Top 15 Home Video Releases of 2017

2017 was a great year for home video releases, maybe not for a much else, but definitely home video. Like last year, I have to say that I have not watched everything, nor do I have any interest (or time) in watching everything. The primary rule is that the disc has to have been released this year and a new rule is that it has to be Region A.  There are few discs that I want to mention in a moment that do not qualify to be ranked, but they are great acquisitions from this year.

15. Seven Days In May – Warner Archive 

When the Warner Archive announced that they were releasing Seven Days In May I was pretty excited. I would finally be able to check it off my list. I do not have a reason, good or otherwise, why I had not watched it until now, but I am glad that I waited for a high definition experience. I posted a full review of the film here.

From WBShop.com: “It happens with startling swiftness and violence. An armed cadre seizes state control. Fortunately, a coup d’tat can’t happen here. Or can it?

A classic of suspense directed by John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Ronin) and written for the screen by Rod Sterling (The Twilight Zone), Seven Days in May tautly explores that possibility. At odds are a popular general and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman (Burt Lancaster) and an unpopular president (Fredric March) with a pacifist agenda. At stake is the survival of the Republic. A vigilant colonel (Kirk Douglas) uncovers the scheme. But are the seven fateful days ahead enough time to derail a takeover? The clock is ticking.”

There is a striking similarity between this cold-war thriller and what seems to be happening around the world today. Within the last two years there have been, at least, two coups, Turkey and Zimbabwe, as well as ratcheting nuclear tensions in Asia during a time in which many people would prefer peaceful negotiations over a new cold-war. It scares me to think about how prescient many of these films tend to be, whether they are ahead of their time or we just cannot learn from our mistakes. This may be why I was as enthralled with the film as I was. After all, timing is everything.

I feel comfortable saying that I have not watched a bad John Frankenheimer film, they are out there, sure, but I don’t want to watch those. An old commentary and trailer accompany the features. Also note that this is not a restoration but a decompression of an older release, which is fine. A 4k scan and restoration wouldn’t hurt but nothing really stood out when I watched the film.

14. One More Time With Feeling – Bad Seed Ltd

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have been in my “top five bands” for the better part of twenty-five years so all it took was an announcement for me to need to watch the movie. The film documents the creation of the Skeleton Tree record which Cave wrote after his son Arthur died. It is a sad album and the film had me in tears.

From NickCave.com: “One More Time With Feeling, from director Andrew Dominik, is a stark, fragile and raw documentary. Shot in 3D, colour and black & white, the film probes the deeply personal circumstances surrounding the making of Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ 16th studio album, and features live performances by the band in the studio.”

This release can easily be a “your mileage may vary” experience depending on your musical tastes, but Andrew Dominik is able to document the raw emotions of the band. I recognize the disconnect between fan and artist, in most cases, but whether or not the band would know me from the next fella is irrelevant when you have spent a lot of time and mental energy, essentially, studying their art. When they suffer an unbearable loss, the ties that bind grow tight. That is what One More Time with Feeling accomplishes; lessening their deification and levels their mortality.

The release also contains three short films by director Andrew Dominik but, truly, for fans of the Bad Seeds being able to hold onto, and spread out, a little piece of the Cave’s family grief is why we have the disc. A form of collective counseling. It is a black and white film with incredible picture and sound quality, worthy of any collection.

“I’ll miss you when you’re gone.”

13. 100 Years of Olympic Films – Criterion Collection

Truth in journalism, I am writing this paragraph on the last day of November, this set won’t be released for five more days and I won’t have access to it for twenty days after that. However, I am a fan of the Olympic Games and a big fan of the Tokyo Olympiad DVD; the ability to reference the 53 films and be able to see these countries through the eyes of their filmmakers (even the Nazis) makes this release special.

From Criterion.com: “Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912–2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. The documentaries collected here cast a cinematic eye on some of the most iconic moments in the history of modern sports, spotlighting athletes who embody the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”: Jesse Owens shattering world records on the track in 1936 Berlin, Jean-Claude Killy dominating the Grenoble slopes in 1968, Joan Benoit breaking away to win the Games’ first women’s marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. In addition to the impressive ten-feature contribution of Bud Greenspan, this stirring collective chronicle of triumph and defeat includes such documentary landmarks as Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia and Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, along with captivating lesser-known works by major directors like Claude Lelouch, Carlos Saura, and Miloš Forman. It also offers a fascinating glimpse of the development of film itself, and of the technological progress that has brought viewers ever closer to the action. Traversing continents and decades, reflecting the social, cultural, and political changes that have shaped our recent history, this remarkable movie marathon showcases a hundred years of human endeavor.”

