In a strange bit of home video irony, Scanners II and III are mak­ing their blu-ray debut in the United States before the orig­i­nal David Cronenberg film can do the same.  However, if you have a region-free disc play­er you can still com­plete the series on blu-ray by check­ing out the U.K. disc released ear­lier this year by Second Sight.  Not only does it give Scanners the required high-def upgrade, it also includes a quin­tet of extras pro­duced by Severin Films.

First things first: the new HD trans­fer used for this disc looks quite good.  The detail is impres­sive and the film’s mut­ed col­or palet­te looks rich (but the reds real­ly pop off the screen when the gore effects occur).  The result gives you the best of both worlds: it’s as sharp as you’d want a blu-ray yet retains its nat­u­ral cel­lu­loid look.  Both 2.0 LPCM and 5.0 HD stereo options are offered for the audio.  The 5.0 option was uti­lized for this review.  There isn’t much rear-speak­er activ­i­ty to this mix but it han­dles dia­logue and effects with appro­pri­ate depth and real­ly brings a new clar­i­ty to the excel­lent Howard Shore musi­cal score, par­tic­u­lar­ly with its elec­tron­ic ele­ments.

Another thrills for fans will be the five fresh­ly mint­ed inter­view fea­turettes. “My Art Keeps Me Sane” is a 24-min­ute inter­view with star Stephen Lack. In con­trast to the rather blank char­ac­ter he plays in the film, Lack is actu­al­ly quite wit­ty and ver­bose.  He dis­cuss­es how he took a brief detour from his career as an artist to dab­ble in act­ing, offer­ing an amus­ing “stranger in a strange land” sen­si­bil­i­ty to his mem­o­ries of the film and its after­math.  He speaks freely about his chal­leng­ing rela­tion­ship with Dick Smith, his admi­ra­tion for Patrick McGoohan and tells some great tales about work­ing with the make­up effects (his rap­tur­ous descrip­tion of the film­ing for the “explod­ing head” scene is the high­light of the piece).  He also dis­cuss­es why he gave up act­ing and even shows a bit of his art­work.

The Eye Of Scanners” offers a 15-min­ute inter­view with cin­e­matog­ra­pher Mark Irwin — and it’s juicy stuff.  It revolves around three fas­ci­nat­ing and reveal­ing tales about the shoot: a dis­cus­sion of how tax-shel­ter financ­ing caused the film to go into pro­duc­tion with­out a pre­pared script, Irwin’s con­tentious work­ing rela­tion­ship with demand­ing lead­ing lady Jennifer O’Neill (includ­ing how he got revenge on her for her antics) and a fas­ci­nat­ing account of how the famous “explod­ing head” scene was achieved — and how the effects men assured that it would remain intact in the film.

The Chaos Of Scanners” allows pro­duc­er Pierre David to offer his take on the film in just under 14 min­utes.  His account of the pro­duc­tion is frank, dis­cussing the rushed cir­cum­stances in which it was assem­bled and how dan­ger­ous and exper­i­men­tal the action sequences were to shoot.  In addi­tion, he offers his own take on the “explod­ing head” scene plus  some inter­est­ing tales about the film’s suc­cess­ful ad cam­paign.  David also briefly touch­es on the Scanners sequels, his work­ing rela­tion­ship with Cronenberg and even offers a thumb­nail sketch of the pro­duc­tion of Videodrome.

Exploding Brains and Popping Veins” offers the make­up artist’s per­spec­tive via a nine-and-a-half min­ute chat with FX man Stephan Dupuis.  He goes into detail about all the effects, includ­ing a defin­i­tive account of the mate­ri­als that filled the film’s infa­mous explod­ing head, and dis­cuss­es some effects that didn’t make the final cut.  He also reveals how he learned about Dick Smith’s his­to­ry via his work on this film and speaks fond­ly of his sub­se­quent work with Cronenberg.

Bad Guy Dane” is a brief but event­ful 5-min­ute inter­view with Lawrence Dane, a char­ac­ter actor famil­iar to any­one who watched ‘70s/‘80s Canadian fare.  He talks about how he found the prop­er con­vic­tion to play his vil­lain­ous role, offers a few thoughts on his fel­low actors and, in a refresh­ing change from what actors usu­al­ly say, talks about how he enjoys see­ing his fin­ished work on the screen.  The only down­side of this piece is you’ll wish it was longer.

Simply put, this is a strong edi­tion of Scanners for the high-def age and worth the invest­ment for the all-region crowd.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Scanners, click here.