Digital Dynamite

The 30 Best DVDs of 2007

by PopMatters Staff

24 January 2008

It was the year of the behemoth box set, the multi-disc triumph that tried to give long suffering fans everything their demanding little digital hearts ever desired. Here are PopMatters' 30 picks for the best DVDs of the year.

It was the year of the behemoth box set, the multi-disc triumph that tried to give long suffering fans everything their demanding little digital hearts ever desired. It was also the year of the Holy Grail, titles seemingly lost in the ephemera suddenly springing from the studio system overflowing, each release overflowing with goodies. There were individual masterworks and under-performing popcorn larks, grave indie dramas and some splatterific horror. In fact, when spied through the review mirror of personal perspective, 2007 was a pretty great year for DVD. Sure, the ongoing clamor over which high definition standard is better still gobbles up too many gigabites, and in a realm where value for your dollar is everything, studios are still delivering full frame, bare bones titles. But as the next format attempts to forge the future, the original silver disc devil is kicking up some controversy.

For those coming to this list hoping to find a breakdown of HD and Blu-ray releases—turn back now. PopMatters has yet to take a stand on the new fangled medium, and said titles were not taken into consideration as part of the 12-month round-up. Similarly, TV is included here, since many of the best collections to come out this year revolved around famous shows and complete season retrospectives. There are a few anomalies along the way, movies and product you might not consider the best that digital has to offer. But sometimes, in the grand scheme of gradation, aesthetic value can easily trump bells and whistles. So if a disc arrives with very little added content, you can rest assured it probably contains a pretty monumental movie.

It’s also important to remember that consensus is a far from perfect science. One man’s Get Smart Complete Series Set is another’s WWE fight series. So when the PopMatters staff creates a rundown like this, the choices are always up for discussion, but not dismissal. After all, we don’t stand over your shoulder and tell you what to watch, do we? We’re not there at the brick and mortar mandating where you dollars go. Sure, we hope that our smart writing and media knowledge lend some credence to our selections, but sometimes, whim can factor in more favorably than wisdom. Still, for all the kvetching and infighting, arguments and agreement, the 30 titles presented do offer up some sound digital delights. They definitely deserve to be considered the top DVDs of 2007.

cover art

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Director: Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis
Cast: Dana Synder, Carey Means, Dave Willis, Matt Maiellaro

(First Look Pictures)
US theatrical: 13 Apr 2007 (General release)


Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Film Movie for Theaters for DVD Turner Home Entertainment

Who says they don’t make good dada anymore? This big screen version of the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim anomaly offers three amiable (if slightly psychotic) fast food products—a shallow shake, some science-minded fries, and a babyish blob of mystery meat—taking on unhinged elements from around the universe. Part origins exploration, part satiric stream of incontinence, it may not make a lick of sense. But when you’re laughing this hard, does logic really matter? Even better, the DVD version (complete with a whole other version of the movie) reimagines the medium in a way that both embraces and mocks the special feature heavy format. It stands as a symbol of the film, and the series in general. Bill Gibron

cover art

The Mario Bava Collection Volumes 1 & 2

(Anchor Bay)
US DVD: 23 Oct 2007


The Mario Bava Collection Volumes 1 & 2 Anchor Bay

He began his career as a cinematographer, following his father into the bubbling Italian film business. By 1960, he was so well regarded that he was given a shot at making his own movies. In just over two decades (he died in 1980), he made dozens of genre benchmarks, dark Gothic horror romps known for their bodice ripping and blood bathing. Now, thanks to Anchor Bay, 13 of the director’s most demented visions are given the box set treatment. Including at least one odd entry—the comic Western Roy Colt and Winchester Jack—and several solid entries, this is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in seeing where true Italian horror began. Bill Gibron

cover art

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Director: Lau Kar-Leung
Cast: Gordon Liu, , Lo Lieh

(Shaw Brothers Studios)
US theatrical: 1 Jun 1979 (Limited release)


