Weekend Roundtable: Blu-rays That Need Double-Dips

Blu-ray collectors often bemoan the dreaded “double-dip,” in which a studio will re-release a movie already available on the format with a new five-minute featurette, an extra photo gallery or lenticular cover art in the hopes of bilking fans into a second purchase of essentially the same product. Fair enough, those are obnoxious. However, truth be told, some movies actually need a second shot at redemption if an inadequate first Blu-ray release suffers from a poor video transfer, a lack of bonus feature or some other glaring flaw. In today’s Roundtable, we discuss the movies that we would gladly buy again if only we had the chance.

Today, we also welcome one of our site’s newest Blu-ray reviewers, Dan Hirshleifer. We’ll let him start things off.

Daniel Hirshleifer

To me, an obvious choice would be ‘RoboCop‘. While the existing Blu-ray isn’t nearly as bad as the unreleased Sony disc from the days of the format war, it still suffers from uneven picture quality and a complete lack of extras. I’m still clinging to my out-of-print Criterion DVD, and would love to see a Blu-ray release that does the film justice. This year, the film’s 25th anniversary, would have been the perfect time to do it. With unmanned drones employed by our government that feel disconcertingly similar to the automated ED-209, and draconian legislation coming out of Congress, the movie’s satirical themes seem more applicable than ever.

Shannon Nutt

OK, I’m going to get myself into trouble with this one, but I feel passionately about it. My choice for a Blu-ray that needs a double dip is ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘. The movie was released on Blu-ray in 2007 with a transfer that’s so grainy, so dark and so lacking in definition or detail that I dare say the old DVD version of the movie looks better. The Blu-ray’s picture has also been drained of color. There was a HUGE debate at the time of release over the transfer that led to people like Kim Aubrey (who worked on the disc) actually emailing reviewers (I was the recipient of one such mailing) to tell us that we “got it wrong” and the Blu-ray edition represented how the film originally looked in theaters.

Well, I saw ‘Dracula’ numerous times in theaters, and still own the behind-the-scenes coffee table book. Neither the theatrical prints I saw nor the photos in the book suffered the lack of color and detail that the Blu-ray does. I fear that we’ve all been suckered in to a bit of revisionist history here, much like William Friedkin’s first Blu-ray release of ‘The French Connection‘ (which, thankfully, has been corrected in the new Filmmakers Signature Series release). I doubt that we’ll ever see a corrected version of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ on Blu-ray, but I stand by my opinion that the transfer is mucked up and not a reflection of the theatrical presentation.

Brian Hoss

While it may be a flawed movie, ‘Sunshine‘ deserves an excellent Blu-ray. Unfortunately, due to an annoying bug that forces the Picture-in-Picture commentary on an array of Blu-ray players (most notably Sony models such as the PS3), what should be a go-to demo disc is marred by technical glitches. (The disc used to play correctly on PS3s, but a later firmware update for the console began enforcing some PiP commentary standard that ‘Sunshine’ has incorrectly set.) Fox claims to have a disc replacement program. However, despite multiple pleasant phone calls and promises, the studio has never bothered to send me a replacement disc. Please bring on a “Special Working Edition.” In the meantime, I’m forced to use my laptop to play this Blu-ray.

Mike Attebery

You’d think that the recently announced ‘Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection‘ would include, you know, some of the studio’s best films, right? And yet, the set includes ‘The Blind Side’ but not ‘The Fugitive‘? Both films were nominated for Best Picture, but come on, ‘The Fugitive’ is clearly the superior film. Unfortunately, despite a stumble in its initial Blu-ray release from 2006, the movie has yet to get a worthy remastering. My pick for a much needed double-dip is therefore ‘The Fugitive’, which also happens to be one of my all time favorite movies.

