The best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2014

Video on Demand may be finally taking off for mainstream home viewing, but in the specialist sector independent publishers are producing ever more pristine, beautiful and elaborately annotated discs of that nurture and extend our access to and understanding of the riches of cinema.

Here, 34 international critics and DVD curators nominate their five best releases of the year.

Sight & Sound contributors

Web exclusive

A still from Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast (La Bête, 1975), one of five features (plus shorts) on this year’s sadly limited-edition Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection box-set, the hands-down winner of our poll this year.

A still from Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast (La Bête, 1975), one of five features (plus shorts) on this year’s sadly limited-edition Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection box-set, the hands-down winner of our poll this year.

Geoff Andrew

Senior Film Programmer, BFI Southbank, UK

Nashville Criterion and Eureka Masters of Cinema

The Long Goodbye Arrow

All That Heaven Allows Criterion

+ The Tarnished Angels Eureka Masters of Cinema

The Lusty Men Warner Archive Collection

The Essential Jacques Demy Criterion

Eric Rohmer l’integrale Potemkine

While I haven’t been able to cast my net as wide as in previous years, and while I made few surprise discoveries, 2014 still managed to offer up some very welcome releases of favourite films by some of my favourite directors. Robert Altman was well represented with dual-format releases of Nashville from both Criterion and Eureka, and by a well-appointed Blu-ray release of The Long Goodbye from Arrow. (When can we have a complete Popeye, please?)

Douglas Sirk also fared well with new Blu-rays of All That Heaven Allows and The Tarnished Angels, while it was great at last to have a good version of Frank Borzage’s A Farewell to Arms, released by the BFI with a decent batch of extras that includes an alternative ending. I’m thrilled that Nick Ray’s underrated The Lusty Men has been given a release in its complete version, though sadly I’m yet to catch Warner Archive’s disc.

But my real treats of the year both celebrate highly distinctive French directors who started out in the 1950s. Criterion’s The Essential Jacques Demy Blu-ray set is a must for five of the six features included (like many, I’ve never quite understood the extraordinary appeal of Donkey Skin among the French), not least the rarely seen and woefully neglected Une Chambre en ville, a dark masterpiece that’s arguably as fine as anything he made.

Then there is Potemkine’s massive, magnificent and mind-blowingly comprehensive Eric Rohmer l’intégrale including his 25 features (all but the last three newly restored), his shorts, most of his documentaries, filmed records of plays, two fairly dreadful pop videos, and a range of films and testimonies about the reclusive auteur. Sadly, only the features have English subtitles, but the collection is essential for anyone interested in Rohmer’s endlessly fascinating body of work.


Michael Atkinson

Critic, USA

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Kino

We Won’t Grow Old Together Kino/Film Desk

Verdun, Visions d’Histoire Carlotta/Kino

Bill Morrison: Collected Work 1966-2013 Icarus

Lines of Wellington Film Movement

Black Jack Cohen

Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies 1916-17 Flicker Alley

Such is the departure of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’s new digital restoration, on Blu-ray from Kino, from the film’s bedraggled, tarnished norm that the most seasoned Caligarian will find his or her knees weakening in the gaslight of its clarity. What was once an antique mirror unsilvering before our eyes, affording us an erratic (if atmospheric) view of the film’s unique object-ness, is now clear as a window, and whatever you decide you miss in terms of ancient tarnish is paltry compared to being able to see the film’s physical universe, largely of design wizards Herman Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Rohrig, in stunning detail, as it was seen in 1920. It is no longer a dusty oddball, but a precise and grand tour de force, as conscientious of its effects and intents as any modern blockbuster. This Caligari is essentially a new film experience – if not an entirely new film. The madness lives again.


Upehka Bandaranayake

Blu-ray DVD producer, BFI, UK

Gatchaman Complete Collection Section23

Orphan Black Season 2 BBC Home Entertainment

Out of the Past Warner Archive Collection

We are the Best Magnolia Home Entertainment

The Atom Egoyan Collection Artificial Eye

The Gatchaman Complete Collection actually came out at the end of 2013 but I only got my hands on it a few months ago so hope to be forgiven for its inclusion. It’s been real treat to revisit this childhood favourite in its original Japanese version and consider how different it is to my distant memories of Battle of the Planets.

Orphan Black Season Two is my fangirl choice for the year and very essential to my sanity whilst I anxiously await the third season.

Out of the Past. Robert Mitchum in glorious, gorgeous HD. That is all.

I’m always on the look out for films to share with my niblings and We are the Best is one I can’t wait to introduce them to. It’s impossible not to be charmed by Bobo, Klara and Hedwig – much like their music, this film is a joyful and rambunctious noise.

Dipping into The Atom Egoyan Collection has been like catching up with an old friend.

Honourable mentions to Masters of Cinema’s Woman in the Moon and Arrow’s Sullivan’s Travels and their beautiful Kickstarter-backed Borowczyk box-set Camera Obscura – an obvious labour of love for all involved.

There are still so many 2014 releases that I haven’t gotten around to buying yet that would most likely have made it into my favourite five – top of my shopping list are Warner Archive Collections’ The Lusty Men, Criterion’s The Essential Jacques Demy and Soda Pictures’ Kelly Reichardt Collection.


Arrow Academy’s limited-edition Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection, the runaway winner of this poll with 12 nominations, and sadly already out of print, although its constituent discs are now available separately. The discs are reviewed on pages 94-95 of our December 2014 issue.

Arrow Academy’s limited-edition Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection, the runaway winner of this poll with 12 nominations, and sadly already out of print, although its constituent discs are now available separately. The discs are reviewed on pages 94-95 of our December 2014 issue.

James Blackford

Blu-ray DVD producer, BFI, UK

Shockwaves Blue Underground

Unearthly Stranger Network

The Professionals Mk1 Network

Love Streams Criterion

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

The first (and best) underwater Nazi zombie film, Shockwaves received a fine US Blu-ray release. It looks better than ever in grainy 16mm and is presented with an insightful array of extras.

