Simon Wyndham's Best and Worst DVD's of 2001

It's that time of year again. The time of year that demands we start writing about the various ups and downs of the last year while starting our articles with such original sentences as "It's that time of year again."

In this particular case the subject at hand happens to be what I consider to be the best and worst DVD's of the past year. It seems only yesterday that I got hold of my first DVD player. Is it really 2 years since the release of The Matrix? Over this time DVD has really become part of the mainstream with the silver disc portion of stores such as HMV and MVC overwheling the selection on VHS. Obviously such a saturation has meant the release of shoddy titles, but also the release of some true gems.

So, what would be my wheat and my chaff you may ask? Obviously as a hard nut kung fu film fan at the top of my list for the best DVD's I would be very hard pressed not to take my hat off to the guys at Hong Kong Legends. Despite a slightly controversial start with Drunken Master and Snake In The Eagles shadow, they went on to release titles that would put even some Hollywood sourced DVD's to shame.

Titles such as Purple Storm and 2000AD have a picture quality to die for, and films such as Legend Of a Fighter enable a fan to get as close to seeing them as they were meant to be seen as possible. While I would like to see lesser seen titles from them such as the Secret Rivals films, I cannot fault them on what they do release.

Next up I would have to say that Gladiator was one of my favourite DVD's of the year. Guys with too much time on their hands have chastised the film for 'being no Spartacus'. For me the film had scale, fantastic acting, and one of the most amazing soundtracks for a very, very, long time.

To follow I would like to add Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to my list. I can hear all the yawning out there, and it is true that I have watched it so many times I cannot go anywhere near the disc again. However the film has a certain atmosphere I loved, and the soundtrack has a wonderful amount of subdued emotion to it.

There are so many films on DVD I have loved this year it would be impossible to list them all. Honourable mention must go to the Region 1 directors cut release of Leon, a superb must have disc. The 2 disc Region 3 release of Bichunmoo is also something no self respecting fan of Eastern films should be without. Finally I must mention Shrek. Get it!

Now while I would love to finish on a positive I am afraid I could not resist telling you all about my worst DVD's of the year. At the top of such a list must be Star Wars Episode One. Okay, so it was a big seller, however this was definitely a case of hype over quality. While the extras on the second disc were very nice indeed, the same cannot be said about the film. I just did not realise quite how bad the movie was until I viewed it at home on the DVD!

Death Duel Of Kung Fu is another truly dire release. Put bluntly whoever made this was not on the caffiene that day. An old 1970's kung fu classic released with no restoration whatsoever, dubbed, and to cap it all off the film was cropped to 16:9 screen ratio with no anamorphic enhancement. Definitely one to avoid.

Next along are the Eastern Heroes releases of Jackie Chan's Lo Wei period films. Need I say more when I tell you that they took the pan&scan video masters and cropped the top and bottom to make a 16:9 ratio picture! To their credit they attempted an anamorphic option, but with such source material was there any point?

Ho hum, on with another year.

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