EuroCultAV.Comís Holiday Gift Guide

(and sort of best of 2013)

By Scott MacDonald and Bobby Morgan

The Introduction

Welcome to EuroCultAV.com's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide! EuroCultAV.com doesn't do a best of list, and so I tend to use this guide as a mix of cool stuff I think you, the reader, might be interested in for the AV connoisseur in your life,and also my personal favorite DVD and Blu-ray releases in  a given year. The reason for this is simply put, that I love making list, but I am indecisive, and this year has given A/V enthusiasts so many great DVD's and Blu-ray's to watch that it is honestly very difficult to

 

a) Remember them all.

 

b) Rate them in a highest to lowest sort of list.

 

A few things, try as I may I will probably have forgotten some really awesome titles, if you are reading this and are a distributor and want your title added, please email me at Scott@eurocultav.com, and we'll get that corrected.  Also, I haven't listed a lot of toys, but I am a Doctor Who fanatic (classic series mostly), so I have thrown a few of those on here at the end.

 

Demons and Demons 2 - Synapse Films Blu-ray's

 

   I am going to kick this list off with one of the most recent, most limited, and quite possibly greatest single film releases of 2013, the Synapse Films Blu-ray releases of Lamberto Bava's Demons films. These 2 films are each sold individually and limited to an edition of 3000.   I will admit I have skipped out on Demons 2 for the time being, so I cannot vouch first hand for the quality of it, however Demons itself looks better than it ever has in any form, and I've owned the film of VHS, DVD, and the Arrow films blu-ray. I would happily say that Synapse has crafted the definitive versions of these films for the Blu-ray generation.

Street Trash and Hands of the Ripper (Synapse Blu-ray)

 

   Continuing on the Synapse Films is awesome train for a moment are 2 of my other favorite releases from the Michigan label this year.  We have the 80's gooey splatter-fest Street Trash reissued in it's Meltdown Edition, plus an  additional interview, with an all new HD transfer that makes Street Trash  look better than it ever has before. We also get late period Hammer obscurity Hands of the Ripper, which may actually be making it's digital debut stateside with this Synapse release.  This Ripper-esque tale from Hammer comes with a gorgeous transfer, and a nice slate of extras bound to please any fan of the British studio.

 

Day of the Dead/Knightriders (Scream Factory)

 2013 may just be the year of Scream Factory, although the label got off to an amazing start in 2012. There 2013 lineup was exceptional, and there release of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead is just one of the many highlights of their release slate this year.  Now, I know what you're thinking didnít Anchor Bay already release this? Why would I want another edition.  First off, the A/V is light years beyond the AB release, they have crafted a some awesome exclusive extra features, which definitely make the purchase worth it.

 

   I have also  included Scream Factory's release of Romero's obscure motorcycles at the medieval fair film Knightriders.  This film saw a barebones release through Anchor  Bay many years ago, but Scream Factory have added some additional extras and a beautiful HD transfer.

Night of the Comet (Scream Factory)

 

Another of my favorite Scream Factory titles from 2013 is the 80's Valley girl meets zombie film Night of the Comet.  This is one of those sort of guilty pleasure films that I cannot resist. Night of the Comet was previously released by MGM in a barebones edition, Scream Factory releases this one with another excellent HD transfer with a few exclusive special features.

Prince of Darkness/Assault on Precinct 13 (Scream Factory)

  I swear I'll stop with the Scream Factory  worship soon enough, but in the mean time let me get to a couple of John Carpenter  titles that they've put out this year. First up is a mid-80's Carpenter obscurity, his Satan in a giant test tube film Prince of Darkness. PoD is easily in my top 5 John Carpenter Films, and I've awaited an edition that was not bare bones, and Scream has certainly given Region 1 buyers that with this edition. We also get a Scream collectors edition of Carpenter's second film the  siege film Assault on Precinct 13, the film has a similar HD transfer to the earlier Blu-ray release, but comes with exclusive Scream Factory extras.

Halloween 35th Anniversary Edition (Anchor Bay)

 

I know what you're thinking, how many more copies of Halloween  can I possibly fit on my shelf? Well, if you have room for one more,  make  it this one.  This Blu-ray edition from Anchor Bay (seemingly the permanent home of Halloween) brings to Blu-ray a transfer supervised  by the film's director of photography Dean Cundey alongside a commentary with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Yes, you lose some extras so you'll have to hold on to your older editions, but the new extras and A/V certainly make the purchase well worth it.

