following ten releases are the ones that most reminded me why I have boxes
full of these things taking up all the spare room in my apartment...
PALM (Intercontinental Region 3 HK): Although it lacks anamorphic enhancement,
this is still a laudable rendition of one of the craziest and most supercharged
HK fantasies around. Great fun!
Underground): While the closest thing to a compliment that one can extend
the film would be something along the lines of "laughably inept," this
disc still makes my list because of Blue Underground's unbelievably reverent
presentation. It may be the act of polishing a turd but I cannot help but
tip my hat to a job very well done.
CRAZIES (Blue Underground): Blue Underground released a series of terrific
discs in 2003 but their excellent presentation of this George Romero film
is my favorite of the batch. Highly satisfying on a technical level, with
a very informative and interesting commentary by Romero and Bill Lustig
on the mechanics of low-budget filmmaking.
GHOUL (MGM): I'd always avoided this vintage British thriller because
of the horrid versions in circulation. Thankfully, I was finally able to
see it (in more ways than one) thanks to MGM's absolutely gorgeous restoration.
The film itself is imperfect but very much worthwhile and let's hope that
Universal has a look at the work done here before they take another crack
at their horror classics.
HILLS HAVE EYES (Anchor Bay): Another very praiseworthy presentation
of a rough (and rough looking) movie that still retains much of its raw
power over two decades later.
CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN (Intercontinental R3 HK): Chor Yuen's
deliciously stylish lesbian/martial arts/murder mystery lives up to its
rep and is easily one of the most eye-opening and important Shaw Brothers
films to hit DVD thus far. The 16:9 transfer looks to have been upconverted
from 4:3 but the imagery is still magnificent and the supplementary material
thankfully more extensive than most Celestial offerings to date.
UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (Paramount): Paramount released virtually no
special edition laserdiscs and their early DVDs were a very uninspiring
and overpriced lot. Thankfully, they decided to no longer buck the trend
and came through for this Sergio Leone masterpiece. The image here is so
good it's spellbinding and a major improvement on the company's old LD.
(Mei Ah Region 3 HK): After a series of dismal romantic comedies and the
putrid double whammy of FULLTIME KILLER and RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2, I was
about ready to give up on Johnny To once and forever but he is back in
form with this beautifully shot police thriller, which manages to captivate
with stoic silence and mood, rather than just the usual genre ingredients.
Mei Ah?s anamorphic DVD is a huge improvement over their early releases
and about on par with American discs.
SUPER INFRAMAN (Intercontinental R3 HK): At last, this zany HK super
hero epic can be fully appreciated on video, thanks to an eye-popping restoration
and proper scope framing. Some will be disappointed by the loss of the
campy Peter Fernandez English dubtrack but anyone who skips buying the
disc for this reason deserves to lose out on the immense pleasures this
Shaw Brothers production has to offer.
(Paramount): Another film that remains surprisingly potent after all of
these years. With an excellent transfer and interesting commentary track
by Peter Bogdanovich, and a SRP under $10, this was 2003's best DVD bargain.
FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Criterion)
AND BURIED (Blue Underground)
IN AMERICA (Blue Underground)
TRILOGY BY INGMAR BERGMAN (Criterion)
MONDO CANE COLLECTION (Blue Underground)
UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (Paramount)
IN AMERICA (Blue Underground): The disc everyone said couldn't be done.
After years of waiting, the ever-dauntless Blue Underground unleash Joe
D'amato's exercise in all things mind-melting to DVD in high style, with
its horse-diddlin', hardcore sex and intense pseudo-snuff intact, backed
up with a slate of worthwhile extras. Laura Gemser's erotic adventures
as free-spirited, globe hopping reporter Emanuelle have never been treated
with this much respect; let's hope it's only the beginning!
2000 (Anchor Bay): Here's one I've been rooting for ever since Anchor
Bay's initial New World catalog acquisition - an outlandish and gory futuristic
updating of The Most Dangerous Game replete with multiple severed
appendages, hyper werewolves in cross-country vehicles, hilarious political
ramblings and Steve Railsback! Usually disemboweled, this Aussie action
flick amazingly turns up as a packed special edition showcasing a resplendent
uncut transfer, an active sound remix, featurettes, commentary, trailers
and more. Who would have ever guessed?
