Top Ten Tuesdays (a new top ten, every tuesday)…
Ok, so in all honesty, when Blu-Ray won the battle of the HD film format against HD-DVD, I was a little sceptical. Similar to the VHS vs. Betamax battle of the 80s, it was Disney’s backing of Blu-Ray that ultimately led to it’s victory.
Since experiencing the sheer awesomness of High Definition for myself, I am now hooked. However, I have one major gripe…why are some of my favourite films missing from the already extensive Blu-Ray catalogue? Now I understand that it’s not possible to convert every film produced into high definition, but I’m not looking for some small, obscure, independent, art-farty nonsense: they’re big budget superhits!!
But enough sidetracking, I’m here to demand the Blu-ray release of the following ten films, immediately please, if you don’t mind!
10. Halloween (2007)
Escaping from the mental institution he was committed to when he was only 10, Michael Myers immediately returns to his hometown of Haddonfield in search of his baby sister. The mentally unstable, mask-wearing monster will stop at nothing to reach her and easily disposes of anyone who gets in his way. Will the doctor who has mentored him for the past 17 years be able to stop him before it’s too late?
Ok, so this really is a guilty pleasure! As a bit of a horror junkie, Michael Myers is the one slasher villain that still scares the living daylights out of me even though I’m in my early 20s! (Yes, it was the thought of seeing someone dressed as the supercreep that made me bottle out of my first visit to The House of Horrors at Universal Studios, Los Angeles – embarrassing, I know!).
The original (and by far the best version) of the film has already received a nice Blu-Ray release. However, for me the main reason John Carpenter’s classic vision was so terrifying was because of its grainy, almost amateur look. It was the fact that this added to the reality of the image on screen that it had me close to wetting my pants on my first viewing!
Rob Zombie’s remake on the other hand could certainly benefit from a high definition release. The much slicker production remained incredibly creepy despite looking more like a big budget blockbuster. The prospect of viewing the villain in an HD picture, with the stabbing of the knife being in high quality sound, is something I fear in my worst nightmares…however, if it was released, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself watching (not even for the obligatory dive behind a cushion!).
With Zombie’s rather appalling sequel having been given a release, I think it’s high time his original vision was afforded the same honour!
09. Frankenstein (1931)
The classic tale of a scientist consumed by his desire to create a living being from the various body parts he has stolen from exhumed corpses. When Dr. Frankenstein realises his fantasy, he gets more than he bargained for when the monster escapes and accidentally kills a young girl. The local villagers hunt down the doctor’s creation with the intention of sending him back to the grave…
One of cinemas original monster movies, Frankenstein is so much more than a horror film. With its basis in Mary Shelley’s compelling novel, the film stands much more as a social commentary than a film about a crazed villain made from dead bodies. The film was gracefully shot by Arthur Edeson and the uncredited Paul Ivano, under the instruction of visionary director James Whale.
The film still looks sensational nearly eighty years later and a Blu-Ray release would cement the films position as one of Hollywood’s seminal horror productions.
Boris Karloff’s makeup would look incredible in HD and would undoubtedly look far more terrifying in a better quality picture that’s able to pick up every small detail. Films are no longer made like this, which is a shame. As the industry relies more and more heavily on CGI special effects, it would be amazing to see how well such a legendary makeup effect and distinguished costume would transcend into a new format. For me I can only think that a crisper image means that Frankenstein will become even more realistic.
08. The Birds (1963)
When a San Francisco socialite pursues a new beau to his hometown of Bodega Bay, she receives an unexpected reception when the local birds unexplainably begin attacking people. As the assaults become more frequent and increasingly ferocious the residents must come together and wait for a chance to escape…
The first Hitchcock offering in this list, the film features some of horror cinemas scariest villains! The scene where the birds chase female lead Melanie Daniels (the perfect icy blonde, Tippi Hedren) and a gaggle of school children is cinematic genius. But just imagine if it was in HD: it would simply be far more intimidating!
The eerie noise that the crazed creatures of the sky make is not easy on the ears and a revitalised soundtrack would surely make them the stuff of nightmares (in fact my Mum did have nightmares…repeatedly. So she won’t be allowed to watch the Blu-Ray!).
The film is so successful for it’s complete lack of explanation for the sudden attacks made by the birds and a Blu-Ray release would do nothing but enhance this through better quality sound and picture. The use of real birds in the attack sequences means that the film stands a much smaller chance of looking unrealistic due to inferior computer technology, something that has been a set back for some older films with special effects.
Fundamentally, The Birds can do nothing but benefit from an HD release!
07. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Two showgirls – the dippy, diamond obsessed Lorelei Lee (the magnificent Marilyn Monroe) and the cynical but lovable Dorothy Shaw (the perfectly cast Jane Russell) – travel aboard a transatlantic cruise ship, ultimately Paris bound. In hot pursuit is a private detective hired by the skeptical father of Lorelei’s fiancé, whose mission is to keep an eye on the amorous admirers of the beautiful singer. When the girls get embroiled in the case of a missing diamond tiara, mayhem persists!
