Upon compiling this list it suddenly dawned on me that my purchasing of DVDs has steadily decreased since the rise of Blu-Ray. Here are my top ten DVD releases of 2010:
Kingdom of the Spiders (Bud Cardos, 1977) – Shout Factory (USA, Region 1)
William Shatner, toupe askew, trying to save the world from tarantula invasion. What is there not like? Shout Factory’s release trumps all of the previous releases of this cult classic, proving numerous extra features. The interview with Shatner is especially enjoyable.
The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series – Shout Factory (USA, Region 1)
Perhaps my favourite sitcom of all time, it was very pleasing to see Shout Factory purchase the rights to this show from Sony so that the complete series could be released on DVD. Sony released the first season back in 2001 and announced that further seasons would not be forthcoming because of poor sales. Shout Factory, easily one of the best independent labels at this moment in time, have done a great job here. The extra features highlight just how many talented people were involved in the production of this show. Comedy does not get much better than this.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow (Frank De Felitta, 1981) – MPI (USA, Region 1)
I did not enjoy the film as much as I did when I first saw the film but this atmospheric is certainly deserved of more attention. A solid DVD release from MPI.
Hammer Films: Icons of Suspense Collection – Sony (USA, Region 1)
Though more commonly known for their gothic horror films, this excellent release from Sony compiles six of Hammer’s little seen thrillers from the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have not made my way completely through the set yet but the standouts so far are Cash on Demand, starring Peter Cushing and Andre Morrell, the much lauded The Damned and the gripping Never Take Candy from a Stranger. Image quality is very strong indeed. I cannot recommend this set highly enough.
Thriller: The Complete Series – Image (USA, Region 1)
After reports of Image Entertainment facing bankruptcy I was under the impression that this release would not see the light of day. The set may be some what over priced when compared to other releases of similar television shows but it is clear that Image awarded a lot of attention to this release. Perhaps the best thing about this series set is that it allows the viewer to see how the show developed from crime thriller to horror. Standout episodes for me are the Robert Bloch penned Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper and John Newland’s Pigeons from Hell.
So Sweet, So Dead (aka Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile , Roberto Bianchi Montero, 1972) – Camera Obscura, (Germany, Region 0)
Not the best giallo but the release of any giallo in the current DVD market is very much welcomed. Known more for its violence, So Sweet, So Dead is another of Camera Obscura’s high quality releases. The packaging is beautiful and the image quality strong, aside from the inserts used to present the film in its complete entirety. The addition of an English audio track would have been appreciated but this is only a minor gripe. I am looking forward to their future release of Tropic of Cancer.
Dear John: The Complete Series – Acorn Media (UK, Region 2)
Dear John has been long shadowed by John Sullivan’s much loved other show Only Fools and Horses and after a long wait the complete series was finally released by Acorn Media. Acorn Media have not given this release much attention and it does suffer from the common enforced editing that plague many releases of television shows where clearance of musical rights has not been possible. Still, it is good to finally see it available on the DVD format.
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (aka Una lucertola con la pelle di donna, Lucio Fulci, 1971) – Optimum (UK, Region 2)
The fourth version of the film that I own and I am pleased to say that it is the definitive release of Fulci’s seminal giallo. The image looks excellent when upscaled to 1080p HD and improves upon other releases. It would have been nice to see Optimum license some of the excellent extra features from the initial Shriek Show release, especially the exhaustive documentary by Mike Baronas and Kit Gavin.
Martin (George Romero)- Arrow (UK, Region 0)
I was pleased to see Mark Gatiss highlight this film during his superb History of Horror. This is perhaps the best release of the film so far, offering the film in both 4×3 and 16×9 aspect ratios, the Italian Wampyr edit of the film and extensive special features.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide – Nucleus (UK, Region 0)
I have been meaning to write a post dedicated to this release but I just haven’t had the time. This is probably my favourite DVD release of 2010. Marc Morris and Jake West have put a lot of effort into this release and it shows. The highlight of the release is the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape that highlights just how nonsensical the whole video nasties moral panic was. The inimitable Martin Barker particularly stands out as he discusses the validity of the so called ‘research’ used
to support the harmful effects of horror films. Trailers for every video nasty are included and I enjoyed the extensive video label idents feature. It is worth pointing out that Marc Morris was involved in the production of three of the DVDs I have identified in this list and many others. His continuing dedication to restoring and releasing cult film is very much appreciated.
The major disappointment of the past year has been many of the on-demand releases from major studios. I do believe that the on-demand model has the potential to work but studios need to rethink their current strategies. Firstly, the prices are far too high, remember, these are DVD-Rs and not factory pressed DVDs, secondly, many titles are not restored and are therefore have poor image quality and finally they are hard for people outside of the US to import at a reasonable price. Currently it appears to be nothing more than a cost saving exercise.
DVDs still to purchase
Columbia Film Noir Classics Volume 2 – Sony (USA, Region 1)
Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 5 – Warner (USA, Region 0)
The Visitor (Giulio Paradisi, 1979) – Code Red (USA, Region 0)
While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang, 1955) – Exposure (UK, Region 0)