Bruce Lee - The Legacy Collection (Shout! Factory)

 

I will admit this is one of the more controversial releases of 2013. The initial release of the set included transfers on the Blu-ray's that were considered subpar to editions available elsewhere in the world. This, however, was corrected a few months later with much superior transfers.  The set which includes Lee's 4 Hong Kong films and a few other releases and extras is a must have for fans of the great action star, and is an exciting release from Shout! Factory.

 

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (Shout! Factory)

As a kid I watched a lot of vintage television via Nick at Nite. Nickelodeon would end their programming, and I would continue watching so I caught a lot of vintage programming. Some of it like Dobie Gillis I absolutely loved. The show which features a hysterical turn from a young Bob Denver (Gilligan from Gilliganís Island) as beatnik Maynard G. Krebs is a true blast from the past. This set from  Shout! Factory brings the complete series to DVD for the first time, and is an excellent purchase for fans of vintage TV.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (Shout! Factory)

 This Shout! Factory takes Norman Lear's 1970's soap opera spoof, and brings it out in a 38 disc complete box set with extras and 10 episodes of Fernwood 2 Nite. The result is a fascinating look at one of 1970's televisions most controversial experiments. It is a fantastic release and well worth picking up for fans of the show, and TV viewers looking for something outside the box.

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (Shout! Factory)

 

I love Fat Albert, and because of this box set my kids do too. This set from Shout! Factory collects all of the seasons of Bill Cosby's first animated invention and brings it to fans in a complete package including a 39 minute documentary and some minor liner notes. It is a fun release for fans of Filmation and 70's animation as a whole.

Adventure Time Seasons 1 and 2/ Regular Show Seasons 1 and 2

 

 It has been a few years ago since Cartoon Network did anything that I really paid attention to.  It seems like CN has cycles of greatness between lulls of nothing.  Well, they are currently in one of those periods of greatness, and that began with Adventure Time and Regular Show being added to the network  lineup. If you've not seen either show, these are shows that are just as funny for children as they are for parents (Seriously, I find myself getting more excited for them  then my kids sometimes). Regular Show has just come out to Blu-ray with the first 2 seasons in one set while Adventure Time has been brought out with both seasons separately.

Little Mermaid/Wreck it Ralph (Disney)

 

 Disney Animation has put out a number of excellent Blu-ray releases this year. However, a few of them have been less than stellar with transfer issues that simply should not be. I have, therefore, picked what I will call the Disney cream of the crop for 2013, and stuck them on here. We have  the Diamond Edition of Little Mermaid which has been granted a simply stellar transfer from the Mouse House. It takes everything that was beautiful about the original and ramps it up to 11. Wreck-It-Ralph is one of Disney Animation's most fun films in years, and it looks amazing on Blu-ray.

My Neighbor Totoro (Disney)

 

 Japanese animation's greatest export Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro came to Blu-ray in 2013 with a release that preserved the original animation of the film and brought it into HD beautifully. It also ported over the extras from Disney's prior SE and kept off that horrible dub track from the Fox release. One of the finest animation releases of 2013.

Akira (Funimation)

 

 The original landmark of Japanese animation comes to Blu-ray from  Funimation with a gorgeous transfer and some great extras in the films 25th Anniversary edition.  This was released in November just in time for the holidays.

Massage Parlor Murders/The Telephone Book/Night Train to Terror

 

In a time when people are writing the obituary for physical media, a new distributor of DVD and Blu-ray's has come out of the gate with a furious amount of amazing genre obscurities from vintage porn and sexploitation to horror titles and a few arthouse oddities, Vinegar Syndrome are seriously one of 2013's labels of the year and the 3 aforementioned releases are some of the very reasons why.  Massage Parlor Murders is a sleazy little 70's detective thriller about murders happening in NYC massage parlors. The Telephone Book is an arthouse/sexploitation oddity that effectively balances the world of Paul Morrissey's Trash trilogy with the world of vintage sexploitation, and my favorite release from them this is Night Train to Terror. Night Train to Terror is one of the most bizarre horror anthologies ever committed to celluloid, it consists of 3 features films that were edited down into an anthology that features a wraparound segment with God and Satan on a train with an 80's rock band. A must see.

Hot Nights of Linda/House on Straw Hill

 

 For the sleaze enthusiast on your holiday shopping list Severin Films came out in late 2013 with 2 extremely fine releases that I would very easily rate as soon of  the very finest this year overall. I will  start with House on Straw Hill which stars Udo Kier as a writer on a retreat with a vengeful woman who wants him dead. The transfer is uneven,  but is the best this film has and will probably ever look.  If you get the limited edition  version of the film you will receive a copy of the excellent Severin produced documentary Ban the Sadist Videos! Which is worth the price of the set on it's own.  We also get Jess Franco's 1970's film Hot Nights of Linda, this one stars Alice Arno as a woman who is hired to tutor the daughter of a millionaire, but more complicated issues are at foot in the mansion. We get a splendid HD transfer, nice extras, and if you get the LE version you get a tape sourced hardcore version of the film.