A lavish musical comedy, in my opinion this is one of Monroe’s finest performances (the other being in Niagara [also 1953]). The spectacle of the show runs through the entire film, with sumptuous musical numbers, plus exceptionally detailed costumes and sets. The sole reason this film should be given a Blu-Ray release is for the effect the high definition will have on the musical numbers.
Monroe’s rendition of ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (the oft imitated, but never duplicated number this film is most famous for) would certainly dazzle like a brilliant cut diamond with improved picture and sound quality.
Similarly Russell’s ‘Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love’ would shine like the greasy Olympic team in the background (possibly not the biggest selling point for the Blu-Ray!) and the duet ‘Two Little Girls from Little Rock’ would undoubtedly sparkle like a precious rock (not only due to the OTT sequin numbers seen on the showgirls!). The entire film is symbolic of 1950s glamour and as such the colour palette is vibrant and glossy – something a high definition release would also improve. It may be a piece of cheeseball fluff, but it ain’t half fun and without doubt, would look even more spectacular in HD!
06. King Kong (1933)
A film crew travels to the exotic Skull Island to complete their project. Once there they discover a giant gorilla, whom the films director decides is a sure fire moneymaker. The crew decide to capture the monster and return to New York. Meanwhile the beast has taken a firm fancy to the films beautiful blonde star. Once home in New York, all hell breaks loose amongst the city when the colossal gorilla escapes…
Forget the ridiculous sequels and the severely inferior remakes; this is the only King Kong that ever should have graced the screen!
The incredible animated scenes at the end of the film are worthy of such a HD treatment and are arguably more realistic than CGI special effects could ever achieve. The incredible creation of the colossal monster is one of cinemas greatest achievements and remains convincing today. Imagine viewing a Blu-Ray version of the film on a cinema sized TV right now – surely cinematic heaven, right!?
05. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Former Silent film actress Norma Desmond (real life silent queen, Gloria Swanson) has faded into Hollywood obscurity. When a small time screenwriter accidentally appears on the doorstep of her Hollywood mansion, the actress sees it as an opportunity to launch her comeback. As her mental health declines, she develops an obsession with the writer, plus major delusions of her star status. As she slips further into insanity, the consequences become tragic…
Filmed in glorious black and white, the movie features some of director Billy Wilder’s finest work. Undoubtedly, it is also Gloria Swanson’s superlative performance by far. The decaying Hollywood mansion she resides in stands as a quintessential symbol of the bygone golden era of the movies, and as such would look exquisite in high definition.
Two parts film noir, to one part horror/thriller; the film is an incredible depiction of the mental anguish of one losing your star status. It is clear that Wilder loves Swanson and the camera lingers on her at any given opportunity. The silent screen training the actress obviously had comes into it’s own here, as the facial expressions she creates are unrivalled. The insanity Swanson can portray in her eyes still sends a shiver down my spine and is testament not only to her acting ability, but the significance of Wilder’s direction. Sunset Boulevard would substantially benefit from a Blu-Ray release, as although the DVD version is spectacular, the sheer magnificence and grandeur of the film is still not fully realised in this format.
04. Vertigo (1958)
John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart), a retired police officer suffering from vertigo, is approached by an old friend to follow his wife; whom he suspects is contemplating suicide. As Scottie gets closer to his friend’s wife he develops a strange obsession over her. But all is not as it seems…
After Psycho, Vertigo is my favourite Hitchcock film. It’s a dark, brooding mystery that casts the all-American Jimmy Stewart firmly against type, as a sexual obsessive. The film is beautifully shot by the legendary director, and a variety of impressive backdrops fill the screen: the streets of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, an aged cedar wood forest, to name but a few. These locations are clear and crisp in the DVD release of the film, but the prospect of them in high definition is pretty exciting!
For the shot to demonstrate Scottie’s vertigo, Hitchcock cleverly tracked backwards whilst simultaneously zooming in. The result is frankly mind-blowing and is a convincing impression of the affliction. Again, seeing this in HD would certainly be a treat. Costume plays heavily in the narrative and Edith Head’s stunning creations would also dazzle in HD. My argument is heavily based on the aesthetic beauty of the film, but the narrative is equally worthy of an upgraded release. Frankly, Vertigo is an essential watch for any film fan!
