Tuesday, December 11, 2007

VW's Favorite DVDs of 2007: John Charles

Today's list is from VIDEO WATCHDOG associate editor John Charles:

I simultaneously love and hate year end lists like this. Love 'em because it's great to hear the opinions of everyone else on staff at VW, hate 'em because I never have enough time see anywhere near as many of the year's releases as I would like. There is also the matter of street dates, which is why you won't see BLADE RUNNER: FIVE DISC ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION below, though it would almost certainly be nestled on top. The following DVDs -- listed alphabetically -- may not represent the absolute pinnacle of the industry's output in 2007, but they either more than met or completely exceeded my expectations.

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (MGM)
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (MGM)
DUCK YOU SUCKER (MGM)
It's not clear why we, here in Region 1, had to wait so long to get our hands on these incredible Sergio Leone restorations, but they were well worth the wait (and we got the much preferable original mono tracks to boot).

FROM BEYOND (MGM)
The restored footage wasn't nearly as dramatic as what I'd imagined it would be based on director Stuart Gordon's descriptions of it in the past, but a very good rendering nonetheless that easily relegates the wretched HK DVD to coaster status.

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (BCI)
This is the first of BCI's Paul Naschy titles that I have acquired and it certainly encouraged me to continue exploring. The presentation greatly exceeds Crash Cinema's crummy, unauthorized disc and the extras, while limited, satisfy.

KING BOXER (Dragon Dynasty)
Better known as 5 FINGERS OF DEATH, this Shaw Brothers production started the kung fu craze on these shores and has long been the victim of substandard of "public domain" transfers. Thankfully, it has never looked better via Dragon Dynasty's appropriately reverential release.

THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION Vol. 1 (Anchor Bay)
Five of this fine director's films return to the marketplace in largely improved presentations, nice packaging and a very reasonable price. They also found a guy who knows a lot about him to do some commentaries.

PAN'S LABYRINTH: 2 DISC PLATINUM SERIES (New Line)
Guillermo Del Toro's breathtakingly designed and incredibly moving fantasy arrived on Region 1 disc with all of the respect and diversity of supplementary materiaI I'd hoped for.

ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (Criterion)
Criterion's finally follows up their widely praised LD edition of Byron Haskin's cult favorite with an equally exemplary DVD that carries over all of the supplements, while also adding a terrific Michael Lennick featurette detailing what we have learned about The Red Planet in the interim.

WITCHFINDER GENERAL (MGM)
Another long delayed title (it was classified by the various Canadian provincial classification boards in March of 2005) that, thankfully, didn't disappoint -- despite being light on supplements.

Tomorrow: The top picks of VW contributor and filmmaker Bill Cooke.

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