Blacks aren't the best in the business, but the interiors and the club scenes shouldn't trouble anyone too much with their lack of defined shadows. Contrast can be a little jacked-up too, but once again, not enough to cause any serious problems. Grain is present throughout, but there are certain shots and scenes that seem to generate more of it. It is never overly swamped with grain, however, and the transfer shows no signs of any overt noise removal. But there is a degree of edge enhancement that can rear its ugly head when objects - people, equipment, buildings - are seen against lighter backgrounds. A couple of times I found this distracting, to be honest.
Detail is fine on close-ups - Corinne applying her makeup, Lou's Gene Simmons-style clown-paint and the gelled flicks of Billy's barnet, for instance. Exterior shots of dreary towns and rain-sodden fields have moments of clarity but the film tends to look its best when it is up close and personal. To be fair, this looks a lot better than I thought it would and its rough-round-the-edges appearance actually enhances the mood and the style of the film.
Dialogue is tinny and overpowered all too easily. I didn't have a problem hearing any of it, but it is definitely recessed in the mix - both mixes in fact. This is compensated for with the presentation of the songs. The guitars are vibrant, the drumming wild and punishing and the singing is forceful and arresting. The hubbub of the various clubs isn't so hot, though and doesn't convince. Whenever we are witnessing one of the bands play, there is little effort being made to have us believe that we are actually in with a crowd of other people.
The stereo spread across the front isn't consistent with either mix. Sometimes there is a little bit of directionality - doors, voices, etc - but at other times, there is nothing but dead space. In this respect the film often comes across as very limited and close-in as opposed to opened-out and steered about. When intended support band, The Metros (a type of B52 mass act) suddenly come on, the fierce drumming does make a big impression, though, making you realise that the transfer - either in 2.0 or 5.1 - could have been so much better if it had managed to be consistent.
With no hiss or age-related distortion that bothered me with either track, I would have to say that I plumped for the 5.1 mix for the simple reason that it possesses more power and gives the performances a bit more oomph. But whatever your opinion of the mixes here, both have to sound an awful lot better than any of those poor quality bootlegs that have been floating about for years.
We also get a 68-image Stills Gallery which is pretty superfluous, and some inserts in the package which provide the backstory, legend and legacy of the film.
There is a documentary chronicling the making of the film and the legendary myths and tales that have grown up around it - underage drinking, drugs and sex on the bus amongst other spurious accounts of production hassle - but this has not made it onto the disc due to licensing rights. This is a shame as the story behind the story would have proved fascinating.
The disc is complemented by two commentary tracks, but only the one from Lane and Dern is worth listening to. The transfer is certainly passable for supposedly suppressed film and it is impossible to think that the legions of fans for The Stains will be disappointed with this release after years of inflated-priced bootlegs off Ebay.
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