Class of 2010 – Top Ten Blu-Ray Releases

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Another year gone.?? It has been quite an intense year to say the least.?? I moved house, dodged redundancy, almost chopped the tip of my finger off and made good progress on my PhD.?? Over the coming week I will be posting lists of my favourite Blu-Ray discs, television shows, DVDs, magazines and music of 2010.?? Firstly, I will be starting with my top ten Blu-Ray releases from 2010.?? This has been quite a difficult list to compile.?? There have been a number of quality releases in 2010, many being films that I would have not expected to see on the high definition format.?? I should add that these are the Blu-Ray discs I enjoyed most over the past year, I am not one for purely focusing on picture quality.?? Anyway, without further ado here we go, in no particular order:

The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) – Criterion (USA, Region A)

After watching The Night of the Hunter it is almost inconceivable to think that Charles Laughton did not make another film.?? Criterion present this classic in its original aspect ratio and lovingly restored; the grain really is a sight to behold.?? The exhaustive extra features, including an almost three hour long documentary, help to contextualise this great film.?? Disappointingly, I forgot to list this in my previous post on alternative Christmas films.??

Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960) – Optimum (UK, Region B)

I first saw Peeping Tom a few years back and cannot say that upon my initial viewing I found it to be anything special.?? Watching the Optimum Blu-Ray release was a revelation.?? The format highlights the garish nature of the Eastmancolour film stock used by Powell and brings out so much detail.?? The extra features discuss the controversial nature of the film and its subsequent reappraisal.?? It is a pity that the Channel Four documentary A Very British Psycho (Chris Rodley, 1997), which is included on the Criterion US DVD, is absent but it appears that rights issues prevented its inclusion here.

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) – Nouveaux Pictures/Cine Excess (UK, Region B)

Unfairly lambasted on numerous internet discussion fora for its boosted colours, this is still the best release of Argento's classic in any home video format.?? After speaking with Xavier Mendik, who was responsible for this release, it is clear to see the amount of work that went into this release.?? Okay, the colours might be harsh in some places but if Argento is pleased with this version, and according to Xavier he is, it is good enough for me.?? Unless someone pays for a brand new 2k transfer of this film from the original negative and restoration, which would cost a large amount of money, I cannot see another release appearing that uses a different master.?? The HD audio is pretty much perfect and I enjoyed the video essay extra feature that critically examines the film.?? What will be your next release, Xavier?

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) – Full Disclosure Edition, Paramount (US, Region 0)

In a word: outstanding.?? This contains the original theatrical version and the Redux rerelease in the original aspect ratio.?? It also includes the much requested Heart of Darkness documentary.?? I do not believe that the film is the greatest ever but it is certainly a unique viewing experience.?? A must own for any film fan.

Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966) – Blue Underground (US, Region 0)

Another transfer that has been oft criticised on internet fora.?? Ignore any screenshots that you see online, in motion this disc looks fantastic.?? The level of detail is staggering.?? Another sterling release by Blue Underground.?? Who would have thought that a low budget Spaghetti Western from 1966 would look this good?

Seven (David Fincher, 1995) – Warner (UK, Region 0)

Third time lucky.?? The Canadian Blu-Ray looked good but was in the wrong aspect ratio.?? The Dutch Blu-Ray also looked good, was in the correct ratio but lacked any special features.?? The identical US/UK releases, however, are just right.?? It trumps the aforementioned discs in every way possible.?? Superlative!?? Can now be found online for the bargain price of ??7.99.

The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) – Warner (UK, Region 0)

Seeing the opening sequence set in Iraq in HD is a sight to behold.?? This the first film I ever wrote about academically and it still continues to fascinate me.?? Friedkin's reedit The Version You've Never Seen (2000) is also included but the less said about that the better.?? I was pleased to find that the original theatrical release was included without any of Friedkin's digital enhancements.?? Can also be found online for the bargain price of ??7.99.

The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) – Anchor Bay (US, Region 0)

Again, how can such a low budget film look so good in HD??? Without a doubt, this is one of the very best transfers of the year.?? Taken from a 16mm print, detail is excellent; the colours are particularly noticeable.?? The usual extra features found on the seemingly infinite DVD releases of the film were included on a second disc as part of the initial printing of the Blu-Ray.?? Unfortunately this is now out of print.?? Avoid the UK release as it does not include the original full frame version of the film.

The Twilight Zone Seasons One and Two – Image (US, Region A)

Those who think that HD is suited for only recently produced colour films should take a look at these excellent sets from Image Entertainment in the US.?? Episodes have been lovingly remastered and extra features are plenty.?? The third season is due for release on February 15.

A Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve/Reazione a catena, Mario Bava, 1971) – Arrow Films (UK, Region 0)

How could I not include a release from Arrow Films in my top ten list??? They have put so much effort in to releasing films that will be turning over small amounts of profit and lavished them with attention.?? My enjoyment of A Bay of Blood was enhanced by this release of the film, making it now of my favourite top ten lists.?? Picture quality is excellent but the sound is somewhat lacking.?? However, this is not unique to this disc but is common to all DVD releases of the film thus far. I expect that the problem might lie in the track itself.?? Extra features are plentiful and the alternate covers are very welcome as Rick Melton's artwork for this release is awful.??

Other worthy mentions:

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) – Universal (UK, Region 0)

The extra detail offered by HD makes it seem like you are watching the film again for the first time.?? Perhaps this should have been in my top ten??? Another must own for the film fan.

Alien 2 Sulla Terra (Ciro Ippolito, 1980) – Midnight Legacy (US, Region 0)

This would have been in my top ten if it were not for the behavior of the label.?? The transfer is simply breathtaking, for a zero budget Italian rip off of Alien it is amazing to see how this looks in HD.?? Whilst the label has done an excellent job with this release, their prior comments about the Euro-Cult fan community were unnecessary and highly offensive and then
reducing the price of the Blu-Ray disc by half price after stating that the initial price would not come down is not the best way to promote your label.?? Still, if they keep on releasing rare Euro-Cult gems in such a stellar manner I will continue to purchase their releases.

Back to the Future Trilogy
– Universal (UK, Region 0) and The Alien Anthology – Fox (UK, Region 0)

Paranoiac (Freddie Francis, 1963) – Eureka (UK, Region 0)

The Hammer film on the Blu-Ray format.?? Gorgeous picture quality and a very good film.

Both quality sets that have excellent picture and sound quality.

Disappointment:

The Killer (John Woo, 1989) – Dragon Dynasty (US, Region 0)

I know that the Hong Kong film industry are not known for preserving their films but I cannot help but think that Dragon Dynasty could have done a better job here.?? The lack of a progressive transfer is disappointing.?? However, it is still an improvement on earlier DVD releases of the film, offering much more detail.?? Dragon Dynasty's recent release of Hard Boiled (John Woo, 1992) was better.

I am still waiting to view the following discs which have received positive reviews:

The Complete Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) – Eureka (UK, Region 0)
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story – Criterion (US, Region A)

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