I was very pleased to see Network wholeheartedly embrace Blu-ray with an array of fantastic releases including Unearthly Stranger, a long-unavailable sci-fi gem from John Krish. It sits nicely next to the BFI’s release this year of The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

My brother bought me the Blu-ray box-set of The Professionals Mk1 for Christmas and I’ve loved every minute of it! Fantastic new HD transfers, good extras and even a substantial accompanying book of programme notes.

At long last we saw a proper release of John Cassavetes’ masterpiece Love Streams, the last word in filmmaking which engages with the subject of love. As one would expect, a superb presentation from Criterion.

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection is an awe-inspiring, all-encompassing presentation of this fascinating director’s work.

And finally, an honourable mention for Masters of Cinema’s Blu-ray of Wake in Fright. I was very impressed by this rather disturbing and totally unclassifiable film, which boasts a fantastic performance from Donald Pleasance. A great rediscovery and a high-quality presentation.

See our May 2014, pages 34-40, for an extended taxonomy and reappraisal of the work of Walerian Borowczyk by David Thompson.

See our May 2014, pages 34-40, for an extended taxonomy and reappraisal of the work of Walerian Borowczyk by David Thompson.


Michael Blyth

Film programmer, London Film Festival; Cult Strand programmer, BFI Southbank, UK

Nightbreed Shout! Factory

Curtains Synapse

Jennifer Kino

Cannibal Holocaust Grindhouse

In a good year for horror fans, we’ve seen some stellar work from Scream Factory (the genre sub-division of US company Shout! Factory), who continue to prove themselves the Criterion of the exploitation world. Their Blu-ray reissues of gems like Slumber Party Massacre, Final Exam and George Romero’s underrated Monkey Shines have been nothing short of wondrous, but their crowning achievement in 2014 was the director’s cut of Clive Barker’s 1990 curiosity Nightbreed. A genuine labour of love for everyone involved, and a gift for Barker fans who’d long given up hope on ever seeing his definitive edition.

Another home video horror treat came courtesy of Synapse, whose killer Blu-ray of Jonathan Stryker’s much loved but scarcely available Canadian slasher Curtains was a 2K triumph. That infamous ice-staking kill scene has never looked so good.

Perhaps slightly less respected, but just as welcome, Brice Mack’s long-forgotten Carrie rip-off Jennifer surfaced this year from Kino Video. Pilfering shamelessly from De Palma’s classic, this is nevertheless great fun, and it is great to see some high-def love given to those films previously dismissed as unlovable.

Lastly, Grindhouse Releasing’s deluxe edition of Cannibal Holocaust gave genre fans another reason to celebrate. While Ruggero Deodato’s verité opus has been given the special treatment a few times over, never has it been seen with such eye-popping clarity. Add to this a plethora of extra features and you’ve got the last word in cannibal Blu-rays.


Michael Brooke

Critic and DVD/Blu-ray producer, Arrow

In alphabetical order:

If…. Eureka Masters of Cinema

A Jester’s Tale Second Run

Rabid Dogs Arrow

That Sinking Feeling BFI

The Werner Herzog Collection BFI

They say that physical media is on its last knockings, but nobody told the ever-enterprising independent sector, which has increasingly taken to licensing major studio titles and treating them with both loving and genuinely scholarly care. This list could easily be many times longer than my allotted five, but…

If the US Blu-ray of Performance was a comparative disappointment, the Eureka/Masters of Cinema release of If…. was a triumph, improving on the already excellent Criterion edition by adding some fascinating interviews that prove that lowly cast and crew members often have at least as much of value to say as those credited on the posters.

Until now, Czech fabulist Karel Zeman has been bafflingly absent from English-friendly video, but thanks to Second Run’s DVD of A Jester’s Tale and the output of the Karel Zeman Museum (five more features, some on Blu-ray), we can finally explore films every bit as fizzingly imaginative as Tim Burton’s or Terry Gilliam’s.

Restoration of the original version of Mario Bava’s claustrophobic kidnap thriller Rabid Dogs was initially stymied by the apparent destruction of all 35mm offcuts. But although the end result unavoidably fuses source materials of varying quality, it’s been done with great care, and we’re lucky to have it at all.

The That Sinking Feeling set was a four-year labour of love for the BFI’s Doug Weir, and offered a fascinating overview of Bill Forsyth’s little-seen output in the decade prior to Gregory’s Girl; but its most culturally valuable achievement was the restoration of the main feature’s original Glaswegian soundtrack.

In an exceptional year for box-sets (Borowczyk, Demy, Robbe-Grillet, Tati, Truffaut), the BFI’s Herzog collection was my favourite, not least for drawing no qualitative distinction between high-profile fiction and comparatively obscure nonfiction. Multiple Herzog commentaries spread some particularly delectable icing on top.


Ian Christie

Professor of Film and Media History, Birkbeck, UK

The British Film series Network

Wanted for Murder (aka A Voice in the Night) Image Entertainment / Douris Co

Lines of Wellington Film Movement

Programming a ‘London on screen’ series at Birkbeck, I’m always on the lookout for rare titles in good-quality DVD format. The search this year led me to Network’s enterprising ‘British Film’ series, which yielded such gems as Michael Carreras’s jaunty 1963 East End musical What a Crazy World, with sensational performances by Marty Wilde, Susan Maugham and Joe Brown, and superbly photographed in b/w ’Scope by the great Otto Heller (fresh from Peeping Tom, Victim etc); and Clive Donner’s long-missing Nothing But the Best (1964), perhaps the best satire on 60s social climbing, deftly scripted by Frederic Raphael with a fresh early Alan Bates performance and the truly Mephistophelean Denham Elliot.

