Looks like it’s that time again. It’s been a few years since our last outing, but once again we've assembled a crack team of friends and colleagues to run down their favorite titles of 2009. Even though several of the labels we used to know and love have bit the dust since last go 'round, there’s still plenty of stuff out there, waiting to be discovered. Hopefully we'll turn you on to an overlooked gem or two. So, without further ado…
watches as many movies as he can and sometimes writes about them at Worldweird Cinema. He lives in Seattle and has two cats, Ulysses and Agamemnon
- THE HOUSEMAID (Korean Film Archives) (South Korea R0): At one time an at least partially lost film, this Korean psychosexual melodrama by the highly eccentric auteur Kim Ki-Young makes a splash on digital disc with this amazing release. The movie is mind-blowing and for the most part the transfer is too. The once “lost” reels are sourced from an inferior print, but just thank the gods it’s here at all. No doubt, this was the best and most important DVD of the year.
- L’IMPORTANT C’EST D’AIMER (Mondo Vision): If not for the grand unveiling of The Housemaid, this surely would have been my number one pick. Andrzej Zulawski’s ‘70s French-language masterpiece is perhaps the most emotionally riveting film I’ve seen, this year or any other. And Mondo Vision’s disc is a real stunner, from the deluxe packaging to the comprehensive extras to the completely stunning transfer. The most essential R1 release of 2009 for sure.
- KADIN DUSMANI: THE WOMAN DESPISER (Onar Films) (Greece R0): Onar struggled quite a bit this year, this being their only DVD of 2009. But all the pain was worth it, at least for fans of Turkish pulp cinema, because this one is a real barnburner. This z-grade giallo is as daffy as any Italian or Spanish variant, but spiked with that wonderful Ottoman low-budget zeal which puts it totally over the top. Only 500 of these are out there; what are you waiting for?
- THE BOLLYWOOD HORROR COLLECTION, VOL. 2 & 3 (Mondo Macabro): Two more volumes of wonderful Bolly delirium from our friends at Mondo Macabro. Overwhelmingly fun with more cheesy weirdness than you might be able to stand. You’ve been warned!
- MESSIAH OF EVIL (Code Red): One of the best US horrors of the ‘70s finally gets a release that approaches the greatness of the movie itself. Years of pan-and-scanned VHS and PD DVD atrocities have done considerable harm to the rep of this surreal and scary film, but Code Red has finally done it up right.
- FOOTPRINTS (Shameless) (UK R0): After a shaky start with some also-ran titles and truly horrible cover graphics Shameless Films have really come on the last year or so and have topped themselves with this much sought after artsy-fartsy quasi-giallo. Beautiful and haunting, this is the best Italian re-issue of the year, except for maybe…
- NIGHTMARE CASTLE (Severin): …this little number. A true gothic classic is finally given the home video release it deserves. The movie is wonderful and the DVD comes close to perfection.
- BLACK MAGIC 2 (Media Blasters): I waited for years to watch this one, holding out for a nice looking, complete version. Well, the wait was well worth it, as this DVD presentation is uncut and sports a stunning HD transfer. If only every HK cult film on DVD looked this great!
- HARDWARE (Severin): A rattling, thrashing good time, Hardware is a bleak, fun and deranged film out to smash your synapses. Absent for years on video, Severin’s disc is as comprehensive and beautiful as one might hope for.
- THE STRANGENESS (Code Red): Never even heard of this till its mention in Stephen Thrower’s essential Nightmare USA book. Well, imagine my surprise when this popped up in a terrific remastered DVD edition from the fine folks as Code Red. It takes awhile to get rolling, but when it does the monster action comes fast and deranged. It also sports a transfer that makes sense of the movie’s legendary murk in addition to some great extras.
- Honorable Mentions:
has served as the host of the local cable and on-line "creature feature" program Remo D.'s Manor of Mayhem (now in its thirteenth season) since January of 2002. Check it out Fridays at 10 PM Pacific and Saturdays at 5 AM and 10 PM Pacific at www.ampmedia.org by choosing "Programs" and then "Web Stream" for Channel 24. Under the pseudonym "Shane M. Dallmann," he has written for Fangoria, Deep Red, Blood Times, Psychotronic Video, Video Junkie, Ultra Violent and Scary Monsters, and he continues as a regular contributor to Video Watchdog and Screem Magazine.
