Help Me Build My Home Video Collection!

Home-Video-Library-Blu-rays-2

And no, this is not a Kickstarter campaign ;)

I don’t know how you build and/or curate your home video collection, but I like to mix things up a little bit. That means I don’t just collect my favorite-movies-ever one after the other: I try to keep my library eclectic by making sure it never contains too much “old” or too much “new”; I do have a decent number of mainstream blockbusters, but I also fill in those gaps with true obscurities.

Never been much of a “completist”; for all the years I’ve been collecting movies (since those bygone VHS days), I’ve never actually owned every single James Bond movie, for example, in any format at one time.

Ditto the Star Wars series, which I haven’t bought on principle ever since George Lucas made his much-talked-about “Special Edition” changes and refuses to give me the movies I enjoyed in the theaters; ditto Star Trek, ditto superhero franchises, etc. I’m a big-time comics fan, but by no means do I own all the funnybook franchise hits: I own the ’78 Superman and Superman II;  I own the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, and the first two Chris Nolan Batfilms, plus the 1966 camp classic; add in the Marvel-ous Iron Man and Ang Lee’s Hulk, Daredevil and Green Lantern (yes, yes, I know), the vintage serials of Batman and The Phantom with Tom Tyler on DVD, and I think that about does it.

When a movie series is relatively compact and easy to complete purchasing and viewing in one fell swoop, I’m certainly not opposed to taking the leap and stocking it on my shelves. The Thin Man Collection was an easy buy for me to make; one purchase, and bam, I had them all. Same with the Karloff Mr. Wong set. I love packages like the Universal Monsters Legacy sets, just as much as I enjoy the physical and artistic heft of a good Werner Herzog box.

Completing trilogies is never that important to me unless I’m really bonded in some manner to all three films. I only own The Godfather, for example, not Parts II and III—and that I only really have because I recognize its importance in movie history. I do admire and respect Coppola; I’m just not a big mob movie fan. But if you’re gonna make sure you have mob movies represented in your collection (and yes, I feel I must), well of course, you gotta own The Godfather.

Home-Video-Library-Star-Wars-Mr-Wong-Werner-Herzog-Phantom-Tom-Tyler

All that said, there have been a few movies—Jaws being the example that immediately comes to mind—that I have owned in every single format (VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray) as soon as they became available, believing the ownership of certain titles to be worth the upgrade each and every time.

Blu-ray is my preferred option these days whenever I am adding to my home video library (yes, it IS noticeably better than DVD, as long as you are watching on an HDTV), unless a title I’d really like to have is only available in DVD. I like releases that have extras—audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes documentaries and the like (The Criterion Collection label is great for extras), but I’m a lot choosier about that element these days because there just isn’t the same amount of free time available to spend on them.

It should probably go without saying that I will typically avoid adding movies I actively dislike to the home collection. Sometimes, though, I will go right ahead and add films I may have struggled with liking but feel I’ll get into more with repeated viewings. David Fincher’s Panic Room is a perfect example of that phenomenon. I felt just so-so about the film when I saw it in the theater; I love it now.

Films I saw for the first time during college, however I felt about them, I’ve steadily added to my library—mostly because I recognize that I probably unfairly judged a lot of great movies I may have been bored stiff by when I was young(er) and (arguably more) foolish. The idiosyncratic vampire film Ganja & Hess is one of those films that literally put me to sleep in class—but now that I’ve seen a pristine and complete print, I’m a huge fan. Now that the Ukraine is big in the news again (and those are “my” people), I’m trying to line up a good day to look at Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors again.

When I’m really feeling frisky, I do go on some blind dates. I used to do this a lot with music CDs, and I find I have a reasonably similar success rate with movies—sometimes just picking a film up sight unseen, figuring it would probably be the kind of thing I’d really like or want to have available on the shelf, or deciding that I need to expand my horizons a little (again, in the interests of keeping the library artistically diverse), or adding it to the collection because someone I really like is involved and that makes it a good bet. Sometimes that works, and sometimes I really bomb out. That, too, is part of the fun for me.

dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-1920-silent-film-john-barrymore

My most recent purchase was Kino’s re-release of the 1920 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—that’s the well-regarded silent version starring John Barrymore. I hadn’t owned the film, or watched the film in fact, since I purchased it very cheaply from some bargain-basement public domain distributor on VHS ages ago. I remember barely being able to get through it, I felt the image looked so shabby; I’m not even certain whether or not there was an accompanying music score.

The film is kind of a legend though (mostly for Barrymore’s performance, often wrongly stated to have been accomplished without the use of makeup), so once I took the measure of Kino’s impressive-looking new Blu-ray release—which came complete with a nicely arranged set of extras, including a little-seen 1912 version of the Stevenson tale—I thought to myself: OK. You love horror movies. This is one of the “classics.” At this point, there are NO “Jekyll and Hyde” movies in the usable library…the print’s going to probably look the best it’ll look…maybe it’s time to give this a fresh appraisal…I can re-read the Stevenson book in advance, that’ll be fun, too…let’s do it!

