EuroCultAV.Com’s Holiday Gift Guide

(and sort of best of 2015)

By The staff and friends of EuroCultAV.com

Every year I put this list together around the first week of December. I don't want to call it a best of, because only part of it is stuff I think is the best of the year, and it isn't a gift guide in a traditional sense.  2015 has been a great year for Blu-ray's, DVD's, Books and more and EuroCultAV has again put together our list of what we deem our favorites of this year. Also, we have a grab bag Blu-ray giveaway somewhere near the bottom. Read to the end, find it and enter to potentially win some of the year's most awesome releases by some of our favorite labels!

 

 

Blood and Black Lace (Arrow Video U.K.)

   I don't normally go around naming something the best, or my favorite, but I will say that Arrow U.K.'s Blu-ray edition of Blood and Black Lace may be the most important cult/horror Blu-ray release of the year, only made tragic by the fact that it never got officially released in Region A as planned. Blood and Black Lace has had VHS and DVD releases and though some have liked "fine" none have looked as good as this. If I were basing this on the transfer alone it would still be high on my best of 2015 releases, but the fact that Arrow loaded it up with great extras and awesome packaging adds to the value.

Nightmare City (Arrow Video U.K.)

     Raro Video released a barely better then the DVD edition of Umberto Lenzi's kinetic zombie feature Nightmare City in 2014. Arrow Video in the U.K. decided to better it with a Blu-ray that features 2 scans of the film from two different sources both HD, and both infinitely more organic and better detailed than the Raro U.S. version. There is also a decent number of extra features included that make this a worthy addition to a region free buyers collection.

Rabid (Arrow Video U.K.)

   While I am pleased that Criterion is finally putting out some old school Cronenberg for the U.S market with their releases of Scanners, Videodrome, and the Brood. It's Arrow Video in the U.K. that are putting out his earlier horrors on Blu-ray before anyone else in the world. In 2014 they got Shivers out onto the market, and in early 2015 they followed that up with Cronenberg's Marilyn Chambers starring RABID. The HD transfer for this release looks quite solid, and is definitely an improvement over the LBX Region 1 release from a decade ago. If you are region B able this is definitely recommended.

Videodrome (Region B Arrow Blu-ray)

The limited edition box set is out of print and fetching high prices in the online auction market, but fear not Cronenberg fans because Arrow is releasing a standard Blu-ray edition of the filmmaker’s subversively horrifying sci-fi/horror masterpiece that will include the same disc-based extras including a new commentary with author Tim Lucas, new interviews, a vintage BBC documentary about the director’s work, rare deleted scenes from the television version, and many other supplements held over from the Criterion Collection release. - Bobby Morgan

Society (Arrow Video U.S. & U.K.)

   Brian Yuzna's directorial debut makes it's Blu-ray bow on both sides of the Atlantic in a limited edition SE, and a  non-limited version in mid-2015 from Arrow. This was previously released to DVD from Anchor Bay over a decade ago, and was in bad need of an upgrade, and Arrow Video saw to that and then some. The restoration of the film looks and sounds fantastic, and the disc is loaded up with lots of extra goodies in either version.

Society

Arrow Video brings back Brian Yuzna’s black-humored melding of social satire and body horror with a stunning new high-definition transfer and many informative bonus features including commentary and interview with Yuzna, interviews with the stars and effects team, a Q&A with Yuzna, vintage premiere footage, a music video, and the original theatrical trailer. - Bobby Morgan

Black Cats (Arrow Video U.S. & U.K.)

     A lot of Arrow titles on the list this year, but this is a label that really made 2015 special. Black Cats took 2 films that were inspired by Poe's titular story Lucio Fulci's Black Cat and Sergio Martino's Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key put them in one in four disc box set (2 Blu's, 2 DVD's) gave them very solid restorations, loaded them with extras, and a booklet of liner notes. The films wouldn't exactly make a great double feature, but whatever needs to be done to get films like this out.

Contamination (Arrow Video U.K. & U.S.)

   Contamination was the first film by Luigi Cozzi I ever saw, and at the time I hated it. This was 15 years ago. A few years back I caught Star Crash, and finally found myself becoming a Cozzi-phile, and caught up with his cinema as much as I could. Now having got the chance to revisit Contamination in Arrow's new Blu-ray I came to realize it was quite a fun film and undeserving of my disliking. The Blu-ray from Arrow is wonderfully restored, and loaded up with extras.

 

Vampyros Lesbos/She Killed in Ecstasy (Severin Films U.S. & U.K.)

   Behind my earlier Blood and Black Lace recommendation these 2 would probably be my combined second favorite releases from 2015.  Back in May Severin Films released gorgeously restored versions of what are arguably Jess Franco's most well known films to Blu-ray. The films have never looked better, they are loaded with extras including alternate versions and CD soundtracks. If you are a fan of cult cinema these need to be in your collection.

Turkey Shoot (Severin Films)

   Getting any of Brian Trenchard-Smith's earlier work to Blu-ray is a cause for celebration. Severin Films has I believe put out more classic Trenchard-Smith on Region A Blu-ray than any other distro between this and their excellent BMX Bandits release (if you guys are reading this Stunt Rock, please?).  Turkey Shoot is Trenchard-Smith's riff on the Most Dangerous Game, but with his own sense of style.  It is a complete blast, and one of the most entertaining classic cult films to be released to Blu this year.