THE HERETIC (Synapse): Sleazy art? Arty sleaze? Something in between?
Now you can decide, thanks to Synapse's gorgeous debut of this bizarro
slice of violent nunsploitation. Impossible to find a good copy prior (complete
tapes were fullframe and ltbx tapes were cut) and never even released to
home video domestically, we can now view the classiest "naughty nun" flick
of 'em all in virtually pristine condition. Not much in the way of additional
items (save an interview with starlet Florinda Balkan and a stills gallery),
but it's the movie that really counts.
YOUR BLOOD (Grindhouse): David Durston's rabid hippie contagion classic
finally lands on disc, and it's a doozy. Aside from the remastered presentation
of the main feature, Grindhouse have packed nearly every nook and cranny
of this platter with some sort of supplemental material; it's enough to
keep you busy for days. Interviews, commentaries, photo collections, trailers
and items that are just peripherally related to the film or its crew are
included just for the sake of completeness. All hail S.A.D.O.S.!
WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX (Animeigo): The epic tales
of exiled executioner Ogami Ito are making their way to U.S. DVD after
much delay, and let me tell ya', it was more than worth the wait. Not only
are the films (which detail the revenge-fueled exploits of samurai and
child across feudal Japan) pure poetry in motion, but Animeigo's restored
transfers take on an almost 3-D sheen that will steal your breath with
every slow-motion spray of arterial crimson. I picked the second entry
of the series simply because I like its title more, but ALL are highly
recommended. No extras except for trailers and liner notes, but who cares?
2 (Barrel): Corpse-humpin' never seemed so sweet. This strangely poignant
and morbidly romantic account of the darker sides of human desire remains
provocative viewing to this day, which shouldn't be a surprise considering
it was purposely designed to alienate horror fans. Never an outfit to skimp,
Barrel have gone all out with its digital issue, not only delivering a
beautiful transfer and loading on piles of sublime extras like outtakes,
onset footage and commentaries, but also including the entire soundtracks
to both installments on a bonus CD!
(Sub Rosa): To be frank, most independent films these days are total crap.
And do we really need another homemade serial killer opus? Apparently yes,
we did. Believable acting, unexpected twists, inspired (but not showy)
direction and a complete refusal to pull any punches whatsoever catapult
this one way above its peers. The end product is undeniably perverse, brutal
and often hard to watch, but that's what makes it such an atypical surprise
in a genre full of stale efforts. Sub Rosa's DVD contains plenty of input
from the makers by way of commentaries and behind-the-scenes footage, too.
WOMEN FOR SATAN (Mondo Macabro): Simply the most delirious piece of
Eurotrash I've seen in years. Reminiscent of Jean Rollin on speed, this
former obscurity never fails to entertain, from its ridiculous storyline
to its infectious score to director Michel Lemoine's jaw-droppingly insane
turn in front of the camera. In addition to a new transfer from the last
film elements known to exist, Mondo Macabro includes a well-made interview
segment, a trailer and a few informative text essays, but they're merely
the icing on the cake with this newfound gem.
TOUCH OF HER FLESH / THE CURSE OF HER FLESH / THE KISS OF HER FLESH (Something
Weird/Image): The hilariously misogynistic misadventures of one-eyed woman
killer Richard Jennings get new life thanks to this wonderful collaboration
between Something Weird and Image. Possibly the most berserk films ever
made, Michael and Roberta Findlay's grungy masterpieces of anti-female
sentiment have never looked so sparkling and established fans will be thrilled
to find additional footage, too! While completely bereft of the bonus materials
SWV are usually known for (there wasn't any room!), this trashy trilogy
is still sure to destroy any relationship you're currently in. "So long,
AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (Image): Long seen only in horribly bastardized
versions, Jess Franco's moody fever dream is now available in what can
at last be considered its definitive presentation. A personal, surreal
and lyrical mediation on the uncertain nature of death that will undoubtedly
frustrate some but fascinate followers with its poetic vagueness, this
is not your usual Franco outing. Bruno Nicolai's rhythmic, driving score
only adds to the film's disorienting appeal. Challenging, but rewarding.
