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A Comparison Between Halloween's Two Most Popular DVD Versions
on July 29, 2008
Halloween. What a perfect title for a Horror movie. It's hard to believe back in 1977 that there had never been any movie, let alone a Horror film, that incorporated that title. And what good usage it got. Written, directed, and even musically scored by John Carpenter (with great assistance by then girlfriend Debra Hill), this was truly a film that brought Horror to it's roots, leaving an impact that only George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead did ten years earlier. Showcasing a deranged killer by the name of Michael Myers who in childhood murdered his sister in cold blood on Halloween night, only to escape his asylum to return to his Illinois home to hunt down babysitter (and eventually known little sister) Jamie Lee Curtis 15 years later, was truly an amazing film that never exploited the genre, keeping the imagination and terror flowing within the viewers mind rather than blatantly on the screen. For it's time it was the number one profitable independent film ever made, and after almost thirty years, it still terrifies and never grows old. A true classic film. Every single DVD collector should own it....
But which one?
Not in the sense of sequels, but rather in which version of the original should you add to your collection. You see, this film has had the DVD distribution rights by Anchor Bay Entertainment (now known as Starz), and they have re-released this classic now a total of six times. So I would like to compare the two most popular versions to see which one should be for you, the "Restored" or the "25th Anniversary"
Starting with the "Restored" version, this DVD was authored way back in 1999. However, it was personally restored by Halloween original cinematographer Dean Cundey, trying to preserve as much of the look of it's original theatrical run. This version has been released a whopping three times. But for the film's "25th (2003) Anniversary", Anchor Bay remastered the film yet again for another release "Halloween 25", this time taking the remastering process in their own hands, something of which Cundey was not happy with. You see, comparing the two's video, you'll notice that each are different. One point is brightness and sharpness. In the Cundey version, overall picture is dark and not as sharp while for 25 the white levels have been raised and it's overall color saturation has been lowered. To me, while the original with it's dark blue hue running throughout looks good, at times it's hard to see certain shots in the dark. The 25th version has fixed that, even going as far as making the film look more natural. As for sharpness, the 25th beats it by far. Audio wise, each film seems on the same level, so a tie there, but it's the video that should be considered when purchasing: the Cundey-more true to the original film/the 25-a sharper, more realistic picture.
Next would be the use of the disc space. Restored is one of those discs that wanted to cater to the early 2000's audiences of giving them both a widescreen and a fullframe on the same disc. Because of this, the bitrate is pretty small for both presentations. However, the 25th is a 2 disc set that only offers on Disc One the Widescreen presentation, and it's Divimax as well. But to be honest, it's bitrate isn't up to say Superbit quality. It's better, but with a total of four audio tracks to choose from, the entire dual layer disc is only used by 75%, and that other 25 could have went to more video bitrate, but alas it's not. But to me, the bitrate still is higher on the 25, not to mention it's compression is four years younger than Restored, so 25 wins again.
Finally is Extras, Restored has a 30 minute documentary called Halloween Unmasked 2000, narrated by Twisted Sister's Dee Snider. Why is he on here than just being a popular fan, beats me. But on 25's second disc is a whopping 87 minute documentary called A Cut Above The Rest which expands on the original and gives much greater detail on the film. 25 also includes another ten minute featurette called On Location, going back to view all the houses and such that were used in the film that Restored does not include either. And if that wasn't enough, 25 has the original Laserdisc commentary by John Carpenter with additional vocals with Jamie Lee Curtis and Debra Hill. This might be the best extra 25 has over Restored, because it's got to be one of the most personal commentaries I've ever heard. Carpenter doesn't hold anything back, a must listen. And sure, both have the same trailers, TV Spots, and such, but again to me 25th Anniversary wins this one too.
But the main reason why I'm writing all this is because back in 2007, Anchor Bay decided to stop releasing the 25th Anniversary and instead re-issue the Restored version. Why, I'm not sure. Dean Cundey was never happy with 25, and maybe his name on the back of Restored's box was a selling-point, I don't know. Maybe the 25's cover was confusing buyers because it looks a little like sequel H20's version? But I do know for your money, the 25th Anniversary is still the best way to go. What's sad is to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the classic film, Anchor Bay is yet again double-dipping it's audience by releasing a six disc collection featuring Parts 1, 4, 5, the NBC-TV edit, the 25 Years Of Terror special and a Blu-Ray version of the original. But again, both the DVD and Blu-Ray (BD version rumored to be a video-hybrid of both) are from the 1999 Cundey master (but the Blu does have the Cut Above special and commentary too). It would have been nice if the DVD was the 25 so fans could have both versions, but no, 25th Anniversary seems lost now.
In conclusion, if you want the best overall 1978 Halloween package, go with the 2003 25th Anniversary Edition. More extras, a more realistic picture, and a commentary to die for. Ratings-wise then from me is:
25th Anniversary: (9.5/10)
Thanks for reading,