Blood and Lace (Scream Factory)

   I have to draw special attention to Scream Factory's release of Blood and Lace. This film is a cheesy, but suspenseful early 70's shocker that has never been released on any home video format in the U.S. (and maybe the world) prior to this one.  The film is fun and scary in equal measure, and is nicely restored.

Escape from New York (Scream Factory)

   The original MGM Blu-ray of John Carpenter's masterpiece Escape from New York left off the extras that they had created for their own DVD SE 10 years prior. Scream has corrected that not only by including MGM's old extras, but creating their own. The Blu-ray looks quite nice, and is a solid upgrade from the DVD edition, and is most definitely better than the prior Blu.

Escape from New York: Collector’s Edition

John Carpenter’s tense, witty cult classic adventure still retains the power to thrill and entertain after more than three decades and Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray is the best home video presentation of the film to date, with a new 2K high-definition transfer and a selection of bonus features both new old, including a pair of filmmakers’ commentaries, multiple documentaries and interviews, the fabled deleted opening sequence, and vintage marketing materials.  - Bobby Morgan

 

Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight

A real shame that the Tales from the Crypt franchise couldn’t extend its influence beyond its home on HBO because the first big screen feature in was what originally intended to be a trilogy is the only one worth watching. Demon Knight bears the influence of movies like Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead but is fast, funny, and original enough most of the time to establish its own identity. It makes for great viewing on Halloween, but it works any day of the year as well. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray features a great new high-definition transfer, commentaries with director Ernest Dickerson and the effects team, a retrospective documentary, and an American Cinematheque Q&A with the director and the great Dick Miller and Rick Baker present. -Bobby Morgan

Troll/Troll 2 (Scream Factory)

     OK, so I'll admit I'm not huge on the first Troll though it has some great makeup and set design work. That being said Troll 2 is a blast, has some nice extras of it's own, and the first 5000 copies of the Scream release come with a DVD copy of Best Worst Movie. For fans of the film this is a perfect set.

The Editor

Astron-6’s bloody and vibrant satire of Italian giallo films is a delightfully demented spoof that resembles its inspiration above and below the tantalizing surface and isn’t afraid to take its plot in some unexpected directions. One of the best horror comedies in years, The Editor comes to Blu-ray with a filmmakers’ commentary, an in-depth documentary about the independently-financed feature’s troubled production, and more. . -Bobby Morgan

Mad Max

What better way to celebrate the long-heralded release of Mad Max: Fury Road than with a new Blu-ray of the one that started it all? Scream Factory delivers the original Mad Max with excellent picture and sound and a batch of extra features including a new interview with star Mel Gibson.

Army of Darkness: Collector’s Edition

Sam Raimi’s action-horror-fantasy-comedy that brought his legendary Evil Dead trilogy to a rousing conclusion and was embraced by fans all over the world gets its best Blu-ray edition to date. Scream Factory’s three-disc set includes four separate cuts of the film (including the fabled television cut) and a beautiful 4K high-definition transfer of the international cut along with tons of extra features both exclusive to this release and previously available elsewhere, including commentary with Raimi and star Bruce Campbell, a new feature-length retrospective documentary, additional featurettes, behind-the-scenes video footage, deleted and extended scenes, and much more. - Bobby Morgan

Class of 1984

A classic of balls-to-the-wall 80’s B-movie cinema with plenty of action, humor, suspense, and even heart (a surprising amount to be perfectly honest) to help it stand out from its peers. Extra features from the previous Anchor Bay DVD release are ported over to this Blu-ray and join over eighty minutes of new retrospective interviews with director Mark L. Lester and several of his stars, trailers, and a still gallery. -Bobby Morgan

Dog Soldiers

Forget what you may have heard or read about the new high-definition transfer; the good folks at Scream Factory looked high and low for suitable elements to give Neil Marshall’s breakthrough film its best possible Blu-ray presentation and all they could come up with is a 35mm blow-up print (it was originally shot in 16mm) used for theatrical screenings. The heavy grain, muted colors, and inky black shadows only add to the raw and gritty atmosphere of this darkly comic horror classic about a team of British soldiers battling a well-organized team of werewolves in the Scottish Highlands. New extra features include a director’s commentary, a 62-minute retrospective documentary, a featurette about the set design, Marshall’s early short film Combat, still galleries, and the original theatrical trailer. -Bobby Morgan

Robot Jox

Though hardly one of Stuart Gordon’s best films as a director, Robot Jox still manages to be plenty exciting and fun by giving audiences some great battle scenes where giant, human-piloted fighting robots pummel each other as a stand-in for armed global conflict. The film looks better than ever on Scream Factory’s Blu-ray that also includes a pair of new commentaries (one of which features Gordon, always a great and honest talker), new cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and more. . -Bobby Morgan

Decline of Western Civilization Trilogy (Shout! Factory)

   OK, so Shout! Factory basically won 2015 with this box set of Penelope Spheeriis' trilogy of documentaries they released to Blu-ray and DVD over the summer. These films have not seen a release since VHS and in the case of the third film, has never seen a home video release at all. They come loaded with extras, and are nicely restored. If you have a fan in your family this one is a no-brainer.

