Army of Darkness is an HD DVD Abomination

AaronSCH

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I did a thread search to see if anyone else had commented on this release from Universal. Though I am very excited to hear of each new Universal title that is announced, I hope they take more time with future releases. Some films should not be rushed on to this new format until they are properly remastered and "Army of Darkness" is definitely one of them. Though it is a low budget film and past R1 DVD releases have been downright awful, this isn't a helluva lot better and it makes no sense that they chose to release this dreck on a high definition format. To get into detail about how bad specific scenes look is pointless because the whole over-priced combo disc is an abomination. It will be the first HD DVD I send off to Ebay. Maybe I am too spoiled by the Warner titles, but I don't wanna plunk down nearly 30 bucks for something so substandard. This film needed a full restoration before release on HD DVD, Shame on you Universal.
 

Michael Boyd

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I havent watched it on HD, but I was surprised it was a dual disc. It's not like there's a shortage of standard releases out there. LOL
 

Jason Seaver

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I suspect it's Universal's last chance to profit off the film - every piece of AOD-related merchandise I've seen over the past few years has it copyrighted to MGM (did they buy Dino DeLaurentiis's library?), so I wonder if Universal's rights are about to lapse.
 

dpippel

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I don't understand all the negativity about AoD on HD-DVD. Could it look better? Sure, but given the film's checkered release history on home video AND the likely condition of available film elements I think it looks *fantastic*. Some of the dirt on the print could certainly be cleaned up, but remember that this was an extremely low-budget affair that used optical printer techniques for many of its effects shots. It's grainy and it's inconsistent, but this *is* the film folks, warts and all.

My only two beefs are that Universal chose to release it as a Combo and with NO extras. Luckily I was able to pick it up for $20 shipped, because there's no way I would have forked over $30 for this disc.
 

Vincent_P

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ARMY OF DARKNESS cost around $12-million to make back in 1992. While not a huge budget, it certainly wasn't an "extremely low budget" either.

Vincent
 

dpippel

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You are correct Vincent. By today's bloated standards $12 million is considered seed money or a payday for one major star, but in 1992 it wasn't an "extremely" low budget for a film. Still, I don't think that the HD-DVD of AoD is nearly as bad as it's being made out to be. There are certainly problems with both the transfer and the elements used to produce it (dirt and some EE here and there), but all things considered it looks great for the film it is.
 

Adam Tyner

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I didn't do a direct comparison between the two, but the HD DVD matches what I remember about the Universal HD presentation closely enough. I can't imagine why they wouldn't share the same transfer since Universal HD first aired the movie less than a year ago.
 

Mattias_ka

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If it looks like the UHD transfer, I don't see any problem with this. Could AaronSCH tell us what is the problem? All movies will NOT look like a reference image.
 

Eric F

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I think the only problem is that most people expect to get something better they can tape off cable.
 

Grant H

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I had Cox HD cable for a few short weeks and, surprisingly, I found Army of Darkness one of the most satisfying HD offerings. I really didn't expect it to look good though, so maybe that's why.

I was kind of blown away by how great the picture was. Of course, you're only going to get so much out of the night scenes in that film, but the day scenes were just beautiful. If the HD-DVD release looks as good as the Universal HD broadcast, I wouldn't complain. But we all know there will be many re-releases for all-around improvements.
 

AaronSCH

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Look folks, lets be honest for a minute. You aren't gonna find a bigger HD DVD supporter than me. However, we jumped all over Lucas and Fox for releasing a non-anamorphic and visually flat version of the original Star Wars on DVD. Why? Maybe because we knew it could look much better had they taken the time to do those gems justice. That is my beef with Army of Darkness. I had very high expectations for this film on HD DVD and it didn't live up to the standards the format has already set. Does it look better than what was previously available? Perhaps. But folks, this combo disc retails for $30 and many interior scenes have so much grain they look sand blasted. There is also quite a bit of dirt apparent and the disc has no supplements. C'mon admit it...they could have done much better...otherwise why bother producing an HD DVD at this point? This film is a cash cow and deserved to be properly cleaned up. Surely Universal has an abundant supply of alternate titles that have recently been remastered and are ready for prime time.
 

