Disc Spotlight

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Olive Films releases classics old and new (but mostly old) on a monthly basis, and it’s not uncommon to find pockets of a theme at times — same actors, similar genre, etc. — and their selection of titles that hit shelves this week are no different. The seven films can be broken into two groups as four of them are film noir examples from the late ’40s and early ’50s, and the three more recent titles are all directed by Otto Preminger. My exposure to both is not nearly as deep as I’d like, so these offered up a great sampling of the noir genre and Preminger’s resume. Three of the films are genuinely fantastic, but none of the seven seem to enjoy wide popularity — this is somewhat baffling when you look at the powerhouse casts including the likes of Alan Ladd, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, William Holden, Michael Caine and others. Keep reading for a look at Appointment With Danger, Dark City, Rope In the Sand, Union Station, Hurry Sundown, Skidoo and Such Good Friends.

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Warner Archive

The Warner Archive Collection is WB’s label for “manufactured on demand” aka MOD discs — DVDs that are essentially printed to order, burned instead of stamped from a mold like the ones you’re used to buying in stores. The discs are manufactured using the best source materials available and they’re strictly no-frills affairs, so the quality varies between releases, but they’re never less than perfectly acceptable. And remember, in many cases this may be the only opportunity to own these titles on DVD. We took a look at six of their new releases, and they run the gamut across the years and the genres. Three of the films — Joe’s Apartment, The Man With Two Brains and Running on Empty — are presented for the first time on DVD in the widescreen format. The remaining three are lesser known titles — Bad Moon, Wicked Wicked and The Yakuza — but each feature at least an element or two to make them worth a watch.

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Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick has never really been one of my favorite directors, and that’s probably no where more evident than in my preference of Eyes Wide Shut as the best of his films. In my defense I’d only seen five of Kubrick’s movies up until recently, but I also just really love the atmosphere, relationship commentary and black humor of the film. Warner Bros. has just released a new Blu-ray collection called Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection, and it features eight of his films along with a handful of documentaries on his work and life including a brand new one, Kubrick Remembered. The eight films featured are his final eight (so his first five, Fear and Desire through Spartacus, are not included), but it serves well as a fantastic introduction to his acclaimed and eclectic career. The set also includes a hardcover book filled with thoughts and photos, but as with any collection it’s the movies that must speak for themselves.

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Kino Lorber has been in the specialty DVD/Blu-ray business for years now, but while some labels make their home in niches based on genre (Scream Factory, Synapse Films) or ” important” films (Criterion Collection) Kino’s focus has been on quality world cinema both contemporary and classic. Their various imprints release films as diverse as The Long Goodbye, Elmer Gantry and Burt Reynolds’ Gator. They don’t dabble in horror a lot, but they don’t exactly shy away from the genre either as evident by titles like To All a Goodnight, Jennifer and Nosferatu. Their two latest horror releases — The Bubble and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — fall heavy on the classic side as they’re 48 and 94 years old, respectively. The Bubble is the lesser known of the two and features a plot device that will feel familiar to fans of Under the Dome or The Simpsons Movie, while The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is still regarded as a highly influential film nearly a full century after its release.

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20th Century Fox

Batman only ran for three seasons back in the late ’60s, but its impact on pop culture remains immense and ongoing. It entered syndication shortly after its initial run, and several generations of children have enjoyed its mix of action, morality and pure campy goodness in the decades since. The big budget movies that started hitting theaters in the ’80s have mostly avoided the show’s highly comedic and innuendo-filled tone — although Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin sure does try — making the series a 120-episode pop culture time capsule. I was one of those kids who used to love watching the show on weekday afternoons after I got home from school, and while I’ve seen bits of episodes over the years I haven’t actually sat down to watch one in full since my childhood. Part of the reason may be that the show’s never been on DVD before, but there’s also the matter of me growing up and deciding the dialogue, cartoonish action and tights were beneath me. That’s no longer the case though — clearly I’ve grown more self-aware and immature — and now I find myself appreciating the over the top but sincere goofiness for what it was. Warner Home Video is finally releasing the series on Blu-ray/DVD tomorrow, fully remastered in high definition and featuring over three hours of new featurettes and an episode guide detailing the plots and guest stars. The Blu-ray limited edition set adds Adam West’s photo scrapbook, a pack of collectible trading […]

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Synapse

The ’80s marked the waning days of Italian cinema’s mastery over the genre film, but there were still quite a few gems released during the decade. Lucio Fulci (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead) and Dario Argento (Tenebre, Phenomena) each managed to direct some memorable titles, but overall the quality of the output was decreasing even as the quantity raced in the other direction. One of the most popular Italian horror films of the ’80s — Lamberto Bava’s Demons — embraced both Argento’s color schemes and Fulci’s gore addiction and combined them with an anything goes narrative and a rock and roll soundtrack. It was followed a year later by an underwhelming sequel, but even that film manages a few fun surprises. Synapse Films released both movies to Blu-ray last year in limited run steelbooks loaded with extras, but next week they’re putting out standalone Blu-rays for folks whose sole interest is the movies themselves. Both films received brand new HD transfers, color correction and additional work, and they look spectacular. I watched a double feature of both films last night — it was my fifth or so viewing of Demons and my first of the sequel.