Oh, shucks.

The disc release itself? Nice, sure. Good job, Kino. The movie?

Look, it’s a real stiff. It’s said to be one of the more “faithful” versions of the story, but having re-read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde just before watching the Barrymore film, I’m here to say that I find that claim to be a little overstated. It’s more or less faithful in the same way that all of the “important” adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula have been—which is to say, kinda-sorta, and kinda-sorta not. As for Barrymore’s performance?—which, let’s say it again for the record, involves a great deal of makeup—I found it to be less than electrifying, especially relative to the Oscar-winning work Fredric March would do 11 years later. The direction, the cinematography…all pretty flat. The much-praised scene of Jekyll hallucinating a massive spider crawling up onto his bed and smothering him? Yeah, pretty cheesily executed, even for the time. Nothing whatever to compare to the still-bracing visual power of silent horror classics like Caligari or Nosferatu.

Actually, the bonus film from 1912 was a more rewarding watch for me, chiefly for the bizarro, gap-toothed makeup actor James Cruze wore as Hyde—and for the amusing fact that as Jekyll, he looked a little bit to me like the older Charlie Chaplin.

All this preface brings us now, finally, to the headline topic of this piece. (Is this what they call “burying the lead”?) I discovered by way of my record-keeping that my purchase of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde marked the 99th Blu-ray in my home video collection. I need to come off of that mildly disappointing addition now with a positively triumphant pick for my 100th Blu-ray, and that’s where you come in. My confidence is shaken! Do I pick a “favorite” I’ve never owned before now, and risk it being just a so-so view because I’m too comfortable with the movie to get energized by a repeat viewing? Do I do an upgrade from VHS or DVD to Blu-ray, so I can appreciate the greater clarity (say, with Lawrence of Arabia, which I haven’t owned since the LaserDisc release of its restoration)? Do I go for a movie with some fine extra materials, so I can obtain some deeper knowledge about a classic? Or do I go for that complete roll-of-the-dice, I’ve never seen this before but wow this looks good, high-risk, high-reward choice?

Home-Video-Library-Lawrence-of-Arabia-Twixt-Outland-King-Kong-vs-Godzilla

To avoid this becoming a free-for-all and to help you, the reader, better help me, I’ve narrowed down my possible choices for the 100th Blu-ray in my library to five, based on combinations of my different approaches to building my best home video library. Check these choices out, vote in the poll below and feel free to elaborate in the comments. I will be guided by the results.  Here’s how I’ve narrowed down my 100th Blu-ray possibilities:

I eliminated presenting a showdown between High Noon and Outland, both of which I’m eager to own on Blu-ray—I figured I’d spare myself the grief I’d get in the comments when I admitted that the Connery reinvention is the one I like to watch over and over. (Oops) I took out Twixt, the vampire movie that hardly anybody saw; that appeals to me as a risky “blind date” choice, but I already have a Francis Coppola movie for the list; I plucked out King Kong vs. Godzilla and White Zombie, too—mainly because if My Best Fiend happens to see this poll, his default obsession with all things horror will prejudice him to click on those choices. Sorry, pal!

I wanted to add Broadcast News as a choice, as it’s a big sentimental favorite for me, a movie I’ve been thinking about upgrading (from my second-generation VHS dub!) to the Criterion Blu-ray. But I just covered that movie, sort of, in this space with the quiz Which Broadcast News Character Are You? (After you do your voting and commenting here, go take the quiz)

But enough of what I whittled away, because I could mention many, many more Blu-ray releases I’d like to see living in my house. Let’s get right down to it with the choices that made the cut:

apocalypse-now-blu-ray-cover

Apocalypse Now

WHY WOULD I ADD THIS TO THE LIBRARY? I haven’t owned this great, crazy movie since I made a second-generation VHS copy. This “Full Disclosure” release is loaded up with alternate versions of the movie and great extras, including the brilliant documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” which is compulsively watchable and re-watchable with all of the trivia about the wild making of this film. The unsettling raw footage of Martin Sheen’s breakdown (during the Tai Chi breaking-the-mirror scene) is worth the purchase price alone.

betty-boop-essential-collection-vol-1-blu-ray

Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Vol. 1

WHY WOULD I ADD THIS TO THE LIBRARY? I have exactly one animated Blu-ray: WALL-E (which was more of a “for the family” thing). In my DVD collection, I do have some vintage cartoons and some experimental works, but I have a real interest in these super-old shorts (like the Fleischer Popeyes, etc.) and, watching them one at a time would provide more than one sitting’s worth of fun.

mad-max-trilogy-blu-ray

Mad Max Trilogy

WHY WOULD I ADD THIS TO THE LIBRARY? Here’s one of those cases where one purchase nets me an entire series  that I enjoyed (at least until the reboot/remake/reimagining starring Tom Hardy comes out). I dig on all three of these movies—like most fans, though, The Road Warrior is my clear favorite.  This addition would inject some wall-to-wall, rip-roarin’ fun into a Blu-ray library that doesn’t have quite so much of this type of film in it. So, variety, too.

rebecca-blu-ray

Rebecca

WHY WOULD I ADD THIS TO THE LIBRARY? This wouldn’t be my natural choice for a Hitch Blu-ray to add to the shelves—that’d probably be Notorious, which I adore unreservedly…but I am here to admit that STILL…I Never Saw This Classic Movie.

sorcerer-blu-ray

Sorcerer

WHY WOULD I ADD THIS TO THE LIBRARY? Love William Friedkin. Love Roy Scheider. At the time, this film was blasted for having been titled “Sorcerer” and having nothing to do with the supernatural, which bewildered and irritated folks expecting some new chills from the guy who just made that little movie called The Exorcist. It’s been equally slammed as an inferior remake of The Wages of Fear and praised as an underrated thriller of the ‘70s. If I have ever seen this, I don’t remember it at all. I have never owned it. On Blu-ray, Sorcerer has been restored and reportedly looks terrific. (BEWARE, THOUGH: The DVD release is NOT similarly restored. It’s a total pan-and-scan release. I have confirmed this, so watch out, unless the square, boxy, 1.33: 1 version is actually the one you want–** on June 10, Warner Bros. has announced, the restored, Friedkin-approved DVD will be released.**) My colleague who works across from me here in the office (you may know him due to his unhealthy obsession with Doctor Who) owns this now, and gives it his hearty endorsement.

Time to vote!

The 100th Blu-ray in My Home Video Collection Should Be… 

View Results


Time to comment!—especially if you went with that “other” option, either to advocate for one of the choices I said I eliminated, or to push some entirely alternate choice. The stipulation here is that the movie must be available on Blu-ray (only Region 1, kids, I never went for the region-free thing on Blu), and I’d only disqualify your suggestion if I already have the movie in the library.

My wallet awaits your help in emptying it!

  • Jeffry Heise

    I voted for the Coppola, and instead of REBECCA, I would choose NOTORIOUS-in many ways a much more entertaining film and you can’t go wrong with Cary Grant and Claude Rains.

  • Masterofoneinchpunch

    Before I comment on your choices and make a vote in the poll I was wondering if you have an online collection of your BD/DVDs? I use filmaf (previously dvdaf), though it’s not all-the-way up-to-date (I have a weird way of inputting, mostly after I watched the film.)

    I will comment that I do want the KIno version of White Zombie.

    Now I wonder how many BDs do I own (I mostly get combo releases)?

    • GeorgeDAllen

      I keep my things (relatively) up to date on IMDb (hm, maybe someday there should be this capability on one of our sites, wouldn’t that be fun), but let’s just say you will need to use the top picture of my one shelf in this post as fairly representative of the kind of balance you would find in the library.

      I did enjoy recently creating my “Top 10 Criterions” — which are: The 39 Steps, The Blob, Burden of Dreams, General Idi Amin Dada, The Great Dictator, Island of Lost Souls, The Last Temptation of Christ, Salesman, Seven Samurai, and Wings of Desire (which are all part of the library, either on DVD or Blu).

      Lacking the fullest desired picture, perhaps a vote in the poll and top three alternates in the comments would be the best MOIIP approach. :)

      • Masterofoneinchpunch

        Out of your choices I picked Mad Max, mainly because there is three films there and I do like all three (repeatable fun.) The Apocalypse Now release is a worthy one so I can see you getting that as well. I have not seen Sorcerer, mainly because of the press and mainly because I am a big fan of The Wages of Fear. I would be interested in hearing your opinion on it.

        I’m still surprised you have not seen Rebecca (I have the Criterion DVD of it), but while a very worthy film I would probably pick one of the box sets (yes it is a slippery slope when you added a box set but I will make an added rule to my picks where if I choose a set the set will not contain over three films — otherwise it would be something like the Criterion Zatoichi set — which I did buy or Kino’s Ultimate Buster Keaton collection — that one is awesome.)

        Alternate picks:

        Yojimbo/Sanjuro BD Criterion set: oh do I love these films. They look great, have a lot of extras and one awesome ronin.

        Tokyo Story: BD/DVD Criterion: You can then lend Ozu in both formats with his most famous film to all your friends. Though you are not guaranteed to convert your friends (same feelings go with Robert Bresson which has angered several people I’ve lent his films to.)

        Safety Last or The Freshman BD Criterion: I don’t see any Harold Lloyd.

        or if you are lucky OOP Criterion of Chungking Express or the where am I going to put it Briefcase BD set of Blade Runner (I only have the DVD release of that awesome yet space consuming set — next to my coffee table I mean Ford at Fox box set.)

        • GeorgeDAllen

          If I were going for my first Ozu Blu, I’d probably be partial to Late Spring, though of course Tokyo Story is great, too.

          Back to the White Zombie reference: I just read a pretty terrific review of the VCI Blu release (which comes from the Roan materials) that gives it far higher marks than the controversial Kino that features so much digital cleanup. Really appealing cover art on the VCI, too.

        • rogerscorpion

          I’ve seen both & prefer ‘Sorcerer’. Scheider’s career SHOULD have taken off, from there–if not for that unfortunate title.

  • OZ ROB

    Marketa Lazarova, 1967 Czech medieval classic, you mentioned early on this year as a film you would like to see. Ii is a must have for any film enthusiast certainly be a very worthy and notable 100th addition if you do not have it already…

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Excellent reminder, thanks! We’ll see how the feedback goes here over a random and yet-to-be-determined amount of time before I pull the trigger on Blu-ray 100. But yes, I’d forgotten about putting that one on the to-do list.

  • Gord Jackson

    I would highly recommend Kon Ichakawa’s THE BURMESE HARP, one of the most powerful anti-war films ever made. Ditto Sir Richard Attenborough’s first directorial effort, OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR. Robert Bresson’s A MAN ESCAPED and THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST would also be very worthy additions to any collection.

  • Mark Jeffels

    Switchback, with Billy Bob Thornton. He is a mentally handy capped man that helps a little boy in an abusive situation. I think it should be in everyone’s collection that needs a great drama!

    • GeorgeDAllen

      I believe you are talking about Sling Blade with Thornton (there is a movie called “Switchback,” it’s just not the one you’re talking out) — which IS a terrific movie. And I absolutely would put that one in the running, since I do not own the Blu-ray. And it’d be an inexpensive addition, too…nice suggestion!

  • Movie Fan

    Go with Betty Boop. She was the inspiration for future independent, sexy female leads. And it’s on Blu-ray!

  • Johnny V

    I think it’s all a matter of taste, George.
    Myself, I have upwards of 1500 DVDs and, of the chosen titles, I only have two: the Mad Max Trilogy and Sorcerer. Sorry, but the others don’t appeal to me. I know they’re all classics but there’s been so much talk about them, especially “Apocalypse”, I’m just not interested.
    Here’s a idea. Think back to the movies you’ve seen and go with the one that left such an impact on you, you just can’t forget it.
    Example: I’ve got quite a few that most people would frown on, yet they’re a joy to watch: I LOVE Paint Your Wagon. I know the critics panned it; even Clint wonders today why he ever made the damn thing. But I find it one helluva “feel good” movie. And the music! I find myself singing each song aloud at any given moment!
    There’s many more. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Don Knotts’ attempt at public speaking gets me every time. Shattered with Tom Berenger and Bob Hoskins. A terrific mystery with a totally unexpected ending. And I can’t leave out the Looney Tunes collection from Warner. Probably the best animation ever with the incomparable Mel Blanc.
    Just some ideas, George, but I wish you luck on finding that ONE DVD that will rightly find it’s place as your 100th.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      I like your approach to the process :) It’s Blu-rays, I’m looking at, though, rather than DVDs — the 100th DVD I passed oh-so-long, long ago! — and I am no stranger to proudly standing up for movies most people despise, so while I can’t share your specific enthusiasm for Paint Your Wagon, I fully endorse it!

      My favorite aspect of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is the Vic Mizzy score. The “Looney Tunes” collections ARE terrific (and I see some of them have even reached Blu-ray!), so maybe I will put one of those collections in the running here.

      On the topic of DVDs, the last one I picked up was Jane Campion’s Bright Star, a terrific little movie I just wrote about here: http://www.moviefanfare.com/bright-star-dim-audience/

  • Butch Knouse

    Outland would be fantastic if you have a very large screen. A movie that that be seen on the largest screen you can find.

  • Pingback: Bring Your Own Movie Blog: Profiling Edition | Classic Movie Blog

  • Cara

    I voted for Apocalypse Now because I think you would appreciate all the additions. I, myself, would never buy it. Since I noted you had the Boris Karloff Mr. Wong collection in DVD, which I also own, I do have a suggestion for a DVD collection. It’s the George Sanders Saint collection. Leslie Charteris, the creator of The Saint, helped write the scripts, and the dialogue is snappier than many of the B mystery movies of the time. Plus, you get George Sanders with his unmistakable voice. He’s as good as Roger Moore was in the 60s TV series.