I imagine being tapped to make these films is a great honor, and I cherish the idea that I will be able to be a small part of Olympic history. This is a monster set and will give me plenty to watch for a good, long while. This is a very specialized release though. To say that it is not for everyone is a brash understatement. It is prohibitively expensive to buy it directly from Criterion, today, but if ordered during a 50% off sale—which happens four times per year—it is less than $4.00 per movie, as long as you want to watch 50 movies about the Olympics, which I do.

It is fairly uncommon for Criterion to release something without supplements. But, come on, this is 6,253 minutes of cultural expression by some of the greatest examples of physical humans. Plus, there is a gorgeous 212 page book.

12. Get Out – Universal Pictures

Where do I even start with this film? It is just tremendous! There are two sound bites from director Jordan Peele which really stick with me. When asked if it is a horror/comedy Peele answered, “It’s a documentary.” And his statements about wanting to make an accurate horror film where the main characters see something, freak, and get the hell out and not go into the next, dark, room.

From UPHE.com: “When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-American man, visits his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family estate, he becomes ensnared in the more sinister, real reason for the invitation. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. This speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of The Visit, Insidious series and The Gift) and the mind of Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) is equal parts gripping thriller and provocative commentary.”

Now, as a white dude, I have never, nor will I ever, be in a similar situation as Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya. (There are few good ways to talk about this movie without having an effect on your experience.) What I can say is that it is one of the most original and captivating, modern, horror films I have watched, and everyone involved should be proud of what they captured for us. We stand to learn a great deal about our everyday lives from the film.

While I have only watched the film once I am very excited to revisit it time and time again because I have no doubt that there will be key performances that I hadn’t noticed before.

The release comes with 23 minutes of deleted scenes which could have added a little to the movie, but they were cut for good reasons. It also has an Electronic Press Kit, with standard behind-the-scenes clips, and Q&A which add some interesting insight to the film. I am excited for a revisit with the commentary.

11. Re-Animator – Arrow Films

I am a sucker for this movie. I have had a VHS, DVD, and I could not have pre-ordered this release fast enough.

From ArrowVideo.com: “One of the most wildly popular horror movies of all time, Stuart Gordon’s enduring splatter-comedy classic Re-Animator returns to Blu-ray in a stunning 4K restoration packed with special features!

When medical student Dan Cain advertises for a roommate, he finds one in the form of Herbert West. Initially a little eccentric, it some[sic] becomes clear that West entertains some seriously outlandish theories – specifically, the possibility of re-animating the dead. It’s not long before Dan finds himself under West’s influence, and embroiled in a serious of ghoulish experiments which threaten to go wildly out of control…

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s classic terror tale ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ and featuring a standout performance from Jeffrey Combs as the deliciously deranged West, Re-Animator remains the definitive example of ’80s splatter mayhem and one of the horror genre’s finest hours.”

The film looks incredible. A common theme of this list is going to be picture quality and boutique film labes which will not let you down. This really does look great! The film is the perfect example of imperfect films as masterpieces. Nobody will watch this movie and compare it to Vertigo, or Citizen Kane, but in its own right Stuart Gordon’s film is a perfect 1980s horror / comedy. Both schlocky and psychological, the film doesn’t have any bloat to it and is just a twisted joy to behold, and it should be an essential film for genre lovers and people interested in effects-based movies.

But what makes this release essential for fans is that is includes two cuts of the film, three commentaries, three audio tracks, Mono, Stereo and 5.1, and an isolated score. On top of that , there are documentaries, interviews, extended and deleted scenes, and the screenplay. The release is stacked. Oh, and the comic book adaptation. Also, it looks great on the shelf next to Bride of Re-Animator.

10. Liquid Sky – Vinegar Syndrome

Before anything, it is paramount that I tell you that the performances and writing are the absolute weakness of this film. As a film about 1980s post-punk/new wave movement and cutting edge fashion, the performances are akin to clothing store mannequins. If you go in expecting anything else you will be horribly disappointed. That said, when the standard version of this release goes to market it should absolutely be ordered.

From VinegarSyndrome.com: “Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is a fashion model with dreams of stardom, whose alter ego and rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle), abuses and takes advantage of her to satisfy his rampant drug addiction. Unknown to them, tiny, invisible aliens have landed on the roof above the squalor in which they live and begin killing anyone Margaret has sex with to feed on their pleasure giving neurotransmitters. All the while, a German scientist attempts to capture and study them.

