With every first post I’ve written for starting or joining a new publication, I’ve always favoured writing a rundown of the reasons (at least in part) and a selection of releases that have significant meaning for me. Ever since I started collecting films from boutique labels, the forum posts and general thoughts that I came across most were the comments of excitement for films which held a great deal of love from those who had seen and experienced these films growing up, I often wondered when I would stumble upon the releases of those kinds of films that meant a lot to me in my younger years. It was 2012 when I picked up my first Arrow Video release which was ‘Lady Snowblood’ and even then the collection bug was still to take shape but I made the decision around that time to not buy releases of brand new films and instead focus on building a library that held a bigger focus on cult classics and films that would provide more knowledge and background on the newer films that were coming out, for instance, that first Arrow purchase was a result of seeing ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’ the night before and knowing that it based itself on genre classics that came before, I wanted to begin the journey of experiencing that influence first hand.
Growing up, my love of film took many different avenues. From the classics of Disney to the many Bond films that were available and to action films which included a probably ridiculous love of ‘Rush Hour’ as my first Jackie Chan film, not to mention recording legendary horror films from TV onto video late at night and then sneaking downstairs to watch them the next morning as a 7-year-old. Several years later I eventually made my way towards Japanese Cinema after seeing the trailer for ‘Battle Royale’ that for a teenager held the style and effect of everything I’d wanted to see in film at that point. Cut to now and it hit me with the release of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ from 88 Films that the films I had fond memories of when they came out and I watched them as I was growing up were being released by labels I’m a fan of which made me even more excited to experience these films again with their brand new restorations and selection of special features to provide more information and education on their creation. Below are a few releases that have received the treatment from these labels of films that make me excited to revisit with fresh eyes and more knowledge even though the nostalgia is still strong from my first experiences with them.
So as not to favour one specific label I’ve included releases from as many different labels that I own so in the following paragraphs there are releases from Arrow Video, 88 Films, Eureka, Cult Films and Criterion but to start with is one of my absolute favourite films and sits comfortably in the majority of top lists and that is Donnie Darko, released here by Arrow Video in a stunning boxset. Prior to the film’s theatrical release, I vividly recall seeing the trailer for it and being captivated by the design of the iconic rabbit costume and even whilst feeling unsure what genre of film it was going to be, it became something I thought a lot about and the resulting trip to the cinema to see it on opening night brought out in me a thoughtful and questioning response to figure out what the film was about and to this day every time I watch it fills me with those questions all over again. Truthfully it’s not a film I ever wish to fully understand and still theorise about as I adore it for that feeling it creates through its structure, visuals and narrative. Whilst I loved the idea of owning a film in physical form at the time of its release in the early 2000s, I don’t think I ever could have dreamed of one day having a release of the film that contained as much care and consideration to its contents contained in the set. Two cuts of the film, essays, interviews and so many different viewpoints to its creation and the incredible effect it had on audiences. Once the first print of the DVD had run its course, it became a budget release that had none of the original special features the first release had contained and the director’s cut edition was a very limited release so to have that content restored onto disc and contain the very rare and elusive director’s cut was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Add to that the packaging of the release and it makes for one of my favourite label releases on my shelves.
To mix it up a bit in the contents of films in this article, one of my favourites that holds absolutely no credibility outside of a fan favourite is the sequel ‘I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’ released in the recent trilogy boxset from 88 Films. Slashers in the 90s at the time of growing upheld a much more mythical quality, from discussing the films of Freddy Krueger with my friends in junior school to hearing about the opening of Scream from a friend akin to the way of hearing ghost stories around a campfire, this particular subgenre of horror was one that captivated me more for their reputations and video box art than the films themselves but after seeing Jeepers Creepers and Final Destination 2 that taught me the more humorous side of horror, the release of slasher films after that became a fun, curious past time and there’s something about the sequel to ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ that I really enjoy. It’s stupid, knows that its existence is to increase the body count and the fact that it features the iconic Jefferey Combs (which was lost on me at the time but after expanding my collection to now feature the ‘Re-Animator’ films, watching it in its new label release holds a much bigger appreciation) makes for a hugely entertaining ride. This release for me reminds me why I got into collecting releases from these labels as I’m getting to see a film I enjoyed growing up that has a very high fun and nostalgia value in an incredible upgrade on Blu-Ray. Add to that the fact there’s a commentary that discusses its reputation from the Hysteria crew and experiencing the film all over again with these additions has cemented it as even more of a favourite in the category of slasher sequels. Although watching the film as I’m writing this and looking at the character reaction to the twist reveal of the killer is still ultimately hilarious, it still remains just as much fun to revisit.