Tom Landy

Pssst… don’t tell Josh (I know it’s not his favorite movie by a long shot), but I’m picking the cult sci-fi actioner ‘Equilibrium‘. There must be some kind of conspiracy with this film, since every North American Blu-ray release has something drastically wrong with it. The Alliance release (in Canada) looks the best, However, the movie’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 has been cropped down to 1.78:1 for some inexplicable reason, which practically ruins the experience. Worse, the Echo Bridge release in the U.S. has the proper aspect ratio, but only 2.0 audio (as opposed to 5.1). Its video looks utterly hideous, to say the least. I thought that Alliance might eventually come around and fix its error like happened with ‘Outlander’, but sadly our cries seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

M. Enois Duarte

Changes in the color timing are on very rare occasions permissible or simply easy to overlook. The ‘Aliens’ Blu-ray is a perfect example of such an obvious change, but one that’s overall acceptable. Personally, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is still up in the air. The looks fantastic, but the changes can at times seem a bit drastic. Yet the one Blu-ray release that most annoys me (especially since Anchor Bay has done nothing to resolve the problem) is John Carpenter’s seminal classic ‘Halloween‘. The color changes in the Blu-ray transfer completely ruin the mood and atmosphere that the filmmakers originally tried to achieve. As I see it, the picture quality is basically a slap in the face to Dean Cundey cinematography.

Josh Zyber

Who you gonna call? If you want to watch ‘Ghostbusters‘, don’t dial up the Blu-ray. It looks hideous. And no, that’s not because all movies made in the ’80s were badly photographed (which isn’t the case at all). The high-def transfer on this disc is a total botch job.

Here’s the story on what happened to this one: Sony’s original DVD release from back in 1999 was drab and dingy, and certainly needed a remaster. For the double-feature DVD re-release in 2005 (the one with the green slime artwork), the studio struck a new transfer, but stupidly cranked up the contrast and colors to obscene levels. The picture was ridiculously oversaturated and had severe detail crushing in both the whites and blacks. It looked like a cartoon. When the time came to bring the movie to Blu-ray, rather than pay for yet another new transfer, Sony attempted to “correct” the problems with the last one by dialing down the colors and contrast electronically. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a real solution. The detail that was lost during the initial contrast boost is gone forever, and oversaturating then desaturating colors won’t make them look like they should if they’d been transferred correctly in the first place. The Blu-ray’s contrast range is still too hot, and its gamma curve is a mess. As a result, the picture is very flat, has serious white clipping, and the grain is overemphasized with a nasty electronic texture. The disc is just plain ugly.

At the time of the Blu-ray’s release in 2009, some apologists attempted to defend it with a cover story that the transfer had been approved by cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs. The thing is, Laszlo Kovacs died in 2007. While it’s possible that Sony sat on the Kovacs-approved transfer for two years, I seriously doubt it. The much more likely explanation is that Kovacs may have approved the film elements used for the 2005 transfer, but probably wasn’t in the room while the transfer techs started fiddling with the contrast and colors. And he certainly wasn’t there when the new transfer techs fiddled with them again for the Blu-ray.

Sony generally has a good reputation for its treatment of catalog properties on Blu-ray, but this one is a mess. The movie needs a new film scan ASAP.

What discs do you feel deserve a proper re-release on Blu-ray? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. Agree, Mike Attebery.

    The Fugitive needs a definitive Blu-Ray edition, complete with full A/V remaster and tons of extras. It is one of my absolute favorite films and certainly worthy of the attention, given that the acting is Oscar worthy (hence the Best Supporting Actor win for Jones) and the production is superb.

  2. hurin

    Definitely Robocop, not that the transfer is actually bad, but I’m sure it could be better.

    Evil Dead II, not sure on this one, PQ is not good but it could be the fault of the original print.

    Aliens, with the original blue tint and not the new teal one.

    Star Wars original trilogy without any ‘improvements’. Gredo does not shoot first.

  3. M. Enois Duarte

    I have to admit, sometimes I wish I can go back and change my scoring on the ‘Ghostbusters’ Blu-ray. (Out of principle, I won’t do that but stand by my review of the picture quality.) I think I should have been harsher on it (more like 2 instead of a 3.5), and next to ‘Halloween,’ it’s also one of my most disappointing high-def discs. I really want a proper restoration of the original elements for both films.

