Dec 19, 2022
By Mark Redfern and Austin Trunick
Photography by Mark Redfern
Welcome one and all to Under the Radar’s massive, mega-colossal movie gift guide! Believe us when we say we’re not exaggerating, and that this might be one of the biggest gift guides we’ve ever assembled. (It’s so large that we’ve have to break it up across two posts.) Today we’re looking at some of our favorite home video releases of 2022, and making gift recommendations for the cineastes in your lives—no matter their taste in movies, or whether they watch them on Blu-ray, DVD, or 4K Ultra HD!
You can click back through our links to read our 2022 holiday gift guide recommendations for tech-heads, DC and Marvel superhero collectors, tabletop gamers, and video gamers, and stay tuned as we add more categories leading into the holidays.
The Godfather Trilogy 4K (Paramount)
The biggest home cinema release of 2022 is, without a doubt, Paramount’s gorgeous (and absolutely loaded) release of The Godfather Trilogy on 4K UltraHD. Conveniently coinciding with the first movie’s 50th anniversary, the set contains two movies that one could easily argue are two of the best of all time, as well as three different cuts of the improperly-maligned Godfather Part III, one of which was newly put together by Francis Ford Coppola himself and has led a lot of the sequel’s detractor to re-evaluate the film entirely.
Little needs to be said about The Godfather or Part II, really—they’re movies that deserve all of the praise they’ve received over the last half-century. We’d guess that many home video enthusiasts already have one previous release or another in their collection. What makes this particular edition so special are the restorations the films have received, which will likely stand as among the most intensive preservation jobs any films have ever seen. More than 5,000 hours of manpower went into touching up stains and scratches and correcting colors; this was done after scouring hundreds of reels of film to find the best-looking copies in existence. This meticulous work was overseen by Coppola himself, and the results are immediately apparent to anyone who’s seen the movie before. The Godfather looks like it was shot yesterday, and is probably the most pristine any classic film has ever looked on 4K UHD to date.
The set includes several new bonus features mostly pertaining to the restoration alongside some never-before-seen home video taken during the production, as well as hours’ worth of bonus materials carried over from the old Blu-ray release. It’s the most essential home video release of the year. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Casablanca 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros)
“You must remember this… a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh…” A perennial contender near the top of most lists of the greatest Hollywood films of all time, Casablanca is a movie that’s so ingrained in our popular culture that people who have never seen a film released before 1980 can probably still quote it. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Of all the gin joints in the world…,” “We’ll always have Paris,” and so forth… the list’s a lengthy one. (Heck, one of the most-quoted lines attributed to Casablanca—“Play it again, Sam”—doesn’t even appear in the movie!) When a film is that much a part of the cultural lexicon, it can feel to many like they’ve already seen the movie, even if they haven’t. As a movie lover yourself, you need to find those people and get a copy of Casablanca into their hands (and then, hopefully, into their UHD or Blu-ray player.)
That’s because Casablanca is every bit as good as it’s said to be. Yes, it’s one of the all-time romantic classics—but it’s also very funny, heartbreaking, and human all at once. Released to coincide with the film’s 80th anniversary, this new 4K edition of Casablanca looks nothing short of exceptional. The HDR deepens the blacks, and the upped definition brings out long-forgotten details in the sets and costumes. On top of that there are many, many hours of bonus features—including two audio commentaries (one by Roger Ebert) and plenty of retrospective documentaries which go into the movie’s less-than-well-planned production and its unlikely climb to the top of the Best-Ever-Movie lists. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Double Indemnity 4K/Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)
One of the most essential film noirs, 1944’s Double Indemnity has made the leap to 4K UHD courtesy of The Criterion Collection. Barbara Stanwyck plays the second wife of an older man who doesn’t respect her; Fred MacMurray is the traveling salesman who catches her at home while the husband is away. You can believe that MacMurray’s character views dalliances with lonely housewives a perk of his job—there’s an instant heat between the two of them. The attraction is so strong that he convinces himself to do something crazy: he’ll help stage her husband’s murder as an accident so that can cash in on the double indemnity clause of his life insurance policy, and then they will be free to be together.
