While it seems like they've been battling forever, the line in the sand between DVD and Blu-ray reached a No Man's Land kind of clash in 2009. From content exclusives on the newest digital medium to packaging that wisely provided both, the mainstream met the enemy, and then rolled over and showed its soft commercialization underbelly. Indeed, DVD hasn't truly given up, but you can sense its exit strategy in the air. As more and more major studios embrace the notion that cheapness equals choice (player prices are now down into the double digits - DOUBLE DIGITS) and regulations railroad the notion of home HD into every household, it's inevitable that instead of being "almost" blu, we are about as cobalt as we can get, entertainment wise.
So in elegy for the format that lifted sound and image out of VHS mediocrity and into theatrical experience mimicry, SE&L has decided to celebrate those titles - with one major exception - that didn't immediately kowtow to the new disc breed. Sure, more than one of these films is available on Blu-ray, but by taking out most of the mega-hyped (and yet very much well worth it) efforts, we had a chance to acknowledge the missing in action and marginal. Sure, we could have loaded up this list with every permutation of The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek (reboot and original), North by Northwest, Gone with the Wind and Fight Club that you could imagine. We could have jumped on the big Blu bang wagon for dozens of definitive Hollywood statements. Instead - with one major exception - we marched to our own digital drummer, and it was revelatory.
Not every presentation is flush with bonus features. Some have questionable technical specifications. More than a few will test your sleaze/stupidity tolerances. But one thing's for certain - without DVD, they'd probably never see the light of a legitimate release. We begin with:
10. Dreams with Sharp Teeth
Director: Erik Nelson
9. Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Director: Dario Argento
Thanks to its MIA status on DVD (until now) Four Flies on Grey Velvet was a forgotten Argento masterwork, a wholly visual free-for-all that ends up surpassing almost everything he had done before, or has done since. It sits right at the start of his oeuvre, the third film in his “unofficial” animal trilogy and the first to fully explore the various camera tricks and visual flourishes that would come to dominate his early period efforts. But there are also aspects of narrative and murder mystery subterfuge that make it feel like an unusual audition for some kind of half-thriller/half Gothic fairy tale hybrid.
8. The Sinful Dwarf
Director: Vidal Raski
There’s a moldy old maxim in exploitation that goes a little something like this - if you’re going to give potential audiences a title so titillating it overwhelms the entire notion of grindhouse gratuity, you better deliver on your implied debauchery. The Sinful Dwarf truly lives up to its lurid moniker. We get several shots of star Torben doing his best little person perversions, and the rest of the film offers nothing but nonstop nastiness. If you’ve never seen a raincoat crowd-pleaser before, get ready. Even the digital format is ill-prepared for such salaciousness.
7. Repo: The Genetic Opera
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Director: Rafal Zielinski
5. Johnny Got His Gun
Director: Dalton Trumbo
4. The Last Horror Film: The Tromasterpiece Collection
Director: David Winters
3. Watchmen: The Complete Story (The Ultimate Cut)
Director: Zack Snyder
2. Zabriskie Point
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
1. Combat Shock: The Tromasterpiece Collection
Director: Buddy Giovanazzo