|The Most Welcome Discs of 2011
If you find yourself at the end of the year wondering where all your disposable income went, you may want to take a glance at your Blu-ray shelves. 2011 saw some spectacular releases, often in the form of pricy box sets, including at least one eagerly anticipated trilogy making its high-def debut. I don't think I need to name names. We all know I'm talking about Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy from Criterion.
As great as these discs are, I thought I'd do something a little different with this year's best-of retrospective. Rather than focusing on the ten releases I thought were "the best", these are the ten movies I'm happiest were finally released. Don't get me wrong, many of these would end up on a traditional ten best list as well. But instead of focusing on their strengths and weaknesses as home video products, I just want people to realize how amazing it is to have these on DVD or Blu-ray at all.
Each of these ten films is a former JET's Most Wanted pick from the Electric Theatre Facebook page. Some of them I expected to come out sooner or later. But I'm also surprised that a couple of these made it through the morass of legal issues that held them up for so long. My thanks to the producers and studios that made these releases possible. So, without further ado, the ten most welcome releases of 2011 on DVD, Blu-ray and MOD.
The Boy Friend (Warner Archive) - The late Ken Russell's films haven't exactly been treated with the utmost care since the advent of DVD. It's shocking that this 1971 musical, one of his best, hadn't been released until now. Fortunately, Warner Archive did a fine job with their remastered release, even including a vintage featurette. It's an excellent disc from the undisputed leader of MOD.
The Clowns (RaroVideo) - This Italian label made an impressive US debut with Fellini's personal, magical documentary on his love of the circus. It's a great movie that was far too difficult to see for too long, now finally available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Let's hope RaroVideo is around for a long, long time.
Damnation Alley (Shout! Factory) - If you've got a taste for ripe 70s sci-fi cheese, you know you've got a soft spot in your heart for the Landmaster. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray and DVD brings it home in style. It's the next best thing to seeing it in "Sound 360".
Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis (Kino) - After their stellar release of The Complete Metropolis in 2010, I wouldn't have blamed Kino if they wanted to just forget that Moroder's 1984 version of Fritz Lang's classic even existed. Kudos to them for going the extra mile and giving what could have been a footnote in movie history a respectful Blu-ray and DVD release.
Island Of Lost Souls (Criterion) - I'd heard about this movie for years but had never actually seen it. Often, it's impossible for a film to live up to its reputation in a situation like that. This one is actually every bit as good as I'd heard. Criterion's Blu-ray and DVD brings it home in style, with wonderfully entertaining and informative extras that are as good as anything the company has produced.
Last Exit To Brooklyn (Summit) - I wasn't even aware that Summit Entertainment had a back catalog of movies to be released. I tend to associate them with the Twilight movies and not much else. But they did a fine job with Uli Edel's stark cult drama. Their DVD and Blu-ray release of this film ranks as one of the year's biggest surprises.
The Magnificent Ambersons (Warner Home Video) - There's a whole lot wrong with this DVD, starting with the fact that, for now, you can only get it as an Amazon exclusive with the Citizen Kane Blu-ray set. There's no question the movie deserves better. But at least now it can be seen, which is the most important thing.
1991: The Year Punk Broke (Geffen) - Hard to believe it took 20 years for this Sonic Youth documentary, with appearances by a scraggly young pack of upstarts calling themselves Nirvana, to make it to DVD. Turns out it was worth the wait, with the performances sounding better than ever.
Santa Sangre (Severin) - In my review of this title back in February, I called this "an early frontrunner as one of the ten best discs of 2011". I stand by my hyperbole. Severin gave Jodorowsky's amazing fever dream of a movie a superlative Blu-ray and DVD release that should be on the shelves of every serious film lover.
Terror In The Aisles (Universal) - Due to licensing issues, I assumed this 1984 compilation film would never, ever be seen again. Its inclusion as a bonus feature on the Halloween II Blu-ray is, quite frankly, about as much as this horror oddity deserves. Sure, it does kind of seem like Universal just stuck a bunch of titles in a hat and pulled Halloween II out at random. But I guess it makes as much sense on this disc as anywhere else.
This list could easily be twice as long this year. I haven't even touched on Olive Films' releases like the cult UK musical Breaking Glass and Otto Preminger's utterly bizarre Skidoo, Twilight Time's run of limited edition discs such as Irvin Kershner's The Flim-Flam Man, or other welcome MOD releases like Sam Fuller's Park Row (MGM), the final Belushi/Aykroyd pairing in Neighbors (Sony), William Friedkin's The Brink's Job with Peter Falk (Universal) and a whole lot more. It all just goes to show there's a lot of life left in these little discs we love so much and many, many more amazing, forgotten films yet to be released. I can't wait to see what lies in store for 2012.
And hey, if I don't talk to you again beforehand, let me wish you the happiest of holidays no matter what (if any) you celebrate and a very happy new year (I think we can all agree to acknowledge that one).
Dr. Adam Jahnke