The 25 Best Home Video Releases of 2020

Our list just might bring to attention a few choice titles that had previously fallen through the cracks.

The 25 Best Home Video Releases of 2020
Photo: The Criterion Collection

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic putting the kibosh on most communal activities this year, the steady pulse of home-video releases, each and every Tuesday, felt more comforting than ever—a means of measuring out days and weeks that otherwise seemed to unnervingly bleed into one another. As in previous years, a plethora of titles hit the home entertainment market, running the gamut from arthouse classics to the most obscure cult films, all waiting to be picked up by the eager collector.

This has been the year of the big box set—and not just when it comes to the number of films collected therein. Both Criterion’s Essential Fellini and Arrow’s Gamera: The Complete Collection are stunning in their scope. Even the more modest sets went all out in terms of packaging by including foldout posters, CD soundtracks, art cards, and thick books (hard- and softcover editions) full of lovely illustrations, as well as packed with captivating analysis, such as ABKCO’s phenomenal The Alejandro Jodorowsky 4K Restoration Collection and Arrow’s stellar 4K UHD presentation of Mike Hodges’s cult favorite Flash Gordon.

And then there are the lowest of low-profile films from unknown or underacknowledged filmmakers that finally bowed on Blu-ray, from Juraj Herz’s blackly comedic The Cremator to Joseph L. Anderson’s ethereal and criminally unseen Spring Night, Summer Night. Some of them haven’t seen the light of day since the VHS era, such as the wonderfully fractious Town Bloody Hall and Lindsay Anderson’s pitch-black satire Britannia Hospital. But now they’re here, all souped up with bonus materials, and looking far better than they have since they first screened for the public. Our list of the best home-video releases of 2020 just might bring to attention a few choice titles that had previously fallen through the cracks. Budd Wilkins

Alejandro Jodorowsky 4K Restoration Collection

Alejandro Jodorowsky 4K Restoration Collection (ABKCO)

Diving headfirst into ABKCO’s gorgeously assembled box set is bound to be a mind-altering experience for Jodorowsky fans and novices alike. Fando y Lis, El Topo, and The Holy Mountain are presented in new 4K restorations, and each looks pretty spectacular, marking a significant improvement not only over Anchor Bay’s 2007 DVD editions, but also over the individual Blu-ray releases of El Topo and The Holy Mountain from 2011. Each of the films comes in its own jewel case, all housed in a slipcase box, alongside a foldout two-sided poster, and a lavishly illustrated 78-page book replete with cast and crew information, essays on each film, a 1973 interview with Jodorowsky, and other ephemera. The El Topo and The Holy Mountain cases each contain a soundtrack CD. On their respective discs, the first three films come with an introduction from film scholar Richard Peña, a 2019 interview with Jodorowsky reminiscing about the film, and an archival commentary track from Jodorowsky. Taken together, these bonus materials constitute a master class in Jodorowsky’s early work, full of information about every aspect of the films from creation to reception, with particular emphasis on the occult and spiritual symbolism that runs rife throughout. Wilkins

Beau Travail

Beau Travail (The Criterion Collection)

Unavailable on home video for years, Claire Denis’s stunning, oblique portrait of erotic angst received a definitive transfer that demonstrates the full range of its poetic beauty. Bright desert backgrounds that were once washed out and hazy now pop with amazing color separation, while flesh tones are significantly more natural. The film’s full sensuality can now be appreciated in the visible beads of sweat trickling down soldiers’ faces and arms, and the colorful beauty of Djibouti stands out even more, further emphasizing the elegance of both its cities and its harsh rural terrain. While the disc’s supplemental materials are slim, they’re all noteworthy. Recorded just after the first protests over George Floyd’s death, a discussion between Denis and director Barry Jenkins foregrounds the film’s political content and the loaded racial subtext of its postcolonial context. Interviews with actors Denis Lavant and Grégoire Colin abound in anecdotes about their time in Djibouti and surrendering to a shooting process that sounds every bit as intuitive and unspoken as the completed film. But the highlight of the extras may be cinematographer Agnès Godard selected-scene commentary, in which she breaks down several moments from Beau Travail with details about the challenges of the location shooting, including notes about which films stocks and lenses she used in order to be able to shoot in harsh light while also accurately capturing both white and black flesh tones. Jake Cole


