation, and like I've said a million times - every movie is SOMEONE's favorite movie. If you're that die-hard The Video Dead fan with a poster on his wall and a worn VHS tape that's about to crumble to dust - your day has come. Enjoy!

*Yes, the Scream Factory release of Halloween II did not have the Terror in the Aisles "bonus feature," but that is a special case where the film was a Universal title that couldn't be released as is due to all of the (non-Universal) clips that are in the movie. Sorting out the legalities to get it released by a third party would be far more trouble than it's worth, I assume.

**Since they've done a number of "golden era" slashers - Halloween II, Terror Train, The Funhouse, etc - I'd love to see a proper release for To All A Goodnight, the 1980 Christmas slasher directed by David Hess. Also, since MGM owned it at one point, could we possibly see Hospital Massacre (aka X-Ray) in the future? That's one of the very few from that era I have yet to see! Fellow MGM title New Year's Evil would be another one to make me giddy. Just my two cents!