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Dennis Hopper’s 1980 Out of the Blue is an odd film. And not just by my standards.

A Canadian tax shelter production, with actor Dennis Hopper taking over the director’s chair to keep the film going after Leonard Yakir was fired, it’s a low-budget affair that has garnered a fan audience unto itself, partially via the support and passion of distributor John Alan Simon of Discovery Films. Discovery was also responsible for releasing The Wicker Man.

The film has now made it way to 4k UHD (domestically via Severin) in a very nicely produced release.

The technical history of the film seems somewhat clouded, to a point at which it needed to be restored a few years ago, in a herculean effort to save what remained of the original cut camera negative.

The following is rumour (in honour of the film’s Canadian roots), and comes from posting found on the dark web. No further information as to accuracy, or whether it’s just another conspiracy theory. Was the OCN at any time stored in a bunker in Area 51?

There is no dispute that years ago, a properly color timed IP was produced from the OCN, and presumably still exists, but Discovery desired to return to the OCN in order to offer the film in the best quality possible, and what they found was not promising.

As reported by anonymous sources, at some time between 2005 and 2007, someone (one report mentions Mr. Hopper, another Mr. Yakir, but no one knows. Could have been someone’s enraged daughter, after years of sexual abuse) acquired access to the storage facility holding said OCN and took what was possibly (again as reported) a small “axe-like” tool, or chisel to three of the innocent rolls of film, which were doing no harm to anyone.

C. 2019, when the OCN was delivered to the lab, the bad news was reported to the Discovery team. At some point, possibly based upon a chance meeting between Restoration Producer Elizabeth Karr and Natasha Lyonne at a Hollywood event, Ms Lyonne reacted as only a true fan of the film could.

She wanted to help.

Over the next months, (again, as reported via the dark web) a team, including Ms Lyonne and also Ms Sevigny, worked tirelessly, armed with white cotton gloves, razor blades and mylar tape, to repair the damaged footage to a point at which it could reasonably safely go through a scanner. They deserve our eternal thanks.

Due to their work, and that of the Discovery team, the OCN was saved – literally brought back to life – with tens of thousands of instances of digital repairs, and also removing all of the affects of the physical tape repairs. Added was a fresh color grade and stabilization. A new DCP and the just released amazing 4k UHD disc are reference of the labours.

There are more extras on this disc than can probably be found on any other low-budget product, but the fan base, as proven by an amazing successful Kickstarter campaign, demanded it.

And once again, Discovery delivered.

As a film, I still find it a bit over-acted. It’s almost as if the acting styles, which might in a normal situation run from 1 to 20, here run from 12 to 20. But it all seems to work in an odd way.

The star of the film is acknowledged as Linda Manz, in reality a non-actor, who just seemed to have a certain way about her that worked – first in Days of Heaven and then in Out of the Blue, as CeBe, a teen girl with some small parent problems. The performance is quite extraordinary.


It’s a pity that many viewers, only now discovering her, will have little or no idea who is was (she passed away two years ago at the age of 58). Married, and with two (living) children, as well as grand-children, there is an unusual connection between Linda (Manz) Guthrie and her film Out of the Blue, as her funeral sadly necessitated contributions from a gofundme campaign, which fortunately raised $19,880 via 465 donations (had I known, I would have contributed), and Out of the Blue was saved via a Kickstarter campaign, bringing in $62,011 via 492 backers.

If I were to pick a single candidate for best (now) unknown actress, that honour would probably go to Catherine Burns, for her role in Last Summer, in which she performed a devastating monologue, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Ms. Burns passed away in 2019.

Severin’s 4k release is lovely. Color and densities seem perfect. Black levels and shadow detail are beautifully handled, and while there is a delicate grain structure, I’m wondering if Severin may have reduced it in some way.

Other than that, I’m I can’t be certain about the grain, as my only other reference is the old DVD, this is a glorious 4k release.

For slipcover collectors, the 4k is encased in a heavier than normal heavy paper cover, that works beautifully with its contents.

The 4k is currently available at a special price at Amazon, which I was unable to turn down. A few days ago, the cost was $26.88. It now seems to have gone up to $34.99, which really isn’t that far out of line, if one just takes into considered a number of rolls of mylar tape used in bring the OCN back to life. MSRP is $59.95.

When prices react in this way, its usually a signal that vendors are running out of stock, and even if there’s a re-issue some time in the future, it may be without the slipcover, so best to sell your Elvis jacket and pony up.

