Restorations

Blu-ray Favorites From 2018

We look back at a number of our favorite Blu-ray releases from 2018. This is by no means a ‘best of’ or ordered list that encompasses all of the Blu-ray releases we fell in love with this past year- this list merely serves as a reflection on some of the releases we thoroughly enjoyed in 2018.

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema (Criterion Collection)

By Matt Schlee

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What is there to say about this box-set, other than to point out that it’s one of the greatest objects a collector of physical media can imagine? 39 films by one of the great directors in the history of cinema, a 248-page book, a plethora of special features new and old, and it’s heavy enough to replace your entire home gym. Did I spend more on this than my car payment? Perhaps. Was it worth every penny? Without a doubt. The first printing of the box-set sold beyond Criterion’s wildest dreams and will not be available for purchase until February (beyond third-party sellers charging ungodly prices), but it is certainly worth the wait. Criterion has spent decades perfecting the art of physical media, but they’ve outdone themselves (and everyone else) with this stunning collection.

Samuel Fuller at Columbia (Indicator)

By Matt Schlee

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Samuel Fuller is one of American cinema’s most prolific directors. His career spanned several different eras of American filmmaking, beginning in Hollywood’s golden age and running through the 1980s. Fuller also comes from the Hollywood tradition of the writer-turned-director. Indicator’s Samuel Fuller at Columbia box -set brings together seven films written by Fuller. Two of the films, Underworld U.S.A. and The Crimson Kimono, are also Fuller directorial efforts, but the set also includes a Douglas Sirk adaptation of a Fuller story, Shockproof, as well as the Phil Karlson directed Scandal Sheet, an adaptation of Fuller’s most famous novel The Dark Page. The set is essential for Fuller fans and for film noir fans. It includes a stunning seven-hour interview with the director himself (split across all of the discs) as well as a plethora of archival footage, interviews, and documentaries. In a year where Indicator has put out an almost impossible number of amazing box-sets, this one is the pièce de résistance.

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Criterion Collection)

By Kevin Jones

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Paul Schrader‘s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is a dense film, neatly weaving together various novels from its subject into one cohesive package. Where the extras succeed is in diving into every single piece of this production. The creative process and how the filmmakers brought the complex work and philosophy of Mishima to the screen is not only impressive, but explained in great detail in riveting interviews. The addition of a BBC documentary and an interview with Mishima himself further complete the package, taking Schrader’s film as a starting point to also explore the man that inspired the project. Packaged in a gorgeous golden digipak, Criterion’s release of this great film stands out on my shelf for many reasons.

Born of Fire (Indicator)

By Kevin Jones

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One of the best things about Indicator is how they give loaded releases to films that are largely underseen. Born of Fire is one such film. There is a great 36-page booklet that taps into the mystical nature of the film and its usage of music. The disc is loaded with interviews with director Jamil Dehlavi himself, star Peter Firth, and composer Colin Towns. However, one of the most interesting pieces of the release is a 27-minute documentary entitled Qaf – The Sacred Mountain that Dehlavi shot during the making of Born of Fire. This is not just a typical “making-of documentary, but rather a compelling work of art that explores a volcanic eruption. A score from Tangerine Dream furthers its rather hallucinatory feeling, while including the documentary solidifies this as one of Indicator’s finest efforts for a film worthy of re-discovery.

Images (Arrow Academy)

By Kevin Jones

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As Robert Altman has become one of my favorite filmmakers, I had long wanted to see Images, which was largely difficult to find until this release. It is a release that lives up to every expectation, offering not just a great film but also a strong package. There is a scene-select commentary from Altman himself included, as well as a terrific featurette entitled Imagining Images. In the featurette, Altman and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond discuss their work on the film, which proves particularly enlightening considering their frequent collaborations with one another in the early-1970s. It is a great interview, one that is essential for all Altman fans, cementing this as a must-have release.

Curse of the Cat People (Scream Factory)

By Matt Schlee

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Curse of the Cat People is one of the most peculiar movies to come out of early Hollywood. Pressured to produce a sequel to his hit, Cat People, Val Lewton crafted what was marketed as a horror movie but turned out to be more of a personal family drama. A true oddity, it is also likely my favorite Lewton film. It is also only the second Lewton produced film to come to Blu-ray (after Criterion released Cat People last year), and it is a top-notch release. It includes a pair of audio commentaries, a video essay on Simone Simon (star of both Cat People movies), and an audio interview with actress Ann Carter. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of an outpouring of Lewton releases, as Shout has already announced a Blu-ray of the Bela Lugosi vehicle The Body Snatcher slated for next March.

The Old Dark House (Masters of Cinema)

By Matt Schlee

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James Whale is one of the great directors of early Hollywood horror, with titles to his name such as The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein, but these often overshadow perhaps his best film: The Old Dark House. Starring Hollywood giants Boris Karloff and Charles Laughton, the film is a masterwork of gothic horror. Eureka’s Masters of Cinema line has put out the definitive edition featuring a 4K restoration of the film, three commentary tracks, a video essay, and an absolutely gorgeous package (including a beautiful slipcover on the limited run first printing of the Blu-ray). Horror aficionados should be rushing out to buy this.

Suspiria (Synapse)

By Matt Schlee

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Suspiria is one of those films that’s so iconic it’s stunning that it hasn’t gotten a quality Blu-ray release before. When a 4K restoration was finally done last year, a variety of distributors tried their hand at releasing it, but the Synapse release seems to be the most complete edition. The restoration is enough to make this a worthwhile purchase. Suspiria’s use of color is legendary and the new transfer brings out all the dazzling beauty of Dario Argento’s masterpiece. In addition to the best looking version of the film ever released, the disc includes a pair of audio commentaries, several appreciations of various aspects of the film, and original trailers and credit sequences.

The Magnificent Ambersons (Criterion Collection)

By Kevin Jones

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For film lovers, Orson Welles‘ sophomore film The Magnificent Ambersons remains one of the great lost treasures of cinema. While Criterion was not able to track down some long lost copy of Welles’ original cut, their presentation of the 88-minute version is nonetheless terrific. Coming in a digipak and complete with a cover that hints at its incomplete nature, the release is built around the mystery and alternate cuts of the film right down the booklet. Styled as a mock screenplay with pencil-like writing scribbled out and staples along the side, the package is one of the more unique releases I have gotten from Criterion. On the disc itself, Criterion went all out with two different Welles radio adaptations of writer Booth Tarkington’s work, interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and Welles himself, video essays, and much more. It is a loaded release of a film that richly deserves this red carpet treatment.

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