The best Blu-rays (and DVDs) of 2018

From auteur collections to horror restorations and historical re-curations, 2018’s home cinema packages reached new Olympian heights of splendour and sumptuousness. Below, 37 critics and DVD curators pick their best releases of the year.

See our best films of 2018.

 

Updated:

Web exclusive

 

The top releases

 

1.

(10 votes)

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema

Criterion (US), Blu-ray region 0 (open)

“Arguably one of the most impressive collections ever assembled.” 

— Ben Stoddart

“It may even be the single greatest Blu-ray/DVD release ever.” 

— Alex Barrett

 

2.

(6 votes)

 

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960

Indicator (UK), Blu-ray region 0, limited edition

“Powerhouse have been going from strength to strength, but its release of Budd Boetticher’s Ranown films and Night of Demon (not to mention its Sam Fuller set) saw them leading the pack in 2018.” 

— Matthew Thrift

 

=3.

(5 votes)

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood

Criterion (US), Blu-ray region A / DVD region 1

“I adore these films and a collection like this is almost like a mini-retrospective. It is amazing to see the evolution of this incredible partnership. Von Sternberg’s images and Dietrich’s irresistible presence are the perfect combination for gorgeous packaging, which makes one excited all over again for the films.”

—Francesco Simeoni

 

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers

Kino Lorber (US), Blu-ray region A / DVD region 1

“A game-changer… Proof that Lois Weber is one of the greatest American filmmakers; proof that the films women made out of their own experience are different from those of their male counterparts because their view of marriage, economics, poverty, seduction, and their own autonomy is radically different and demands different forms of expression. Excellent restorations. Brilliant original scores.”

— Amy Taubin

 

=5.

(4 votes)

Derek Jarman Volume One: 1972-1986

BFI (UK), Blu-ray region B, limited edition

“Essential and reminds us how singular and necessary this multitalented artist is (not was).”

— Gareth Evans

 

Invention for Destruction

Second Run (UK), Blu-ray region 0 / DVD region 0

 

Night of the Demon

Indicator, Blu-ray region 0, limited edition

 

Cold Water (L’Eau froid)

Criterion (US/UK), Blu-ray region A / Blu-ray region B / DVD region 1

 

Night of the Living Dead

Criterion (US/UK), Blu-ray region A / Blu-ray region B / DVD region 1

“We’ve been waiting forever for a decent edition of Night of the Living Dead… but Criterion really did go above and beyond with its magnificent special edition.” 

— Adam Batty

 

The Tree of Life

Criterion (US), Blu-ray region 0 / DVD region 1

“Criterion has outdone itself with its Blu-ray release of Malick’s masterpiece… The new, included cut is simply breathtaking; not a substitute for the theatrical version, but an expansive, deeper dive into what we fell in love with back in 2011.”

— Matthew Thrift

 

 

How they voted

 

Geoff Andrew

Critic and programmer

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Eureka, Blu rB

The Touch BFI, Blu+DVD rB/2

Le Crime de Monsieur Lange Studiocanal, Blu rB/DVD r2

Early Hou Hsiao-hsien: Three Films 1980-1983 Eureka, Blu rB

Gosford Park Arrow, Blu rB

I must confess to some involvement in the extras for The Touch and Gosford Park, but they are very welcome releases of films not served well hitherto on disc, and I would have voted for them anyway.

 

Erika Balsom

Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, King’s College, London

Nightcleaners and ’36 to ’77 Buchhandlung Walther Konig, DVD

Born in Flames First Run Features, Blu rA

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

11x14 and One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later Edition Filmmuseum, DVD r0

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1 (also Arrow, Blu rB)

 

Upekha Bandaranayake

DVD producer, BFI

Bagdad Cafe (30th Anniversary Edition) Studiocanal, Blu rB/DVD r2

Irma Vep Arrow, Blu rB

Invention for Destruction Second Run, Blu r0 / DVD r0

Night of the Demon Indicator, Blu r0

Strange Victory Milestone, Blu rA / DVD r1

It’s heartening to see so many boutique labels continue flourish and still deliver brilliant and expertly curated packages.

