Welcome back to the Holiday Gift Guide! We continue on with Part 2 of the Blu-Ray section, covering a few “Cheap” stragglers and the more expensive collectors sets, Criterions and even a region-free import or two.
We left off with Takashi Miike’s Audition and pick up with some pinhead named… well, Pinhead.
I may or may not have gotten into trouble on Twitter recently for describing the Hellraiser films as “A Nightmare On Elm Street for edgelords,” but it’s kinda true. That said it’s unquestionable how effective the first film is. The fantasy mixes with demonic horror in a super horny way and the horror world hasn’t been the same since. Arrow’s release has a new restoration and a bunch of features, including a new doc on the making of the movie.
John Hughes was very influential for me. The teens he’s portraying are a half-generation older than I am, but I recognize the world he shows in his movies, exaggerated as they may be. Some of his choices are problematic in this year of our Lord 2019, but taken as they are his ‘80s output still puts a big smile on my face. Weird Science took a backseat to Ferris Bueller, Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, but I’ve always appreciated its fearless approach to going ratfuck crazy. Arrow went and did a 4K scan of the original negative and give us not one, not two, but three different cuts of the movie. There’s an extended edition exclusive to this release that sees two cut scenes reintegrated, the original theatrical cut and even the shorter TV cut with ridiculous dubs and alternate takes to please the TV censors.
The ‘70s gave us a massive amount of great cinema. Here’s one that has slipped past a lot of people. It’s called The Silent Partner and it’s a straight up crazy crime movie about a mild mannered bank teller who figures out a way to divert the lion’s share of a bank robber’s cash during a heated robbery. Not only does he have to avoid being found out by the authorities he also has to deal with a very pissed off criminal. Elliott Gould is in the lead and Christopher Plummer gives the most menacing performance of his career (sometimes in drag and sometimes dressed up as Santa Claus). This one’s great and a sneaky Christmas movie to boot!
Keeping with the obscure-ish awesome ‘70s bank robber motif we have Charley Varrick, a movie directed by Dirty Harry’s Don Siegel about Walter Matthau as a bank robber on the run from a mafia hitman, played by great Hicksploitation star Joe Don Baker. This is a super fun one with a great, pounding score from Lalo Schifrin.
One of my all-time favorite filmmakers ever is Preston Sturges. He’s famous for his whip smart screwball comedy work, like The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels and (my personal favorite) Unfaithfully Yours, but Christmas In July is one of his better lesser known titles. It’s a comedy of errors about a low level working class stiff who thinks he won $25,000 (which works out to be exactly 14 trillion and 95 dollars in 1940s money. Don’t check my math. I’m pretty sure I’m right) and decides to spend a bunch of it on a shopping spree with his girl. Of course, he didn’t really win a big prize, it was a practical joke put on by his co-workers, and things quickly spiral out of control as reality smashes him back down to Earth. It’s super sweet and still funny as hell.
If I could make every single person who scrolls through this guide buy one Blu-Ray with a personal promise to sit down and watch it as soon as it arrives it’d be this one. The Thin Man tells the story of Nick and Nora Charles, a married couple that are hopelessly in love, delightful alcoholics and who moonlight solving murders. The banter is next level, the relationship is my all-time favorite on-screen husband and wife team and I honestly can’t get enough of William Powell and Myrna Loy together. Someday Hollywood is going to come around and remake this. Not sure if it can capture the same chemistry as the original series did, but it’s gonna happen. Mark my words.
It’s a trip to watch A Face In The Crowd in the Trump era. Elia Kazan’s film is as brilliant as ever and feels incredibly prescient. Andy Griffith plays the incredibly charismatic Lonesome Rhodes who starts out harmless enough, but gets darker and darker the more famous he becomes. It’s a scathing condemnation of the fakeness of TV personality and a dire warning that snake oil salesmen don’t change just because their method of delivery is now a television camera instead of the town square. It’s a classic that doesn’t feel like homework. Give it a chance if you haven’t seen it.
If you haven’t seen Klute, the only thing you need to know about it is that it’s a paranoid thriller starring Jane Fonda (in a role that won her an Oscar) and Donald Sutherland. And it now has the Criterion stamp of approval. The Blu contains a 4K transfer and a ton of bonus features including new interviews with Jane Fonda.
