Mike Sutton's Top DVDs of 2001
Despite the absence of black monoliths, manned trips to Jupiter and Leonard Rossiter wandering around a space station with a Russian accent, 2001 still managed to be an eventful year. In DVD terms, it saw the arrival of some long-awaited films on feature-stuffed discs which made many previous "Special Editions" appear anorexic. It could be argued that many of these films were overrated bores which didn't need any more undeserved publicity, but at least fans were finally being given the discs they wanted.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year for this writer was the loving care put into special editions of films which are either underrated or generally despised. Leading the field was Fox's disc of John Boorman's deliciously insane Zardoz, the sort of film which should only be let out on licence with a tagging device attached. Although hardly the ultimate edition, the excellent commentary and restored image made this a must for anyone who glories in the fact that someone as crazily visionary as Boorman was ever allowed to write his own scripts. We can only hope that his masterpieces "Point Blank" and the woefully undervalued "Exorcist II The Heretic" are on the way in 2002.
Even better was MGM's release of Oliver Stone's marvellous Salvador on a disc with a transfer to die for and genuinely informative extras. Still too little seen, this immensely powerful movie has never looked better and provides a potent reminder of why James Woods is considered such a great actor.
Sticking with MGM, a studio who have released some true horrors since the advent of DVD, they came up trumps with two superb Brian De Palma films - Carrie and Dressed To Kill. Both discs were the work of the invaluable Laurent Bouzereau, a self-confessed De Palma junkie, and the finished products were must-buys. It was particularly nice to finally see "Dressed To Kill" in the full scope ratio for the first time since it appeared in cinemas. De Palma has been highly visible on DVD this year but, unfortunately, several of the discs were disappointments. Paramount pushed out a feature-lite and only mildly pleasing version of "The Untouchables" in January and Fox's releases of "Phantom of The Paradise" and "The Fury" were largely mediocre. Honour was slightly restored by MGM's fairly good transfer of "Blow Out" and, at the last minute, by Columbia's excellent special edition of Casualties Of War. This fascinatingly flawed film came up shining on a very good disc.
I could rhapsodise over "The Godfather Trilogy" box set and Warner's glorious disc of "Citizen Kane", but my final pick of the older films is Fox's two disc set of The French Connection, a film which just seems to get better with age. The double pack with the sequel had to be the bargain of the year - I picked it up for £18 - and the first movie had two marvellous documentaries along with an insightful set of commentaries.
Of the newer films, two DVD releases deserve to be singled out. Universal's R2 release of Hannibal was an excellent disc for a film which you probably either loved or hated. I loved it, not least for the Gothic camp running rampant in Anthony Hopkins's delectable impression of Bette Davies from "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane" and the sinister atmospherics of Ridley Scott's accomplished direction. The documentaries and commentary were fascinating and the transfer was simply spectacular.
On a more serious note, Artisan's region 1 release of Requiem For A Dream showcased a film which has, again, divided audiences down the middle but which impressed me as geniuinely horrifying and tragic in equal measures. The exceptional DVD was technically flawless and full of interesting features which enhanced the presentation of the film and deepened my understanding of it.
Hardly a top 5 then, but I recommend all of the above releases without hesitation. There are, of course, lots of other worthy DVD titles which brightened up the year - The Tailor of Panama, Platoon, The Age Of Innocence, North By Northwest, The Contender, Frenzy, Bamboozled, Superman The Movie, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Withnail and I and the hilarious second series of The League Of Gentlemen but faced with such an embarrassment of riches it's hard to know where to stop.