Blu-ray isn’t just for tech geeks and event movie fetishists. Films you wouldn’t imagine being capable of an a/v upgrade sometimes look stunning in this format – and this can be a boon to the exploitation movie buff. For instance, the Blue Underground blu-ray editions of New York Ripper and The Toolbox Murders uncovered a layer of artistry in the photography of both of those scuzz-classics. Anchor Bay recently threw their hat into the “grindhouse goes blu-ray” ring with their blu-ray edition of the original I Spit On Your Grave – and the results are truly impressive.
I Spit On Your Grave had received a nice DVD back in 2002 when Elite Entertainment did a “Millenium Edition” of this film. That disc boasted a THX-approved transfer and looked pretty damn good. However, the heightened resolution of the blu-ray format on this new disc allows for a depth of detail and color that show off how carefully shot the film is in its own minimalist style. Much of the film takes place outdoors in natural-lighting situations so the boost in resolution really makes the film’s stark look easier to appreciate. In terms of sound, the disc uses a 5.1 stereo remix. Purists won’t be happy that the film’s original mono mix was dropped (it was on the Millenium Edition DVD) but this mix works nicely. There’s not a lot of directional effects going on but its HD-level of clarity shows off how good the sound effects work is in this film.
There’s also a solid collection of extras on this blu-ray, most of which were ported over from the Millenium Edition DVD. There’s a brief alternate titles sequence that utilizes the film’s original Day Of The Woman titling, trailers for the film under its Day Of The Woman and I Spit On Your Grave guises, a selection of t.v. spots and radio commercials and an image gallery that includes international ad art. It’s interesting to study the differences between the Day and Spit trailers: the Day trailer is a bit disjointed but the Spit ad campaign is a self-assured juggernaut of exploitative hooks. It’s one of the all-time great exploitation film trailers and any student of the form should check it out.
However, the best of the inclusions from the previous DVD are two stellar commentary tracks. The first belongs to writer/director Meir Zarchi and its one of the most meticulously detailed director commentaries Your Humble Reviewer has ever heard. You can tell that Zarchi prepared for this track very carefully because he fills each corner with a carefully structured stream of comments that cover everything from inspiration to production to distribution. He’s a skilled raconteur with a wry sense of humor and it’s a joy to listen to his fond, sometimes impassioned take on his work (the key moment is a harrowing account of how the film was inspired by a real-life incident he witnessed). There’s not a dull moment on it.
Zarchi’s track is accompanied by a critic’s track from Joe Bob Briggs that is just as impressive. He offers a singular mixture of humor and insight as he breaks down the film and offers strong rebuttals to the misinterpretations it has suffered over the years from critics like Siskel and Ebert. His secret weapon is that he is as smart as he is funny and this allows him to read the film and the writing/directing choices Zarchi makes with the insight of a film-aesthetics scholar. He never lies about the film’s shortcomings but he makes a strong case for its importance – and like the Zarchi track, the end result never has any dull stretches. Simply put, these tracks are two of the best commentaries you’ll ever hear on an exploitation film.
The one new extra is a half-hour interview piece with Zarchi. As with the commentary, Zarchi is fun to listen to and brings a certain wry humor to his observations about his film’s chequered history. The interview fleshes out a number of topics that Zarchi touches upon in his commentary track and adds some interesting new material about Zarchi’s relationship with star Camille Keaton and some of the chicanery that went on with the distribution of his film during its heyday. Unfortunately, the interview piece isn’t as carefully assembled as it could have been: his comments aren’t as carefully or tightly structured as they could have been and the attempts to integrate clips from the film are awkwardly deployed and timed. The end result often feels like a rough cut that needed a few more passes. That said, Zarchi’s unexpectedly charming presence is enough to pull the viewer through this piece’s rough spots (particularly when he says “F-U-C-K the M.P.A.A.”).
In short, Anchor Bay’s blu-ray of I Spit On Your Grave is a deal that the exploitation film scholar can’t afford to pass up: the transfer is stellar and the supplements deliver the goods. If you have any interest in seeing this film on home video, this is the way to do it.