The 36 Chamber of Shaolin The Weinstein Company

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin represents a directorial tour de force for Chia-Liang Liu. It’s a sumptuous film to look at, a movie that takes its varying fight facets very seriously. Perhaps the pinnacle of everything the Shaw Brothers was striving for in their kung fu epics, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin remains, even by modern standards, a solid masterwork. While the story may be familiar to any fan of the genre—pacifist student seeks out the help of the Shaolin, those monk masters of the martial arts, to teach him to fight to defend his family’s honor and his village—the approach is breathtaking in its depth and scope. Bill Gibron

cover art

Tex Avery’s Droopy - The Complete Theatrical Collection

(Warner Brothers)


Tex Avery’s Droopy - The Complete Theatrical Collection Warner Brothers

Finally! Every other half-baked animated creature seems to be getting a major DVD release these days, and yet Tex Avery’s dour hound dog always gets left behind. It’s hard to describe what makes Droopy so incredible—his hurdy gurdy nerdy voice, the intensely violent physical comedy that forms his humor, or the hyper-stylized way Avery and his crew realized his pen and ink personality. Whatever the reasons, this two-disc set—offering 24 theatrical shorts and a bevy of added content—promises to make fans of the zany animator and his prized pooch happy indeed. Now, if they could only find a way to bring the complete Screwy Squirrel to the digital medium. Bill Gibron

cover art

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Criterion Collection
Director: Byron Haskin
Cast: Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West


Review [17.Oct.2007]


Robinson Crusoe on Mars The Criterion Collection

For many, it’s merely a minor classic, a borderline schlock space opera made in an era when optimism supplanted realism as a means of conquering the cosmos. That a company like Criterion, known for championing the works of such filmmaking giants as Renoir, Truffaut, and Godard, would take on a title like this was unthinkable. But proving that there is more to preservation than merely dressing up the classics, the noted company created a wonderful DVD package, Most important is a full length commentary where differences between director Byron Haskin and screenwriter Ib Melchoir get a insightful airing. It all elevates the end product. Bill Gibron

cover art

The Lady Vanishes

Criterion Collection
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty


Review [3.Jan.2008]


The Lady Vanishes The Criterion Collection

A Criterion re-release with a better print, some new features, and an extra movie, Crook’s Tour, that follows two of the minor characters—the drolly hilarious Caldicot and Charters—from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 masterpiece on another comic adventure.  Crook’s Tour is amusing but for fanatics only. The Lady Vanishes is for everyone; it is Hitchcock’s best work of pure entertainment, more streamlined, romantic, and thrilling than even North by Northwest.  It’s even technically better: filmed on a studio set, there is no doubt that its protagonists—the never-better Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood—are hurtling along on a real train in an attempt to find a little old lady that has disappeared into thin air.  Perfection. Peter Swanson

cover art

Spider Baby

Director: Jack Hill
Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Sid Haig, Jill Banner, Beverly Washburn



Spider Baby: Special Edition Universal

It remains a strangely satisfying experiment in terror: writer/director Jack Hill hired former fright master Lon Chaney Jr., turned him into a sympathetic caregiver for a collection of craven creeps, and gave the whole thing a freak show veneer of macabre monochrome. Subtitled The Maddest Story Ever Told, no other underlying label ever did a better job of describing a yarn’s intentions. Featuring future human oddity Sid Haig as the repugnant Ralph, and Mantan Mooreland in a minor cameo role, this arguably bizarre family fright night substituted novelty and wit for nastiness and the wicked. Still, it will be hard for newcomers to forget the truly horrific ending. Bill Gibron

cover art


Director: John Woo
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage

(Touchstone Films)
US theatrical: 27 Jun 1997 (General release)

Review [12.Sep.2007]


Face/Off Paramount

It took the worst clichés of 1990s shoot-em-ups and piled on John Woo’s unhinged and bullet-pocked ballets for good measure, but damn if Face/Off didn’t just blow you out of your seat with its giggly excess. There’s been a basic DVD knocking around since 1998, but the film has long deserved the two-disc “collector’s edition” treatment (deleted scenes and all) as the modern near-classic that it is. Chris Barsanti

cover art

All Quiet on the Western Front

Director: Lewis Milestone
Cast: Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres

