Here’s my top 5 for the year thus far, only including DVDs I own:
1. Eclipse Series: Late Ozu and Early Samuel Fuller. Fine transfers of some great, previously unavailable films at a reasonable price. Early Spring, Tokyo Twilight and The Steel Helmet are as good as any new movie I’ve seen this year.
2. Dragon Dynasty: The Weinstein Company finally does something good for Asian Cinema, putting out outstanding versions of Hong Kong classics at pretty cheap prices: The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, Five Fingers Of Death, One-Armed Swordsman, Police Story 1 & 2, Last Hurrah For Chivalry, The Protector and Hard-Boiled. The RZA’s commentary on 36th Chamber isn’t the most awesome thing in the history of the world, but it’s pretty good. The Police Story discs are plagued by Brett Ratner commentaries, but they aren’t as bad as you’d think.
3. Criterion: The best DVD company in the world continues to put out great products. This year, I’ve got: Yojimbo/Sanjuro, The Third Man, La Jetee/Sans Soleil, Stranger Than Paradise/Night On Earth, Days Of Heaven, and Breathless. Days Of Heaven’s probably the best of them, the Jarmusches next. Two-Lane Blacktop doesn’t arrive until next week.
4. Masters Of Cinema: Britain’s counterpart to Criterion puts out editions that are even more deluxe, though they’re more obscure and, unfortunately, there aren’t as many of them. This year, I’ve got a pair of FW Murnau classics, Nosferatu and Tabu. They’ve also started releasing Kenji Mizoguchi DVDs, with their version of Sansho The Bailiff (paired with the previously unavailable Sisters Of Gion) tempting me to double dip.
5. The Stanley Kubrick Collection: Long-rumored and finally released. I’d been waiting over two years to buy any Kubrick DVDs in anticipation of this. With 2001, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut (uncensored!) the only complaint is that it isn’t big enough to include Barry Lyndon, Paths Of Glory, The Killing, Killer’s Kiss and Spartacus.
Honorable Mention: Rio Bravo and Funny Face, the best regularly priced DVDs of the year, great films, great transfers.
Three things I think would be great, but I don’t have them yet: Jean-Luc Godard’s 4-disc Histoire(s) du cinéma, which I have every reason to believe is one of the most important and best things he ever did. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, whose cost is prohibitive for a 15 hour, 7-disc TV series I’ve never seen. Finally, the mammoth 21 disc Ford At Fox boxset, perhaps the best DVD box ever.