Scarcely a definitive list, but a fine sampling of the titles I've most enjoyed reviewing over the course of the past year! In alphabetical order, then…
- CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE (Lionsgate): While few films could “make the original look tame,” this sequel certainly tries its best. An unfettered, boundary-bursting festival of low humor and high outrage (notice I didn't use the word “shocking?”) which also, quite inadvertently, gave us one of our last looks at the late, great David Carradine. Crank: High Voltage (Lionsgate added the number “2” to the video cover, apparently assuming we wouldn't recognize it as a new film otherwise) refuses to sit still for any such thing as a “category” but is hell-bent on delivering anything you could possibly expect—and a few things you weren't.
- GHOST STORY (Nucleus) (UK R0): Not to be confused with the 1981 Peter Straub adaptation. From director Stephen Weeks (I, Monster) comes a genuinely creepy and original haunting that’s guaranteed to linger long after the credits have rolled. The Nucleus UK import DVD set offers a beautiful print and bountiful extras, including interviews with the cast and crew, input from historian Kim Newman and a director’s audio commentary modified by Sam Umland of Video Watchdog. Hopefully a Stateside release will arrive soon and expunge the memory of the mishandled (and allegedly unauthorized) VHS edition known as Madhouse Mansion…
- HARDWARE (Severin): Well, that took long enough, but it was well worth the wait. Richard Stanley’s apocalyptic debut feature affected me like few films could in the late 1980s, and here at last is the fully unexpurgated version in dazzling quality, packed with extras… and ready to serve as the antidote to Terminator: Salvation. This is what you want, this is what you get… this is what you want, this is what you get…
- ICONS OF SCI-FI: THE TOHO COLLECTION (Sony): On the heels of two superlative Hammer collections (respectively, Icons of Adventure and Horror), Sony now picks up where Classic Media left off and gives full, superlative treatment to The H-Man, Battle in Outer Space and Mothra (Japanese and U.S. release versions, knowledgeable audio commentaries for two out of three, the works). This set offers pure entertainment and also serves as a fine showcase for the individual gifts of Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya and Tomoyuki Tanaka outside of the comfortably familiar shadow of Godzilla…
- INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Universal): There’s scarcely a wrong note struck in the latest from Quentin Tarantino—the director’s penchant for personal tributes and sampling finds its perfect outlet in an audacious vision of how a lot of people believe World War II should have gone. Every bit as much a movie movie as a war movie, but always compelling, exciting, humorous and sincerely emotional. And yes, Christoph Waltz is one of the best movie villains ever created, but you couldn't possibly have heard that here first.
- THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (Universal): My “eat my words” title of the year. I never thought it remotely possible that a contemporary remake of such a confrontational title could ever live up to its inspiration (especially a version in which Mari actually lives?!). But I was completely wrong, and this was one of the most well-acted, well-directed and utterly intense thrillers of the year.
- LISZTOMANIA (Digital Classics) (UK R2): We're still waiting for a Region 1 release, but those with R2 capacity can now enjoy what just might be Ken Russell’s wildest and woolliest film ever. Don't believe me? Just wait till you see what happens to Roger Daltrey when he enters Hell! Anachronistic history, musical madness, and boundless exuberance distinguish this fanciful “biography” of the classical composer who truly was the rock star of his day.
- ORPHAN (Warner): Easily the best Dark Castle release since their debut with the House on Haunted Hill remake… the spirit of William Castle (and so much more) lives on in a new spin on the Bad Seed premise—equal parts confrontational and preposterous, and directed with thunderous style to spare by Jaume Collet-Serra. This one has everything that a film proud to call itself “horror” ought to offer.
- THIRST (Universal): Park Chan-Wook followed his controversial (and acclaimed) “Revenge” trilogy with one of the most thoughtful vampire films of this or any decade. But don't let the fact that it explores issues of humanity, spirituality and self-control fool you into thinking that it doesn't simultaneously deliver as a bloody good shocker.
- TRICK ‘R TREAT (Warner): My genuine surprise at the shellacking this took from some of my friends ensured that this delightful Halloween-themed anthology would make this list. In the spirit (if not the exact format) of the classic Amicus omnibus thrillers, this eager-to-please effort highlights all sorts of good reasons to respect the holiday while serving up plenty of amusing performances and well-handled shocks.
- The Beast in Space (Severin): There was a fifth Al Bradley space opera? And it was adults-only? And it had Sirpa Lane? And you found and released it? Holy hell!
