Oh, for those long-gone days when I could easily pick the Ten Best DVDs of the year. Then came Blu-Ray, and 3D Blu-Ray. And it became a joke. Ten? How ’bout 110? For the skeptics who now stream, I say “Ha-HA!,” disc collecting isn’t dead! Far from it.
When it became obvious that I couldn’t whittle down a list to ten, I began to group titles by companies, particularly the wonderful indies, like Kino, Twilight Time and the expanding libraries of Flicker Alley and Film Movement Classics. Then I toyed with genres, the best of pre-Codes, animation, silents, film noir and so forth. This year might be a mix of everything. If nothing else, 2018 provided a fantastic twelve months for home video platter addicts.
Any carps. Maybe one. It seems that skeevy major studios have bailed on 3D, even after selling millions of TVs and players to fans. Only Warner Bros. and (to a lesser extent) Universal still seem committed to the format; yet, via Kino and Twilight Time, the stereoscopic process survives. And will continue to do so. My suspicions as to why Fox, Paramount, Columbia and Disney made their regrettable choices lean heavily toward the nefarious reasons which I won’t go into now. Let’s just say that for the present, you suits are saving many collectors a lot of dough. May that sink in.
Enough with the dregs. Drum roll.
DUE PROCESS(ES): Anyone who’s just peripherally read my stuff knows that I’m a sucker for cinematic uses of color, widescreen, stereophonic sound and 3D (Jim Limbacher’s 1968 book The Four Aspects of Film is my Bible). 2018 was a fab year to celebrate all these things, from the artistic to the gimmick. Here are the top cherries.
Flicker Alley’s A TRIP TO THE MOON, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/long-story-short/, is a fantastic Blu-Ray that belongs in every serious collector’s library. Taking the 1902 Georges Melies sci-fi classic to new heights, we get a gorgeous-looking rendition in COLOR. Yep, you read right. Melies plotted the space adventure to be bursting with hues and tones, hand colored frame-by-frame. Long thought lost, it emerged in deteriorating shape. FA, along with Technicolor and others, restored the 35MM nitrate to near-pristine proportions. A documentary on this cinematic alchemy is also included, plus various versions of MOON, including sound versions (Melies had scripted narration and dialog to be read during screenings).
1925’s STAGE STRUCK, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/acting-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder,
a riotous, raucous comedy that returned Jazz Age superstar Gloria Swanson to her Sennett roots, was a BIG crowd pleaser at the Neuhaus Bijou. The exquisite use of two-strip Technicolor for the opening and closing sealed the deal, but, honestly, the pic’s so good (and funny) that it would made the Year’s Best on its own.
It’s always great fun to revisit Warners superb 3D transfer of DIAL M FOR MURDER, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/3-d-triangle-cunning-with-scissors/, the 1954 crime thriller marking Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary approach to Three Dimensional movie-making. It doesn’t disappoint. Many consider this flick to be the best 3D movie ever made. And they might not be wrong!
Kino, in conjunction with the 3D Film Archive and Paramount Home Entertainment, has gone the distance with two Holy Grail titles from the process’s Golden Age. 1953’s THE MAZE, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/halloween-blitz-18-crazed-maze/, a sci-fi horror pic by William Cameron Menzies, may not exactly terrify you, but it’s certainly a style-over-substance extravaganza that consistently entertains and overflows with oodles of atmosphere, in-your-face effects and an overall brilliant utilization of stereoscopic possibilities.
The same gang rivals if not bests THE MAZE with 1953’s CEASE FIRE, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/paramount-3-d-peaks/, a movie I never thought I’d EVER see in 3D. The first feature-length documentary (actually, a docu-drama), this gritty (but beautifully shot) black-and-white adventure covers the final days of the Korean War (or conflict, as it was then called) starring the actual participants. It’s exciting, engrossing and an ideal demonstration of how thrilling and realistic 3D can be.