How to Seduce a Virgin (Mondo Macabro)

 

Mondo Macabro took sometime off between  their release  of Franco's Countess Perverse and now, but the wait has certainly been worth it. They have released one of Jess Franco's greatest unreleased efforts in a beautifully remastered DVD edition with a nice slate of extras. This is quite possibly the unreleased Franco release of the year.

Redemption Films Franco Titles

 

Fans will already know that we lost Jess Franco in 2013. The director was responsible for so many fantastic titles over his career, and Redemption have granted us 3 of his films on Blu-ray this last August.  The biggest draw of the 3 films is  a Virgin Among the  Living Dead which gets a very natural transfer, but certainly an upgrade, and also 2 versions of the film deleted scenes, pretty much a Criterion slate of extras that make  this a truly monumental edition of one of Franco's finest. The other  2 releases are fine in their own right, the transfers are solid, films are fun, and if you are a Franco completist you are going to want these.

Night of the Hunted/Grapes of Death

  Redemption and Kino have done a wonderful job keeping Jean Rollin's work in the  public eye and in fantastic Blu-ray editions, and have released a good amount of the man's work over the last couple of years. This last March they have released 2 highly desirable titles by the director Grapes of Death (quite possbily the goriest film by Rollin), and Night of the Hunted Rollin's only truly modern film. The films are  two of the biggest oddities in Rollin's filmography, they both look fantastic. and have both nice extras, and liner notes by Tim Lucas.

The Whip and the Body/Bay of Blood (Kino Lorber)

 

 I will be forthright in saying that the Kino Lorber Bava titles have been a mixed bag as far as extras, edits, and transfers go. However, 2 of their Bava titles are A/V wise currently the front runners for  best looking worldwide. The Whip and the Body which streets on December 10th, which has had many decent editions in  the past finally comes to Blu-ray with a gorgeous looking natural transfer. We also get a Tim Lucas commentary, and a few other extras.  The Arrow Blu-ray of Bay of Blood had a nice transfer, but muted in the color department, the Kino Blu-ray seems  to correct that, and get the colors more accurate to Bava's vision for the  film, and for that alone is recommended.

Nosferatu (Kino Lorber)

 

Another late in the year entry is Kino Lorber's gorgeous Blu-ray  of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu.  This Blu-ray (mostly in the German variant) in the most accurate aspect ratio in a beautifully detailed transfer with a nice documentary extra. An excellent Blu-ray addition to the horror fan in your life's collection this holiday season.

 

An American Hippie in Israel/Corruption/The Big Gundown

If there is one thing I am happy about this year in the world of A/V it's the return of Grindhouse Releasing. Grindhouse has been inactive as a home  video releasing company for sometime, instead concentrating on the theatrical market, and have returned in 2013 with a stellar lineup of Blu-ray's sure to please any cult cinema fan this holiday season. Their comeback release was in September with the long desired American Hippie in Israel. This was limited to 2000, and you may actually have a hard time finding it now, but it is a nice package with good A/V especially considering the source and vintage. They then released the Peter Cushing vehicle Corruption, quite possibly the sleaziest most violent film Cushing would ever be involved with in a package that included 2 versions and a slew of extras.  Their final Blu-ray release of 2013 is a 4 disc loaded edition of the spaghetti western classic the Big Gundown. I watched this last night, and it looks GORGEOUS. It is packed with 2 different versions, extras, and the Morricone  soundtrack on CD. Welcome Back GRINDHOUSE!

 

POSSESSION (Second Sight) - Written By Bobby Morgan

 

Like a head-on collision between a burning Ford Pinto and a gasoline tanker truck driven by Lindsay Lohan on her birthday, the genres of horror and domestic drama explode into a gloriously bold and disturbing original. Starkly powerful with emotionally-draining performances from Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill, Possession is a film not to be ignored. Second Sight's Region B Blu-ray is overflowing with supplements including a pair of commentaries and multiple documentaries and features an impressive upgrade in picture and sound quality.