- The Hanging Woman (Troma): I should disqualify myself as I contributed to the supplements, but this was also sadly significant as the last Paul Naschy film released to DVD before the great man’s passing, and the effort to provide a package worthy of the man himself should not go without mention.
- My Mouth Lies Screaming (Sideshow Cinema): From Michael “Dr. Dreck” Legge comes another micro-budgeted and mega-funny sendup—this time of the beloved giallo formula.
- Punisher: War Zone (Lionsgate): The third film to take a crack at The Punisher is the first one to get it right—so of course, nobody saw it. One of the best comics-derived projects yet—gloriously graphic but with just the right attitude.
- Star Trek (Paramount): A film this mainstream gets into my list only when it delivers more than it promises—and the reinvention of all the Original Series characters I grew up with exceeded what I thought was possible. Great fun from beginning to end.
is a pop culture critic based in Fort Collins, Colorado. He wears husky jeans. Read his idiocy at louisfowler.com.
Top 5 Reissues/Repackagings/Reduxs, etc.
- HARDBODIES COLLECTION (Anchor Bay) / SPRING BREAK (Anchor Bay) / SCREWBALLS (Severin): I'm going to go ahead and lump all three of these hilariously ribald '80s teen sex-comedies into one whole pick. It's truly a case of united they stand, divided they fall. It was so good to finally see these on any type of format, bringing back those memories of staying up late as a little kid, catching Hardbodies 2 at 1:15 in the morning, hoping to sneak the slightest glance of boob and bush. The comedy in all of these still hold up and, even better, just goes to show how much John Hughes ruined these movies by adding pathos and emotion. Pussy.
- SLIME CITY GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION (Alternative Cinema): One of the first screeners I ever received was the original release of Greg Lamberson's Slime City. A true, old-school, scummy DIY effort that, for my money, is better than Street Trash. Sorry. Not only did this DVD set have the original feature, but Lamberson's other films, Naked Fear, Undying Love and Johnny Gruesome.
- BOLLYWOOD HORROR COLLECTION, VOL. 3: MAHAKAAL THE MONSTER (Mondo Macabro): Leave it to Bollywood to take a (mildly overrated yet beloved) American genre classic and, well, make it better. It's a total rip-off of A Nightmare on Elm Street, sure, but add in catchy, fun musical numbers (one about having a picnic!) and a 145-minute(!) running time and I'd much rather see Platinum Dunes remake this.
- THE BILLY JACK COLLECTION (Image): I'm pretty sure this has been released and re-released time and time again, but, you know, it's freaking BILLY JACK. This 2009 set from Image contains Born Losers, Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack and the little-seen Billy Jack goes to Washington, which replaces Hapkido with filibustering! If only we had him to debate health care reform...
- ANYTHING RELEASED BY VIDEOASIA. ANYTHING AT ALL. (VideoAsia): I know that a lot of hardcore DVD nerds hate VideoAsia for a multitude of reasons, but most of all for their typically not-very-good prints. That honestly doesn't bother me. Having grown up in the era of fifth-generation, badly-dubbed VHS bootlegs recorded off of Paraguayan television, sans subtitles, I don't mind if the look of these movies aren't pristine. I don't care if the sound drops out or weird splices appear suddenly. I just don't care because the movies these guys are putting out are fun, cheap flicks at an even cheaper price. In the past few months I've enjoyed Ninja: Legendary Assassins 4 Film Collection, Gordon Liu 4 Film Collection: Hung Kuen vs. Wing Chun, Inglorious Bastards 2: Hell's Heroes 4 Inglorious Films Collection and two volumes of their stellar Spaghetti Western Bible series.
Top 5 New Straight-to-DVD (or skipped theaters in my locale, so they are new to me) Flicks:
- BLACK DEVIL DOLL (Lowest Common Denominator): Since receiving this DVD screener, I have watched the hilariously daring and viciously offensive low-budget blaxploitation-horror-comedy Black Devil Doll about ten times. I can easily say, without reservation, this is my favorite straight-to-DVD indie film of the year. It's a new trash classic that will, I promise, become the ultimate party film and will not leave a dry seat in the house. Mixing the darkest political humor of today's heated racial climate with scads of low-down, dirty puppet fucking, director Jonathan Lewis has created a comedy masterpiece for those of us who still consider Rudy Ray Moore and Blowfly geniuses. See Black Devil Doll by any means necessary!
- NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION (Magnolia): This movie, about the history of '70s/'80s Australian exploitation movies, is the most important documentary ever made. EVER. Sorry, orphans in Darfur!
- MUTANT CHRONICLES (Magnolia): At a horror convention last April, I picked up a bootleg copy of Mutant Chronicles, a film that I had been excited about since I first read of it two years ago. It had languished so long that I was sure it was never going to be released stateside. Luckily, Magnolia Home Entertainment took the reins and finally released a special director's cut, and my opinion holds: it's one of the best movies of the year! Maj. Mitch Hunter (Thomas Jane) leads a crew of soldiers, in the year 2707, against a plague of evil, mutated humans mindlessly bent on killing everything in sight. The sets, characters and vehicle designs, with their steam-punk look, make this rise above the typical sci-fi dreck of the day.
- DARK MIRROR (IFC): Honestly scary moments with one truly unpredictable twist after another. Director Pablo Proenza excels in the type of classic filmmaking Polanski did in the '60s—the kind you wish Polanski himself return to, if he wasn't busy diddling little girls, of course.
- MIRAGEMAN (Magnolia): I just caught this under the 2009 wire, and, man, this is how you do a superhero movie! Made in Chile on an ultra-low-budget, it's exciting and new and so pure in its love of the superhero genre that it gives you hope for the future. I'll take this over any Batman movie anyday. I am not lying.
is an occasional journalist, sometimes musician and infrequent documentarian. He hates writing but organized this year’s list and felt obligated to contribute. His on-camera interviews with Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Sybil Danning will see DVD in 2010.
Alphabetically, because it was hard enough to pick ten, much less put ‘em in order:
- CAT IN THE BRAIN (Grindhouse): Years of legal problems have prevented Fulci’s last real masterpiece—a mishmash of appropriated exsanguination footage formed into the Maestro’s own splat-happy 8½—from getting its proper domestic release. 2009 marks the year Grindhouse came to the rescue with this superlative double-disc special edition that not only presents the hand-hacking, head-smashing, gut-spilling, chainsaw-swinging carnage newly restored from its original vault materials, but also serves as a tribute to the late director himself in the form of lengthy interviews and clips. As with all of their titles, Grindhouse have packed every nook and cranny with peripheral goodies to ensure hours of exploring; bonus points for the awesome limited lenticular cover!
- THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (Dark Sky): Andrew Prine gives the performance of his career in this atypically structured, fast-paced and consistently surprising serial killer endeavor, stalking and slashing the titular beauties in an effort to “help” them. A few sentences can’t do justice to the jaded worldview this film showcases; no man can be trusted, and no woman is safe. It’s an unheralded classick with a mile-wide meanstreak that’s still criminally under-the-radar; what does it take to get people talking nowadays? Remastered from the camera negative, this grainy, grungy film looks as good as it probably ever will, backed up with an entertaining little featurette, trailers and selections from the excellent score
- COMBAT SHOCK (Troma): Probably more relevant today than it was 25 years ago, Buddy Giovinazzo’s nihilistic peek at the post-war breakdown of the American soldier remains a bleak, harrowing, nightmarish ride, just as it should. Troma’s 2-disc re-release gives us the US theatrical print along with the unseen longer original American Nightmares edit, restoring character beats and backstory, along with a previously-censored shot of oven-ooze. However, where this set really excels is with its bonus platter; we get everything from promo shorts for Mr. Robbie and Jonathan of the Night, to a video appreciation featuring the film’s more notable fans, tons of interviews, location footage -- they even sneak in some catchy Buddy G. New Wave Muzak videos! “I go back there every night…”
- FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED! (Mondo Macabro): Living up to their Mission Statement of delivering the “Wild Side of World Cinema,” Mondo Macabro issued a varied slew of Japanese pinku eiga this year, but none blew my mind like this unrepentantly sleazy Asian-flavored babes-behind-bars romp. An extraordinarily grubby affair, various bodily fluids get splashed across the screen throughout, but its undeniably jaw-dropping highlight involves a bit of through-the-fence watersports that whips our felonious females into an orgiastic frenzy! And that doesn’t account for the forced foot sucking, the secret S&M sessions or surprise post-coitus discharge… A nice package for such a dirty film, including a fine transfer, a Nikkatsu pink documentary and trailers, an interview featurette and more.
