Another year-end Top Blu-ray list is upon us. Again, like last year’s Top Blu-ray list, I have removed the order of titles in terms of numbering system, with the exception of the #1 spot. We have a clear winner in that department and it is a doozy. All of the other titles are placed in no particular order. I should also clarify and say that if you don’t see a Blu-ray or Blu-ray set on this list it that you may think deserves to be on here – it may be because I have not watched it. I have a backlog of titles that I’ve yet to watch, so it’s nothing personal. Without further ado, I present my Top Blu-ray list of 2016!
I’ll preface this list by adding that it really was the year of the “genre” labels. Shout Factory, Scream Factory, Arrow Video, Olive Films, Criterion, etc., were the clear winners in the Blu-ray race of 2016.
Blood and Back Lace predates the “giallo” sub-genre of films by a few years. Arrow Video brought us the domestic release (Region A) version to U.S. shores in the summer of 2016. From the opening “staged” and stylish opening credits to the shocking conclusions I was mesmerized by the color palette and general storyline that involved models being stalked and systematically killed one at a time. Is the killer human? It could have gone either way, because the film is also infused with supernatural elements. The supplemental materials were also top notch. If the giallo sub-genre is your thing, then Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace is required viewing – see where it all started.
Bride of the Re-Animator
Me and the “Bride” go way back I remember renting the special edition laserdisc (I think it was a special edition) and nearly losing my lunch due to how graphic some of the special make-up fx work was. Sure, I can look back now and laugh, because I’m used to the bloodshed and gore in my films but back then I don’t think I had seen anything that gross since Burial Ground way back in the 80’s. Once again, Arrow Video presented us with a fully loaded 3-disc BD/DVD set featuring the UNRATED cut of the film and R-rated version in one deluxe package. The special features were filled to brim with new and old material. Bride of the Re-Animator has never looked or tasted as good! *hurls*
Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece was given a full Criterion Collection treatment (a deluxe box set was also release featuring his other Spanish language works) in commemoration with his “Bleak House” installation at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California. A new transfer was struck for its Blu-ray release along with brand new material specific to the Criterion Collection release. This is the definitive Blu-ray release, which also celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been 10 years! Criterion pulled out all the stops. If you think the standalone releases are cool, then you should take a gander at the box set.
What would a Top 10 list of anything be without the Master of Horror being on it? John Carpenter should actually be on here twice due to the The Thing also getting a new Shout Factory released Blu-ray but I have not gotten around to getting it, so I cannot comment or post on it until I actually watch it. Village of the Damned, however, is another story. One of the JC’s “lesser” works from the 1990’s has gotten a lovely remastered picture and soundtrack and they’ve included several enlightening and hysterical reviews from many of the child actors, now adults, and other familiars. JC and Sandy King-Carpenter also make appearances and talk about the filming and studio interference – this was a Universal release. I’d say that justice has been served on a Blu-ray platter.
I’m sure that you’re already sensing a pattern by now. Hey, that’s how it goes when genre labels kick it into high gear – they blow away their major label counterparts. Brian DePalma’s Carrie horror classic has been give the full treatment on Blu-ray. A new remastering of the video and audio was undertaken by the folks over at Shout/Scream Factory and new special features have been added along with older and classic ones being ported over from previously released editions. 40 years later and the film still manages to turn the genre on its head. This edition of Carrie is the best version out on the market today and it is a required purchase if you’re a horror hound like me.
Can it be? A mainstream release finally cracking my Top Blu-ray list of the year? Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. I was one of the few that thought the theatrical was just ok but that it had been clearly cut for the “non-nerds.” It was great to get word that WB would release an THREE-HOUR director’s cut of the film that would actually enhance and clarify story elements. Whether you thought that was relevant or not is not the point. The point is that we got an amazing special edition featuring the theatrical and Rated R version of the film, with reference video and sound and lots of special features for a low price. The R version of the film literally made it a better film but the overall quality of the Blu-ray package is what sealed the deal for me.
I’m going to be honest and admit to never having seen The Coen Brothers feature film debut prior to blind-buying this Criterion Collection Blu-ray. Boy, was I in for a treat. This neo-noir thriller (before there was such a thing as neo-noir) was fantastic in every way. The film, shot in, the mid-80’s was terrific. It had their signature quirks, with spurts of ultra-violence and even quicker wit. The film was given the full Criterion treatment and it looked and sounded phenomenal. The special features were also up to snuff, as we got brand new interviews by The Coen’s and company. If you’re getting into The Coen Brothers’ films – you gotta go back to the well and start it off right with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray release.
Olive Signature threw their hat in with several premium releases in 2016. High Noon was the first release under their new premium banner. The film was given a 4k remaster and it looked incredible. This story about an honorable law man waiting on impending doom in a small town starred Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, and featured Lee Van Cleef in his feature film debut. Olive Films doesn’t necessarily have that much of a glowing reputation when it comes to their usual slate of releases due to the sparse special features and basic video/audio presentations. Under this new umbrella – they pulled out all the stops and made the classic shine through for future generations to come. High Noon is reference material all the way.
The Exorcist III was finally given the full scale special edition treatment it deserved. Along with the theatrical cut we were finally given an alternate cut of the film known as the Legion cut. It was William Peter Blatty’s original version of the film before producers asked for a bit more rock ‘n roll. The fact that we have gotten this alternate cut has satiated curiosity somewhat. For years – fans thought that all footage of the original cut had been lost only to have been tracked down by Scream Factory. Not all footage was recovered but do have an inkling of what William Peter Blatty wanted to do all those years ago. Whether you prefer the theatrical cut or this “new” Legion cut is up to you – props has got to go to Scream Factory for taking on such a complicated project.
Alright, we’re taking it back to the nitty-gritty streets of Los Angeles circa 1985, with William Friedkin’s classic: To Live and Die in L.A. I was already a devoted fan of the film but Shout Select (a new imprint from Shout/Scream Factory) and Arrow Video collaborated on TWO Blu-ray releases of the film. A new 4k remastered edition was struck from existing elements and brand new special features were created for this home video release. Older and previously released featurettes and audio commentaries were also ported over to the new editions. The film has never looked or sounded as great as this. I’ve probably watched the film 4-5 times since it was recently released on Blu-ray. To Live and Die in L.A. is my favorite Blu-ray release of the year.
This brings us to the end of my Top Blu-ray list of 2016. Please stick around for my upcoming Top Films of 2016, which should be published that first week of January.