The Bolshevik Trilogy: Three Films by Vsevolod Pudovkin

The Bolshevik Trilogy: Three Films by Vsevolod Pudovkin (Flicker Alley)

Consider Flicker Alley’s Blu-ray release of Vsevolod Pudovkin’s “Bolshevik Trilogy” your essential introduction to an overlooked master of early Russian cinema. While Sergei Eistenstein’s montage theory shaped Russian cinema in the 1920s, other filmmakers—such as Dziga Vertov, Lev Kuleshov, and Pudovkin—had their own ideas about how editing could be deployed to maximum effect. Central to Pudovkin’s approach to cinema is his belief that “editing controls the psychological guidance of the spectator”—a quote that gets at the heart of his opposition to Eisenstein’s tendency to focus on the unified masses over individuals and create meaning through a dialectical collision of disparate images. This two-disc set is brimming with informative and engaging extras that help to contextualize Mother, The End of St. Petersburg, and Storm Over Asia within the period of Russian history and cinema in which they were made. The two beefiest features are the audio commentaries on Mother and Storm Over Asia. The first, by Russian film historian and curator Peter Bagrov, touches on Pudovkin’s approach to articulating the empathy and humanism of Maxim Gorky’s novel. Bagrov’s discussion of Pudovkin’s aesthetic, and the ways he uses distance, camera angles, and lighting to convey his characters’ psychological complexity, is particularly effective. Most surprising is Bagrov’s argument that American continuity editing, especially that of Griffith, helped to shape Pudovkin’s aesthetic. Derek Smith

Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits

Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits (The Criterion Collection)

The five films spotlighted in the Criterion Collection’s Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits cumulatively offer a pseudo-autobiographical narrative that parallels the general beats of Lee’s life, from his rising status as a film star to his death at 32 as he was on the cusp of becoming an icon. The films abound in patterns, especially structural bifurcations, that reflect how Lee had to prove himself first to the Hong Kong film industry and later to Hollywood. Adaptation is the theme of his films and the guiding philosophy of his own school of martial arts. Depending on the film, a variety of monaural and alternate soundtracks are available across the set’s discs, including English dubbings, and they boast remarkably dimensional soundscapes, rendering the action scenes more kinetic and cathartic than ever before. And the extras constitute a head-spinning bonanza of information that could take a cinephile a month to fully unpack. In addition to three more films (the 103-minute special edition of Enter the Dragon; Game of Death II, an even more desperate and ghoulish enterprise than its predecessor; and a newly remixed 34-minute version of the original Game of Death), there are illuminating new interviews and featurettes that articulate Lee’s philosophies at length. For a quick one-stop shop, the 10-minute interviews with Lee biographer Matthew Polly included on each film serves as a wonderful primer on the social contexts that inspired each respective production. Chuck Bowen

The Cameraman

The Cameraman (The Criterion Collection)

Given the current status of the rights to Buster Keaton’s features, this release is likely Criterion’s only shot at the silent master’s oeuvre for the foreseeable future, and they have truly pulled out all the stops. Each of the extra features included here is both substantial and unique in its approach to Keaton’s art and career. First and foremost among these is a 2004 audio commentary with Glenn Mitchell, author of A–Z of Silent Film Comedy: An Illustrated Companion, who nicely balances discussion of The Cameraman’s self-reflexive elements, Keaton’s struggles during his time at MGM, and how the film quickly became the template for many of the studio’s future comedies. This release also comes with Edward Sedgwick and Keaton’s Spite Marriage from 1929 and an accompanying commentary track, in which historians John Bengtson and Jeffrey Vance discuss Keaton’s follow up to The Cameraman. Of the four non-commentary features, the new short documentary Time Travellers is the most singular and invaluable. Here, film historians Marc Wanamaker and John Bengston tour Los Angeles to visit numerous locations where The Cameraman was shot, but more interestingly delve into the various investigative tactics that were used to track down these somewhat obscure locations, including old photographs and maps and details in films as minute as reflections in windows and mirrors. Smith

The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

The Complete Films of Agnès Varda (The Criterion Collection)