A murder plot has rarely been as sexy as it is in Double Indemnity: MacMurray and Stanwyck sell their passion so perfectly that it’s hard not to buy into the wickedness that they plan to carry out. Billy Wilder’s movie—from a script co-written by pulp master Raymond Chandler—keeps the tension high from beginning to end, whether that’s sexual tension or the tension that ratchets sky-high once their best-laid plans going awry.
Criterion’s 4K looks absolutely stellar, and is packed with bonus features—from a 1992 film that features interviews with Wilder, a Making of documentary, two radio adaptations, an audio commentary, and contributions from Imogen Sara Smith, Eddie Muller, and Noah Isenberg. This is a must-have for film noir fans. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (40th Anniversary Edition) 4K/Blu-ray (Universal)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was already released on 4K in honor of its 35th anniversary and has been on Blu-ray and DVD for years. So what’s different about the new 40th anniversary edition? It includes two new bonus features. There’s a documentary where they speak to other filmmakers (such as J.J. Abrams and Christopher Columbus), as well Ready Player One author Ernest Cline, about the impact of Steven Spielberg’s film on them (Cline shows off his collection of E.T. trading cards). Then there’s a live 2022 interview with Spielberg about E.T. filmed at the TCM Classic Film Festival. But there are over four hours of special features over all, including ones carried over from previous home releases of the film, such as behind-the-scenes video diaries shot on the set, deleted scenes, a documentary on a 20th anniversary event where John Williams conducted a full orchestra to play along to a screening of the film at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, and much more. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was said to be Spielberg’s most personal film at the time, as it was partly inspired by his parent’s divorce. Now that he has released an acclaimed new film directly inspired by the breakup of his parents, The Fablemans, it might be a good time to revisit this all-time classic. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
The Great Escape 4K (Kino Lorber)
Steve McQueen. James Garner. Richard Attenborough. Charles Bronson. Donald Pleasence. James Coburn. If that’s not a stacked cast, I don’t know what is. When a group of allied fighters are committed to the highest-security prison camp in all of Nazi-occupied Europe, the men work together using their diverse skill sets to execute a dangerous and daring breakout. John Sturges’ The Great Escape (1963) is one of the premiere war movies, and Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD release gives the film its best home video presentation yet.
The release also includes two audio commentaries and six featurettes, as well as a documentary and other various interviews. This excellent-looking edition of the tough guy classic is well worth the upgrade. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
In the Heat of the Night 4K (Kino Lorber)
A top homicide detective from Philadelphia, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), finds himself stuck in a small Mississippi town following a high-profile murder. He and the town’s racist sheriff (Rod Steiger) reluctantly must work together to solve the crime, putting aside their prejudices in the name of justice. In the Heat of the Night (1967) was a critical and commercial hit when it arrived near the peak of the civil rights movement, shocking and surprising audiences and winning five of its seven Academy Award nominations—including Best Picture.
Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD release of In the Heat of the Neat looks spectacular, and is a sneaky great value—the set also includes the film’s two sequels (1970’s They Call Me Mister Tibbs! And 1971’s The Organization) as bonus features! You’ll also get two audio commentaries, three featurettes, and a trailer galleries. For the price of a single 4K UHD, this adds up to being one of the best-value releases of 2022. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
To Kill a Mockingbird: 60th Anniversary Edition 4K/Blu-ray (Universal)
Celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, To Kill a Mockingbird is not only one of the best literary adaptations in the history of film—but one of the most tender and poignant movies ever made. Told largely through eyes of the children, the story revolves around the family of widower Atticus Finch—Gregory Peck, in one of cinema’s most iconic performances—a lawyer who must defend a Black man accused of raping a white woman in the American South. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and then receiving further acclaim over the following decades, To Kill a Mockingbird is as resonant and affecting now as it was sixty years ago.
