Over the last few years, Tempe Digital has slowly been releasing their greatest hits on “ultimate” edition Blu-ray releases. In 2017, they released The Dead Next Door. In 2018, it was a beautifully restored (and fixed) Robot Ninja.
This year, Ozone gets the treatment with two different versions. The Standard Edition comes with the Blu-ray. The slightly more expensive Signature Edition also comes with a DVD and (while supplies last) an Ozone refrigerator magnet. Is upgrading to the Blu-ray worth the cost? Read on to find out.
2003 DVD Release
Each time that Tempe comes out with one of these releases, they face a bit of a problem: they’ve already produced excellent DVD releases. Ozone was released in 2003 and it was great. I’ve had it for years and I never thought, “I really wish Tempe would put out a good edition of this film” — as I have for far too many of my favorite films.
More than that, every time there’s a sale, I pick up a few copies of the DVD, which I give out like the micro-budget horror Johnny Appleseed. (I do the same thing with Kingdom of the Vampire.) If you are interested in my thoughts on the film itself, check out Every JR Bookwalter Film Ranked. I think Ozone is Bookwalter’s best film.
My one major complaint about the 2003 DVD release is it is slow. All my players really struggle with moving from selection to selection. Maybe this is due to my playing it on Blu-ray players. Regardless, this isn’t a problem with the new discs.
Audio and Video
I’ve gotten used to the look of Ozone over the years. It was shot on S-VHS-C, which might have been passable for broadcast at the time but certainly isn’t today. And the film is overwhelmingly shot in dark locations. So I figured what I was getting on the original DVD was about all that I could expect.
I was wrong. This Blu-ray version looks distinctly better. And the colors, which are really important in the film, are richer — fuller. I don’t know how to put it other than to say that it looks a whole lot better.
The sound is also better. The dialog is clearer and the music has more depth. It makes the DVD version sound mushy now.
There are a number of significant additions to the setup on the Blu-ray. First up is that Ozone gets subtitles for the first time — in English and Spanish.
This goes along with the standard English audio track in DTS-HD 5.1 and a Castilian Spanish dubbed in Dolby Digital. I seem to be in the minority of people who have no problem with dubbing — as long as it’s done right. And the Spanish dubbing is pretty good — up their with Italian films like Suspiria.
Of course, what’s most interesting about the Spanish audio track is that it allows interested parties to compare the sound designs for the film. For example, when Eddie and Mike are talking in their car, the crickets sound like they are all over in the English track. In the Spanish track, you only hear a solitary cricket now and then.
There are also three commentary tracks included on this disc. First there is the 2003 commentary from the DVD with Bookwalter and James Black. It’s mostly interesting because of the enthusiasm that Black shows for the work. That’s also seen on the commentary track for Galaxy of the Dinosaurs. There are also some interesting story like Black’s concern that the bar extras (who had been drinking) were actually going to do him harm.
There is another track with Bookwalter alone from the 2003 release of the film as Street Zombies. This is a surprisingly good commentary. Not only does Bookwalter cram a lot of information into it, he does it in an amusing way. At times it seems like he is doing a stand-up routine. This commentary was not on the DVD release.
And finally, there is a new commentary with Bookwalter and Ross Snyder of Saturn’s Core Audio & Video. It’s generally the kind of commentary I like best — more or less an interview. If you don’t know much about the making of Ozone, it’s probably the best one to listen to first.
Sadly, the Blu-ray does not include a widescreen version of the film. But I won’t complain — at least as long as Tempe doesn’t release a widescreen version only on iTunes for another ten bucks! (They did that with Robot Ninja.) [See below]
The original DVD release subdivided the film into 29 chapters. The Blu-ray subdivides it into 20. The first 5 chapters are the same. After that, the ones on the Blu-ray are kind of arbitrary.
Not that it matters too much but it would be nice to have shorter chapters since Ozone has so many notable scenes you might want to share with friends.
