10 Tarantino favorites on BluRay & DVD [Vol. 1]
We have published lists of Quentin Tarantino’s favorites before, and the following list is inspired by the lists of favorite films he handed us for the SWDb and the GCDb. Some time has passed, and as I looked at his movies and their availability for a German article on Nischenkino.de, I took the liberty of compiling ten Tarantino favorites that stood out and are available in good quality by US-based or international publishers for a list that, yes, is a bit US-centric, but with a region-free player you might find this valuable nonetheless. Plus, I added UK/Europe availability info to the entries where I could so there. Well, all that aside, here are ten movies that are available on great BluRays, that are among Tarantino’s favorite movies or have been important influences. A second volume of this article will follow, and we welcome your comments.
Quentin famously famously named his short-lived home video distribution company after this Paul Schrader classic. Rolling Thunder Pictures was ahead of its time, and would today be only one among many small labels around the world specialized in international cult and genre cinema. Back then, before the web was in full swing, it just couldn’t amass the impact it would have today. But on to the movie proper…
In Rolling Thunder, Vietnam vet Charles Rane (William Devane) returns home but finds his family broken, and then assaulted, he loses his hand, and struggles with PTSD. He mobilizes his old war buddy (a young Tommy Lee Jones) and goes after the perpetrators, which leads the two deep into a border town, where guns will have the last word….
It’s a glorious Vietnam vet revenge flick that has as much Schrader as it has Sam Peckinpah. The BluRays now available in several countries offer a decent quality restoration of this classic along with a small dose of bonus features. A movie that should not be missing from your collection! Read more: GCDb entry
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Still considered to be the penultimate Spaghetti Western, it ranks as one of, if not the, favorite of Tarantino’s of all time. It’s epic, it’s influential, it’s groundbreaking, it’s long, it’s beautiful and it’s iconic. Sergio Leone outdid himself on this one, and even though my personal favorite is Once Upon a Time in the West, it is the GBU that had the bigger pop cultural impact.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) tells the story of three very different drifters in the civil war west. Tuco (Eli Wallach) is a bandit, Blondie (Clint Eastwood) is a loner and Angel Eyes (Lee van Cleef) a bounty hunter. Or at least that’s what you’re led to believe, as the fates of these three fortunte hunters collide in a quest to find a mysterious gold treasure buried in a grave marked Arch Stanton. What follows is an almost three hour odyssey through the war ravaged country, with soldiers of both sides and the treasure hunters in between, but they’re not a team, they are mistrusting archetypes of the spaghetti west…..
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that have seen this epic and love it, and those that haven’t seen it yet, but will soon. Read more: SWDb entry
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Boring? Not at all. Still a chilling classic, and the restored editions you can enjoy today make this all the more worthy of rediscovery. Tobe Hooper‘s tremendously influential Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a pop cultural phenomenon that is still shaping cinema today. It also has a rocky history not just in the making but also over the decades. In my native Germany for example, it has been banned until not too long ago, but now there will be an upcoming 4K Ultra-HD BluRay re-release. It is in fact one of the most re-released movies on home video, a myriad of editions vie for customer’s interest.
The movie tells the story of a group of teenagers who get stranded in the middle of Texas and fall prey to a murderous inbred family that harbors some pretty sick tastes and hobbies. To the thunderous sound of a chainsaw, wielded by a tall, masked man (the leatherface), the teenagers now fight for their lives….
It won’t scare the bejeezus out of anyone anymore, today however the genre is dominated by this structure of teenage survival and has morphed in some corners of the film market into disgusting torture porn. One of the last genuine attempts at making a stylized TCM-type film is the underrated House of 1000 Corpses by Rob Zombie actually.