Universal’s 60th Anniversary Edition 4K/Blu-ray combo pack features excellent picture quality, with the added HDR on the UHD disc really doing a lot to enhance the black-and-white image. The set includes an all-new featurette on the film’s legacy to go alongside two feature-length docs, awards speeches, a director commentary, interviews, and much more. It’s a true classic that deserves a spot in any movie library. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 4K (Paramount)
Two very different men—meek lawyer Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) and burly rancher Tom Doniphon (John Wayne)—share two things: a desire to rid their dusty little town of its resident villain, Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), and a love for the same woman (Vera Miles). When a duel results in Valance shot dead and Stoddard the unlikely last man standing, he becomes a hero—but there’s more to the story than the legends it grows to become.
John Ford’s classic Western—one of his last—is one of the genre’s best, directly addressing the mythology of the American West and the popular culture that it inspired. With an incredible cast—Lee Van Cleef, John Carradine, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, and Woody Strode also appear—and a screenplay packed with quotable lines, it’s one that’s easily recommendable even to non-Western fans. The movie is a breath of fresh air on 4K UHD, and this 60th anniversary release includes a new tribute from Leonard Maltin, alongside an excellent archival commentary by the late Peter Bogdanovich which mixes in pieces of his interviews with Ford, Marvin, and Stewart. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Pulp Fiction 4K/Blu-ray Steelbook (Paramount)
It’s not hyperbole to say that Pulp Fiction was a watershed moment of ‘90s cinema. After its release in 1994, we started seeing more cool criminals, stories with seemingly unrelated characters that eventually overlap, and consciously hyper-stylish visuals and music cues. Tarantino was inspired by the foreign and exploitation cinema he’d devoured over his lifetime; hundreds of other filmmakers were then inspired by him. While there were plenty of films that tried to copy the magic of Pulp Fiction over the next decade, none managed to match the original—with its unbelievable cast (Jackson, Travolta, Thurman, Roth, Keitel, Rhames, Walken, Willis…), quotable lines, and interwoven storyline.
I’d bet good money that many movie fans my age have previously purchased Pulp Fiction on VHS, DVD, and then Blu-ray. (I’m raising my hand for this – I also bought the script in paperback!) The question is, then, is the 4K UHD worth buying the movie for a fourth time? The answer is yes – for the first time on video, it’s easy to appreciate that movie was shot on film, given the detail and light grain revealed by the UHD. The discs also port over the fantastic legacy features from prior releases, so this edition can slide right in and take the place of any old copies on your shelf. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Singin’ in the Rain 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros)
I would argue that one of the best uses of HDR is to further boost the already eye-popping color spectrum of the Technicolor process on 4K televisions. Few things will ever truly look prettier on your high definition TV screen. Those benefits are on full display on Warners’ 4K UHD release of Singin’ in the Rain—just feast your eyes on Cyd Charisse’s green dress against the bold red backdrop during her duet with Gene Kelly, or the many striking colors of the “Broadway Melody” number. This 70th anniversary release of the quintessential Hollywood musical deserves a spot in any classic movie fan’s collection. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
The Classic Christmas Specials Collection 4K/Blu-ray (Universal)
My fellow AV geeks might want to laugh and call me names when they read this, but if I’m going to be showing off how much a 4K display can do to make a movie look new again, from now on I’ll be busting out Rankin/Bass’s 1964 classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a movie that so many people have seen over and over again, year after year, for most of their lives—but I can guarantee that they’ve never seen it look as good as it does here, in 4K Ultra HD. As ingrained as it is in our heads, the visual upgrade here will be even more jaw-dropping. The puppets feel so much more tactile; you can now see the seams, the fine hairs, the articulation points. The HDR color is just incredible, too—this was always a movie with rich reds, greens, and purples, often set against white or muted backgrounds for extra pop, but it no longer looks faded at all. This is as vibrant as Rudolph has ever looked.