Image – 4.75 (Dolby Vision)

Audio – 5 (Monaural)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors – Yes

Makes use of and works well in 4k – 4

Upgrade from Blu-ray -Yes

Recommended

RAH
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Ken Koc

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A powerful film I never thought would be able to see again. Linda Manz was extraordinary. When I read that she had passed and that there was a "Go Fund Me" for her funeral, I donated. Seeing the other donors, it was beautiful that so many of the actors she worked with in her seminal films, also contributed.
 

bujaki

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I have this release on my queue to watch.
Wholeheartedly agree on opinion about Catherine Burns and Last Summer, a film maudit.
 

sbjork

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Also worth pointing out the staggering quantity of extras on Severin's set -- over fifteen hours worth. It's insane.
 

Patrick McCart

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It went back to $26 after peeking at Amazon's page and got my order in. I don't have a lot of Severin releases, but the 4Ks of Santa Sangre and Blood for Dracula are top-notch.
 

Josh Dial

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Thanks, Robert. Great review as usual.

I donated to the Kickstarter, and then the subsequent "upgrade" campaign to release the 4k UHD.

This is one of those movies that you don't regret watching, but don't want to re-watch anytime soon.

The performances are indeed odd, but never off. They are almost quintessentially 1980s Canada, despite the fact that the leads are not Canadian (except for Raymond Burr). A lot of Canadian movies sort of just sounded like this. Maybe the cast absorbed some of the local Vancouver colour.

Dennis Hopper's directing is quite good here. There are a few shots that are wonderful. I especially like the first "tour" through the restaurant near the start. The entire sequence at the punk rock concert is very evocative. The scene with CeBe at the ruined greenhouse is beautiful in its own way.

The transfer is, like Robert writes, lovely. Good shadow detail especially to my eyes. Like the performances, the colour here is just so...Canadian. Canadian author Douglas Coupland has book called Souvenir of Canada about obscure Canadian cultural references. Basically essays and photographs about the culture--mostly from the Gen-X perspective. Out of the Blue's colours and "look" would fit with Coupland's recollection.

I'm happy this was released and thankful to have it in my collection.

Out of the Blue.jpg
 

jas50

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Dennis Hopper's 1980 Out of the Blue is an odd film. And not just by my standards.

A Canadian tax shelter production, with actor Dennis Hopper taking over the director's chair to keep the film going after Leonard Yakir was fired, it's a low-budget affair that has garnered a fan audience unto itself, partially via the support and passion of distributor John Alan Simon of Discovery Films. Discovery was also responsible for releasing The Wicker Man.

The film has now made it way to 4k UHD (domestically via Severin) in a very nicely produced release.

The technical history of the film seems somewhat clouded, to a point at which it needed to be restored a few years ago, in a herculean effort to save what remained of the original cut camera negative.

The following is rumour (in honour of the film's Canadian roots), and comes from posting found on the dark web. No further information as to accuracy, or whether it’s just another conspiracy theory. Was the OCN at any time stored in a bunker in Area 51?

There is no dispute that years ago, a properly color timed IP was produced from the OCN, and presumably still exists, but Discovery desired to return to the OCN in order to offer the film in the best quality possible, and what they found was not promising.

As reported by anonymous sources, at some time between 2005 and 2007, someone (one report mentions Mr. Hopper, another Mr. Yakir, but no one knows. Could have been someone's enraged daughter, after years of sexual abuse) acquired access to the storage facility holding said OCN and took what was possibly (again as reported) a small "axe-like" tool, or chisel to three of the innocent rolls of film, which were doing no harm to anyone.

C. 2019, when the OCN was delivered to the lab, the bad news was reported to the Discovery team. At some point, possibly based upon a chance meeting between Restoration Producer Elizabeth Karr and Natasha Lyonne at a Hollywood event, Ms Lyonne reacted as only a true fan of the film could.

She wanted to help.

Over the next months, (again, as reported via the dark web) a team, including Ms Lyonne and also Ms Sevigny, worked tirelessly, armed with white cotton gloves, razor blades and mylar tape, to repair the damaged footage to a point at which it could reasonably safely go through a scanner. They deserve our eternal thanks.

Due to their work, and that of the Discovery team, the OCN was saved - literally brought back to life - with tens of thousands of instances of digital repairs, and also removing all of the affects of the physical tape repairs. Added was a fresh color grade and stabilization. A new DCP and the just released amazing 4k UHD disc are reference of the labours.

There are more extras on this disc than can probably be found on any other low-budget product, but the fan base, as proven by an amazing successful Kickstarter campaign, demanded it.

And once again, Discovery delivered.

As a film, I still find it a bit over-acted. It's almost as if the acting styles, which might in a normal situation run from 1 to 20, here run from 12 to 20. But it all seems to work in an odd way.

The star of the film is acknowledged as Linda Manz, in reality a non-actor, who just seemed to have a certain way about her that worked - first in Days of Heaven and then in Out of the Blue, as CeBe, a teen girl with some small parent problems. The performance is quite extraordinary.


