Zombie Flesh Eaters: Steelbook
Distributor: Arrow Video (UK)
So, how do you improve on perfection?
Well almost nine months ago we reviewed the most impressive release to date of Lucio Fulci's epic zombie masterpiece courtesy of US distributor Blue Underground.
The undisputed title of "best release ever" of the classic Italian gore fest looked set to remain unbroken with the disc boasting a fully remastered 2K transfer delighting long time fans of the film and making it highly doubtful whether the release could ever be bettered.
Things however move pretty quickly in the home video market as of late and with a little hindsight the US Blu-ray does come with some minor issues which have since risen to the surface. A number of collectors had been slightly put out by the use of DNR during a handful of sequences and there were also concerns over the amount of actual re-watchable content within the extra features, however all things considered the release itself still continues to hold up to its well deserved praise.
So taking into account the overall high quality presentation of the former release, UK distributor Arrow Video would certainly have a real task on their hands if they wished to challenge the Blue Underground disc to the title of best presentation to date.
So in the high definition battle of Zombie vs Zombie Flesh Eaters which is better?
Well to borrow a rather obvious catchphrase it seems there is only one way to find out...... FIGHT!!!
It's no secret that Blue Underground produced a brand new 2K scan from the original negatives for their US transfer which even on reflection looks highly impressive. Arrow Video however have come back with their very own 2K scan overseen by James White who instantly comes with a decent reputation for delivering the goods as far as restoration is concerned. Arrow's print has undergone much repair and removal of dirt and scratches however where the US release had some very minor issues with the dreaded DNR, the Arrow release thankfully forgoes this treatment entirely, presenting a rich and exceptionally detailed image with far superior colour representation than the US print. The new 1080p transfer really has to be seen to be believed and will no doubt leave fans of the film revelling in the pristine 2.35:1 presentation, although on first viewing you are equally as likely to spend most of the films running time picking up on background imagery which until now has passed by unseen.
ROUND 1 Arrow!
Audio is presented on the Blue Underground release with a 5.1 mix which can easily be considered faultless, especially considering the low budget origins of the film. Atmosphere is absorbing with the classic score powering through your home cinema system like never before. The new Arrow disc takes a slightly different approach however, presenting the film in Dolby Digital English and Italian 2.0. Whilst the audio tracks are completely free from distortion with both dialogue and sound effects appearing clear and well defined, for complete atmospheric immersion into the proceedings the US 5.1 mix will probably draw you in closer to the action.
ROUND 2 Blue Underground!
The final round comes down to extra features which are pretty decent on both releases although the Blue Underground disc mainly comprises of a recycled commentary track and various interview snippets which although appear somewhat engrossing do not really warrant a second viewing. In comparison Arrows new Blu-ray release begins with a short introduction to the film by leading actor Ian McCulloch then offers two brand new exclusive commentaries, the first being with Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower and horror critic Alan Jones and the second being with original screenwriter Elisa Brigante. Following the informative yak tracks is a 42 minute interview again with Ian McCulloch who now talks in depth about all three of his Italian horror outings. "The Rise and Fall of the Italian Zombie Film" which follows the interview footage comprises of reflections on the genre by a host of writers, directors critics etc.. which are far too numerous to list here and clocks in at around 60 minutes. Further extra features include interviews with Gino De Rossi who discusses his most famous special effects from the classic horror genre plus composer Fabio Frizzi and Dardano Sachetti who discusses his original screenplay for the film. Rounding off the already impressive extras package is a collectors booklet featuring a further interview with star Olga Karlatos, a comprehensive essay on the film by Stephen Thrower and a written history of "Zombie Flesh Eaters and the BBFC" which will no doubt prove essential reading for long time video nasty collectors. A final recent addition to the package comes in the form of an option to view the film with a choice of the original US, Italian and UK opening titles which again make a nice tweak for purists. Certainly one of the most extensive extras packages to date from the distributor and you really get the feeling that they threw everything including the kitchen sink at this release.
FINAL ROUND Arrow Video!
So it may seem almost impossible but Arrow Video really have outdone themselves with this stellar release and with a 2 to 1 round victory over the US competitor it really goes without saying that the new Arrow Blu-ray really is the ultimate edition of the movie. Although double dipping on titles certainly appears to be moving slightly out of fashion these days, this is one instance where you really should succumb to temptation as the improvements in the transfer and extras alone easily justifies a further purchase.
To add one final incentive to buyers who may perhaps remain undecided on whether or not to make a purchase, the Arrow release also comes with a variety of alternative packaging options which are mainly accompanied with a double sided poster of the original US and UK cinema artwork. The options presented here include a steelbook edition featuring some exclusive artwork, a limited edition four panel slipcase release and a regular Blu-ray edition albeit minus the poster.
All things considered this really is a no brainer for zombie fans everywhere. Arrow Video have made their Blu-ray the must own edition of the film and it is hopeful that this trend will continue with their future releases allowing them to move from the company people seem to love to hate to a well respected distributor which really has something to offer genre fans.
One final note worth mentioning is that the Arrow release is unfortunately locked to region B so US buyers will require multi region capability to be able to appreciate this release.
So If you should find yourself in the mood to revisit an all time classic in its undisputed best ever presentation, kick back, relax and prepare to experience some true Fulci nastiness at it's very best, after all as far as Italian zombie movies are concerned, this really is where it all started.
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It has since come to light that due to having the option of 3 opening titles, approx 6 seconds of footage has been lost from the opening shot of the film where the boat sails into frame. This has come as a huge disappointment to collectors and it is currently unknown whether Arrow will set up a replacement program.