Rankin/Bass devotees will be quite pleased to find the fellow Animagic classic Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town in here, in equally gorgeous form, as well as the more traditional, cel animated Frosty the Snowman. The set also includes hefty bonus features, including a wonderful documentary titled The Animagic World of Rankin/Bass, detailing the company’s history, a look at the recent restoration work that went into saving two of Rudolph’s surviving puppets, Frosty pencil tests, commentaries, and looks at a new film produced for a Rudolph theme park ride. This set’s absolutely worth the upgrade. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
A Christmas Story 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros)
Ohhhhhhhhh, fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuddddddge… it’s an Ultra HD upgrade for one of the best Christmas films ever made! Try not to shoot your eye out before you have the chance to enjoy this perennial classic in 4K, which brings out so many fine details that were lost in the movie’s prior home video editions and frequent cable airings. You’ll be able to notice new, small touches like the icicles on the front porch that reflect the leg lamp’s inviting glow; the glint of the sparkling, vintage décor during Ralphie’s mall visit; the text on dad’s newspaper. (We’ll also report that no, Scott Farkus’ eyes aren’t actually yellow, not even in HDR.) There are also a few new bonus materials, including an archival recording of author Jean Shepherd reading several of his short stories that inspired scenes from the movie. If you, like I do, watch A Christmas Story multiple times every holiday season, you owe it to yourself to do so in this great-looking release. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Morvern Callar Blu-ray (Fun City Editions)
Okay, okay, so this isn’t a movie that will exactly put anyone in the holiday spirit—but it does open on Christmas Day, and features the most chilling use of Christmas lights you’ll see in a movie. It’s also one of my favorite movies of all time, and one that’s just now *finally* making its debut on Blu-ray. I won’t say too much about it here, but will instead direct you to my long, loving, raving review from when this release landed earlier in the year.
If you’re not familiar with Fun City Editions yet, you owe it to yourself to check out their website and follow their socials so that you can stay on top of new title announcements. They’re the best-curated boutique label in the business, putting a wide variety of older, highly-deserving films in front of new eyes. (Smile and Cutter’s Way are two more of our favorite Fun City releases, but you won’t find a disappointing release in their catalog so far.) You’ll want to stay on top of things, though, because the fancier, slipcovered editions can and will sell out – for good reason, as they’re incredibly lovely! (Buy it here.)
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles 4K (Paramount)
The premise of John Hughes’ 1987 classic couldn’t be simpler: marketing executive Neal (Steve Martin) wants to get home from New York to Chicago in time to spend Thanksgiving dinner with his family, but bad weather and other unforeseen circumstances repeatedly put off his arrival. Along the way he finds himself stuck with traveling salesman Del (John Candy), someone he instantly can’t stand but has no choice but to tag along with if either wants any hope of making it home for the holiday. As their road trip grows ever longer and more desperate, it seems like everything that can possibly go wrong for them inevitably does.
Writer-director John Hughes went from his run of brat pack classics into this more adult comedy, which is arguably the most heartwarming work of his career. It paired two of the greatest comic actors of all time as two men who have no choice but to work together in dire (but relatable) circumstances, and gradually come to see eye-to-eye. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is also incredibly tender and occasionally heart-wrenching.
The biggest highlight of Paramount’s new release of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles are 75 minutes’ worth of never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes, which any fans of the movie are going to want to see—if only to watch two comedy legends riffing off each other. The scenes were unearthed on VHS tapes in Hughes’ archives, and were long considered lost. Their presence makes this a particularly enticing upgrade for comedy fans. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Cult, Rock, Sci-Fi and Docs
Mad Max Anthology 4K (Warner Bros.)