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Arrow Video

Small video labels lack the reach and recognition of the much bigger studios, but they have advantages when it comes to the content. Chief among them is that instead of simply pushing a new product line they’re able to hand-pick titles for release — new, old, cult classics or forgotten gems. They’re curating an affection for movies, and two of the best from across the pond are Arrow Video and Eureka! Entertainment. Neither label is a stranger to genre films, and this month sees them each bringing some ’70s-style horror into the world of high definition with new Blu-ray releases. Arrow is giving the HD treatment to David Cronenberg’s first feature film, Shivers (aka They Came From Within) while Eureka! is putting out a double feature of Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream.

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Scream Factory

Clive Barker‘s second feature film as a director hit theaters in 1990 in a compromised and heavily molested form thanks to the meddling suits at 20th Century Fox and Morgan Creek, but while Nightbreed died a quick death on the big screen the desire for Barker’s full vision lived on in the hearts and minds of fans. Rumors swirled about lost footage, and when years later much of those scenes were found the world was treated to a “restored” cut of the film featuring these rediscovered scenes dropped into the existing feature to form the Cabal Cut. The resulting cut had its pros and cons — my full review is here — but it was a kitchen sink version and never meant to be construed as Barker’s preferred vision. Happily, and somewhat miraculously, that vision is now getting its day in the sun as Scream Factory releases the lovingly restored, Barker-supervised director’s cut complete with a beautiful high-def remaster. There’s no arguing that this new cut looks and sounds great and is long overdue, but is it an improvement over the theatrical release? Is it any good at all? The answer to both questions is a pretty resounding yes.

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Kino Classics

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. Several labels go after obvious past classics, but some have made a habit of delivering films most of us have never heard of before. Kino Classics and Cohen Film Collection release their share of recognizable titles — Metropolis and Intolerance for example — but they don’t shy away from lesser known films choosing instead to champion them and prevent them from fading into oblivion. Both labels reached into French cinema’s past this week to find two very different movies. Keep reading for a look at Kino Classics’ release of We Won’t Grow Old Together and Cohen Film Collection’s new Blu-ray of Favorites of the Moon.

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Scream Factory

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. It’s no secret that one of my favorite specialty labels these days is Scream Factory. They simply understand genre fans and reward us handsomely with high definition transfers of our favorite horror flicks from the past. Their contemporary releases leave much to be desired (Cockneys vs Zombies aside), but more often than not when they reach decades back for a film the result is something fantastic at best or fun at worst. Their “Summer of Fear” begins this month with five new releases, and while one is contemporary and another is from the ’70s three of them are from the horror’s early ’80s sweet spot. If you’re a genre fan odds are you’ve seen at least two of these, but you’ve never seen them as new-looking as they do here with new HD transfers. Keep reading for a more in depth look at the new Blu-rays of Evilspeak, Final Exam and the legendary Sleepaway Camp.

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Cannon Film Distributors

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. Our latest look at Top Shelf releases from smaller labels features two new Blu-rays from across the pond, and in addition to both being region B releases the two share a genre similarity too in that they’re both coming-of-age teen comedies. That said, they handle their themes quite a bit differently. First up is Gregory’s Girl which explores one gangly, Scottish teen’s efforts to woo the beautiful new girl at school. His friends are equally lost in a sea of hormones, but the film pursues it all with a light and innocent touch. Far, far away at the other end of the tonal spectrum is The Last American Virgin. It’s Porky’s-style comedy including crass behavior, nudity and sex, but it has zero interest in satisfying viewers with a typical happy ending. Keep reading for our look at the new import Blu-rays of Gregory’s Girl and The Last American Virgin.

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Frightmare and The Flesh and Blood Show

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. Redemption Films‘ forte is the resurrection of old school horror films with new HD restorations, a small smattering of new extra features, and Blu-ray debuts. They tend to stick with certain directors including Mario Bava, Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, and others. They’re latest releases are a pair of early genre pics from director Pete Walker, a man known for pushing the envelope and enraging British censors on multiple occasions. Both of his releases here are loaded with the red stuff, but only the former is also bursting at (and through) the seams with naked lady flesh. Keep reading for our look at Redemption Films’ new Blu-rays of The Flesh and Blood Show and Frightmare.

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top shelf killers phantom

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. Arrow Films is not only the UK’s best specialty Blu-ray/DVD label, but they’re also one of the most exciting regardless of geographical boundaries. Part of their appeal can be found in their unabashed affection for genre entertainment, but they’re equally adept and interested in more highbrow fare. They love movies as much as we do, and the proof is in a catalog diverse enough to include both Cinema Paradiso and Hell Comes to Frogtown. They have two new releases hitting UK shelves next week, and they couldn’t be more different. Keep reading for our look at Arrow’s new Blu-rays of Don Siegel’s The Killers and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise.

