Friday, November 17, 2006

Best DVDs o' '06

There are still one or two DVD releases this year that might warrant a place in this post - such as the upcoming disc for The Conformist - but here's my take on the best DVD releases of 2006. Discs were selected based on quality of the movie, quality of the transfer, quality of the extra features ... and whether or not I've bought them (hence the lack of overpriced Criterion releases!).

THE TOP TEN:

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
One of Russ Meyer’s best films gets the royal treatment from Fox: a two-disc set featuring a superlative transfer and a wealth of extra features (including a deeply informative commentary by the film’s screenwriter, Roger Ebert). This is a one-of-a-kind film experience of the sort that they don’t make any more. Best DVD of 2006!

Werewolves on Wheels
A new outfit, Dark Sky is rapidly becoming one of my favorite DVD companies. This movie is a hybrid biker/horror film with an existential bent. I was expecting pure drive-in trash, but this film has a really striking atmosphere that raises it to a completely different level than the standard biker fare. A wonderful, surprise discovery for me.

Lifespan
Another wonderful discovery. As with most Mondo Macabro DVDs, this is a film I had never heard of before. It stars Klaus Kinski and is an off-beat, existential tale about the quest to find the elixir of life.

Let’s Scare Jessica To Death
A rarely seen American Gothic from the early-1970s. Another gem that I hadn’t seen before, and given a nice DVD release by Paramount.

The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set

NoShame Films has quickly become an indispensable DVD company, releasing both cult and arthouse films from Italy. This set features two gialli from the early 1970s: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Both movies are classics and this is a quality DVD release all the way down the line - although I could have done without the ridiculous Red Queen action figure that this set came packaged with!

The Beast Must Die
Another winner from Dark Sky. This film really surpassed my expectations. The premise is an Agatha Christie style scenario where you have to guess who the werewolf is. The film even has a “Werewolf Break” where you are given time to contemplate the different suspects. What did it for me, though, was the fact that they tried to add a blaxploitation element to this very British scenario.

The Big Racket
One of three Italian crime films directed by Enzo Castellari that Blue Underground released in April ’06. All three feature nice transfers and enjoyable commentaries by Enzo. This one is the best movie of the bunch: a terrific fusion of elements from Death Wish, Dirty Harry, The Wild Bunch and The Dirty Dozen.

Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable and
Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Grudge Song
Episodes three and four of a series of insanely stylish 1970s Japanese exploitation flicks starring Meiko Kaji. How wonderful it is to have these on DVD.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Dark Sky has answered the prayers of many with this exceptional DVD: a two-disc set featuring a fantastic transfer and an enormous amount of extra features. The person at the check-out at Best Buy, unfortunately, didn’t realize there was a Texas Chain Saw Massacre from the 1970s and starting raving about the recent remake and how excited she was about the upcoming sequel. Oh, the youth of today!

Virgins From Hell
Mondo Macabro has released several grindhouse epics from Indonesia. This DVD edges ahead of their other releases by including a second disc with over an hour’s worth of trailers for Indonesian exploitation films.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

The Devil's Sword
More Indonesian insanity from Mondo Macabro! DVD features a profoundly weird interview with the film's star, Barry Prima.

The Bollywood Horror Collection
Mondo Macabro strikes again, with this double feature of two obscure Indian horror films: Bandh Darwaza and Purana Mandir. Great stuff!

Dust Devil
A mammoth DVD set, featuring five discs for the price of one: two versions of Dust Devil, a soundtrack CD, and two discs full of documentaries made by Richard Stanley. Subversive should be commended for such an amazingly in-depth package, which is a treat for any fans of Stanley’s work. Now all we need is for Hardware to get the same kind of royal treatment.

Colt 38 Special Squad

A cracking Italian crime film and a great DVD package from NoShame. Included as an extra feature is an entire film which was never released (and thought lost) because the producer was kidnapped shortly after it was completed!

Petulia
Richard Lester’s 1968 film is one of the great critiques of the modernist society. For some reason this sometimes gets billed as a comedy, but it’s actually a very serious film in the tradition of Last Year in Marienbad. Feels like it should have a Richard Lester/Steven Soderbergh commentary track ... but sadly it doesn't.

Succubus and Two Undercover Angels/Kiss Me Monster
Blue Underground revisits some Jess Franco titles that had originally been issued through Anchor Bay, substantially improving the transfers on all three movies. Taken as a whole, these films provide a nice overview of Franco's late-1960s work, ranging from deeply strange sexadelic art films to goofy sexadelic caper films!

The Other
Another fantastic piece of American Gothic from the early 1970s. It would make for a great double feature with Let’s Scare Jessica To Death. Paramount’s DVD provides a nice transfer, but there's a dearth of extra features.

Street Law
Another of the Blue Underground Enzo Castellari DVDs, this one starring the great Franco Nero in a Death Wish inspired crime film.

Black Belly of the Tarantula
The best of four gialli released by Blue Underground in March ’06.

Columbo Season 4, Season 5 and Season 6 & 7
I’m a sucker for Columbo. These all have solid transfers, and the shows themselves are rarely less than stellar. I can’t bring myself to put any of the season box sets in the top ten, however, because Universal has released all of the original seven seasons on DVD and has yet to include a single extra feature about Columbo. Surely Peter Falk must be willing to give an interview or some commentary tracks?

Putney Swope
One of the great films of the 1960s. Any fan of independent cinema should watch this. This DVD, issued by Home Vision Entertainment, is an improvement on the old Rhino release, but the transfer isn’t quite up to their usual high standards: the image is interlaced, and the framing seems a little too tight.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Silver Fox said...

Interesting list, but I must confess that I hadn't heard of most of them.

sf

3:42 PM  

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