Criterion’s 15-disc set The Complete Films of Agnès Varda is a boon to cinephiles. Dividing Varda’s entire filmography across 15 themed “programs,” the set begins with “Agnès Forever” (featuring her end-of-life retrospective Varda by Agnès, which premiered at the 2019 Berlinale just a month before her death at 91), before then commemorating her films made “Around Paris” (between 1958 and 1986), her two periods making films “In America” (featuring shorts and features made between 1968 and 1981), and the many faces, places, and visual ideas that fascinated the French filmmaking giant throughout her career. In addition to providing an illustrative framework for her cinema, this comprehensive collection provides a treasure trove of new, high-quality restorations and transfers of films that were previously difficult to see, especially in the United States. Perhaps the most breathtaking extra included in this mammoth set is the accompanying “booklet” that, at 198 pages, constitutes a full-size anthology on Varda’s work, with five essays on her work, extensive notes accompanying each program, and a selection of photographs from throughout Varda’s lifelong parallel career as a photographer and visual artist. Especially noteworthy are Amy Taubin’s introduction, an admiring tribute to the multifaceted Varda, and film scholar Ginette Vincendeau’s “A Woman’s Truth,” which contextualizes Varda’s feminism within the historical currents she lived in. Pat Brown


Essential Fellini

Essential Fellini (The Criterion Collection)

Essential Fellini is one of the most elegantly designed and supplement-packed sets that Criterion has ever released. The films come packaged in a gorgeously decorated case whose front lifts off like a deluxe LP box set. The 15 discs, including one devoted to the 193-minute cut of the documentary Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember, are housed in a flipbook that suggests a photo album. Beneath that, two books nestle in their own pigeonholes: a lavishly illustrated guide to the films, complete with lists of extras and information on the restorations, and a thick (and thickly illustrated) book of essays from filmmakers and film critics. Notable among the set’s wealth of extras are six commentary tracks, an appreciative documentary about Fellini’s wife and frequent collaborator, Giulietta Masina, and archival interviews with a number of actors who worked on more than one Fellini film, including Marcello Mastroianni, Sandra Milo, and Anouk Aimée. Damian Pettigrew’s feature-length documentary Fellini: I’m a Born Liar from 2002 is an excellent place to start, as it not only provides a career-spanning over of Fellini’s life and career but is also based on his last confessions and includes recollections from Donald Sutherland and Terence Stamp. Also of note is a four-part interview with Fellini from 1960 that’s spread across four discs, as well as four hour-long behind-the-scenes documentaries and a retrospective that features a number of late-life interviews with Fellini looking back over his career. Wilkins

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon (Arrow Video)

Flash Gordon is a textbook case of the cult film as perfect storm. Combine the efforts of first-rate director Mike Hodges, a game cast of international showbiz veterans, and a script from Lorenzo Semple Jr., the man behind the campy Batman television series, then add to the mix Danilo Donati’s jaw-dropping set and costume designs, and Gilbert Taylor’s sumptuous Technicolor cinematography, and the result is unabashed and unadulterated entertainment. Arrow’s new 4K UHD presentation of the film looks truly spectacular, revealing heretofore unseen nuances and color gradations. The Master Audio surround mix really puts across Queen’s thunderous rock operatic score. When it comes to extras, this is another ridiculously stacked package from the distributor. Inside the slipcase, there’s an 80-page illustrated book with essays from a handful of critics, a double-sided foldout poster with both original and newly commissioned artwork, and, tucked inside the discs’ keep case, six double-sided art cards. Both the 4K UHD disc and BD-50 disc contain an exhaustive array of archival and new extras. The disc with the film features three commentary tracks, a handful of featurettes (the best of the bunch concerns Nicolas Roeg’s early work on the film before he was replaced), and interviews with many of the cast and crew, including a solid, career-spanning conversation with Hodges. The second disc is dedicated to the 2018 feature-length documentary Life After Flash, largely an ultimately redemptive profile of Sam J. Jones’s tumultuous later years, interspersed with recent interviews with cast and crew members, and accompanied by lots of outtakes and extended interview segments. Wilkins

Gamera: The Complete Collection

Gamera: The Complete Collection (Arrow Video)