Lend me your ear a second. I gotta tell you that Criterion put out David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. My man always brought the weird, but there was a period of time when he was kind of going mainstream. The Elephant Man won a ton of awards and it is a pretty straight forward drama. Then Dune is big and crazy and failed hard, but it was still a big studio swing. Blue Velvet feels like Lynch just went “fuck it, I’m gonna be me” and in that respect I feel like it defined the David Lynch we all know and love. It definitely comes across a little like a Twin Peaks prototype when you go back and watch it now. Eerie, sexy, hilarious, terrifying… this one covers all Lynchian corners. It’s Criterion so you get a ton of stuff, including 50+ minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, tons of interviews and a 4K restoration transfer.
Spike Lee’s masterpiece gets the Criterion treatment. They’ve remastered the 1989 film in 4K and have ported over a bunch of classic bonus features, like a 1995 commentary track recorded by Lee, and a bunch of vintage interviews as well as brand new look back interviews.
First of all, it’s fucked up that I’ve been doing this whole writing about movies thing for so long that movies I covered first run are getting their own legacy Criterion releases. That aside, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Criterion is a match made in heaven. While it was never a box office juggernaut it was a hugely important film for the LGBTQ audience and one that felt revolutionary at a time where it still wasn’t common to see that culture represented on film. It was ahead of its time and paved the way for the queer television and feature films. And it’s not some preachy, stuffy drama. It’s colorful and weird and hilarious and emotional and has incredibly catchy music to boot.
Now, the original Suspiria is quite possibly the most colorful horror movie ever made. It was made after Technicolor wasn’t a thing anymore, but that didn’t stop Dario Argento from going apeshit with the color. This 4K release is supposed to be eye-poppingly good. Plus there’s a Dolby Atmos remixed soundtrack (as well as the original theatrical mix).I haven’t had the chance to check it out myself, but believe you me this sucker’s on my wish list.
Who doesn’t love Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy? Probably very sad people, I’d guess. Since there’s no such thing as a sad person who reads my Holiday Gift Guide I feel safe in my assumption that this appeals to each and every one of you. I adore what Wright did with each one of these films and it’s amazing to grow with them. I recently rewatched Hot Fuzz and it blew me away at how well it held up. If you or someone you know hasn’t upgraded these films to UHD now’s your chance!
Here you get not one, but two Pet Sematarys! And not a single one stars Eddie Furlong, so double bonus! Mary Lambert’s movie is still super creepy and the new remake didn’t stray from the darkness of King’s material or the original film. What I’m saying is that it’s worth the money just for the crispest, most detailed look at the achilles tendon slice scene alone.
I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is Scream Factory did a big collector’s edition of one of the best horror comedies ever made. The bad news is… well, there is no bad news. Fred Dekker’s freshman feature is a sci-fi horror comedy that features brain-eating alien slugs, frat douches, Tom Atkins as a hard-boiled detective and the obligatory ‘80s genre movie Dick Miller cameo. The one-two punch of Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad is quite possibly my favorite back to back director output this side of Coppola’s The Godfather and The Conversation.
Arrow has a limited edition RoboCop Blu set coming out that has the director’s cut, original cut, a TV cut and TONS of extra features, from archival bonus features like Verhoeven’s hilarious commentary, to new interviews with folks like Nancy Allen and the writers. Plus you get some bonus stuff like a fold out poster, lobby card reproductions and that fun stuff.
I love these Arrow covers. This release of American Werewolf includes a new 4K restoration supervised by John Landis as well as new interviews and documentaries about the movie on top of a whole lot of legacy commentaries and docs and other funstuffs. So pick this up and I’ll see you next Wednesday!
Criterion doesn’t just cover “important” or “arty farty” movies. This is the company that put out Armageddon on DVD, remember. Sometimes they just have fun and that’s what I think they’re going for here with this Police Story 1 and 2 set. That’s not to say that Jackie Chan’s movies aren’t important or worthy, by the way, but they are flat out fun as hell without going for any greater message that you associate with Criterion releases. Young Jackie Chan was a madman and put his body on the line for our entertainment! If you’ve never had the pleasure, I highly recommend checking these films out… if only for seeing where Maggie Cheung earned her reputation of being a badass.
As rare as it is to see a woman writing and directing today, back in the ‘50s it was almost unheard of. Ida Lupino was an actress who decided to move behind the camera and was able to make a great string of features before moving to TV for the majority of her career. This box set restores a bunch of her ‘50s work, like The Hitch-Hiker, The Bigamist, Never Fear and Not Wanted. The Hitch-Hiker in particular is a fun thriller about an escaped convict who hitches a ride and tells them he’s going to kill them at some point on the trip. Feels a little like an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode and I mean that in a good way.
You’d be surprised just how many Fly movies there are and now they’re all gathered in one box set! There were three original Flys (The Fly, Son of the Fly and Curse of the Fly) and two in the ‘80s, the Jeff Goldblum-starring Cronenberg remake and The Fly 2 with Eric Stoltz. Another crazy packed Scream Factory offering.