McHale's Navy (Shout! Factory)

     This is a show I have fond memories of watching with family, and was pleased when Shout! announced they were putting the whole she-bang out on DVD in one set with the the 2 feature films. This collects all 4 seasons and adds the 2 previously unreleased films and extras. The A/V quality is better than what you would see on TV,  and is pretty solid, but won't blow anyone away. Still it's a good collection, and being offered at a solid price.

 

Pickup On South Street (Eureka - M.O.C.)

     When Criterion put out Samuel Fuller's Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor out in the U.S. I began to wonder when Fuller's other films like Park Row, White Dog, and Pickup On South Street might also hit Blu from the label. Well, they haven't. Luckily for region free viewers Eureka's Masters of Cinema line has picked up the slack and released Pickup On South Street in a gorgeously restored Blu-ray edition, so we no longer have to wait.

Le Pont Du Nord (Eureka - M.O.C.)

   Not the easiest Rivette's film to watch, however, 1981's Le Pont Du Nord is a rewarding experience from the early 1980's. The Blu-ray from Eureka looks and sounds wonderful with a very natural look to it reflecting the production style of the film, and includes a 54 page booklet of liner notes. For Region A viewers Kino-Lorber also released the film in 2015.

The Skull (Eureka)

   A Peter Cushing horror vehicle from Amicus Studios sees Cushing come into possession of the skull of the Marquis De Sade, and finds it to be haunted. The film is cheesy, but also quite chilling at times. Cushing is wonderful in the lead as is to be expected, and Christopher Lee makes a short cameo. The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic and comes highly recommended.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Eureka)

   I love Robinson Crusoe on Mars. I've always been big on 50's Sci-Fi, but actually missed this one until Criterion sent a copy over in 2011. Now Eureka has had a crack at it for the U.K., and the film looks and sounds as beautiful as ever on this Blu-ray. The film which basically tells the tale of an astronaut who has to survive alone (OK, with a monkey) on a planet is a loose retelling of Daniel DeFoe's iconic novel.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (Eureka)

   The Man Who Could Cheat Death came early in Hammer's popularity as a horror studio. It's sort of their version of a Jekyll and Hyde/Dorian Gray sort of tale without the branding. It is not as iconic as their other pictures of the era, but has some fine performances and decent atmosphere. The Blu-ray from Eureka looks fantastic, and comes easily recommended for Hammer fans looking for some new HD output for their collections.

Shane/The Quiet Man (Eureka: Masters of Cinema)

   In the run up to the holidays Eureka through their wonderful Masters of Cinema line released two other excellent entries the George Stevens directed western Shane, and the John Wayne starring John Ford directed The Quiet Man. Shane was given a Paramount Blu-ray release here in the U.S., while Olive films sadly released The Quiet Man barebones here. Both releases have been trumped by Eureka's Region B U.K. releases which offer a solid slate of extras, and gorgeous Audio/Video work. Shane it should also be noted is limited to 2000 copies, so if you are interested don't wait.

The Fifth Element/Leon: The Professional (Sony: Supreme Cinema)

     Luc Besson has directed a lot of really awesome pictures especially in the earliest portion of his career (I'm looking at you Subway). Two of his most well known are his early 90's double header of action-drama Leon: The Professional and Sci-Fi film The Fifth Element. Back in November Sony unleashed the pair as part of their Supreme Cinema series with exclusive extras and a pair of very nice 4k scans which brings out great color and detail. These are sure to please any fan of both films.

Bad Boys/Bad Boys 2 (Sony Double Feature)

     OK, so Michael Bay is pretty much anathema to fans of real cinema these days, but early on his career he did direct a few films that are justifiable action classics. The Rock with Sean Connery for one, and these 2 films Bad Boys, and it's oddly superior sequel Bad Boys 2 where Bay really pulls out all the stops and creates a full on action masterpiece.  Bad Boys has previously been on Blu, but the sequel has not, and Sony has now released the pair in this solid double feature collection.

Cannibal Ferox/The Beyond (Grindhouse Releasing)

   Any year Grindhouse Releasing actually releases something they are guaranteed a space on this list. Fortunately for collectors of Blu-ray's they have been doing so with great consistency in the last few years. 2015 has seen 4 release by the company, including 2 long awaited Duke Mitchell Blu-ray releases (which I wholeheartedly recommend picking up as well). However, for fans of exploitation and horror the two holy grails from Grindhouse this year might be these 2 Italian horror Blu-ray's they put out. Umberto Lenzi's grimy, violent, and shockingly fun Cannibal Ferox comes to Blu in a gorgeous transfer and packed with extras. We also received the best looking Blu-ray yet of Lucio Fulci's masterpiece the Beyond also loaded up with exclusive extras, both sets contain a soundtrack CD for their respective films.