- HANNA D.: THE GIRL FROM VONDEL PARK (Severin): Why aren’t internet messageboards alight with praise for this blazing pile of Eurotrash raunch? Detailing the travels and travails of a teenage runaway junkie streetwalker searching for love and meaning, Hanna D. has it all, from dopey romance ballads to eyeball smack injections, from Sirkian melodrama to a startlingly graphic tutorial on DIY drug smuggling that just about knocked me off the couch. In addition to a gorgeous print, Severin thoughtfully includes an extensive, career-length interview with dear dead trash maven Rino Di Silvestro, you know, for educational purposes. “It wasn’t enough to give me The Clap, this time you’ve gone too far!”
- HARDWARE (Severin) (Blu-Ray): A thing of beauty, this one. Richard Stanley’s ahead-of-its-time cyberpunk debut sees its first uncut Stateside release, with its hallucinatory slate of self-inflicted dismemberments, elevator bisections and rouge robot eye-pokes fully preserved for the masses to enjoy—no flesh shall be spared, indeed. For years relegated to hideous presentations that made mud of its carefully constructed visuals, this high definition transfer is really the only way to view Hardware; the film’s so bathed in intense reds that any lesser format just can’t compete. The disc is fittingly loaded with a worthy roster of special features, too; besides an excellent making-of documentary (one of my favorites of recent memory) we’re treated to shorts, deleted scenes, commentary and more. You can’t stop progress.
- LOST SOULS (Image): Over recent years, we’ve been blessed with a massive slate of restored efforts from the Shaw Bros. catalog of HK classics, running the gamut from their noted chopsocky output to bizarro horror oddities, weepy musicals and, in this case, a political exploitation shockudrama chronicling the plight of Chinese illegals being slaved across Hong Kong! Corralled like cattle in a secluded shanty, it’s Sleaze City as the immigrants are subjected to regular rounds of gang beatings, hot wax assaults, some birthday buggery and worse until they realize that revolution is their only choice. A bona fide brain-blaster of the highest order; would you expect anything less from the director of Men behind the Sun? No real extras other than some newly-created trailers, but they did manage to unearth the English dub track!
- MARTYRS (Optimum) (UK RB) (Blu-Ray): Hard to watch, harder to recommend and impossible to forget, this fearless French-fried dose of audience-dividing audacity does what all fine genre films should: get under your skin and stay there. Ignore the cries of “torture porn,” Martyrs has a lot more on its mind. Fiercely unpredictable—every time you think you have your finger on it, it lurches into uncharted territory—this is a true modern classic. Genius’ domestic DVD is plenty good with a great-looking transfer and hour-long documentary, but fans without region constrictions will want the hi-def import.
- MESSIAH OF EVIL (Code Red): Finally rescued from the PD ghetto, this neglected exercise in Lovecraftian dread gets the makeover it so richly deserves; if you’ve only viewed Messiah of Evil on prior home video incarnations, you have NOT seen Messiah of Evil! Mastered in high definition from super-rare film elements and restoring the ‘scope framing so essential to appreciating its inspired photography, Code Red’s presentation at last makes reevaluation possible, hopefully serving to give this unique ‘70s outing the attention it’s lacked in decades prior. Numerous interviews and commentary serve to sweeten the deal on one of 2009’s most important releases.
- MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Lionsgate) (Blu-Ray): Due to Paramount’s notorious habit of literally trashing important film material, most slasher fans had long given up their hopes of ever seeing the long-deleted bits of miner-induced pickaxe mayhem, so mouth-wateringly displayed in an ancient Fangoria article, intact. Well, if there’s one thing to praise the recent Hollywood remake trend for, it’s this Blu-Ray. In a surprise move, Lionsgate have rescued the censored snippets and restored them to the film proper, giving one of the ‘80s best bodycount pictures back its teeth and supplementing it with multiple extras -- all for a low, low price.
- Honorable Mentions: Black Magic 2 (Media Blasters), Craving Desire (Mya), Repulsion (Criterion) (Blu-Ray), The Sinful Dwarf XXX (Severin), Teenage Graffiti / Teenage Mother (Code Red)
writes for AV Maniacs and DVD Talk . He lives in New York City with his wife and a dog. In no particular order….
- KENNETH ANGER: THE MAGICK LANTERN CYCLE (BFI) (UK R0) (Blu-Ray): One of the most unlikely HD presentations ever, the BFI really rolled out the red carpet for this collection of Anger’s experimental short films. The transfers are fantastic and each film features optional commentary from the director himself. On top of that, there’s a documentary chronicling Anger’s life and work. Simultaneously perverse and unsettlingly beautiful, the BFI should be given a medal for this one.
