Collins’ Crypt: No Special Edition? No Problem!
After those few misguided DC movie fans and of course the Ghostbros, Scream Factory's "fans" have to be among the absolute most hateful and obnoxious people on the planet when it comes to discussing the movies they love. While the label has had a few missteps (you know, like every other company there ever was), Scream has done a fine job of showing love to underappreciated horror gems over the past few years, giving them a reputation for being the ones you as a horror fan WANT to be the label tackling your own personal favorites. And so no matter what great "get" they announce on their Facebook page, there will inevitably be a "Well what about Dawn of the Dead?" response. Despite the fact that the film has a perfectly good special edition out there, folks want Scream Factory to offer the ultimate release, and that's hardly the only one they seem angry about not being able to buy again.
There are also a number of more legitimate requests, such as Fright Night Part 2, which was briefly released on a bare-bones, poorly transferred DVD. What amuses me about these repeated inquiries is that the "fans" seem to think the people at Scream Factory need such obvious suggestions, as if they just plain forgot about George Romero's legendary zombie opus or the sequel to a treasured '80s film that has never been given a proper disc release. At this point, there probably isn't a lot of "big name" (for horror fans) titles they haven't looked into - the problem is that it's simply not up to them. If you take all of maybe eleven seconds to pay attention, you'd see that there are some studios who frequently give Scream Factory access to their titles (MGM and Universal are primary sources) and some who don't, ever, and perhaps never will. Warner Bros* is particularly anti-Scream and other labels like it, because they don't see the value in doing these special editions themselves, but don't want anyone to make money off their properties either. So the films languish on barebones discs, stuck in limbo forever because they were produced by a company that doesn't particularly care.
Perhaps a solution has been found, however. One of Warner's titles that they're not interested in celebrating is Creepshow, the 1982 anthology that spawned one real sequel (Creepshow 2), a bullshit "official" one (Creepshow 3) and a well-regarded "unofficial" one (Tales From The Darkside), and also gave George Romero his only #1 box office hit. And, over time, it launched a million complaints about its shitty Region 1 DVD from 1999, which has the trailer and nothing more. Red Shirt's Michael Felsher approached WB about putting together the bonus features for a 25th anniversary special edition in 2007, but they weren't interested, despite having Romero and Tom Savini on board (i.e. the sort of people that would make fans not think twice about buying even if they already had the bare-bones disc). However, Felsher lucked out - the film was not controlled by Warner Bros over in Europe - Universal had it there, as Creepshow was an independent production WB picked up for North America but not all other territories (unlike, say, Batman v Superman, which is quite obviously a WB production from start to finish, all over the world). As luck would have it, Universal UK was so excited about having a proper special edition that they actually delayed their own planned release to give Felsher and his crew the time to put everything together.
The resulting documentary was Just Desserts, which bloomed from the planned thirty or so minute retrospective into a full-length documentary. Felsher wasn't able to get Stephen King (apparently even Romero's personal request couldn't sway him - he just doesn't like doing these sort of things), but he certainly softened the blow with a big chunk of the cast (including Ed Harris!), producer Richard P. Rubinstein, artist Bernie Wrightson, composer John Harrison, several crew members, and (again) Savini and Romero, two thirds of the film's creative holy trinity. As a retrospective (and not a fly-on-the-wall making-of like the ones that accompany the likes of Devil's Rejects or Prometheus), it's a lot of talking heads interspersed with film clips, but with so many people accounted for you get a pretty complete look at the film's history, from its inception (King and Romero were introduced by an exec who was hoping Romero would do Salem's Lot), to casting (Tom Atkins wanted to play Jordy Verrill!), through production and finally its impact - though the sequels are ignored. Rightfully so in Creepshow 3's case, though it's a bit odd to hear Romero bemoan that they're "Not on Creepshow 6 by now!" without mentioning that there was a well-received sequel that he was at least partially involved with (writing the screenplay and presumably helping his longtime DP Michael Gornick get the gig as new director - his only feature credit to date).
Some of the documentary features Savini's (very lo-fi) VHS behind the scenes footage, a tradition for the FX master that allows nearly every one of the films he worked on to have SOME making-of footage despite being produced long before it became the norm to have documentary crews on set. The clips are brief and usually talked over, but if you want to watch them uninterrupted the entire collection was also made available on that Universal blu-ray, as well as two commentaries, some deleted scenes, trailers, stills, etc. In short, it was the Creepshow special edition that American fans would love to have - they just couldn't without importing it and making sure their blu-ray was equipped to play discs from other regions. Even with all the stuff created, Warner continued to shrug off the notion of including it on an American release, twisting the knife by putting out a Blu in 2009 that still offered only the trailer (in standard def!), an insult to fans who perhaps weren't in a financial position to buy a new player and import the proper release.