  4. JM

    Ronin, Hannibal, and the other MGM fuckup whose title escapes me.

    Audition, Battle Royale – Thankfully everything’s switching to digital 4K, niche audiences in the future won’t have to suffer ** transfers.

    Meet Joe Black, makes me 🙁

    House of Flying Daggers – I’m still holding out hope for…

    Tombstone, Devil’s Advocate, Jurassic Park. I guess they assume we’ll buy anything?

    $10 to Netflix instead of $150 to Amazon. That’s a lot of lose-lose.

    • Alex

      Tombstone needs the double-dip and it needs the Director’s (whoever the actual director was) Cut. Vastly superior version.

      And once they’re done, they can do a new transfer of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and give me the Theatrical Cut.

  5. My vote goes to the British TV documentary “The World at War”, made in 1973/74. This was beautifully restored and released on Blu-ray i 2010. The result is really stunning, except that they decided that nobody wants a 4:3 image today, so they chopped off the top and bottom to make it “widescreen”

  6. Tom, Equilibrium is seeing many releases now, and one of them is a step up from the solo release. sure, you have to buy 5 other movies (ugh), but the six pack of the film features 5.1 lossless AND OAR…and an ugly stupid spine and an ugly stupid name for the set. lamers, echo bridge.

  7. Paulb

    Top of mind is Ferris Bueller’s Day off. Having just picked it up (as it was $5 with a deal), I was shocked at how bad it was. HighDef Digest gave it 3 1/2 stars which was waaaaay too high.
    Looking at the DVD side by side shows the Blu-ray only to be very slightly better. It even has almost all of the exact same scratches debris etc as the DVD.

  8. William Henley

    Off the top of my head, there are three that come to mind:

    Phantom of the Opera – only the HD-DVD got lossless audio. Sadly, my copy is scratched and won’t play past the first 5 minutes, so I am forced to watch it on Blu-Ray with DD.

    Annie – It’s sad that the transfer that HDNet has been showing for years looks better than the brand-new Blu-Ray release. I swear the Blu-Ray looks like a DVD upconvert. Its awful!

    Young Frankenstein – when the DNR is so bad on a movie that grain freezes in place on the screen, and there is action going on behind this frozen grain, its time for a new transfer. What’s worse – the movie was SUPPOSED to have a heavy grain content – it was part of the artistic license taken.

    I will go through my movies later and see what I can find – I am sure I can find more. Those are just what comes to mind right now.

  9. motorheadache

    I’m gonna have to go with Army Of Darkness. We’ve got great Bluray editions of the two Evil Dead flicks but a mediocre Universal release of Army with just the theatrical cut. It would be awesome to have both cuts of the film properly remastered with at least all of the extras from previous DVD editions.

  10. William Henley

    Finally just decided to pull up my DVD list. I got a feeling that many of the movies I am going to be listing are early Blu-Ray releases, and I probably won’t double dip – the only reason I bought them in the first place is because I was hurting for HD content and picking up just about anything I could get my hands on.

    Alvin and the Chipmunks – Talk about an ugly transfer. The picture is overall soft, low on details, just awful.

    America the Beautiful – I think that my complaints here have to do with a bad source – I swear that some of the video is SD. What is HD wasn’t properly white-balanced or color-corrected. What should have been a beautiful disc of the beauty of America ended up being one of the worst looking discs on the format.

    Anastasia – Probably one of the few times that I wish DNR was used.

    Charlotte’s Web (The Live Action Movie) – Looks like a DVD upconvert. So disappointed when I got it – I did have it on DVD, and the quality difference can hardly be seen. I wrote the following when it came out on another website:
    Video contrast is HORRIBLE
    I honestly do not know what Paramount was thinking here! From the opening logo and storybook, this looks like its going to be an amazing release, but then someone went and screwed something up BIG TIME! Contrast is WAY out of whack. Night scenes practically melt into blackness, while day scenes are washed out. Fine detail is practically non-existant, with skin-tones taking on a waxy appearance. Grain, when present, seems to “stick” in place, suggesting extensive DNR was used. With a film this new, and this high-budget, a transfer of this caliber is simply inexcusable.

