There have been some very special DVD and Blu-ray releases in 2013. We saw the rise of a new grindhouse player stroll down 42nd street with the promise of cinematic handjobs. Our beloved distro company of some of the best Italian Horror features on DVD stepped into the Blu-ray market to tackle… a WESTERN. The factory that shouts let out a great big SCREAM. When Ploitation meats the Arts we have found a label that can still shock us with new releases that try just hard enough to get our attention and a company called Millennium puts out movies from mid way through last century trying to Hammer their brand into our classic horror minds.
This is my personal favorite list from 2013. This could be an endless list and doesn’t quite stretch to all the companies worth nodding to. Severin and IFC put out some really solid releases as well with House of Seven Corpses and House on Straw Hill as well as Room 237 respectively. This list is truly in no order save that I grouped some of the front runners together. Make every effort to pick up these releases from DiabolikDVD. They’ve helped me get into most of the wonderful discoveries I’ve made since I’ve started buying from them and are quick with great suggestions or clever quips. They are all of the highest quality, may test you and may help you to find the video Yohimbe you’ve been looking for.
This was my first experience with Vinegar Syndrome. It was a blind date with a company that I wasn’t entirely certain would be amenable to my taste, however what I would discover shocked me. Not only was this movie not my usual flavor, but it actually changed the taste buds on my cinematic tongue entirely. You never forget your first. I thank Jesse at DiabolikDVD for recommending it to me while at their booth at MonsterMania. Between this release and some others he recommended (including the Drive-In Collection double feature discs) I have crowned Vinegar Syndrome my favorite distribution company of the year.
Massage Parlor Murders is a beautiful, restored in 2k Blu-ray that includes an overabundance of extras, a titillating cover and special edition lab card. The liner notes are fantastic and the “dig deep’ for extra content is much appreciated for a film that I wasn’t remotely aware of prior to this release. Massage Parlor Murders is gritty, dirty New York when New York would have Massage Parlors in which to commit murders.
Again, another surprise from Vinegar Syndrome. The Telephone book is a beautifully resurrected New York art film from the 60’s that is as funny as it is erotic. Permission to speak frankly? I have never had this much trouble keeping my goddamn hand out my pants while enjoying a serious movie that plays on both my emotions, heart strings and funny bone. From the moment I saw the cover with the strange, phallic telephone to the first time I saw our leading protagonist Alice on an obscene phone call I was surprised that such a movie existed and that this movie that was pure Spanish Fly wasn’t truly filthy. The Telephone Book is naughty, but it’s also cerebral. It’s well acted, well thought out and something completely fresh for your degenerate brain to figure out.
Again, Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray/DVD combos are loaded with extras including a commentary track from the producer, radio spots, two trailers and a still gallery (the still gallery is surprisingly beautiful). I’m not sure that I’ll call The Telephone Book my favorite release of the year, but it is the one that I have recommended the most to people looking for a way to experience the Vinegar Syndrome. For a time this was also available on Netflix, but skip that and just buy the damn disc.
I first saw Night Train to Terror at Exhumed Film’s 24 Hour Horror-thon this past October though the box art is very familiar to me. It was on the shelf of my local video store growing up. How could I forget that bloody knife impaled in the track tracks leading off into a sea of strange blue? Little did I know it would become a campy, sleaze classic filled with the things of 12 year old boy’s imaginations. Naked people and gore and Richard Moll! Oh fuck.
Upon picking up the Vinegar Syndrome release I was surprised to find that the whole thing has a rather sorted back story. Sure it’s a portmanteau picture, but how did it come to take that format? From where did each story originate and what’s with the sorted list of filmmakers on the bill? That’s all well and good and the education lesson is superb, but even that isn’t the whole story. The absolute most fantastic thing about this release is the commentary track as provided by The Hysteria Continues. This is a podcasting group that absolute understands how to riff on a movie while educating you and feeling fresh.
Sure this disc contains interviews with filmmakers and a bonus film, GRETA on DVD (wait’ll you learn what that is). It’s a 2k resto. It comes with a trailer… forget all that. It comes with my favorite commentary track of the year. Pick it up.
Toad Road was one of my favorite new movies of the year complete with strange drug use, urban legends, strange relationships and the ultimate in found footage originality or at least an amalgam of found footage and documentary filming. Toad Road’s narrative is romantic and sad, but actually quite terrifying for those of us who have experimented with acid, been in love and ventured off into the wilderness to find strange gateways to Hell in the middle of the woods.
This DVD isn’t overly loaded, but contains additional footage that shows the “making of” Toad Road. That means it showed the cast using drugs. That’s a pretty bold extra and while my initial thought is to enjoy this imagery and relive my hey day through it, it’s moderately sad. Artsploitation has put out some of the most impressive horror pictures over the last year or so with Hidden in the Woods and Wither. We look forward to 2014 with this excellent content provider that bucks the cinematic trends.
Scream Factory is a close second for favorite distro company of the year. Surely you know why. You’ve see their abundance of output and quality along with original artwork and premium extras.