Gone with the Pope/Massacre Mafia Style

The late Duke Mitchell never lived to see his true legacy as an exploitation filmmaker finally come to be appreciated by generations of adventuresome movie buffs, but at least his gonzo grindhouse crime sagas Massacre Mafia Style and Gone with the Pope are now available in collector’s edition Blu-rays certain to gain them countless new fans. Both films come fully restored and remastered from original film elements, with Gone with the Pope making its long-awaited home video debut, and each Blu-ray comes armed to the teeth with hours of new and vintage bonus features including eye-opening retrospective documentaries, shorter interviews with several of Mitchell’s friends and collaborators, home movies, outtakes, rarely-seen television specials, and so much more. -Bobby Morgan

 

Forbidden Zone (MVD)

Arrow Video in the UK got an excellent SE of Forbidden Zone a number of years back, and now we finally got a Blu-ray here in the states. This is sort of a self-release of the film with exclusively created extras and distributed by those folks at Music Video Distributors who are a tad underrated. They release quite a bit of awesome music related film including documentary and concert film, and are actually the exclusive distributor or Arrow Video in the U.S. However, the release of Forbidden Zone has some nice exclusive extras including a booklet of liner notes from Richard Elfman, an introduction, commentary and more.

Forbidden Zone: Ultimate Edition

The cult classic to end them all, Richard Elfman’s bizarro musical farce is now available on Blu-ray with both its original black & white version and a visually pleasing colorized version included along with director’s commentary, a retrospective documentary, outtakes, and more. - Bobby Morgan

Charlie Chaplin: Essanay Comedies 1915(Flicker Alley)

   Criterion have spent the last few years releasing Charlie Chaplin's feature films on to Blu-ray the releases have been wonderful, and show Chaplin at the height of his quite formidable powers. On the other end of his career spectrum at the very beginning the team at Flicker Alley have been hard at work preserving and restoring Chaplin's earliest work. In 2013 they restored the Keystone work he did for Mack Sennett. This work was quite good, but in the mold of Keystone's films. This year in the run up to the holidays they released what is effectively is Chaplin's follow up to his Keystone work his Essanay Comedies. This shows Chaplin's developing work as a physical comedian away from the Keystone mold. The set here includes roughly 15 shorts wonderfully restored, and will please any fan of Chaplin.  It should also be mentioned that Flickey Alley also restored in 2014 Chaplin's Mutual comedies which followed the films in this set. It isn't a 2015 release, but the Mutual shorts truly epitomize Chaplin's work in short films, and any fan would do a great service picking both sets up together as the restoration work really lend a hand in showcasing Chaplin's comedic talents.

Masterworks of American Avant-Garde 1920-1970 (Flicker Alley)

   Easily one of my favorite releases of 2015 is Flickey Alley's Masterworks of American Avant Garde 1920-1970. This release includes 37 Avant Garde short films and over 7 hours of materials restored by Flicker Alley and the Blackhawk Film Collection. It showcases the first high definition home video releases of artist such as Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger and is a truly stunning release.

The Brothers Quay: A Collection of Short Films (Zeitgeist Films)

   Aside from more mainstream films like the works of Henry Selick, Tim Burton, and Aardman Animation it's very hard to find stop-motion films on Blu-ray. In fact aside from Svankmajer's Alice, and this collection this may just be it. Zeitgeist has worked with the Brothers Quay before in bringing their films to DVD, and they have brought them to Blu-ray with stunning results. The collection includes selected short commentaries, and Christopher Nolan's Quay documentary short.

 

Ant-Man (Marvel/Disney)

     Marvel Studio's latest relese is the Paul Rudd starring Ant-Man. It's an interesting little ditty from the studio in the sense that their is nothing apocalyptic here, no big conspiracy, just a heist, and a tale about a guy who wants to reconnect with his daughter. It's a tad cliché, and a bit slow to start, but overall it's a fun experience, that I can easily recommend to fans of Marvel, and even those who are not. The Blu-ray has a nice slate of extras, and of course the A/V is top notch.

Faust (Kino Lorber)

   Kino Lorber's recent Blu-ray release of F.W. Murnau's Faust is one of my favorite releases of the year. The only time I had seen Faust previously was on late night TV years ago with a murky print, and the Blu-ray offered quite a detailed viewing that shows off the stunning visuals Murnau was aiming for in this epic retelling of the timeless tale.  There are 2 soundtrack options, and a small, but nice slate of extras.

Miracle Mile (Kino Lorber)

   OK, so this is probably my unseen find of the year. Not only had I never heard of Miracle Mile prior to this release, but I bought it based on my own writer's recommendation (thank you Bobby Morgan). This film is an almost real time apocalyptic thriller about a jazz musician who discovers that nuclear war is about to start in an hour, and wants to save the woman he loves and get out of L.A. before the bombs drop. The film is loaded with suspense, and the restoration presented on the Blu-ray is beautiful.  Also, the Blu-ray is loaded up with extras. Kino Lorber also released the director Steve De Jarnett's other feature film Cherry 2000 this year, but I never did get around to seeing it.