It’s pretty rare that the best film in the series is the fourth one, especially when it’s been 30 years since the last installment and a new actor has been cast in the lead role, but that was the case with 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which is arguably the greatest action movie of the 21st century and one of the best of all time. Tom Hardy is a more than capable replacement for original star Mel Gibson as Max, a hero of few words, but Fury Road is almost stolen by Charlize Theron as Furiosa, so much so that the next film in the series is a prequel centering on Furiosa (although this time played by Anya Taylor-Joy, since the character is younger).
While Fury Road is the most acclaimed of the Mad Max movies—it was nominated for 10 Oscars and won six, more than any other movie that year—the three that came before it shouldn’t be discounted in the slightest. 1979’s Mad Max was Australian director George Miller’s first full-length film, it was made on a low budget, and at the time Gibson was not a well-known actor. Set in a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, where gas is a precious commodity, the film ended up being a surprise hit, grossing over $100 million worldwide on a $400,000 budget, making it one of the most profitable films of all time, all without getting a proper U.S. release. Which is why in America the 1981 sequel Mad Max 2 was titled The Road Warrior. It was an even bigger hit and featured more impressive and elaborate action set pieces as Miller, a former medical doctor, really came into his own as a filmmaker. 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (co-directed by Miller with George Ogilvie) is perhaps best known as the one that co-stars Tina Turner, in a rare acting role for the iconic singer, and her hit song for the movie, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome).” And yet the sequence on the train tracks is every bit as thrilling as anything in the first two movies. When Miller returned for Mad Max: Fury Road few were prepared by the non-stop edge of your seat chase sequences, most of which was achieved in camera via practical stunts and not after the fact with computer effects.
Now you can get all four movies in stunning 4K via the Mad Max Anthology set. It’s light on special features beyond a documentary on the making of Mad Max 2, but the amazing feats of action cinema more speak for themselves. Let’s hope that Miller’s promise to make more Mad Max movies after 2024’s Furiosa is realized. By then you’ll have to buy a whole new 4K collection. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Ronnie’s DVD (Greenwich Entertainment/Kino Lorber)
Ronnie’s chronicles the legendary London jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, and the man it was named after, the British saxophonist who ran the club with Pete King. It was launched at its original location in 1959, before moving to its eventual home in 1965. It soon became one of the preeminent jazz clubs in the world and certainly the most important one in England. Almost every legend of the genre has performed there over the decades; as Scott says in the film, it’s easier to list who hasn’t played there than who has. Scott died in 1996, so Ronnie’s relies on various archival interviews with him, as well as plenty of old footage of the club, mixed with new interviews with the likes of Quincy Jones, Giles Peterson, Scott’s ex-wife, his former partner, Scott’s daughter, and others. The new interviews are not presented as talking heads, instead they are all done as voiceovers while footage of the club plays. And some of that amazing footage includes classic performances at the club by Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Van Morrison and Chet Baker together, Nina Simone, and many others. There’s also a snippet of bootleg audio of Jimi Hendrix performing at the club the night before he died.
