Strange/Strange Too DVD/Blu-ray Review

Anton Corbijn, long-time Depeche Mode collaborator and artistic visionary for the band, let it “slip” earlier this year during a Momento Mori promotional interview that he was overseeing the transfer of the original Super 8 footage for the short film Strange. I assumed at the time we would be getting Strange Too, too, and was equally excited and surprised to hear of the rerelease of the beloved additions to the band’s videography during this crucial era of their career. 

Being blessed to live in Southern California until after the end of the Exciter tour, I can tell you that the years surrounding the release of both short films were extraordinary as a Depeche Mode fan. Richard Blade, a DJ for World Famous KROQ radio in Los Angeles at the time, was filmed for the VH1 Behind the Music: Depeche Mode, saying he believed that the band could have found further fame had they produced more mainstream videos than those of Anton Corbijn. While we’ll never know the accuracy of Blade’s opinion, I can say that I absolutely disagree. Anton’s visual representation of Depeche Mode, strangely (as the titles allude), was a perfect fit for the abundantly relatable yet still wholly ambiguous lyrical stylings of Martin Gore. This combination of music and visuals is captured heartwarmingly in the Blu-Ray and DVD release of Strange/Strange Too. I would have said it was “perfectly” captured, but time has taken its toll on the film of Anton Corbijn’s already somewhat gritty and grainy style. 

The Packaging

I’ve never been much of a fan of the modern era of Depeche Mode physical releases. Call me old school, but I prefer the CD/DVD jewel cases of the past and am less of a fan of the paper/cardboard digipaks accompanying the physical versions. As a digipak version, after seeing the promotional images, I already wished we were getting two separate releases of the original films and videos. But, after getting my Amazon delivery (I miss going to the local record and import shops on the day of a DM release), I was pleasantly surprised at how a simple yet effective double release was packaged together. 

The two covers adorning front and back, a technique mirrored in the removable liner notes after opening the gatefold, was clever in keeping the set simple yet still inclusive of interesting content before you place the single disc into your DVD/Blu-Ray player. It’s always a joy to see Anton Corbijn’s notes attached to his handy work, and it’s no less enjoyable here in the folded reversible pull-out. Of course, seeing Anton’s classic photos of the band is never a disappointment. But, we are also treated to some, albeit very minimal (as is typical for Anton), new artwork included in the notes and carried over to the disc menu, with Anton’s unmistakable artistic “doodles” of hand-drawn rectangles around the clickable menu items. The inner gatefold also features broad brushes of greys and black, with a smattering of white. While ultimately unremarkable, it still is one hundred percent Anton Corbijn. It rounds out the release’s visuals that keep in theme with all of Depeche Mode’s releases with Anton at the creative helm. Personally, at a time when we are no longer treated to an abundance of Anton Corbijn artwork for the various releases attached to Memento Mori, it was a nice treat to have Strange/Strange Too created with such detail and added attention. 

The Visuals

Seeing the MUTE logo always gives me a nostalgic hit of dopamine. And, as I mentioned, I would have liked initially to have seen these films/video collections released separately. But as soon as the menu screen came up, seeing Anton’s artwork and an easy-to-navigate menu between the two artistic works, it made all the sense to package them as they have. I also found the background soundtrack on the menu to be a welcome surprise. 

I appreciated the added text inside the gatefold explaining the difficulty of the conversion process and its impact on this release. The only time I saw a noticeable difference was during the Strangelove portion of Strange, where there was abundant graining within some of the shots. It wasn’t enough to ruin the experience for me, but enough to at least notice. Otherwise, both Strange and Strange Too were just as enjoyable as the last time I had watched them decades ago on my worn-out VHS tapes, and even more enjoyable from a format standpoint having them on Blu-Ray. 

Apart from the limited availability of Clean and Halo on past releases and now having them persevered in this release, it’s the films Strange and Strange, too, as the main attraction that matters most with this release.
Drawing back upon that quote and the not-so-subtle jab at Anton’s artistic style, it’s precisely Corbin’s style that continued to fuel my passion for this band between major releases. The genius of what Anton Corbijn created in both these films rests in his less is more approach. Anton didn’t get overindulgent in his art; he kept the content between the videos short. Long enough to get an impression of his artistry yet short enough to understand that the viewer wants to get to the good stuff, the music. Was the video for A Question of Time weird to me as a sixteen-year-old? Sure, but I had an open mind because I already loved this band so dearly. Were the Strange interviews between the music videos of European models and old men bizarre? Absolutely, but again, I kept an open mind because this was something the band approved of and, therefore, I approved of. For Strange Too, abandoning the black and white aesthetic for color on Strange Too as a fan, I was already sold when I first saw the promotional ads for the pending release. Along those lines, I appreciate the noted difference in the titles of these releases, such as Black and White Mode and Colour Mode by Anton Corbijn, on the packaging. Also, on a personal note, it’s fun to see the visuals from Strange Too, many of which were ultimately used for the live visuals on the World Violation Tour, especially in the clean promo clip in the film. World In My Eyes is a personal favorite of mine, being filmed entirely on that tour. A part of me thinks if the band cares enough to release these gems from so many years ago, then maybe we’ll get that proper World Violation Tour physical release. Dare to Dream On. 

Ultimately, this lifelong Depeche Mode fan is more than happy with the Strange/Strange Too release. The fact that as much attention to detail and care was given to create this release shows how much Dave, Martin, and the current iteration of their promotional team understand the love that fans like you and me have for this band. Now, how about that The World We Live In and Live in Hamburg Blu-ray release? 

Reviewed by special guest contributor Jon Justice for Home.

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