Every year I try to compile a list of my favorite new DVD releases. These lists tend to focus on films from the ’60s and ’70s since they’re my favorite film eras. This year I decided to expand my view a little and disregard limitations so I could share a varied list of all my favorite DVD releases with Movie Morlock readers. This list is far from complete since I haven’t had the opportunity to see every new DVD that was released but I hope it will encourage a few people to seek out these films. Many of the movies on my list were released on DVD for the first time last year so they’ve been hard to see unless you own them on video or caught them playing on television. So without further ado, here’s some of my favorite DVD releases from 2010 listed alphabetically for easy reference.
THE ELIA KAZAN COLLECTION (20th Century Fox)
It’s not easy being an Elia Kazan fan. He’s one of my favorite directors but every time I mention his name I get an earful about his dealings with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Politics and personal choices aside, I think he’s one of America’s greatest directors and this wonderful collection of films released by 20th Century Fox is a testimony to that fact. It compiles 18 of the director’s films including many of my personal favorites such as Panic in the Streets (1950), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954), East of Eden (1955), Baby Doll (1956), A Face in the Crowd (1957) and Splendor in the Grass (1961). But the highlight of this lavish boxed set presented by director Martin Scorsese is Wild River (1960), which has never been available on DVD before. The movie stars Montgomery Clift as a Tennessee Valley Authority figure forced to evict an elderly woman (Jo Van Fleet) and her daughter (Lee Remick) from their home after it’s decided that a new damn will be built in the area, which will flood their land. This talented group of actors deliver some of their best performances in Wild River and it’s a wonderful but little-seen example of Kazan’s incredible filmmaking skills.
GOODBYE GEMINI (Scorpion Releasing)
2010 was a great year for British horror films. Many of my favorites were released on DVD for the first time and my list is full of titles like Alan Gibson’s unusual 1970 thriller Goodbye Gemini (1970). The film focuses on two inseparable twins (Judy Geeson and Martin Potter) who travel to swinging London together and become involved with an eclectic and somewhat unsavory group of characters. But everything isn’t exactly as it seems in Goodbye Gemini and it soon becomes apparent that the twins aren’t particularly stable. As their mental state begins to disintegrate they start to lash out at each other and everyone around them accumulating in a violent finale that’s particularly disturbing. If you appreciate films like Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1973) or David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988) you might enjoy this eerie and unsettling film as much as I do. Extras include the original trailer and audio commentary with the one of the film’s stars, Judy Geeson.
GIRLY (Scorpion Releasing)
Freddie Francis’ black horror comedy GIRLY (1970) is another great example of early ‘70s British horror cinema also released by Scorpion Rising. It focuses on an eccentric family and at its center is the beautiful and charming Girly (Vanessa Howard) who lures men to their exclusive country estate with the promise of pleasure. Unfortunately for the men, Girly along with her brother (Howard Trevor), mother (Ursula Howells) and nanny (Pat Heywood) have other plans that include imprisoning and torturing the men with cruel games that have deadly results. The film has never looked better and the DVD comes with lots of extras such as interviews with the cast and crew.
HANNIE CAULDER (Olive Films)
I wrote at length about this unusual western starring Raquel Welch earlier this year so I won’t bother repeating myself but at that time Hannie Caulder wasn’t available on DVD. I’m happy to report that since then Olive Films has released a beautiful print of the film. It’s a barebones release with no extras but I’m glad that the movie is now easily accessible on DVD so more people can enjoy it.
HOUSE (Criterion Collection)
Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (1977) focuses on a group of Japanese schoolgirls who take a summer trip to the country and find themselves dealing with malevolent supernatural forces that they never bargained for. This bizarre horror movie was based on a Japanese comic book manga) and its abundant style, surreal dark humor, and pop art sensibility will probably only appeal to a select group of horror fans. But if you’re willing to succumb to the movie’s unusual charms I think you’ll find a lot to appreciate. Spectacular special effects and creative cinematography are just a few things that the movie has to offer adventurous viewers. Criterion’s DVD is loaded with wonderful extras and well worth picking up if you’re a fan of atypical Asian horror films.
HUMPHREY BOGART: THE ESSENTIALS COLLECTION (Warner Home Video)
This box set of films is a wonderful tribute to Humphrey Bogart’s extraordinary career. It includes many of the actor’s best films such as The Petrified Forest (1936), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), High Sierra (1941), The Big Sleep (1946), Key Largo (1948) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre(1948) as well as lesser seen gems like The Passage to Marseille (1943), which I wrote in-depth about last month. Some of the movies available in the collection had gone out of print so it’s great to have them back in circulation again. The beautiful packaging and impressive extras make this collection a real treat for classic film fans.