Prince of Darkness is one of my top three John Carpenter movies of all time. It still terrifies me, but prior to this release I was left to watch it on a rather burnt out looking copy that didn’t satisfy me especially not during some of the more graphically violent scenes. The extras are solid including a commentary track with John Carpenter and an interview with the great JC, an interview with Alice Cooper, an interview with actor and special visual effects guy Robert Grasemere, a look at the film score (one of my favorites) with Alan Howarth, an alternate opening filmed for TV and my favorite Scream Factory program, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark. I also enjoy the newly commissioned artwork for this release though I understand that it isn’t for everyone.
It’s packed. It looks great. I still wonder what’s on the other side of the damn mirror.
Like all Scream Factory discs, Day of the Dead looks really good. It has some tremendous new, collectible artwork but also includes the reversible sleeve showing traditional art. It’s on this list because it includes a near full length making of documentary that is very impressive. Sure it has some other very valuable extras including a look at the mines in which Day of the Dead was filmed, but that making of extra is premium bonus material.
Prison was a big surprise title for me and is perhaps my favorite Scream Factory release this year because of its impact on me. It made me remember why I love films of the late 80’s, why I think Renny Harlin is a cool dude and made me ask myself how I could miss Prison but see Shocker (the stepbrother of Prison) in the late 80’s. Prison horror is good horror. Both Shocker and Prison got me good. Even Horror Show (House III) put out by Scream Factory later last year would confirm that.
The making of feature with all the cast and crew provides depth to a movie that may not necessarily strike you as a big production. Kane Hodder’s interview really made me wish I got his autograph at the last MonsterMania when I was standing next to him. I’ll remedy that for certain. He’s one cool fella. He was also on the Hatchet III interviews and I enjoyed his commentary about the effects work on that release as well.
You know what’s really cool? This release comes with a PDF of the screenplay.
The Big Gundown may be the best damn Western released on Blu-ray. It would be hard for me to find another that matches the sheer girth of extra materials. It’s four discs. Two Blu-ray including two different cuts of the movie. The DVD release of the movie and a CD with the score. It’s an Ennio Morricone masterpiece that is well loved, used by Tarantino in Inglorious Basterds and perfect for your drive into work (especially if you’re at a red light and need to make a dramatic start).
The movie is competent and, though I am not the biggest Western nut, it find it to be nearly superior to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. There’s something mean spirited about it. Van Cleef… I like your face! Pure Italian, extra side of Spaghetti, don’t spare the gravy.
Rewind This took my by surprise. I had seen Adjust Your Tracking this past September where I had the chance to enjoy it for the Killer Film Festival. Now I had known about Rewind This as well, but how could there be enough material/history/interviewees out there to discuss VHS and Beta over the course of two completely separate movies? Well there is. They approach the subject from different angles, each one capturing a little piece of my nostalgia-fed heart perfectly in a documentary. I haven’t seen a disc of Adjust Your Tracking, but I have enjoyed the entire Rewind This. The extras are nearly as long as the entire feature length documentary (maybe longer… I didn’t time it). It’s fun. Informative and it understands the era, the format and the fans. I highly recommend this to newbie collectors and long time renters.
I am not a steel book guy. I do not rush out to pay way too much money for limited editions of movies that I already own with a cleverly designed case that is built to withstand my kids. However, as respects these two releases from Synapse Films I made a big exception. Now it will shock you to know that I did not previously own copies of Demons or Demons 2 though they have been favorites of mine for some time (since I was a kid actually). I saw Demons on the big screen a couple years back at a Crystal Plumage Films show and Demons 2 was the final movie at this year’s Exhumed Film’s 24 Hour Horrorthon. I actually saw Demons 2 before I saw Demons as a kid after reading about it in Fangoria. The stills of a guy ripping his face off made it a must see (mom would never know about the ripped off faces).
So in picking these up I was able to get some very handsome covers. I love the newly commissioned art and color choices. This is in stark contrast to the new artwork used in the Arrow releases a year past of which I was not a fan. I actually flip flopped on ordering the Arrow releases in a set to save some money (still with steel books) but decided that I truly enjoyed the Synapse product. It contains some very handsome films and though I have not seen the Arrow editions, I would consider this the best damn version of the discs out there.
They’re limited to 3000 pressings a piece which means you should pick them up before you can’t.
Funny to see two movies named Prince of Darkness on one best of list eh? Millennium has become the real shocker to me. These guys put together really swell Hammer releases. Dracula Prince of Darkness contains some really strong extras and postcard style renditions of lobby cards. These seem to accompany most of their Hammer releases really separating themselves from other companies who put out Hammer releases. Now I wouldn’t expect this to have quite the same amount of content as some of the early Dracula efforts especially not the British releases. I own Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula aka Horror of Dracula from the UK and they’re overwhelming. Those are really the two that started it all. This is right up there. The transfer is gorgeous, and the ending is still shocking.
I remember loving this particular movie more than some of the other Hammer Drac offerings as a kid because it really generated new mythos that made sense to the Hammer realm while not feeling out of place.
From Secret Lair and DiabolikDVD comes a series of VHS trailer reels that have been on the floor laughing, discovering classic schlock and having something super collectible to put up on the wall. These clamshells are authentic with fun artwork and limited to a short run.
I had mine signed by the DiabolikDVD guys because they’re friggin awesome (and no I didn’t sell it on Ebay fellas). There are current four different editions each with a particular subset of trailers. The first cover is still my favorite and pictured.