S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
(David Cronenberg, 1981)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC)
Video: Koch Media /Criterion Collection Spine # 712 / Second Sight (UK)
Region: B-locked / Region 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo region FREE Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:42:51.539 / 1:43:17.774 / 1:42:51.206
Disc Size: 18,160,128,496 bytes/ 49,428,492,208 bytes / 37,432,017,051 bytes
Feature Size: 18,069,301,248 bytes /28,404,264,960 bytes / 26,581,131,264 bytes
Video Bitrate: 18.99 Mbps / 32.67 Mbps / 29.10 Mbps
Chapters: 13 / 12 / 16
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case / Standard BD case and option for steelbook
Release date: June 10th, 2011 / July 15th, 2014 / December 4th, 2013
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 /1.78:1 / 1.78
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1719 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1719 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DUB: DTS-HD Master Audio German 1360 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1360 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps /
The “Scanners” Way, new documentary on the film’s
special effects, featuring interviews with Cronenberg’s
• DVD included
My Art Keeps Me Sane - Interview with Star Stephen Lack
Description: The title of this David Cronenberg sci-fi horror film refers to a group of people who have telekinetic powers that allow... them to read minds and give them the ability to make other people's heads explode. The children of a group of women who took an experimental tranquilizer during their pregnancies, the scanners are now adults and have become outcasts from society. But Darryl (Michael Ironside) decides to create an army of scanners to take over the world. The only person who can stop him is his brother Cameron (Stephen Lack), who wants to forget that he was ever a scanner. Winner of the International Fantasy Film Award at the 1983 Fantasporto Film Festival, Scanners was followed by a pair of sequels, neither of which involved Cronenberg.
~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide.
This looks less like Cronenberg's popular mid-'70s exploiters (Rabid, Shivers) than one of his early experimental films remade on a higher budget, with a small group of 'scanners' (warrior-telepaths) fighting off a sinister mind-war army that is backed, indirectly, by industry and the state. Part conspiracy thriller, part political tract, it is Cronenberg's most coherent movie to date, drawing a dark (but bland) world in which corporate executives engineer human conception to produce ever more powerful mental samurai. And he punctuates it with spectacular set piece confrontations which really do dramatise the abstract, ingenious premise. As always, there's a nagging feeling that the script is not quite perfectly realised on screen, but Patrick McGoohan's bizarre cameo performance, and the extraordinary moral and sexual ambiguity of the final scanning contest, more than make up for it.
In a stalwart example of camp, early in Scanners, a man addresses a room
of people — it is a conference, of sorts. He is a scanner, and intends
to display his ability to the group. A man volunteers, sits beside the
speaker, and is soon scanned (the process involves, in the scanner,
tightening every muscle, clenching teeth, and glaring evilly).
Unbeknownst to the speaker, the volunteer is a renegade scanner, and
more powerful. The two become awkwardly tense, convulse a bit, and the
speaker’s head explodes — it is a perfect culmination for the building
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The best I can say for Scanners on Blu-ray is that it looks better than SD. Some colors are bright - it is clean and there is some infrequent depth on the single-layered 1080P transfer. There is a green hue over much of the image and background grain can be downright blotchy. I may be hyper-critical as it did give me the best presentation of the film I've yet seen - but the Blu-ray leaves some room for improvement. Detail has impressive moments in Scanner's close-ups and contrast wavers from modest to strong - dependant on the scene. The effects aren't overly-transparent through the higher resolution and remain as gruesome as ever. As a bare-bones quickie Blu-ray - it's visually 'okay' for a late night viewing.
The Criterion is advertised as being a new, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by director David Cronenberg. The Koch colors appear boosted and it looks very green beside the darker US rendering and it is, occasionally, out of ratio with wider, fatter faces. The 1.78:1, 1080P, Criterion is transferred to a dual-layered disc with a very high bitrate. It looks super with strong earth tones and subdued, but richer, colors. Flesh tones are much more realistic and the visuals are tighter with more detail. Contrast is another area of advancement and there is no noise and has some depth. To me, this darker appearance looks far more film-like but I can't speak to it being theatrically accurate.
