Written by: George Pacheco on April 1st, 2014
Home video is such a subjective subject, so much so that it becomes profoundly difficult to analyze the medium in such a way to devise any manner of “Top 10” list, never mind one which takes into account the format’s composite history.
That being said, I’ve decided, for the purpose of this list, to try and avoid personal sentiment and nostalgia when compiling these choices of “essential” home video releases. Separating the heart from the head may prove difficult, but I really wanted to approach these choices for their significance and approach to the DVD medium, taking into account extras, picture quality and content while also focusing upon the history of 10kBullets as a site which covers everything, to paraphrase our motto, “from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse.”
Hopefully, I’ve done Mike and my colleagues here proud with my choices, and I sincerely hope that our lists spark some conversation and debate amongst all of you out there reading. I know that I speak for all of us here at 10kBullets when I say that our opinions, no matter how passionately defended, are born from a sincere love of the cinema, and this is something which I know is shared by all of you reading our carefully compiled lists. Here’s to that love, that passion, that obsession which drives all of us as movie fans to keep exploring the cult and the classic from films all over the world.
10. Last House on Dead End Street DVD U.S. R1 2005 Barrel Entertainment
This legendary grindhouse film held a mysterious, cult reputation swirling around it in the years leading up to its Barrel Entertainment DVD release, as evidenced by the fact that this long out of print DVD still goes for hefty sums on the second hand market. Dead End Street director Roger Watkins, a.k.a. “Victor Janos” and porn director “Richard Mahler” had only recently come out of exile at this time, posting on cult film forums, appearing at conventions and granting interviews to publications like Ultra Violent detailing his crazy career in the film industry, and this DVD edition of his films serves as a fine testament to an exciting, early era of cult films hitting the home video market.
9. Black Emanuelle Box Vol.1 and 2. DVD U.S. R1 2010 Severin Films
These “Black Emmanuelle” box sets from Severin were notable not only for presenting this previously hard-to-find Italian sexploitation films on home video uncut, but also due to their inclusion of original soundtrack music in deluxe, oversized packaging. Film soundtrack collectors know as well as anyone how challenging it can be to track down the music associated with these equally obscure films, so Severin’s service here was truly appreciated by many diehard fans of Italian movie scores.
8. The Opening of Misty Beethoven DVD/BD U.S. All Regions 2013 Distribpix Inc.
It’s rare when an adult film receives this level of acclaim, commitment and glorious care given to any home video release, never mind one which arrives both on DVD and Blu-Ray. Distribpix Inc.’s dedication to quality is second to none when it comes to restoring classic adult fare and delivering these films with a presentation which preserves them as true pieces of cinematic history. The Opening of Misty Beethoven was a flagship release for the label, bursting at the proverbial seams with content and extras, making them a must own for anyone remotely interested in adult cinema as viable art form.
7. Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th DVD/BD U.S. All Regions 2013 1428 Films
There are multitudes of documentary films made every year, across the world, but this epic-length history of the Friday the 13th film series stands as one of the very best associated with the horror genre. The doc was delivered by the same people who helmed Never Sleep Again: The Elm St. Legacy, and presented a similar dedication to providing as complete a historical account as possible for beloved slasher star Jason Voorhees, discussing every film in the series with energy and passion.
6. Mario Bava Collection Vol. 1 and 2 DVD U.S. R1 2007 Starz/Anchor Bay
The films of Mario Bava are legendary when it comes to Italian cinema history, and these two Bava box sets presented many of the maestro’s essential films on home video, with stunning picture quality in their uncut glory. Whether it was Rabid Dogs, Black Sunday, House of Exorcism or Black Sabbath, there was something for everyone in this immense collection of Mario Bava’s finest work. Think of these sets as a jumping off point for Italian genre cinema.
5. Dawn of the Dead Ultimate Edition DVD U.S. R1 2004 Starz/Anchor Bay
George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is a benchmark; an essential chapter of horror movie cinema which has been discussed and appreciated by fans and critics around the world. This definitive home video collection brought home all the alternate cuts of Romero’s film, however, most excitingly the Dario Argento-led Italian cut, which featured more of the cult soundtrack from prog rock masters Goblin. This set is simply a must for the collection of any self-respecting horror fan.
4. Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection Vol. 1 DVD U.S. R1 2011 Raro USA
This collection of crime films for Italian auteur Fernando Di Leo was the first exposure for many of poliziotteschi all’Italiana, or the Italian Crime Film. Birthed from an appreciation of such Stateside action fare as Serpico, Dirty Harry and The French Connection, the Italian crime film was known for its stylish depiction of fetishized violence-a trait shared by its murder mystery cousin, the giallo-and funky, grooving scores. Di Leo was arguably the best at this chosen genre, and this collection provides some valid proof in the form of Caliber 9, The Boss, Rulers of the City and The Italian Connection.
3. Lord of the Rings Extended Editions DVD U.S. R1 2002 New Line Home Video
These extended DVD editions of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films truly outdid themselves in terms of extra content, packing in hours of behind the scenes history and info within the appendices of these massive, four disc collections. For fans of the films, these sets are simply a must have, as they showcase admirably Jackson’s love for the source material, and all the hard work which went into the creation of the director’s take on author J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy classics.
2. Blade Runner Collector’s Edition DVD U.S. R1 2007 Warner Home Video
Blade Runner has been issued on home video multiple times, but this four DVD collection was the first to present a truly impressive and comprehensive presentation of director Ridley Scott’s futuristic, dystopian vision. This epic collection contained every known cut of Scott’s film, including a newly composed “Final Cut,” each of which present a uniquely distinct viewing experience. It makes no difference whether or not you prefer Harrison Ford’s over-dubbed narration or not, for this collector’s edition had it all laid out, including a bevy of gorgeous extras. Sure, this collection has been brought over to Blu-Ray in recent years, but, for many, this DVD collection was the first time fans could truly immerse themselves in the Blade Runner experience.
1. Cannibal Holocaust DVD U.S. R1 2008 Grindhouse Releasing
Rare is the film which arrived on home video with such a rich and controversial heritage. For years, it was nearly impossible to view a properly uncut version of director Ruggero Deodato’s brilliant, yet savage cinematic masterpiece other than grey market bootlegs. Grindhouse Releasing changed all that in 2008, however, delivering Cannibal Holocaust in all its uncut glory to home video for the first time, single handedly smashing every prior bootleg copy into unnecessary dust with its two disc, definitive edition. Love it or hate it, Grindhouse’s flawless presentation of Cannibal Holocaust finally made the film impossible to ignore.