Dog Soldiers is a title that has been in the blu-ray pipeline at Scream Factory for a long while. The reason that this process became so protracted lies in some unique challenges involved in creating a new HD transfer for the film. The company recently issued this title and, while the finished product has some unavoidable issues, the new disc acquits itself as a solid presentation of this film. Better yet, it throws in a few worthwhile new extras to sweeten the deal.
At the A/V level, Dog Soldiers presents a lot of problems that would challenge any home video company: the negatives for the film can’t be found and the disc’s producers had to use a pair of existing theatrical prints to create a new HD master. Another issue is the fact that the film was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for those theatrical prints, meaning that any presentation taken from such prints would inevitably have a “second generation” kind of look.
The transfer used for Dog Soldiers here reflects those issues: the 16mm-to-35mm blowup used for the source material means there is pronounced grain, reduced contrast and a certain paleness to the colors (particularly the black levels). That said, the results are never less than watchable and until the day those negatives are found, this is as good as it is going to get. For what it’s worth to the fans, it should also be noted that this release met with the approval of director Neil Marshall.
As for the audio, both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo mixes are offered in lossless form. The 5.1 was used for this review and it’s a quality mix, with subtle but effective surround speaker layering for the music and sound effects.
Scream Factory has also put in a nice effort with extras. The first is a new commentary track with Marshall. He handles the track alone, expanding on stories that get touched on the disc’s featurette and adding plenty of interesting scene-specific details. You’ll hear a lot about the film’s countless references and learn some interesting trivia, like how a young Jason Statham almost played the Private Cooper role and who the people actually are in the cabin’s family photo.
Even more impressive is “Werewolves Vs. Soldiers,” a 62-minute featurette that involves the input of Marshall along with all the key above-the-line crew members and actors Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee and Emma Cleasby. This piece provides a comprehensive overview of the film from conception through production, including how the financing was assembled, how the actors were cast and the techniques used to bring the film’s jumbo-size bipedal werewolves to life. There are funny anecdotes, including Pertwee’s macabre yet comical tale of an on-set injury, and everyone expresses themselves with a genuine fondness for the film and Marshall.
There is also a 13-minute interview production designer Simon Bowles. Using a scale model of the film’s house set, he explains the whys and wherefores of his work. A highlight is the tale of how he put together a basement set with little money or resources.
Next up are some promotional materials. A reel of five trailers shows off a variety of approaches, including two spots that use titles to clever effect. A photo gallery offers over forty images of stills, promotional pictures and a few poster designs while a behind-the-scenes gallery offers up just over 20 more images. In a nice touch, the latter gallery uses detailed and informative captions to give the viewer insight into the techniques the filmmakers used to achieve various sequences.
The final extra is Combat, a short film that Marshall made during his film student days. It’s a fun little piece in which the battle of the sexes in a pub is expressed entirely through visual techniques and sound effects drawn from war movies. Fans of Dog Soldiers might find it interesting as an early example of Marshall’s genre-blending techniques.
To sum up, Scream Factory has put forth a worthy effort with this edition of Dog Soldiers. The transfer is as good as it can be under the circumstances described earlier in this review and the extras package is worth the viewing time for fans.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Dog Soldiers, click here.