The Toolbox Murders (1978) | 4K Blu-ray Review


Controversial in its time, and even banned in the United Kingdom, The Toolbox Murders certainly pushed the horror/exploitation genre when it first came out. Regardless of your opinion on the movie itself, let’s see if this latest 4K disc adds another big win to Blue Underground,, or if they finally stumbled.


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Buy it here!

The Toolbox Murders 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-66)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Released By:Blue Underground
Release Date:January 18th, 2022
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
BR: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution:4K: Native 4K, 2160/24p
BR: Full HD, 1080/24p
Digital Intermediate (DI):4K (from negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):Dolby Vision (FEL), HDR10
Aspect Ratio:1.66:1
Audio Format(s):English (4K/BR):
Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
DTS-HD MA 1.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles:English SDH, French, Spanish
Packaging:Dual disc snapcase with slipcover*

*Slipcover may only be available on initial pressing
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region-free

Video Review:

The Toolbox Murders was already restored once and release on Blu-ray back in 2010. But that restoration was not as high quality as it could have been, so Blue Underground went back to the original uncut negatives to bring a new 4K restoration for their latest release. Given what they were likely working with, the results are fairly impressive. It’s definitely not a massive increase in detail compared to the Blu-ray, but this is likely more due to the quality of the source than the efforts of the restoration team. That said, on close inspection there is definitely an increase in fine detail when present with skin textures looking mostly refined, hair looking natural and clothing details, set pieces and props all look excellent. That said, the quality of the original capture is inconsistent. There are some scenes where focus was clearly missed and no amount of restoration work would make those sharp (and thankfully they did not try to do so with processing). But what is in focus is very pleasing to take in.

The bigger improvement here is on the color front. The color grade is very natural, but with some pops throughout. Neutral grays, browns and tans common of the era are all pleasant looks like I would expect for a film of the vintage. Whites are definitely crisp and reds, blues and greens all get a pop, with the reds getting the most noticeable boost. There are a couple of instances, especially the red of Joey’s shirt in bright daytime scenes where the red almost pushed up to being a bit oversaturated, but other than that it looks rich, full and appropriately vibrant. For dynamic range, given the nature of the nighttime and low lit scenes, there are quite a few dark shadows. While some of those shadows are clearly pushed down to black, the shadows, where detail should be present, reveal that detail. White highlights are appropriately bright with little washout and overall the handling of the range is well done by this Dolby Vision presentation.

There is a heavy layer of film grain throughout the runtime. If you are grain sensitive you probably will be distracted, but if you appreciate grain (and if you are looking at low budget films from the 1970s, you probably do), then you’ll find the handling of grain here to be quite pleasing, with it looking refined and natural without blotching or artifacting.

The included Blu-ray is also quite good and appears to be from the same restoration work. As mentioned earlier, the detail difference is not as stark here given the nature of the source material, but there is definitely a bit more challenge in the handling of dynamic range and colors that means the 4K disc definitely is the preferred version for me.

Video Score (4K): 4.5 / 5 (Excellent)

Video Score (BR): 4.2 / 5 (Very Good)

Audio Review:

Both discs in this set include three audio tracks, with a Dolby Atmos mix and a 5.1 and 1.0 Mono track in DTS-HD Master Audio. Much like the picture quality, the audio here is most limited by its source. This movie was shot on a very limited budget and it’s clear there are scenes where only one microphone may have been available and it ended up capturing more ambient noise than the dialog it was intended to capture. On each of these tracks, the film is a mix between mostly clear dialog, mixed with some muddied dialog and less than complimentary musical soundtrack. Based on my ear, it sounds as though the Atmos mix does present a wider, more spacious presentation, but much of the movie is very front and center so it’s not a game changing  experience, and my main preference is actually the mono mix. All three tracks present with some bass, but this will not be a bass-heavy movie. The music does have some lower tones, but it’s not going to stress even the most basic of subs.

Even given the flaws of the source, this definitely sounds better than I expected especially given my recollections of past mixes.

Audio Score (4K/BR): 3.5 / 5 (Above Average)

Special Features and Packaging:

Blue Underground always does a nice job with features, and what we received here was not only the past features from their 2010 release but also a slew of new featurettes, interviews, video essays, still photographs and a new audio commentary (in addition to the original) with a look back from film historians about the film.  Overall there’s a lot here for fans to take in and get a better look at this cult exploitation flick.

For packaging, we get a subtly embossed slip cover with classic artwork. The same artwork is carried onto the case and as usual Blur Underground gave us some custom art on both discs inside. This is not a premium release type of physical presentation, but its definitely at the high end of a standard release.

Features Score: 4.4 / 5 (Very Good)

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

If you are a fan of this film, it is definitely worth picking up, but I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend buying it blind. As it is from a small boutique label, it does carry a bit of a heftier price still sitting in the upper $30s as of this publication. If you have the extra budget and know what you are buying in terms of the film itself, then this is probably the best this movie will ever look given its inherent limitations.


Buy/Upgrade Recommendation: Yes* (for diehard fans and those with extra budget)

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Buy it here!

Summary and Overall Scores:

The movie itself was (is) divisive back when it came out, and likely still is today given the female exploitation style of the movie. But if you understand that and can appreciate it serves as a snapshot of the style in the time it was produced, then this release is definitely the way to add it to your collection.

Experience Score**: 4.1 / 5  (Very Good)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.

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