5. Anything released by Scream Factory
If you are a total movie nerd like me, you probably have a favorite film for which you spent years, no…DECADES waiting for a proper release. Perhaps, in the early days of the internet, you heard rumors of a different cut of that film existing, or deleted scenes still lying on some proverbial editing room floor. But you despaired to ever see it because that sort of thing didn’t happen back then. Well, if that film of yours was a horror film, you can bet that Scream Factory, the horror-oriented division of Shout Factory!, is on the case.
It isn’t just that they release incredibly well-mastered HD transfers of movies you either didn’t know existed or haven’t thought about in 15-20 years. It isn’t just that they score retrospective interviews with the casts and crews of many a classic horror movie. It isn’t just that many of their releases also feature new artwork for the BD case, or that sometimes you can get that artwork as a groovy poster. This entertainment company has managed to unearth some of the most rare and whispered-about horror footage from the past 30+ years. Let me break it down a bit for you:
Manhunter (1986) – The Hannibal Lecter franchise has been a long-standing tradition in horror entertainment since this film’s release. A fairly close adaptation of the first Lecter novel, Red Dragon, this movie plays the story off as a noir-ish detective drama with psychological horror overtones. While several cuts of this film have existed over the past 20 years, this release combines the theatrical cut with a cobbled-together-from-rare-VHS-footage Director’s Cut that best approximates director Michael Mann’s original vision. But the real draw here is the beaucoup hours of behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew and the analysis of this film’s complex nature. You’ll never appreciate this film more than with this release.
Exorcist III/Legion (1989) – That film you dreamed about for decades? This one is mine. The theatrical cut was not pleasing for most people (but I like it) so the rumors have circulated for decades about the existence of director William Peter Blatty’s original, more philosophical, cut of the film which producers made him throw out to make a more action-oriented movie. That footage was said to be lost forever, but Scream Factory did what they do best and found a VHS copy of the dailies from that original shoot. They remastered that footage as best as they could (VHS doesn’t go to HD well) and put together a version of the film that most closely follows Blatty’s original shooting script (which can be found in a rare publication). For me, seeing this Director’s Cut was like Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail. And the special features? Perfect, simply perfect.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) – This movie has been hailed, without irony, as Bruce Campbell’s masterpiece performance. And it is. Simultaneously hilarious and heart-rending, Campbell’s portrayal of a displaced Elvis Presley (still alive after all this time) who must team up with a black John F. Kennedy to defend their nursing home from a mummy will leave you utterly amazed that this is the same actor who hams it up as Ash in the Evil Dead franchise. The HD transfer of this film is stunning and you get a candid commentary with the story’s original author, Joe R. Lansdale, to add to the massive collection of pre-existing special features.
The Entire Halloween Franchise (1978-2009) – This collection is coming out in all sorts of versions now, and individual releases of some of the films are reported to be coming soon. But the Limited Deluxe Edition on Blu-ray (came out in 2014) is a fan’s dream come true. Besides having a ton of new special features and including the 35th Anniversary Edition of the first film, this set includes all of the missing behind-the-scenes material for H20, the TV edits of the first two films, and…wait for it…THE PRODUCER’S CUT OF HALLOWEEN 6! Yet another film Scream Factory has restored using footage people thought was long gone. This cut, only existing through a series of clips and deleted scenes that could be found in odd corners of the internet for years, has been a lost treasure for fans of the series and it is fascinating to see how different a film can turn out, even a crummy one like H6! A truncated version of this box set can be found for cheap but it lacks the depth (and alternate cuts) of this set.
In case you want to know some of the other stuff Scream Factory has available, here is a short list: John Carpenter’s The Thing, Night of the Demons, Child’s Play, The Lady in White (3 cuts of this film!), Candyman 2, Carrie, all 3 Sleepaway Camp films, Army of Darkness (3 cuts of this film!)…I could keep going but you’re better served just looking for yourself here.
5/5 for everything this company does (they put so much into these restorations and recollections that you wonder why you ever bothered with another edition)
Why you want to buy this for a friend:
With such an extensive library of available films, and more coming out every month for the foreseeable future, there is bound to be some movie that strikes at the heart of every fan. And if horror isn’t you thing (you weirdo!), then check out their parent company Shout Factory! to see how much more they have to offer.
6. Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (1990-1992)
With Showtime premiering the 3rd season of this sometime in the first half of 2017 (we hope), now is the perfect time to revisit, or visit for the first time, the spellbinding bizarre-world that is the town of Twin Peaks. Be forewarned, this is my favorite TV show of all time and it is really hard for me not to gush about this series for enough pages to fill a book. What makes this series so brilliant is its ability to seamlessly blend horror, mystery, crime procedural, comedy, and surrealist genres together with deep and emotionally engaging character development AND to do it in less than 30 episodes. Creator/writer/director/actor David Lynch creates a world with this show, something that simply didn’t happen on television circa 1990. And when the network started messing with the show’s format and the ratings tanked, causing it to get cancelled, Lynch fired back with the surrealist nightmare prequel film, Fire Walk With Me. This movie, I kid you not, is NOT for the faint of heart (it’s basic themes include rape, incest, and possession). And just like the Star Wars films, you do not watch the prequel first. It makes no sense if you do.
The series has been released in almost half a dozen formats and collections over the years, but this BD release from 2014 is flawless for so many reasons. First, it repeats the Gold Collection’s standard of uniting all 29 episodes in one set (the pilot used to only be available as a Chinese bootleg…savage times back then). But unlike the Gold Collection, this set also includes Fire Walk With Me so this truly is the entire mystery (until season 3 comes out). In addition, this film includes about 2 full hours of deleted scenes from the prequel movie that had supposedly been lost forever (I’m starting to think that phrase has no meaning) that has been edited together into its own companion film. These scenes add a significant depth to the movie and manage to restore some brilliant (but somehow still cut from the theatrical version) performances by Twin Peaks regulars, as well as David Bowie (we miss you!).
5/5 (I’ll go 7/5 if my editor will let me, as he’s a huge fan too; this show literally has something for everyone and challenges you to actually think and care about what happens)
Why you want to buy this for a friend:
With season 3 rapidly approaching, now is the time to (re)train your brain to handle such a complex series. And this particular box set is the ultimate collection of the series. Lynch himself oversaw the mastering of each episode, so you know it is as flawless as possible. Besides, if you haven’t watched this series yet, you probably missed a heck of a lot of cultural references thrown your way. This show managed to influence and permeate ALL of network television for over a decade after its supposed demise. Watch, and find out why.
7. Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
I know, I’m supposed to be talking about movies and I keep bringing up TV shows. Sorry, but at least Twin Peaks had a movie attached to the set. I can’t defend my inclusion of Quantum Leap for the same reason. But it is a sci-fi fan’s dream show, and has rightly earned its incredibly high status among nerds for over 25 years. Starring Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Scott Bakula as a time traveling scientist and Dean Stockwell as his horny holographic sidekick, Leap drops us into every kind of genre and story you can think of without warning and makes even the most mundane tale entertaining. Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett is too pleasant a person to dislike and Stockwell’s character Al is the perfect sidekick, offering humor and drama exactly when we need them. Because the show only had two characters, viewers are treated to a lot of development. By season 5, you cannot help but feel like you are leaping around in time with these guys, and you want to be. That makes the series’ bittersweet ending all the more heart-rending.
The reason I bring this one up now is because of the circumstances of its latest re-release. When it was first released on DVD about 10 years ago or so, CBS/Paramount decided to not both paying the copyright fees for most of the show’s music. If you know anything about this show, you know how important certain songs (heck, most songs) were to the stories and settings of each episode. So when fans bought these sets and were treated to generic muzak in the background, they went ballistic and the show was rejected by fans (except bootlegs of aired episodes). But Mill Creek Entertainment recently acquired the rights to release several CBS shows on DVD and Quantum Leap was among the first. Much to the delight of many fans, these new versions have all the correct music restored, making the show whole (and hopefully popular) once again. Seasons 1 and 2 are the only ones available right now, but it shouldn’t be long before we see the rest of the series.
5/5 (because the show is awesome, the characters are like family, and the Mill Creek releases restore the show to its original glory)
Why you want to buy this for a friend:
At approximately $5 per season (I kid you not), there is absolutely no reason not to pick these up now. Get them for yourself, to replace the shoddy original releases, or share them with someone who hasn’t seen the show before. They will undoubtedly thank you for it. Plus, the more people buy these up, the more we can support Mill Creek in producing the last 3 seasons.
Okay, that should be enough to wet your whistle. So get out there and get shopping! Those stockings/Hanukkah gift boxes/Kwanzaa-bot offerings won’t fill themselves!