Extras and Special Features
Now things get kind of complicated. Or at least detailed.
First, we have the stuff that is recycled from the 2003 DVD, although in many cases, it has been updated in some way:
- Production Gallery: 5-minute video using all the production and artwork images.
- Promotional Gallery: 6-minute video using all the promotional images (mostly shorts of magazine and newspaper articles).
- Paying for Your Past Sins: 30-minute documentary about the making of Ozone.
- Into the Black: 8-minute documentary about James Black. It’s odd though. There’s very little interviewing of Black in it.
- 2003 Location Tour: 5-minute documentary with James L Edwards. Edwards is charming and it’s interesting to see the locations as they actually exist in context with each other.
- Behind the Scenes: 7-minute behind-the-scenes documentary. In this version, you can choose to listen to Bookwalter’s discussion or just music.
- Early Test Footage: 13-minutes of the footage that David Wagner shot before Bookwalter came onboard.
The following stuff was not on the original DVD:
- Bloopers: This is 30 minutes of material. Normally, I hate this kind of thing. But it works as a kind of behind-the-scenes documentary.
- 1993 TV News: 3-minute segment from local news on Tempe Video and Riot Pictures. (They misspell Mark Basko’s name.)
- 1993 NewTalk Interview: 19-minute local talk show featuring Bookwalter and the Riot Picture guys, Bosko and Wayne Harold. It focuses on Riot more than Tempe.
The Blu-ray comes with fewer trailers than the original DVD (there are more on the DVD that comes with the Signature Edition). It presents trailers that are currently available from Makeflix: Ozone, Robot Ninja, The Dead Next Door, Platoon of the Dead, and Poison Sweethearts.
Signature Edition DVD
The DVD features the original VHS version of Ozone. I don’t actually see any difference between it and the original DVD version. But to be honest, I haven’t looked in detail.
It too comes with English and Spanish subtitles. There is a Dolby Digital 2.0, production, and isolated music tracks. The production track seems to be the basis for the Spanish language dub on the Blu-ray. That is: it doesn’t sound as good.
The highlight of the disc is a commentary track with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of No-Budget Nightmares — one of the few listenable film podcasts. They manage to be funny and informative. They are also highly opinionated in a way that doesn’t make me want to turn them off.
The film is divided into the same 20 chapters as on the Blu-ray.
The extras are all on the original DVD:
- Ozone: Droga Mortal: 12 minutes of the film with Spanish dubbing. With the whole film now available in Spanish, this is just included for completeness.
- 1992 B’s Nest Video Magazine Intro: Tempe used to put a little video magazine at the end of their tapes. Basically, they’re just commercials. This one is interesting in that it is produced by Bookwalter and Lance Randas (who is also Bookwalter). What’s up with that?!
- Three other Ozone trailers:
- Original 1993
- Japanese 1995
- Street Zombie 2003.
- Other trailers:
The Blu-ray also comes with an eight-page booklet with an article by Ross Snyder that puts Ozone into historical context relative to the films that went before and after. It’s excellent and well worth a read.
Additionally, Tempe has had some Ozone magnets produced and one comes with the Signature Edition. The magnet is much more substantial than the old (still cool) magnets that they used to sell. It’s more than worth the extra $5 the Signature Edition will cost you.
I see that all the cheap 2003 Ozone DVDs at Makeflix are sold out. You can purchase it on Amazon, but at $12.99, you are better off springing for the Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray is available on Amazon, but currently, you get a better deal at Makeflix — even with shipping (which is free if you order more than $30). The basic version is $19.99. If you want the Signature Edition ($24.99), it seems to only be available from Makeflix. If you’re any kind of fan of the film, it’s the one to get.
It turns out that the source material just doesn’t have the resolution to do a widescreen print. It was possible with Robot Ninja (which looks great in widescreen) because it was shot on 16mm film.
Image of Ozone taken from Makeflix under Fair Use.