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ts header night of the demons

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. Scream Factory continues to mine past decades for horror gems worthy of resurrecting onto Blu-ray, and while they make the occasional misstep the vast majority of their releases make for fantastic additions to your library. They have four titles hitting shelves in February with the first two streeting next week. In addition to releasing on the same day, Witchboard and Night of the Demons also share the same director in Kevin Tenney. They’re his first two films (of thirteen total) but remain his most well known. This is as it should be seeing as Demons is also his best film, but it’s a shame if only because Demolition University, starring Corey Haim, really deserves to be seen by more eyes. Keep reading for our look at Scream Factory’s new Blu-rays of Witchboard and Night of the Demons.

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ts cat people

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. This week we’re looking at new releases from two different labels, Scream Factory and Raro Video. While the latter has rescued more obscure titles than the former both have continued to deliver excellent releases over the past year showing a continued appreciation for films and film lovers. First up is an early ’80s favorite that I recall being enamored by during many of its late night cable showings. This was especially the case when the film played on HBO or Cinemax with all the nudity and gore and more nudity intact. Next is an Italian horror film that I had not actually seen before this release, and while it doesn’t hold up to some of the bigger Italian zombie movies of the ’70s and ’80s it’s still pretty fun in its own right.

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ts ghost and mrs muir

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. Before you accuse me of selling out and featuring a major studio in a column dedicated to smaller labels, please understand that they paid me very well. That’s not true. Instead let me point out that these releases come via 20th Century Fox’s Studio Classics line, which is both a small division and in this instance one very receptive to the desires of fans. They launched a program called Voice Your Choice earlier this year where film lovers got the chance to vote on which classics from Fox’s library from the 1930’s through the 1960’s were most deserving of digital restoration and HD release on Blu-ray. The response was so overwhelming that Fox decided to double the number of “winning” titles to two from each decade, and the eight movies released this week. The films include The Black Swan, Call of the Wild, Carmen Jones, Desk Set, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Jesse James, North to Alaska, and The Undefeated. Keep reading for a closer look at four of the selections below.

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top shelf assault on precinct 13

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. This week’s pairing looks at two new Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory. The label is an offshoot from Shout! Factory, and while their main focus is on horror titles they’re flexible enough to include variations of the genre, too. They’ve managed to prove themselves in short time through a dedication to HD remasters. First up is an urban western from John Carpenter that sees a simple act of revenge lead to a siege involving police, prisoners, civilians, and some unruly gang members, and we’re following that with an ’80s horror/comedy with zombies and a pair of ass-kicking valley girls.

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top shelf invasion of the body snatchers

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash too. Top Shelf is our new bi-weekly look at these labels and the films they’re releasing. The movies won’t always be classics in the traditional sense and you may not even recognize the titles (or stars or directors), but somebody somewhere loves them which is enough of a reason for us to shine a light their way. This week we’re taking a look at two new releases from the UK’s Arrow Video. They’re the sleazier, more entertaining brother of Arrow Academy, and while they predominantly focus on resurrecting horror films like Squirm, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and anything Dario Argento has ever pointed his camera towards, they also dabble outside the genre with releases like The Last American Virgin. Horror is their bread and butter though, so horror is where we’ll start. Two of Arrow’s releases this month are considered classics from acclaimed directors Philip Kaufman and Wes Craven, but while they both have their fans only one of the films still holds up today.

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ds clint eastwood

Box-sets, much like anthologies, have somewhat of an unavoidable mixed-bag mentality about them. It’s difficult, near impossible even, to ensure that each film within is of equal merit and quality. Increase the number of films, and the odds of consistency decrease in equal proportion. Which brings us to WB’s latest (but doubtfully last) Clint Eastwood retrospective. Clint Eastwood: 20-Film Collection lives up to my theory above thanks in part to a heavy concentration on Eastwood’s most recent output (which few people would argue in favor of), but it does an otherwise fine job of looking across the years at the man’s output both as an actor and a director. WB has also released a 40-Film set onto DVD.

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blu howling

1981 was the greatest year ever for fans of werewolf cinema. Bold statement? Possibly. Plain silly in light of Sybil Danning’s 1985 entry into the genre? Most assuredly. But if you were to make a list of the top five werewolf movies of all time it’s a near certainty that two of them were released in 1981. Late summer ’81 saw the August release of John Landis’ classic horror/comedy An American Werewolf in London, and just four months earlier Joe Dante‘s The Howling tore its way onto screens across America. While the two films are often spoken of in the same breath thanks to their chronological proximity and successful mix of laughs and terror, they’re also bonded through their unique but equally mesmerizing werewolf transformation scenes. A very young Rob Bottin handled the effects for Dante’s film, and they’ve never looked better than they do on Scream Factory‘s brand new Blu-ray of the film.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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