The DVD Year in Review – An Introduction
Apologies to anyone awaiting my DVD Pick of the Week, but I’m afraid I’ve been too busy compiling my list of Favorite DVDs of 2007 to keep up with current releases. Next week I’ll try to get back on track, but in the meantime I wanted to share some of my thoughts on last year’s DVD releases, which I’m still enjoying.
Even with some of my favorite DVD companies such as NoShame Films missing in action in 2007 and Blue Underground seemingly stuck in redistributing Anchor Bay’s old catalog, the year still turned out to be a terrific one for fans of ’60s and ’70s cinema. Lots of great movies from my favorite film eras found their way onto DVD for the first time. Many other previously released films also got deluxe DVD treatments such as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), Richard Lester’s Help! (1965) and Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974). As usual, Criterion offered buyers a wide array of remarkable movies from many different countries and many other smaller companies and boutique labels such as Fantoma, Media Blasters, Kino, Severin, Synapse Films and Dark Sky Films left an impressive mark on the DVD market.
The Stanley Kubrick – Warner Home Video Directors Series DVD Collection
was one of the years many highlights.
I was especially happy to see British and Japanese cinema so well represented on DVD last year. You’ll find a lot of rare and previously hard to see films from both of those countries on my list of Favorite DVDs from 2007. Many of the Japanese films on my list were never theatrically released in the U.S. and have never been easily accessible in any form. I was frankly rather surprised and disappointed after looking over countless lists of “Best DVDs of 2007” at the end of the year published in newspapers, magazines and online to find that so many critics continued to overlook and underestimate the quality of the great Japanese cinema being released on DVD lately. Even though western audiences now have access to lots of noteworthy films, Japanese cinema from the sixties and seventies continues to suffer from very little critical response. This is really a shame since some companies who release Japanese films on DVD have already announced that they will be cutting back on the number of films they release in 2008. Considering that my brief look at the pinky violence genre last year generated the most blog hits I received all year and was linked to, copied and quoted from numerous times, I suspect that things will change in the future. As I pointed out in that piece, many critics and potential viewers are just discovering that there is life in Japanese cinema outside of the work of Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi.
I was also thrilled to see lots of great spy films from the sixties find their way onto DVD thanks to a renewed interest in James Bond after the success of Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006). Even though I only included Caprice (1967) on my list, I seriously considered adding Dark Sky’s wonderful Drive-in Movie Double Feature of Assassination in Rome (1965) and Espionage in Tangiers (1965) as well. I also really wanted to like Image Entertainment’s Kommissar X (1966) DVD Collection more, but the poor quality of the film transfers made some of the movies almost unwatchable and they weren’t helped by the horrible packaging and lack of extras. I really wish Image had made an effort to restore the Kommissar X films since they are terrific entertainment and worthy of a much better presentation. Because of the problems with this set it was probably my biggest DVD disappointment of last year, but I’m happy that I finally got to see these great movies. Besides the release of so many terrific spy films and satires, fans of the genre were also gifted with some great television shows made available on DVD for the first time including Jason King (1971-72), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68) and more episodes of The Wild Wild West (1965-69). I expect this trend to continue well into 2008 and beyond since anticipation for the upcoming James Bond film Quantum of Solace (2008) is high.
There were a surprising number of DVD re-releases last year, which I often found rather frustrating since I personally don’t have the extra funds to buy multiple copies of the movies I enjoy, but I’m also glad that so many previous releases were improved upon. Unfortunately many of these noteworthy re-releases were left off my list because I haven’t seen them yet. Few American films managed to make my list and I was really disappointed by the lack of giallo films that were made available on DVD in 2007. My Favorite 2006 DVD list was dominated by great Italian thrillers and many American classics, but both are relatively absent from my 2007 list. Naturally I wasn’t able to see every film I was interested in seeing and I’ve found that my local DVD rental options are becoming narrower every month. After Borders, Blockbuster and Best Buy moved into town and the much missed Tower Records sadly went out of business, small local shops and rental options started disappearing as well. Even the large local retail outlets like Borders have stopped carrying many DVDs released by small boutique labels and new Criterion releases are not available for rent anywhere. This is a sad state of affairs considering that I live in the Bay Area right outside of a major metropolitan area like San Francisco. It’s frustrating to have so many great films now available and so few options to rent or purchase DVDs. I’m an occasional impulse buyer and sometimes I enjoy being able to jump in my Mini Coop, visit a local shop and pick up a DVD I suddenly have an urge to see, but that hasn’t happened in months.
Complaints aside, I do want to stress that 2007 was a truly great year for DVD releases. Many of my favorite films were released for the first time and I was introduced to some amazing movies that I had never seen before. Although we’re only six weeks into 2008, it’s already shaping up to be another fabulous year for DVD releases and I expect it will only get better!
The 3 Rules I followed when compiling my list of Top 30 Favorite DVD Releases of 2007:
1. All DVD were released in the U.S. in 2007 (NTSC Region 1)
2. All the DVDs feature films that were originally released in the ’60s or ’70s.
3. Selections are listed Alphabetically and without numerical preference.
Part II. of my Favorite DVD Releases of 2007 will be posted soon so stay tuned!