Sunday, December 16, 2007

VW's Favorite DVDs of 2007: Kim Newman

VW contributor, novelist and audio commentator Kim Newman contributes to a good many other publications, and he begged off contributing a Favorite Discs list for us because he's presently tied up preparing his year's end list of 2007's theatrical releases. But Kim did thoughtfully dash off the following list of "notable UK releases that might be worth folks' attention elsewhere..."

Mind you, these are all Region 2 discs and the best sources for these are places like (UK), (France), and

Both seasons of this limited-run, time travel/subjective reality cop show are now out. A US remake is in the works, but I suspect it'll be hard to match the ingenious, affecting tone of the original. I'll concur that the BBC's releases of the new DOCTOR WHO series have been outstanding, but a word also for the job they've done on various "classic" serials - all cleaned up and with a fascinating array of extras that make even the minor efforts worth a look.

A modest plug, in that Steve Jones and I did the critical commentary tracks for these releases, but I was as taken with the rediscoveries of these little-known titles as anyone else. When Steve and I were asked to do these films, we thought there wouldn't be enough in them to fill out a track - but, actually, both films are extremely rewarding, complicated and unexpectedly scary.

Actually, this is a French R2 release, but it's a gorgeous box - with the Feuillade serial, plus other films, plus associational material. From a later generation, the seminal French serial BELPHEGOR, with Juliet Greco, is also out and well worth a look.

This psycho-thriller, controversial in its day, is out as part of a Boulting Brothers box set and on its own. Probably best-known for that Bernard Herrmann whistle Tarantino loves to sample, it has a remake-worthy central creepy idea, and an outstanding psycho performance from Hywel Bennett as a genius-level sociopath doing a Lars von Trier act as a kindly simple-minded man to cover up a murder spree.

These minor, auteur Westerns -- respectively from Jacques Tourneur and Sam Peckinpah -- are both only available in proper forms on R2 (there are PD pan&scans of the Peckinpah on R1 which should be avoided). Both films have been overlooked and are worthy rediscoveries. [Editor's note: reader Wade Sowers wrote to remind us that CANYON PASSAGE was in fact issued in Region 1 this year, as part of Universal's CLASSIC WESTERN ROUNDUP VOLUME 1 box set.]

Finally, let's hear it for those net-based firms boldly putting out old TV shows that aren't likely to get an official release in the near future. In the past year, I've been enjoying or rediscovering THE CORRIDOR PEOPLE, DOOM WATCH, THE OWL SERVICE (a children's TV serial from 1970 that ought to be hailed as a major work of filmed fantasy), OUT OF THE UNKNOWN, SUPERNATURAL and THE MAD DEATH.

Tomorrow: Our week-long poll closes as VW editor Tim Lucas presents his own Favorite Discs lists (yes, that's plural) and unveils VIDEO WATCHDOG's collective choice for Best DVD of 2007.

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