Physical media is dead. Long live physical media.
2015 saw an insane amount of product out from boutique labels, the kind that cult movie fans tend to go rabid for, and man oh man, did we ever cover a lot of them. Not all of them, we’re only human after all, but yeah, we wrote about a lot of DVD and Blu-ray releases this year. And with 2015 now, somehow, in the rear view mirror, what better time than this to look back on some of them?
So without further ado (and in no particular order)...
The Films Of Frederick R. Friedel: Axe/Kidnapped Coed: Severin’s Blu-ray release of The Films Of Frederick R. Friedel: Axe/Kidnapped Coed is pretty much the definitive statement on these two pictures. Both films are really strong low budget pictures, both inspired and creative in their execution, worth of re-evaluation – this release is a fantastic way to do just that. The films hold up well, they look and sound quite good considering their origins and the extras do an amazing job of documenting both their respective histories and cultural significance. Don’t miss this one.
Eugenie… The Story Of Her Journey Into Perversion: Widely, and rightfully, regarded as one of Jess Franco’s most polished pictures and it’s hard to deny just what a great looking film this is. On top of that the cast all deliver fine work and the story is both alluring and intriguing. It still might not be enough to convince the naysayers but anyone with an interest in Franco should consider this one essential, particularly when offered up in such a beautiful package as this three disc set from Blue Underground.
Faust: Murnau’s adaptation of Faust is almost two straight hours of genuinely horrifying imagery wrapped up in a classic tale of good and evil. Kino’s Blu-ray offers fans a very nice upgrade over their past DVD editions and the movie itself is a gorgeous cinematic nightmare that has lost none of its ability to get under your skin in the near century since it first debuted.
Emperor Of The North: A genuinely great adventure film made even better by some fantastic performances and some equally impressive photography. Marvin and Borgnine make for perfect foes and Carradine an effectively slippery upstart. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray debut for the film isn’t stacked with extras but it does look and sound terrific, making this one pretty much essential based on the technical merits of the presentation and the quality of the film itself.
The Editor: Shout! Factory has given Astron-6’s The Editor an excellent release. The transfer is gorgeous, the audio is very strong and the extras are plentiful, interesting and in their own way sometimes as entertaining as the movie itself. As to the feature, giallo fans who don’t need to take everything absolutely seriously all of the time should have a lot of fun with this – you always get the impression that the people making the movie are having fun with their inspiration, rather than making fun of their inspiration. It’s a wicked slice of black comedy with more than enough sex and violence to give genre fans what they want, and then some.
Burn Witch Burn: Despite its somewhat silly American title and carnival huckster prolog, Burn Witch Burn is a great film that deserves a wider American audience. Sexy, thoughtful and filled with tension, it's one of Great Britain's finer film accomplishments of the 60's. A genuinely exciting and clever film, it remains a firm personal favorite of ours. Highly recommended.
The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection: In all honesty, the price of admission is worth it just for the first film in this set. That being said, the second film is also definitely worth seeing, and the third...well, decide for yourself. After so many years of these films being unavailable in any kind of "modern day" format, this release from Shout! is a blessing. Most would've been content with a barebones release, but being packed with extras makes this purchase a no-brainer. Get on it. NOW.
Cannibal Ferox: Grindhouse Releasing’s Blu-ray reissue of Umberto Lenzi’s infamous Cannibal Ferox is, in a word, definitive. The set offers the HD upgrade that fans have wanted for years and throws in an amazing selection of supplemental interviews and a feature length documentary. On top of that you get the complete soundtrack and a load of unreleased bonus tracks as well. The film holds up, a nasty punch to the gut highlighted by Giovanni Lombardo Radice at his most gloriously unhinged!
Day Of Anger: This one really is a top tier spaghetti western, a cracking mix of action and adventure shot with no shortage of style and an eye for dramatic compositions. Arrow’s Blu-ray release is a thing of beauty – the extras are solid and you get both cuts of the movie in fantastic high definition. Joy!