Finally, Flicker Alley (along with David Strohmaier and his Cinerama company) does it again with their sensational restoration of the 1952 lollapalooza THIS IS CINERAMA , https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/look-at-the-big-picture/. True, if your home theater isn’t equipped with a 120 foot screen, you might not exactly feel the same excitement Fifties audiences experienced, but my 60” rig had us screaming at the famous rollercoaster opening. It’s all presented in SmileBox, which comes as close to mimicking the three-screen miracle as you can get. Coupled with the new stereo-surround remix and you have a widescreen aficionado’s dream come true.
Black-and-white CinemaScope is another one of my favorite combinations, and few 1950s Hollywood dramas explore the dark spatial (and even noirish) rectangular tapestries better than 1957’s NO DOWN PAYMENT, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/shaggin-in-the-crabgrass/. A blistering expose of middle class migration to the suburbs (and the adulterous, racist and class-conscious pitfalls that go with it), this Martin Ritt winner shines from an expert script, direction and cast (including Joanne Woodward, Tony Randall, Jeffrey Hunter, Barbara Rush and Sheree North).
FILM NOIR. Perhaps the most collectable genre for classic movie fans, noir seems to get more popular with each passing year. And, for Blu-Ray buffs, 2018 was extremely kind for noiristas.
Olive Films, working with Paramount Home Entertainment, really delivered the goods with a trio of 1950s masterpieces, two of them relatively obscure and a third in (at last) in a presentable form (after decades of PD hell). PRIVATE HELL 36, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/pulp-friction/, a Don Siegel piece de resistance, provides everything (including the hand-picked cast) that film noir screams for. Robert Wise’s 1959 ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/black-and-white-and-dead-all-over/, likewise presents an ideal noir cast and adds racism to the plot about losers planning an upstate New York heist. Another fantastic mean street cast populates Joseph H. Lewis’ magnificent THE BIG COMBO, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/slimeballs-crime-ball/, at last viewable in 35MM widescreen.
From the 1940s, Olive unveiled a beautifully remastered edition of Abraham Polonsky’s textbook noir FORCE OF EVIL, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/cain-enabled/, featuring possibly John Garfield’s greatest performance (and think about that!).
Warner Bros., through their Blu-Ray arm of the Warner Archive Collection at last revealed the quartet of seminal Bogart-Bacall noir classics, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, THE BIG SLEEP, DARK PASSAGE and KEY LARGO (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/bogie-betty-blue-ribbon-blu-rays/). None of them have ever looked or sounded better, and all come with fun and extensive extras.
And last, but certainly not least, the great indie company Twilight Time presented two fantastic limited edition noirs from their Columbia Pictures arm, Sam Fuller’s outstanding UNDERWORLD U.S.A. (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/edgy-cliff/) and Don Siegel’s EDGE OF ETERNITY (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/drop-off-point/), the latter which not only delved into my favorite noir subgenre, Color Noir, but was also lensed in CinemaScope!
If “noir” is numero uno with classic collectors, “horror/sci-fi” definitely tops the list of overall platter addicts (the Halloween Blitz October posts are our most popular and most re-visited pieces). It’s impossible to even keep track of all the spooky stuff that gets released each year, let alone re-released on video. Or the franchises they spawn. Or the ancillary products. Or, or, or…
Kino has run the gamut of marvy gory stories, and their covered titles in 2018 underlined that fact with clawed vengeance.
A classic Hammer movie, finally available here uncut and in 1080p Hi-Def widescreen, 1966’s ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/mighty-hammersaurus-vs-a-twentieth-century-fox/) was unearthed by Kino is its ultimate rendition. Not one, but TWO versions of the Harryhausen triumph were unleashed in a dual disc set (the uncut UK version and the US American release). Plus oodles of extras!
Another fantastic Hammer offering, an entry from their late period, came via Synapse with their wonderful, COMPLETE AND UNEDITED version of HANDS OF THE RIPPER (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/freud-where-prohibited/). Not only amazing in 1080p, but crammed full of supplementary material. It’s the ultimate and ONLY version to own.