- REPULSION (Criterion) (Blu-Ray): Criterion has applied their typically lavish care on one of Polanski’s finest films with a stunning high definition transfer and loads of extras. The film’s bizarre black and white atmosphere has never looked so good nor has its unsettling soundtrack ever sounded so good. An almost flawless presentation of a veritable masterpiece.
- STUNT ROCK (Code Red): Brian Trenchard Smith got a lot of time in the cult movie spotlight this year thanks to the Not Quite Hollywood documentary, and while it might be tough to pick his best film, Stunt Rock has to be in the running simply because it combines stunts… and rock. Grant Page could kick your ass and you know it. Tons of extras, a nice transfer – this was one worth waiting for.
- HARDWARE (Severin) (Blu-Ray): Severin took the Blu-ray plunge this year and offered up a few titles but Hardware was hands down their best. The restored uncut version of the film looks and sounds great and Richard Stanley’s commentary tracks are always fascinating, his thoughts on this film particularly so.
- VASE DE NOCES (Camera Obscura) (Germany R2): Another release that nobody saw coming was Camera Obscura’s presentation of Vase De Noces, better known as The Pig Fucking Movie because, well, on the surface at least it’s about a man who fucks a pig. The included documentary with the director and star shed a whole lot of light on the story behind one of the more notorious cult oddities out there on this, the film’s first legit home video release.
- THE PRISONER: THE COMPLETE SERIES (A&E) (Blu-Ray): While A&E didn’t port over all of the extras or the fancy packaging from Network’s UK release, they still did a fine job with this presentation, presenting each and every episode of one of the greatest television shows ever made in beautifully restored high definition. This is a series that holds up better than most; it’s still exciting, it’s still tense, it’s still twisted and funny and it’s still completely awesome.
- COMBAT SHOCK (Troma): Finally released uncut, and this time around with scads of extra features, the Tromasterpiece Edition of Buddy G’s Combat Shock, a.k.a. American Nightmares, is a pretty fantastic set. The grim feature still plays like a punch to the gut but Troma actually present it with a lot of extras that put it all into context.
- THE STORY OF PRUNELLA (Alternative Cinema): A fantastic time capsule of a filmmaking scene long gone, After Hours’ restored and uncut release of this Phil Prince roughie originally made for Avon includes a fascinating commentary from the film’s cinematographer and a great vintage mini-documentary on the film’s notorious producer. Hands down the finest vintage XXX release of the year.
- DAWN OF THE DEAD (Arrow) (UK R0) (Blu-Ray): While it would have been nice to see the alternate versions of the film in HD (only the theatrical cut is on Blu-ray in this set, the other cuts are standard DVD), Arrow have otherwise gone above and beyond. The HD transfer trumps Anchor Bay's domestic Blu-ray and the set is packed to the rafters with some fantastic extras features.
- L'IMPORTANT C'EST D'AIMER (Mondo Vision): Mondo Vision gives Andrej Zulaswki's sorely underrated 1975 drama a definitive release. With a cast made up of Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, Jacques Dutronc, and the mighty Klaus Kinski it’s hard not to appreciate this dark tale of twisted love but if you needed further convincing, the director commentary and interview ought to take care of things for you. A really beautiful package, from the disc to the liner notes right down to the slipcase.
- Exposed (Synapse): Synapse treats this Christina Lindberg vehicle right, even providing interviews with the director and star.
- The New York Ripper (Blue Underground) (Blu-Ray): Fulci’s sleaziest film has never looked or sounded as good as it does on this stunning Blu-ray disc.
- Stoner (Fortune Star) (HK R0): The presentation might not win any awards but it’s great to see this screwy George Lazenby actioner uncut and in its proper aspect ratio for such a low price.
- Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle (Video-X-Pix) : Beautifully restored and completely uncut, Video-X-Pix rolls out the red carpet for this re-release complete with an interview, a commentary, and liner notes that are so good they should be preserved in the Smithsonian.
