As much as we love to complain about transfers, release delays, and bad cover art, we live in a golden time for home video nerds. Every week, in addition to getting new movies on Blu Ray and DVD, we also get handfuls of catalog, independent, rare movies in pristine high definition. With so much stuff coming out on a weekly basis, it's nearly impossible to keep up with everything (even more impossible to actually BUY everything). Every few weeks, I want to highlight some underrated releases that, for whatever reason, seem to have slipped through the cracks and passed everyone by. These underseen discs are absolutely worth your time and money!
1. THE FINAL TERROR (1983) Blu-Ray from Scream Factory
Despite being a huge fan of the slasher genre, I actively avoided this one due to the large amount of bad press it seemed to be getting. Not just the transfer, but the movie itself seemed to be getting lambasted as well. It's certainly not the greatest of the genre, but for fans of the killer-in-the-woods premise, it's a must see. It features early roles for Daryl Hannah and Joe Pantoliano, as well. On the subject of the transfer, it's not exactly pristine, but it is unarguably the best the film has ever looked. The film is prefaced with a warning from Scream Factory, that the original elements and camera negatives were lost and that this release was put together from a collection of privately owned prints. The company did the very best that they could with what they had and it shows. The grainy, scratchy, dirty nature of the elements lends to the tone of the movie. Don't listen to the bad press on this one, just check it out if you're a fan of slashers.
2. The Entire Eclipse Series from the Criterion Collection
I'm guilty of this myself, but it seems the blu ray only crowd have largely ignored this underrated, but extremely important series. The Eclipse Series is Criterion's DVD-only line of historically and culturally important films that, for whatever reason, the company decided not to put them out on blu ray. Either the elements aren't good enough to garner a high definition release, or perhaps there just aren't enough supplements to create a release that's up to snuff in the eyes of the company, or maybe the films themselves aren't well known enough to rationalize the jump to blu ray. Just because these films aren't on the top tier format, does not mean that there are not absolute diamonds in this series. From early Akira Kurosawa to the offbeat world of Robert Downey Sr. and Norman Mailer, there are wildly important movies in these modestly priced box sets. Those of you who have commited to blu ray only from now own really should look into these sets. I recommend The First Films of Samuel Fuller
, The Actuality Dramas of Allan King
, Basil Dearden's London Underground, or When Horror Came to Shochiku
3. THE IRON PETTICOAT (1956) Blu-Ray from the TCM Vault Collection
Turner Classic Movies have only released a handful of Blu Rays to this point, but they're all fantastic. The two bigger releases, Orson Welles' "The Lady from Shanghai" and Howard Hawks' "Only Angels Have Wings" are both must owns and probably already grace the shelves of film collectors everywhere. However, there are a couple of releases from TCM that have not gained as much attention as they should. From 1956, "The Iron Petticoat" is certainly not of the same quality as the aforementioned titles, but it's a great, silly, fun Bob Hope and Katherine Hepburn comedy. It reminds me of a movie that the classic film channel would play around six in the morning. Missed by mostly everyone, but the ones that are awake that early find a cute little gem. For fans of classic comedy, it's definitely worth a look.
4. LAST EMBRACE (1979) Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics
With the Kino Lorber sale currently raging on over at Amazon, now is a good time to stock up on all the wonderful releases from Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line. Prices are extremely low for these films and it's a great time to check out some of the titles you may not have heard of or were unsure about. Jonathan Demme's 1979 attempt at an Alfred Hitchcock thriller is a film I was completely unaware of until this release and it's a really fun flick starring Roy Scheider. As usual, unfortunately, with these KL studio classics discs, it's essentially bare bones featuring a trailer and an interview with the producer, Michael Taylor. However, do not let that discourage you from checking out this stellar thriller from the director of "Silence of the Lambs."