released May 1st, 2012
by Something Weird / Image Entertainment
video: 1080p / 1.78:1
audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0 English
disc: dual layer BD50 / Region A
The Wizard of Gore / The Gore Gore Girls Blood-Drenched Double Feature Blu-ray is readily available through Amazon.com.
Something Weird and Image Entertainment simultaneously thrilled and disappointed long-time fans of exploitation icon Herschell Gordon Lewis with their The Blood Trilogy Blu-ray from last year. On the one hand the films had never looked better, but issues with improper matting (Color Me Blood Red and Two Thousand Maniacs were essentially vertically panned-and-scanned into an aspect ratio of 1.78:1) and compression (everything on the release, and there was a lot, was crammed onto a single BD50) undermined many of its positives. Even so, I was enthusiastic enough about that effort that I pre-ordered the labels’ second Lewis Blu-ray collection as soon as it was announced.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the thing, I should say that, as with The Blood Trilogy, I’m pleased enough with The Wizard of Gore / The Gore Gore Girls Blu-ray double feature to offer it a grudging recommendation – it certainly helps that it only ran me $11. Still, fans expecting any sort of improvement over the former release’s presentation should keep those expectations in check, as The Wizard of Gore / The Gore Gore Girls has plenty of troubles of its own.
First, bear with me while I offer a disgruntled note on dual layering. As you’ll see from the information I’ve listed at the head of this article, The Wizard of Gore / The Gore Gore Girls double feature is indeed housed on a dual layer BD50 – unfortunately that doesn’t tell the whole story. The release actually totals just 26.7 GB, meaning it occupies a hair more than half the total capacity offered by a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray disc. For all practical purposes this is a dual layer disc in name only – the two features take up just 12.8 and 12.0 GB respectively, with measly average bitrates to match. In other words, Something Weird / Image have foot the bill for a dual layer Blu-ray disc and then not used the extra space they paid for. It’s akin to a publisher printing a 200 page book with 200 additional blank pages at the end, and really begs the question – Why bother?
With regards to the films, both The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls are transferred from positive 35mm elements (the latter sporting the alternate title Blood Orgy). Damage is prevalent throughout both features, from minor spots and speckling to cue marks, persistent vertical scratching, and even the odd splice. For cheap drive-in fair like this, the elements for which no one thought to preserve until well after the fact, this kind of damage is to be expected, and it does nothing to detract from the quality (or lack thereof) of the films themselves. Otherwise the source prints could best be described as inconsistent, a fact due both to production limitations and age. Though color can vary considerably from shot to shot, contrast is generally strong – with regards to The Gore Gore Girls the contrast can actually be overbearing, but even this overly dark image remains a revelation in comparison to the blown-out SD transfers of before.
Speaking more specifically, The Wizard of Gore is easily the stronger presentation of the two. Presented in 1080p courtesy of a flat-matted 1.78:1 transfer (as opposed to the selectively matted Color Me Blood Red and Two Thousand Maniacs), Wizard looks perfectly acceptable, if far from earth-shattering, in its high definition debut. Despite Lewis’ own dubious understanding of the topic and the frequency of awkward compositions, the framing here looks comfortable for the most part. Some manner of grain suppression appears to have bee applied, though not to the point that all texture has been obliterated, and the image is free from the waxy quality that plagues more substantially DNR’d transfers. Color and contrast both improve appreciably over past SD editions (despite some variation in both the frequent reds are well saturated and appropriately bloody), but the big story here may be the detail. Regardless of the limitations of the materials (and a frequent lack of focus in the original photography) detail can really impress in places, particularly during the close-ups that mark Montag the Magnificent’s television act.