Truck Turner

My personal favorite Blaxploitation movie debuts on Blu-ray with a great high-definition transfer and extra features including a new commentary with director Jonathan Kaplan and a Q&A with the director moderated by Joe Dante. Best of all is the movie itself, a gutsy action flick headlined by Isaac Hayes, Mr. Hot Buttered Soul himself, as an L.A. skip tracer who goes up against the underworld’s best assassins after a contract is put out on his life. Truck Turner is an absolute blast that is almost totally free of early 70’s cheese (unless you count the eye-scorching fashions – check out that pimp funeral!). -Bobby Morgan

Hammer Horror Collection Vol 1. (Warner Bros)

     Warner Brothers has been keeping their Hammer Films under lock and key since the inception of the format, and at long last after a petition by Diabolique have decided to let at least some of them out into the market.  This first volume contains bare-bones, but well restored Blu-ray's of The Mummy, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, and Taste the Blood of Dracula, and belongs on the shelf of any Hammer fan.

The Dead Next Door (Tempe Video)

     J.R. Bookwalter's debut zombie epic (famously produced by Sam Raimi) saw a Blu-ray release a few years ago through 88 Films, and is now getting a stateside Blu-ray release through Bookwalter's own Tempe Video. It's been about a decade since Anchor Bay put this one out on DVD, and it's fantastic to finally see this one get loaded up with exclusive new extras and make it's HD bow stateside. For those who are wondering, yes, there will be an upgrade in detail between DVD and Blu-ray, and in fact I believe might get as much detail as is permissible from the 8mm source material. Previously, Cult Epics and Arrow Video have released Jorg Buttgereit's 8mm film Nekromantik to the format with excellent results, buy with no worries.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers

Fred Olen Ray’s greatest achievement, a hilarious mash-up of mystery, comedy, and horror that delivers on every conceivable level because it wants nothing more than to entertain us. It even gave the late Gunnar Hansen a rare opportunity to show fright flick fans that he was a more versatile actor than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre lead us to believe. Ray personally financed and oversaw a new high-definition transfer that starts off shaky but continues and finishes with terrific results and the Blu-ray also includes a revealing director’s commentary, a few retrospective documentaries, premiere footage, and some extra goodies.  - Bobby Morgan

 

Inherent Vice

There aren’t any substantial extra features on this Blu-ray from Warner Bros., but the picture and sound are outstanding and Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s ambitious 2009 comic-thriller novel is a winner both as artistic achievement and cinematic entertainment. The cast, headed by a superb Joaquin Phoenix, is aces across the board, the writing is sharp and refreshingly obtuse, and the cinematography is among the most beautiful of the year. Best of all, this is a film that rewards every viewing.  - Bobby Morgan

 

Manos: The Hands of Fate

The worst film ever made? I’ve seen way worse. Besides, Hal Warren’s Texas-lensed indie horror oddity is infinitely more viewable and fun than the vast majority of mega-budget dreck released by Hollywood every summer. Boasting a rich, Kickstarter-funded 2K high-definition transfer of a recently discovered work print that simply amazes and will thankfully make those cruddy public domain tapes and discs a thing of the past, Synapse Films’ long-in-the-works Blu-ray of Manos also features a commentary with two of the film’s stars, a new retrospective documentary, a featurette about the painstaking restoration, and a bonus “Grindhouse” version that presents the film in a ragged and unrestored state. - Bobby Morgan

Madman

From the golden age of slasher cinema comes this goofy yet scrappy and gore-soaked horror flick with a ton of indie spirit, a nice helping of cosmetic stage blood and fake innards, and a much welcome lack of brains. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray features a new high-definition transfer that improves wonderfully on past home video incarnations and packs in a lot of worthwhile supplementary material, including a pair of commentaries, a feature-length documentary from Code Red’s 2010 Region 1 DVD, additional featurettes, still galleries, and the original trailer. - Bobby Morgan

 

Silent Running

Douglas Trumbull’s sci-fi drama starring Bruce Dern as a brilliant botanist who takes extreme action to protect Earth’s last forest floating through space is a poetic, visionary classic of the genre that gains deeper significance with each passing decade. Universal’s Blu-ray includes director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and updated interviews. - Bobby Morgan

The Third Man: 4K Restoration (Region B Blu-ray/DVD/CD Combo Pack)

One of the greatest films ever made, a cinematic experience that no other can come close to matching or surpassing. Carol Reed’s post-war thriller is a love letter to the magic and mystery of filmmaking and comes alive in a positively stunning new 4K high-definition transfer that is the best the film has doubtlessly looked since it first screened over six decades ago. StudioCanal’s UK box set also comes with a bounty of bonus features including commentary, feature-length retrospective documentary about the film, another documentary about author Graham Greene, a featurette about the restoration process, radio shows, and a CD copy of Anton Karas’s masterful zither score. -Bobby Morgan

 

Christine

John Carpenter’s underappreciated adaptation of the Stephen King novel returns to Blu-ray after the limited edition disc from Twilight Time from a few years ago went out of print fast. The same sparkling high-definition video and remastered audio are back along with the commentary with Carpenter and star Keith Gordon, three-part retrospective documentary from the 2004 special edition Region 1 DVD, and over twenty minutes of deleted and extended scenes. -Bobby Morgan

 

Halloween VI: Producers Cut (Lionsgate)

 