Two other discoveries this year thanks to DVD. One is a now-obscure British film noir of the 40s, Wanted for Murder (also known as A Voice in the Night), directed by Lawrence Huntingdon in 1946 from a pre-war script by Emeric Pressburger and Rodney Ackland. The DVD is only available from the US, in a Pulp Cinema series, the rights having been bought up by Raymond Rohauer, but the film gives many of Powell and Pressburger’s rep company great opportunities for rip-roaring Victorian melodrama in a contemporary London setting – above all Eric Portman as the helpless victim of an ancestor’s murderer’s obsession, and Roland Culver as his Scotland Yard nemesis.

The other is Valeria Sarmiento’s direction of her late husband’s last project, Lines of Wellington. This may have disappointed some Ruiz fans and militaria enthusiasts, but it has a distinctive take on the British campaign in Portugal against Napoleon’s forces, with a suitably quirky Malkovich as the young Wellington and a panoramic view of war’s desolation not unworthy of Brecht or Tolstoy.


Michel Ciment

Editor, Positif, France

Bruno Dumont Intégrale Blaq Out

Coffret Harold Lloyd (en 16 longs métrages et 13 courts métrages) Carlotta

Werner Herzog – volume 1 1962-1974 Potemkine

Coffret Gleb Panfilov-Inna Tchourikova Potemkine

Fa​t City Wild Side

I would recommend this year, among French DVDs and Blu-ray releases, Blaq Out’s complete work of Bruno Dumont in one box, and Carlotta’s Harold Lloyd set, collecting 16 features, 13 shorts plus archive documents, in all 28 hours of material.

Potemkine’s set contains four films by Gleb Panfilov, a great Soviet master little known today, with his muse Inna Tchourikova.

Fat City is John Huston’s masterpiece accompanied on Wild Side’s edition by a 200-page book by Samuel Blumenfeld.


Jordan Cronk

Critic, USA

For Ever Mozart Cohen Media Group

Providence Jupiter Films

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Paramount/CBS

Love Streams Criterion

The Complete Jacques Tati Criterion

Cohen Media Group have very quietly established themselves as one of the finest Stateside Blu-ray distributors, not only rescuing many under-recognised titles but also outfitting them with some stellar supplements in the process. Their 2014 slate was highlighted by the release of Jean-Luc Godard’s For Ever Mozart (1996), one of the director’s most accessible yet least discussed contemporary works. James Quandt’s essential commentary track elucidates many of the cinematic and literary references employed and exploited throughout, making a case for the film as one of Godard’s richest.

As a new restoration of Alain Resnais’ Je t’aime Je t’aime (1968) made the repertory rounds this year, Providence (1977), one of the late Left Bank filmmaker’s greatest works, finally debuted on digital home video from Jupiter Films in France. The Region 2 PAL disc is English-friendly, and includes a number of insightful extras to boot.

While I’m grateful to finally have the entirety of the original Twin Peaks saga on Blu-ray, the selling point of Paramount’s Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery box set is the 90-minutes of deleted scenes from the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), long the holy grail for aficionados of the show and director David Lynch alike. The pristinely remastered and carefully sequenced footage is equal parts strange and startling. Let’s hope the forthcoming third season of the show continues to embody similar traits.

And lastly there’s Criterion, who produced another predictably strong slate of releases. The long-awaited home-video debut of John Cassavetes’ best film, Love Streams (1984), in particular corrected a major digital gap, while the exhaustive Complete Jacques Tati box set (arriving just months after their equally impressive Essential Jacques Demy set) resurrected an entire catalogue of neglected and out-of-print titles.


Sam Dunn

Head of DVD/Video Publishing, BFI

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

The Shout Network Releasing

Girly Scorpion Releasing

The Swimmer Grindhouse

Bunny Lake is Missing Twilight Time

Camera Obscura is a dream release. I’m still coming to terms with the fact of its existence. Glorious films in fabulous new transfers, considered extras and great packaging. Hats off to all involved.

Network has been very busy publishing all manner of amazing British films this year, and their Blu-rays are a particular treat (I never thought I’d get to see Krish’s Unearthly Stranger in HD!). Amongst the cream of the crop is The Shout, a deranged treat given the deluxe treatment and accompanied by some nice extras.

Girly is a high point of British celluloid excess; it’s so great that it has found its way to Blu-ray. It’s light on extras, and the image and sound aren’t in tip-top condition, but it seems churlish to be too critical when the endeavour is so admirable.

Frank and Eleanor Perry’s devastating masterpiece The Swimmer looks great, and the disc is chock full of great extras. Getting to see this great film in such a loving presentation makes me yearn for Ladybug Ladybug and Last Summer to be given the same treatment.

With Bunny Lake is Missing, another wonderful entry in the history of great British filmmaking finds its way to Blu-ray. I love this film, and the presentation here only increases my enjoyment.


Five votes for the BFI’s Alain-Robbe Grillet box-set. See our July 2014 issue, pages 94-95, for an extended review.

Five votes for the BFI’s Alain-Robbe Grillet box-set. See our July 2014 issue, pages 94-95, for an extended review.

Gareth Evans

Critic and programmer, UK

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films 1963-1974 BFI

The Chris Marker Collection Soda

Ikarie XB-1 Second Run

Shell Verve

As the genuine diversity of titles on cinema screens steadily diminishes (London saw the loss of the crucial world cinema-supporting Riverside Studios this summer), so DVD becomes ever more necessary as a repository of the great lineage of film. (And yet, this sector is hardly secure, of course. The future direction of key online store Moviemail needs to be monitored closely, after its sale.)

This tension between public and privatised viewing remains all too relevant. News that two of the UK’s finest DVD rental libraries – London’s Close Up and Bristol’s Twentieth Century Flicks – will be opening cinematheques in 2015 is evidence, finances apart, of the fact that collective viewing is crucial to the future of all film, whatever its platforms.

In auteur terms, major collections by Borowczyk, Robbe-Grillet and Marker were all most welcome (the latter anchored Soda Pictures’ handsome new series of artists’ features, which includes the beautifully produced edition of Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours).