Arrow has unleashed an absolute monster of a box set devoted to the exploits of our favorite giant, flying, saber-toothed turtle. Inside the set is a 130-page hardback that reproduces the four-issue Gamera miniseries from Dark Horse Comics in 1996, as well as a new prequel comic from artist Matt Frank, who also designed the outer box artwork. There’s an 80-page softcover that contains a rundown of the entire Gamera series from Patrick Macias, X-ray illustrations of the various kaiju monsters, an interview with director Noriaki Yuasa, and BTS dispatches from the ’90s trilogy from Fangoria magazine. The eight individual discs come housed in a fully illustrated hardback with thick cardboard pages, each of which holds two discs in half-moon slits, which can make removal a bit of a challenge at times. And tucked inside the front cover is a foldout of “Gamera’s Map of Japan,” and on the last page are art cards for each of the films with artwork by Matt Frank. The 12 films in the collection come with a staggering amount of bonus materials. There are introductions from Japanese cinema expert August Rangone for every title save Gamera the Brave. Rangone packs a lot of information into a compact run time, takes a suitably jocular tone, and often concludes with an amusing bit of ballyhoo. For a deeper dive into individual titles, there are commentary tracks for all 12 films by a variety of genre specialists, and alternate U.S. theatrical and TV edits are provided for several titles. Wilkins

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel (The Criterion Collection)

The supplements package on this edition of The Grand Budapest Hotel offers a detailed portrait of Wes Anderson’s filmmaking process. In the visual essay “Wes Anderson Takes the 4:3 Challenge,” film scholar David Bordwell offers the greatest description of Anderson’s aesthetic that I’ve encountered, which he defines as following the tradition of a kind “planimetric” style that has also been utilized by directors such as Jean-Luc Godard. Per Bordwell, Anderson’s images often involve backgrounds that run perpendicular to the camera, with the actors “strung across the frame like clothes on a line” while their faces or profiles are usually positioned so as to directly face the viewer. In the package’s second visual essay, critic Matt Zoller Seitz complements Bordwell’s piece with a beautiful discussion of the moral power of The Grand Budapest Hotel, examining how the despair of Anderson’s films gradually arise out of the jokes and intricately realized atmospheres. Elswhere, a new audio commentary with Anderson, actor Jeff Goldblum, special photography director Roman Coppola, and critic Kent Jones further elaborates on location scouting, a wide range of influences on the film, how Anderson likes to cultivate a family of collaborators, and, per Goldblum, the work of Philip Kaufman. Rounding out this set are trailers, featurettes ported over from the 2014 Fox Blu-ray, animatronic storyboards, and a booklet with an erudite essay by critic Richard Brody, originally written for The New Yorker, and goodies like a mini-poster and a newspaper mock-up that appears in the film. Bowen


House by the Cemetery

House by the Cemetery (Blue Underground)

Several generations of fanboys have heralded Lucio Fulci as “the Godfather of Gore” (pace Herschell Gordon Lewis), and there’s splatter aplenty on display in The House by the Cemetery, but it would be grossly reductive, not to mention flat-out wrong, to dismiss the film as mere gore-delivery system. Blue Underground’s 4K upgrade of their 2011 Blu-ray marks another quantum leap in presenting cinematographer Sergio Salvati’s stunningly atmospheric work. The bounteous extras, both old and new, are spread across two Blu-ray discs, with Blue Underground porting over all the bonus materials from their earlier release of the film. Most of the lead actors get their own brief interview featurette, either alone or in tandem, as do husband-and-wife co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, as well as Salvati and a handful of special effects artists. They’re all listenable and informative, especially the interview with Briganti and Sacchetti. And the deleted scene is an extension of the bat-killing sequence, presented without any audio, and it adds precious little to the festivities. For this limited edition, Blue Underground has also included four major new supplements, including a predictably lively, informative, and often colorfully opinionated commentary track by Troy Howarth. And the studio truly pimps out their packaging with a 3D lenticular slipcase, an illustrated booklet with essay by Michael Gingold on the film and its legacy, and a CD disc that contains the entire Walter Rizzati score. Wilkins

Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus

Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus (Kino Lorber)

Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus, the iconic singer-songwriter’s 1976 directorial debut, is a bittersweet ode to physical love, and this year it landed on U.S. home video for the first time with a spectacular 4K restoration and some excellent extras, courtesy of Kino Lorber. Editor and film critic Samm Deighan’s commentary track starts by diving deep into Gainsbourg’s multimedia career. Deighan quickly covers Jane Birkin’s early days as a fashion model and actress, as well as her relationship with Gainsbourg, and discusses Joe Dallesandro’s early involvement with Andy Warhol and the Factory as well as his subsequent career in Europe. But the real meat and potatoes of the track comes with her discussion of the film’s sexual politics and its innumerable connections with a series of sexually explicit art-house films that came out in the wake of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. In an on-camera interview, Dallesandro talks about working in Europe, his deep-seated affection for Gainsbourg and Birkin, and the film’s disappointing reception. A Q&A with Birkin and Dallesandro at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2016 covers some of the same ground, but it’s great to see the two stars together again with their palpable chemistry clearly undiminished. Wilkins

The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema

The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema (Kino Lorber)

Like their Pioneers of African Cinema and Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers box sets before it, Kino Lorber’s The Jewish Soul: Ten Classics of Yiddish Cinema shines a spotlight on a neglected corner of film history. The 10 films included here, all lovingly restored by Lobster Films, provide a window into a distinctive culture that was all but wiped out during World War II. And though they were predominantly shot in Poland, Russia, and the United States, these films exist outside of the boundaries of any national cinema. From the folk horror of Michał Waszyński’s The Dybbuk and the sentimental melodramas of Joseph Seiden to Edgar G. Ulmer’s musical comedy, American Matchmaker, Kino’s essential set shows the diversity and range of Yiddish cinema, while commentary tracks from film critic J. Hoberman and Yiddish historians Allen Lewis Rickman and Eve Sicular provide crucial context to films born out of a culture that’s unfamiliar to most viewers. The Jewish Soul illustrates the singular importance of physical media in providing a means of preservation, ensuring that artistic works of the dispossessed not only survive, but continue to enlighten future audiences about cultural beliefs and ways of life that still have much to teach us about humanity. Smith

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations (Kit Parker)

Kit Parker’s Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations attests to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy being the first great comedic duo of the sound era and the de facto bridge between the slapstick masters of silent cinema and the more verbose comedy teams like Abbott and Costello that followed them. And what this four-disc Blu-ray set lacks in diversity of extras, it more than makes up with the inclusion of commentary tracks for every last film, even That’s That, a clip reel created primarily as a gift to Stan Laurel. Film scholars Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann split the hosting duties and over the course of over eight hours cover the backgrounds of various supporting actors and the personal and professional history of Laurel and Hardy, even devoting ample time to breaking down numerous gags and the duo’s comic personae and performative ticks. Skretvedt appears again in three interviews from 1981, which he gave with three of Laurel and Hardy’s co-workers: Anita Garvin, Joe Rock, and Roy Seawright. Each touch on Laurel’s kindness, his ghost-directing nearly every film he appeared in with Hardy, and the joys of working on the Hal Roach lot. The set is rounded out with a very brief interview with Oliver Hardy from 1950 and a huge collection of rare photos, stills, posters, and scripts. With an abundance of passionate, informative commentary tracks and solid, if uneven, transfers, Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations is a must-own for even casual fans of Laurel and Hardy. Smith


Madchen in Uniform

Mädchen in Uniform (Kino Lorber)

An early landmark of queer cinema, Leontine Sagan’s Mädchen in Uniform sees youthful desire as fluid, disorienting, and rebellious. Sagan sensitively regards the female camaraderie within the confines of a strict German all-girls school, as well as the burgeoning lustfulness of the teenage Manuela (Hertha Thiele). The young girl’s affection for her sympathetic teacher, Fraulein von Bernberg (Dorothea Wieck), is expressed and reciprocated through furtive glances and brief sensual gestures that hint at an underlying and forbidden passion that can never come to fruition. Released just prior to the rise of the Third Reich, Sagan’s tender portrait of unrequited love in the midst of oppression excoriates the regressive ideals of the school’s and, by proxy, the nation’s power structures, advocating for compassion, tolerance, and the normalization of all forms of desire. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of Sagan’s cinematic milestone, in its long overdue debut on HD, boasts both a beautiful transfer and an erudite commentary track from queer film historian Jenni Olsen, who taps into the film’s uncanny ability to capture the queer gaze in all its complexities. Smith

