Ever since its initial release, Dust Devil has been plagued by misguided advertising, distributors re-editing the film to suit their purposes and bureaucratic entanglements, all of which have nearly succeeded in killing the film, downplaying it into a bootlegged collectors item. Within a few years the situation was turned upside down, when suddenly there were three different DVD releases to pick from. The discs were published by Laser Paradise (hereby referred to as LP), Optimum Releasing (OR), and Subversive Cinema (SC).
Video: The LP disc uses a non-anamorphic source, which has its share of grain and speckle. The OR disc uses an anamorphic standard transfer from 2001, resulting in a significantly better image quality. The best one by far is the SC disc; it features a hi-def transfer from 2006, which is also approved by Richard Stanley.
Audio: The LP and OR discs both use the old audio mix, which has some inherit problems during some dialogue scenes. The SC disc has a new mix, which alleviates the problem as much as possible. All discs feature a stereo mix, LP and SC also have a 5.1 mix. As a curiosity, LP, being a German publisher, included the German audio track into their release in both Dolby 2.0 and 5.1.
Extras: The OR and SC discs both feature a commentary track by Richard Stanley. Note that these are two different tracks; the SC commentary is moderated by Norman Hill, while the OR track features Stanley alone. Regardless, Stanley's stories are insightful and fun. Due to him having a lot to say about the film and the stories behind it, the two tracks remain different enough for a completist to have both. The OR track, for example, has Stanley showing visible disdain towards the 'useless Rhodesian Ridgeback', Ben Mukurob's dog, basing his sentiments on several amusing anecdotes. On the SC track, however, the dog is barely mentioned.
The OR and SC discs feature deleted scenes, taken from the original workprint. The OR disc has four deleted scenes accessable as separate clips ("Crossed Lines" #1 & #2, "Bethany Train" and "Final Apparition"), while the SC box-set offers up an entire separate disc with all the above cut scenes reinstated, along with additional material not included in the OR disc. The cut scenes are likely sourced from an off-line copy, which would explain the somewhat weak quality.
The LP and SC discs include Maurice Herman's Making of 'Dust Devil', a 17-minute visit to the set in Namibia, which includes interviews with Stanley and some of the cast and crew members. The featurette is apparently based on a timecoded VHS-source, remaining in the best available condition. Stanley gets to throw in a few somewhat disheartened comments on his dealing with the Americans and their vision of the film and he also, while reminiscing his personal history, hints that there's more autobiography in Dust Devil than it might seem. Even though this is a very short piece, which ultimately offers more questions than answers, it also succesfully builds up the mystery of the film and its maker.
The SC disc also offers new video interviews with Richard Stanley and composer Simon Boswell, a trailer and photos of the 1985 version of Dust Devil, a comic book, a shortened version of the Dust Devil Diaries, the film's soundtrack and on the flip side of the sleeve, the artwork for Demoniaca, the Italian VHS release.
Summary: The SC box-set is the definitive release of Dust Devil, in terms of both technical quality and additional material. The commentary track and the interview recap the 20 years Stanley kept working on the project in great detail, while the inclusion of the reconstructed workprint (running at 114'), along with the remnants of the student film, leave very little to be desired for those interested in the film's various incarnations. Also included in the box-set are three documentaries by Richard Stanley, Voice of the Moon, The Secret Glory, and The White Darkness, each served with a commentary track and a video interview.
The OR disc is worth checking out for Stanley's UK commentary track, but there's no reason to replace the SC version with it.
The LP disc has nothing the other releases can't offer, aside from the German audio tracks. The image quality is well below those of OR and SC, and being non-anamorphic, the disc should now be regarded as a footnote in Dust Devil's colorful release history.