By Dom Walker
It’s been quite the year for us at Arrow. We released our first UHD titles, unleashed some big box sets and continued to bring out an exciting range of both new films and revisited gems. It’s been hard to pick out our favourites but we’ve asked some of our staff to do just that. They’ve had a look at the releases for this year and have managed to narrow down their top three recommendations for 2020.
Francesco Simeoni – Director of Content
Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection
I am a big admirer of Jodorowsky and it had been a dream of mine to get these into a deluxe collection from Arrow. I don’t think I could have ever foreseen what a challenge this would have been but am thrilled we got there in the end!
A huge favourite of mine, I must’ve rented this from my videoshop hundreds of times. I am incredibly proud of the work the team did on this release and have already recited streams of dialogue to our new amazing picture.
2020 has been an incredible challenge for us all and we were very fortunate to be able to continue to work fairly uninterrupted and having so many great releases really impresses on my mind just how lucky we’ve been as for my third spot I could have chosen so many releases but Crash takes my vote by a whisker. This was a film which had long been on my wishlist, having caught a TV viewing years ago this film burned many amazing images in my mind so it’s a thrill to see those images again in such stunning quality. As a big Cronenberg fan I was amazed as to how much incredible content we were able to get on this.
James Flower – Senior Producer
It’s been a tough year for all of us (I’m about to go all Jack Torrance with this Tier 4 announcement), but I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects over the last year, including Tremors, Gamera: The Complete Collection, The Game, The Woman and Pitch Black. Diving into the 4K UHD market headfirst has been an incredible experience, and it’s been so rewarding to see fans embracing our releases in the format. Needless to say, our 2021 slate (which is constantly evolving, with some really exciting new acquisitions being added as I type this!) should be even more impressive. Here’s the three titles I’ve been especially happy to see added to the Arrow catalogue in 2020:
The Passion of Darkly Noon
Some years ago, before I joined Arrow, I produced a special edition Blu-ray of Philip Ridley’s first film The Reflecting Skin. Whenever anyone asked me if a Blu-ray of Ridley’s second film, The Passion of Darkly Noon, was ever likely to happen, my answer was usually: “No, there’s absolutely no chance, the rights are too complicated.” Well, I’m glad to have Arrow prove me wrong! (Though sadly we’re not able to release it in the UK yet – here’s hoping that changes one day.) At long last, Ridley and cinematographer John de Borman’s original 2.35:1 framing is restored in a glistening new 2K master that breathes new life into the film, and with brand new bonus features that were a real labour of love to produce, including a new video essay looking at Ridley’s first two films from a contemporary perspective.
Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection
It was a long, long time coming, but the first three films (and a new documentary!) by the Chilean master of madness were finally unleashed in an amazing boxset that no fan of visionary cult cinema should be without. It’s safe to say that no-one has ever seen Jodo’s early films looking as good as this, and with an amazing array of extras (including the soundtrack CDs) thrown in, this is a definitive collection.
After years of limbo, David Cronenberg’s controversial, tabloid-baiting ode to exploring the limits of ecstasy via vehicular oblivion not only makes it onto Blu-ray in the UK, but 4K UHD for good measure, in an eye-popping new master approved by Cronenberg himself as well as cinematographer Peter Suschitzky. Our release obviously stands on the shoulders of the work done by our friends at Turbine Medien in Germany, but the Arrow release goes one step beyond in the extras department, offering bonus short films – not least Dream Demon director Harley Cokeliss’ legendary BBC short, starring original author J.G. Ballard – a wonderful NFT Q&A between Cronenberg and Ballard, and much, much more. Talk about a stocking stuffer!
Mike Hewitt – Head of Sales and Marketing
Why Don’t You Just Die!
My top film of all the new films we released this year, despite several other great new film releases such as Harpoon, Daniel Isn’t Real and After Midnight to name just a few. However, Why Don’t You Just Die! is a stunning debut from Russian filmmaker Kirill Sokolov that takes a tight plot and fully delivers on its blacker-than-black comedy premise with a directorial verve that echoes early films from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright. Great script, great performances and a fantastic score and soundtrack to boot. Why Don’t You Just See it!
The Woman / Offspring
I may be biased as I had originally helped acquire and release The Woman on its initial UK release back on 2011, but it was a joy to work with both Lucky McKee and Andrew van den Houten again with a stunning new master of the film, plus also be able to include Andrew’s first film in the trilogy, Offspring, on a Limited Edition Blu-ray set in both the UK and Canada. The new artwork, by Lucky’s partner, Vanessa, is fantastic and both films have never looked better, plus we were able to include some great new extras including a fantastic new 75-min documentary on the filming of The Woman, made my Lucky’s father, Mike McKee.
As a huge Cronenberg fan myself, it’s been amazing to be able to release one of his genuinely dark and dangerous masterpieces from his later career. Having not seen this film since it’s UK theatrical release in 1996, the 4k UHD restoration (approved by Cronenberg himself) is stunning, the extras are incredibly insightful (including five short films and brand new commentaries and interviews), whilst Gilles Vranckx’s beautiful artwork make this one of the best looking packages of the year.
