Arrow Video

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016
The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


American Horror Project: Vol. 1, Arrow Video

Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. 1 is likely to be among the most unheralded cinematic rescue efforts of 2016; pity, since it’s one of the most important. The set contains three independent American horror films (Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood, The Witch Who Came from the Sea, and The Premonition) and Arrow has gone to extensive restoration lengths to locate the “original film materials” in order to conduct each 2K transfer. Every phase of these films’ preservation has been overseen by the Arrow crew—a fact that makes this set all the more commendable and amazing. Each film receives enough supplements to be worth of an entire box set unto itself and the set contains a 58-page booklet with four essays, one on each individual film and one about the collection as a whole. American Horror Project Vol. 1 is certainly a triumph of film-preservation efforts, but it’s also the label’s symbolic demand to unlock the auteurist prescriptions of many prestige, home-disc releases. Dillard

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


The New World, The Criterion Collection

Released once before on Blu-ray, the extended cut of Terrence Malick’s The New World nonetheless looks significantly improved thanks to Criterion’s 4K restoration. Infamously shot around the whims of its maker’s minutely obsessed eye, the film derives much of its power from nearly imperceptible fluctuations of light and color, and never before has a home-video release so thoroughly captured the way that sunlight reflects off of John Smith’s (Colin Farrell) boiled leather jacket, or how multivalent the greens of swamp reeds and coniferous trees can be. Sound is also resplendent, plotting the film’s rich soundtrack of geographically and temporally appropriate birdsong in an enveloping field. The inclusion of each cut of The New World, along with a stunning 4K restoration of the preferred extended cut and copious extras, marks this as the definitive home-video release of Malick’s greatest film. Cole

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


Films of Maurice Pialat Vol. 1, Cohen Media Group

Maurice Pialat remains one of the most unsung French auteurs from the latter half of the 20th century, perhaps because his films have remained largely unavailable on North American home disc for decades. Cohen Media helped to change that in 2016 with a superb set of transfers for three Pialat films made in the late ’70s, including Loulou, starring Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu, who Andrew Sarris called “the sexiest couple in the history of cinema.” The set also contains more than a handful of interviews with cast and crew, including Huppert, and the 2007 feature-length documentary “Maurice Pialat: Love Exists.” Cohen Media also released Pialat’s Under the Sun of Satan as a standalone disc, though unfortunately it runs the same price as this collection. Nevertheless, any release of Pialat’s work will help to fortify his place alongside the titans of European cinema. Dillard

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


Female Prisoner Scorpion: Complete Collection, Arrow Video

Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection, Arrow’s thoroughly awesome Blu-ray set, is one of the year’s most exciting releases. Following Matsu (Meiko Kaji), a women hell bent on revenge, across four films, the series boasts strange narrative turns and wonky camera angles, making it an enduring and still unusual bit of pulp that’s been especially influential on the films of Quentin Tarantino. Arrow’s efforts are most evident in Jailhouse 41, where a wild color palette of blue-heavy neon consistently informs the frame, whether across faces or in the entire mise-en-scène. Color rarely looks faded or dimmed, with pools of black often providing a contrast to the brighter shades. The package practically bursts at the seams with extras, with appreciations from critics and filmmakers, insights from historians, and even pair of video essays by Tom Mes, who thoroughly examines each film in the series along narrative and visual lines, while also looking at the entire career of Kaji in relation to Pinky Violence films and beyond. Dillard

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


Pioneers of African-American Cinema, Kino Lorber

Kickstarter hasn’t only helped independent filmmakers get their projects off the ground; it’s also made previously impossible restoration efforts a distinct possibility. No home-disc offering from 2016 has spoken more favorably to these possibilities than Pioneers of African-American Cinema, Kino Lorber’s five-disc Blu-ray collection that boasts 19 films spanning 1915 to 1946, and includes canonical works from Oscar Micheaux in addition to hidden gems like 1926’s Ten Nights in a Bar Room. Kino raised $53,717 to help fund the set, which includes an 80-page booklet and musical scores for the films by DJ Spooky and Max Roach, among others. The term “essential” is often haphazardly tossed around when discussing restoration efforts, but this collection could be the textbook definition of the term. The films also look superb for their age. Let’s just hope Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, Kino’s next restoration baby, which has already raised $49,857, receives the same sort of care and comprehension. Dillard