In another strong year for Second Run, the stalwart label’s retrieval of the benchmark Ikarie XB1 is to be hailed loudly from all planetary bodies. How projects as different as Star Trek and 2001 have been influenced by this superbly prescient and witty Czech sci-fi is one of the many stories of the cultural Cold War deserving wider currency.

Finally, Scott Graham’s Shell, which I missed on its tiny theatrical release, was a hauntingly fine discovery, and Orson Welles’ incomparable take on The Trial (StudioCanal) reminds just how extraordinary he was. Who else has been able to smuggle such innovation, insight and imaginative flair into the heart of popular film culture, so consistently and for so long? 2015 sees his centenary: time for a box set as substantial as the man?


The Ferroni Brigade

Olaf Möller, Christoph Huber, Barbara Wurm: critics, Germany/Austria

Ghashiram Kotwal Arsenal / Filmgalerie 451

Studio H&S: Walter Heynowski und Gerhard Scheumann absolutmedien

Audie Murphy Collection (Edition Western-Legenden) kochmedien

Sangue bleu Cineteca di Bologna

Der Damm & Film oder Macht edition filmmuseum


That Sinking Feeling BFI Flipside


Three votes for the BFI’s Werner Herzog box-set. See our October 2014 issue, pages 94-95, for an extended review.

Three votes for the BFI’s Werner Herzog box-set. See our October 2014 issue, pages 94-95, for an extended review.

Graham Fuller

Critic, USA

The Werner Herzog Collection BFI

The Lusty Men Warner Archive Collection

Nashville Criterion

Red River Criterion

Tess BFI

When it comes to home viewing, the pleasure principle and nostalgia may supplant intellectual needs. Since Americana, for want of a better term, baptised me cinematically and there were key releases in 2014, it dominates my choices.

Red River (both cuts of which are included in Criterion’s sumptuous edition) spawned TV’s Rawhide, which is precisely where I came in. Peter Bogdanovich’s fond quoting of Howard Hawk’s epic cattle drive in The Last Picture Show gives one indication of how strongly it works on the imagination: it’s as if John Wayne will forever be telling his adopted son Montgomery Clift to “Take ‘em to Missouri” or parting the cattle like – well, the Red Sea – to beat him senseless, only to find he loves him too much.

No matter that Nicholas Ray’s The Lusty Men (released on DVD for the first time) and Robert Altman’s Nashville show how radically western mythology was diluted, they are masterpieces – the former (another influence on Bogdanovich) a sublime homage to the romantic ache in Robert Mitchum and his irreducible poetic machismo.

There’s a powerful family connection of a different kind between the massive Herzog set and Roman Polanski’s ravishingly restored Tess – the German master’s ‘Best Fiend’ Klaus and his beautiful daughter Nastassja, who, as a recent New York retrospective showed, was a finer actress in her teens and twenties than she was ever given credit for.


Pamela Hutchinson

Sidewalk Stories Carlotta

Madame Dubarry Eureka Masters of Cinema

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Eureka Masters of Cinema

The Freshman Criterion

Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies 1916-17 Flicker Alley

Patience was rewarded this year, with some long-awaited silent debuts. A 25-year home-video release window may not sound like much for a silent film, but Nathan Lane’s 1989 Sidewalk Stories is a wistful, fascinating movie, and this year’s US DVD/Blu-ray outing was long overdue. This film well deserves to be welcomed in from the wilderness. 

Pola Negri’s first appearance on Blu-ray came about thanks to Masters of Cinema’s release of Ernst Lubitsch’s witty, wondrous Madame Dubarry (1919) – a feast for the eyes and a jolt to the funny bone. Eureka’s vintage imprint was extra-busy this year, re-releasing much of its back catalogue for Blu-ray market, and bringing us the sharp new restoration of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and an impressive release of DW Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages. Impossible to pick between those two, but I will, and Caligari’s reinvigorated colour scheme just nudges it for me. This was the Caligari we had been waiting for.

Criterion’s beautifully presented Jacques Tati box-set was clearly the completist’s choice for 2014: six features, seven shorts and a hamper of extras – far more material than most of us could get through in a year. One to save up for a month of rainy Sundays. Until that moment of luxury arrives, the same label followed up 2013’s release of Harold Lloyd’s electric Safety Last! (1923) with the boisterous campus comedy The Freshman (1925). Again, the film was presented with a new score by Carl Davis and a generous package of shorts and extra goodies.

The most eagerly anticipated release of the year came from Flicker Alley, though. The Blu-ray bundle of Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies contains his finest shorts, looking their very best.


David Jenkins

Editor, Little White Lies, UK

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Violent Saturday Eureka Classics

Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films 1963-1974 BFI

Man of Marble Second Run

Nekromantik Arrow

One memorable day in my boyhood household was when my mother ‘accidentally’ recorded an omnibus episode of Coronation Street over the top of a taped-from-TV copy of Walarian Borowczyk’s 1972 film Blanche, an item treasured by my father. This didn’t really affect my parents’ relationship so much as it altered my father’s VHS storage techniques, and any positive change is good change. I’d never seen the film so couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, so Arrow’s labour-of-love Borowczyk boxset allowed me to locate a small but vital missing jigsaw piece from my youth. It’s a breathtaking feat, the lavish Blu-ray box-set equivalent of the moon landings. 

Violent Saturday is a ‘small’, virtuosic, almost cosmically-inclined fable on coiled aggression. This film has everything in it. 

Trans Europ-Express is my pick for the top cut from the BFI’s impressive six-film survey of the directorial work of Alain Robbe-Grillet. This one is perhaps the film which best articulates his cinematic philosophy, his understanding of narrative convention and his predilection for arty bongo.

Man of Marble is a howl of righteous anger from Andrzej Wajda about the power (pro and con) of the camera and the fall-out that comes from allowing yourself to become a political stooge. Amazing P-Funk soundtrack.

