Saturday, December 15, 2007

VW's Favorite DVDs of 2007: Richard Harland Smith

Today's list reflects the tastes of VW contributor Richard Harland Smith, who moonlights (or daylights, as it were) as a liner notes writer for various DVD labels and blogger at the Turner Classic Movies page, MovieMorlocks.com. His list begins with his favorite of the year, but the rest are in no particular order.

THREE FILMS BY HIROSHI TESHIGAHARA (Criterion)
Although I was familiar with WOMAN IN THE DUNES (thanks to Gordon Gow's eye-opening genre study SUSPENSE IN THE CINEMA), the larger career of Hiroshi Teshigahara was uncharted territory to me until this year. WOMAN didn't disappoint and PITFALL and FACE OF ANOTHER (pictured above) are equally compelling and gorgeously photographed meditations on post-war life in a rapidly modernizing (and westernizing) Japan. My top-slotted DVD release of the year.

CLASSIC FLY COLLECTION (20th Century Fox)
Even though I already have THE FLY and RETURN OF THE FLY on a double disc, I'm all abuzz about this new collection for the inclusion of CURSE OF THE FLY, starring the incomparable Carole Gray. If you thought RETURN was minor and depressing, brother you don't know the half of it! CURSE is one of the great soul-scarring experiences of my childhood.

THE PSYCHIC (Severin Films)
It's about bloody time somebody showed some love for this redheaded stepchild of the Lucio Fulci corpus. I'm not calling THE PSYCHIC a lost classic, just a whiter shade of Fulci and an indispensable slice of Euro-Cult.

MICHAEL SHAYNE MYSTERIES, VOL. 1 (20th Century Fox)
A great rediscovery that didn't get enough nearly enough press or praise upon its release back in the Spring. Tight, neat little comic thrillers starring the long-underrated Lloyd Nolan, backed by a slew of cherce supporting players from Hollywood's boiling B-unit.

FOX HORROR CLASSICS COLLECTION (20th Century Fox)
Fox comes through again with a dynamite collection of largely forgotten suspense thrillers and one downright supernatural shocker. I would have paid this much for THE UNDYING MONSTER alone but I'm pleased as punch to have director John Brahm's THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE as well.

SAM KATZMAN COLLECTION (Sony Pictures)
Admittedly not in the same league as the films cited above, but the titles comprising this collection are nonetheless guilty pleasures non pareil... especially THE GIANT CLAW and THE WEREWOLF. And that packaging! In a word: gimme!

CHOSEN SURVIVORS/THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (20th Century Fox "Midnite Movies")
I love CHOSEN SURVIVORS as much for what it does wrong (skimpy characterization) as what it does right (Fred Karlin's cool synth score, whose thumping bass line anticipates John Carpenter's minimalist noodlings for HALLOWEEN) and I went batty when I heard it was getting a proper DVD release. It's just one of those titles from the early 70s that had great re-telling properties on my grammar schoolyard. As for THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, I'm a sucker for 60s British sci-fi... something about thatch roofs and ro-men really sends me.

THE OMEGA MAN (Warner Home Video)
Available in HD and Blu-ray, either of these remastered DVDs will do as a testament to this enduring schlock classic. Watch this back-to-back with CHOSEN SURVIVORS for a freefalling Lincoln Kilpatrick double-bill.

WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (Dark Sky Films)
I never ever thought this disturbing Spanish horror film would ever ever rate an American DVD release and I'm ever glad to be wrong. If you haven't seen this muy creepy island-set thriller, run-- don't walk-- to get your hands on a copy. But send your kids to the mall first.

THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (BCI/Eclipse)
This is just one of a slew of Paul Naschy movies put out by BCI/Eclipse and all are equally noteworthy but I think this title (alternatively known as THE CRAVING) is a stand-out due to its relative rarity and good production values. If you're a Naschy newbie, sink your teeth into this!

Tomorrow: A rule-bending list from VW contributor, filmmaker and horror host Shane M. Dallmann.

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