On behalf of Code Red DVD, it's my pleasure to thank all of you for your interest in our eagerly awaited release of this highly controversial film. In response to your recent emails, I'd like to touch on some the points of interest that seem to have generated great concern over our handling of the film.
First, let's address the source of the transfer. The source is indeed a 35 mm release print. Why? Start by asking long-time DuArt lab technician and "Nightmare" co-editor Jim Markovic. Mr. Markovic's extensive resume cannot be summed in a single sentence, so we'll merely sum up that which is most obviously relevant. From editing trailers for some of the most memorable films of the 42nd Street grindhouse era to his work with Scavolini on both "Nightmare" itself and 1989's "Dog Tags," Mr. Markovic now works for DuArt Labs.
In 1980, Markovic was hired by Scavolini to work as an assistant editor on "Nightmare." When Code Red acquired the DVD rights to the film, we had access to the original negative which had been stored improperly for more than two decades. Knowing that Markovic had worked on the film and -- even better -- was now an employee of DuArt Labs, we brought the negative to him hoping that he could assist us in the restoration process.
Unfortunately, more than two decades of improper storage had imposed an irreversibly fate. Plagued with mold, crinkling, and years of water damage, the negative had suffered damage beyond repair. Markovic will attest to this in an interview in our DVD of "Nightmare." Without a useable negative with which to work, we had no choice but to turn to the best possible known source; a theatrical release print which is actually a composite of the best reels of seven release prints known to exist. While this source definitely shows wear, it's the best source available and we are in the process of digitally cleaning it up for the DVD release.
As for the aspect ratio, indeed the film was projected at the 1x1.85 aspect ratio in its theatrical release. However, it was shot full aperture as evidenced by the existing release prints. Despite ongoing debate on the internet about how the aperture was set back in 1980 when Scavolini shot the film, the simplest confirmation comes from simply looking at the film elements themselves; there is no 1:1.85 matting. Period.
Furthermore, having already released other letterboxed titles (such as "The Forest" and "Devil Times Five" and the up coming "Sole Survivor", "Teenage Hitchhikers", "The Dead Pit", "The Visitor", "Beyond the Door" and "Hot Moves" etc), why would we deliberately choose to crop an 35mm print matted to 1:1.85? Where's the logic in that? If you have an answer to that, swing it our way. It would be quite amusing to read. For the record, Mr. Markovic will also attest to the film's aspect ratio in our interview with him.
Our choice to transfer the full frame image is consistent with the logic applied by George Romero in the Anchor Bay releases of "Martin" and "Night of the Living Dead," Frank Henenlotter in the DVD release of "Basket Case," and even Stanley Kubrick's preference for this format in the DVD releases of "The Shining" and "Eyes Wide Shut." Our own releases of "Doom Asylum" and "Don't Go In The Woods" were released as full frame for the same reasons, with director approval and supervison in each case.
Doing so, however, would compromise some key images, most specifically the beheading of the prostitute in the flashback scene. We feel that this showcase of the film's most incredible effects work deserves full exposure for the film's most devoted admirer's. THIS is the reason for our choice to do the film justice by giving it a full frame release.
Other films that have lost such integrity in their DVD incarnations due to letterboxed matting include the Anchor Bay DVD release of "Fade To Black," in which a shower scene loses the exposure of Linda Kerridge's breasts and the same company's release of "Mischief," in which Kelly Preston's pubic hair is lost due to matting.
As for missing scenes, obviously we would include these if we could confirm A) their current where-abouts and (most importantly), B) whether or not they were shot to begin with. Scavolini has only confirmed that one such missing scene was ever shot: A scene in which he cameos as a psychiatrist. Romano suspects that this was most likely destroyed after all the film's negative trims were trashed.
Beyond that, Baird Stafford, who plays George Tatum in the film, informed us that most effects scenes were shot two ways: One version for the American release (which all involved thought at the time would end up with an R-rating) and a gorier version originally intended for European audiences. On that note, a last minute choice was apparently made by the 21st Century, the American distributor, to forego an R-rating and release the film unrated. (Although in 1983, a cut version was eventually submitted to the MPAA and successfully secured an R-rating. According to Markovic, however, this R-rated version contained no new footage; it was merely a cut version of the unrated version. In our search, we haven't come across any prints of this R-rated version.
Rumors of additional missing scenes have none the less persisted on the internet, but our investigation of their very existence has been based on the following: The surviving film elements, and the testimony of those involved; Romano Scavolini himself, Baird Stafford, and make-up effects artist Cleve Hall. Our conversations with Romano, Baird, and Cleve have all elicited the same response: NONE of them recall anything other than the psychiatrist scene ever having been shot. these rumored scenes ever having been shot.
All of these participants (ROMANO SCAVOLINI, BAIRD STAFFORD, CLEVE HALL, JIM MARKOVIC, WILLIAM MILLINGS, MIC CRIBBIN, WILLIAM PAUL) have been very generous with us in the DVD release of "Nightmare" and we can only take them for their word when they tell us they have no memory of any other missing scenes having been shot. We've also spoken to actor/unit manager Mic Cribben, but he maintains that he has very little memory of the film at all, let alone what scenes are missing. All of the film elements that we've uncovered are consistent with the 1983 VHS release by Planet Video.
In closing, we hope that you enjoy the release of "Nightmare" as much as we've enjoyed the labor of love it has become. We look forward to giving it's fans the most comprehensive release it's been allowed to have with extras that will provide some fascinating insight into the making of this film.