It's a pity that many viewers, only now discovering her, will have little or no idea who is was (she passed away two years ago at the age of 58). Married, and with two (living) children, as well as grand-children, there is an unusual connection between Linda (Manz) Guthrie and her film Out of the Blue, as her funeral sadly necessitated contributions from a gofundme campaign, which fortunately raised $19,880 via 465 donations (had I known, I would have contributed), and Out of the Blue was saved via a Kickstarter campaign, bringing in $62,011 via 492 backers.

If I were to pick a single candidate for best (now) unknown actress, that honour would probably go to Catherine Burns, for her role in Last Summer, in which she performed a devastating monologue, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Ms. Burns passed away in 2019.

Severin's 4k release is lovely. Color and densities seem perfect. Black levels and shadow detail are beautifully handled, and while there is a delicate grain structure, I'm wondering if Severin may have reduced it in some way.

Other than that, I'm I can't be certain about the grain, as my only other reference is the old DVD, this is a glorious 4k release.

For slipcover collectors, the 4k is encased in a heavier than normal heavy paper cover, that works beautifully with its contents.

The 4k is currently available at a special price at Amazon, which I was unable to turn down. A few days ago, the cost was $26.88. It now seems to have gone up to $34.99, which really isn't that far out of line, if one just takes into considered a number of rolls of mylar tape used in bring the OCN back to life. MSRP is $59.95.

When prices react in this way, its usually a signal that vendors are running out of stock, and even if there's a re-issue some time in the future, it may be without the slipcover, so best to sell your Elvis jacket and pony up.

Image – 4.75 (Dolby Vision)

Audio – 5 (Monaural)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors - Yes

Makes use of and works well in 4k - 4

Upgrade from Blu-ray -Yes

Recommended

RAH
John Alan Simon here. I produced the restoration of OUT OF THE BLUE 4K. Here again is another reason to stay away from the Dark Web. As my friend Bob Harris should recall - since he generously advised me at the time -- back in 2008 the negative was restored and new IP created at Technicolor and two new 35mm prints were struck. This was done by our little company Discovery with support of Cinematheque Francaise and the Thompson Foundation in time for the premiere of the 35mm restoration to be shown as the kick-off event for a month-long tribute to Dennis Hopper in Paris in fall 2008. Neither Dennis Hopper nor Leonard Yakir ever had access to the negative and no one ever hacked away at it. Least of all either of them! (Or we couldn't have produced the IP!) So the negative was already in good shape from the work in 2008 when we scanned it and worked on it in 2019 at Roundabout Entertainment - the post facility recommended by Bob Harris, in fact, for the 4K release in 2019. Natasha Lyonne did offer to help in the midst of the Kickstarter after Elizabeth Karr was startled to hear her talking about "Out of the Blue" on NPR as one of her favorite films and then ran into her at a Netflix event. After a few more conversations, Natasha and her friend Chloë Sevigny (another big fan of the movie, who had worked on Gummo with Linda Manz) made a nice financial contribution to the project, for which we are grateful. In exchange we gave them a "presenter" credit as a way to acknowledge their support and maybe interest younger audiences. Chloë was happily acting in an HBO series in Italy nearby and able to attend the world premiere of the restoration at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and introduced the film along with myself and my wife/producing partner Elizabeth Karr. Natasha was able to attend the U.S. theatrical premiere at the Metrograph in NYC in November 2021 and joined in a discussion afterwards (included as an extra on the UHD disc!). Neither Chloë nor Natasha have ever seen nor touched the negative - not even with white gloves. Though a fun story, I just wanted to set the record straight that no one ever had to perform the kind of open-heart surgery on the OCN described above!
 
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Josh Dial

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Far be it for me to speak for Robert, so I'll just note that part of his charm is how often his commentary--and his tongue--is planted firmly in his cheek :)
 

Robert Harris

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John Alan Simon here. I produced the restoration of OUT OF THE BLUE 4K. Here again is another reason to stay away from the Dark Web. As my friend Bob Harris should recall - since he generously advised me at the time -- back in 2008 the negative was restored and new IP created at Technicolor and two new 35mm prints were struck. This was done by our little company Discovery with support of Cinematheque Francaise and the Thompson Foundation in time for the premiere of the 35mm restoration to be shown as the kick-off event for a month-long tribute to Dennis Hopper in Paris in fall 2008. Neither Dennis Hopper nor Leonard Yakir ever had access to the negative and no one ever hacked away at it. Least of all either of them! (Or we couldn't have produced the IP!) So the negative was already in good shape from the work in 2008 when we scanned it and worked on it in 2019 at Roundabout Entertainment - the post facility recommended by Bob Harris, in fact, for the 4K release in 2019. Natasha Lyonne did offer to help in the midst of the Kickstarter after Elizabeth Karr was startled to hear her talking about "Out of the Blue" on NPR as one of her favorite films and then ran into her at a Netflix event. After a few more conversations, Natasha and her friend Chloë Sevigny (another big fan of the movie, who had worked on Gummo with Linda Manz) made a nice financial contribution to the project, for which we are grateful. In exchange we gave them a "presenter" credit as a way to acknowledge their support and maybe interest younger audiences. Chloë was happily acting in an HBO series in Italy nearby and able to attend the world premiere of the restoration at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and introduced the film along with myself and my wife/producing partner Elizabeth Karr. Natasha was able to attend the U.S. theatrical premiere at the Metrograph in NYC in November 2021 and joined in a discussion afterwards (included as an extra on the UHD disc!). Neither Chloë nor Natasha have ever seen nor touched the negative - not even with white gloves. Though a fun story, I just wanted to set the record straight that no one ever had to perform the kind of open-heart surgery on the OCN described above!
Welcome to HTF, Mr. Simon.