The demons at Lionsgate just had to go and release Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (Unrated Producer's Cut) to take up more of my precious shelf space. My pal Brad picked this up on the cheap for me at -where else- Wal-Mart. I definitely enjoyed getting to see this version in HD but the ending leaves an even more confusing taste in my brain after it's over. For "Thorn Trilogy" completists only.  - Richard Glenn Schmidt

 

Town that Dreaded Sundown/Savage Weekend

 

In a world of remakes, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (Image Entertainment) is something special. This film exists in a universe where the events of the original film are true AND the original film itself has its own dark mythos. You should check this one out. I kind of half-recommend this next one, Savage Weekend (Kino Lorber). It’s one of those films that I love but I don’t expect others to because it’s cheap and cheesy. - Richard Glenn Schmidt

 

Nightmare Castle (Severin Films)

 

Severin really killed it this time with their Nightmare Castle Blu-ray. This Barbara Steele classic looks frickin’ fantastic! There’s a buttload of extras including an audio commentary with Steele herself. The also disc comes with one of my favorite Italian gothic horrors, Terror Creatures from the Grave! - Richard Glenn Schmidt

Lost After Dark (Anchor Bay)/Ghosthouse/Witchery(Scream Factory)

Anchor Bay put out the retro slasher Lost After Dark this year and I'm really glad I snagged it on the cheap at Wal-Mart. This one is a lot of fun and never breaks its 1980s feel and is worth checking out! I am mostly glad that I picked up the Ghosthouse/Witchery Blu-ray from Shout! Factory. Umberto Lenzi's Ghosthouse is a baffling mess of horror and unintentional hilarity while Witchery is just kind of an overlong mess. Glad to have these two bonkers titles in my collection though. - Richard Glenn Schmidt

Black Christmas - Seasons Grievings Edition (Anchor Bay Entertainment - Canada)

   OK, so this release is sort of an elephant in the room release. Critical Mass released a Blu-ray edition of the film a few years ago that could be very easily described as subpar, and that's being kind.  The transfer here is the same, but that is not saying it looks the same as the Critical Mass disc, it is just saying the same transfer was used. However, we have a different encode. It is also compressed much better than the Critical Mass edition allowing for more detail, better color, and a lot less noise and crush, so for those holding back on getting it this is a worthy upgrade. It is a Canadian edition, and your best bet at present is probably still amazon.ca.

Eugenie/Justine (Blue Underground)

   Blue Underground seemingly holds the rights to a lot of classic Jess Franco films, and fans have been begging the distributor for years to unleash these films on to the Blu-ray format only to be denied at every turn. Well December 2015 turns out to Christmas for Franco fans who have been waiting for Blue Underground's vaults to open and unleash the director's work on to Blu as he have been gifted with not one, but two of the director's Harry Alan Tower's period films Eugenie: The Story of Her Journey into Perversion and Justine. Both were adapted or at least inspired by the work of the Marquis DeSade. The Blu-ray's are loaded with extras including soundtracks CD's, and look stunning. I can't wait to see their recently announced Blu-ray of Franco’s Girl From Rio!

God Told Me To (Blue Underground)

   Getting Larry Cohen's classics on to Blu-ray has been slow going. Arrow in the UK released the Stuff a while back, and Scream released a lackluster Blu-ray of Q: The Winged Serpent, however in the middle of the year Blue Underground showed Region A audiences how to make Cohen's finest shine in HD with their release of God Told Me To. The film is nice blend of suspense, conspiracy, horror, and sci-fi. The release has some nice extras, but the A/V really steals the show and brings Cohen solidly into the Blu-ray era.

Kwaidan/Day for Night/Mulholland Drive (Criterion)

   I doubt there will ever be a year when Criterion doesn't make the best of at EuroCultAV.com. The fact is regardless of genre Criterion always does the finest restoration work, and first and foremost that is what I am about. When putting this list together I had a list of Criterion's from this year that was quite lengthy, but for the sake of space I narrowed it down to these 3. Kwaidan is a a Japanese anthology feature film that has the best use of color this side of Mario Bava. It contains 4 stories, and runs around 3 hours. The restoration from the folks at Criterion brings out the colors like never before.  In August Criterion brought out Truffaut's masterwork Day for Night. This film is Truffaut's love letter to the art of making film, has a nice slate of extras, and has never looked better than it does here. We also finally got the long awaited Mulholland Drive release. This one is packed with Criterion exclusive extras, and a director approved transfer. It has had other Blu-ray's before, but none that I can compare to, but I was stunned at the quality especially coming from the garbage early 2000's DVD release.