I have a deep personal connection to this film. My late father, noted music photographer David Redfern, loved jazz and the walls of Ronnie Scott’s are adorned by many of his framed photographs of jazz legends. My dad made a deal with Scott—he’d provide his photos free of charge and in exchange my dad and any in his party could come to the club for free and also get complimentary food and drink. As a young boy I would spend many nights at the club with my dad (sometimes he’d be down the front photographing part of the set), one of the only children allowed at Ronnie Scott’s. So Ronnie’s really hit home for me (I remember Scott and King well) and I can say that the film, directed by Oliver Murray, perfectly captures the club, which is still going strong today under the owners who took over when Scott died. When my own father passed away in 2014 I organized the memorial service to take place at Ronnie Scott’s and this film is a wonderful document of a place that means a great deal to me. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Spaceballs 4K (Kino Lorber)
When rewatching Spaceballs I worried it wouldn’t hold up. It was a staple of childhood viewing, but would the jokes be culturally insensitive now? I’m happy to confirm that Mel Brooks’ film remains hilarious and only a couple of jokes haven’t aged well. My daughter is a big Star Wars fan and there were plenty of laughs to be had during what was her first viewing of the spoof. The extra long spaceship at the beginning. Pizza the Hut instead of Jabba the Hutt. So many quotable lines (“I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate”). The scene where they pop in a VHS tape of Spaceballs, even though the film is still being made, so Dark Helmet can fast-forward to see what happens next. Kino Lorber’s 4K release is loaded with special features, including new and old documentaries on the film, a tribute to the late John Candy, and an option to watch the movie in Ludicrous Speed (basically a way speeded up version of the movie). “May the Schwartz be with you!” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director’s Edition) 4K (Paramount)
Few Trekkies would likely name 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture their favorite Star Trek film, but it is perhaps the most cinematic of Star Trek films. Veteran filmmaker Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sounds of Music, and The Day the Earth Stood Still) was brought in for the crew of the Enterprise’s first big screen outing and it has a grandeur that some of the later films lacked. To be a Trekkie at the time, more than a decade since the cancellation of your favorite TV show, and now it’s back in an expensive looking big screen adventure—it must’ve felt wonderful. On the other hand, Wise was rushing to get the film done before its Christmas release and corners were cut in terms of finishing the special effects and some scenes were cut in an attempt to just get the film finished. In 2001 Wise was given a chance to revisit the film with a director’s cut and featured improved (or in some cases simply finished) special effects and the results were definitely superior to the original film (which some have criticized as being overlong and a bit boring). While Wise passed away in 2005, the film has been reworked once more for its debut in 4K. The special effects have been improved even more so, to better match 2022 standards and the film has never looked better. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is certainly closer to the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s original show than many of the Star Trek films (there are no space battles or Shakespearean-inspired bad guys). It may not be the best or most exciting Trek film, but it’s the one that brought Kirk and Spock to the big screen (five more films with the original cast followed) and deserves respect. The 4K release is loaded with new special features on both how the 2001 version was created and how it was updated for 2022. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Sound of Metal 4K/Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)
Sound of Metal features a cameo from Under the Radar and thus holds a special place in our hearts. When making the film we were asked to assist with mocking up a fake cover of Under the Radar featuring Blackgammon, the film’s fictional band, on our cover. At the time we had no idea with film would go on to be nominated for six Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor) and win two (Best Sound and Best Editing). Riz Ahmed gives a powerful performance as the drummer in the aforementioned metal band who looses his hearing. A former drug addict, he checks into a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts until he can save up the money for an expensive operation that might improve his hearing. Sound of Metal was at first streaming on Amazon, but is now available in 4K and Blu-ray via The Criterion Collection. Special features on the release tackle the film’s sound design and also include a conversation between the film’s Darius Marder and Derek Cianfrance, who share a “story by” credit on the film, with Marder co-writing the screenplay with his brother Abraham Marder and directing the film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Stunt Rock Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
This classic slice of cinematic madness from Brian Trenchard-Smith is one of those films that must be seen to be believed. The title pretty much says it all: this movie’s packed with insane stunt work and a whole lot of late ‘70s hard rock courtesy of Sorcery, Los Angeles’ best wizard-themed rock band. The music’s loud, the cars are fast, and the stunts are dangerous—the movie’s pretty much a nonstop barrage of daring stuntmen putting themselves in harm’s way for our entertainment, intercut with scenes of literal rock-n-roll wizardry. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, no, but man is it fun. Just try to watch the trailer and not feel a sudden, intense need to watch the film right away so that you can witness the craziness firsthand. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray is sourced from a new 4K restoration of the film, and includes a bunch of extras—including a commentary by the director and his stars, and more than three hours’ worth of interviews. Trust us, Stunt Rock is every bit as wild as it looks. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
The Untouchables 4K (Paramount)
It’s been a banner year for Brian De Palma films hitting 4K, considering that Blow Out (from Criterion), Dressed to Kill (from Kino Lorber, and featured in this very gift guide), and Carrie (from Scream Factory) also received highly-anticipated upgrades to UHD within the last few months of 2022. His 1987 blockbuster gangster film, The Untouchables, might be the one we were most eager to revisit in high definition—and that says a lot, considering that all four are absolute bangers. The Untouchables starred Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness, who teams up with a no-nonsense cop (Sean Connery) to wage war against crime boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro) at the peak of prohibition. Full of memorable lines, several classic action sequences, and the late Billy Drago in one of his all-time slimiest roles, The Untouchables is as thrilling today as it was when it cleaned house at the box office thirty-five years ago. Paramount’s 4K UHD release features absolutely stunning picture and sound. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Dressed to Kill 4K (Kino Lorber)
Brian De Palma’s sleazy, Hitchcock-inspired thriller receives an all-new 4K UHD release from Kino Lorber, which boasts an all-new master in 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision—plus hours’ worth of bonus materials. Angie Dickinson plays a housewife dealing with trauma and a disappointing sex life; Michael Caine is her overworked psychiatrist. When a killer runs loose in New York City, a prostitute (Nancy Allen) might be the only person who can help the police catch the mysterious murderer.
