Combustible Celluloid

2007: The Year's Best DVDs / Holiday Gift Guide

Slipping a Disc

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most critics are naming theatrical releases from late 2006 and early 2007 as the year's best, but I found far greater pleasure mining the treasures of the past.

1. Late Ozu (Criterion Eclipse, $69.98)
Last summer I watched all five films in this Criterion Eclipse box set and had a kind of revelation, an insight into the art of Ozu as well as the art of movies in general. What more can one say, except that I wish Criterion had found a way to include Ozu's final film, An Autumn Afternoon.

2. Killer of Sheep (1977, Milestone, $39.95)
Charles Burnett's 1977 film was one of the two or three best films I saw in the theater in 2007, but Milestone's DVD is even better: it includes a wealth of information and other Burnett films, thus righting a great wrong in the history of cinema.

3. Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938 Volume 1 (Warner Home Video, $64.98)
A case could be made for this four-disc set as the greatest animated DVD release, ever. These extraordinary efforts by Max and Dave Fleischer may seem childish, but some of them are as odd, beautiful and sublime as anything else ever made.

4. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982, Warner Home Video, $78.92)
I only received the basic, two-disc set of Ridley Scott's definitive new cut, which is enough, but if you're lucky this Christmas or if you have a bigger wallet than I do, you can get the five-disc set with all the other versions, including the beloved 1982 version that became a cult item in the first place.

5. The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Anchor Bay, $49.98 each)
Sure, most of these titles were already available on DVD, and more often than not Anchor Bay's new box sets, packaged with new slim cases, didn't change or update anything. But the very act of collecting them acknowledges Bava's unsung genius.

6. Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition (1990, Paramount, $99.99)
Paramount sent me the long-awaited Season Two box set in April, and that would have been enough to make my top ten list, but then they released the "Gold Box" set in October, with all the episodes, plus two different cuts of the pilot. I didn't receive a press copy of the latter, but I decided to compromise between the two.

7. Inland Empire (2006, Rhino, $29.98)
David Lynch's newest film may just be his greatest work, free and almost stream-of-consciousness but with a connecting thread in Laura Dern (a performance that deserved more recognition than it got). Lynch had to self-distribute it, and as a result I didn't get to see it until January of 2007, too late for my 2006 ten best list, but just right for my DVD list.

8. Warner Home Video Director's Series: Stanley Kubrick (Warner Home Video, $79.98)
I dearly loved my 2001 Stanley Kubrick box set, but this one finally supplanted it. It contains one major mistake: Warner forgot to include the censored, theatrical version of Eyes Wide Shut -- which I would like to have had for posterity, but no one will watch that anymore now that the uncut version is here. Not to mention that the films are now letterboxed, and remastered and come with new extras, notably Jan Harlan's wonderful documentary on Malcolm McDowell (included on the Clockwork Orange disc).

9. 1408: Two Disc Collector's Edition (2007, Dimension, $32.95)
I certainly enjoyed this film when I reviewed in last spring, and the problems I had with it are still there, but I surprised myself by how eager I was to watch it again. The director's cut -- included alongside the theatrical cut -- is even better, with a much more interesting ending. Forget Grace Is Gone; John Cusack should earn awards for this extraordinary, tour-de-force, one-man performance.

10. The Harry Langdon Collection: Lost and Found (Facets, $39.95)
Facets scores one for film history with this essential silent comedy collection, piecing together a good number of Langdon's two-reelers and one feature, as well as hoards of great extras.

11. The Evil Dead: The Ultimate Edition (1983, Anchor Bay, $34.98)
This had been released before, in many editions, but this new three-disc set should put the others to shame.

12. Death Proof: Extended and Unrated (The Weinstein Co., $29.95)
Truncated and restrained in Grindhouse, this DVD now unleashes Quentin Tarantino's film as it was meant to be, with its rhythms intact.

13. The First Films of Samuel Fuller (Criterion Eclipse, $44.95)
Criterion's box set gives us three hard-to-find Fuller classics: I Shot Jesse James, The Steel Helmet and The Baron of Arizona.

14. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, MGM, $19.98)
If the stupid remake The Invasion gave us anything, it was this wonderful new special edition of the best possible version.

15. The Sergio Leone Anthology (MGM, $89.98)
Most of these films were already available, but MGM now supplies us with a plethora of extras, plus the long-unseed Duck You Sucker.

16. Hard-Boiled: Two-Disc Ultimate Edition (1992, Weinstein Co./Dragon Dynasty, $24.95)
John Woo's crossover action masterpiece is still unequalled.

17. Battleship Potemkin: The Ultimate Edition (1925, Kino, $29.95)
Kino's disc erases all those public domain discs with their definitive, painstakingly restored two-disc DVD.

18. Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 4 (Warner Home Video, $59.98)
A massive ten-film box set on five discs (that's about $6 per film), this includes works by Anthony Mann, Nicholas Ray, Don Siegel and Andre de Toth.

19. Nosferatu: The Ultimate DVD Edition (Kino, $29.95)
Kino's restoration is the best yet, but it lacks the variety of commentary tracks and music scores from previous releases.

20. The Woman in the Window (1944, MGM, $19.98)
A Fritz Lang masterpiece finally made available in the U.S.

21. Hated: G.G. Allin & the Murder Junkies (1994, MVD, $19.95)
Shocking and loud and undeniably punk.

22. Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection (Warner Home Video, $26.98)
The cartoons slip in quality as others took over for the great Tex Avery, but until the Avery box set is released, this is a welcome addition to any collection.

23. Jean Renoir: 3-Disc Collector's Edition (Lionsgate, $29.98)
Five unsung features (and two shorts) from a master.

24. The Host: 2-Disc Special Edition (2006, Magnolia, $29.98)
Just so I can watch the beast emerging from the water again and again.

25. 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006, Tartan, $22.95)
A funny and thought-provoking new Christmastime classic.

Other Notable Box Sets:

Runners Up:

Movies Unlimtied