Honourable mentions to Jarman Volume One and Woodfall (BFI), Daisies (Second Run), Lucky (Eureka) and Pioneers: The First Women Filmmakers (Kino) – I wish we were allowed to select more than five.

The prize for most charming (and possibly my favourite) extra ever goes to The Trip to Bagdad (Bagdad Cafe).

 

Alex Barrett

Filmmaker and S&S contributor

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

Les Parents terribles TF1, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Blood of Hussain / Towers of Silence BFI, Blu+DVD rB/2

Early Hou Hsiao-hsien: Three Films 1980-1983 Eureka, Blu rB

While, in general, I’m much more interested in releases of hard-to-see films than I am in endless ‘upgrades’ of easily available films, Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema is exemplary – not only is it easily the best release of the year, but it may even be the single greatest Blu-ray/DVD release ever.

 

Adam Batty

Critic

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 Indicator, Blu r0

Night of the Living Dead Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

Cold Water (L’Eau froid) Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

Charlie Bubbles Indicator, Blu rB

This year’s selections seem to run with the theme A Long Time Coming. We’ve been waiting forever for a decent edition of Night of the Living Dead, thanks to it being in the public domain in the US and companies being unwilling to make the necessary investment as a result, but Criterion really did go above and beyond with its magnificent special edition. Similarly, Albert Finney’s Charlie Bubbles is, for my money at least, the finest British film ever made, so to see it treated with the respect I feel it deserves is a wonder.

 

Jeff Billington

Critic and producer, Indicator/Powerhouse

Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971 Arrow, Blu+DVD rB

The Colour of Pomegranates Second Sight, Blu rB

Legend of the Mountain Eureka, Blu+DVD rB

From Lift to The Road – The Films of Marc Isaacs Second Run, Blu r0

Personal Problems Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

2018 was another year in which physical media failed to expire, with boutique streaming services struggling whilst small labels continue to put out editions of classic, obscure and oddball films in beautifully designed editions loaded with essential contextualising features.

A case in point is Second Sight’s release of Sergei Parajanov’s The Colour of Pomegranates, every bit as ravishing as the film to which it is devoted, replete with hours of supplements new and old, and accompanied by a gorgeous book. Arrow’s set devoted to the Dziga Vertov Group’s films is a loving survey of one of the least-loved periods in Godard’s oeuvre. Eureka’s Legend of the Mountain restores Hu King’s epic vision, an astonishing work of visual imagination. Second Run’s catalogue continues to be entirely essential, with their comprehensive set devoted to the films of Marc Isaacs being especially welcome. Finally, Kino Lorber’s edition of Bill Gunn’s radical soap opera is a revelation.

Honourable mentions to Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song (Vinegar Syndrome), Death Laid an Egg (Nucleus Films), Derek Jarman Volume One: 1972 -1986 (BFI) and Joaquim Pedro de Andrade: The Complete Films (Kino Lorber). I’ve yet to see Kino Lorber’s Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to see being released.

Having worked in one way or another on all of Powerhouse Indicator’s releases this year, it would be inappropriate of me to have picked titles such as their Budd Boetticher and Sam Fuller sets, or their exhaustive treatment of Night of the Demon.

 

Michael Blyth

Programmer, BFI London Film Festival/BFI Flare

Candyman Arrow, Blu rB

Eyeball 88 Films, Blu r0

In the Mouth of Madness Shout Factory, Blu rA

Perversion Story Mondo Macabro, Blu r0

Xtro Second Sight, Blu r0

You wait all year for a special edition Blu-ray of Candyman, then two along come at once. Shout Factory did a typically stellar job with its jam-packed release, but Arrow Video just pipped them with a beautifully designed, multi-disc bonanza which is the bees knees. Still, both include extras specific to the individual release, so hardcore Candyfans will no doubt want to own both.

Any HD release from genre-hopping exploitation maestro Umberto Lenzi is a thing to treasure, but perhaps none more so than his wildly enjoyable 1975 giallo Eyeball. Not as famous as some of his more notorious works (such as anthropophagic classics Eaten Alive or Cannibal Ferox), Eyeball stands as one of his most stylish and satisfying works. 88 Films’ lovingly curated limited edition includes a host of extras, among them an entertaining 85-minute documentary on Lenzi’s often overlooked career. And the film has never looked better.

