Wednesday, August 8, 2007

updates on NIGHTMARE from the DVD supplement producer Lee Christian

To all those awaiting release of Romano Scavolini's "Nightmare".

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.

Lee Christian


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update.

Any chance of a CHI SEI?/Beyond The Door update?

Jakey said...

I'm a bit confused. Isn't the whole point of soft matte that the film print is 1.33:1, then is masked off by the projector? Wouldn't such a thing require that you do indeed crop a 1.33:1 print (at the top and bottom) in order to display it in the correct aspect ratio? Wouldn't looking at the film elements be kind of inconclusive if a film was intended to be masked off in theaters?

As for the "consistent with the logic of..." thing, as far as I know you're mentioning both actual Academy ratio films and films that were deliberately altered by their directors on the way to home video. The two are very different situations, of course.

ianzap said...

As a huge fan of the film, I really appreciate all the detail provided.

However, though a proper source may not be available for the DVD, the Dutch VHS does indeed contain a scene with the babysitter (no murder, just dialogue) at the beginning of the film which was not included in the Planet Video release or the US theatrical prints. It will be a shame if this is unable to be included on the DVD as a supplement, even if from a substandard quality VHS master.

Simon Taylor said...

Will a theatrical trailer be included in the extras, and how soon can we expect to see this hitting DVD shelves?

Anonymous said...

The reasoning behind the decision made to transfer the film in the fullframe ratio is pretty pathetic!
The first comment left by Jakey sums it up pefectly, just because the negative is open matte doesn't mean its shown that way in cinemas.
And isn't the whole point to try and replicate the theatrical experience with DVD? Kubrick made the decision that his films should be released 4.3, because everyone was veiwing them at home on 4.3 sets, think that really applies now? Its not only about the black bars, what about the increased resolution that'll be lost by presenting fullframe. A loss of 33% to be exact! Here is a link to the end scene with matting for all to see, it isnt 185.1 but almost no flat ratio film on DVD is.They are either 178.1,(16.9 Ratio) or 166.1 with slight window boxing. Both are far more desirable than a fullframe transfer. Its not like the film was shot in the 30's or 40's.
Oh well years of waiting, at least the extras will be worth watching.

Devil Fetus said...

Will the Code Red DVD of NIGHTMARE contain the extra babysitter scene found in both the Dutch and Australian VHS releases, as well as the full 'sleaze' scenes including the vibrator masturbation scene missing from many prints including at least one US VHS?

Anonymous said...

A few questions: Can we PLEASE have a couple screenshots of the progress of the film?? Maybe even a pic of what the DVD cover is gonna look like? We've been in the dark too long about this thing as it's been passed around from company to company etc. We DESERVE a little more info here...

Secondly, I hear on the Doom Asylum DVD that there is a trailer/spot for Nightmare as an upcoming dvd release. Is this a legit trailer for the film or one made to advert the dvd?

Anonymous said...

Could we PLEASE have some more updates on this?! Jesus this is like the most anticipated DVD ever for horror fans! Screenshots!! A trailer! SOMETHING!! I know y'all are busy and we do appreciate that... but... cmon here!!!!

Anonymous said...

They state that Scavolini amongst others involved with the film have verified that there were in fact no alternate sequences apart from one brief one existent outside of the longest (approx. 97 minute) cut we are all familiar with. This completely contradicts Scavolini's statements in the extensive interview he granted to the SPAGHETTI NIGHTMARES book several years ago wherein he speaks about several scenes which were shot and then finally omitted but which he personally would've preferred to have kept in the film!!!! I wonder if they asked him about that? Unfortunately, they claim the negative was beyond rehabilitation so the source will be a multi-composite from the "best reels/segments" comprising seven 35mm release prints. I hope they at least correct the reel change error of the shot of the severed female head opening its' eyes (which appears twice less than a minute apart, the first time in the wrong place, ruining the "shock" of its' appearance in its' correct place the second time). This error was present on all of the old tape releases (although I am not certain about the Dutch tape). I really hope the film sees the light of day, that Scavolini's involvement will be substantial and not scant, and that the transfer is not screwed up in any ways. I really LOVE this film, I consider it a true masterpiece, far more intelligently made and structured than it is seldom given any credit for!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

...This aspect ratio dilemma needs clarification....Why not do an open matte and an anamorphic transfer and make BOTH available on the disc(s)???!!! Great idea!!! You can adapt a matted version without overcropping, sacrificing too....It just has to be done with care and often is not................

Rod Williams said...

I agree that the best option for DVD is to present two transfers, one 16x9 and 1.78:1 and the other open matte.

If Kubrick had such issues with the matted framing of his films, why were they shown that way in cinemas? This bizarre 'logic' only shows that directors change their minds over time, not that the original presentations were 'wrong' or that latter preferences are 'correct'.

Ideally, what should be preserved for consumers on home video is the original theatrical framing, or both open matte and theatrical cropping transfers.

The Kubrick issue is moot since now the films are being released with anamorphic transfers at last. Finally some common sense! Let's not let the same thing happen to the excellent Nightmare.

Can I finally ditch my Aussie VHS rental? Hmmmm. Not yet!

Anonymous said...

WE NEED MORE UPDATES ON THIS! You'd figure for one of the most anticipated releases in horror history, you'd have a little more respect for the fans. One update every 3 months really isn't much to go on.

Anonymous said...

This release is compromised before its even out with the strange decision to release it openmatte. Unacceptable by todays standards!

Anonymous said...

Now, I don't like the nuttiness of all this whiny "Nightmare" craze, but there's one thing I agree with.

The film should be widescreen! I mean, I'll buy it full, wide, or any screen, no matter what, but others? I think openmatte and cut will ultimately hurt the release. Either uncut fullscreen, cut widescreen, or...even better...uncut widescreen! I think that will please many fans in the end-up. And hopefully, put an end to those god-awful annoying whiners on your blog.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the preliminary specs on the release indicate NO Scavolini involvement whatsoever....There is NO excuse for this although I am sure they'll come up with one...Whoever is posting comments about 'annoying whiners', GO TO HELL!!! The fans buying your dvd's deserve a voice and SO many dvd transfers have been FOULED up these last several years....This may well be the ONLY time NIGHTMARE gets released, period!!! So it is NOT annoying to be insecure regarding it being done properly. It should be released open matted and matted as well...The CUT of the film should be correspondent with the Dutch and Australian (the uncut Aussie tape, not the "Schizo" version) tape releases, NOT with the Planet Video release...and lastly, Romano Scavolini must be involved as he is absolutely the most important figure relative to the film, no offense to the others involved! I don't think any of this is whining or unreasonable to expect from CODE RED if they care as much about the film as it's fans do? Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

So I guess you guys finally gave up on this one eh?

Why am I not surprised?

Anonymous said...

Dear Morons at Code Red,

Please publish here a formal announcement that you are not ever going to released this DVD, since that will at least correspond with the reality of the situation.

Thank you.