The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death (Shout! Factory)

This is arguably the best of Roger Corman’s cycle of Poe adaptations. It’s certainly the most colorful and handsomely mounted in the classical sense. An all too timely tale of arrogance, greed, and sadism among the elite, set against the backdrop of a deadly plague laying waste to the populace, the film is powered by a wonderfully nuanced lead performance from Vincent Price, and bolstered by a deep-stacked secondary cast of seasoned British performers. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray disc includes both the theatrical cut and the extended cut of the film. The latter features about a minute and half’s worth of new material, comprising some fleeting nudity and more blood and brutality. Both 1080p HD transfers look quite good, but the extended cut really pops with Nicolas Roeg’s luscious cinematography, especially when it comes to those unforgettable color-coded chambers. Not surprisingly, the longer cut of the film receives the majority of the attention here, with a beefy introduction by author Stephen Jones, and a typically excellent commentary track from critics Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman, which covers Poe the man and the writer, Corman’s Poe cycle in its entirety, the film’s connections with Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and a host of other topics. The theatrical cut is accompanied by a 20-minute interview with a characteristically forthright Corman, touching on his early admiration for Poe, working with Price, and the advantages of filming in England. Wilkins

The Maya Deren Collection

The Maya Deren Collection (Kino Lorber)

Called “the mother of the American avant-garde film” by Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren reveals throughout her work a true love for film’s liberating kinetic qualities, as well as the conviction that cinematic poetry need not rely on the strictures of narrative storytelling. From the haunting, dreamlike Meshes of the Afternoon to the almost abstract dance movements of The Very Eye of Night, Deren keeps seeking new structures of meaning for the film medium. Kino’s 2K restorations of her films look greatly improved over earlier editions, especially when it comes to the clarity of fine details, even if the limitations of the 16mm format are still evident in lots of vertical scratches and other blemishes. Six of the eight films come with commentary tracks: At Land, Meshes of the Afternoon, and The Very Eye of Night by film curator Thomas Beard, and Divine Horsemen, Meditation on Violence, and Ritual in Transfigured Time by film scholar Moira Jean Sullivan. These tracks are not without their lulls, but the bursts of analysis are useful and interesting. Perhaps the meatiest extra is the hourlong documentary Invocation: Maya Deren from 1987, which does an excellent job of sketching out the filmmaker’s life and career, featuring audio of Deren discussing her work, excerpts from her writings read by Helen Mirren, and further talking-head contributions from the likes of Amos Vogel, Jonas Mekas, and Brakhage, as well as Deren’s husband Alexander Hamid and collaborator Hella Heyman. Wilkins

Paris Is Burning

Paris Is Burning (The Criterion Collection)

Category is “Film School in a Box,” and the House of Criterion earns 10s across the board. It’s truly hard to imagine a release more likely to please the film’s legion of fans than this, short of tracking down every last person featured in the film for a Michael Apted style flash-forward update. The commentary track, recorded in 2005 just prior to the death of participant Willi Ninja, also features Jennie Livingston, Freddie Pendavis, and editor Jonathan Oppenheim. There’s a lot of material to unpack against Paris Is Burning’s tight 76-minute running time, but it retains a nice balance between examining the film’s historical, political, and technical elements and giving over to the convivial energy shared by Pendavis, Ninja, and Livingston, and in the track’s best moments, it’s the former that brings out the latter, as when Livingston challenges the other two on her qualifications as a feminist. Criterion rarely includes booklets with their releases any longer this day, but for this release the library is open, featuring a 1991 review of the film by poet Essex Hemphill and a new essay from filmmaker Michelle Parkerson. But the true coup here is a reel of never-before-seen outtakes advertised as “over an hour” but actually closer to two. The outtakes, some of which has deteriorated quite photogenically (call it Decasia Is Burning), may not be consistently as engaging as the film from which they were cut but offer fans an opportunity to see more stolen moments with beloved souls. Eric Henderson


Rio Grande

Rio Grande (Olive Films)

