Any movie collector loves a good box set. There’s something indescribably exciting about removing the wrapping for the first time and owning a set of films collected together, with a ton of extras and a booklet (if you’re lucky). It’s even more exciting when the movies are either being released for the first time or restored. At the risk becoming giddy with geeky excitement, there’s little better!
So, I thought I’d put together my favourite box sets and talk a little about them. Most I own, though one or two I haven’t managed to pick up of they’re out of print. Anyway, first up, it has to be Hitchcock….
Oh. Man. This is nigh-on perfection. Featuring 15 films, including the likes of Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt and Frenzy, even the most casual fan of old Alfred can’t fail to find something here to enjoy, and as you explore the films more you can’t help but appreciate the genius of the man. And 15 hours of bonus content can’t be wrong.
On the downside, it is missing a number of his most popular efforts, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest and Dial M for Murder are sadly not part of the package (though do crop up together as a trio on another collection), while his British-made fare are also absent, but as an entry point into Hitchcock’s oeuvre you won’t go far wrong.
One of the first horror films I ever saw was Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ever since then I’ve always loved Universal Monsters. They were my gateway drug and I adore them to this day. If you’re looking for your own gateway drug into classic horror cinema then step right up, as this collection is magnificent.
All the big hitters are here: Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, etc. Eight films in all, absolutely stunningly restored. I can’t recommend this higher. I watched The Wolf Man again a few weeks ago and, honestly, the picture is absolutely crystal clear yet the film is 77 years old! Honestly, I’ve seen worse Blu Ray versions of films made this decade. Buy this – buy it today.
Or wait a few months as there’s a 30-film collection due out in the US later this year. I know what I’ll be asking Santa for.
Dario Argento – Arrow Video Limited Editions
This one was announced within days of my purchasing Arrow’s previous out-of-print version of Phenomena for a silly price on eBay. Was I annoyed? Well, i should have been, but look at it – it’s so beautiful. A 4K restoration, audio commentaries, a feature-length documentary (always guaranteed to make me part with cash) and writing by some very fine Gialli experts, including the wonderful Rachael Nisbet (Do follow her on Twitter. She’s lovely and always happy to chat about Giallo films).
The collection also includes the 116-minute Italian, 110-minute international and 83-minute Creepers cuts of the film, plus Goblin’s soundtrack. Phew! Unfortunately, this version now also appears to be out-of-print but there are copies to be had if you know where to look. Alternatively, you can pick up the non-limited edition version via Amazon.
Game changer. While Mario Bava did indeed do most of the groundwork, establishing many of the tropes of the Giallo, while creating work of staggering visual beauty, Dario Argento’s debut redefined the genre and announced himself as a director of exceptional merit. And this collection celebrates the film like no other.
Another 4k restoration, a Troy Howarth audio commentary, a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, a Kat Ellinger analysis, new interviews, lobby cards, etc, etc. There is an absolute smorgasbord of content, and the film’s pretty good too! Just kidding, it’s probably one of Argento’s best three, but I’ll let you all fight over the others….
Argento’s sophomore effort is having a bit of a revival lately, not least via this exceptional release. The usual suspects are all here, as is standard with Arrow’s limited edition efforts. Another 4K restoration, a posters, lobby cards, a commentary with Kim Newman and Alan Jones, new interviews, trailers, the list goes on.
What I love about these editions is that no stone has been left unturned in an effort to give the fan a unique and comprehensive package, including new artwork. Shameless Films own(ed) the rights to Four Flies on Grey Velvet but it would be wonderful to see Arrow complete the Animal Trilogy. Here’s hoping.
Long unavailable, unless you want to pay over £400(!), and recently usurped, though not surpassed by an eight-film collection, this remains the definitive Friday the 13th package. While the set seemingly doesn’t feature a great deal not already available on previous DVDs, as a single package it looks beautiful and features a truncated version of the Crystal Lake Memories book in 40-page booklet.
A bone of contention with fans is the lack of truly uncut version of the films and Paramount’s alleged indifference to the franchise, which is a great shame as they have an extremely loyal core audience who would absolutely lap up a comprehensive uncut box set. If you own this version, be thankful for the Warner’s licensing deal with Paramount that allowed this to happen. For the rest of us, though, it’s either a £400 outlay or the poorly packaged eight-film version, fairly recently on sale as a US-only release.
This one’s a shelf-filler, so make some space! Every film is represented, from John Carpenter’s masterpiece to Rob Zombie’s….um….Halloween II. Obviously, there’s no place for the forthcoming sequel to Carpenter’s film, but it’s likely that there’ll be another collection in the future so don’t feel obliged to spend your hard earned cash just yet.
There is another, far cheaper version of this collection, but the packaging (like the Friday the 13th latest collection) is not much to look at and doesn’t contain the booklet that comes with this version. Also, as with Friday the 13th, it’s region locked, so even if you do have a few hundred pounds burning a hole in your pocket you’ll need to ensure your Blu Ray can play the damn thing!