Nekromantik is a heartbreaking melodrama about corpse-fucking. The only film which compares on a level of pure grime and seediness is Stephen Frears’s Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, a Comic Strip Presents… film in which Rik Mayall (RIP) and Ade Edmondson conduct conversations while lying in London pub urinals.


Trevor Johnston

Critic, UK

Rapture Eureka Classics

Salvatore Giuliano Arrow

Snowpiercer Wild Side

Unman, Wittering and Zigo iTunes

Ida Artificial Eye

Only maniacal 60s British cinema completists would previously even have heard of John Guillermin’s 1965 French-shot coming-of-age drama Rapture, but few would ever have seen this long-unavailable saga of a vulnerable volatile teenage girl’s corrosive dalliance with a fugitive sailor – directed with such freewheeling expressiveness it makes one rather sad that Guillermin took the Hollywood coin thereafter.

More familiar to most arthouse mavens but unseen by me was Francesco Rosi’s 1962 Salvatore Giuliano, which plays out like a restaged documentary chronicling significant events before and after the killing of a renegade Sicilian freedom fighter. Riveting it is too, not just for Rosi’s extraordinary command of his resources, but the way in which it cannily outlines the iniquities of state corruption without making specific (and thus presumably censorable) accusations.

Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer is another saga of bristling class conflict, though of a more speculative, post-apocalyptic cast. A shame UK cinemagoers still haven’t had the chance to hop aboard this eye-poppingly imaginative odyssey, but the excellent French Wild Side Blu-ray edition stands up well amongst sundry international options for this English-language title.

Not on disc at all, but well worth a look for anyone who caught it on late-night television in years gone by, John Mackenzie’s second feature, 1971’s unsettling boarding-school saga Unman, Wittering and Zigo (the last three names on the class roll of the seemingly murderous 5B) has now resurfaced as a legit digital download – presumably a sign of thing to come for such archive titles.

Just time to mention Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, which I saw too late for my Films of the Year selection but whose academy-ratio framing casts an intimate spell for home viewing, where one can also stop to admire the exquisite black-and-white cinematography in all its chilly Eastern European glory on Blu-ray.


Three votes for Lionsgate’s fulsome Twin Peaks box-set. See our September 2014 issue, page 113, for a review.

Three votes for Lionsgate’s fulsome Twin Peaks box-set. See our September 2014 issue, page 113, for a review.

Kent Jones

Critic and programmer, USA

Coffret Jean Epstein Potemkine

My one DVD release for the year.


Tim Lucas

Video Watchdog, USA

Alain Robbe-Grillet Six Films 1963-1974 BFI

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Twin Peaks: the Entire Mystery Lionsgate

The Man from Laramie Twilight Time

Andy Milligan Bundle: Torture Dungeon / Bloodthirsty Butchers / The Man with Two Heads Code Red

I provided audio commentaries for five of the six films in the Robbe-Grillet set, but my involvement doesn’t change the fact that this set embodies the most exciting sense of discovery I’ve experienced with a director since my teenage years. These are beautiful, seductive and powerful films, participatory objets d’art rather than mere entertainment.

By packaging together Borowczyk’s early animation shorts with magnificently restored early arthouse features and his later, taboo-bursting erotica, the Boro box insists that we accept him, all or nothing. Packaged with a thick book of enlightening essays that doubles as the first-ever translation of Borowczyk’s short fiction, this is that rare home video release that fully warrants the epithet ‘monumental’.

Though conceived for television, the Twin Peaks saga is one of the great puzzles of cinema: wisest when silliest, tenderest when most violent, most brilliant when it infuriates; it’s both David Lynch’s Everest and his Waterloo. What a blessing to finally have all the pieces, and to experience again what a miraculous moment in art it was.

Twilight Time’s ravishing presentation of Anthony Mann’s classic James Stewart western The Man from Laramie offers a 4K scan from the original camera negative in its intended 2.55:1 screen ratio for the first time, with its original four-track stereo mix configured for DTS-5.1 delivery. No matter how well you know the film, one of the best of its kind, this disc is a flat-out revelation.

Though each of the grindhouse titles remains incomplete, Code Red’s Blu-ray release of three Andy Milligan titles – two produced in the UK – offer substantial restorations of both content and coherence. Still not ‘good’ filmmaking, but the improved clarity of sound and nuances of performance available to 1080p make clear that these are less movies than recklessly filmed plays of the sort that Milligan staged at New York’s Caffe Cino in the 1960s, and the actors are doing their best under trying conditions.


Neil McGlone

Film researcher and advisor, UK

Coffret Jean Epstein Potemkine

The two Jacques: Demy and Tati box-sets Criterion

Celluloid Man Second Run

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Paramount

From the beautiful artwork to Michael Brooke and Daniel Bird’s meticulously researched accompanying book to James White’s faultless 2K restorations, the Borowczyk limited box-set was a thing of great beauty, while Potemkine’s Epstein box-set, with sparkling newly restored prints from the Cinémathèque française, was absolutely essential.

Celluloid Man is a release that anybody even with just a passing interest in film should own, as indispensable as Mark Cousins’s The Story of Film. The Entire Mystery meanwhile is what every Twin Peaks fan has been waiting for – and with the recent announcement from Lynch/Frost of a new series in 2016, was impossible to resist.

Special mentions too for the BFI’s Herzog and Robbe-Grillet sets, for Second Run — undoubtedly one of the UK’s (and the world’s!) most important labels for world-cinema gems, and especially for Arrow, a savvy boutique label with an incredible marketing strategy. It continues to go from strength to strength: this year’s acquisition of the UK’s leading film restoration specialist, James White, was a prime move as his work on some of the label’s recent releases confirms. Next year Arrow plans to release titles in the USA.

What’s still missing? Silent film is still largely underrepresented, bar the big, well-known titles. Essential, tireless restoration work continues around the world, but the results only receive one-off screenings at often specialist film festivals before disappearing into the annals of world film archives. Shouldn’t these films be given a new lease of life via DVD, Blu-ray or even VoD via the film archives’ own websites?