Grant H

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Well, it doesn't sound like you want a remaster, Aaron. It sounds like you want a film restoration, which is completely different (and much more expensive).

Grain in dark scenes is most likely just grainy film stock, and HD is only going to show it more true to it's source.

Now, perhaps they could find a cleaner print to strike a new master from (it DOES seem like there's a variety of sources to choose from given the different look of so many transfers), eliminating the dirt, but who's to say the dark scenes aren't just grainy because of the film stock and the lighting conditions? This reminds me of people saying Aliens was so horribly grainy when, in fact, it is supposed to look like old WWII newsreel footage and it's only really grainy in the abundant dark scenes. In the occasional flash of light (like when someone lights up a blowtorch) the grain all but disappears, which implies to me it's the relationship of the lighting and the filmstock/shutter speed.

I wouldn't doubt a film like Army of Darkness intentionally had a gritty look to it in the low-light scenes, especially as it's flattering to the types of creature FX used then, and to the set design. I think the Army of Darkness looks pretty good to this day, but if they were fighting in broad daylight (with crystal clarity), they probably wouldn't look too hot.

But you'd have to ask Raimi or the DP to be sure. And it will probably take Raimi to make something exciting happen with this title. Perhaps if he says goodbye to Spider-Man and actually does another Evil Dead film, he'll have reason to re-visit AoD and give it the treatment you're seeking. If the grain is unintentional, it could be caused by multi-generational prints (but are there a lot of optical FX in this film to warrant this?), or just because somebody went cheaper than they should have. They could either seek out earlier-generation prints or go back to the original negative, or get someone like Lowry to restore the film. Again, this is a lot of work and expense to go through for an early release on a format with an uncertain future. How much money do you think those $30 combo discs are really going to rake in considering the low number of HD-DVD players in people's households and the fact the SD crowd has had any number of opportunities to buy AoD cheaper on DVD?

No one should be surprised by the price of titles at this point though, or the lack of effort to maximize the quality. When DVD first dawned many releases were straight ports from LD in full nonanamorphic glory. Now we're getting ports of the anamorphic transfers made for DVD (at least the more recent transfers were done with HD in mind). And you can blame the stupid (though well-intentioned)combo disc format for eliminating the space for extras.

At least it sounds like AoD was made from a newer transfer, the one for Uni-HD, as opposed to an older source.

We early DVD adopters bought titles 2 or 3 times to end up with the best possible presentation and supplements. It's just what you get for being an early adopter. The early adopters of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray shouldn't expect any different, especially when both formats have a less certain future than DVD did.

There are a few titles (Superman flicks come to mind) that will ramp it up a bit for the holiday season, but it might be NEXT Christmas until there's a real strong push from the industry. And by then there might be only one HD format. Who knows?
 

jim.vaccaro

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I gave the old SD-DVD disc with the 1.66:1 anamorphic video a spin today on my HD-A1, and there's dirt and scratches all over it. Otherwise the transfer looked mighty fine. Shame the HD-DVD has similar problems with dirt.
 

Cees Alons

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Because the dirt and scratches aren't all you're looking at.
Unless you're not really interested in film, of course.


Cees
 

jim.vaccaro

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That's not really fair, Cees. He is interested in the film, that's why he wants it to look the best it can.
 

Cees Alons

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No it isn't really fair. (Sorry for that, Aaron).

But despite the dust and the scratches, the HD version is better than the SD version.
Aaron asked "why a HD version", and I wanted to point out that dust and scratches don't spoil the whole image, or define it alone.

The HD version is an improvement (there's little doubt about that, isn't it?) over the SD version.
A restoration would indeed be a second, and further improvement (and a very desired one).


Cees
 

cafink

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Cees has it right. The improvements of HD-DVD over standard DVD have nothing to do with "less dirt." The chief improvement is in resolution, which has absolutely nothing to do with how dirty the transfer is.

The correct response to the "why upgrade to HD-DVD" query is the same for Army of Darkness as it is for any movie available in high-definition: an increase in resolution. As Cees suggests, a cleaned-up dirt-free transfer would be a welcome improvement, but it's hardly the only way to better a standard-definition transfer.
 

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