Flash forward to a few (OK, more than a few, almost ten, but whatever) years later. The market for physical media is dwindling, and Blu-rays have been around as long as DVDs had been when the high-def format was introduced - no one was even really bothering to bug Warner about giving the film its proper due anymore, because if it hadn't happen yet it never will. But Synapse and Felsher came up with a perfect workaround - given the fact that Just Desserts was indeed a feature length film, and there had been a growing trend of independent horror documentaries (including Never Sleep Again, based on New Line - né Warner Bros - property) released on disc with no fuss from the owners of the films being discussed, there was no reason they couldn't just release this "Disc 2" stuff on its own. Part of the deal Felsher made with Universal UK was that the material only belonged to them THERE, with him retaining the rights for other territories... such as the US. But, seeing that the material was almost old enough to be celebrating an anniversary of its own (and having no way to offer up the commentaries), they put together a special edition for their own special edition, retaining several of the extras (including Savini's behind the scenes collection) and adding new features that would have likely ended up on a proper Creepshow release.
One big draw is an interview with Gornick, who couldn't be wrangled for the original documentary for whatever reason. Not that a film's history is a total wash without the DP, but unlike some other participants of the documentary (i.e. the cast members, given its anthology format) he was around for the entire production, obviously, making his insight of much interest (and he does mention Creepshow 2, albeit in passing). We also get extended interviews with Romero, Savini, and some others, and footage not included on the 2007 disc. To make up for the missing commentaries, Felsher has recorded his own, offering some pretty interesting information on how these sort of docs are put together and also the in-depth explanation for why Warner didn't put the disc out themselves (including, quite importantly, him stressing that he understands why the studio doesn't want to bother with paying audio engineers to record an audio commentary for a thirty-year-old movie they merely purchased). There is also another one with people who weren't in the documentary for one reason or another, so it's like you eventually get everyone's insight (except King, who still held out!). There is also a new episode of Sean Clark's Horror's Hallowed Grounds, which tours some of Creepshow's filming locations and features Atkins, walking around the neighborhood with Clark and recreating his big comic-tossing scene. It also has Savini's "Scream Greats", a career-spanning doc from 1986 that has also been never released on Blu-ray and has been asked about by fans for years (Paramount owns it; they had no problem with it being included as a supplement). That too includes commentary, so with the extended interviews and everything else you're looking at a set that will take you around eight hours to go through - you might forget it didn't actually have the feature film everyone is talking about. Some of the UK disc's features - such as the deleted scenes - are missing; one can assume that Warner still owns that material here and thus it couldn't be included without hassles, but Felsher and co. more than make up for it with exclusive bonuses.
And while going through them, I couldn't help but think: why can't we do this for every mistreated movie? I mean, there's nothing we can probably do about extended cuts of MPAA-mangled movies like the Friday the 13th sequels, and commentaries will be tricky, but in terms of interviews and documentaries (plus more unique concepts like Hallowed Grounds), companies like Synapse (and Code Red, Scream Factory, etc.) could and perhaps SHOULD explore offering similar treatment to movies like Creepshow that will get their proper due otherwise. Just look at all the other titles in the Warner/New Line catalog that are screwed: Wolfen, Critters, Razorback (which already has a 70-minute retrospective doc available on other regions' releases), The Changeling... we could be here all day. Not to mention things like April Fool's Day, Happy Birthday To Me, and Maximum Overdrive, guilty pleasure types that would be even harder to convince a studio to bother with (let's not forget, Creepshow made more money than any of these titles). Their cast and crew aren't getting any younger, after all - let's get some of these done before it's too late due to a lack of living participants.
I know it's not likely, but a man can dream. If vinyl made a comeback despite three further formats that were more accessible and less cumbersome, there's no reason the physical disc format can't stay on life support by catering to folks like me who will happily pay for a release like this but will scoff at the idea of upgrading a bare-bones DVD to a bare-bones Blu-ray (the quality ain't THAT much better - give me a new commentary at least, you bastards!). All of these movies are easy enough to find on disc, but for fans who want the bells and whistles, perhaps Just Desserts can pave the way for a series of special editions that have everything you'd want except another copy of the movie itself. It's an experiment, to be sure (I honestly can't think of another release like it), so I suspect Synapse's competitors will be watching sales as well, wondering if it can be a viable consolation prize for their wish-list titles that they are unable to acquire. If Anchor Bay isn't going to bother with Dawn of the Dead anymore, maybe Scream Factory can commission Felsher's team to put together a new retrospective in time for the film's 40th anniversary, and send Sean Clark off to Monroeville Mall before any more of it is unrecognizable.
Alas, Fright Night Part 2 fans will still be shit out of luck since they just want to own the movie. Sorry.
*Warner Bros DID distribute several Morgan Creek productions that they're now putting out (like The Crush), so it admittedly does get a bit confusing.