As mentioned above, with a constant desire over the years to expand my knowledge of genre films, actors, directors and styles of filmmaking, my absolute love of ‘Rush Hour’ (that still exists to this day) led me to Police Story and even watching it upon its release from Eureka a couple of years ago in a brand new restoration, it still felt incredibly fresh, energetic and intense as it did on my first watch and remains one of my favourite Jackie Chan films across his incredible output in cinema. The inclusion of various cuts of the film for different markets has only increased my love for this film as it highlights what studios thought different markets required as they pandered to an apparent audience attention span and the fact the boxset includes the sequel with the same treatment that I had never seen before, it has only increased my love for label releases of films I hold dear. I do hope that Eureka or 88 Films release more films from the ‘Police Story’ series as well as a label release of ‘First Strike’ that contains the original cut as opposed to the heavily edited UK video release would be incredible.
In a similar vein to the above and a love of Samurai in my teenage years, I remember strongly going round to a friends house whilst in my early years of Secondary School and watching the Vipco Vault release of Shogun Assassin and whilst I had little grasp of its loose concept of plot (when you don’t know it’s a composite release of the first two films in the series it can lead to more questions about what exactly is going on), the choreography and its depiction of the Shogun era had a lasting effect on me and so when Criterion packed the entire set together on Blu-Ray with that exquisite packaging design I knew it was one I had to upgrade (even though I already had the DVD boxset that I still keep to this day for the original poster sleeves – we’re all collectors after all). It’s a nice bonus as well that sitting next to this boxset on the shelf is the essay book on the series from Arrow. The two main special features that add to the validation of this purchase (outside of the interviews and essays) are the documentary about the making of the series and a second documentary from 1937 on the making of samurai swords. I also have to give a shout out to Criterion at this point for their incredible ‘Zatoichi’ boxset that is just simply incredible for the set and its contents that constantly without fail reignites my love for cinema and label releases every time I see it on the shelf.
Second to last on this list and once again mentioning Arrow Video is their release of ‘Ringu’, specifically the first limited run box set that featured the sequels as well as the now-deleted (to the best of my knowledge) spin-off sequel that followed the story from the original novels. Owning these originally from Tartan and whichever company released ‘Spiral’ in an upgraded set with so much more background on the films was another exciting purchase as I still strongly remember the effect the films had on me shortly after watching the remake. Even though the knowledge of the fact it was all just a story I was still on edge seven days after watching the video on the extras list. It’s a series I love to this day for both the films and where I was at that time in my life when I devoured all of the Ring media and stories I could. The contents on offer here with one of my favourite booklets from all of the Arrow releases I own and the brand new restoration of the first film that easily manages to make it all look and feel much more sinister leads to the feeling of complete joy that one of my favourite horror series has been so perfectly packaged into one set.
Lastly on this list is the Cult Films release of ‘Suspiria’ that’s going to reveal an ongoing theme of one of the checklist selections for which label films I purchase, but this quickly became one of my all-time favourite horror films when I first discovered it in the early 2000s based on a recommendation from a fellow crew member in the horror film company I used to work for of the best opening death scene in a horror film. Seeing it as well on the big screen for its 40th Anniversary at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield was also an incredible highlight. My favourite extra on the disc though, outside of the commentary track from Alan Jones and Kim Newman (whose commentary tracks and essays are a big draw for picking which releases to blind buy) is the inclusion of how they restored this film frame by frame. As a lover of the film and of cinema in general this was just a joy to behold and it brings to light how special and appreciative it is when a film that is so beloved is restored with loving detail that results in enjoying the film all over again just like I was seeing it the first time. As soon as this was available, the entire contents of the release were devoured the instant the delivery came through the door. These features allowed even more education on a film I already loved and then watching it a final time that day with all of that knowledge at the forefront of the viewing experience has only enhanced that love further.
There are still a number of releases I would love to see but based on the idea that labels are catching up with me and the love I have for films released when I was growing up I don’t doubt that there will come a time fairly soon that they will have the unique label releases they deserve. At this point I’m still to check out the Arrow Video releases of Versus and Pitch Black which had a great hold over my teenage years that I’m excited to delve into.
But enough about me and my favourites so far, what are the releases you’re proud to own as films that had an impact on you growing up and your favourite features in those sets?