Arrow Video

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


Blood and Black Lace, Arrow Video

Arrow Video’s extraordinary package perfectly complements the bounty of sensory delights offered by Mario Bava’s classic giallo thriller. Tim Lucas’s audio commentary allows modern viewers to imagine the newness that Blood and Black Lace represented for the thriller genre at the time of its release, though it was a financial disappointment that gained cultural cache retrospectively. And Bava’s astonishing use of color is honored by a gorgeous new 2K restoration of the original camera negative, which is one of the most beautiful transfers this critic has seen of a classic giallo. Colors are ripe and hallucinatory, most impressively and subtly the blacks, which are deep and well-differentiated. Flesh tones and textures are densely detailed, intensifying our impressions of the victims’ vulnerabilities. Image clarity is revelatory, though grit and grain are still present and balanced in a pleasing and print-honoring fashion. This is indispensable catnip for the horror-minded cinephile. Bowen

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


A Brighter Summer Day, The Criterion Collection

For years, Edward Yang’s magnum opus A Brighter Summer Day could only be seen on horribly sourced bootlegs. Even a home-video release directly sourced from the film’s negative, and without a single touch-up, would have been considered a major event, but Criterion’s 4K restoration is revelatory. Gone are the smudges and compression artifacts that pockmarked so many of the film’s VCD releases; in their place are warm, natural lighting schemes and a crisp palette of reds, ambers, and pale grays. Black levels are deep and textures sharp, so that even the long shots pop with clear detail well into the background. The mono track is a modest one but impressive in comparison to the muffled, crackling sounds that were abundant on the aforementioned bootlegs. Extras include a commentary track from Tony Rayns and copious interviews, but of greatest interest is a taped performance of one of Edward Yang’s plays, Likely Consequence. Given the paucity of Yang’s filmed output before his death from cancer in 2007, the chance to see some of his stage work offers an unexpected opportunity to explore a fuller range of his art. Cole

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


Out 1, Carlotta Films

Out 1, Jacques Rivette’s 13-hour opus, has been a cinephile’s holy grail for decades, making its abrupt release on home video the most significant Blu-ray in years. The film’s tactile 16mm photography has been buried in low-resolution VHS rips for ages, and to see it properly restored is thrilling. Both the color and monochrome sequences are crisp and as consistent as 16mm shot on location can be, and grain is healthy throughout. The mono soundtrack, previously buried so deeply under mountains of hiss as to be indecipherable, is clear and reveals a surprising level of dynamic design. For good measure, the set comes with Rivette’s four-hour recut of the series Spectre, as well as a feature-length documentary. Those with a region-free player may want to opt for Arrow Video’s release, which includes three of Rivette’s masterworks in addition to the series, but Carlotta’s edition is a vital presentation of one of cinema’s greatest endurance tests. Cole

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast, Arrow Video

It would be easy to simply write off the works of schlockmeister Herschell Gordon Lewis as exercises in the ironic so-bad-they’re-good aesthetics of camp. But that would be selling their cracked charms considerably short. Consumed in sufficient quantities, these films induce a state of cinematic delirium, with familiar faces and themes bleeding from one film to the next, as though they were only installments in one sprawling, mind-melting serial. Arrow’s gargantuan 17-disc set The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast is spread across two hardcover volumes housed in a massive red-and-green slipcase with a HGL cut-out mask embossed on the back. All 14 films feature a brief introduction from Lewis, and most of them sport a commentary track as well. There’s a heaping helping of featurettes, the odd short subject, hours of outtakes, and piles of promotional materials on every disc. The HGL Annual also tucked into the slipcase is loaded with film-specific games, promotional art, and technical specs for the entire set. Wilkins

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016


Dekalog, The Criterion Collection

Criterion’s 4K restoration of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s series maximizes texture and color, emphasizing aspects like the pale blue color timing of the first episode to the sickly yellows that suffuse scenes of the fifth. The enhanced detail also highlights the realism that grounds the filmmaker’s expressionism, rendering faces and stark backgrounds with tactile depth and clarity. Audio is just as strong, rendering Zbigniew Preisner’s previously compressed score in restored, lossless mono that presents the music in full force. Bolstered by the inclusion of restored copies of A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love as well as a slew of additional interviews with cast, crew, and film scholars, Dekalog is Criterion’s release of the year, restoring the Polish director’s magnum opus to all its visual glory. Cole