OK, I've just had a chat with someone who worked directly on the technical side of the Arrow release, and he has confirmed that the Arrow release was not sourced from Paramount's HD master at all, let alone upscaled from the DVD - as will become obvious almost immediately if you compare the two, even aside from the glaring credits discrepancy. I ran both side by side a few weeks ago, and it never occurred to me for a millisecond that the two could have come from a common source - so I was genuinely surprised when Blu-ray.com made that allegation.
Also for the record, Arrow's master was supplied from Bologna, and the reasonable working assumption is that it's the same one used to fuel the Raro DVD - although obviously without the excessive DNR scrubbing. Since these amateur sleuths are mainly working from framegrabs and haven't seen either disc in motion, I'd take most of their "conclusions" about picture definition with a truckload of salt.
On a more general note, I strongly suspect that there's a serious case of overly inflated expectations here. The visual reputation of The Conformist is so towering that people may well be expecting a perfect image, but I have to say that the grain and definition on the Arrow BD looks pretty much as I remember it from numerous 35mm outings (I'm very familiar with how this film looks on the big screen, having been involved with promoting a mid-1990s revival as well as seeing it several times over the years). And if Storaro himself signed off on the master, one presumes he's broadly happy with how it turned out, although I'm aware that that name opens up a whole 'nother can of worms (although not aspect-ratio-related ones for once!)
Could I ask which Blu-ray.com allegation you are referring to? I ask because from what you have written above it appears that there is some sort of an official statement in the Blu-ray.com review which links an old Paramount master to Arrow's release. The Blu-ray.com review certainly has not linked the two. The review also does not speculate that this is an upscale. Or are you addressing some random forum post?
As far as expectations are concerned, clearly anyone who has seen this release and understands what type of results modern restorations can produce should be underwhelmed. If you are unsure, take a look at Sony's Blu-ray release of Easy Rider
, a film which was made a year before The Conformist
and under vastly different conditions. Sony restored the film and struck a new high-definition transfer in 4K resolution from the original negative. You could see how well resolved grain looks there.
Let's have a different example with another 1970 film: the BFI's Blu-ray release of Jerzy Skolimowski's Deep End
, which was scanned in 2K (not 4K) and a new high-definition transfer was struck. Even though some degraining has been performed and light noise is present, there is still plenty of grain. Compare these two releases with the high-definition transfer used for The Conformist
Blu-ray release. There are fundamental differences - and no, the source has little do with them, because if a new scan was performed, and then a new high-definition transfer was struck from the new master, The Conformist
would have looked very, very different on Blu-ray.
As I wrote elsewhere, I understand perfectly well why Arrow did what they did - it was the lesser evil they chose, because had they gone with the DNR-ed Italian high-definition transfer quite a few forums would have exploded again. I don't blame them, they did the right thing. And we can all agree on this.
But there are facts here that one has to recognize: there is very little, if any, grain on this release. What you see the majority of the time is pulsating noise and artifacts that create the illusion that there is grain, which is why definition is poor. This is in addition to the filtering that has been applied. Yes, the Arrow disc looks better than the R1 Paramount DVD, but primarily because the R1 DVD is extremely weak, practically unwatchable these days. A proper high-definition transfer struck from the recent restoration - and free of the denoising the Raro high-definition transfer suffers from - would produce a vastly different result.
Finally, as far as Mr. Storaro signing off the master is concerned, well, the one question that needs to be answered is this: When did he do it? In 2011, in 2012? The master that has been used to produce the high-definition transfer for this release is dated.