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The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017
The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Deathdream, Blue Underground

Bob Clark’s Deathdream goes in the opposite direction of peddling cool, showing how a pair of designer shades can only momentarily shield the irreparable physical and psychological scars of war. The film likens the warmongering mindset of American life to pestilence, one that returns in cycles to decimate each new generation of idealistic young men. Blue Underground has produced what’s likely the ultimate Blu-ray edition of this cult classic, with a 2K restoration and enough extras to satisfy even the film’s most diehard proponents. The 2K scan gives the film more image detail than ever before on home video, with every color and object within the Brooks’s household sharp and wholly visible. The DTS-HD monaural soundtrack won’t shake your speakers, but it successfully balances dialogue and score without any audible defects or drops in volume. With two commentaries and a host of other supplements, this will likely remain the definitive release of Deathdream for the foreseeable future. Dillard

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology, Flicker Alley

In 2015, Flicker Alley released Masterworks of American Avant-Garde Experimental Film, 1920-1970, a 36-film set sampling 50 years of films that have, by and large, been difficult or even impossible to see outside of a museum screening. Itself a masterwork of film preservation and restoration, the set’s success (it was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign) paved the way for Flicker Alley’s latest gift to film history, Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology. There are 24 films from some of cinema’s greatest women filmmakers, including Alice Guy Blaché, Germaine Dulac, Lois Weber, and Lotte Reiniger. The earliest film stretches back to Blaché’s 1902 short Les Chiens Savants and reaches up to Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, from 1943. Many of these films, which have been beautifully restored, are making their debuts on North American home video. Expertly packaged, and containing an insightful commentary by scholar Shelley Stamp and an essay by film historian Kate Saccone, the six-disc set includes all films on both Blu-ray and DVD, and should be a staple of every cinephile’s home-video collection. Dillard

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Fritz Lang: The Silent Films, Kino Lorber

Among the greatest of all filmmakers, Fritz Lang helped to pioneer genres, narrative tropes, and formal devices that are now taken for granted as basic mechanisms of cinema. Lang’s silent films are a significant portion of a medium’s bedrock, then, which Kino has collected into an elaborately beautiful box set, reminding audiences of the filmmaker’s visionary sense of storytelling and grasp of social neuroses. Destiny features sophisticated flashbacks, and surreal imagery that would profoundly influence directors such as Ingmar Bergman and Luis Buñuel. Metropolis invented the modern sci-fi film, and Dr. Mabuse the Gambler has an epic scope and a politically textured narrative that anticipated the contemporary crime film decades before its emergence. Image quality is variable in these restorations—particularly in presenting Lang’s experimental use of colored templates—but even the worst portions are vibrant, with sturdy foreground detail and sense of depth. The soundtracks are pristine, and have in many cases been re-recorded, with notes providing context as to each film’s restoration, including documentation of the locations where resources were discovered. A book with essays, timelines, and liner descriptions provides further historical portraiture, which is complemented by making-of documentaries and audio commentaries. An exhilarating and invaluable collection. Bowen

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Funeral Parade of Roses, Cinelicious

One of the cornerstones of Japan’s avant-garde Art Theatre Guild, Funeral Parade of Roses combines ornately blocked and lit melodrama, cinema-verité style documentary footage, and experimental interludes. Cinelicious’s 4K restoration impresses with its ability to handle the film’s wild leaps in cinematographic contrast without sacrificing the image’s finest details, from the smallest of hairs on a person’s arm to all the refractions of light on sequin gowns. It’s enough reward to finally have the film on home video, but Cinelicious goes one further by including a host of Toshio Matsumoto’s experimental short films, which provide a fascinating timeline of the evolution of his aesthetic talent and intellectual curiosity. Jake Cole

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn, Arrow Video

Arrow’s box set stands as a fitting memorial to George Romero, who passed away in July, as well as a testament to the diversity of his filmmaking interests. In the wake of Night of the Living Dead’s phenomenal success, Romero attempted to move away from straight horror by making a romantic comedy with serious social undertones (There’s Always Vanilla) and a suburban satire with surreal occult overtones (Season of the Witch), before finally returning to the genre fold with The Crazies, a brutal and relentlessly downbeat portrait of social collapse in a rural Pennsylvania town. All three titles receive new transfers, two of them (Season of the Witch and The Crazies) 4K scans from original camera negatives. Not surprisingly, those transfers represent impressive upgrades, while There’s Always Vanilla looks a bit sharper than previous incarnations but still suffers from color fading and generalized print damage (as discussed in the insert booklet). Each title (on both Blu-ray and DVD) is housed in its own case adorned with reversible artwork. All three films come with information-laden commentary tracks from Travis Crawford, as well as location galleries with optional commentary from Romero scholar Lawrence DeVincentz. There are archival pieces carried over from earlier releases on Romero’s “lost” films and Season of the Witch’s Jan White. Arrow supplies some terrific new bonus materials, including a making-of featurette on There’s Always Vanilla, almost an hour’s worth of interviews with cult actress Lynn Lowry, and a few other nuggets. Arguably the best single supplement on the set is a conversation between Romero and Guillermo del Toro from 2016 that covers a lot of ground in just under an hour. Wilkins