Warner Bros., again through their Blu-Ray appendage of Warner Archive, came through like gangbusters with two long-on-demand 1080p re-masters, the brilliant and chilling 1960 sci-fi/horror gem VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/halloween-blitz-18-kids-slay-the-darndest-things/) and the 1979 macabre and darkly humorous adventure TIME AFTER TIME (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/halloween-blitz-18-rip-to-the-chase/).
We conclude this section with Kino’s continuing Blu-Ray celebration of the maestro of Italian horror Mario Bava. Four essential works, BLACK SABBATH, THE WHIP AND THE BODY, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and KILL, BABY…KILL! (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/halloween-blitz-18-bravo-bava/) were covered in 2018, each one a quintessential must for a buff’s supernatural shelf.
ACORN. That fantastic company that gives us Yanks the best of UK (and Australian/New Zealand) TV continued its tradition of brightening up our lackluster small screen days with a choice selection of crime shows, dramas and comedies. It was hard to pick the lead pantheon titles, but I think these three make my case.
THE WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/agatha-christies-jones/, is not the witty Agatha Christie entertainment millions have known or loved. It’s essentially the first draft version – the original 1920s piece – a dark, dire descent into guilt, lust and murder. The impeccable cast, led by the ubiquitous Toby Jones (in one of his 10,000 2018 appearances), couldn’t be better and includes standout work by Andrea Riseborough, Billy Howle and Kim Cattrall.
DOMINION CREEK, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/golds-fools/, is a gritty, violent western (well, northern), produced entirely in Ireland that fairly accurately depicts the hellish post-Yukon gold rush in the late 1890s. Using real-life figures to mix with the fictional characters plays a bit with history, but scores A+ for suspenseful, first-rate adventure.
Lastly, sci-fi doesn’t get any better than HUMANS, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/synth-you-sinners/, the utterly satisfying mini-series about a not-too-distant future where people can fulfill all their needs via synths, super-gorgeous efficient androids. The fact that the fakes are far more preferable than most of the flesh and blood versions is only the iceberg tip of the many clever messages laced throughout the two seasons now available. And I defy anyone NOT to fall in love with Gemma Chan!
NEO-NOIR, ODDS & ENDS. A modern offshoot of film noir are the many movies that pay homage to the sombre, twisty thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s. Some admirable examples made it to Blu-Ray in 2018. The crème de la crème for me comprised:
HANA-BI, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/unstable-constable/, the remarkable 1997 crime drama, starring, co-edited and written and directed by the amazing Beat Kitano. It’s a freaky cyclone of a movie worth visiting often.
Going back a few decades is Noel Black’s excellent and disturbing unmasking of middle-class America, 1968’s PRETTY POISON, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/if-its-tuesday-this-must-be-bellevue/, co-starring the equally excellent and disturbing Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld.
On the documentary front, one would have to search far and wide for better representation of DAWSON CITY: FROZEN IN TIME (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/reel-find/). It’s a jaw-dropping story of a small Yukon frontier town and how hundreds of silent films (many thought lost to the ages) were accidentally preserved like so many iced dinosaurs. The extras include some of the actual reels!
One of my favorite genres, the western, currently deceased to most contemporary movie-makers, lives on for collectors, thanks to the folks at Film Movement Classics and Warner Bros.
The first tip of the hat goes to FMC for their spectacular restoration of the 1968’s THE GREAT SILENCE, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/06/12/the-violence-of-silence/, one of the finest spaghetti westerns ever made. By going against all the rules, including cast, locale and sunset finale, director Sergio Corbucci has crafted a sick treatise on capitalism, obsession and America’s addiction to violence.
It’s Warners again, through their Blu-Ray Warner Archive Collection, that gets the 2018 brass ring. My absolute Number One tie picks of the year was the simultaneous release of my two favorite Sam Peckinpah westerns, 1962’s RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and 1970’s THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/violent-beauty/). If you’ve never seen them, buy these two titles today; if you are acquainted with these classics, upgrade to the Blu-Rays, as they have NEVER looked or sounded as good. Happy New Year