It is high time In the Mouth of Madness, perhaps John Carpenter’s most underrated film, was discussed among the director’s best. And 2018 was a good year for redressing that balance. In addition to Auteur Publishing’s release of my own book on the film (excuse the shameless self-promotion), Shout Factory treated us to the ultimate home video release of Carpenter’s love-letter to all things Lovecraftian. Do you read Sutter Cane? If not, now’s your chance.

As with Lenzi’s Eyeball, Perversion Story (aka One on Top of the Other) is not one of Lucio Fulci’s most recognisable films, but it is certainly one of his best. Not quite the sleazefest its salacious title might imply, this stylish giallo is in fact a boldly inventive, wickedly amusing thrill-ride which continues to prove Fulci was so much more than the godfather of gore. Some great extras and a crisp HD transfer from the original negative make this one of the year’s best.

I’m making no claims that Xtro is a great film, but it’s certainly a memorable one. One of only two British films to be swept up in the Video Nasties hysteria of the early 1980s (the other being James Kenelm Clarke’s sleazy Exposé), this outre extra-terrestrial romp may not still have the power to shock, but it has certainly maintained the power to bewilder. Second Sight’s release of this gloriously unlovable oddity is bursting with extras and alternate cuts of the film. That notorious alien birth sequence has never looked better.

 

Michel Ciment

Editor, Positif, France

100 Years of Olympic Films Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Lady from Shanghai Carlotta, Blu+DVD

Senses Arte, Blu+DVD

Complete Jean Vigo (Jean Vigo L’intégrale) Gaumont, Blu rB/DVD r2

Journey Through French Cinema (Voyages à travers le cinéma français) Gaumont/Fnac, Blu/DVD

 

Philip Concannon

Critic and programmer, Badlands Collective

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 Indicator, Blu r0

The Tree of Life Criterion, Blu r0 / DVD r1

Blue Collar Indicator, Blu rB

Lavish box sets dominated the home this year, from celebrations of director-star partnerships to a breathtakingly ambitious survey of a great director’s body of work, but there were still plenty of beautifully curated packages for individual films. Aside from the two I’ve listed here I’d like to give a special mention to Night of the Living Dead (Criterion), Midnight Cowboy (Criterion), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Eureka), The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (Indicator), The Border (Indicator), The Comfort of Strangers (BFI) and Irma Vep (Arrow).

 

Adam Cook

Critic and programmer, Canada

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Addiction Arrow, Blu r0

The Dumb Girl of Portici Milestone, Blu rA / DVD r1

El Sur Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Jericho Mile Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

 

David Cox

Film4 channel editor, UK

Cold Water (L’Eau froid) Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1 / The Early Films of Olivier Assayas Arrow, Blu rB

William Castle at Columbia Volume One Indicator, Blu r0

Derek Jarman Volume One: 1972-1986 BFI, Blu rB

The Amicus Collection Severin, Blu r0

Early Hou Hsiao-hsien: Three Films 1980-1983 Eureka, Blu rB

All the above, plus the return of so many old favourites, beautifully presented to make it feel like one was seeing them for the first time.

Ten choices at random: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Eureka); Time After Time (WB – HMV Premium Collection); Grizzly (88 Films); My Man Godfrey (Criterion); The Gate (Vestron); Night of the Demon (Indicator); The Changeling (Second Sight); The Passenger (Indicator); City of the Living Dead (Arrow); Out of the Past (Universal – HMV Premium Collection).

Streaming may be convenient but it’s hard to shake the provisional feeling that accompanies the experience – not to mention the discomfort of needing to be constantly logged in, signed up and beholden to some higher, anonymous power. Physical media has its downsides, but I remain hopelessly attached to the idea of a film having some sort of presence or permanence. Not original thoughts by any means, but hopefully they’ll sustain me when I have the complete Criterion collection but no more money for food or power.