One slight correction. The OCN was not “restored” in 2008. A wet gate IP was produced. A simple lab order.

Severin has released a beautiful 4k, but I’ll stick with the conspiracy theory from the dark web, as it’s far more interesting. The magnificent digital restoration is the stuff that dreams are made of. Inclusive of thousands of Mylar repairs. Reality is sometimes quite boring.

But again, it’s the final product that counts, and not how it got there.

And the final product will make fans smile.
 
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titch

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For those members over the pond, the BFI released this last November on blu ray.


But obviously, the Severin UHD is the one to go for.
 

sbjork

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For those members over the pond, the BFI released this last November on blu ray.


But obviously, the Severin UHD is the one to go for.
Aside from being in 4K, the Severin set has the edge on the extras, too. There are some things on the BFI set that aren't on the Severin, but several of them aren't even directly related to the movie. Also, two of the extras that are on both are shorter on the BFI than they are on the Severin. It's all for naught if people don't have a region-free player, of course, but the Severin is worth importing if they do.

I spent an entire weekend just working on cataloguing the extras on the Severin set and comparing them to the BFI. Longest review of a single film that I've ever written. I'm still traumatized!
 

Josh Dial

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For my fellow Canadians, I spotted the UHD edition in Sunrise Records earlier this week, so it's available in retail if that is more your speed. Bay Street Video has it, too.
 

Michael Hofmann

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Severin's 4k release (...) while there is a delicate grain structure, I'm wondering if Severin may have reduced it in some way.
Directly comparing against the BFI Blu-ray on a calibrated setup with back-and-forth switching, it's clear that the BFI release has better encoded grain, which is also clearly stronger in some moments (especially during to the opening credits) and similar in others.

It's possible that production of Severin's 4K release involved a subtle grain management process. If true, I'd find that quite unfortunate. On the other hand, the difference in high-frequency detail is palpable.
 

jas50

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Welcome to HTF, Mr. Simon.

One slight correction. The OCN was not “restored” in 2008. A wet gate IP was produced. A simple lab order.

Severin has released a beautiful 4k, but I’ll stick with the conspiracy theory from the dark web, as it’s far more interesting. The magnificent digital restoration is the stuff that dreams are made of. Inclusive of thousands of Mylar repairs. Reality is sometimes quite boring.

But again, it’s the final product that counts, and not how it got there.

And the final product will make fans smile.
Thanks, Bob. I must have misplaced my sense of humor yesterday. But in my defense there is an enormous amount of incorrect information out there on OUT OF THE BLUE. Including some websites that say we created the new digital master from the two 35mm prints struck in 2008! Work on the OCN in 2008 to generate a new IP was more involved then just a simple lab order. Cleaning and tape removal and re-color timing. Nothing as extensive as your projects, for sure. But the OCN had been used to directly create film prints back in 1980 for extensive theatrical release in Germany and France, so while I didn't bother you on every twist and turn in the work-flow at Technicolor, there was more than a phone order, for sure. Thanks for the kind words on the final results!
 

Robert Harris

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Directly comparing against the BFI Blu-ray on a calibrated setup with back-and-forth switching, it's clear that the BFI release has better encoded grain, which is also clearly stronger in some moments (especially during to the opening credits) and similar in others.

It's possible that production of Severin's 4K release involved a subtle grain management process. If true, I'd find that quite unfortunate. On the other hand, the difference in high-frequency detail is palpable.
A pity, as the detail would have been in the data files.
 

sbjork

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Easier compression.
I don't have the BFI Blu-ray, and I'm not set up to switch sources, but I did go back and forth between the Severin UHD and their included Blu-ray, looking for differences between the two. Swapping discs instead of sources is obviously an impediment, but it was still hard to spot the differences. The biggest difference that I was expecting was in terms of grain management, which is where UHDs can definitely have the edge. It was difficult to see any major improvements on the UHD vs the Blu-ray. I don't doubt that they may have reduced the grain, but there's still no getting around the fact that it's a great looking transfer in either format.