Loosely, Rio Grande tells the tale of a U.S. Army colonel, Kirby Yorke (John Wayne), whose son, Jefferson (Claude Jarman Jr.), a buck private who washed out of West Point, has just been assigned to his far-flung regiment. As the narrative ambles from point to point, eventually coming to rest on a climactic battle scene that shows off John Ford’s customary sure hand with such spectacles, we’re treated to an ornery romance between the colonel and his estranged wife, Kathleen (Maureen O’Hara), songs from the Sons of the Pioneers, and one of the most concentrated mixtures of Ford’s favorite actors this side of The Long Voyage Home. Olive previously released the film on Blu-ray in 2012. On this new edition, there’s no soupiness around the middle range of the grayscale or any visible scratching and other damage; in fact, the image is as richly detailed as the DTS mono track is robust. One of only two extras on the 2012 disc, a making-of featurette lovingly hosted by Leonard Maltin, has been ported over. The highlights among the new extras include an interview with Jarman, who, as he sits next to the Academy Juvenile Award he received in 1946 for The Yearling, recalls his early Hollywood career and working with Ford; a conversation with actor and dancer Raoul Trujillo about the representation of indigenous Americans in Rio Grande and other films from the era; and the commentary track by Nancy Schoenberger, author of Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero, that, among its riches, attests to Ford’s humanity and incredible eye for detail. Jaime N. Christley

Scorsese Shorts

Scorsese Shorts (The Criterion Collection)

All of the films included Scorsese shorts contain seeds of future Martin Scorsese classics, and they’re all formally playful and sophisticated, with lasting career reverberations: Four of the five shorts center around the rapture and mythology of storytelling, while the fifth plumbs the theme of self-annihilation that would become a Scorsese leitmotif. In a new conversation on the disc, Scorsese speaks with film critic Farran Smith Nehme about the relationship between the shorts, his subsequent filmography, and his personal inspirations. Scorsese memorably considers Italianamerican and American Boy as respective companion pieces to Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, and speaks at length about Italian neorealism and the work of Elia Kazan and how they influenced his love for naturalist textures. A new discussion with filmmakers Ari Aster and Josh and Benny Safdie homes in on the shorts’ contribution to the development of Scorsese’s formal style, while in a long essay included with the disc’s liner notes, film critic Bilge Ebiri takes a deep and perceptive dive into recurring themes of the shorts, methods of production, and Scorsese’s vast collection of influences. Ebiri’s writing on American Boy, and the darkness it probably reveals about a turbulent time in Scorsese’s own life, is particularly insightful. Bowen

Solid Metal Nightmares: Films of Shinya Tsukamoto

Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto (Arrow Video)

Since he first emerged on the international film scene with 1989’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Shinya Tsukamoto has evolved one of the most distinctive bodies of work within contemporary Japanese cinema. What’s more, he’s something of a one-man band—acting in, writing, directing, editing, and production designing his films. Arrow’s impressively compiled Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto contains eight feature films and two shorts, roughly half of Tsukamoto’s output over the last 30-plus years. The set provides an ideal opportunity to trace the emergence and development of the filmmaker’s key themes and visual motifs. Packed inside the slipcase for set alongside the four individual jewel cases is a double-sided, foldout poster with newly commissioned cover art on one side and fresh artwork for Tetsuo: The Iron Man on the other. There’s also a nicely illustrated hardcover book with typically incisive essays from Kat Ellinger and Jasper Sharp on certain overarching aspects of Tsukamoto’s filmography. All 10 films come with commentary tracks from Tom Mes, who literally wrote the book on Tsukamoto’s films: 2005’s Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto. The tracks were recorded chronologically, as Mes often points out, making it all the easier to track the development of (and variations on) some of the filmmaker’s chief visual motifs and thematic preoccupations. Wilkins

Spring Night, Summer Night

Spring Night, Summer Night (Flicker Alley)