 

STREETS OF FIRE - Written By Bobby Morgan

 

Take a long and exciting walk through the pulp-soused candy land that is the imagination of legendary tough guy filmmaker Walter Hill with this two-fisted action drama with plenty of shameless entertainment value for fans of 80's genre-bending cinema. The movie looks and sounds better than ever on this Region B Blu-ray release from Second Sight, and the bonus features include a new feature-length retrospective documentary, promotional music videos, and vintage electronic press kit featurettes.

 

TIME BANDITS (Arrow Video) - Written By Bobby Morgan

 

A young child gets swept up with a gang of time-traveling dwarves on the adventure of several lifetimes in Terry Gilliam's breakthrough solo directorial effort and a funny and fantastic pure flight of fancy that belongs to the ages, with a little bit of Pythonesque wit tossed into the mix. Arrow Video's new Blu-ray release features an eyeball-pleasuring 2K HD restoration and all-new interviews with Gilliam, co-writer Michael Palin, actor David Warner, and much more. Also available in a steelbook edition.

Lisa & the Devil/Black Sunday/Black Sabbath (Arrow)

Admittedly all 3 of these Bava titles so Region A Blu-ray releases in 2010, however, in all 3 cases Arrow Videoís versions are the versions to get if you are region free capable.  If you are not hit 220-electronics.com, and change that. Anyway, the transfers for all 3 films are the best you are likely to get during the Blu-ray generation, contain alternate cuts (including the much desired AIP cut of Black Sabbath), and loads of extras. If there is one director that I will suggest going the extra mile to get the finest quality Blu-rayís of their work it would be Mario Bava, and thus these Arrow editions are a must for the Bava fans in your life this holiday season.

Repo Man (Criterion)

 Criterion had an absolutely brilliant year in 2013, and in all honesty it is hard to narrow down my favorites from 2013 to just a handful, but here is one of my favorites from early in the year. Alex Cox's Repo Man seriously needs no introduction to readers of this site, it is a 80's sci-fi-punk rock cult classic with a soundtrack almost as classic as the film itself. The film features excellent performances from Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. The Blu-ray is granted a beautiful 1080p transfer with a slew of extras.

John Cassavetes: 5 Films (Criterion)

 

This is a re-release of a prior Criterion box set from 2005, however, it was a much needed upgrade. I do not normally add items to the list I, or a member of the staff didn't get our hands on ourselves, but this and the following are too significant to not add. The set contains 5 of Cassavetes greatest independent works (Shadows, Faces, a Woman Under the Influence, Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night) in newly restored 1080p transfer with a huge amount of extras. The only wish I had for this set is that they finally secured permission to include the alternate version of Shadows, but this is still a brilliant set.

Zatoichi - The Complete Collection (Criterion)

 

Criterion has secured the rights to all the 60's Zatoichi films, and put them together in this wonderfully designed box set. It contains 25 films on 9 Blu-ray's and 17 DVD's all restored in HD with extra features with a book.

Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons

Until the recent discovery of Enemy of the World knocked it out of place, this was to be the final complete Doctor Who serial released in the classic range. This Tom Baker serial, the first from his second season is one of his finest overall. The DVD contains a directors cut of the first episode amongst a huge amount of additional extras.

Doctor Who - Ice Warriors (BBC)

 

One of the great losses of the 70's BBC purge is many of Doctor Who's first 10 years worth of episodes. 2 of the episodes of the Ice Warriors are counted among the lost, and have been re-animated and re-added to the overall serial in this set, with remastered audio video and extras.

 

Doctor Who Blu-ray Gift Set

This is a set I was quite curious about, since it was announced. Doctor Who until the second of the David Tennant specials was shot in a format that would see a Blu-ray benefit. In other words it was shot in a standard definition video format for much of itís 40 year run, with the exception of some exterior film sequences and the entirely of the 3rd Doctorís debut Spearhead from Space. Then I thought, well for Region A consumers there are 2 places where an upgrade would be beneficial.

Lines of resolution would be slightly improved. Doctor Who in the SD era would have been shot on the PAL format which would have been 576 lines of resolution in contrast to the U.S. system NTSC which is 480 lines. So that is an upgrade, and the Blu-ray would upscale from that point. Also, we could then get HD audio. Both the sound and video were noticeable improved, and compression was also much nicer.  However, as you would be forced to by the Blu-rayís of the Smith seasons I would hold out for an individual release unless you do not own any of these yet.  It also includes comics, art cards, and a sonic screwdriver.

Doctor Who Toys

  It looks like the BBC has put together some cool stuff for Doctor Who both young and old with everything from a Doctor Who night light, a Mr. Potatohead Dalek, a box set of Doctor Who that can be integrated with a lego set, Christmas ornaments, a mini Cybermen bust, and more.