03. She (1965)
When a mysterious stranger approaches a group of archaeologists (Peter Cushing, John Richardson and Bernard Cribbens) with the prospect of a new expedition, each of them is intrigued. With a newly acquired map, the three men begin searching for the mystical lost city of Kuma. When they make their discovery they come face-to-face with ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’, the beautiful but tyrannical queen of the city: Ayesha (Ursula Andress). The queen believes that one of the archaeologists is the reincarnation of her ancient lover, Callicrates. Offering the young man immortality and a place beside on the throne, it’s up to the other archaeologists to save him from the clutches of ‘She’…
The recent Blu-Ray release of Paranoiac (1963) – the first of Hammer’s to be given such treatment – took me a little by surprise if I’m honest. Don’t get me wrong, the film is a great psychological thriller (and you should all buy it!), plus it hadn’t had a home video release in the UK previously, it’s just it seems like an odd first choice, when there are definitely some better productions by the studio. She for instance is one such example.
Based on an H. Rider Haggard story, the film steps away from the gothic, Eastern European set chillers of the studio’s Dracula and Frankenstein franchises and appears to be almost an anomaly in their canon of lowbrow horror. More of an historical, fantasy epic, the film is set in the mythical land of Kuma amidst its ancient inhabitants.
The film stars the beautiful Ursula Andress as the indomitable Ayesha and she is seen in some extravagant but striking costumes, amongst some awe-inspiring backdrops and set pieces. A high definition version of the film would look remarkable and the sets, in particular, would come alive on screen. The visually incredible final sequences would also look spectacular in HD (special effects and all!)…But I’m not going to spoil them for you, as until the Blu-Ray’s here, you have to treat yourself to the DVD!
02. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
After escaping the grips of a Chinese crime lord, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his accomplices (Kate Capshaw and Ke Huy Quan) arrive in India. When the inhabitants of a poor, local village ask for the trio’s help, they travel to Pankot Palace in search of a sacred stone and the villagers’ missing children. Once at the palace they discover a Thugee cult rules and ritual human sacrifice is a common occurrence. Can Indy thwart the cult and return the stone and the children to the village?
Now I know I’m going to get a lot of stick for this, but this is by far my favourite Indiana Jones film and has been for as long as I can remember: I will never forget how I kindly forced my Grandparents to rent it EVERY time I stayed with them. Not only that, I then insisted on repeatedly watching it until the evil rental store required its return! I understand that in some lights it’s perhaps not quite as good as Raiders, but honestly, it’s infinitely better than Crystal Skull, surely!? (I mean Indy and aliens!? Come on Mr Lucas, not everyone thinks that Star Wars is the s***!).
Still not convinced? Well perhaps a Blu-Ray release may convince you… The locations, costumes and props are all visually stunning and would look even more so in HD. The improved soundtrack would also be welcomed – I particularly like the Thugee chanting in the sacrifice scene, it still sends a shiver up my spine ten years later and approximately 5500 screenings! Essentially, the sheer brilliance of this film in all aspects requires its release on Blu-Ray pronto!
01. Cleopatra (1963)
The exasperating, but amazing life of Cleopatra VII (Elizabeth Taylor): Egypt’s most legendary queen. In 48BC, Cleopatra deposes her brother from the throne of Lower and Upper Egypt, with the help of Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and the might of the Roman Empire. The two leaders have an affair, resulting in a child. Caesar returns to Rome and Cleopatra journeys to be at his side. When he is murdered on the steps of the senate building, she flees back to Egypt. Mark Anthony (Richard Burton), Caesar’s trusted protégé, follows the queen only to fall in love with her. Whilst Anthony and Cleopatra spend their time in Egypt, the young ambitious Octavian (Roddy MacDowell) defeats Anthony’s troops at Actium. With their political and military strength blighted, both are forced to take drastic action…
It’s famously the film that nearly bankrupted Twentieth Century Fox: costing $44million ($1million of this as Elizabeth Taylor’s fee – the first actress ever to be paid such a handsome sum!), taking close to 3 years to film and employing 2 directors, Cleopatra is beyond epic! Whilst many consider the 4-hour running time to be far too long, arguably it simply means you have longer to drool over the aesthetic beauty captured by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
A Blu-Ray release would obviously enhance the already gorgeous DVD print, meaning many scenes would be even more breathtaking in such a format. Cleopatra’s procession into Rome is one of the most impressive ever committed to film. Atop a golden pyramid carried by a mass of slaves, followed by exotic dancers and beautiful women aplenty, the scene apparently had to be shot in two separate chunks, months apart, to ensure that the natural light hit Taylor’s Cleopatra perfectly (when you hear stories like this, it’s not half hard to understand why the film overran and went massively over budget!).
Taylor had a meagre 65 costume changes, each getting progressively beautiful and accentuating the actresses’ stunning natural splendour. As such, my argument for Cleopatra’s release is simply from an aesthetic point of view… Plus, as someone with an obsession for Ancient Egypt, I can’t think of a film more deserving of a Blu-Ray release!
Obviously a list such as this is very personal and I’m sure the OWF community will disagree with some of my choices (or possibly all if you’re particularly difficult!!)… So, if you’ve got any other suggestions write a comment and lets see if we can convince some of those distributors to give us what we want!