Besides the superior French language option, Image also presents a trailer
with exclusive footage and a collection of alternate takes and insert sequences.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Criterion):
Hope of seeing a pristine version of the finest fairy tale fantasy ever
made seemed to vanish thanks to the whims of film preservation (and lack
thereof), but against the odds a gorgeous version of Jean Cocteau's essential
classic finally surfaced. From Walt Disney to Angels in America, this blend
of the monstrous and the poetic still influences pop culture on a mass
scale strangely acknowledged by very few. Magical extras, too.
BLUE SUNSHINE (Synapse): One
of the greatest drug horror films ever made gets revitalized by Synapse,
restoring the icy chill to a low budget gem lost for years in video oblivion.
Scrappy, scruffy, and very vicious, this disturbing coda to the flower
power generation remains a cautionary tale for free-living kids who think
tomorrow never comes. And you'll never look at a shaved head the same way
again. Extra points for throwing in the soundtrack CD.
THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (Mondo
Macabro): Pete Tombs' international DVD outfit really came into its own
in 2003 with a spree of outrageous oddities from around the world, but
the biggest news was this refurbished presentation of one of Jess Franco's
best films (and yes, smart alecks out there, that really does count for
something). Gorgeous black and white photography, multiple language options
(finally!), and snazzy bonus material make this one of the best Eurocult
releases in the format's history.
ERASERHEAD (David Lynch): Foolishly
available only online, David Lynch's industrial nightmare of fatherhood,
twitching chickens and wriggling spermatazoa looks like a dream (albeit
a really scary one) on DVD. Not surprisingly, the extras and menus are
just as eccentric as the feature film. Overpriced to be sure, but hard
to pass up for those who don't despise it.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (Anchor
Bay): Another much-needed restoration, courtesy of Anchor Bay. Wes Craven's
rabid, full-throttle assault on American family values is still one hell
of a ride, and anyone who's suffered through scratched-to-hell theatrical
prints and lackluster video copies will be amazed at this DVD. Thankfully
the film still looks a little rough around the edges as any '70s 16mm film
should; a perfect example of how grindhouse aesthetics can still thrive
in the digital age. A whole disc of amazing extra goodies, too.
THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (Criterion):
The other end of the Criterion spectrum. The ultimate killer couple movie
gets the prestige treatment and still hasn't lost any of its bite.
Darkly funny, brutally violent, and sinfully entertaining, this perfectly
acted and directed gem deserves more than its enduring midnight movie status.
Special kudos for one of the best text supplements ever put on DVD, an
illustrated history of the real criminals who inspired this one-of-a-kind
IMAGES (MGM): Robert Altman's chilling
psychological horror cult favorite languished in some video netherworld
for decades before its unlikely rescue from MGM, who outfitted this stylish
chiller with some nice bonus features. Amazing scope photography from Vilmos
Zsigmond, a fragile-as-porcelain performance from Susannah York, and John
Williams' creepiest score make this a must for the cultured horror fan.
MONDO CANE COLLECTION (Blue Underground): Bill Lustig and company singlehandedly overhauled international film history with this sprawling video chronicle of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, two documentary filmmakers who pioneered a film genre and blurred the line between art films and tasteless trash. Grotesque, pandering, heartfelt,
challenging, and infuriating barely describe the films on view, but the
only word for this collection is "exemplary." The great feature-length
documentary would be enough, but also included are two wholly different
Italian cuts for Africa: Blood and Guts and Goodbye Uncle Tom which reveal
a completely different experience, never before beheld by most trash-loving
SCRAPBOOK (Sub Rosa): They're tougher to
find since the rise of Blockbuster, but extreme horror films with great
acting and writing are still out there. Case in point: this take-no-prisoners
tale of a woman and her serial killer captor, told with an unflinching
eye for detail and one of the horror genre's best female performances in
recent memory. Definitely not for all tastes, but this is the subgenre's
most important addition since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
NEKROMANTIK 2 (Barrel): This seriously
nasty sequel combining gorehound excess with Euro arthouse pretension is
still a tough nut to crack, but Barrel's lavish DVD makes it easier for
viewers with a surprisingly rich transfer and a bounty of fluid-soaked
extras. More audacious and ambitious than its predecessor, this tale of
a love triangle in which not all of the participants are still alive is
guaranteed to clear a room at your next family reunion.