 

Sam Dunn

Producer, Powerhouse Films

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Welcome Home, Brother Charles / Emma Mae Vinegar Syndrome, Blu+DVD r0

Death Laid an Egg Nucleus Films / The Pyjama Girl Case Arrow, Blu rB

Derek Jarman Volume One: 1972-1986 BFI, Blu rB

Witchhammer Second Run, Blu / DVD r0

Reducing the vast array of outstanding, inspiring and surprising Blu-rays released by publishers from around the world to a list of just five is like plucking snowflakes from the tip of an iceberg. And, while it’d be easy to eulogise about each and every one of my choices, I’ll refrain from heaping praise on Criterion’s enormously impressive treatment of one of cinema’s towering giants, Vinegar Syndrome’s bold showcasing of the powerful and affecting work of one of LA Rebellion’s most unique voices, the BFI’s stellar treatment of one of Britain’s most daring and iconic talents, Arrow’s and Nucleus’ equally brilliant handling of two of Italian genre cinema’s most outré entries, and Second Run’s inspired rediscovery of yet another richly rewarding world cinema gem…

…and, instead, simply say that Blu-ray is the single most important and effective means by which the rich and diverse history of cinema is being disseminated, discovered, enjoyed and understood by audiences today. Lucky us.

 

Gareth Evans

Film curator, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK

Liquid Sky Vinegar Syndrome, Blu+DVD r0

The Legend of the Holy Drinker Arrow, Blu+DVD rB

The Colour of Pomegranates Second Sight, Blu rB

Derek Jarman Volume One: 1972-1986 BFI, Blu rB

Death Watch Park Circus, Blu rB/DVD r2

No hierarchy here: all are hugely welcome! The Derek Jarman box set (Volume 2 is due early 2019, 25 years since he died) is essential and reminds us how singular and necessary this multitalented artist is (not was). Jarman himself would have been delighted to see the remarkable new edition of fellow multifarious and creatively queer maker Parajanov’s masterpiece, lovingly assembled by restorer Daniel Bird with numerous extras, special features and a 112-page book. Criterion has also done the title proud with its own package but the odds here have to be on DB. He’s in this for the long haul. Meanwhile, Olmi’s Legend of the Holy Drinker appeared late in 2017 in this significant dual-format edition with new additions and we raise a glass both to it and the great director, who died in May this year.

My remaining choices take us back to the strangeness of early 80s cinema – left-field titles both, from either side of the water. I shall not forget being almost scared by the cultish cool of the denizens of alt NYC when I first saw Liquid Sky as a nervous home counties early teen at the ICA. It has matured brilliantly and properly catches a scene and a moment in the life of that city. Similarly Death Watch (which I have just come to) is properly prescient, weird and brilliantly shot – like all those above a maverick work we can be very glad made it through – with a French director, American and European actors and a Scottish city so distinctively itself (and now so altered) that it feels almost as otherworldly as that lost New York.

I’ll end with a very honourable mention for Tony Grisoni’s superbly realised adaptation of China Mieville’s doubly intriguing The City and the City (ITV). The label is strange given it’s a BBC TV four-parter, but it’s wonderfully cinematic, atmospheric and enigmatic, and deserves far more praise than it’s currently received. Here’s hoping the home release makes it so.

 

The Ferroni Brigade

Critics, Germany/Austria

The Fastest Guns of the West: 8 William Castle Westerns Mill Creek Entertainment, DVD r1

Pharos of Chaos & Der Havarist Edition Filmmuseum, DVD r0

Linnan juhlat VLMedia Oy, DVD

Nanyang Trilogy (restored) Asian Film Archive, Blu/DVD

O Táxi nº 9297 Cinemateca Portuguesa, DVD r0

 

Pamela Hutchinson

Critic

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

100 Years of Olympic Films Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Apartment Arrow, Blu rB

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 Indicator, Blu r0

The Lost World Flicker Alley, Blu r0

In my top five, I have chosen two especially mammoth projects of curation, restoration and composition, as well as three comparably impressive presentations of classic films – they are all the sort of thing that makes you glad you can still play, and treasure, physical media. The Olympic set, it probably goes without saying, is a massive achievement. The Kino Lorber set of work by early female directors has been hotly anticipated all year, and should keep me busy until at least spring.

It has been a great year for silent cinema on disc, in fact. Milestone’s two Lois Weber releases should appear here too, so I mention them as more than honourable runners-up. If I could count them as one disc – they’d be there too. However, I did vote for a disc that showcased a treat of a restoration, incorporating previously unseen material, from a label, Flicker Alley, which has produced some excellent silent releases throughout the year. This includes the first two of a proposed slate of Mary Pickford discs, the rest of which I await with interest.

