HERE IT IS - THE BEST OF 2017 - AT LEAST OF WHAT I SAW OF IT.
AS USUAL DUE TO THE NORMAL TIME CONSTRAINTS (60 HOUR WORK WEEK!) AND MONEY SHORTAGES (THREE KIDS!), I DIDN'T/COULDN'T GET TO EVERYTHING, BUT OF WHAT I SAW AND WATCHED HERE ARE MY FAVORITES OF 2017, DIVIDED BETWEEN 10 BLU-RAY RELEASES AND 10 BOX SETS.
BEST OF THE RETRO AND RE-RELEASES!
SUSPIRIA 40th Anniversary 4K Restoration (Synapse)
This list is in no particular order but this gorgeous stunner deserves to be at the top, Synapse spent years restoring Argento's arguably best film, the hallucinatory shocker is bar-none one of the most enthralling visual experiences of all time! The restoration is superb and Don May and crew recruited the original cinematographer to supervise the color correction - it's fucking awe inspiring and the extras and packaging are drool-worthy!
ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE (Umbrella)
I have loved this Jaws rip-off since I first saw it on late-night cable in the 80s, a great cast, and some great mixing of real and animatronic killer whale carnage, it has one of those Ennio Morricone scores which is dramatic and quite possibly several notches better than the damn film, but I love it a bunch, glad to see it get a Blu-ray release with some new extras - it's been long deserved.
HELL NIGHT Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)
The 80's Gothic tinged slasher Hell Night is another title that's been missing from the HD realm, and Scream Factory remedied that this year, but unfortunately the notoriously fickle right holder doesn't even have the original negative and the transfer is pieced together from a 35mm print with some standard definition inserts, but it looks very nice and SF have gone all out with the extras, this thing in leaden with special features.
THE DEVIL'S RAIN (Severin)
Satanic cinema was rarely as gooey and weird as the slice of devil-worship starring William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine and Tom Skerrit just to name a few. Severin gace this one a heck of a nice spitshine and it glows in HD with the gross melting special effects and rams-horn transformation of the over-the-top Borgnine look wonderful and coming off cheesy as Hell, all great stuff and a nicely packed disc too.
RAWHEAD REX (Kino Lorber)
Another 80's cult-classic long OOP print on DVD and given some special treatment from Kino Lorber who packed it full of new stuff and gave it a real dandy of slipcover with some eye-popping artwork. This is certainly the lesser of the Clive Barker adaptation but it's a fun enough creature-feature with some tasty special effects.
THE HIDDEN (Warner Archive)
Warner Archive were killing in 2017 with Blu releases of The Green Slime, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Night Moves and Innocent Blood, the latter of which could have been slipped in The Hidden's place, but I have quite a cinematic-boner for The Hidden, an amped-up 80's sci-fi actioner starring Twin Peaks Kyle McLachlan with some great set-pieces and some great body-jumping alien parasites causing havoc in L.A., this releases new transfer and color correction was quite a nice surprise, wonderful stuff.
DEATH DREAM (Blue Underground)
Director Bob Clark is in all of our hearts for a few timeless contributions to cinema history, slasher fans love him for the seminal snowbound slash and stalk Black Christmas, sex comedy fans revere him for Porky's, and families for the world over love his other Christmas classic A Christmas Story. However, a lot of folks overlook this macabre coming home story from he early 70's, one that has always sent shivers up my spine, and the Blue Underground release looks stunning and has some great extras and a reversible sleeve of artwork - this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it delivered and then some.
LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (Vestron Video/Lionsgate)
The re-launch of the Vestron Video from Lionsgate delivered some awesome eye-candy for nostalgic 80's horror fans in 2017, with releases of The Gate and Waxwork but my favorite was the release of Ken Russell's The Lair of the White Work, a movie that stunned and baffled me when I first saw it on home video, and you know, it still baffles me, but I love this Blu-ray, it has some great extras and we need more Ken Russell on Blu-ray. Would someone please finally release The Devils uncut in 2018!
WILLARD (Scream Factory)
Killer rat classic Willard finally got a proper Blu-ray after years of languishing in VHS obscurity, even after the surprisingly good remake with Crispin Hellion Glover it failed to land on HD, but that has been remedied, Scream Factory even released the sequel Ben on Blu-ray. The PQ might not be all that one could have hoped for but I've been waiting for this sucker for years and I loved it, the new interview and commentary with star Bruce Glover are great extras.
DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING (Arrow Video)
Arrow had a phenomenal year in 2017, they brought us the VHS obscurity The Slayer, The Suspicious Death of a Minor, and gorgeous 4K restorations of Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Phenomena, and John Carpenter's The Thing but what got me the most excited was when they announced this blasphemous slice of rural gialli, it looks gorgeous and we get some great new extras, including an essential audio commentary from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.