Louise Buckler – Senior Marketing Manager
A movie about breaking up, making up and facing your monsters. After Midnight was one of my favourite new genre titles of the year with an incredible cast and has a killer soundtrack to boot. Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella were a dream to work with and were really instrumental in making our Blu-ray set the best it could be – we really couldn’t have done it without them! Our release also allowed us the opportunity to bring Gardner’s first feature film – The Battery – to UK Blu-ray for the first time.
Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto
Cyberpunk body horror and classic Samurai lore collide in this diverse set housing eight features and two shorts from Japanese modern master, Shinya Tsukamoto. From tales of sexual obsession to harrowing drama, these films are experimental and independent filmmaking at its very best. Get ready for your jaw to hit the floor with twisted tales of metal fetishists and some truly frantic and nightmarish visuals.
Survivor Ballads: The Films of Shohei Imamura
Featuring three masterpieces from the latter part of Imamura’s career and all wrapped up in a sumptuous set featuring stunning artwork by Tony Stella, Survivor Ballads brings together a trio of titles touching upon the aftermath of Hiroshima and the cruelty and greed of man. The films are accompanied by a fantastic booklet, appreciations and commentaries which all share some great insights and give newcomers and fans alike valuable background context.
Honourable mentions go out to Edge of the Axe, He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection, Daniel Isn’t Real, Mallrats and Hiroshima.
Alan Simmons – QC Operator
This year has felt a decade long so it’s not a total surprise how crazy it feels that Daniel Isn’t Real came out in February. Talking of crazy, in Adam Egypt Mortimer’s film, Luke (Miles Robbins) thinks he is losing his mind just like his mother when his destructive childhood imaginary friend Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) returns to wreak havoc on his adulthood. Egypt Mortimer is excitingly unafraid to get weird and cosmic with his premise, Robbins and Schwarzenegger are excellent and the nightmarish visuals that are a blend of Barker and Lovecraft are unforgettable.
Primarily a rip-off of The Exorcist, Italian possession shocker Beyond the Door also helps itself to elements of Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen too. Gleefully bonkers and undeniably funky thanks to Micalizzi’s groovy score that also includes the banger “Bargain With the Devil”, Beyond the Door is anchored by completely straight-faced performances from respectable Brit thesps Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson – whose gravitas-filled yells of “THE CHILD MUST BE BORN!” will live as long in the memory as the knock-off gross-out effects and guy playing a flute with his nose.
After Midnight is a mumblecore monster movie delight directed by and starring Jeremy Gardner alongside the so-hot-right-now Brea Grant. Hank’s girlfriend Abby has left him and his too-smalltown a world view, and now, alone in a rickety family farmhouse, Hank is being attacked by a mysterious creature every night when the clock strikes 12. The mystery is enticing, the pay-off is hugely satisfying, the soundtrack rips and Gardner and Grant are amazing – as are Justin Benson and Henry Zebowski in support – in this immensely loveable, sweet-natured, scary, heartfelt, honest, sometimes hilarious, killer karaoke scene containing, creature feature unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Anthony Newcomb – Customer Service Supervisor
Gamera: The Complete Collection – A monstrous achievement!
Tremors – One of our many stacked UHD releases setting the standard as we move into 2021
Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection – One of the ultimate cult directors and I really recognise/appreciate how so much hard work went into bringing this set to shelves from so many around the company.
Special Mention: The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast – One of the first directors to ever engage me into the world of cult film (all those years ago), it’s fantastic to have this collection back for more people to enjoy and at a more affordable price!
Dom Walker – Ecommerce manager
Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway
Now this one is impossible to forget! Sucked in both by the intriguing title and a trailer that not only blew my socks off but detonated them into smithereens, I was entranced from beginning to end. Featuring extended kung-fu scenes, 1960s Batman references and Richard Pryor face-masks, prepare to be hurtled along on an unexpected, exciting ride through eclectic locations in some of the most imaginative and original scenes you’ll see this year. Also included on our disc is Miguel Llansó’s equally surreal debut feature Crumbs. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
I See You
A sleepy all-American setting with cracks under the surface that grow increasingly larger as another touchpoint is revealed in this engrossing unfolding mystery. It’s hard to talk too much about this without giving too much away and part of the thrill in watching it is piecing together the fragmented action like a visual jigsaw puzzle. I loved the twist(s), the fresh re-telling of a story we think we’ve already seen and a sweat-inducing level of threat that clings on right through to the last frame.
Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece from 1948 received a 4K restoration and it has never looked better. I relished the opportunity to watch it with this stunning update which truly gives the film the treatment it deserves. Whether revisiting or watching for the first time, the film’s themes of poverty, loss and the extremes to which desperate people will go remain relevant and thought-provoking.
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