See how it fares against the prior 2011 Blu-ray from HD Cinema Classics! (Spoiler Alert: VERY WELL)
Lionsgate’s Vestron Video edition of Dementia 13 is new on Blu-ray this week . This article contains several comparisons which contrast Mill Creek’s earlier Blu-ray transfer with the new release from Arrow. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.
Viewing tips: For gauging clarity and resolution, these images are best viewed on a large monitor with widescreen aspect ratio — if viewing on a mobile device, pinch-zoom for closer inspection. Elements like color, brightness, and contrast are more easily compared in a narrow window or upright mobile.
This week the Vestron Video Blu-ray collection debuts its oldest title, one which actually precedes the Vestron brand by some 18 years. 1963’s Dementia 13 is the directorial debut of Francis Ford Coppola, a low budget horror film shot and set in Ireland for Roger Corman’s American International Pictures.
Coppola’s Director’s Cut is somewhat unusual in that rather than reintroducing additional or censored footage, it’s more about removing extra junk that was added by AIP.
Many of us can attest we were introduced to the film via public domain DVD collections or late night TV, usually in abysmal quality. Because of its public domain status, Dementia 13 has a long and sordid home video history, even on Blu-ray where it’s been included in a couple of cheapie horror movie compilation packs.
In 2011 Film Chest put out a passable Blu-ray edition as part of its HD Cinema Classics line (alongside releases of other similar PD fare like The Terror and Suddenly!), noting it as digitally restored in high definition and transferred from original 35mm elements. I’ll be comparing that edition to the new Vestron release.
As an aside, in 2016 the film received another Blu-ray release from The Film Detective. I haven’t seen this version, nor do I have it on hand for comparison purposes (but knowing what I do of The Film Detective and their respectable “Restored Classics” line, I have to imagine it was most likely an improvement over HDCC’s disc.)
There’s really no contest here. While the 2011 disc was a big upgrade for fans who had long been subject to awful VHS-quality versions of the movie, it was far from a definitive presentation. Film grain was non-existent. Motion was smeary, with movements leaving ghostly trails. Amped up contrast left visual details completely lost in the dark.
The new edition highlights these deficiencies even more clearly, as it’s an across-the-board improvement. With the added bonus of new extras and the approval and cooperation of Coppola (who provides a short introduction explaining the different cuts), this is clearly the film’s definitive release in almost every meaningful way. The only mark against it is that the theatrical cut isn’t also included.
Depth of brightness/contrast:
Other version-related differences:
Vestron’s Director’s Cut opens with Coppola’s “American Zoetrope” logo preceding AIP’s.
The original cut includes some weird added scenes with a side character named Simon which were rightly removed for Coppola’s cut.
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.