    The sound fairs MUCH better. Rich music fills all 5 speaker channels, and ambient sounds really draw you in. Dialogue is crisp and clear. In fact, the audio is pretty darn near refrence quality.

    Extras seem to be exactly the same from the previous DVD release.

    As much as I love this movie, I cannot recommend a buy on this if you own the DVD. The video quality is just absolutely horrible, and the upgrade in sound really does not justify the cost. However, if you do not own the movie, if you can find this for around $15, I say pick it up.

    Discovery Atlas – This was one of the very early releases on both formats. These discs were early refrence material for me back in the day. The discs still look pretty good, even at 1080i (not sure what it was originally shot at, but as it was made-for-tv, it seems realistic that the source is 1080i), but was plagued with a Dolby Digital Soundtrack. They also originally only released the first four episodes. In 2009, they double dipped, and released all 8 episodes, but they crammed them onto two discs, and then edited the shows from two hours down to 45 minutes.

    DragonBall Z:The History of Trunks / Bardock:Father of Goku – The Dragonball movies were some of Funimation’s early Blu-Ray releases, and they were inconsistant from one release to another. The audio on some discs was DTS Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD on others, and I believe one or two had Dolby Digital. The Japanese tracks were NEVER presented in lossless audio, and are usually presented in Dolby Digital Mono that sound like they were taken from a 30-year-old VHS tape, meaning that the original Japanese is usually unwatchable.

    However, the reason I picked out this disc above all others was the video transfer. Most of the Dragonball movies look fantastic, but this looks like it was a DVD upconvert. I remember seeing some reviews back in the day saying that this was because most of the movies were theatrical releases, whereas these were made for television. I bought that at the time, but then Funimation released Dragonball Z Kai. All I can say is that I wish this could be redone.

    Dreamgirls – I actually picked this up on HD-DVD simply to get the Dolby Digital Plus track. The Blu-Ray was plagued with a Dolby Digital track (and the sad thing was, that was the reissue). The Blu-Ray also had an MPEG2 video track for some reason (which doesn’t really bother me too much, but MPEG2 on a single layer disc probably means its suffering from over-compression). The HD-DVD had a VC-1 encode. Not really sure why. The review gave it 5 stars on video, and having never seen the Blu-Ray, I can’t really comment, but the disc was reviewed in 2007.

    I am going to get some slack from Josh on this one, but Dune needs a new transfer. I have it on HD-DVD, and haven’t replaced it yet as I have not been impressed with the reviews I have been seeing. The video transfer is soft, and some of the optical composite shots look awful. Details are crushed, colors are muted (although its possible that colors are supposed to be muted). Skins look like peachish/tanish blobs of mass. Not only is a new transfer badly needed, it would be nice if they recomposited some of the shots al la Star Trek TNG (yeah, may really get some slack from Josh on that remark). It would also be nice if they would use seemless branching and deliver us the different versions of the movie. In any case, the movie is ugly on HD-DVD, and it seems as if the Blu-Ray releases (especially the international releases) fair even worse.

    Elizabeth – A very dated looking HD transfer

    The Greatest Story Ever Told – If this was reconstructed from the best elements they could find, I would hate to see what the worst were. If your elements are in that bad of shape, this is a point where it may actually be preferable to use some DNR or some type of digital cleanup. Man, this movie looks awful!

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – I think this is one of the worst looking of the Harry Potter films on Blu-Ray. But this is also my least-favorite movie (probably because it was my favorite book).

    Kitt Kittredge – An American Girl – Contrast blown out of proportion, DNR so heavy that skin looks like wax, only has a Dolby Digital Soundtrack.

