Kino Lorber Studio Classics has announced a 4K Ultra HD of Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, newly remastered in Dolby Vision. It’s something we’ll definitely want to see, just to find out if the excellent Blu-ray quality can be improved.
IOTBS was filmed flat-spherical, with the intention of matting it off to a wider format, 1:66 or 1:85. But Allied Artists decided to release it in SuperScope, the poor man’s CinemaScope that took a 2:1 horizontal stripe out of the flat frame, and squeezed it for anamorphic projection.
This isn’t guesswork — existing flat trailers for IOTBS show original in-camera framing with much more head & foot room. The show looks quite handsome in 2:1. A few chins got trimmed in the process, something that may have happened in 1:85 widescreen, too.
But the SuperScope negative is an optical dupe. It’s an extra generation away from the flat original, which either hasn’t been around, or hasn’t been accessed for video transfers. Joe Dante confirms that early 16mm TV prints were open-matte full frame, instead of pan-scans of the SuperScope ribbon. That’s why we’re so curious. A 4K scan of the dupe SuperScope neg could be a big improvement, but if the flat OCN were available, Invasion could look better than we ever thought possible.
Early British horror! We didn’t get a screener of ClassicFlix’s new Blu-ray release (February 28) of the 1939 Bela Lugosi semi-classic The Human Monster, and we think none were offered because it’s part of a special ‘Silver Series’ branded line. That led us to think that the new disc quality might be no better than a VCI disc we saw several years ago. We were not very impressed with that release.
But Wait! A close associate just received the ClassicFlix disc and tells me it’s very good, better than anything we’ve seen before. The trusted colleague had this to say:
I saw the ClassicFlix Blu-ray of The Human Monster . . . you were wrong, Glenn, ClassicFlix reported that their release is the improved Studio Canal transfer previously released in the U.K. but not in the U.S..
I did a quickie comparison of it against the older VCI disc. It’s no contest; the ClassicFlix is a dramatic improvement in picture and sound. Image is sharper, more detailed and with better contrast. Audio on the VCI was muffled, like a bad 16mm optical track heard through a pillow; by contrast, we can clearly make out all the dialogue in the ClassicFlix. The new disc also carries the BBFC Certificate at the head, and the original Dark Eyes of London U.K. title card.
There is still some slight wear visible, but after years of mediocre presentations we finally have a proper, professional restoration from original elements that shows the film off to its best advantage.
So that’s something of a mini-review, with the caveat that I haven’t seen ClassicFlix’s disc myself. We always liked the Edgar Wallace The Human Monster / Dark Eyes of London; it’s a modestly budgeted ‘John Argyle Productions – Pathé’ release, with an enthusiastic performance by Bela Lugosi. He plays a nefarious crook by the name of Dr. Feodor Orloff. We all remember the Famous Monsters still photos of the hulking figure menacing the helpless Greta Gynt.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson