Buying gifts for movie geeks can be tough. If you go for an obvious cinematic classic, they’ll have probably already bought it for themselves. If you go for an eye-catching obscurity, the actual movie probably won’t live up to the packaging. If you ask the guy at Best Buy, he’ll probably just tell you to buy Central Intelligence because it seems to be very popular. Yicccch!
Well, here are a few new box sets that should satisfy the special brand of geek in your life.
For the Arty Movie Geek: Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro has already earned his geek cred, thanks to his directing work in Hollywood on the Hellboy movies, Blade II, and Pacific Rim. But any film fan worth his or her salt knows that del Toro’s truly visionary work is his trilogy of Spanish-language fantasies: the offbeat and evocative vampire tale Cronos, the orphanage-set supernatural mystery The Devil’s Backbone, and the twisted modern fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth.
The Criterion Collection, every film fanatic’s favorite video label, has packaged these three flicks into two different, beautifully ornate Blu-ray and DVD box sets. If you don’t want to upset the geek in your life, make sure to go for the Blu-ray since it comes with an exclusive hard-bound book as well.
For the Gorehound Movie Geek: The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast
Herschell Gordon Lewis is not exactly a household name, but as the “Godfather of Gore,” he holds the distinction of being the first filmmaker to realize the box office potential of explicitly showing blood and guts on a movie screen. Compared to the make-up magic that modern horror filmmakers can pull off, the gore in his 1960s splatter classics like Blood Feast, The Wizard of Gore, and Two Thousand Maniacs! are downright primitive. Plus, the acting in Lewis’s films is often pretty stiff, and the stories often make no damn sense. But exploitation film aficionados are used to that. What distinguishes Lewis’s work, and what has kept it alive for half a century, is his twisted imagination and pervasive gallows humor. He knows he’s making trash, and he seems to be loving every minute of it.
Arrow Video, which is quickly becoming the genre film fanatic’s favorite video label, has created a gorgeous limited-edition box set, in the shape of a cereal box. It contains 14 of Lewis’s films on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as oodles of bonus features, including a feature-length documentary on Lewis, interviews with Lewis’s collaborators and filmmaker fans (John Waters, Fred Olen Ray, even mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg), and introductions to each film from H.G. Lewis himself, recorded shortly before he passed away this year. Also included is a hardbound movie-themed activity book, though geeks will likely choose to maintain the condition of this box rather than actually have fun completing the activities.
For the Wu-Tang Clan-Loving Samurai Movie Geek: Lone Wolf and Cub
The Criterion Collection has a clear fondness for samurai films, so it seemed like only a matter of time before they would get around to releasing a Blu-ray box set for Lone Wolf and Cub. Now that it’s here, it is sure to satisfy newcomers and long-time fans alike.
This bloody, pulpy six-film series was initially introduced to American audiences through Shogun Assassin, an English-dubbed re-edit of the series’ first two films. Shogun Assassin gained an influential cult following — Tarantino references it in Kill Bill, while Wu-Tang’s GZA the Genius excerpts some of the English-dubbed dialogue at the start of his song “4th Chamber” — so it’s nice to see that Criterion has also included an HD version of Shogun Assassin to accompany the restored Japanese originals. The copious extras also include an interview with the creator of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga and a 1930s featurette about making samurai swords!
For the Classic Comedy Movie Geek: The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection
The Marx Brothers’ funniest films finally make the leap to Blu-ray with this new Silver Screen Collection box set. Apart from the HD upgrade, the big appeal of this box is the restoration of previously unseen censored footage to the comedy team’s second film Animal Crackers.
Also, while the original DVD box set of these films was totally bare bones, Universal has finally gotten around to adding some scholarly commentaries, a feature-length documentary on the Marxes, and some other bonus goodies. For the budding comedy nerd, or the Groucho completist, it’s a must-own.
For the Existentialist Movie Geek: Dekalog
Many U.S. arthouse fans got to know the somber but achingly humane films of Krzysztof Kieślowski through his Oscar-nominated Three Colors trilogy, released in the early ’90s by Miramax. However, a few short years earlier, Kieślowski released a ten-episode miniseries on Polish TV which has consistently gained in esteem and is now widely considered Kieślowski’s masterpiece. Titled Dekalog (The Decalogue), the miniseries follows the lives of different characters living in the same housing project, with each episode loosely inspired by one of the biblical Ten Commandments.
The Criterion Collection’s new box set contains handsomely restored picture and sound for all ten episodes, as well as the two theatrical films which were expanded from episodes in the series: A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love. There’s a nice batch of extras as well, including vintage behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with cast and crew members.
For the Literate Lawyer Movie Geek: Gregory Peck Centennial Collection
There’s no arguing that To Kill a Mockingbird and Cape Fear are two of Gregory Peck’s most popular movies. And, while it might be worth arguing that packaging two movies together should be labeled a “double feature” rather than a “collection,” it’s still nice to see these two classics brought together as the Gregory Peck Centennial Collection, in honor of what would have been the late actor’s 100th birthday.
Both films are based on popular novels, and both of them cast Peck as a morally upstanding lawyer. Adapted from Harper Lee’s literary classic, To Kill a Mockingbird features Peck in his iconic role as Atticus Finch, an idealist who must defend an innocent black man against a spurious rape charge. The thriller Cape Fear, adapted from a slightly saucier novel by John D. MacDonald, puts Peck and his family in danger, when they are targeted by psycho Robert Mitchum (De Niro played Mitchum’s role in the 1991 remake, but Mitchum was creepier).
For the Action-Obsessed Movie Geek: Mad Max High Octane Collection
Mad Max: Fury Road was the best action film — and maybe just the best film, period — to come out in 2015. Last year, it received a low-key home video release, with promises that there was more material to come.
Warner Brothers has delivered, with a Blu-ray set that includes Fury Road in its theatrical version (both in HD and 4K UHD), as well as director George Miller’s preferred “Black & Chrome” version, plus the original Mel Gibson-starring Mad Max trilogy. A new documentary on the making of The Road Warrior is exclusive to this set, but a number of bonuses that have been floating around for years are included as well, such as a doc about the first film, The Madness of Max; some commentaries; and some Fury Road featurettes.
Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.