Unfortunately the space constraints levied upon The Wizard of Gore do take their toll, though thankfully not to the extent that they could and perhaps should have. The film is granted a (very) modest Mpeg-4 AVC encode at an average video bitrate of 14.7 Mbps, and though the image is passable overall minor artifacts (blocking in the grain and a bit of banding) can be found tinkering about in the background throughout. Still, I’ve seen much worse done with much more, and none of the encode limitations here were so obvious as to distract me during playback. Audio sounds precisely as one would imagine (flat, poorly mixed, and overall bad), though Something Weird / Image can’t be faulted for that. The Wizard of Gore gets a technically robust DTS-HD MA 2.0 treatment that precisely preserves every inch of its awfulness, and aside from the lack of subtitles (some fun could have been had with these given Montag’s bizarrely stilted line delivery – “Why, it’s nothing more than an i-LOOOOO-sion!”) I’ve no complaints on this front.
The presentation for The Gore Gore Girls is of substantially weaker stuff all around, even though the source element appears to have been of comparable quality to that for The Wizard of Gore. Presented in 1080p at a flat-matted ratio of 1.78:1, framing may be a bit more of a sticking point here than with the co-feature. The Gore Gore Girls features especially shoddy blocking and framing throughout, and while Lewis appears to have been loosely composing for widescreen matting (a quick look at an old open SD master reveals as much) the photography doesn’t look especially comfortable that way. Characters wander in and out of their proper spots, the camera tilts, and in more careless moments whole heads can be lopped off of Lewis’ subjects (and not in the way fans like). Regardless of how this may have been projected theatrically I’d argue that open matte 4:3 would have been the way to go with this video edition.
Framing is not the only problematic aspect of the presentation, however, as The Gore Gore Girls suffers from something until now absent from Something Weird’s Blu-ray efforts – excessive digital manipulation. Those looking for grain will find none here, though the insubstantial pretense of it can be glimpsed from time to time, and the image is so smooth in places as to appear more illustrated than photographed (see the shot above). Frequent edging indicates some attempts at artificial sharpening, but detail goes the way of the grain – fine details are practically nonexistent, and there’s nothing in the way of texture to be seen. Motion fairs poorly as well, and is riddled with blocky patterning.
With regards to the encode The Gore Gore Girls is technically stronger, Mpeg-4 AVC at an average video bitrate of 15.7 Mbps, but the limitations of the transfer prevent it from really benefiting. Aside from some blotchiness here and there artifacts are negligible, though with such a dearth of detail and texture it couldn’t have been that difficult for the encoder to keep track – the only thing that keeps this looking at all like film is the frequent unrestored damage. Still, the usual reviewer platitude applies. This looks better than the old DVD by quite a bit, but make of that what you will. The audio is again properly presented in lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0, and while The Gore Gore Girls arguably sounds worse than The Wizard of Gore I doubt it should sound any better. As with The Wizard of Gore there are no subtitles.
The release offers a healthy spate of supplements, even if there’s nothing new in the mix. Both The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls are accompanied by commentaries with producer / director Herschell Gordon Lewis, and a comprehensive video gallery of H.G. Lewis exploitation art is included as well. The bet supplement of the bunch may be the disc’s stack of trailers – aside from a preview for the recent documentary Godfather of Gore, you get trailers for Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, Color Me Blood Red, The Alley Tramp, Goldilocks and the Three Bares, The Gruesome Twosome, She-Devils on Wheels, Something Weird, and The Wizard of Gore.
My temptation to recommend Herschell Gordon Lewis’ films grows exponentially with their awfulness, and both The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls are downright terrible stuff – I love it! I just wish I could say the same for this Blu-ray from Something Weird / Image Entertainment. There are too many issues with the feature presentations for me to recommend it too wholeheartedly, though the price is right – this was worth the $11 I paid for it, if not much more. This is a decent if utterly unremarkable way to see these two Lewis shockers, and those looking for nothing more will likely be satisfied.
The Wizard of Gore
The Gore Gore Girls
Screenshots were captured as full resolution .png in Totem Movie Player, then compressed to .jpg at a quality setting of 97% using the ImageMagick command line tool.