Okay, so we added the Second Sight Blu-ray captures - after a lot of email, some of it, complaining about the Criterion appearance not being theatrically accurate. The UK 1080P matches closer to the German transfer colors but doesn't have the 'ratio' anomalies. The UK transfer has a high bitrate and looks quite good 'in-motion'. It's good to compare as fans have a distinct option now of whihc they feel is the one they want to own. One difference is that the 1.78:1 Criterion shows more information at the bottom of the frame - but less ta the top than the Second Sight - which is also 1.78:!!
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Koch have provided lossless tracks in both original English and a German DUB via DTS-HD Master 5.1 bump at around 1600 kbps. The intense and suspenseful score is by Howard Shore who has an impressive resume of work behind him. There is some less-overwhelming depth and clean high end. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'.
No bump, Criterion transfer the film's audio to an authentic linear PCM mono track. It sounds flat but there is depth in the film's many effects. Howard Shore's score sounds eerie and haunting via the lossless. There are optional English subtitle sand the disc is region 'A'-locked.
Second Sight give the option of a, similar-sounding to the Criterion, linear PCM track (but in 2.0 channel stereo) but also offer a DTS-HD Master 5.0 surround at 1819 kbps. I did notice some extra depth and a few adroit separations but they weren't dynamically crisp but again, it is nice for fans to have the option. The Second Sight also offers optional English subtitles and their disc is region 'B'-locked.
No extras at all. They intended some but the Blu-ray authoring team's heads all blew off.
Criterion stack their release with some keen extras. The “Scanners” Way is a new, 23-minute, documentary by Michael Lennick, a Toronto-based filmmaker, on the film’s 'pre-digital' special effects, featuring interviews with several of David Cronenberg’s collaborators. Mental Saboteur is a new 20-minute interview with actor Michael Ironside who discusses Scanners and his extensive career in both Canada and Hollywood. The Ephemerol Diaries, is a 15-minute 2012 interview with actor and artist Stephen Lack who discusses how he became involved with Scanners and his notable career as a visual artists. There is a 10-minute excerpt from a March 10th, 1981 interview with Cronenberg on the CBC’s The Bob McLean Show. They talk about Scanners and some of his earlier films. We get a new, restored 2K digital transfer of Stereo (1969), David Cronenberg’s first feature film. It is about medical experiments and telepathy and is a clear pre-cursor to Scanners. The 65-minute film stars Ronald Mlodzik who would go ion to appear in Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future (1970), Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977). There is also a trailer and 3 radio spots. The package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Kim Newman and the dual-layered set includes 2 DVDs of the feature with all the extras of the Blu-ray.
Second Sight are very impressive with their extras - all original (I believe) done in-house. There are an hour+ worth of 5 video interview pieces including one with star Stephen Lack entitles 'My Art Keeps Me Sane', another interview with Cinematographer Mark Irwin called 'The Eye of Scanners' lasting 1/4 of an hour, an interview with Executive Producer Pierre David - The Chaos of Scanners and a fourth with Makeup Effects Artist Stephen Dupuis entitled Exploding Brains & Popping Veins. There is a short last one with actor Lawrence Dane called "Bad Guy Dane". Great stuff from the UK production company!
Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Three years later and Criterion's package is a massive improvement over the Koch - in every area. The supplements are great and the supervised transferseems far more in-line with the original release. The director's fanbase should be all over this Blu-ray. Recommended!
Thanks for the notifications about this UK Blu-ray release. It obviously got by me - and its a great 1080P edition! Those voicing displeasure with the Criterion (and the Koch Media) have the option of picking up the Second Sight! We can endorse that it is a magnificent package!
June 30th, 2011
June 27th 2014
July 18th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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