    Mamma Mia – Contrast blown out.

    Nim’s Island – It looks like they tried to give Abigail Breslin a fake tan, and ended up turning her skin orange. I do think this is how it looked in the theater, but some color correcting sure would be welcomed.

    Over America – Early 1080i MPEG2 transfer, Dolby Digital 2.0. Enough said.

    Other Boleyan Girl – Many scenes look great, but the outdoor scenes look awful. It looks like they tried to up the contrast to make the inside scenes look better, and just applied it to the entire film.

    Planet Earth – Would be really nice if it had a dual audio track with both the American and British tracks

    Santa Claus: The Movie – Disc is plagued with problems. Selecting a language other than English only seems to give you the disc’s warning in that language, the audio is a very flat 2 channel, the video looks like it was transfered by the lowest bidder. Its not AWFUL, but it could certainly have been better.

    The Secret Life of Bees – Contrast issue in outdoor scenes, details crushed.

    Star Trek Insurrection – Contrast issues, detail crush

    Thunderball – I am going to get some slack for this, but I was not happy with this. I felt the film elements were in poor shape, and the picture looekd flat.

    • William, isn’t the Planet Earth edition with Sigourney Weaver’s commentary edited to be about ten minutes shorter than the UK edition? That would make it impossible to just add an extra audio track. Seamless branching would still be possible, though.

      • William Henley

        That would make sense, I honestly do not know. I just know that I do prefer Sigourney’s voice. I like both, just prefer Sigourney

  11. Barsoom Bob

    William, the word you want to use is Flak (flack?)
    which has something to do with ground to air artillary. Slack would mean just the opposite.

    My copy of Dune is the HD-DVD and I was always very happy with it. There are scenes in it that I thought were just “painterly” in their beauty.

    Agree about a HD seamless option for an expanded edition. It is funny that even with the over bloatd, 4 hour version which re-uses scenes, they still have not restored the scene that pained Daivid Lynch the most to cut from the movie. It can be seen in the extras someplace but never put back into any version.
    The scene I’m referring to is after the knife fight, where Paul kills the Fremen, his Mother gives him a sharp rebuke and in his emotional state cries. This is really the thing that impressed the rest of the Fremen as in that arrid, water sacred environment, that “he gave water to the dead”.

    If there is ever a round table of movies that could and should be reconstructed from extra elements that are known to exist, I would let Josh have Dune and I would take The Golden Compass, which was a victim of studio interference of the highest order and a pet peeve of mine.

    • EM

      I figured that William might have meant that he expected Josh to exercise great tolerance and/or restraint.

      • William Henley

        Or I should just stop writing entries at 5AM. 🙂 You guys were right, Slack is the wrong word, although around my part of the country, it is often used in that regard. Not really sure why.

        I would LOVE to see a remake / reconstruction of Golden Compass, as well as the other two books. The cast was excellent. I am afraid Dakota Richards would be too old to do another movie in the series now, but man, was she a good Lyra!

  12. “Home Alone 2” needs a double dip. “Home Alone” had good bonus features. “Lost in New York”, eh, hasn’t. We need another Columbus/Culkin commentary! The first one was hilarious!

  13. Pyronaut

    The TMNT box set.

    I have the 25th anniversary set, which has really a really cool box and nice bonuses inside (the discs are pizzas, and it even includes cards, a comic and a hat). BUT, the main thing they missed out on is some behind the scenes features or other special content. There’s NOTHING there for the original trilogy (trailers don’t count), and what is there for the latest entry isn’t so great either.
    I guess that’s why they included all that other stuff in the box, because what’s on the discs left a lot to be desired.

  14. flskydiver

    Just for the record, I had no trouble getting my free replacement of “Sunshine” from the studio quite some time ago. The replacement came complete in a new snap case with artwork just like the retail version did.

    I gave the not-required-to-be-returned glitchy version to my brother-in-law, whose family was able to view it on their PS3 — at least, they were until the OS update you mention that might have broken it again — when did that happen?