Since the DVD revolution, an innumerable number of previously unreleased genre titles have become available. What was once terribly obscure is now easily accessible from virtually and retail media outlet, and this fact has changed the way people watch movies. Between the copious amount of information on once esoteric films available on the internet and the unending amount of genre films that have flooded the DVD market, viewers now have more options than ever to figure out once and for all what kinds of films they prefer. Aside from the sudden availablility, the chance to see certain movies on DVD in their original aspect ratio and with restored visuals and soundtracks often sheds light on films that were once presumed to be laughable, revealing just how great the film, in it's intended quality, really is.

The DVD revolution played a major part in converting my movie watching hobby into a full-blown obsession, and I am highly thankful for that. Every year I feel it's worth pointing out what DVD releases are more than worthwhile, as many great titles often slip under the radar of the general DVD buying public. And so, with that short statement, I'd like to introduce the DVD releases that I consider to be the ten most important, necessary, or welcome titles to hit the DVD market in 2007.

10 - STRANGE CIRCUS, TLA Releasing
During the Asian Horror boom of the late 90s and early 00s, director Sion Sono made a splash with his delerious Suicide Club, a film which notoriously opened with the suicide of fifty-four school girls in front of a fast movie train, covering the on-lookers and camera itself with spurts of thick blood. The film managed to transcend it's simple notoriety as a gore film by being remarkably perceptive and intelligent, but certain elements of the plot weren't as strong as they could have been. With Sono's 2006 film, Strange Circus, the narrative flaws that were present in Suicide Club have been overcome, and Sono made a remarkably potent film. The film is also remarkably for it's impact as a new wave of ero-guro films in Japan, largely neglecting the notorious "J-Horror" tropes that have waned in popularity since the boom started with Hideo Nakata's Ring. And any sign of a return of ero-guro, one of my favorite subgenres from the history of Japanese film, is a welcome sign to me.

TLA's DVD is anamorphic, has nice picture quality, and competent subtitles that don't distract from the insanity occuring on screen. TLA also released Suicide Club a few years previous, and I hope that they release more of his films in the future.

Review of the Film
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The first of two Severin DVDs that made my final list, I was literally overwhelmed with happiness when I saw this title on their "future releases" list early on in the year. Previously only available in compromised bootlegs without any English options, Private Collections does a lot for US viewers-- first of all, it marks the only currently in print film available directed by the largely unknown Shuji Terayama (Anchor Bay had released his 1981 film Fruits of Passion a few years ago, but the disc is now sadly out of print). Terayama is a director highly deserving of more attention, and despite the fact that his short film, included in the omnibus, feature French narrative (as opposed to the orginal incarnation of the film that was strictly in Japanese, devoid of any narrated track), the film still reveals it's intricacies.

But what's always been most fascinating to me about the film, and in turn, the DVD, is the chance to view short films of three great directors in direct tangent with each other; Just Jaeckin, Walerian Borowczyk, and Shuji Terayama all have remarkably different styles (and it shows); but the film is held together with both the thread of eroticism and a careful attention to aesthetics, which Severin's DVD gives us ample opportunites to enjoy.

Review of the Film
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08 - DIRTY MARIA, Mushi Mushi
The Dutch DVD company MushiMushi (which may be a division of JapanShock; I'm not really sure and can't find out any info on the company) has released quite a few contemporary pinku films throughout the year, something that I, as an English speaking pinku film fan, really appreciate. The transfers don't look perfect, but compared to the transfers that Screen Edge gave to some of their pinku releases a few years ago, these transfers resemble the second coming of Christ in their clarity. My primary interest in Takahisa Zeze came when I discovered the Shitenno (Four Kings) four contemporary pink film directors that were pushing the boundaries of erotica and coming up with remarkably potent results (Hisayasu Sato is another one of the four kings; having been a fan of his for a while I was more than ready to check other similar films out).

Takahisa Zeze is probably the second most interesting of the Shitenno, and previously, in terms of English-friendly releases, most of his pink film output was largely unavailable (excepting Screen Edge's release of Dream of Garuda, which, as mentioned, suffered from a terrible transfer). Some of his more accessible films have been available for a while (including the remarkably dull J-Horror entry, Kokkuri), but MushiMushi have released two of his pink films, this and Raigyo (Dirty Maria wins the position by default; as I don't have the DVD of Raigyo yet), and if they choose to release more I would be more than satisfied.

Review of the Film
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07 - SWEET MOVIE, Criterion Collection
The first time I ever saw Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie was a summer afternoon five or six years ago at the university library near my house, uncomfortable in the fact that the screen of the viewing station I was at could clearly be seen by anybody passing by. Despite all awkwardness, the film made an impact (I eventually ended up trading for a copy of the film of VHS so I wouldn't have to repeat the odd situation that marked my first viewing), and I was remarkably surprised to discover that the Criterion Collection, ultimate purveyors of cinematic "good taste" (at least, according to most of the general public) was releasing both of Makavejev's major films, this and WR: Mysteries of the Organism (another title I unfortunatley haven't been able to pick up yet).

