What does the name "Mondo Digital" mean?

Back in 1963, an Italian documentary (or, more accurately, shockumentary) called Mondo Cane, or A Dog's World, became a bit international hit and introduced the world "mondo" into English as referring to anything weird or uncommon. So our name means either "Digital World" or "Weird and Wild Digital." Take your pick.  The site is based from Los Angeles, California, and began in March, 1998; while we tend to focus a lot on horror films from various countries, we cover any films that are unusual or off the beaten track in some way.  Our coverage encompasses what have become termed "Psychotronic" movies (thanks to Michael J. Weldon), as well as foreign films (Kurosawa, Chabrol, Fellini, etc.), dark comedies, disastrous Hollywood misfires, and... well, you get the idea.  However, a quick browse through here will quickly reveal that European horror and sleaze is a really, really big favorite here.  Our e-mail address is mondodigtl@aol.com.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of DVD vs. laserdisc?

Right now laserdisc is on the way out in the eyes of many collectors, but anyone storing up those shiny platters since the mid-1980s knows that many of the rare titles exclusively issued on laserdisc probably won't be available again anytime soon. Thus, the biggest advantage to laser is title selection and rarity (and, according to some, the sound quality). DVD features the sharpest picture quality NTSC has to offer and a huge capacity for extra features including commentaries, alternate languages, documentaries, and any other special feature the companies can dream up. On the downside, DVDs are region-encoded, which means Japanese DVDs won't play on most U.S. machines, but Japanese laserdiscs will. The big deciding factor for most, though, is price; DVDs cost up to 50% less than laserdiscs for (usually) a better quality transfer.

Are any laserdisc versions of movies superior to the DVDs?

There are a few; the most notorious examples are Highlander and Halloween, which are littered with artifacts (digital visual flaws) and inferior to their laserdisc counterparts. Some others are tough calls, such as Evil Dead 2 (the laser sounds better and has more extras, while the DVD looks better), Lord of Illusions (different extra features on both), and Boogie Nights (again, different extra features for different formats).

What's this whole widescreen/aspect ratio/anamorphic stuff about?

Here are the basics: movies shown in the theater are wider (i.e., more rectangular in shape) than the image on a TV screen (almost a perfect square). So you have two options: crop the sides off the movie for TV and move the image back and forth (or "pan and scan") to catch any important visual information, or put black bars at the top and bottom and present the entire film image. Some films are shot in an anamorphic process like Cinemascope or Panavision, which are much wider than normal and thus lose even more on TV. "Aspect ratio" refers to the image's width versus its height, so a Panavision film would be about 2.35:1 (or slightly more than twice as long as it is high), while standard movies are 1.85:1 or, even slighter, 1.66:1 (a common standard in Europe). However, some films are shot "open matte," which means the cinematographer allows extra dead space at the top and bottom of the frame to be unmasked when the film is shown on television. Unfortunately, showing this safety area on TV can also expose boom mikes, tops of sets, special effects tubes, etc. (check out the fullscreen versions John Waters' Polyester or Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure for really disastrous examples). With the advent of widescreen television sets (including the upcoming HDTV), we now have anamorphic transfers which use the extra area of resolution on the widescreen for more visual information, approximately a 33% improvement. Most major studio DVDs now feature the option of an anamorphic presentation (in which little or no black bars appear above or below while the image fills the screen). Of course, how soon this method becomes widespread in America will remain to be soon, though this is as close to a movie theater as you can get right now in your home.

Are any DVDs rare yet?

A few DVDs have already achiveved collector's item status, including Warner's notorious Little Shop of Horrors (pulled from most stores before it even hit the shelves), the original pressings of I Know What You Did Last Summer, The 400 Blows, The Killer, and Seven Samurai, as well as Gremlins (which may be reissued now that Spielberg has warmed to DVD). However, this list will grow by leaps and bounds over the next couple of years.

Why are so many offbeat films, horror and otherwise, showing up on DVD?

DVD is simply following the path of most video formats. The most common consumers of new video technology are male, and "guy movies" generally tend to sell better. Horror and adult films really made VHS what it is today (for what that's worth), and these genres likewise boosted laserdisc and are doing the same with DVD. Action films, horror, and strange cult items are the strongest sellers, with comedy also strongly in the running. It may be a while before you see a petition for Gandhi on DVD.

What is DIVX?

DIVX is a now-defunct type of video format that charges viewings to your credit card after a rental fee for the initial 48 hours. DIVX machines play DIVX discs and DVDs but must be hooked into a phone jack, where all of your viewings are monitored. Movies on DIVX are generally not letterboxed.

Why don't you offer a rating system for DVD and laser reviews?

The kinds of films we're dealing with are tricky to evaluate. Everyone's taste is a little different, and we simply try to offer an honest evaluation of a film's pluses and minuses, then try to place its presentation on video in the right context. A film shot on cheap stock in Europe in the '70s obviously will never look as good on DVD as, say, Terminator 2, but it's ridiculous for an interested consumer to pass on Ganja and Hess or Rabid Dogs simply because of an occasional minor flaw in the source print. A number of DVD collectors build their library based solely on how immaculate a transfer is and how much they can show off their sound system, regardless of the film's quality and its historical value; while that approach is valid for many consumers, it's not all that helpful in this case 

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