Despite all the range and popularity of streaming and VOD services, for some of us here at 4:3 there’s still no substitute for physical media, even as it becomes increasingly niche or mainly a collector’s market. For the adventurous or discerning home viewer there’s no greater pass to the wealth of world cinema than a region-free Blu-ray or DVD player. With a large number of boutique studios and labels putting out tremendous films in incredible packages on the regular, Brad Mariano has the monthly round-up for the best of the best
Soda Pictures is continuing their impressive recent run of director boxsets (including Chris Marker and Kelly Reichardt) this month with one on American indie king Jim Jarmusch, and his first six films – The Jim Jarmusch Collection has Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law, Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Dead Man, many of which have not been on Blu-ray before. Featuring performers as varied as Roberto Benigni, Tom Waits and Johnny Depp, these are all essential films (Dead Man is my pick for best of his work, and in fact probably the best film of the 1990s) that established his clear voice and style on the American independent scene before and during the indie explosion of the early 90s, and if this does as well as should, fingers crossed for a Volume II – personally, I don’t think it’s a just world until Limits of Control can be experienced in HD.
Criterion has its strongest month in a while, with some of the biggest additions to the Criterion canon in recent memory. John Ford’s My Darling Clementine has as good a claim as any film as the best Western ever made, even if its retelling of the Gunfight at OK Corral has some factual inaccuracies, and for anyone on the fence, adding a visual essay by Tag Gallagher as a supplementary feature elevates this release from ‘great’ to ‘essential.’ Orson Welles’ F for Fake and the late George Sluizer’s The Vanishing get much awaited Blu-ray upgrades and rounding out the month are two essential releases – the complete Jacques Tati collection, and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, almost surely the highest profile and most glaring omission in the collection thus far, finally cleared of the extensive rights issues that has plagued the film for so long. With those in mind, both Tati’s films and La Dolce Vita were released locally (and, it must be said, cheaper) earlier this year in stellar editions, through Umbrella and Madman, (which we looked at extensively here) respectively.
It’s been a good year for Sergio Leone; his most famous film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has been given a radical restoration and overhaul visually on its restored Blu-ray, and his gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America was re-released last month with over 30 minutes of previously lost scenes, in a new 251-minute version. One of lesser profile films Duck, You Sucker! (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite) with the great Rod Steiger and James Coburn is being released on Blu-ray this month through MGM. Full disclosure – I haven’t seen this film – but hopefully this brings the film to greater appreciation.
In the midst of an exciting time for UK label Arrow Video, having just announced their intended expansion into the US, they certainly aren’t slacking on their home front. The Stray Cat Rock Collection, a series of 5 genre/exploitation films of an all-girl crime gang looks to be one of the most interesting releases in their catalogue, and limited to 200 copies, should be snapped up straight away. They’ve also released early David Cronenberg shocker Shivers in a packed Blu-ray edition (also Steelbook), the film that caused controversy due to its public funding of such a polarising film, and largely set the course for much of Cronenberg’s style and ideas for several decades.
Masters of Cinema have two releases – late, oft-neglected late Fellini effort I Clowns and Seijun Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast – if not as wacky or visually inventive as Tokyo Drifter or Branded to Kill (though very close in parts), it may well be Suzuki’s most purely narratively satisfying feature.
One of most popular releases of 2013 was Shout! Factory’s Vincent Price Collection, collecting many of horror icon Vincent Price’s best films, ranging from camp classics to downright shockers, many helmed by frequent collaborator Roger Corman. A year later, and The Vincent Price Collection, Volume II is here, this time with House on Haunted Hill, The Return of the Fly, The Comedy of Terrors, Tomb of Ligeia, The Raven, The Last Man on Earth and Dr Phibes Rises Again, which should be irresistible to lovers of cult cinema, and all signs indicate we might see Volume III next October!