Though saddled with a titillating, easily exoticized elevator pitch—sexually mature siblings in a family of Ohio hillbillies tempt the unspeakable against the backdrop of dying coal country—Joseph L. Anderson’s Spring Night, Summer Night is forged from matters of universal relevance. From its opening scenes, which form a sketch of domestic friction that concludes with a symbol of nature’s upending of familiar order, this neglected jewel of American regional filmmaking is preoccupied with the imminent encroachment of adulthood and all the attendant personal upheavals that come with it. Surely the surviving materials from the film’s production couldn’t have been in tip-top shape given its blighted history, but the new 4K restoration by Nicolas Winding Refn’s ByNWR and Cinema Preservation Alliance, courtesy of Flicker Alley, has done a remarkable job in smoothing out the viewing experience. And for a film that was essentially lost for four decades, the variety of supplemental material provided here is impressive, especially since it’s all of relatively high quality. Most stunning as an archival piece is the hour’s worth of behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by archivist Peter Conheim and writer/producer/editor Franklin Miller. Also noteworthy are the three short films in Anderson’s “Bluegrass Trilogy”—part-undercranked, part-stop-motion documentary snapshots set to upbeat bluegrass music—that the filmmaker shot at Ohio University. Carson Lund


The Tenant

The Tenant (Shout! Factory)

Until this year, Roman Polanski’s beautiful and unnerving The Tenant was available to Americans only via a 2003 Paramount DVD that was rendered in the wrong aspect ratio (1.78:1) with a drab image and muddy sound mix. Thankfully, Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray has spectacularly addressed these problems, with a 2K transfer that presents the film in its proper 1.86:1 aspect ratio, while rendering the image’s colors with a vitality that may serve to re-shape younger audiences’ impressions of this 1976 classic. Correspondingly, two robust audio mixes honor the intricacy of The Tenant’s sonic landscape, and the supplements are also extraordinary, offering a wealth of detail pertaining to the film’s creation and reception. A new, nearly 30-minute interview with Polanski delves into his thorny relationship with Paris, where he was born before his parents moved back to Poland. Returning to Paris years later, Polanski felt a sense of alienation that almost certainly informed the despairingly satirical tone of this film. A new audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson covers similar ground, while also intricately analyzing The Tenant’s place within Polanski’s filmography. Meanwhile, a new visual essay by Samm Deighan contextualizes the film within the tradition of gothic literature, and a variety of interviews with Polanski’s collaborators, new and archive alike, offer a bracingly specific portrait of his creative methods. Bowen

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman (The Criterion Collection)

Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman is likely an unknown quantity even to movie buffs who are familiar with his venerated contemporaries, among them Miloš Forman, Věra Chytilová, Ivan Passer, and Jiří Menzel. But Criterion’s Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman looks to close this particular knowledge gap. You might go into this set without knowing Zeman from a hole in the ground, but a fleet of extras, spread over the three discs, will set you right. A handful of documentaries feature advocates of the cinema wizard, like animator Kōji Yamamura, director Tim Burton, and artist Ludmila Zeman (the director’s daughter), filling in biographical details and arguing persuasively for the wondrous potential of pre-CGI special effects, which few of Zeman’s contemporaries were capable of. Because the set only includes his first three theatrical features, large parts of Zeman’s life before them, and after, are filled in by these extras. Of all the documentaries and videos, long and short, the 101-minute Film Adventurer Karel Zeman is the most exhaustive; interspersed with histories and talking heads, we see a class of Czech film students laboring to reproduce a couple of Zeman’s seemingly simple effects shots, and, in the process, coming to understand just how much the maestro was able to achieve without the benefit of CGI, digital-oriented post-production, or hard-drive storage. Christley

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds (The Criterion Collection)

This disc is sourced from a 4K restoration of the original three-strip Technicolor negative, and the image is revelatory. The spectrum of colors is gorgeous, restoring to the film a nightmarish subjectivity. Reds, greens, and blues have a renewed sense of agency that’s complemented by rich and beautiful darkness, intensifying the mystery of the special effects. On the extras front, “Movie Archaeologists” and “From the Archive: Restoration” offer bracingly specific details about the creation and restoration of The War of the Worlds. The MVP of these featurettes is sound designer Ben Burtt, who deeply researched the methods that were used to create the film’s unique sound effects, which would be reused by genre productions endlessly afterward and become iconic and pivotal to how we imagine alien invasion. In terms of preserving The War of the Worlds for future generations, a challenge was posed when the three-strip Technicolor was subsequently rendered on lesser and overly bright film, compromising the richness of the cinematography and the illusions of the effects, revealing the wires used to move the models of the alien warships. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of Orson Welles’s notorious 1938 radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel and the booklet with an essay by film critic J. Hoberman that compares this version of the film to Steven Spielberg’s 2005 remake. Bowen

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