This Halloween week is inundated with monsters, ghouls, and beasties on Blu-ray, plus sparkling new 4k makeovers for a couple of genuine classics. October closes, however, without a single recent theatrical release of note – at least none I recognize.
I have dutifully upgraded The Wizard of Oz through every video format from Laserdisc to DVD to Blu-ray, and even 3D, every time Warner Bros. trots out a new edition. One can’t help but wonder if there’s really any water left in that well. Nevertheless, David says in his review that the new 4k HDR remaster is the most lovely the film has ever looked, and I trust him implicitly. I guess I’m buying it again. The Best Buy SteelBook has much nicer cover art than the regular keepcase.
Not to be outdone on the classic movie front, Paramount gives Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life a 4k spit-shine and polish.
Perhaps less esteemed in its reputation than those two, Walter Hill’s 1988 buddy-cop action flick Red Heat is not generally regarded as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stronger efforts. Lionsgate hopes that the allure of a new format will spur some sales anyway.
When Aquaman hit home video earlier this year, the SteelBook available at that time had a pretty lame comic book art design. Those who passed that over now get another chance with a better-looking SteelBook at Best Buy. (Note that the artwork was previously featured on SteelBooks overseas, but didn’t swim to American shores until now.)
Kaiju and Devils and Blobs… Oh My!
A whole bunch of horror (or horror-adjacent) movies hit disc in time for Halloween. Many of them I know little to nothing about, but I’ll mention the ones that stand out to me.
The Criterion Collection released the original 1954 Godzilla (a.k.a. Gojira) on Blu-ray back in 2012 and has spent years negotiating with rights-holder Toho to license more of the series. That effort finally paid off with a massive box set called Godzilla: The Showa Era Films, 1954-1975, which contains no fewer than 15 monster smackdowns featuring the giant irradiated lizard. If the hefty MSRP gives you sticker shock, remember that the next Barnes & Noble Criterion sale is just around the corner.
John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London has gone through a few cycles on Blu-ray already. The rights now pass to Arrow Video, which gussies it up in a deluxe Limited Edition that sports a new 4k master and comes with art cards and a book. Expect a streamlined Special Edition sometime next year.
Arrow also answers the call for Hideo Nakata’s 1998 J-horror classic Ringu (which is actually called Ring in Japan; adding a “u” at the end is an English-language orientalization of the title). The film is available either on its own or as part of a Ringu Collection with the sequels Ringu 2, Ringu 0, and quasi-sequel Spiral. The franchise has had a few other spinoffs since then that are unfortunately not included.
Arrow Academy’s Man of a Thousand Faces may not actually be a horror movie, but James Cagney plays horror icon Lon Chaney in the 1957 bio-pic.
The Twilight Time edition of the 1988 remake of The Blob has been out of print for a few years, but Scream Factory brings the movie back into circulation with a new Collector’s Edition. The label also adds to its growing Hammer Horror collection with 1968’s The Devil Rides Out.
Blue Underground takes a gander at Two Evil Eyes, the 1990 horror diptych directed by George Romero and Dario Argento.
Mill Creek has picked up distribution for the 2011 remake-quel of The Thing.
I wasn’t even aware that the Amityville Horror franchise had any non-Amityville spinoffs in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but Vinegar Syndrome remembered and has spruced up four of them for Amityville: The Cursed Collection.
Other Catalog Titles
If the Godzilla set doesn’t do anything for you, Criterion’s other offering this week is much smaller in scale. John Sayles’ 1987 historical drama Matewan marked the screen debut for Chris Cooper and was nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar.
The Warner Archive gets a little blotto with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in Blake Edward’s searing 1962 alcoholism drama Days of Wine and Roses.
On a very different track, Warner Archive presents Jackie Chan’s first English-language production, the goofy 1997 action flick Mr. Nice Guy, in two versions – both the “Extended Original Cut” and the hacked-up New Line Cinema cut. I’m not clear on whether the extended version is the Hong Kong theatrical release or the even longer Japanese cut. [Update: Warner Archive confirms that the disc contains the extra-long Japanese cut with the original English audio. Only the extended cut has been restored in 4k; the New Line cut comes from an older HD master.]
From the main Warner label come SteelBook reissues of the holiday staples Elf and Christmas Vacation. The latter appears to be identical to a SteelBook from a few years ago that I already own. Until a proper 4k remaster is announced, I would expect Elf to be the same crummy, DNR-ridden transfer that Warner has insisted on recycling for years.
Paramount’s new remaster of It’s a Wonderful Life also makes its way to standard Blu-ray.
Arrow Video repackages two former Limited Edition collections – the Spaghetti Western The Complete Sartana and the Japanese exploitation series Female Prisoner Scorpion – into standard Special Edition box sets.
Shout! Factory might inspire some impure thoughts with the 1983 sex comedy Private School, starring Phoebe Cates fresh off her eye-opening breakthrough role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Back in 1994, the middling animated fairy tale The Swan Princess got crushed by the release of Disney’s mega-blockbuster The Lion Ling. In a bit of perverse timing, Sony celebrates the film’s 25th anniversary just one week after the Lion King remake hit video.
Among the new discs from Kino are some minor works from Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola. The 1989 omnibus project New York Stories has segments by both directors (as well as one by Woody Allen). Early in his career, Coppola co-directed the naughty 1962 sexploitation comedy The Bellboy and the Playgirls, which can be found in The 3-D Nudie-Cuties Collection, freshly restored by the 3-D Film Archive. It’s safe to say that Scorsese’s 1997 religious drama Kundun is a lot more serious than that, but sadly also a lot less fun.
Ever-eclectic in the titles it licenses, Kino also brings out the 1993 Michael J. Fox comedy Life with Mikey.
With another remake impending, Mill Creek bundles the 1994 adaptation of Little Women (the one with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst) onto a double feature disc with Sofia Coppola’s 2006 Marie Antoinette (also starring Dunst). Both were previously issued as Sony Choice manufactured-on-demand titles. The last copy of Marie Antoinette was reviled for poor picture quality and I don’t expect that it’s been remastered. If you’re a fan of Little Women, you can find that one streaming in 4k right now, which severely curtails the appeal of this Blu-ray.
The debut seasons of the British supernatural thriller A Discovery of Witches and Cinemax’s martial arts drama Warrior make their way to disc for viewers who didn’t catch them on TV.
Warner Bros. follows up last year’s release of Batman: The Animated Series with the complete run of Batman Beyond. Once again, a Limited Edition with a Funko Pop! collectible is available first. Patient fans may choose to wait for a less expensive version in a regular box later.
The 4k edition of The Wizard of Oz, specifically the SteelBook copy, is my most wanted title of the week.
I’ve never been a huge Godzilla fan, but I’ll put that box set on my wish list, along with Matewan and Days of Wine and Roses.
I like An American Werewolf in London but don’t need all the swag in Arrow’s Limited Edition. I can wait for the eventual Special Edition.
I’ve only seen Kundun once and found it deadly boring, but should probably give it another shot sometime. That isn’t likely to be very soon, however.
Considering the lack of new movies from 2019, this is an unexpectedly busy week on Blu-ray. What is your heart’s desire this week?