Don’t Look Now (Criterion Collection - Blu-ray)

Before I checked out the Criterion release of Nicolas Roeg’s elliptical, haunting 1973 classic, I thought that I was beyond being truly wowed by an HD transfer. However, Criterion’s terrific presentation on the film, which makes the most of Roeg’s expert use of color, took me right back to the first time I saw the movie on 35mm, still one of my favorite moviegoing experiences. Don’t Look Now has always struck me as under-discussed for a movie that frequently pops up on any list of the all-time greats. Criterion’s stellar disc, featuring a variety of fascinating interviews with Roeg, his cast and crew and filmmakers who count it as an influence, is a must for any cinephile who fondly remembers but hasn’t revisited Don’t Look Now or Roeg’s work in a while. -Andrew Bemis

The Brood: Criterion Collection

One of David Cronenberg’s finest and most disturbing horror films gets its American Blu-ray debut courtesy of the Criterion Collection, with a new 2K digital transfer of the main feature, a retrospective documentary with interviews with several of the surviving cast and crew members, Cronenberg’s 1970 film Crimes of the Future presented in a new 4K digital transfer, and more. Both high-definition transfers come with the filmmaker’s full approval. -Bobby Morgan

Don’t Look Back: Criterion Collection

One of the best music documentaries ever made (possibly the best, bar none), D.A. Pennebaker’s remarkable film that followed Bob Dylan across England during a 1965 tour became a groundbreaking deconstruction of the musician’s young legacy and his still-emerging potential to be one of the greatest of all time. Criterion brings Don’t Look Back to Blu-ray with an impressive new 4K high-definition digital transfer and many supplements both new and old, including a director’s commentary, over an hour of outtakes, short films by Pennebaker, a brief audio interview with Dylan, a new interview with Patti Smith about how Dylan and the film impacted her life, a selection of songs that didn’t appear in the documentary, and much more. -Bobby Morgan

 

 

Angst/Der Todesking (Cult Epics)

   Another big surprise for me this year was finding Gerald Kargl's bleak serial killer epic ANGST through the Cult Epics Blu-ray release. This film is quite possibly the finest serial killer film I have ever seen, and I have seen loads. It's hypnotic in it's approach with an excellent Klaus Schulze soundtrack. The Blu-ray is packed with extras included an extensive set of liner notes.  Also, this year as part of their Corpse Fucking Art series Cult Epics have released Der Todesking, this is the second and quite possibly most accessible feature film by director Jorg Buttgereit. It is basically 7 days of death with 7 shorts tied together with the theme. The set also has some nice extras, and both films are nicely restored.

 

Zombi Holocaust/Blast Fighter/Blade in the Dark/Anthropophagus (88 Films)

   For the region free amongst us 88 Films have unleased an amazing set of Italian horror and genre films on Blu-ray this year.  They have put out a nicely restored edition of Zombi Holocaust which sees Zombie's Ian McCulloch on another island, this one with a mad doctor, cannibals and zombies.  There are some nice extras included here, and a very natural transfer. Blast Fighter is an absolutely insane mid-80's Italian action fest, it's starts a bit slow, but ends BIG, and should please most action fans. The transfer here is solid, extras are minimal and include an interview with one of the co-stars. Blast Fighter was directed by Lamberto "Son of Mario" Bava, and so is an earlier in the year 88 Films Blu-ray release a Blade in the Dark.  This film was a made for TV giallo that was deemed to violent and released to cinemas. It was shot on 16mm, and looks it. The film is a lot of fun though, and the Blu-ray is certainly a solid upgrade from earlier DVD releases. Finally, we get what I'll refer to Joe D'Amato's attempt at making a splatter version of Antonionio's L'Avventura Anthropophagus: The Beast (I think I destroyed spell check with that last sentence). This film is notorious for 2 violent sequences that got the film dubbed a video nasty in the U.K., but is a nice slice of atmospheric Eurohorror. The transfer here is solid, but the extras are limited to an unrelated documentary and some trailers. At least the transfer is an upgrade.

 

The Blastfighter (88 Films Region B)

One of the best Italian exploitation flicks of the 1980’s, Lamberto Bava’s full throttle revenge thriller borrows heavily from Dirty Harry and First Blood but benefits from authentic Georgia locations and some no holds barred action sequences guaranteed to get your blood boiling and your fists pumping. 88 Films brings this underrated action classic to Blu-ray for the first time with a new high-definition transfer that will make those worn-out VHS and DVD editions a distant memory and a retrospective interview with the film’s cinematographer.

 

Vampire Hunter D (Sentai Filmworks)

     Section 23 are one of my favorite anime labels. They release such a diverse slate of content, that it offers a nice palette cleanser to my normal viewing experiences. The last couple of months they have released a lot of complete collections in the run up the holidays and I've grouped a few together based at least a little bit on genre, though not entirely.

   1985's Vampire Hunter D is a classic of horror and psychotronic anime. The film falls into the vampire fighting other vampires in the supernatural, but does so with style. It has a nice bizarre atmosphere, and Sentai's Blu-ray release really brings out the color and detail in the animation. .

Gatchaman: The Movie

   After releasing the complete Gatchaman on Blu-ray with OVA a few years back (still need to get on that -ed). Section 23 have decided to go back and release the Gatchaman Movie from 1978 with original score, and English dub. The results of the restoration are mixed, but is certainly nice to have this release on my shelf in HD. English dub is included.

Blade and Soul/Black Bullet (Section 23)

  Blade and Soul starts out as a mix of fan service meets action anime, but the story builds into something much deeper and interesting than what is initially on the surface. The story is a tad cliché about an assassin whose master is killed, and she goes out to seek revenge. it goes off in some interesting directions, and the animation is quite stunning, and the episodes have an oddly gorgeous soundtrack.