Stylishly lensed and impeccably staged, De Palma’s 1980 film is a masterclass in directing and one of the decade’s most effective thrillers. Exclusive to this release are a commentary by critic Maitland McDonagh (which addresses the film’s controversies) and new interviews with Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, and producer Fred C, Caruso—these appear on the accompanying Blu-ray disc with more than a dozen archival featurettes, which include contributions by De Palma himself. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Eyes of Laura Mars Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
Faye Dunaway plays the titular Laura Mars, a famous fashion photographer who comes under police suspicion when it comes to their attention how much her photos look like some of New York City’s most grisly crime scenes. It turns out that Laura’s been suffering from strange visions—which she originally wrote off as nightmares—during which she’s able to see through the eyes of a mysterious, unidentified killer. When close colleagues and longtime friends start turning up as victims, Laura turns to a handsome police detective (Tommy Lee Jones) for protection—and to do her part in helping put an end to the murder spree.
Based on a script by John Carpenter and boasting an unreal supporting cast that includes Brad Dourif and Raul Julia, Eyes of Laura Mars is a wildly fun (if frequently campy) thriller set in Studio 54-era NYC. It’s received a bit on a boost recently, too, from being the subject of one of the American Giallo episodes of Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary’s Video Archives podcast. Bonus features include an archival commentary from director Irvin Kershner, a vintage promotional reel, and a wealth of trailers and promo spots. Here’s a chance to give the horror nut on your gift list a wildly entertaining gem that they actually may not have seen yet. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
The Halloween 4K Collection: 1995-2002 (Scream Factory)
In last year’s holiday gift guide, we raved about Scream Factory’s incredible 4K UHD releases of the first five Halloween films, which were released in pretty rapid succession between 1978 and 1989. When the Nineties rolled in, the franchise paused to take a breather as six years passed before the release of 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, which continued in the footsteps of the increasingly-convoluted sequels. Three years later the series received a semi-reboot, Halloween H20, a movie that ignored the last three Michael Myers entries and brought back our original heroine, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). This one received its own sequel, 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, in which Michael stalks the subjects of an online reality show.
This boxed set collects those three films from this second wave of Halloween movies on 4K UHD and Blu-ray, with heavy-duty cases that match the cool cover art style established with last year’s Halloween 4Ks. Halloween H20 is the one we’ll guess that horrorhounds are most excited for, but even Curse and Resurrection—two black sheep of the family—have their fans. Like their predecessors, these discs are loaded to the brim with bonus features, as each film comes packed with behind-the-scenes interviews, commentaries, deleted scenes, vintage marketing materials, and even multiple cuts for Curse. If you gifted someone the others Halloween 4Ks on our recommendation last year, you should really consider adding this set to their collection—and then make them invite you over for a weekend next October so that you can run the series. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
The Lost Boys 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros)
Two teens move to a new town with their mom. Life seems pretty normal at first—a little boring, even—until they discover they now live in something of a hotbed for teenage vampires. Matters get worse when kid brother Sam finds out that his older brother, Michael, has been hanging out with the wrong crowd: specifically, a clique of nocturnal, undead adolescents looking to expand their numbers.