The US BluRay is a 40th anniversary collector’s edition, and the other internationally available releases are equally chock full of extras that make for hours of discovery. A special treat should be the upcoming German release, which boasts an unrivaled 4K UltraHD Version of the film, for the first time, along with all HD audio formats the technology has to offer. Read more: GCDb entry
Il Boss and other Polizios
Il Boss (aka Wipeout!) is one of Quentin’s all time favorites, but when I researched I found out that the entire Fernando DiLeo Crime collection by Raro is out in an amazing BluRay box (and a Volume 2 as well), so this is gonna do for sure! Remember a few interviews ago, where Tarantino is asked what he would want to do next? One idea he’s always mentioned is doing a crime flick called “The Big Boss of Rome”, well that’s certainly influenced by his love of Poliziotteschi, the genre of exciting low budget Italian crime films of the 70s. The Mafia, corrupt politicians, lone crime busters and hit men, a world of urban crime and corruption, a great context for cinema. I don’t know how many of these were made back then, and the definition is of course not super precise either, but Fernando DiLeo was certainly one of the standout director’s of the genre.
“The thing I love about DiLeo’s films is that EVERYONE is corrupt. No-one is safe from being knocked off at any time for any reason. If someone raised you and took care of you, but you see a better place to be, BINGO, you get rid of them. If someone is your boss and you have “loyalty” to them, it doesn’t mean jack. No-one really has any honor and no-one can be trusted in the Mafia which is really what DiLeo was trying to get across with his crime films.” – Pete Roberts
Brian de Palma‘s seminal movie inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow Up is a masterful piece of film making. It showcases the director’s knack for audio-visual finesse and storytelling, it’s chock full of cinema artistry and boasts one of John Travolta‘s greatest performances (and there aren’t many of those, arguably).
Jack Terry (Travolta) is an audio effects guy, and one night out when he is recording sounds, he witnesses a car going over a bridge. He jumps to the rescue, and fishes young Sally (Nancy Allen, then the director’s wife) out of the water, the driver, who turns out to be a candidate for US President, dies. Now he becomes a target, because he has an audio recording that puts the official version of events into question, and then a video turns up, too….
The good thing is, this is now available on an awesome new Criterion edition that should satisfy cinephiles plenty, as the movie is of course audio-visually exquisite and makes the most out of what you can hear and see, so it is great to see the movie restored like this. Read more: BluRay review on Furious Cinema
Well, how can this not be on anyone’s list? I was happy enough to see the restored version on a gargantuan screen only two years back, and this restoration is now also available on BluRay as well, with most, but not all the exact, same bonus features that were previously available on collector’s edition DVDs, too.
Travis Bickle (Robert de Niro) is a Vietnam vet riding a cab in Manhattan. Having fought for his country, he now witnesses the moral decay in the streets, and he is disgusted. Disgusted by the depravity, the decadence, and the false promises of politicians. He harbors some anger that needs venting, and not quite knowing what to do with his life, he starts planning an assassination. While his plan forms, he rescues a teenage prostitute (Jodie Foster) from the fangs of her pimp (Harvey Keitel), and falls in love with a campaign worker (Cybil Shepherd) for the politician he intends to kill to send a message….
Martin Scorsese‘s masterpiece still stands out among his filmography today, because for one, it was the breakthrough for a number of actors that are still close with him (and recently re-united for a photo shooting), and also, because it still rings true today. We might be so much better off today than in the 70s, the world is more at peace, social and technological progress have done much for our societies. But what we have not managed yet, is to take everybody’s hand, to ensure no-one falls behind, and especially those who fight and die for our freedoms, we often treat them dismally. So it is good to have war veteran be one of the most cherished (anti) heroes in Scorsese’s filmography. Read more: New Vinyl of the Soundtrack | BluRay review on Furious Cinema | Film review on Furious Cinema (Berlin Film Festival report) | List of Vietnam Vet films
The Big Gundown
The film tells the story of Cuchillo (Tomas Milian in one of his best roles ever), who is wrongly accused of rape and now has a price on his head. Bounty hunter Corbett (Lee van Cleef, also in one of his best roles) takes the job to hunt him down, and also harbors some political ambitions. A cat and mouse game ensues that spills some unpleasant truths to the foray….