The Human Centipede – The Complete Sequence: Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray boxed set release of The Human Centipede (The Complete Sequence) is pretty much definitive. You get the unrated versions of all three movies, the black and white and color version of the second film, all of the extras from the previous releases and a few choice new ones as well – all offered up in great quality and in some slick packaging too. These movies aren’t for all tastes but if you’re a fan, this is the way to go.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley's Island Of Dr. Moreau: A film that really does a great job of peeling back the layers of one of recent cinema history’s most baffling ‘what if’s.’ Obviously we’ll never know how it would have turned out had Stanley been left in charge but hearing, first hand, what really went down on this infamously doomed production is as entertaining as it is fascinating. Severin have rolled out the red carpet with the three disc edition, including the equally excellent silent adaptation of the book and the audio CD read by Stanley. A very impressive set in every way you could hope for – highly recommended.
Gangs Of Wasseypur: This is a gripping and mesmerizing crime film, it’s a huge story in scope but never more complicated than it needs to be. It’s stylish but not at the expense of substance and the performances are excellent across the board. The Blu-ray release from Cinelicious is a good one, offering up the movie with very strong audio, an excellent transfer and an informative commentary. Don’t let this one pass you by.
Long Jeanne Silver: More of a curiosity item than a seriously erotic or sexy vintage porno, Long Jeanne Silver has definitely earned its place in the annals of oddball porno movie history. The movie itself is fascinating in its own way, but the commentary included with the disc is what really helps to round out this release.
Massacre Mafia Style: This is a film that simultaneously deals in clichés and defies expectations. It’s a picture like no other, a low budget mobster picture filtered through one man’s vision in which guts and ambition matter more than money. It’s insane, it’s wonderful and it’s endlessly entertaining – and how it’s been given the special edition treatment its fans have wanted for the better part of two decades. Consider this one essential.
Don’t Go In The House (Das Haus Der Lebenden Leichen): This movie isn't for everyone – it's a bitter, ugly, and nasty little horror movie that doesn't pull any punches and is just as seedy today as it was when it was made. It's a really effective picture in that it gets under your skin despite its low budget origins and obvious flaws. Subkultur’s Blu-ray release is a good one, presenting the film in a really solid high definition presentation and with some pretty solid supplements too.
Plague of the Zombies, The (Nacht Des Grauens): This is one of Hammer’s best films; that it should be so neglected by modern horror fans is somewhat inexplicable. It deserves greater due, and Anolis has done its part to bring the film to the attention of today’s horror lovers by giving it the special edition treatment on Blu-ray. Even better, while the release is intended primarily for a German audience, Anolis has gone out of its way to make the disc as English-friendly as possible. The film features both German and English tracks, as well as commentary that is in German and English. The studio has also provided a ton of extras, one of which is so amazing that it’s worth the price of the disc alone, and anyone who has bought the film on BD from Great Britain or Australia should consider purchasing this release as well.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne: A bizarre film, no doubt about it. And it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. But for those interested in seeing a silent film homage with pornographic images complemented by artistic directorial flourishes, Borowczyk’s nightmarish ode to Stevenson is a unique experience. Arrow has given its Blu-ray release a state-of-the-art visual presentation, with good sound and terrific extras. The love and respect with which the company’s producers have treated the film is indisputable.
State Of Grace: No question about it, State Of Grace is one of the best mob movies of its era. It’s tense, it’s exciting and it’s incredibly well acted but at the same time, it offers up some interesting food for thought as we see the relationships between the three main characters evolve. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray isn’t stacked with extras but the isolated score is always a welcome plus and the commentary is insightful and interesting. More importantly, the film looks and sounds excellent.
Nightmare Castle: Severin offer up Nightmare Castle in very nice shape and with two bonus presentations of Castle Of Blood and Terror Creatures From The Grave (in their US theatrical versions) also in HD, though unrestored. Throw in a few other interesting supplements of note and this turns out to be a really well rounded package for fans of Barbara Steele and classic Italian gothic horror.