 

David Jenkins

Editor, Little White Lies

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 Indicator, Blu r0

Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971 Arrow, Blu+DVD rB

Invention for Destruction Second Run, Blu r0 / DVD r0

Oleanna Indicator, Blu r0

Cold Water (L’Eau froid) Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

So, so much came out this year, and I wish I’d had more time and more play money to be able to have sampled more of it. Lots of plush new pretender labels hitting the shelves, but also lots of repackaging of vanilla discs and experiments with ostentatious cover art to rinse a beloved archive title for a few more quid. The above selections are all films/sets I love, but each is presented with love, care and lashings of context.

 

Trevor Johnston

Critic

From Lift to The Road – The Films of Marc Isaacs Second Run, Blu r0

2001: A Space Odyssey Warner, 4K UHD (r0)

Missing Indicator, Blu rB

Michael Eureka, Blu rB

Kings of the Road AX1, Blu rB / DVD r2

The old looks new again, as home viewing technology advances. With 4K TVs and Blu-ray players now all over the market, the 4K redo of Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic marks a leap forward in sheer visual impact. Easy to see how the majors will now be remastering their catalogue items to make us buy the same titles all over again, but will the production costs prevent the arthouse indies from following suit?

AX1’s issue of the Wenders 4K transfers, for instance, look terrific as standard Blu-rays, but the discs aren’t delivering all their 4K goodness. Not that technical gloss counts for everything, as Second Run’s marvellous collection from undervalued Briitish documentarist Marc Isaacs makes amply clear.

 

Philip Kemp

Critic and film historian, UK

The Old Dark House Eureka, Blu+DVD rB

Three films by Jacques Becker:
Goupi Mains Rouges Pathé, Blu r0+DVD r2
Antoine et Antoinette Gaumont, Blu r0+DVD r2
Rendez-vous de Juillet Gaumont, Blu r0+DVD r2

Beggars of Life Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

Michael Eureka, Blu rB

The Dumb Girl of Portici Milestone, Blu rA / DVD r1

Once again, unjustly forgotten directors (Lois Weber) and lesser-known offerings from more famous names (The Old Dark House, Michael) are brought forth for our pleasure and benefit. Despite all gloomy prognostications, it seems the video market is still alive and thriving. Long may it continue!

 

Ian Mantgani

Filmmaker, Critic and Programmer, Badlands Collective, UK

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

Sam Fuller at Columbia 1937-1961 Indicator, Blu r0

William Castle at Columbia vol. 1 Indicator, Blu r0

The Addiction Arrow, Blu r0

The Tree of Life Criterion, Blu r0 / DVD r1

 

Neil McGlone

Critic and programmer

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

The Eric Rohmer Collection Arrow, Blu rB

Sam Fuller at Columbia 1937-1961 Indicator, Blu r0

Derek Jarman Volume One: 1972-1986 BFI, Blu rB

John Carpenter 4K UHD releases Studiocanal, 4K UHD / Blu rB / DVD r2

Honourable mention to the 4K UHD release from Warners of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

Henry K. Miller

Critic

De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films Arrow, Blu rB

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Daisies Second Run, Blu/DVD r0

Nightcleaners and ’36 to ’77 Buchhandlung Walther Konig, DVD

The Passenger Indicator, Blu r0

 

Kim Newman

Critic

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

Night of the Living Dead Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

Quatermass and the Pit Studiocanal, Blu+DVD r0

Dracula A.D. 1972 / The Satanic Rites of Dracula Warner Archive, Blu r0

Charlie Chan 3-film collection: The Red Dragon, The Feathered Serpent, The Sky Dragon Warner Archive, DVD r1

A Hollywood classic collection of endlessly rewatchable and sumptuous fantasies, seminal horrors from film (Night of the Living Dead) and TV (Quatermass and the Pit) in optimal editions with enormously valuable extra content, barebones Blu-rays of my favourite odd Hammer Films duo, and a rare example of corporate canniness as Warners fill a gap by collecting three stray films from a series left off other available Charlie Chan collections.

