It was a good year to be a cult film fan in 2013, with a bevy of impressive films seeing release from a core selection of boutique home video companies. The care and attention to detail placed by such companies as Camera Obscura, Severin Films, Distribpix, Raro Video, Blue Underground and the returning Grindhouse Releasing served as a uniting thread amongst all of the films contained here in this list, proving that a real, palpable love for this stuff can still be felt amongst fans and professionals alike, while the desire for physical media still burns in the hearts of those who live, eat and breathe movies.
10. (tie) Top Sensation/Spirits of Death (Camera Obscura, Region 2 DVD)
Camera Obscura continued in 2013 to stand by their tradition of releasing rare cinema from the vault of history, oftentimes saving otherwise forgotten films from what would otherwise certainly be an eternity in obscurity. Two such films were Ottavio Alessi's 1969 sex thriller Top Sensation and Romano Scavolini's ghostly giallo Spirits of Death, both of which were presented by Camera Obscura uncut and in beautiful condition. The hard work and dedication from Camera Obscura on these two releases meant that grainy, shoddy bootlegs could finally be tossed in the trash.
Django Prepare a Coffin
9. Django, Prepare a Coffin a.k.a. Preparati La Bara (Arrowdrome, Region 2 DVD)
Sure, Arrow Video's print of this underrated 1968 spaghetti western from director Ferdinando Baldi looks great, probably the best Preparati La Bara has appeared in ages, due no doubt to the bevy of public domain versions available under various titles. Yet, it was the company's inclusion of the original Italian audio track which made viewing of Django, Prepare a Coffin-which made a star of then unknown Terrence Hill, taking over the role of Django from original actor Franco Nero in this unofficial sequel-a truly pleasurable experience for this writer. Well...that and the absolutely amazing title theme from composer Gianfranco Reverberi, which was sampled to great success by CeeLo Green and Gnarls Barkley for their hit "Crazy."
House on Straw Hill
8. House on Straw Hill (Severin, Region Free Blu-Ray/DVD)
Severin scored a coup when they were able to rescue a print of this original "Video Nasty" from director James Clarke, despite the negative having sustained severe storage damage over the years. Clarke's combination of pastoral English settings, psychotic imagery and electrically charged eroticism makes House on Straw Hill-a.k.a. Expose-a unique 1970s thriller, one whose impact remains with the viewer long after this disc has finished spinning.
Brothers Till We Die
7. (tie) Brothers Till We Die/The Cynic, The Rat & The Fist (Film Art, Region 2 DVD)
The amount of quality home video releases from the Eurocrime genre have sadly diminished since the unfortunate demise of the NoShame company a number of years ago. Although companies such as Italy's Raro Video have continued nicely in this tradition, the fact remains that, at least when compared to gialli and horror outings, the Italian crime genre still has many films out there in the wild, begging for a proper release. Germany's Film Art did their part to fix this problem in 2013, releasing two of director Umberto Lenzi's action-packed crime films in deluxe region 2 sets which featured collectible booklets and tons of extras which detail all of the blood 'n guts action behind all of these Mediterranean bullet hole operas.
6. Snuff (Blue Underground, Region Free Blu-Ray)
The story behind this tried 'n true grindhouse exploitation classic has to be heard to be believed, and all of the gory details are laid bare on this excellent Blue Underground Blu-Ray. Snuff is exploited once again, warts in all, in this jam-packed set, while presenting the film in crisp, near-perfect high definition. Hell, the visual quality here is probably better than the film itself deserves, but no matter, you'll have a blast uncovering all of the secrets behind Snuff, "the bloodiest thing that ever happened in front of a camera!"
The Big Gundown
5. The Big Gundown (Grindhouse Releasing, Region Free Blu-Ray/DVD)
Sergio Sollima's classic spaghetti western The Big Gundown was practically begging for a release such as this one from the returning exploitation kings, Grindhouse Releasing. The film had suffered massive cuts upon its original release from United Artists, yet this massive 4 disc set from Grindhouse reinstates all of the missing footage in both the American and Italian cuts of the film, together with the fantastic soundtrack from Ennio Morricone. Simply one of the year's best disc sets, and a must for any fan of the Italian spaghetti west.
4. The Neverending Story (Constantin Film, Region Free Blu-Ray)
Constantin Film did fans of this classic children's film a great service in 2013 when they brought the original, German cut of The Neverending Story to an absolutely lovely region free Blu-Ray. This cut of the film is significantly more somber than the version released Stateside in 1984, focusing more upon the inner melancholy of its protagonist Bastian, while also retaining all of composer Klaus Doldinger's equally moving score, this time without Kajagoogoo vocalist Limahl's admittedly classic theme song. This extended cut of The Neverending Story makes a great companion to the original film, rather than replacing it, which makes it a great buy for adults seeking to take a trip back to a childhood classic.
Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection 2
3. The Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection 2 (Raro Video, Region Free Blu-Ray/DVD)
This highly anticipated second volume in Raro Video's collection of director Fernando Di Leo's Italian crime films delivered the goods with absolutely stunning picture and sound for a diverse selection of films. Naked Violence, Kidnap Syndicate and Shoot First, Die Later all presented different strengths and styles from this prolific cinematic auteur, and served as a satisfying second helping of crime drama the Italian way.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th
2. Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (1428 Films, Region 1 Blu-Ray/DVD)
This epic collection followed in the creative footsteps of an equally "killer" release from 1428 Films, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, only this time shifting their documentary focus upon another iconic 80s slasher, the villainous hockey-masked slasher Jason Voorhees. Virtually no stone is unturned in this impeccably presented and exhaustively researched tale of the Friday the 13th film series, as countless cast members are interviewed, endless factoids revealed and glorious, juicy clips are shown in all their bloody glory. Truly, THIS is how it's done.
1. Barbara Broadcast (Distribpix, Inc., Region Free Blu-Ray/DVD)
The New York based film restoration experts over at Distribpix Inc. probably knew they had a winner on their hands when they announced the release of filmmaker Radley Metzger's 1977 adult cinema masterpiece Barbara Broadcast to Blu-Ray, but even they probably didn't realize the demand and acclaim their hard work would garner upon the disc's release. Simply stated, this was THE home video release of the year, and represented all of care and passion for film which resides within the hearts of those who labored behind the scenes at Distribpix. Featurettes, director commentaries and extras galore packed this release, all of which lifted Barbara Broadcast from raincoat crowd phenomenon to cult cinema classic in one, fell swoop.