In spite of the ever-increasing decline of video stores everywhere and the (supposedly) slow death of physical media, 2016 turned out to be a banner year for home video with some of the most incredible Blu-ray releases yet from the likes of Arrow Video, Grindhouse Releasing, Severin, Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome, Code Red, Mondo Macabro, and several other labels. Outside of Arrow Video’s truly extraordinary – and very limited - Herschell Gordon Lewis box set entitled SHOCK AND GORE, there is no particular order to any of the below titles. All of these releases below come highly recommended and are well worthy of your hard-earned cash.
SHOCK AND GORE – THE FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS (Arrow Video) – Quite simply, this remains one of the most impressive box sets ever produced! 17 discs, 14 films and a ridiculous number of extras, including commentaries, a ton of interviews, postcards, the original BLOOD FEAST novelization, a 7” record featuring tracks from BLOOD FEAST, plus Stephen Thrower’s 92-page book, which is an amazing companion piece to Daniel Krogh and John McCarty’s long out-of-print book, The AMAZING HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS. Mind-boggling in both sheer size and the breadth of material contained within!
DR. BUTCHER M.D. (Severin) – Previously available on both DVD and Blu-ray from a number of boutique labels in its original ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST version, Severin’s 2-disc set surpasses them all with a top-notch transfer, a ton of extras, plus – bonus! – the inclusion of Aquarius Releasing’s alternate and long-unavailable DR. BUTCHER M.D. edit, too. Read review
AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOLUME 1 (Arrow Video) – Another stunning and absolutely invaluable box set from the ever-prolific folks at Arrow Video, this set was curated by Stephen Thrower, author of the indispensable book NIGHTMARE USA. Celebrating the ‘Exploitation Independents’, the set includes Christopher Speeth’s MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973), Matt Cimber’s The WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976) and Robert Allen Schnitzer’s The PREMONITION (1975). Let’s hope Volume 2 is in the works!
I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (Grindhouse Releasing) – This was Grindhouse’s inaugural DVD release back in 2003, and their revisit is nothing short of spectacular. Not only do you get a new HD restoration, but deleted scenes, commentaries, as well as its original Cinemation co-feature I EAT YOUR SKIN (1964), plus David Durston’s BLUE SEXTET (1969) besides; and the “Horror Hypo” makes for a nice added touch!
PIECES (Grindhouse Releasing) – This incredible set features brand new 4K transfers of, not only the U.S. theatrical version of this beloved gore classic, but the alternate Spanish director’s cut as well, plus an almost obscene number of extras, including the feature-length documentary, 42nd STREET MEMORIES and the original soundtrack CD… and let’s not forget the bonus, collectible jigsaw puzzle, too!
COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE (Vinegar Syndrome) – Along with director Javier Aguirre, this moodily melancholic horror melodrama remains one of Paul Naschy’s more daring efforts, but has always suffered from poor presentations in previous releases. Thanks to VS’s stellar Blu-ray, this wonderful film is finally available in a definitive version that should long stand the test of time. Read review
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (Camera Obscura) – This remarkable poliziesco/giallo hybrid has always looked rather drab in previous releases, but thanks to the detail-obsessed folks at Camera Obscura, it finally receives a fresh, crisp new scan that puts all other versions to shame. The disc also includes a number of eye-openingly revealing extras, including an hour-long interview with composer Stelvio Cirpriani. Read review
NO, THE CASE IS HAPPILY RESOLVED (Camera Obscura) – Richly deserving of a far wider audience, this taut, rarely-seen thriller features terrific performances from both Enzo Cerusico and Riccardo Cucciolla. This is a great film worthy of reappraisal, especially so via Camera Obscura’s handsome Blu-ray. Read review
SYMPTOMS (Mondo Macabro) – Long thought to be lost, José Ramón Larraz’s “psychological horror” film was a great discovery and one of MM’s finest releases especially in their “Red Case” edition, which not only included detailed liner notes courtesy of Samm Deighan but a second disc featuring, “Larraz on Larraz”, a career-spanning interview.
PIGS (Vinegar Syndrome) – Long-available in notoriously shoddy versions, VS’s disc is a real sight for sore eyes, which featured a new 2K scan of the Interpositive and “select shots sourced from 35mm prints.” Of course, numerous extras only add further value to this already exceptional disc.
