Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Welcome To the Dollhouse Finally in HD! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

It's been a long time coming, but we've finally gotten a much-needed upgrade to his middle-school masterpiece Welcome To the Dollhouse.  Sony has just released the film on blu-ray, and it's quite a substantial upgrade over the very old (1999) DVD from Columbia Tri-Star.  Now, early releases in this line of Sony's blus were MOD BDRs, which is to say burnt discs like you can make on your computer as opposed to properly pressed discs, which last longer and don't have the playback issues on some players like BDRs do.  But happily, like Warner Archive, Sony has switched to pressing these blus right, so Welcome To the Dollhouse is a properly pressed disc.

And it looks pretty great - here are a couple comparisons (DVDExotica style...click the screenshots to see them in full size, 100% resolution) between it and the blu.  The original DVD also offered a fullscreen version that really butchered the compositions.  So let's look at all three versions.
1999 DVD (fullscreen) top; 1999 DVD (widescreen) mid; 2018 blu-ray bottom.
Now, I've left the matting on the first set of shots just to make the differences a little clearer.  The fullscreen DVD is framed at an aspect ratio of 1.31:1, and splits the difference between cutting off information along the sides while opening up the mattes to uncover a little more vertical information.  The widescreen DVD is framed at a common but not quite accurate ratio of 1.78:1, with slight matting along the bottom and sides, areas which would've largely been hidden by televisions' overscan area back in the 90s.  Finally, the blu-ray presents the film in its authentic, original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and as you can see, shows even more info along the sides than the previous widescreen DVD.
And of course, the blu is naturally an upgrade over the DVD just by virtue of being high definition over standard definition.  But the DVD really shows its age, with messy, blocky compression, edge enhancement unnatural colors and other flaws that have really been crying out for a new master.  I mean, this close-up highlight speaks for itself.  It's still not quite a cutting edge blu... It's a single layer disc where the film grain appears a little wishy-washy, and fine detail could probably still be a little bit clearer.  But compared to other contemporary blu-ray releases, it would probably rate a solid B, and compared to the old DVD, it's flat-out essential.

Interestingly, the blu-ray replaces the original stereo mix with a 5.1, though I can't say they sound very different.  Of course, the blu-ray bumps the audio up to a lossless DTS-HD track as well.  Both discs also include optional English subtitles, and unfortunately but unsurprisingly, both discs are pretty barebones, only offering the fullscreen theatrical trailer for a special feature.  International fans will be happy to know it's an all-region (ABC) disc.

Now, if we could just get Happiness... that DVD is even more in need of replacing.  It isn't even anamorphic.