Barring some sort of super late rush surprise announcement, 2016 for the year of Blu-ray is pretty much in the books. And as always, looking back, it was another terrific year. Many more Wishlist films from years’ past were granted on Blu-ray and some that were being prepped for this list got announced before it was time to write it and publish it (Punch Drunk Love and Duck Soup, for example-yes, I have this article in mind year round). There were also many other great surprises. 2016 also brought us a new format, 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, which I’ve been fortunate to have been able to dabble with in year 1. Its far too early and easy to do a wishlist for that format, we’ve still got plenty to do for good ‘ol Blu-ray. This year’s list will be only 10 films because I had to scale back at some point, the years are counting up too high! While the picks aren’t all this way, I found myself getting slightly more filmmaker focused this year. Some great directors are missing films from their filmography on the format and would be a great addition to work to complete their catalog and just good movies in general to have on the format.
As always, we start with the success stories in 2016. The ones I whined for and finally got. And these are some pretty significant ones to scratch off the list, I must say. Let’s take a look at them before we make some more wishes.
Bananas (Arrow Video; September 26, 2016) – Available by itself and as a part of the terrific Woody Allen: Six Films set (The first of 3 volumes), it was nice to see one of Allen’s earliest (and best) finally break out. It looked terrific, and aside from a joke in the film that feels icky with hindsight, it holds up very well.
Bandits (Olive Films; March 22; 2016) – A nifty little surprise. Though they didn’t port the bonus material over, it was still nice to get this underrated film from early in the 21st century out.
Body Snatchers (Warner Archive; October 22, 2016) – Warner Archive CRUSHED it this year with their catalog. Just in time for Halloween, the last link to the body snatching mythos made the Blu-ray jump.
Carnival Of Souls (Criterion Collection; July 12, 2016) – One of the best classic horror films before things took a spin in the late 60s, Criterion did a hell of a job on the transfer. Having Dana Gould on here as bonus rocks, too!
Chopping Mall (Vestron Video/Lionsgate; September 27, 2016) – HELLLLLL YES! Lionsgate won many over with the announcement of the Vestron Video line and launching with Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall was a hell of a way to do it. This is one of the best releases of the year, too.
Invasion USA (Shout! Factory; March 16, 2016) – My favorite Chuck Norris film kicked some ass with this Blu-ray that has some great interviews. Tis the season, too. Watch Norris save Christmas every year on Blu-ray!
Jaws 2 (Universal, June 14, 2016) – Universal FINALLY got the Jaws sequels out and actually did pretty solid by them. They were on the cheaper end and the 3rd one actually was in proper modern 3-D.
Nighthawks (Shout Select; October 18, 2016) – My specific wish was for a US version of this release (I broke my own rules just so I could write about it). This transfer was LIGHT YEARS better than that German disc and this one actually had some new bonus material.
Phantasm (Well Go USA; December 6, 2016) – YASSSS!!!! YES YES YES YES YES!!! Huge bucket list Blu-ray right here. So excited for it. The lack of 3&4 coming is disappointing, but work has it they are coming in early 2017.
Red Rock West (Concorde Video; February 16, 2016) – I still need to pick this up (hypocrite, I know), so I can’t tell you how it looks. Its a German disc and is locked, so you need a German player or region free player to watch it.
Suspicion & The Wrong Man (Warner Archive; April 12 & January 26, 2016) – Everything Alfred Hitchcock should be on Blu-ray. Warner Archive really got the ball rolling with these two and I, Confess to start the year. I should also mention, too, that they put out all the Bogey and Bacall movies this year too (To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Dark Passage). Cheers to your 2016, Warner Archive.
Trancers III: Deth Lives (Full Moon; September 13, 2016) – You can stop right here Full Moon. In my mind, the series can end here. Though…I know you’ll probably do the rest too. Which…will tempt me to get them even though I don’t like them.
Universal Monsters: Frankenstein & The Wolf Man Legacy Collections (Universal; September 13, 2016) – And I had just about given up on hope for these. They forewent doing a volume 2 in favor of the legacy collections. Here’s hoping The Mummy set comes next year with that new film. These collections share a lot of movies, but still, this is awesome to have and the films look GREAT.
And now, onto 2017’s wishlist. As always, listed alphabetically. Same rules as always apply; cannot be on Blu-ray (Or announced for future release) in ANY territory. Fresh to the format.
After Hours (1985)
Another wishlist, another underrated film from Martin Scorsese. This is one of those “wild night” type of subgenre films and was well reviewed for the time but not beloved by audiences giving it the “underrated” status. In my opinion, Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors to walk the planet and of the 1970s New Hollywood “film school” directors only he and Spielberg seemingly had careers that were constantly relevant or never fell off. All his work should get transferred to new formats regardless. This is a Warner Bros film, I believe, and really, put it out Warner Archive!
Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993)
I’m surprised this hasn’t been put out yet, but who knows. No, it did bad at the box office, but its freakin’ Batman. The Animated Series of which this belongs to was critically praised and worshiped by my generation. Many now feel it is the (“There’s a Batman In My Basement aside”) greatest presentation of the Dark Knight of all time. To boot, this film is also one of the best adventures. Its a Batman-Joker film…there’s not much to lose here…once again…Warner Bros (I pick on them a lot during these, but MAN, they have quite the vault).
Brain Damage (1988)
Frank Hennenlotter made 3 great pieces of the wacky, off the wall, dirty New York horror comedy variety in the 80s. You’ll find that people argue between Basket Case, Frankenhooker and Brain Damage as to which is his best (There is no wrong answer). Henenlotter’s films may be weird and not for everyone, but he’s got a unique voice and talent that really few rivals could match or equal. Well, Brain Damage is the only one not on Blu-ray. Synapse Films put out the DVD years ago, but I have a feeling they may come back and surprise us announcing this once they’ve finally finished up Suspiria (next year, CANNOT wait).
Gunga Din (1939)
A combination of a classic Cary Grant film and one from the golden year of cinema. Gunga Din may have some racial politics that don’t hold up in today’s climate, but its more laughable than harmful. This is also a fantastic adventure film. Gunga Din is not only an inspiration for Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (Watch your jaw hit the floor at the similarities), but that Spielberg/Lucas film made the 1939 film canon with the series. I guess it’d be an offshoot like Rogue One. Gunga Din: An Indiana Jones Story (Though, there’s no Indy). Hey Warner Bros, yeah…you again!
Half Baked (1998)
This should have been on the wishlist LOOOOOONG ago. Its unbelievable that this movie has not made it to Blu-ray yet. Its a bonafide comedy classic. Dave Chappelle crushes it in this movie. This is one of the best and most quoted comedies of the 90s. Somehow this has slipped by the Blu-ray format. Half Baked should be a staple of $5-$10 bins at stores. Let me talk to Sampson! Or better yet, Universal!
Hard Eight (1996)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature film. This is the only missing spot from his repertoire with the release of Punch Drunk Love this week (Pick it up, it looks and sound amazing on Blu-ray). There are great performances all around, but particularly this very small, cameo appearance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In just seconds, minutes, this guy manages to steal this whole movie. Not because he’s trying to upstage anyone, he’s just showing up that’s how damn good he is. As far as who could release it? The film was put on DVD by Columbia/Tri-Star, and they are owned by Sony. Sony just licensed out Punch Drunk Love to Criterion. Can we happily assume that Hard Eight might be in Criterion’s future? (PLEASE O PLEASE O PLEASE).
Meet The Feebles (1989)
Pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson seems to be of some sort of lost relic. The man was making some incredibly wacky, insane genre films that really were pushing limits and breaking new ground. Meet The Feebles is the drug junkie version of The Muppet Show. Maybe not now, as we’ve seen more jokes like this, but back when this came out and for a long time, this movie was record scratch showstopping crazy. You couldn’t believe what you were watching. It was madness. And I loved it. As far as home video rights are concerned, I’m not so sure where we’d go to figure that out.
Murder Party (2007)
Jeremy Saulnier is on the up and up with the recent successes of Green Room and Blue Ruin. But it all started here with Murder Party. Its a dark comedy and incredibly unique that manages to also incorporate a little bit of the spirit of Halloween, too. When I interviewed him a few years ago, I asked if there was a chance a Blu-ray of this movie was on the way, and he said that he’s been told there needs to be a sign of a demand. Magnolia put out the DVD and seemingly forgets a lot of their past catalog titles when it comes to Blu-ray. So, like Jeremy told me, we should start up #MurderPartyBlu-ray
Stage Fright (1950)
Its not a wishlist piece if there isn’t any mention of Alfred Hitchcock. Warner Archive made some real headway at the start of the year with The Wrong Man, I Confess ans Suspicion then stopped. They have 2 titles left in their library from the master of suspense; Stage Fright and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Many assumed those would be out by years’ end, but no. Maybe they’ll start the year with them. Stage Fright features Jane Wyman and is a fun, noir style thriller featuring the trademark suspense with a few key sequences.
Wonder Boys (2000)
2016 has claimed many familiar celebrity faces, including director Curtis Hanson. Hanson’s achievement that he’ll mostly be noted for is the masterpiece LA Confidential. What followed was Wonder Boys, which is a terrific film in its own right that time has sadly seemed to have overlooked. Paired with LA Confidential, it makes for a crazy awesome 1-2 punch of completely different films from the same guy. Michael Douglas is Oscar-worthy great in this movie and it has a game cast. I had let this movie come and go and didn’t see it until 2005 when my friend Scott Mendelson recommend I remedy that.
And thus, here’s the end of another wishlist. What are some films that you are still waiting after 10 years of Blu-ray, to check off your list? I’ve certainly more than this myself, but I’m interested in what maybe you’re missing out on. What are some releases you are looking forward to in 2017? The Suspiria 4K remaster from Synapse Films is a CAN’T MISS for me as we’ve been waiting some 4 odd years for it. It’ll be worth it, trust me.