 

Ben Nicholson

Critic

From Lift to The Road – The Films of Marc Isaacs Second Run, Blu r0

Six Films by Nikolaus Geyrhalter Icarus, DVD r1

Rupture/Rapture/Jouissance: The Religious Trilogy 1990-1997 LUX, DVD r0

Born of Fire Indicator, Blu r0

Woman is the Future of Man, Tale of Cinema: Two Films by Hong Sangsoo Arrow, Blu rB

Personally, DVD and Blu-ray releases nowadays are less about having a permanent copy of something new that I’ve seen and liked, and more about discovery. To that end, the array of boutique distributors in the UK and beyond are a veritable goldmine of films I’ve not – I might never have had – the chance to see otherwise.

These might come in collections that are rich in restoration, additional material, or booklets filled with passionate writing by a host of great film critics and scholars, but it is more often the fact of the release which sticks in my memory. This ranges from the opportunity to engage with contemporary filmmakers whose work is sadly overlooked for cinematic distribution in the UK, to older films that are now only rarely available on the repertory circuit and offered a new life on disc.

All that said, I was so giddy with excitement to re-watch Thor: Ragnarok upon its home entertainment release that it would probably have grabbed sixth spot on my list.

 

Naman Ramachandran

Critic and filmmaker, UK/India

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

The Sinbad Trilogy Indicator, Blu+DVD r0

The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen Volume One Indicator, Blu+DVD r0

The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen Volume Two Indicator, Blu+DVD r0

The Last Waltz Eureka, Blu rB

While it is to be expected that Criterion will do a bang up job as always (with Bergman Blu-rays), I was pleasantly surprised by the three Ray Harryhausen box-sets I bought from Indicator – clearly a labour of love. Eureka’s The Last Waltz, available for the first time on Blu-ray, is outstanding.

 

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Critic, US

Liebelei & Lola Montez Edition Filmmuseum, DVD r0

Especially for its restoration of the German version of the latter film.

The Adventures of Hajji Baba Twilight Time, Blu r0

A triumph of sexy Hollywood nonsense that merits non-patronising patronage.

Daisies Second Run, Blu/DVD r0

An optimal edition of my favourite Czech feature.

Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series Paramount, Blu r0

The shopping bargain of the year, making David Lynch’s transgressive look at the US and even more transgressive contribution to mainstream TV much more accessible.

Spetters Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Spetters, for Paul Verhoeven’s audio commentary.

 

Hayley Scanlon

Critic and translator

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 1 – Seijun Rising: The Youth Movies Arrow, Blu+DVD r0

An Actor’s Revenge BFI, Blu+DVD rB/2

Jagko Korean Film Archive, Blu r0

Horrors of Malformed Men Arrow, Blu rB

Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji Arrow, Blu rB

It’s been another fantastic year for the rediscovery of classic Japanese cinema largely thanks to Arrow which has continued to shine a light on the lesser known with two box sets dedicated to the early work of the late Suzuki Seijun, a long-awaited UK debut for Uchida Tomu’s samurai classic Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, and the beautifully restored Horrors of Malformed Men, each accompanied by the label’s characteristic abundance of extra material.

The BFI’s reissue of Ichikawa Kon’s highly stylised theatrical masterpiece An Actor’s Revenge also merits special attention in presenting a huge upgrade over the previously available DVD, rendering Ichikawa’s world of beauty and madness in all its terrible glory.

Special mention must go once again to the Korean Film Archive which continues to release expertly crafted restorations of the hugely under-seen classics of Korean cinema, which feature English subtitles not only on the movie but the majority of special features, extending to a bilingual copy of the accompanying booklet. A tragedy of the North/South divide, Jagko retains its eerie topicality in its fierce condemnation of the internecine politics of senseless violence and more than merits the attention the archive has lavished on it in this beautifully produced Blu-ray set.

 

Francesco Simeoni

Producer, Arrow, Blu rB

Iron Monkey Eureka, Blu rB

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Nun (La Religieuse) Studiocanal, Blu rB/DVD r2

La Prisonniere Studiocanal, Blu rB/DVD r2

Candyman Arrow, Blu rB

Iron Monkey – I was thrilled to see this come out, along with Eureka’s wonderful Fortune Star releases. Knowing these had wonderful new restorations the upgrade potential was huge, as these films often fared quite badly on DVD. Eureka’s lovely disc was like watching the film for the first time and its also managed to expand on the old extras and add a whopping five audio tracks!

Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood – I adore these films and a collection like this is almost like a mini-retrospective. It is amazing to see the evolution of this incredible partnership. Von Sternberg’s images and Dietrich’s irresistible presence are the perfect combination for gorgeous packaging, which makes one excited all over again for the films.

A number of really interesting films were released by StudioCanal, which had either never been available before or had nice new restorations but I wish more effort had gone into the artwork and packaging. With the quality of streaming platforms nowadays it begs the question whether these are worth buying at all, with so much stiff competition out there.

Of our own releases, I really enjoyed Candyman for which I contributed nothing creatively so was able to enjoy it as a punter which was a real treat around Halloween.

 

Kate Stables

Critic

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Woodfall: A Revolution in British Cinema BFI, Blu rB/DVD r2

It Happened Here BFI, Blu+DVD rB/2

Invention for Destruction Second Run, Blu r0 / DVD r0

The Awful Truth Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

 

Ben Stoddart

Video Publishing Business and Operations Manager, BFI

Night of the Living Dead Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

Night of the Demon Indicator, Blu r0

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Candyman Arrow, Blu rB

Escape from New York Studiocanal, 4K UHD / Blu+DVD / Blu rB / DVD r2

There are always purveyors of doom and gloom when it comes to the Blu-ray and DVD market, but for me 2018 has seen some wonderfully produced titles come to the market. While a lot of my choices are films that have been long exploited, in 2018 they all got what I consider to be definitive releases, due to a combination of high-quality technical work and at times an almost exhausting amount of extras.

Genre releases had another stellar year, with the continuing rise of Powerhouse’s Indicator (for me the UK’s best and most consistent label) and their release of Night of the Demon. Arrow’s release of Candyman was typically excellent, but for me the horror release of the year was Criterion’s Night of the Living Dead. A film that despite a ludicrous number of releases over the years has never looked particularly good, and this year got the treatment it deserved.

I was really happy to see Studiocanal embrace 4K UHD with its releases of various John Carpenter films, and for me the pick of the bunch was Escape From New York, a film I seem destined to keep buying!

Finally, Criterion’s release of Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema is arguably one of the most impressive collections ever assembled. They’ve clearly gone above and beyond, and it was a US release that I didn’t hesitate to import. One can’t deny that the market is a tough one, and will only get tougher, but seeing releases like these and many others besides, is a truly wonderful thing.

 

Amy Taubin

Critic

The Owl’s Legacy Icarus, DVD r1

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1 (also Arrow, Blu rB)

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Shoes Milestone, Blu rA / DVD r1

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Kino Lorber, Blu rA / DVD r1

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is a game-changer. Six discs, 30 hours of restored films by women filmmakers of the silent era, with an excellent essay by the set’s curator Shelley Stamp. Proof that Lois Weber is one of the greatest American filmmakers; proof that the films women made out of their own experience are different from those of their male counterparts because their view of marriage, economics, poverty, seduction, and their own autonomy is radically different and demands different forms of expression. Excellent restorations. Brilliant original scores. Get the Blu-ray – many of the best films are not on the DVD version. Stamp also does the commentary track for Shoes, Weber’s greatest film, which is not on the Pioneers set.

 

David Thompson

Critic and filmmaker, London

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

The Colour of Pomegranates Second Sight, Blu rB

The Magic Flute BFI, Blu+DVD rB/2

Cold Water (L’Eau froid) Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

La Prisonniere Studiocanal, Blu rB/DVD r2

A bit of cheat with my first choice – I haven’t actually seen it but I know it has to be the most important release of the year! This is a very personal selection, so I’m sorry not to be including anything from Arrow, Masters of Cinema, Indicator or Second Run, all of whom are producing excellent editions of films often too long neglected. Onwards and upwards.