   Black Bullet is based off a light novel series, and is a conceptually interesting post-apocalypitc series that takes place in a world where humanity hides in cities made of a special metal that repels giant monsters. There are women who gave birth to creatures with monstrous traits, and this causes discrimination against their spawn. It's an interesting premise with solid action, character and world building and animation. It stumbles a bit, but makes for an interesting watch. Like most Sentai releases both only include clean opening and closings and trailers.

Beyond the Boundary/Blue: Spring Ride (Section 23)

     Beyond the Boundary is another light novel adaptation, it combines coming of age, slice of life, with supernatural fantasy and action to create something a little bit familiar, but also quite a bit fun. The Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent, but is again slim on extras.

   Blue: Spring Ride is based on a 13 volume manga that actually ended in 2015. The series itself as presented on this Blu-ray edition aired in 2014. The series involves 2 teenagers who met as first year high school students who had known each other previously. They become fast friends, but also it becomes obvious want something more out of the relationship. The Blu-ray brings real detail to the animation, and sound is solid. There is a clean opening and closing, also trailers.

2015 EuroCultAV.com Grab Bag Giveaway!

OK, so you've made it this far. Every year EuroCultAV runs a contest. This year we have put together a grab bag of Blu-ray's from our friends at Arrow Video, Severin Films, Blue Underground, and Scream Factory.

The titles include
 

  • White of the Eye
  • The Editor
  • Shocker
  • God Told Me To
  • Turkey Shoot
  • Eaten Alive
  • Contamination

There may be a few more thrown into the winning packages at random, but the aforementioned are guaranteed to be in each. So you might wonder how do you win such an awesome selection of Blu-ray's? This is very simple, e-mail Scott@eurocultav.com with the Subject Contest 2015 include your name and address, and also if you are currently region free for Blu-ray.  The Contest will run until 12/21/15 and winners will be chosen at random. U.S. residents only.

 

 

Recommend Reading

 

Splintered Visons: Lucio Fulci and His Films/So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films by Troy Howarth (Midnight Marquee Press)

   Troy Howarth is very probably one of the most prolific writers on genre cinema. In the last year he has written enough books that I have lost track of how many have come out.  However, I can be certain that these 2 did. Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films is Howarth's study of the Italian director most known for his late 70's/early 80's splatter epics, but whose career  touched upon almost every conceivable film genre. So Deadly, So Perverse sees Howarth doing the first part of an exhaustive critical analysis of the giallo genre of Italian cinema. Both books certainly deserve a space on the bookshelf on any reader of this site.

Bond vs. Bond by Paul Simpson (Race Point Publishing)

   Bond Vs. Bond is a nice coffee table style book that goes into detail about the different actors who played James Bond, and the various ways they played the role. It offers a nice nostalgic, and insightful look back into the now over 50 year old franchise, and is a breezy fun read for fans.

Unofficial Doctor Who: The Big Book of Lists by Cameron K. McEwan (Race Point Publishing)

   Anyone who has read McEwan's website Blogtor Who knows the man is a fan of list. This book compiles those list, and updates them in physical form. Being a huge Doctor Who fan, I found this a nice once in a while read, and something to flip through when I didn't want to read anything else. It is easy to recommend to fans of the franchise both new and classic.

Gilliamesque by Terry Gilliam (Harper Design)

   There have been books about Monty Python by those involved, including an epic coffee table autobiography about a decade ago called the Pythons that offered an autobiography of each member. That being said this is a full on autobiography of Terry Gilliam, that obviously goes into his history with Python, but also the before, and the after, that means we get details on his controversial and always interesting cinema career. An absolutely fascinating read.

M Train by Patti Smith (Knopf)

   Patti Smith's last autobiographical book Just Kids touched upon her early career and period with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. It stands as not only one of the finest looks into the career of a rock and roll musician that has ever existed, but also a piece of literature that stands well apart from her fandom. Meaning even a non-Patti Smith fan could get something from it. M Train takes place during her marriage to Fred "Sonic" Smith the legendary Detroit musician, and is somewhat similar tonally to the previous book, however, it feels different, but is also an excellent and powerful read from Smith.

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker (St. Martin's Press)

   When Clive Barker over a decade announced that he would conclude the Hellraiser franchise, and the "Pinhead" mythos with a book called the Scarlet Gospels, I myself was skeptical. However, upon the book's release this year I found myself eating my words. The book proved that Barker was still a master of literary horror, and managed to conclude Pinhead's story in not just a satisfactory manner, but in a near perfect way.

Anger is an Energy by John Lydon (Dey Street Books)

   John Lydon's first autobiography Rotten: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs I found myself at odds with. This book finds the punk/post-punk singer going into more depth and reaching a deeper state of introspection. It is a fascinating read, and though quite lengthy manages to fly by.

Punk Rock Blitzkrieg by Marky Ramone

   Joey Ramone's biography was written by his brother Mickey Leigh, Dee Dee had an autobiography come out during his lifetime, and Johnny's autobiography was recently published posthumously. Tommy Ramone sadly never wrote one, and so now we get Marky Ramone's book. Marky Ramone was the long serving drummer, and replacement for Tommy in the Ramones. His book is an excellent read, that offers some interesting perspectives on the other Ramones hinted at in the other books. For a Ramones fan it's a must.