THE BLOODY JUDGE (Blue Underground):
It was a huge year for Jess Franco fans and this was Blue Underground’s
most significant contribution. The longest, most colorful and best of all
versions of this Witch Hunt gem, the DVD is overflowing with worthwhile
extras and informative Tim Lucas penned liner notes.
BLUE SUNSHINE (Synapse): Synapse
Films gives Jeff Lieberman’s LSD freakfest the kind of attention it always
deserved with this shining double platter release. There’s some brilliant
stuff here outside the movie, including the cool Lieberman short film “The
Ringer” and a full soundtrack CD. Nice one, Don!
DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS
(Cult Epics): What in the world? Thank you Cult Epics for rescuing this
“lost” gem from the celluloid scrapheap--a truly beautiful and lyrical
slice of bygone era regional American Horror. Even better, this film has
a great dark sense of humor.
DORIANA GREY (VIP): One of Franco’s
best gets a face slappingly pristine restoration by Erwin Dietrich. The
quality of the transfer on this thing is enough to make you weep!
EMMANUELLE IN AMERICA (Blue
Underground): The filthiest of all “Emmanuelle/Emanuelle” movies--and arguably
the most entertaining. Presented here fully uncut and lovingly remastered,
to a standard that I’m sure surpasses any original theatrical screenings.
MONDO CANE COLLECTION (Blue
Underground): This jawdropping eight-disc set--I know, I’m still trying
to comprehend its size too--floored me the moment it arrived in my hands.
Everyone responsible for its existence should be beyond proud with the
end result. If you’re reading this and don’t own a copy yet, what the hell’s
wrong with you?
ROSSA VENEZIA (X-RATED): The
most underrated of all Germany’s neo-horror’n’sex filmmakers, Andreas Bethmann,
here gives the world what it’s always needed--a 155 minute genuine Porno-Giallo,
complete with cameos by Jess Franco and Lina Romay--don’t worry, they keep
their clothes on! Released as part of a huge--I mean it, the box is like
2ft. by 1ft.--four-disc set, you get a XXX t-shirt, a plot-less hardcore
version of the movie, a plot-only version of the movie, a disc of extras
and the full blown 155 minute hardcore’n’all version. Fantastic!!!
SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN (Mondo
Macabro): This sadist Euro-Sex creation completely blind-sighted me, packed
to the rafters with *cough*cough* arousing scenes of Sadean nakedness and
pumping Prog-Rock, what’s not to like? Mondo Macabro does it again!
A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD
(Image): Yep, another Franco makes my list--I said it was a great year.
This time it’s a Franco approved version of his magnificent and thoughtful
ode to death and dying. The film has never looked better and once again
Tim Lucas provides some appropriate and informative background info.
WOMEN IN CELLBLOCK 9 (VIP):
Franco piles on more bare-ass and perversion than you can imagine in this,
one of his meanest and nastiest Women-In-Prison flicks. Again, this was
restored to a ridiculous level by Erwin Dietrich and the folks at VIP.
ON PRECINCT 13 (Image)
YAGA (Blue Underground)
CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER
THE CHEERLEADER COLLECTION
OF THE DEAD (Anchor Bay)
AND BURIED (Blue Underground)
WALKS AT MIDNIGHT (Mondo Macabro) (UK)
EMMANUELLE COLLECTION (Anchor Bay)
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (MGM)
FASSBINDER'S BRD TRILOGY
TOLD ME TO (Blue Underground)
HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS (Chimera)
THE LIVING CORPSE (Mondo
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO
TOWERS (Extended Edition) (New Line)
THE MEATRACK/STICKS AND STONES
NAKED LUNCH (Criterion)
HOUSE OF SHAME / OLGA'S DANCE HALL GIRLS / WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN
OMEGA MAN (Warner)
THE WINGED SERPENT (Blue Underground)
OF THE NINJA (MGM)
ROMAN POLANSKI COLLECTION (Anchor Bay) (UK)
KITTY (Blue Underground)
(tricked-out, ghetto fabulous imitation red-satin and money-clip boxed-set
version only) (Universal)
IS THE PLACE (Plexifilm)
SPAGHETTI WESTERN COLLECTION (Blue Underground)
THE TENANT (Paramount)
THE THIRSTY DEAD / SWAMP OF
THE RAVENS (Something
MONSTERS trilogy (AD Vision)