Sophie Mayer

Critic, author and academic, UK

Project Shirley Milestone

The Changes BFI

Best, favourite and most important: it has to be Milestone Films’ Project Shirley, releasing extraordinary region-free DVDs and Blu-rays of Shirley Clarke’s major films. Portrait of Jason and Ornette: Made in America were released on 2014, with The Connection coming in February 2015. The attentive restoration of Jason (and its redistribution on 35mm) was made possible by Milestone’s 2012 Kickstarter that beat its goal: both a sign of distributors’ acute need in austere times and of a buoyant and generous cinephiliac audience. Each DVD/Blu-ray includes features that are genuine bonuses, paying equal attention to the extraordinary filmmaker and her incredible documentary subjects. 

On the flipside: very glad to have the BFI’s DVD of Anna Home’s and Peter Dickinson’s The Changes, which feels uncannily timely, not only as a tie-in to the BFI’s Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder sci-fi season, but as a mirror to our current unsettling times.


Henry K. Miller

Critic, UK

Brute Force Arrow

The Chris Marker Collection Soda

Easy Living Odeon Entertainment

I have a folderful of bookmarked news articles about the decline of DVD going back three years, for a thinkpiece that I haven’t got round to writing, probably because there are still far more wonderful discs released every week than I have the time to watch or the money to afford. I’m still catching up; there is a big Eureka-shaped gap in this list.

With that in mind, Arrow’s Brute Force (1947), directed by Jules Dassin from a script by Richard Brooks, and Soda’s Chris Marker collection – of films that it had been all but impossible to see for years – are both outstanding sets. But I don’t think I’ve enjoyed anything quite so much as Odeon Entertainment’s bare-bones edition of the Jean Arthur comedy Easy Living (1937), written by Preston Sturges.


Three votes for Jupiter Films’ release of the late Alain Resnais’s Providence.

Three votes for Jupiter Films’ release of the late Alain Resnais’s Providence.

Mehelli Modi

Second Run, UK

In strictly alphabetical order:

Blanche Arrow Academy

The Day the Earth Caught Fire BFI

Pintilie. Cineast: the Films of Lucian Pintilie – Romania, 1965-2003 Transilvania Films

Providence Jupiter Films

The Tarnished Angels Eureka Masters of Cinema

Once again, it’s been an incredible year to be a lover of the art of cinema, home-video publishers spoiling us for choice every week. How to choose between releases? It shouldn’t be a competition and so the only way for me is to select five releases that were always high up Second Run’s wish list to release, but which I am delighted have now been released by others in wonderful versions. Seek them out.


Kim Morgan

Critic and programmer, USA

The Shooting + Ride in the Whirlwind Criterion

White Lightning Kino Lorber

Gator Kino Lorber

Riot in Cell Block 11 Criterion

The Innocents Criterion

20,000 Days on Earth Cinedigm

Picking five… Monte Hellman’s double-offering is exquisite, particularly the spare, existential, Beckett-like masterpiece The Shooting. A nice fact: Hellman himself had never noticed a moving detail in one scene from the great Warren Oates – a tear in the actor’s eye – until after this restoration.

I’m going to cheat and include Joseph Sargeant’s swampy, backwoods charmer White Lightning, starring Burt Reynolds, and its sequel, Gator, directed by Burt Reynolds, as one release. If we can merge The Godfather I and II, we can merge Gator McClusky. Both discs are nicely restored with the engaging extra of two ten-minute interviews with Reynolds, split between the discs. Watching a compelling Reynolds talk, one is reminded that he both doesn’t discuss his movies enough and doesn’t get enough critical credit, in general.

Folsom Prison serves as the setting of Don Siegel’s part art-, part exploitation-, part-message movie (what’s the difference, really?) Riot in Cell Block 11, produced by Walter Wanger, one of Hollywood’s most distinguished, fascinating jailbirds. With its actual prison location and real-life inmates, Wanger’s explosive little baby is a gritty work of squalid splendour. The informative commentary track by Matthew H. Bernstein, author of Walter Wanger: Hollywood Independent, is the standout extra.

Jack Clayton’s gothic The Innocents is an essential release, with cinematographer Freddie Francis’s importance to the movie properly emphasised in the disc’s extras as well.

20,000 Days on Earth, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s look at Renaissance man Nick Cave (and Nick Cave looking at himself), is a gorgeous genre-bending docu-drama. Music, confessions, half confessions, darkness, light, heroin, church – this is so much more than a mere documentary. Cave wants to work forever, but the whole thing leaves you singing, strangely, happily, “La la la la La la la lie, sooner or later we all gotta die.”


Kim Newman

Critic and author, UK

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Out of the Unknown BFI

Batman: The Complete TV Series Warner Home Video

Sgt Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show: The Whole Series Mediumrare

The Complete Dr Phibes Arrow

Already out of print and pricey, Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection collects five key features and a selection of short films from the French-resident Polish director. Though the discs are available separately, the collection also includes a substantial, very useful book containing writings by and about Borowczyk. My personal favourite of these films is the medieval-set Blanche.

Out of the Unknown was the key BBC science fiction series of the 1960s. This release is what’s left of it, with careful restorations, a connoisseur’s selection of extras and reconstructions of a handful of missing episodes.

Long absent from home video because of a rights quirk, the pop-art cult classic Batman: The Complete TV Series looks vivid on Blu-ray, and still works as a kids’ comic show, an essay in knowing adult humour (with a clutch of perfectly-hammed special guest villains) and a fond recreation of the charming quirkiness of the Batman comics in the era of Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. The collector’s edition comes with a Batmobile model.

Sgt Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show: The Whole Series is another complete set at last available for a show that has had several previous, tentative showings on DVD. Here are all four seasons of one of the great sitcoms, showcasing Silvers’ powerhouse performance as the ever-finagling Bilko and the sad-sack expressions of his exploited platoon.

