Conventional wisdom has it that 2008 was a retrenching time for the DVD industry, with the world focused on Blu-Ray and consumers cutting back. (After all, one can only buy Blade Runner so many times before friends and family start talking intervention.) But for film buffs, this was one of the best DVD years ever, with companies rummaging through their back catalogues for really good, rare stuff and thinking up creative presentations for films that may have otherwise languished in the vaults.
1. Murnau, Borzage and Fox (Fox)
In an unbelievable act of pop curatorial genius, the folks at Fox have redefined the art of DVD boxed sets with this pairing ” combining the expressionist, epic cinema of F.W. Murnau with the sensitive, intimate cinema of Frank Borzage. With twelve films, two books, and a host of documentaries and reconstructions, this may just go down as the greatest classic film boxed set of all time.
3. Walker, White Dog, and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Criterion)
By putting their name and prestige behind these separate editions of three of the 1980s’ most overlooked (and in White Dog’s case, pretty much unreleased) films, Criterion helped lead the way in redefining what a great home video company can do.
4. Touch of Evil: 50th Anniversary Edition (Universal)
As in his film career, Orson Welles never got the respect he deserved in the age of DVD ” which is why this edition, featuring three distinct versions of his 1958 noir film maudit, along with a host of materials explaining what exactly happened to it, feels so indispensable.
5. The Wire Complete Series (HBO Video)
Fans of the show probably already had the individual season sets, but the Dickensian sweep of David Simon and Ed Burns’s landmark achievement practically mandates a giant box with the full HBO series.
6. Kenji Mizoguchi’s Fallen Women (Eclipse)
The title kind of says it all: Four heartbreaking films about the plight of women in Japanese society, from one of that country’s greatest artists.
Includes: Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, Street of Shame, Women of the Night
7. The Big Trail (Fox)
You’re probably not going to get many chances theatrically to see Raoul Walsh’s legendary 1930 Western, one of the first 70mm films ever made, so this DVD edition loaded with extras is the next best thing.