A horror-comedy staple, The Lost Boys is very much a product of the late Eighties—but outside of the fashion, music, décor, and the presence of both of the Coreys, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the movie is almost 35 years old by popping this newly-remastered edition into your 4K player. The picture looks fantastic, with HDR once again doing some fantastic work making the film’s stylish lighting pop in the many scenes (for obvious reasons) set during the nighttime. The discs also include more than a dozen bonus features, with highlights that include a commentary from director Joel Schumacher and scene-specific commentaries by Haim, Feldman, and Newlander. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Poltergeist 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)
The PG-13 rating was created in 1984 in response to two PG films released that year, Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, both which were deemed two intense and adult for young children, but not quite bad enough to earn an R rating. One scene in the latter, when a man’s still beating heart is pulled out and he is lowered screaming into a swirling pit of fire, particularly freaked out 8-year-old me when I first saw it. 1984’s Soviet invasion of America film Red Dawn was the first film to get a PG-13 rating. But in the 1970s and early ’80s there were plenty of PG films that really should’ve been rated PG-13 had the rating existed (there are even some later ’80s movies that shouldn’t have gotten a PG rating, but that’s for another article). One such film is 1982’s horror classic Poltergeist.
I didn’t see the film at a young age, but my wife did and one particular scene that really freaked her out was when a man pulls his own face off, down to his skull, done with the aid of particularly gory practical effects (no CGI back then). She still covers her eyes during that scene as an adult. Despite the PG rating, we have resisted showing it our nine-year-old daughter. After all, the film features creepy dolls and trees come to life, a young girl being sucked into a spirit dimension via a portal in her closet, and demons communicating via TV static. In other words, nightmare-creating stuff. Regardless of the ongoing debate of who truly directed the film, official director Tobe Hooper or hands on producer Steven Spielberg (it was likely some sort of collaboration between the two), Poltergeist really still hold up all these years later. The special effects are still largely convincing, the film still incredibly creepy, and it’s all anchored by a believable and likeable family led by the grounded performances of Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as a mother and father trying to keep it together despite all the horrifying supernatural happenings at their house and the disappearance of their youngest daughter. Warner Bros. have reissued the film in 4K Ultra HD and film looks as good as you could hope. It also comes with a regular Blu-ray disc that includes two documentaries, as well as a digital code. “They’re here!” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection, Vol. 2 4K/Blu-ray (Universal)
Okay, sure, horror might not be the go-to movie genre during the holiday season. (On second thought, is A Christmas Carol not the best-known ghost story of all time?) But, there are many of us out there who try to celebrate the spooky season year-round. For those who do, Universal’s latest Classic Monsters collection brings four more of the studio’s stone cold classics to 4k UltraHD, and would make an excellent companion gift to the first set, which we recommended during the holidays time last year.
Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection Vol. 2 includes UHDs, Blu-rays, and digital codes for The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, and Creature from the Black Lagoon—there’s not a single bad movie in that bunch. Sure, they’re kinda tame by the standards of modern horror, but they do hold up—and because they’re free of the nudity and spraying blood we’ve grown accustomed to since the ‘70s, they’re actually pretty family friendly, and make great gateway movies for young, budding horror fans. If you’re a parent looking for a way to eventually work your kids up to Halloween or Dawn of the Dead, these are a wonderful way to dip their toes into the horror genre with you. Plus these beautiful-looking releases include tons of behind-the-scenes documentaries, making them equally enticing to fans of horror movie history. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
But, that’s not all! Click here to read the second half of our 2022 Home Video Gift Guide, which includes new release movies, animation, and TV shows on 4K and Blu-ray.