- Night of Death (Synapse): Light on extras, this obscure French horror film should hopefully find the audience it deserves thanks to Synapse’s efforts.
runs the website you're reading right now and recently completed DVD Delirium Vol. 4, due for publication this year. In alphabetical order:
- THE DECAMERON / THE CANTERBURY TALES / THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (BFI) (UK RB) (Blu-Ray): Despite the gushing reviews, I wasn't a big fan of the BFI's Region B Blu-Ray of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo (which took edge enhancement to nightmarish extremes); however, their packed releases of the same director's magnificent, bawdy "Trilogy of Life" exceeds all expectations with fresh, colorful, and remarkably clear transfers of films hideously abused in past editions. Probably the number one reason to invest in a multi-region Blu-Ray player, though 2009 offered a lot of other incentives including ravishing UK releases of Belle de Jour, The Bed-Sitting Room, Highlander (the fun one) and the incendiary Martyrs. Which brings me to...
- EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (Anchor Bay) (UK R0) (Blu-Ray): How do you make a Coffin Joe movie for the current century? Easy; don't change a thing! The fingernails are still long and the disciple of darkness is still nasty (and verbose) as ever in this unflinching, creative, down-and-dirty treat made just for his fans. Newcomers have been understandably confused (just read the reviews at Amazon UK), but for God's sake, where else can you see a woman literally eat her own ass? Still unreleased in America for whatever reason.
- HARDWARE (Severin) (Blu-Ray): Richard Stanley, the most jinxed director in movie history, has finally been getting his due lately. The release no one thought they'd ever get finally hits America courtesy of Severin in the form of an uncut, HD-transferred version of this dystopic classic that mashes together every sci-fi apocalyptic pulp element into a nutzoid stew of gore, voyeurism, great music, rampaging machinery, and lots and lots of orange lighting.
- L’IMPORTANT C’EST D’AIMER (Mondo Vision) / LA FEMME PUBLIQUE (Mondo Vision) / L’AMOUR BRAQUE (Mondo Vision): The decades-long neglect of one of the great world cinema directors, Andrzej Zulawski, is finally righted by a company apparently devoted exclusively to bringing his work to a wider audience. The first American releases ever for these three films would qualify these as the year's most important development already, but the incredibly candid extras and eye-popping HD transfers are just icing on the cake. I can't pick which one of these discs I love the most, so they all make the cut. Absolutely essential, and for once, ponying up extra money for the loaded deluxe editions is a good idea, too. (Now how about some Blu-Rays, guys?)
- MESSIAH OF EVIL (Code Red): Well, yeah, obviously. A major revelation in every regard, this horror classic finally takes its place among the great '70s terror masterpieces and reveals what a stylish, thoughtful, and nerve-shatteringly creepy experience it always was underneath those terrible PD releases. Great extras, too, making this the tastiest release from Code Red's berserk roster of '09 releases.
- MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Lionsgate) (Blu-Ray): And '80s horror also got rewritten with a release that made a lot of disbelieving horror fans very, very grateful. Mangled by Paramount (along with the sadly still-truncated Friday the 13th Part 2) after the MPAA got heat at the beginning of the slasher boom, this atmospheric but visibly compromised holiday-themed shocker finally asserts its place as one of the scariest, most extreme films from the early '80s with the restoration of plentiful gore footage that truly makes all the difference. I still can't believe this one's actually available, and the Blu-Ray release is a true stunner.
- NIKKATSU NOIR (ECLIPSE SERIES 17) (Criterion): Criterion continued its heroic quest to elevate home video to the level of high art last year with superlative releases of Repulsion, Last Year at Marienbad, and The Seventh Seal. However, the one I cherish the most is one of the best release in their no-frills but truly killer Eclipse line of unheralded gemes. As good as their essential William Klein set from '08, this one packs together five very different but hugely entertaining Japanese crime films from 1957 to 1967. The much-needed release of A Colt Is My Passport would be reason enough to pick this up, but the other titles (including Seijun Suzuki's Take Aim at the Police Van) keep up the high standard of quality.
- OSS 117: LOST IN RIO (Gaumont) (France R0) (Blu-Ray): This insane sequel to the cult favorite spy spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies goes way over the top as it hauls its pigheaded French agent into the late '60s. Gratuitous split screens, an unexpectedly kinky hippie orgy, a riotous (and bloody) opening musical number, and a showdown on the top of Rio's towering Jesus are just a few of the delights in store here. Still unreleased in the U.S., sadly enough, but this immaculate, English-friendly Blu-Ray more than makes up for it.