(Universal Pictures)
US theatrical: 21 Apr 1930 (General release)


All Quiet on the Western Front Universal

It would be easy to make some kind of crass comment here, to tie this 76-year-old masterwork to the current war in Iraq and say something along the lines of “this should be compulsory viewing for every citizen.” Instead, it’s much easier to simply recognize All Quiet on the Western Front‘s main message—that no matter how you dress it up, in dire consequences, imminent threat, or long-term legitimizing, armed conflict should never be viewed as a sensible solution. Stunningly remastered by Universal, yet lacking enough critical context to make the disc definitive, what we wind up with is one of the greatest movies of all time, perfectly preserved for future generations—and that’s just as important as the movie’s motives. Bill Gibron

cover art


Director: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, John Jaratt, Marley Shelton

(Dimension Films (The Weinstein Company))
US theatrical: 6 Apr 2007 (General release)


Grindhouse Presents, Death Proof - Extended and Unrated (Two-Disc Special Edition) The Weinstein Company

I, for one, had zero gripes when the Weinstein brothers decided to split up the experimental twofer that was Grindhouse, and release Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof as two separate DVDs. It was a money decision (Grindhouse tanked) but now Tarantino’s portion can stand alone for what it is, a two-act art film that deconstructs slasher flicks, gear-head films, masculinity and femininity. Plus it has girls in short shorts, killer tunes, Kurt Russell as a homicidal maniac, and the best car chase of the new millennium.  The DVD version presents the longer version of the film, the one that was released at Cannes. It’s better, and not just because it contains the lapdance. Peter Swanson

Topics: 2001: a space odyssey | albert hall | angela burnett | ariadna gil | ashley jensen | bill hader | bill nighy | brett halsey | carey means | charles bracy | charlie sheen | christopher mintz-plasse | clint eastwood | curly howard | dame may whitty | dana synder | daniel richter | daryl hannah | dave willis | david mccallum | dennis hopper | diane ladd | doug jones | edward james olmos | eleanor coppola | eli wallach | eugene cherry | extras | francis ford coppola | frank cady | freddy rodriguez | frederic forrest | gary lockwood | george hickenlooper | george lucas | gordon liu | grindhouse | harrison ford | harry dean stanton | henry fonda | henry g. sanders | herbie cook | hot fuzz | inland empire | ivana baquero | james coburn | jan sterling | jay baruchel | jeremy irons | jim broadbent | joan chen | joanna cassidy | john jaratt | john travolta | jonah hill | josh brolin | julia ormand | justin theroux | katherine heigl | kaycee moore | keir dullea | killer of sheep | kirk douglas | knocked up | kyle maclachlan | lara flynn boyle | larry fine | laura dern | laurence fishburne | lee van cleef | leo g. carroll | leslie mann | lew ayres | lon chaney jr. | luz maría collazo | margaret lockwood | maribel verdú | mario gonzalez broche | marley shelton | marlon brando | martin freeman | matt maiellaro | michael cera | michael ontkean | michael redgrave | moe howard | nick frost | nicolas cage | paddy considine | paul freeman | paul lukas | paul mantee | paul rudd | porter hall | quentin tarantino | raúl garcía | richard benedict | ricky gervais | robby kiger | robert arthur | robert duvall | robert rodriguez | robert vaughn | rod steiger | rose mcgowan | rutger hauer | sam bottoms | sean young | sergi lópez | sergio corrieri | seth rogen | sid haig | simon pegg | stephen merchant | steve coogan | superbad | timothy dalton | twin peaks | various | victor lundin | william sylvester
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

Authenticity Issues and the New Intimacies

// Marginal Utility

"The social-media companies have largely succeeded in persuading users of their platforms' neutrality. What we fail to see is that these new identities are no less contingent and dictated to us then the ones circumscribed by tradition; only now the constraints are imposed by for-profit companies in explicit service of gain.

READ the article