The year also saw Blu-ray releases of Robert Fuest’s sumptuous art deco, grand guignol Vincent Price vehicles The Abominable Dr Phibes and Dr Phibes Rises Again. At once ruthlessly gruesome – Phibes’s deployment of the plagues of Egypt is even more merciless than God’s — and archly elegant, these are endlessly rewatchable, with groaner jokes (“a head-shrinker”), Price’s seething presence as the wax-faced mad genius and an array of doomed character actors.


Anthony Nield

Blu-ray and DVD producer, Arrow Video, UK

The Boy from Space BFI

If…. Eureka Masters of Cinema

Oktoberfest München 1910-1980 Edition Filmmuseum

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Yellow Future Past Films

The year’s most exciting release was, for me, the opportunity to relive primary-school nightmares. And the BFI’s two-disc set of The Boy from Space allowed viewers to fully revel in their nostalgia, with the 1980 series complete and uncut (with the education bits between the drama all intact), reproductions of the original pupils’ pamphlets and plenty more on the discs and in the booklet.

From classic British telly to classic British cinema with If…., again chockfull of extras. A particular delight were the all-new interviews with cast and crew members.

Oktoberfest München 1910-1980 was the documentary compilation of the year, albeit with a dose of fiction thrown in for good measure. Here was everything from silent newsreels to 3D, Karl Valentin (the ‘Charlie Chaplin of Germany’) to the early works of Percy Adlon – all united by a single theme.

I’m named in the booklet of Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection thanks to the tiniest of contributions, but surely I won’t be accused of bias in naming this arguably the year’s most important Blu-ray and DVD release. I’m confident it’ll be on plenty of other lists here so need only touch upon its crowdfunding, as its success in this instance really did make a difference: all those wonderful short films and features in glorious high-definition.

Speaking of crowdfunding, my final shout-out goes to Yellow, a ‘neo-giallo’ from Ryan Hansom and Jon Britt that was partly financed in such a fashion and became something of a hit on the horror-festival circuit. This year it was released onto DVD and in loving fashion: just the 666 copies complete with newly-commissioned Graham Humphreys artwork. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can even opt for a VHS edition. (Just the 66 copies of that one!)


Tony Rayns

Critic, UK

Martin Scorsese Presents: World Cinema Project Vol. 1 Eureka Masters of Cinema

The Huang Mingchuan Trilogy Self-published

Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection Flicker Alley

Games Odeon Entertainment

Stranger on the Prowl Olive Films

It’s been clear for some time that ‘niche’ DVD/Blu-ray publishing will both outlast the mainstream industry and replace festival screenings and the other old ways that archival and arthouse/indie films reached audiences. My niche picks this year are headed by Volume 1 of Masters of Cinema’s World Cinema Project, a three-disc set which includes the restoration of Ermek Shinarbayev’s stupendous Revenge (Mest, 1989, Kazakhstan); the Turkish and Moroccan films in the set are excellent too.

In the self-published indie sector, nothing has beaten The Huang Mingchuan Trilogy, a beautifully packaged set containing Huang’s three fiction features; Huang was Taiwan’s first authentic indie filmmaker, and his films (especially the first, The Man from Island West) not only showed many others how to work outside the system but also set an agenda for creative ways to tackle Taiwan’s political, cultural and historical problems… and all three films still look great!

I’ve long been interested in the late Curtis Harrington, who began making ‘confessional’ gay shorts before Kenneth Anger did, and went on to make films maudits in at least three countries. Flicker Alley have anthologised his indie work in the fascinating Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection, which includes the seminal Fragment of Seeking (1948) and his work with the occultist Cameron Parsons, widow of the notorious Jack Parsons. This appeared just after Harrington’s tarot-flavoured Simone Signoret thriller Games finally came out in a letterboxed edition from Universal Vault Series; a cheaper UK edition has since come out too.

And Olive Films in Chicago have plugged one of the last Losey gaps by retrieving the first European film of his political exile, Stranger on the Prowl, shot in Italy under a pseudonym, and giving it the long overdue restoration treatment. Next on my viewing list: a just-received disc of independent shorts from Burma.


Three votes for Criterion’s release of John Cassavetes’s Love Streams.

Three votes for Criterion’s release of John Cassavetes’s Love Streams.

James Rocarols

BFI Player, BFI, UK

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films 1964-1974 BFI

Love Streams Criterion

Sorcerer Warner Home Video

Branded to Kill Arrow

With almost embarrassing supremacy, Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection is clearly release of the year. The passion and artistry with which it’s been assembled makes for an apt tribute to the filmmaker it celebrates.

I tried to avoid BFI DVDs, but the Alain Robbe-Grillet collection too readily fulfils the criteria for a great and important release, re-evaluating the reputation of an unheralded and unfairly perceived director.

Love Streams and Sorcerer are a pair of ill-served American classics, restored to their rightful prominence.

I’m a sucker for the feature-film-as-extra, I must admit. And the pinku reimagining Trapped in Lust included on Arrow’s disc of Branded to Kill is more than just a curio; it’s a fascinatingly unruly genre picture in its own right. Of course the main feature is also presented with Arrow’s customary care, elevating this edition above its Criterion counterpart.

I would probably also include Twin Peaks: the Entire Mystery if I wasn’t so sick at the thought of shelling out for it a third time…


Jonathan Rosenbaum

Critic, USA

Celluloid Man Second Run

Fragments of Kubelka edition filmmuseum

Level Five Icarus Films

Providence Jupiter Films

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow

I don’t know if these are the five best releases of the year, but they’re certainly among the most valuable and neglected, and all provoked some thrilling discoveries and/or rediscoveries on my part. Among the Blu-Rays, I hope my contribution to Criterion’s Complete Jacques Tati doesn’t preclude my mentioning it as an exceptional release.


Three votes for Soda’s Chris Marker box-set.

Three votes for Soda’s Chris Marker box-set.