- PRE-CODE HOLLYWOOD COLLECTION (Universal): Hollywood history gets a perverted overhaul with six very, very naughty titles finally released to an unsuspecting public including Merrily We Go to Hell, The Cheat, Hot Saturday, Torch Singer, and the unbelievably lurid Search for Beauty. However, the real eye-opener here is Murder at the Vanities, a '30s proto-giallo about a killer on the loose among a bevy of barely-clad showgirls, highlighted by a lavish muscal number about "Marihuana" featuring topless dancers, drug references galore, and a dead body dripping blood down onto the performers. I'm still not sure I didn't hallucinate this one.
- THE WILLIAM CASTLE FILM COLLECTION (Sony): Warner really slacked off on the tasty box sets this year, but Sony picked up the torch and outdid themselves with an amazing roster of important genre sets highlighting Hammer Films, Toho, Samuel Fuller, and one killer slate of film noir releases. I'd put 'em all on here, but for my money, the ace in the hole is this set devoted to the beloved William Castle. Yeah, yeah, some of the films were on DVD before, but the new avalanche of extras (including some incredible unreleased Castle-related TV shows), never-before-released films (13 Frightened Girls, Zotz, The Old Dark House), and much-improved widescreen transfer of Homicidal easily make this worth way more than the price tag. Now if only Warner and Paramount would get off their keisters and release the rest of the still-captive Castle rarities like Macabre, Shanks, The Spirit Is Willing, and Let's Kill Uncle...
- Warner Archive: The happiest development for die-hard film freaks last year was the launch of Warner's manufacture-on-demand program which unleashed countless mouth-watering titles after decades in the vault. A few of my personal favorites: Freebie and the Bean, The Fox, a gorgeous transfer of The Bermuda Depths, the wacko Gene Roddenberry pair of Genesis II and Planet Earth, The Stranger Within, Bad Ronald, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Lightning Strikes Twice, The Sergeant, The Grasshopper, Dealing, The Story of Mankind, The Terminal Man, Highway 301, and, uh, Under the Rainbow.
- And: The '80s classics The Stepfather (Shout! Factory) and Night of the Creeps (Sony) finally made it to stateside DVD with great extras; The New York Ripper turned out to be a lot more stylish and accomplished than we thought thanks to an astonishing Blu-Ray from Blue Underground; Mondo Macabro got its Alain Robbe-Grillet on with Gradiva and blew a lot of minds with Born of Fire; Australia turned out a welcome (if overly de-grained) all-region Blu-Ray of Wake in Fright; MPI issued the scariest 25 minutes ever shot for TV (the "Bobby" segment) with Dan Curtis' Dead of Night; and newbies Cinema Libre released erratic but welcome editions of lost Jean-Jacques Bienix classics including the luscious The Moon in the Gutter and the seldom-seen, amazing Roselyne and the Lions in its much-improved director's cut.
is a musician and film journalist responsible for Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci and Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents, among others. Upcoming projects include Sadomania! A Guide to the Films of Jess Franco and Nightmare USA, Vol. 2. You can keep up to date at the Seven Doors Hotel).
Only a few DVDs have excited me this year - it's been a time of old VHS tapes, ancient Betamaxes and dusty archival viewing for me. However the three most significant releases of the year are among the most important of the decade:
- LA FEMME PUBLIQUE (Mondo Vision) / L’IMPORTANT C’EST D’AIMER (Mondo Vision) / L’AMOUR BRAQUE (Mondo Vision): I can't recommend these titles enough - if you've only seen Possession and wondered what on Earth Zulawski's other films could be like, here's the chance to immerse yourself in the work of a true cinema visionary. Great transfers, astonishing films.
- MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Lionsgate) (Blu-Ray): So gorgeous I could molest it in some weird biomechanical perv session (you wanna make a hole-diameter joke here?), this glorious transfer of one of my all-time favorite slashers is replete with previously unseen gore. I've always carried a torch for this one, cut though it's always been, so seeing it at last in its uncut form was like having a sweet second bite of the first time, if you know what I mean. Now why can't they do the same for Happy Birthday to Me?
- THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Blue Underground) (Blu-Ray): The world can never have too many beautiful transfers of bitter, nihilistic, ugly films. I can still remember what it felt like to watch this in grotty 4th generation video incarnations after it was banned in the UK, so I'd happily build an altar for the DVD incarnations. Can a 3-D remake be too far off? Come on Quentin, you know you want to!
- MESSIAH OF EVIL (Code Red): Staggeringly good film, good transfer, essential purchase. What can I say - you've bought it already, right?