Arrow Video presents the integral version of Douglas Cheekís C.H.U.D. on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this limited editionís 2-disc set. The new high-definition presentation is delivered in 1080p/24hz and comes from a 2K scan of a low-contrast 35mm print.
The later generation print used for the source of this transfer and restoration probably plays into some of the general weaknesses of the image, but otherwise, for a low, low budget mid-80s horror film, I would still say it looks good. In terms of the digital side of things it looks filmic most of the time, with a few minor hindrances. Film grain is present, and can be a bit heavy in places, but itís mostly rendered well. It does get weaker in some of the low-lit scenesówhich there are plenty ofówhere grain looks a little noisy and rough, with crushing also becoming a bit of a concern. Outside of these few moments the transfer and encode are otherwise both pretty solid.
But even with a fairly strong digital presentation the source plays into most of the presentationís most noticeable weakness, and that is the overall clarity of the image. Though details are decent and everything looks clear enough, there is a general fuzziness present over just about every sequence, with some of the daylight scenes maybe looking sharpest. Colours also look a bit washed and weak, and theyíre even weaker in the filmís many darker scenes. If Arrow had access to the negative I feel much of this wouldnít be too big an issue, though admittedly the fuzziness and weak colours do lend to the filmís rather grimy nature. Restoration work has also been generous, leaving behind only a few tiny bits of debris that pop up once in a long while.
Despite any shortcoming, when all is said and done, Arrow does deliver a nice, filmic encode. Itís easily the best Iíve seen the film look. 7/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
The film is being released as a 2-disc limited edition in North America (this doesnít appear to be available in the UK). After it sells out the next printing will be a standard single-disc release. The big feature unique to this edition is the alternate theatrical cut, which is presented on the second single-layer disc, and presented in 1080p/24hz. Iím admittedly not too familiar with this cut of the film, and actually didnít realize there were multiple cuts of the film until this edition (if a previous DVD had both I missed that). The theatrical cut does differ quite a bit from the integral cut in a few ways: there are a few missing scenes, the biggest probably being a scene where John Heard and Kim Griestís characters talk about her surprise pregnancy; there is no mention, or even a hint, of a pregnancy in the theatrical version. Another fairly big scenes has to do with the discovery of a body. But the biggest change is how one scene, the diner scene, is in a completely different place in the film. This odd switcheroo actually makes the beginning of the final act (where police descend on a diner) make less sense, though I think I know why the scenes were moved around for the theatrical release (dramatic effect). I tried to research why the film had been reedited at one point (IMDBís list of changes seems to suggest that the integral cut might be a merging of the theatrical and broadcast versions, though a commentary included with the integral version also implies this may be a rough cut) but Iím pretty sure the previous version I saw was the integral cut, based on the placement of the diner scene.
I suspect that Arrow has simply reconstructed this version using the integral cut since the presentations really look identical quality-wise. This is also further suggested by IMDB also pointing out that there is one spoken line of dialogue in the theatrical cut that is inexplicably missing from the integral, the line in question being delivered during a confrontation with a C.H.U.D. in a phone booth. Of course this is dependent on whether that entry in IMDB is correct or not. At any rate, in terms of rating which version is ďbetterĒ Iíd say I probably prefer the integral, but I like that Arrow gives an option and they deliver it in a top-notch manner.
Moving back to the first disc, Arrow includes a new commentary track (of sorts) featuring Michael Felsher interviewing the filmís composers, Martin Cooper and David M. Hughes (with the two credited in the film as Cooper Hughes, Felscher admits that he actually thought it was one person, as did I). This track is actually more of a hybrid audio commentary/isolated music track. The first 32-minutes of the track is the commentary/interview, with Felscher talking with the two (either by phone or through a video chat by the sounds of it) about their careers and how the two came to be involved in this particular project. Felscher is more there to keep the two chatting, but both Hughes and Cooper manage to keep things going on their own, talking about their work, their style, influences, and sharing their thoughts on the film (they admire the acting at least). Theyíre also surprised by the pop culture impact the film has had, expressing their surprise at when shows like The Simpsons mention it.
Itís actually a fairy entertaining and informative, even at just over a half hour, and I wish it was a bit longer. But fans of the filmís score will enjoy the next 50-minutes of the track, which is just the filmís complete score. After that ends, at around the 82-minute point, the track then reverts back to the filmís actual track for the remainder of the film.
Arrow then carries over the audio commentary featuring actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry, writer Shepard Abbott, and director Douglas Cheek. I believe this one was recorded for an earlier DVD edition; I never listened to the DVDís commentary so I am admittedly just guessing. At any rate, it does sound to be an older one.
As a track itís fine, though has a few obnoxious aspects. As much as I like all of the participants the track only occasionally rises above a MST3K style presentation. The cast members have most of the trackís time, Stern and Heard in particular, and a lot of comments are usually making fun of certain aspects of the filmís limited budget, make fun of their own performances, or joke about other aspects related to the film, like the in-name-only sequel. The track has its moments, though, and itís these that save it. It is fun listening to stories about the acting scene in New York during the 80s and the three actors talk about it and have fun pointing out their old colleagues who pop up in the film. Abbott and Cheek also talk about the inspirations for the film and share certain aspects on its making. Itís also amusing listening to them talk about this cut: I donít think any of them are aware theyíre watching a longer version of the film as they all get caught off guard when scenes they were sure were cut pop up. Overall, getting past the less than stellar moments there are some gems mixed in there.
Arrow then packs on a couple of interviews with members of the production team, starting with production designer William Bilowit under the feature A Dirty Look, who is then followed by an interview with make-up effects artist and creature creator John Caglione, Jr. in the feature Dweller Designs. In both each participant talk about their early career and how they came to work on C.H.U.D. and then share stories about their respective jobs. Bilowit talks about creating the sewer sets with a limited budget (he designed sets in such a way so that they could pass as completely different locations using various camera angles) and Caglione talks about his designs for the creatures and what he would do today. Caglione also talks about dealing with a heat wave that passed through New York during filming, and how they tried to accommodate the performers in the hot, foam C.H.U.D. costumes.
Interviews of these types for low-budget films are usually fun and these are no different. Itís always intriguing hearing how effects and design people work around limited budgets and the two share some decent war stories here.
Arrow next includes Notes from Above Ground, featuring writer Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan revisiting the various locations in the film, these areas looking quite different (less garbage). Itís fairly superficial but it is a bit of fun getting a then-and-now comparison. It runs 9-minutes.
Arrow then packs on a few quick features: a behind-the-scenes gallery, which offers a 5-minute slideshow of behind-the-scenes photos (including make-up application) and poster art; the extended shower scene, which is exactly as it says with the only real addition being nudity; and then the filmís theatrical trailer. The booklet (which is exclusive to this limited edition, future printings will not have it) then features a terrific, shockingly in-depth essay on the film by Gingold, who offers some contextualization for the film, going over that time period in New York, and then goes over its pop culture impact and gets into some detail about the filmís sequel, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. Itís a rather interesting read.
Despite a couple of minor hiccups itís a lovingly put together special edition looking to please fans, and fans should be happy. 8/10