BEST OF THE 2017 BOX SETS
THE PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION I/II (Scream Factory)
As far a box sets go in 2017 I think we got a few stellar releases, but none were more anticipated by me as much as the Paul Naschy collections, I've only been a casual fan of the man for many years, watching a movie or two here and there, but I grabbed both of these sets without hesitation and didn't regret it, a crash course in the Naschy might be an acquired taste but the Spanish horror icon just does it for me, both of these sets are phenomenal and are probably my favorites of the year as far as box sets go. Some of the film are full frame and not the most crisp and finely detailed Blu-rays you will ever watch but just as HD sets of his film they are packed tot he gills with b-movie awesomeness, ranging from witchy werewolf stories to Spanish giallo strangeness. The extras are not all that plentiful, most we get audio commentaries and alternate Spanish sequences but the main extra for me was just deep-diving these Naschy classic. I'm primed for volume three, let's make it happen Scream Factory!
HAMMER: VOL. 1: FEAR WARNING (Indicator)
The UK's Indicator really put their stamp on 2017 with great releases of the Eyes of Laura Mars debuting on Blu-ray and a series of Criterion-level box sets - my favorite of which was this collection of Hammer classic, many of which have had previous Blu-ray releases in the US via other labels but they were bare bones and stripped down, very lackluster. Thankfully Indicator stepped-up to the plate with this phenomenal (region-free) 4-disc edition with lavish A/V presentation and a wealth of extras that will take hours to pour through, this is a phenomenal release, highly recommended for Hammer horror fans.
GEORGE A. ROMERO'S BETWEEN NIGHT AND DAWN 1971-1973 (Arrow Video)
2017 took away our beloved George A. Romero but thankfully is also gave us some very fine collection of the man's work, including this set focused on the middle years between NOTLD and Dawn of the Dead, this is the non-zombie weirder stuff, the stuff the more casual fans might not have sought out, we have the suburban housewife witchcraft film Season of the Witch, and the romantic comedy There's Always Vanilla, these might have limited appeal to those casual fans, but the real stand-out here is the seminal infection films The Crazies. If you're looking to deep-dive into Romero's early career, including some non-horror stuff, this is a must-have. It's a shame that producer Richard P. Rubinstein has such a greedy death-grip on the rights for Romero's Martin (1978), it's noticeably missing and deserving of some serious restoration and re-evaluation, here's hoping Arrow, who produced a great 2-disc DVD set of the film, manage to get the Blu-ray rights.
THE WONDERFUL WORLDS OF RAY HARRYHAUSEN, VOLUME TWO: 1961-1964 (Indicator)
Indicator make the list again with this one, their second Harryhausen set, and is truly full of wonder and awe, it's a nice revisit of some childhood favorites, and a great introduction to a Victorian astronaut tale I has previously missed till now. The A/V on these is top-notch, chock full of tasty extras and looks to have some gorgeous packaging. I loved revisiting these with my son, and it's great to see him curled up on the floor enjoying them the same way I did when I was a kid!
THE FLY: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION (Via Vision)
Crazily, to my knowledge this region-free Blu-ray set from Australia's Via Vision is the only way to snag all five Fly movies in HD on one set, if you're a fan of The Fly series this is essential stuff, and not just for the Cronenberg entry, the undervalued sequel is fun and the vintage entries are still enthralling, except for The Curse of the Fly, that one is still TRULY a curse, but I love revisiting this films.
EMPIRE PICTURES BLU-RAY COLLECTION (Full Moon)
Full Moon's The Empire Picture's Blu-ray Collection is interesting because all of these flicks have been issued on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and it's imprint Scream Factory at some point, but Band being the entrepreneur he is re-packed them with exclusive artwork - which is very cool by the way, and housed them in this limited edition/numbered/signed box, and while it might be a hard purchase if you owned these on Blu-ray already there's no denying it has some serious shelf appeal for collector's! This is a fun set loaded with awesome 80's horror and sci-fi movies that fans of a certain age will recall with vivid intensity from their days cruising the local video shop for VHS horror flicks back in the 80s.
HOUSE: THE COLLECTION (Arrow Video)
Arrow came through with an all-inclusive boxset of the House series, in the US they released a 2-film set with the original film and the awesome sequel, but in the UK they went all-out for the four film set! Sure, the third entry is a in-name-only sequel, and the fourth installment is a dud but I had to have it, if only for the cool shelf appeal, but the first two films are still near and dear to my 80's heart, as soon as these sets were announced I placed the order for the import version, I still have no regrets about it, love it.
THE PHANTASM COLLECTION (Well Go USA)
The Tall Man and his murderous shiny balls finally got a Blu-ray set in 2017, put out by Well Go USA, who I honestly had never paid any attention to till this past year, and damn, they put out some quality stuff! This set looks great, includes reversible art, gorgeous transfers, and loads of extras, great to see these dream-logic Coscarelli classics get the HD treatment.
NIGHT GALLERY - THE COMPLETE SERIES (Universal)
Rod Serling's follow-up anthology TV series is not as fondly remembered as The Twilight Zone but it's aged well in my opinion, even if he sort of lost control of it at some point he was still a part of it and it shows. I picked this set up at Walmart and poured though the entire series on a bed time night binge that kept me up way past my bedtime, and then it forced me to wake up early to binge it before going to work in the morning! It's that good, if you love anthology TV series and have not treated yourself to this set you are missing out, stop depriving yourself, you deserve it!