Hailed by Time Magazine as ‘a two hour act of imagination,’ Slava Tsukerman’s LIQUID SKY is an underground masterpiece of avant-garde science fiction filmmaking. Set against the visual majesty of New York’s early 80s New Wave scene, and filled with arresting cinematography by Yuri Neyman, along with an acclaimed original soundtrack, Vinegar Syndrome proudly brings this quintessential midnight movie to Blu-ray, newly restored in 4K from its original 35mm camera negative.”

Vinegar Syndrome announced the film as one of their limited Black Friday releases and I almost passed on it but I am very glad that I did not. What sets this film apart from its peers is its intriguing use of special, digital, effects. Whereas something like Tron looks old now (and I will die on the hill of praising Tron) Liquid Sky knew its limitations and did not try to exceed them which leaves you with a film that works with the visual effects perfectly intertwined.

In Tsukerman’s introduction he confirm that what Vinegar Syndrome did with the restoration, is nothing short of miraculous. You can watch the VHS transfers on Youtube—don’t—and then you can see that what this disc offers is a proper execution of the director’s vision. I know that this release, crafted poorly, would be something destined for the nickel bin while what I have right now is worth every penny.

The release is a new 4k scan from the original negative, and Tsukerman undoubtedly was involved in the restoration and color correction. It comes with a commentary from Tsukerman as well as his introduction, a new making of documentary, interviews, outtakes, an alternate opening sequence and, what should be essential viewing: the isolated score.

The only thing that could have made this release better would have been a CD of the score which is great.

9. Lost World – Flicker Alley  

This picture isone of the pioneering films in special effects, and its existence leads directly into my number six release. First, Flicker Alley is one of my most important boutique Blu-ray labels because they were the first to believe in me here, but also because they are the gold standard, in my opinion, of what restorations of early cinema can do to bring film history to a modern audience. Whenever I watch a poorly restored silent film I cringe because I know that younger film lovers will lose a little interest in these important films.

From FlickerAlley.com: “True to its title, the 1925, 10-reel version of The Lost World effectively disappeared from circulation in 1929—all known positive prints destroyed—a move by First National Pictures to help clear the way for another “creature film” utilizing special effects and Willis O’Brien’s cutting-edge animation techniques: King Kong. For more than 80 years, only abridged editions of The Lost World remained in existence… until now!

Follow Professor Challenger, played by the inimitable Wallace Beery, as he and a crew of curious explorers embark on an expedition in search of a mythical, prehistoric plateau in South America. Along for the adventure are eminent scientist Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt, the director’s brother), sportsman Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), journalist Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) and Paula White (Bessie Love), whose father disappeared on the same plateau. The party is not there long before the “lost world” of the jungle begins to reveal its secrets: a primitive ape-man, a Pterodactyl flying through the air, a massive Brontosaurus feeding upon the trees, the vicious Allosaurus, and many more monstrous beasts of the Jurassic age.”

I was lucky to be able to watch this release in the theater with a live organ score which made this an experience. It is a gorgeous restoration, the tinting is perfect and I was in awe of the animation and effects which would give birth to King Kong as well as modern, effects-driven, filmmaking. This is where it starts. I wrote a lot more on the film here.

In the box you get a wonderful film with a newly composed score, a commentary by Nicolas Ciccone, some deleted scenes, and three short films from Willis O’Brien.

(I need to shout out to Flicker Alley’s other major release of the year, their Early Women Filmmakers, it was very closed to being on this list and deserves a place on your shelf.)

8. Baby Driver – Sony Pictures

In the five months since this film has been released I have watched it 6 times and it knocked an Ingmar Bergman picture (Cries and Whisper) out of my Top 25. This is a special movie. I loved the movie so much that I got a digital version the moment it was available, I watched it on televisions and on phones because sometime I just NEED to be able to revisit my favorite scenes (all of them).

From SonyPictures.com: “Baby (ANSEL ELGORT) – a talented, young getaway driver – relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams (LILY JAMES), Baby sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss, he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.”

I wrote more about the film here. This movie is a magic spell. Hypnosis maybe. It inhabits the same film-space as the original Star Wars, a movie that can be played at any moment and transport myself away from this mental plane. Then click right back into reality as needed. I am probably a few watches away from being able to watch the entire movie in my head. This is one of the reasons it is on this list.