Pre-Order, December 10th. $59.37
Sure, Little Shop of Horrors gets all the publicity, but the other film Roger Corman made at the same time on the same sets with many of the same cast is arguably the better movie. It just never had a badass musical made out of it is all. A Bucket of Blood stars the king of character actors, Dick Miller, as Walter Paisley, a likeable, but dumb struggling artist who figures out a niche… the only problem is it involves murdering people and covering them in plaster and presenting them as art. It’s swell and one of the few films cool enough to give Dick Miller the spotlight. Olive has put out a new Blu-Ray of a 4K restoration, which is nice because for a long time the only way you could see this movie was on shitty public domain dupes.
Mike Flanagan’s Haunting of Hill House was one of the bigger Netflix series surprises in recent memory. The man is a talented filmmaker, we knew that already, but it was still a surprise to see just how much he nailed this story. The Bent-Neck Lady is an all-timer, especially when you find out her origin. The fact that he hid ghosts in the corners of average shots is by itself rad as hell. Add on to that a legitimately thoughtfully-written set of complicated characters and you get a winner. It’s also not that common to get Netflix stuff on physical media, so that’s a bonus, too.
This whole show is a big ol’ nostalgia hug. It’s a deep dive documentary series that looks at how the toys a good many of us grew up with came to be. The Star Wars and He-Man episodes alone are worth owning this set for. If you’re a giant nerd who grew up in the ‘80s, like I am, of course. You youngins have to wait for the Pokemon episode or whatever.
I’m sure we’re ultimately going to get a crazy fancy Collector’s Set version of the entire run of Game of Thrones with some dragon statues and Funko pops and shit, but until that day comes you have the option to add on the controversial final season to your pre-existing season box set collections. I happened to think the fan outcry over this season was a bit overblown. I don’t know why I wanted to share that, but this is the internet and I had an opinion so I wrote it down. You know how it is.
Ah, Big G’s massive Criterion set. The creme de la creme release of 2019. The Cadillac of nerd shit. Criterion amassed 15 Showa-era Kaiju films for this release. You get new HD transfers of Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Mothra Vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Ebirah Horror of the Deep, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, All Monsters Attack, Godzilla Vs. Hedorah, Godzilla Vs. Gigan, Godzilla Vs. Megalon, Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla. That’s a lot of Men-In-Suit content, my friends, and it comes in a hardcover essay-filled book, no less.
Okay, this one’s for you weirdos. Here’s just about all the Twin Peaks stuff you could want. You get the two original seasons of the show as well as Fire Walk With Me and the entire recent Limited Event Series, all in a crazy package that will make any Twin Peaks nerd squeal with joy. Extra features include 7 hours of never before seen behind the scenes footage from the Limited Series, as well. The only thing this set is missing is a damn fine cup of coffee.
Pre-Order, December 10th. $132.99
This fancy, region free import 4K remaster of Don’t Look Now caught my eye. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s pretty crazy to me that a title like Don’t Look Now is getting this packed special edition release. It’s a four-disc collector’s edition that includes the 4K UHD disc, a Blu-Ray copy, a bonus features disc with new extras, a CD of Pino Donnagio’s haunting score, art cards and a fold out poster. The movie’s great, too, of course. Disturbing in all the best ways and massively influential to most modern genre filmmakers you love. But let’s face it, if you’re going to drop a ton of money on a region free 4K collector’s edition import of this title you’re not gonna blind buy it. You already know how great the flick is.
I love the Omen films. Most people stop at the first and I get it. The first film is a classic and has one of the best on-screen decapitations of all time. But Omen II and Omen III are pretty great in their own ways. Omen II would make a great double feature with Psycho II in that both films make the lead evil guy very sympathetic. In Omen II you know Damien is the Anti-Christ from the get go, but… he’s just a boy. He didn’t ask for this and maybe he does want it. And Omen III gives us young Sam Neill as the Son of the Cloven-Footed One. This set also includes Omen IV and the 2006 Omen remake that isn’t terribly good, but not awful either. It’s worth noting the original is a new 4K remaster and it’s all wrapped up in this gorgeous box set.
Abbott & Costello made a whole fucking lot of movies and you get a whopping 28 of them here in this blu-ray box set. Of course you get their monster cross-overs, like the eternally great Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, as well as Abbott & Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff and Meet The Mummy, Meet the Invisible Man, Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For the old comedy classic lover in your family.
Stay tuned over the coming days for the rest of the categories to drop. Next up is Art and I've sniffed out some real cool stuff for you print-lovers out there.