 

Matthew Thrift

Critic

The Tree of Life Criterion, Blu r0 / DVD r1

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema Criterion, Blu r0

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 Indicator, Blu r0

Night of the Demon Indicator, Blu r0

2001: A Space Odyssey Warner, 4K UHD (r0)

Any new morsel from Terrence Malick is cause for celebration, but Criterion has outdone itself with its Blu-ray release of his masterpiece, The Tree of Life. The new, included cut is simply breathtaking; not a substitute for the theatrical version, but an expansive, deeper dive into what we fell in love with back in 2011.

Powerhouse have been going from strength to strength, but its release of Budd Boetticher’s Ranown films and Night of Demon (not to mention its Sam Fuller set) saw them leading the pack in 2018. Shout out to super-producer Jon Robertson for his extraordinary work on the Tourneur package.

Ingmar Bergman has been woefully underserved in the UK on Blu-ray, so when word dropped that Criterion’s colossal US set was region-free, the back of the sofa was ransacked for the pretty penny it cost to import. It’s in the post, and I can’t wait to get stuck in over Christmas.

If the new 4K tech has been more miss than hit so far, with standout catalogue titles that make the most of its abilities few and far between, Warner’s 2001 UHD proved the exception to the rule. If you’ve invested in the upgrade, there’s no better way to let your kit flex its muscles.

 

Douglas Weir

Technical producer, BFI

Night of the Living Dead Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

Suspiria (Argento) Synapse, Blu rA

Columbus Network, Blu+DVD r0

Death Line Network, Blu rB

Shot Vinegar Syndrome, Blu+DVD r0

Another strong year with the boutique labels proving there’s plenty of life left in the old dog yet. I’m not a big fan of releases with loads of extras, so my selection represents the new and old titles I enjoyed the most and thought represented an impressive technical standard, with Night of the Living Dead being my favourite of 2018.

 

James White

Head of Restoration, Arrow Films

Night of the Demon Indicator, Blu r0

The Last Movie Arbelos, Blu rA/DVD r1

A Matter of Life and Death Criterion, Blu rA / DVD r1

Perversion Story Mondo Macabro, Blu r0

Death Laid an Egg Nucleus Films, Blu rB

I’ve purposely limited my list to individual titles rather than box sets, given the magnitude of such releases as Criterion’s Bergman and Dietrich & von Sternberg collections, Indicator’s Budd Boetticher, William Castle, Sam Fuller and Hammer sets and Kino Lorber’s long-awaited Outer Limits Collections. Special mention should be made of the fantastic work this year by Second Run, BFI, Eureka/MOC, Studio Canal and Vinegar Syndrome.

 

Craig Williams

Critic and programmer, Badlands Collective

The Addiction Arrow, Blu r0

Sam Fuller at Columbia 1937-1961 Indicator, Blu r0

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 Indicator, Blu r0

Blue Collar Indicator, Blu rB

The Tree of Life Criterion, Blu r0 / DVD r1

 

Jason Wood

Artistic Director, HOME Manchester

Family Values: Three Films by Hirokazu Kore-eda Arrow, Blu+DVD rB

The Passenger Indicator, Blu r0

Columbus Network, Blu+DVD r0

Daisies Second Run, Blu/DVD r0

Arcadia BFI, DVD r2

The rise of Powerhouse (other home entertainment companies are available, as Marc Riley would say) is pleasing as they seem to have accessed some terrific films from the 1970s. Online obviously presents an alternative to physical Blu-rays but I still like the act of a physical disc, with the attendant notes and extras. I wish I had found space here to mention Curzon’s Faces Places release. Varda is a constant source of sustenance.

 

Nick Wrigley

Indicator/Powerhouse Films

La Belle et la bête BFI, Blu rB

The Magnificent Ambersons Criterion, Blu rA / Blu rB / DVD r1

Invention for Destruction Second Run, Blu r0 / DVD r0

Heimat Second Sight, Blu rB

Images Arrow, Blu rB

It’s been a year of spectacular upgrades – if you’ve got the equipment to play them on. 55 inch is now the new 40 inch – the minimum size required in order to appreciate what’s going on, now that 4K’s here – but what I’m loving the most is how great a well-encoded Blu-ray looks when properly up-ressed to a large, calibrated 4K display. For me, this is the end of the upgrade parade, a wonderful plateau on which to enjoy the first century of films shot photochemically.

 

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