Two commentaries, twenty-minutes of deleted scenes, stunt-driving training, making of feature, scene animatic, and more. The release is fairly stacked and will keep you engrossed. What interests me in the deleted scenes is that I often try and put myself in the director’s chair to justify the cuts and most of the cuts feel right, but there is one, which is an extension of the fancy diner scene. This snipped scene doesn’t really fit the feeling of the film, but it was a beautiful expression of young love that I really wish they had kept in the film.

Hey, who wants a free digital copy of Baby Driver? Click here!

7. Tampopo – Criterion Collection 

I watched this movie a few times this year. Criterion announced it then decided to screen the film at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, for their annual film restoration festival. Watching the film with a couple dozen likeminded cinephiles was a magical experience, similar to the experience of explaining my excitement to watch a movie about a noodle shop.

From Criterion.com: “The tale of an eccentric band of culinary ronin who guide the widow of a noodle-shop owner on her quest for the perfect recipe, this rapturous “ramen western” by Japanese director Juzo Itami is an entertaining, genre-bending adventure underpinned by a deft satire of the way social conventions distort the most natural of human urges—our appetites. Interspersing the efforts of Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) and friends to make her café a success with the erotic exploits of a gastronome gangster and glimpses of food culture both high and low, the sweet, sexy, and surreal Tampopo is a lavishly inclusive paean to the sensual joys of nourishment, and one of the most mouthwatering examples of food on film ever made.”

This film is a stone-cold masterpiece which had me laughing from the opening scene. Mixed into the film is action and romance, like seaweed flakes and salt. Be warned that you should absolutely not go in hungry.  I wrote a full review here.

Perhaps the most important part of this release is the restoration. The film looks gorgeous, but the classic 90-minute documentary, almost a second feature, is a close second. It essentially acts as a commentary. Also included are three new interviews, director Itami’s debut short film, Rubber Band Pistol and a new video essay by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos.

6. Harryhausen Collections – Indicator

There are two things of note here. First I have decided to include all three boxed sets as one release, that’s nine movies. I chose to lump them together because I wanted to include two more releases here. Second, before I made my arbitrary scoring system for this list I expected this to be number one.

Films included in these sets; The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, IT Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts, and First Men on the Moon.

I have been a Ray Harryhausen fan since my high school English teacher, whose name I cannot remember but laugh I will never forget, screened Clash of the Titans for us (a film which, sadly, is not included in these sets). Harryhausen watched Willis O’Brien’s effects from King Kong and decided that he wanted special effects to be his life’s work.

Due to how special effects were produced back then the films don’t really compare to modern cinema and they show their wrinkles, but that does not take away any of the luster of what they represent. These are all fun fantasy or sci-fi films, and they are in these sets to gather Ray Harryhausen’s output through Columbia pictures. They are not very deep, but they do showcase his effects work as well as 1950s and 60s morality. These are quality family films.

As releases go, these are absolutely stacked. There are commentaries for several of the films, both with Harryhausen and modern filmmakers whose careers were defined by the effects guru. There are hours and hours of special featurettes, both new and old. Also,the inclusion of Jason and the Argonauts, should be enough for you to order immediately. These sets might mean more to me than they may to you. But, if you read this site, then you will likely want to display them prominently.

5. Dawson City: Frozen in Time – Kino Lorber

What Bill Morrison has done here is nothing short of magic. Earlier this year I watched a video about somebody finding old nitrate films buried in a swimming pool in the Yukon and I knew this was something I needed to watch. Morrison crafted a video essay chronicling the life cycle of Dawson City, the original capital of the Yukon province, using clips found in the city to dramatize its history.

From KinoLorber.com: “This meditation on cinema’s past from Decasia director Bill Morrison pieces together the bizarre true history of a long-lost collection of 533 nitrate film prints from the early 1900s. Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Dawson City was settled in 1896 and became the center of the Canadian Gold Rush that brought 100,000 prospectors to the area. It was also the final stop for a distribution chain that sent prints and newsreels to the Yukon. The films were seldom, if ever, returned. The now-famous Dawson City Collection was uncovered in 1978 when a bulldozer working its way through a parking lot dug up a horde of film cans. Morrison draws on these permafrost-protected, rare silent films and newsreels, pairing them with archival footage, interviews, historical photographs, and an enigmatic score by Sigur Rós collaborator and composer Alex Somers. Dawson City: Frozen Time depicts the unique history of this Canadian Gold Rush town by chronicling the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation.”