Peekarama: The Young Like It Hot/Sweet Young Foxes: The Blu-ray debut of Vinegar Syndrome’s Peekarama line, comprised of Bob Chinn’s The Young Like It Hot and Sweet Young Foxes, is a great starting point on the format. Both movies hold up really well, offering plenty of opportunity for carnality while still managing to deliver decent stories that hold our attention even when there isn’t any bumping and grinding to ogle. The presentation for each film is excellent and we get a couple of very cool bonus interviews to help add some historical context. Here’s hoping we get more Peekarama offerings on Blu-ray sooner rather than later.
Venus Flytrap: Massacre Video have done a fine job bringing Venus Flytrap to DVD for the first time anywhere in the known universe and have thankfully made the effort to perverse the movie’s odd history by way of some interesting extras too. The movie itself will no doubt take some viewers by surprise – it’s not the gory SOV horror picture you might expect, but it’s definitely ripe with sleaze and the sort of ‘what the fuck?’ elements that make movies like this so interesting in the first place.
Savage Weekend: A movie that takes a bit of time to get down to business but the journey is an interesting and twisted one and thankfully the big finish pays off nicely. Some great kill scenes, a weird score, effective location and an interesting cast make this one work quite well and the Blu-ray release from Scorpion and Kino is a strong one. The movie has always looked like garbage on video but here it’s treated to a strong transfer, decent audio and some excellent supplements to round things out very nicely.
The Otto Preminger Film Noir Collection: Classic stuff – three great movies, each a textbook example of how good traditional film noir can be when handled properly – presented in excellent condition, with top notch audio and a few nice supplements to help put it all into the proper social and historical context. A great set – here’s hoping the BFI offer up more in this vein sooner rather than later.
La Corta Notte Delle Bambole Di Vetro (Short Night Of Glass Dolls): This movie holds up well, a twisted and involving mix of Giallo style trappings with a psychological thriller style execution shot with loads of style and performed by a solid cast. Add to that a killer score and this is one Eurocult fans should enjoy, particularly as presented here. The audio and video are top notch and the extras are amazingly comprehensive and just as interesting. A very impressive release overall.
The Fan: This is a dark and twisted film that takes society’s obsession with celebrity to pretty insane extremes, but it’s so well done that you can’t help but get sucked in by it all. It’s as much an art film as it is a horror picture but it’s nothing if not enthralling. Mondo Macabro has done right by the film, presenting it uncut and in very nice shape with some solid extras too. All in all, a great release.
Thundercrack!: It’s been years since Synapse announced that they were releasing Thundercrack!, but the wait is over – it’s amazing that this film has been given the treatment that it has with this release. The feature is finally presented completely uncut and in the best possible shape and on top of that, this release is stacked with supplements. The movie itself isn’t going to be for all tastes, clearly, but fans of underground cinema and the wild side of indie seventies filmmaking should consider this essential.
Vampyros Lesbos: A mesmerizing fever dream, an erotic fantasy aimed at titillation rather than horror. Franco’s use of bizarre but well-staged camera angles, gorgeous colors, and psychedelic music combine to make this one of his most alluring films. Severin’s BD release is definitive, not only in the presentation of the film’s visual and aural aspects but also in the extras that have been gathered. Anyone with an interest in Franco, lesbian vampires, great scores, and/or early ‘70s horror exploitation would do well to pick it up.
Corruption: One of Roger Watkins’ finest moments, a smart and artistically challenging film for grown-ups with solid performances and strong direction. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release, a Black Friday 2015 website exclusive, is top notch, presenting the film uncut and in excellent shape and with some pretty choice extras as well (highlighted by the inclusion of Last House On Dead End Street!).
Angst: This one is pretty intense stuff – a weird mix of art film and horror picture that benefits from some really strong acting and a few startlingly grisly set pieces. Cult Epics has brought the film to Blu-ray in style, loading the disc with extras and presenting it uncut and in very good shape with strong audio too. This is a pretty comprehensive release of an unforgettable film.