As usual with Criterion, the transfer is excellent and there are more extras on the disc than I could have ever hoped to encounted about the movie. Particularly interesting to me is the television broadcast of actress Anna Prucnal singing a song written by Pier Paolo Pasolini--which only further reveals the incestuous nature of many film-makers I note as impressive.

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Jean Rollin's first feature film shocked the French during the time of the '68 Revolution, and it marked the entrance of a new, completely overlooked talent: film-poet Jean Rollin. The film isn't as successful as Rollin's later work, but all of the elements are there: female vampires, depersonalized buildings that house depersonalized "technical" centers, endless and hopeless love, and brief bits of shocking violence that add punctuation to the films poeticism. The film itself is a bit too dependent on the structure of Rollin's beloved serials (such as Feuillade's Fantomas and Les Vampires), but hints of Rollins more developed, subtle still are clearly there.

Encore has slowly been releasing special editions of many of Rollin's films, and I can only hope they continue. Despite some occasional flaws, they have released what have become the necessary editions of Rollin's oeuvre. Each DVD release comes loaded with extras, and this one is no exception, containing a 32 page booklet with Rollin's recollections of making the film (which at times are more interesting than the film itself), commentary by Rollin, interviews with many of the scenes stars, the film's original trailer, and more.

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Lucifer Rising and Puce Moment are two of my favorite films of all time, so finally having them on DVD, remastered no less, is something of a godsend. Despite the fact that I'm slightly frustrated that the two volumes of this were released seperately instead of in a single set, I have nothing else to complain about. The films themselves look beautiful, and while I actually prefer the films without Anger's commentary, it's nice to have the option to listen to it. The booklets that come with the sets are also beautiful.

Buy Volume 1 from Amazon
Buy Volume 2 from Amazon

04 - SPELL, DOLCE MATTATOIO, Mondo Home Entertainment
Spell was the first Alberto Cavallone film that I ever saw, and I knew from that point on that he was an important director that I needed to learn more about. I spent the next year (which brings us up to now) tracking down as many of his films as possible, which at first, wasn't that many. Spell is an amazing film, remaining incredibly devastating while still maintaining an air of breeziness that can only come from the Italian country side. The DVD release is fairly bare-bones and, unfortunately, doesn't include English subtitles, but it's the first commercial release of a Cavallone film to date, and has a much improved image over all pre-existing bootlegs. Hopefully more Cavallone films will follow on DVD, and hopefully including English options!

Buy it from Xploited Cinema

03 - LA BELLE CAPTIVE, Koch Lorber Films
I can sum up why this DVD release is so ultimately imporant in a single sentance fragment: ROBBE-GRILLET ON DVD WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES. Now, obviously the two bits of important information in that fragment are "ON DVD" and "WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES." Even with a few subpar, dubbed Italian DVDs of other Robbe-Grillet films available, the director's films have been remarkably absent on home video formats, due mostly to Robbe-Grillet's insistence that films are better seen in theater. This is a theoretically justified idea, but the reality of the situation is that most of us have never had, nor ever will have, a chance to see his films in theater. But, like almost all of the films on this list, Robbe-Grillet's films deserve a remarkably higher profile among cinema aficionados, and home video is the best way to accomplish this.

Part of what makes Robbe-Grillet's films so spectacular are their imagery; and while the Kock Lorber DVD may not be the best transfer imaginable, it's a large step above all the VHS copies I've seen previously.

Review of the Film
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02 - SEXUAL STORY OF O, Severin
Over the past year Severin has officially taken the place in my head as "Number One Domestic DVD Company." The films they are putting out on DVD are remarkably important, and more often, previously terribly esoteric. In a field where a number of people are questioning whether or not the more genre oriented companies have enough titles to mine from in order to release in the future, Severin has denied the odds and consistently put out interesting, and well put together releases. Their nickname as "The Criterion Collection of Smut" is remarkably accurate, depsite the negative connotations that the word "smut" generally has!

One of the many reasons why Severin is currently my favorite company putting out quality genre DVDs is the fact that they are virtually the first US company to release any of the titles from Franco's Golden Films period. This period remains a mystery to even most scholars of Franco, as little to none of the films have been released with English subs. And yet, Severin have released four titles from this period already (aside from Sexual Story of O; Macumba Sexual, Inconfessable Orgies of Emmanuelle, and Mansion of the Living Dead). It's been truly enlightening to see some of these films with English subtitles, as I honestly believe, as a Franco-obsessive, that these films are some of his best work. While it's hard to pick just one of the titles, as all four have been consistently awesome releases, Sexual Story of O wins for the fact that it has become one of my absolute favorite Franco films (no easy task when it's competing with 45 other films!), and I would have never had a chance to see it if it weren't for Severin's essential release.

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I have no problem declaring this DVD release, which took me completely by suprise, as the most essential DVD release of the decade. Zwartjes' enigmatic short films (and Pentimento, a feature length film included in the DVD set) are remarkably studied, mysterious, completely perfect examples of the cinematic art form. I'll spare myself talking too much about the films included here, as they remain very near and dear to me, and I plan on expounding on them further in the future. The only thing you need to know about this DVD release is that it is absolutely essential.

Review of Living
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Mike Kitchell, 2008