This movie is mystical and is an excellent example of what film can do. The idea that I would ever consider watching a documentary on a small boom-or-bust town in Canada baffled my wife. Enter a film about the literal history of film distribution and how it is intertwined with the history of the Yukon gold rush (and our president in a perfect way).

Also, there is a hidden love story that you will only get in this Blu-ray’s special feature of Morrison’s Postlude. Another gem included here is a little offering of classic, previously lost, silent films. This is something to behold.

4. Effects – AGFA

I love mid-western films. Those unpolished genre films that show their age and entrance you in their medium production. These are the movies that are made with people who look like regular people and perform the best they can. That is what you get in Effects. Maybe a little more than just that since these are the people who made some of my favorite zombie movies and had one of the modern pioneers of visual effects. I wrote a full review here.

From AmericanGenreFilm.com: “Cobbled together with loose change by George Romero’s friends, EFFECTS is a mesmerizing D.I.Y. frightmare that no one talks about, but everyone should. A group of coked-up filmmakers — including Tom “DAWN OF THE DEAD” Savini, Joe “DAY OF THE DEAD” Pilato, and John “TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE” Harrison — gather in Pittsburgh to make a slasher. As filming begins and “accidents” happen, it’s clear that something isn’t right. EFFECTS is a meta-enhanced takedown on the philosophy of horror that doubles as a sleazy and terrifying movie on its own.”

The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) decided to start releasing Blu-rays through Something Weird Video. AGFA is a non-profit to preserve and distribute genre movies. These are folks who decided to gobble up rare film prints found around the country looking for gems that you would otherwise probably never know exist and are a little damage away from disappearing. Effects is definitely one of them. While there was an old Synapse release, our friends at AGFA ran the film through a new 4k scan from the only remaining known 35mm print. This is a release of a film made by folks with a special relationship with George A. Romero.

I listened to an interview on the Shockwaves podcast with Joseph Ziemba and Bret Berg from AGFA to talk about this release, and I knew that this was something that I needed to enjoy. Included with the great feature is an hour long retrospective, from a few years back, including the cast, directors, and Romero. They are sitting in a backyard, gabbing about their experiences with mid-west filmmaking in general, and Effects specifically. There are also a few short films and a commentary.

3. The Love Witch – Osciloscope

The Love Witch is a brilliant example of Facebook targeted ads; the trailer popped up more than photos of my Mom’s quilts. It hit me at the exact time in my film-existence to answer the most basic of my needs. Styled as a modern giallo, it scratched an itch.

From theLoveWitch.oscilloscope.net: “Elaine, a beautiful young witch, is determined to find a man to love her. In her gothic Victorian apartment she makes spells and potions, and then picks up men and seduces them. However, her spells work too well, leaving her with a string of hapless victims. When she finally meets the man of her dreams, her desperation to be loved will drive her to the brink of insanity and murder.

With a visual style that pays tribute to Technicolor thrillers of the ‘60s, THE LOVE WITCH explores female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism.”

Sure, that does ring of a movie made by a fella, but Biller creates a feminist wonderland mirroring the old 1960s giallos, but it puts the power in the hands of the woman rather than a male-driven fantasy. It is intense and beautiful, the sort of film you wish you could watch for the first time, each time.

The Love Witch is one of the most brilliantly photographed features that I have seen in a long time. M. David Mullen’s camera work seems to meld perfectly with the gleam in Biller’s eyes, crafting a filter which makes this modern film unique and recreating an aged, European, horror film. It is something to behold.

Included on the disc are Samantha Robinson’s audition, some standard special feature videos, about 30 minutes of deleted or extended scenes and commentary.

1. Suspiria – Synapse Films

I have watched this movie a handful of times but only on grody DVDs and VHS tapes. The Synapse restoration is a night and day difference. Much like the Olympic set, I don’t have this in my hands as I write this, but, I was lucky enough to see the touring print on the big screen, and I have to say that Synapse’s restoration is just fantastic. I wrote a full review of the screening here.

From Synapse-Films.com: “Dario Argento’s masterpiece of horror comes to home video from Synapse Films in an exclusive new 4K restoration from the original uncut, uncensored 35mm Italian camera negative and with the original 4.0 English surround sound, for the first time EVER! Painstakingly restored over the past three years, Synapse Films has created the ultimate special edition of SUSPIRIA with the supervision and approval of the film’s Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli, and loaded with a separate Blu-ray disc of amazing extras! SUSPIRIA is presented in its original glory for its 40th Anniversary!”