The EXORCIST III (Scream Factory) – This notoriously highly-troubled and oft-maligned production gets the 2-disc deluxe treatment, which also includes William Peter Blatty’s original director’s cut. Even though much of the alternate footage is sourced from inferior sources, it’s still an immersive experience. Plus, the wealth of extras shed even more light on this highly-underrated and haunting film.
The KILLING OF AMERICA (Severin) – As incendiary as ever, director Sheldon Renan and writer Leonard Schrader’s look at violence in the U.S. hasn’t lost any of its power over the 35 years since its original release. Not only does Severin’s edition include a number of amazing extras, among them an audio commentary with Renan, but they’ve also included the longer Japanese version, entitled VIOLENCE U.S.A.
THAT’S SEXPLOITATION (Severin) – Frank Henenlotter’s essential, exhaustive documentary on American sexploitation films is every bit as entertaining as it is informative and, like many of Something Weird Video’s early releases, it’s also loaded with a number of special features, including a wonderful audio commentary with director Henenlotter and the late Mike Vraney’s widow, current SWV head honcho Lisa Petrucci. Read review
BLUE SUNSHINE (FilmCentrix) – This stunning new 4K restoration of Jeff Lieberman’s trippy horror film comes complete with a staggering number of extras and some truly beautiful packaging that gets most cult film fans salivating for more from this exciting new label!
BODY DOUBLE (Indicator) – A new 4K restoration of Brian De Palma’s incredibly entertaining film that is truly eye-popping, and the extras are second-to-none, including a beautifully illustrated – and thick – booklet of liner notes. This just keeps on getting better and better with each new viewing! Keep your eyes peeled for future Indicator releases.
The THING (Scream Factory) – Finally, a definitive edition of this much-beloved classic, which includes a new 2K scan of the Interpositive and ALL of the extras from previous editions, as well as a whole wealth of all-new stuff on top of it. Timeless, and thoroughly worth the double or even triple-dip!
DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (Scorpion Releasing) – Despite grumblings online about some of the censored profanity, this long-awaited Blu-ray was certainly worth the wait! Scorpion’s new HD scan of the original camera negative is a real sight to behold, which also features an additional 9 minutes of footage! The copious number of extras both new and old and cool reversible cover art only sweeten the package. Ignore the complaints and pick this up!
MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (Subkultur) – Superb, top-notch release from Germany’s Subkultur Entertainment of this Italian gothic from director Giorgio Ferroni. Subkultur have decked-out their release with three (!) separate versions of the film, as well as an audio commentary and numerous other extras. Stunning!
NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES (Mondo Macabro) – Whenever MM decides to tackle a Jess Franco title, you know they’re going to give it their customary red carpet treatment, and this their latest release is definitely no exception. The HD transfer, proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and newly-translated English subtitles add extra wonders to Franco’s hallucinatory sexy noir.
TRAILER TRAUMA 2: DRIVE-IN MONSTERAMA (Garagehouse Pictures) – An incredibly entertaining and utterly mammoth 3½-hour trailer compilation – including a vast array of heretofore unreleased trailers – that truly boggles the mind. ’Nuff said! Read review
HIGHLY HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
The ALIEN FACTOR (Retromedia), ALL NIGHT AT THE BIZARRE ART THEATRE (Vinegar Syndrome), The AMERICAN FRIEND (Criterion Collection), BLOOD BATH (Arrow Video), BURIAL GROUND (Severin), DEAD RINGERS (Scream Factory), DEADLY HERO (Code Red), DOLEMITE (Vinegar Syndrome), The HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (Olive Films), The HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (Scream Factory), IN A LONELY PLACE (Criterion Collection), KILLER DAMES: TWO GOTHIC CHILLERS BY EMILIO P. MIRAGLIA (Arrow Video), LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY (Olive Films), LONE WOLF AND CUB (Criterion Collection), MANHATTAN BABY (Blue Underground), MOBY DICK (Twilight Time), The MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (Olive Films), The MUTILATOR (Arrow Video), The NEW WORLD (Criterion Collection), ONE-EYED JACKS (Criterion Collection), PHENOMENA (Synapse Films), RAISING CAIN (Scream Factory), The SATANIST (Garagehouse Pictures), The SEVEN-UPS (Signal One Entertainment / Region B), TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME, JUNIE MOON (Olive Films), TENEBRAE (Synapse Films), TRUCK STOP WOMEN (Code Red), The UNDERTAKER (Vinegar Syndrome), WAXWORK / WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME (Lionsgate), WOLF LAKE (KL Studio Classics).