10 Must-Have Blu-rays Or DVD Sets For the Holidays
Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection (Universal)
This has 15 of the master of suspense's greatest films on Blu-ray, including his masterworks like Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, North By Northwest and Shadow Of A Doubt as well as fascinating experiments like Rope and the misunderstood Marnie. These recent exploitative bio-pics delving into the psycho-sexual peculiarities of Alfred Hitchcock still don't come close to the giddy thrills of watching his movies. If Santa doesn't leave this for me this Christmas I'm burning the house to the ground. $206.99 via Amazon.
Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection (Universal)
Unbelievably stunning restorations of some of Universal Studios' classic fright films. This box set includes Dracula, Frankenstein, the fabulous Bride Of Frankenstein, the sardonic The Invisible Man, the haunting The Wolf Man and The Creature From The Black Lagoon (in 3D no less). This set floored me. $119.99 via Amazon.
Lawrence Of Arabia (Sony)
This amazing restoration to David Lean's award-winning 1962 film looks so fabulous it may be the reason some people finally switch to Blu-ray. (And not to mention the knock-out performance by Peter O'Toole in the lead.) $17.99 via Sonypictures.com
The Otto Preminger Collection (Olive Films)
This DVD collection includes notorious, lesser films from director Otto Preminger, but they're ones I've been dying to get my hands on anyway. Skidoo -- Preminger's whacky LSD comedy with a cast of oldsters and hideous Harry Nilsson songs, will burn out your eyeballs. Hurry Sundown, his outlandish film about race relations in the south, features lurid performances by Jane Fonda and Michael Caine among others. And Such Good Friends, an offbeat dark comedy, stars the always winning Dyan Cannon who discovers unpleasant surprises when her husband goes in for a simple operation only to suddenly lapse into a coma from complications. $59.99 via Amazon.
When Horror Came To Shochiku (Criterion)
This set includes four exceptionally weird and wild Japanese horror films from the late 1960s: The X From Outer Space (about a destructive space creature), Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (a fascinating chiller about a plane crash and the systematic destruction of the crew by an vampiric alien), The Living Skeleton (about a young woman haunted by the ghost of her twin) and Genocide (a crazy apocalyptic film about insects genetically engineered to attack mankind). $47.96 via Criterion.
The Pete Walker Collection (Kino Lorber)
A collection featuring the works of a favorite director of mine, Pete Walker, who made a series of bizarre, unique, thrillers in the 1970s. Included is House Of Whipcord, about a fashion model kidnapped by crazies who are are trying to make a statement about morality. Schizo is about a figure skater and a psycho stalker, and Die Screaming, Marianne stars a luscious Susan George as a nightclub dancer who is being chased by her murderous father for her inheritance. The Comeback stars crooner Jack Jones as a singer haunted by his wife's death. Walker's nihilistic films are memorably nasty. $76.46 via Kino Lorber.
MST 3000 Volume XXV (Shout Factory)
God knows one needs some laughs during the holidays. You can't beat this hilarious TV show about an astronaut and his robots stranded in space forced to watch bad movies. Their wisecracks are always genius and the episodes included in this collection are four of the best, including Revenge of the Creature, the silly sequel to Creature From the Black Lagoon, Operation Kid Brother, a spy film starring Sean Connery's brother, the ludicrous Robot Holocaust and my personal favorite, Kitten With a Whip, starring Ann-Margret as a nasty juvenile delinquent who terrorizes a politician (played by John Forsyth). $49.99 via Amazon.
Pier Paolo Pasolini's Trilogy Of Life (Criterion)
Finally, Criterion does Pier Paolo Pasolini's work justice with these gorgeous transfers of three films by the master poet and filmmaker. The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights were all made in the '70s, all bristle with ribald humor and are all filled with wonderful non-actors and inventive costumes and sets. The digital restorations are a joy and there are countless extras. $53.99 via Amazon
American Horror Story (Vol.1) (20th Century Fox)
If you haven't experienced creator Ryan Murphy's outlandish first season of this series -- starring Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton as a couple who unwisely move into the most fucked-up haunted house in L.A. -- then you haven't lived. And then there's the demented neighbor (played with fiendish gusto by Jessica Lange). With wild plot twists, kinky flourishes, and a stellar supporting cast of players, this has to be one of the best things on television. $27.99 via Amazon
I still haven't finished watching Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson's wild take on law and disorder in 1864 New York City's crime-ridden Five Points, but Kevin Corcoran is riveting as the Irish-American fighter turned cop. I can't wait to sit down and do a marathon of all 10 episodes of this inventive first season. That's if I ever get through the rest of these sets! $21.99 via Amazon