ICONS OF SUSPENSE COLLECTION: Hammer Films (Sony Pictures)
This great collection of Hammer thrillers features many previously hard-to-see films including The Snorkel(1958), Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960), Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960), Cash on Demand(1961), and Maniac (1963). But the highlight of the collection is Joseph Losey’s brilliant These Are the Damned (1963) starring Oliver Reed in one of his best early roles. It comes close to being my favorite release of the year due to the rarity and eclectic nature of the films included in this boxed set but I wish it contained some worthwhile extras. Despite that one complaint, I applaud Sony for shining a light on these neglected and too often forgotten British movies from the ‘60s. All of the films are presented in widescreen and look absolutely terrific.
THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION (Sony Pictures)
Sony does it again with this great box set of films featuring one of my favorite actresses, the beautiful and beguiling Kim Novak. This five-film collection contains some of my favorite Kim Novak films such as Bell, Book and Candle (1958) and Picnic (1955) as well as My Pal Joey (1957), Middle of the Night (1959) and Jeanne Eagels (1957). The last two films have never been available on DVD before and I’m glad Sony is giving Novak’s career some well-deserved attention with this notable release. The extras are also pretty spectacular and include an interview with the elusive star.
THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS (Kino International)
For decade’s film historians, critics, fans and students were forced to watch incomplete, haphazardly edited and poor quality prints of Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis (1927) but thanks to Kino International that’s all changed. They’ve released the most complete and painstakingly restored version of the film available and I’m extremely thankful for their efforts in association with The Murnau Foundation. I gained new appreciation for this timeless classic after watching the restored version of the film recently and I’m so glad that it’s been made available on DVD along with extras that include a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s restoration.
MONTE WALSH (Paramount)
William A. Fraker only directed a handful of films and television shows including the unusual thriller A Reflection of Fear (1973) and this somber western, Monte Walsh (1970). When he passed away earlier this year he was mostly remembered for his accomplishments as a cinematographer but Monte Walsh is a noteworthy and to my mind, career-defining achievement. The film stars Lee Marvin and Jack Palance as two aging cowboys bemoaning the end of an era while struggling to come to terms with an uncertain future. Monte Walsh is a melancholy picture but it also has a sense of humor. It features a good score by composer John Barry and a title song sung by Mama Cass but it’s the performances of the film’s stars, including the wonderful Jeanne Moreau as a French prostitute, that really carry this film along with Fraker’s photography. For years the only version of Monte Walsh that was available on DVD was the remake starring Tom Selleck and Keith Carradine but now western fans finally have access to the original, which is a superior film in every regard and one of best westerns produced in the early ‘70s. The DVD print looks terrific.
PSYCHOMANIA (Severin Films)
Don Sharp’s cult favorite Psychomania (1973) tells the strange supernatural tale of a group of rebellious bikers that come back from the dead to wreak havoc on a small town in rural England. This was the talented and esteemed actor George Sanders’ last film but he doesn’t have a lot to do here and the young cast of British motorcyclists get most of the screen time. The film’s been available on DVD for years in various incarnations but Severin’s latest release is a real treat for horror fans. It features a restored print of the movie along with some nice extras including an interview with the film’s star, Nicky Henson.
RED DESERT (Criterion Collection)
Red Desert (1964) was one of my most anticipated DVD releases of the year and Criterion didn’t disappoint. Michael Antonioni’s beautifully photographed film explores the isolation and dissatisfaction of one woman (Monica Vitti) who feels trapped and smothered by her bleak surroundings. Antonioni’s films often frustrate viewers that expect simple narratives and easily explained away endings. But Red Desert can simply be enjoyed for its astounding visual beauty, which has influenced countless imitators and admirers. The Criterion DVD features many worthwhile extras such as two of Antonioni’s short films and interviews with the director and his star.
SUMMER AND SMOKE (Olive Films)
Peter Glenville’s Summer and Smoke (1963) is one of my favorite Tennessee William’s adaptations but it’s never been available on DVD until now. Thanks to Olive Films we can finally enjoy a nice widescreen print of this bittersweet Southern gothic melodrama. The film stars one of my favorite actors, the incredibly handsome Laurence Harvey in one of his best roles as well as the talented actress Geraldine Page who was nominated for an Oscar thanks to her unforgettable performance here. The two play friends and would-be lovers who grow up together in a small Mississippi town but their relationship is troubled by numerous family problems and personal shortcomings.
VAMPIRE CIRCUS (Synapse Films)
The last film on my list is another British horror film from Hammer, Robert Young’s excellent Vampire Circus(1972). Vampire Circus has long been one of my favorite Hammer vampire films and it’s one of the studios most curious efforts. It relies on Grand Guignol style theatrics and a surreal atmosphere to deliver its scares but I find the whole enterprise incredibly entertaining. This terrific Synapse release contains both the regular DVD version of the film and the Blue-ray, as well as many terrific extras including a new documentary about the movie.