Francesco Simeoni

Arrow, UK

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Birds, Orphans and Fools Second Run

Out of the Unknown BFI

The Chris Marker Collection Soda

Hands Over the City Eureka Masters of Cinema

I would never usually vote for one of my own but so little was my contribution to the Borowczyk collection that I enjoyed it as a customer and never dreamed it would be turn out the way it did.

This, like many of the best releases of the year, was part of a growing trend of director collections of films Werner Herzog, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jim Jarmusch and more besides. Whilst the boxed set has traditionally meant that releases are slimmed down and made more cost effective (for both distributor and buyer) it seems the reverse has happened as the market has changed – boxed sets are now gloriously expansive and loaded with content – and the collector market is all the richer for it.

That my own list is not devoted to boxed sets however shows how versatile the current landscape is – great discoveries like Second Run’s rescuing of Jakubiso or the stunning restoration of a classic jostle alongside the boxes with equal importance. Long may it continue!


Kate Stables

Critic, UK

The Epic of Everest BFI

Dead of Night Studiocanal

Classe tous risques BFI

The Werner Herzog Collection BFI

An intriguing mix of innovative long-distance cinematography, ethnographic exoticism and a memorialising story of tragic heroism makes The Epic of Everest, Captain John Noel’s documentary film of the 1924 Everest expedition, absolutely gripping. It was my restoration of the year, especially for the ravishing hand-tinted pink Himalayas that the ant-like expedition force doggedly traverse.

From the resurrected to the over-familiar deftly reappraised: in the special edition of Dead of Night, plum historical and genre insights prod one to a sophisticated understanding of Ealing’s famous five.

Claude Sautet’s muscular, melancholy and perennially overlooked thriller Classe Tous Risques was also a revelation, not least for its gawky, pre-iconic Jean-Paul Belmondo.

While awaiting Herzog’s upcoming cameo in Parks and Recreations (yes, really), we should all be gorging on the extraordinary box-set of his early work, crammed with essential goodness, from the poetic mystery The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser to the operatic Kinski quintet.


David Thompson

Critic and filmmaker, UK

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

Eric Rohmer Integrale Potemkine

Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films 1963-1974 BFI

Le joli mai Arte

Robin Redbreast BFI

In spite of gloomy predictions of the death of the disc, amazing editions continue to appear from around the world, with the shift to Blu-ray increasing the need for higher-quality transfers. Top of the list for 2014 must be Arrow Academy’s Borowczyk collection (even if I was a contributor in a small way). Immaculate presentation along with diverse extras all contribute to re-establishing the mostly forgotten and maligned Polish master to cinematic eminence.

The same might be argued for Alain Robbe-Grillet, in a BFI collection sadly not as complete as the French equivalent but arguably offering the best titles.

No such retrospective claim need be made for Eric Rohmer, but Potemkine’s set gives us all the films and more (shame the extras are not sub-titled, though).

It was also the year for another French master, Chris Marker, with numerous releases from which I have selected a personal favourite (also available on US DVD, but not so far in the UK).

And finally back to the BFI again for yet another important TV re-discovery, a chilling Play for Today that actually looks less dated for only having survived in a black and white film recording.

So, honours go yet again to Criterion, Masters of Cinema, Second Run, the BFI and now Arrow for lavishing so much care over their releases. My list this year should have much longer…


Gary Tooze

DVD Beaver, USA

Ida Artificial Eye

Safe Criterion

Locke Lionsgate

Night Moves New Video Group

L’Avventura Criterion

Once again, I battle to select ‘disc over film’… and film wins every time. 2014 had some amazing Blu-ray releases but these stuck in my mind as some of the most memorable presentations – mostly because the films themselves impressed me so immensely. I’ve avoided the top-shelf value, or extensive supplements, of many large box sets this year, instead choosing impacting cinema experiences and I haven’t listed so many others that were worthy. Ida was a brilliant minimalist beauty. Todd Haynes’s Safe continues to improve in subsequent viewings, and the Blu-ray is vastly improved over the old DVD. Night Moves was a hypnotically paced pure film from Kelly Reichardt, and Locke surely the most underrated film of the year. L’Avventura of course was film that substantially changed the way we view cinema – and another great Blu-ray from Criterion.


James White

Head of Restoration and Technical Services, Arrow Films, UK

The Gang’s All Here Eureka Masters of Cinema

Dead of Night Studiocanal

The Shooting + Ride in the Whirlwind Criterion

The Day the Earth Caught Fire BFI

The Swimmer Grindhouse

As the year marked my first as an official member of the team at Arrow Films, my own two personal highlights of 2014 were in producing new digital restorations for Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I (1987) and the films that made up the majority of our release Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection, the latter a true dream project in that it introduced me to so much of the brilliant work of this amazing and widely misunderstood filmmaker, artist and provocateur.

As the future of physical formats becomes ever-less unclear, I’ve come to appreciate all the more labels that go the extra mile to produce definitive releases of films with banner presentations, valuable extras, thoughtful artwork and packaging and scholarly booklets — something still practiced by many smaller independents but sadly all but abandoned by most of the majors. So while I’m thrilled, for example, that Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947) was finally given a Blu-ray release, I’m disappointed that Warners saw fit to relegate it to a no-frills Archive edition. (I suppose I shouldn’t complain: the long-awaited release of Nicholas Ray’s The Lusty Men (1952) was only afforded a DVD release!)

In any case I’m continually impressed and encouraged by the thoughtful work of producers like Criterion, Eureka/MoC, BFI, Second Run etc, as well as new labels like Vinegar Syndrome and Grindhouse. These teams clearly love the films they work on, and it shows.


Nick Wrigley

Founder of Masters of Cinema

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection Arrow Academy

A Jester’s Tale Second Run

Under the Skin Studiocanal

The Epic of Everest BFI

All That Jazz Criterion

The Borowczyk set will obviously win all the awards this year. Amazing work. I only wish more filmmakers could be afforded this much care and attention. The fact that it was so successfully Kickstarted will hopefully be a massive eyeopener for many other labels.

Under the Skin knocked me out, twice. Kickstarter for Glazer?

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