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.