The goose bump soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is legendary, the opening title song puts every James Bond title track to shame and then some. Newcomers will recognize some of the tunes from Inglourious Basterds. The Big Gundown is one of the greatest Spaghetti Westerns ever made, it’s enormously entertaining, it looks and sounds great, and it’s such a strong piece of cinema, it will make you want to rewatch it over and over. Highly recommended, period.
There is an excellent BluRay release out there by Grindhouse Releasing, that should please most fans and newcomers, even though it inexplicably separates the US from the international cut in a way the German release (which is also English-friendly and region-free) does not. Read more: SWDb entry.
So last week I went to see Cleopatra Jones at a Berlin revival theater. And now that I write these lines, I really dig the trivia on Coffy I read in our GCDb:
According to writer/director Jack Hill, the project began when American International Pictures head of production, Larry Gordon, lost the rights to the film Cleopatra Jones after making a handshake deal with the producers. Gordon subsequently approached Hill to quickly make a movie about an African American woman’s revenge and beat Cleopatra Jones to market. Hill wanted to work with Pam Grier with whom he had worked on The Big Doll House (1971).
Blaxploitation is one of those great, uniquely American genres that still today entertain and raise eyebrows. A lot of what these makers churned out back in the day was low budget trash but there are a lot of crown jewels among the many many exploitative materials that made it to the grindhouse screens. Coffy is one of those jewels, and I personally like it a lot more than Foxy Brown even. It just feels rougher and more immediate. Along with Shaft, Truck Turner – also one of my favorites and one Quentin likes, Hell up in Harlem, and such decent crime dramas like Detroit 9000, there really is a core canon that is super rewatchable and just plain old fun.
The BluRay from Olive Films offers decent quality, but is trumped by the Arrow UK release, which also offers plenty of extras including an audio commentary. The US disc is bare bones, which is really a shame.
Interestingly, this is a very curious film, in fact edited together from two other films and crowned with a voice over and a new musical score by producer Robert Houston. Shogun Assassin blends Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance and Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart at The River Styx together. The Lone Wolf series goes on (six films in total, read here), and Shogun Assassin also spawned four sequels (click here to check out the overview), but they are merely retitled dubs of the Lone Wolf titles.
The 30th anniversary collector’s edition from Animeigo offers a high quality transfer of the classic. It is chock full with extras, including two audio commentaries, interviews, program notes about the remastering process, a restoration gallery and the theatrical trailer everyone knows. Overall a must have for every true cinephile…. or just fans of the Shogun’s head decapitator.
Dawn of the Dead
George A. Romero‘s ground breaking zombie movie (there are remakes, don’t confuse those, and a few other “…of the Dead” movies) put the genre dead center of Hollywood’s franchise machine. It was among the first zombie movies with wide appeal, and the genre’s features were highly influential. The director is now about to get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, by the way.
Dawn of the Dead tells the story of a colorful mix of shopping mall patrons, police officers and other interesting characters fending off a zombie attack consisting, among others, of members of a SWAT team.
“Dawn of the Dead is bar none, the best zombie movie ever made, and it will never be matched. It has everything other zombie movies can’t offer, so this film still remains, not only the best zombie film I’ve ever seen, but the best horror movie ever made.” – Biohazard
Romero wrote this together with the legendary Dario Argento (Suspiria). In 2008, Dawn of the Dead was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, along with Night of the Living Dead. Monroeville Mall, where the movie was shot, is now a well known tourist attraction in the city of Pittsburgh.
Both the UK BluRay from Arrow Video as well as the one available in the US boast plenty of bonus features, a restored audio and video transfer and some nice goodies, they are suitable releases of one of the most groundbreaking zombie movies ever made.
So all in all, there is plenty of inspiration for aspiring cinephiles, and we aim to continue this series with a follow-up in a few weeks. In the mean time, leave your comments and if you are an Amazon shopper, do use our links to support us. Many thanks.