If you are unfamiliar with the film it follows Jessica Harper’s Suzy Bannion, a dancer who arrives to join a renowned dance school only to find it not what she is expecting. This Italian horror film is a mixture of a giallo, in execution, and a supernatural thriller, in theme, with a brilliant and memorable score by the Italian prog-rock band Goblin. The film may be most notable for Dario Argento’s use of color, which explodes off the screen in this restoration.

When Synapse puts together a limited steelbook release I know that it is worth the cost, even with the knowledge that in about a year they will start shipping a standard release in one of those dreadful blue snap cases. I think there are a few of these left—you have to call Synapse though—and they are really nice.

This limited release is a three disc set. That the first disc is the uncompressed film with a couple of commentaries and audio tracks. The second disc is probably the couple of hours of special features. The third is an audio CD of the Goblin soundtrack with a few tracks which were not on the original ’77 release.

1. Black Girl – Criterion Collection

I am mesmerized by this film. I just cannot shake it, nor do I want to. Black Girl is the sort of a movie that you didn’t know you were missing until you sit down and press play. It is a post-colonial tale of cultural appropriation and service transplantation when a white, French, family hires Diousana, a Senegalese woman, bring her to their French Riviera home and constantly adds to her expected duties.

From Criterion.com: “Ousmane Sembène was one of the greatest and most groundbreaking filmmakers who ever lived, as well as the most renowned African director of the twentieth century—and yet his name still deserves to be better known in the rest of the world. He made his feature debut in 1966 with the brilliant and stirring Black Girl. Sembène, who was also an acclaimed novelist in his native Senegal, transforms a deceptively simple plot—about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white family and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a prison, both figuratively and literally—into a complexly layered critique of the lingering colonialist mindset of a supposedly postcolonial world. Featuring a moving central performance by M’Bissine Thérèse Diop, Black Girl is a harrowing human drama as well as a radical political statement—and one of the essential films of the 1960s.”

It is entirely possible that the effect this film has had on me may be a product of time. The disc was released four days after the end a transformative time in the history of the United States. When a different man stood in Washington and took the oath of office the balance of power shifted and with it the expectations of citizens of differing frames of mind. I don’t really want to step too far outside of the realm of film critique here but these strips of celluloid are artifacts of technological and anthropological advances throughout modern history. The movie is twelve years older than I am, but this happened while my father was in high school. We are still seeing the effects of post-colonialism in everyday life.

I am learning, constantly, from films like Black Girl. And films like this are why I watch them. Sometimes I wish I could just be excited by a Transformers movie and ignore the more expressive works of art to which we are gracious to have easy access.

This gorgeous restoration looks like it could have been filmed yesterday. Criterion does not let me down when it counts. Also included is a 4k restoration off Borom sarret, Sembene’s debut short film, new interviews, classic interviews, and vintage documentary about Sembene.

Thank you, very much, for reading another year of the site. I hope that 2018 is just as good.

Honorable mentions

The Thing – Arrow Video – You should not be surprised if this release is on, if it not topping, most of the year to date lists. But it’s region locked, which is why it is down here. If you are region free gobble this up, it is tremendous!

Herschell Gordon Lewis FEAST! – Arrow Video – I wrote about this here and I was about to break a rule because Arrow has started to break out a few of the films for single releases. I don’t love all of the movies, but it will always be part of my collection.

Zombi: Dawn of the Dead – Koch Media / Midnight Factory – I was not aware of this release when it came out late last year and it is region locked, but is a revelation. The set includes the European, US, and Extended, cuts of the film and the 4k restoration is (mostly) awe inspiring. You have to import this from Italy but if you are region free, and a fan, you absolutely have to grab this.

The Best of the Rest:

Amicus Collection (Severin), The Before Trilogy (Criterion), Beyond the Darkness (Severin), Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Arrow), Camera Person (Criterion), Deathdream (Blue Underground), Demon Wind (Vinegar Syndrome), Devil’s Rain (Severin), Early Women Filmmakers (Flicker Alley), Film/Not Film (Kino), The Klansman (Olive), Logan (Sony), Man Who Fell to Earth (Lionsgate), Mildred Pierce (Criterion), Operation Petticoat (Olive), The Philadelphia Story (Criterion), Ronin (Arrow Films), The Sea Wolf (Warner Archive), Silent Night Deadly Night (Scream), Stalker (Criterion), Suffer Little Children (Severin), Two for the Road (Twilight Time), Yoshida: Love + Anarchism (Arrow), World Cinema Project Volume 2 (Criterion).

 

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