Thankfully, masters of the format like Charlie de Lauzrika, Cliff Stephenson, Robert Meyer Burnett and Laurent Bouzereau’s loving behind-the-scenes documentaries still hold up and, at least in Stephenson’s case, he’s still out there creating fantastic behind-the-scenes material for modern classics like Everything Everywhere All at Once, but this has sadly become more the exception than the rule.
CASABLANCA 4K (Warner Bros)
A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend the American Cinematheque’s screening of a rare nitrate print of Casablanca and have never expected to see one of the greatest film’s ever made look anywhere close to as good as it did that night. However, I was decidedly wrong. This 80th anniversary edition of this Michael Curtiz’ masterpiece is phenomenal on disc with rich, inky blacks and a crisp DTS-HD Master Audio mono sound mix. So thankfully it seems we’ll always have Paris… in 4K.
THE GODFATHER TRILOGY 4K (Paramount)
Proving the axiom that great things come in shitty packaging (okay, I paraphrased that one), Paramount’s has always done right by one of their crown jewels on home video and the release of this new 4K upgrade of The Godfather films is no exception. Laden with a myriad of vintage special features and deleted scenes, the new transfers of the film are exquisite. And Godfather III comes with both the theatrical cut and Coppola’s more recent tinker, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone which while somewhat more coherent than the theatrical cut doesn’t redeem the film as dramatically as one as one would have hoped. That said, this collection is one no self-respecting cinephile should refuse.
COLUMBIA CLASSICS, VOLUME 3 (Sony)
These annual sets from Sony upgrading some of their most notable films to 4K are always a welcome treat and while it’s possible to quibble with some of their selections, they are universally superb upgrades of significant films from the studio in attractive and sturdy packaging that do right by these film’s place in cinema history. Highlights are Peter Bogdonovich’s magnificent The Last Picture Show and Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night. More unfathomable is the inclusion of 1982’s Annie which is incredulously directed by the great John Huston. Strange to find this misfire among such genuine movie classics when such legendary Columbia films as Gilda, Easy Rider, His Girl Friday, The Big Heat, Shampoo, The China Syndrome, The Big Chill, The Caine Mutiny, and Silverado are all still MIA in 4K.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE – DIRECTOR’S EDITION (Paramount)
This sensational holiday release from Paramount was truly a Christmas miracle from the studio as it not only included the transcendent new Director’s Edition of the film incorporating many of director Robert Wise’s editorial notes he was unable to implement due to the film’s accelerated post production schedule as well as impressively upgraded visual effects with a spectacular new Dolby Atmos sound mix, but it also includes the long under-appreciated 1979 Theatrical Cut as well as the famous (or infamous) ABC Special Longer Version, a staple of VHS and laserdiscs for years, which is sure to satisfy the nostalgia buff in all fans of the film. Laden with a myriad of new and classic bonus features (full disclosure: some of which include me spieling about Star Trek as is my way), this is the definitive version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture on home video which much like the brilliant Warner Bros Blade Runner collection of several years ago which collected myriad cuts of that troubled film truly does justice to this seminal Star Trek motion picture in all its many iterations. Indeed, there is no comparison.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Warner Bros)
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelley’s masterpiece gets the 4K Ultra HD treatment from Warner Bros and its spectacular. The greatest movie musical ever made that is a love letter to cinema and a huge influence on 2022’s love it or hate it, Babylon (for the record, I loved it). And I can stand it!
RESERVOIR DOGS (Lionsgate)
Although I’m a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s ouvere, Reservoir Dogs still remains my favorite of his films (with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a close second). That’s why it’s been so disappointing that his debut film has always been such a hot mess on DVD and Blu-ray… until now. Although the supplemental material is shop-worn at best, what matters most is the film itself and it’s never looked better than it does in this new 4K Ultra HD version. Anyone expecting the extended director’s edition that’s been rumored for years will be disappointed as this is only the theatrical version without any new footage. Like Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, I guess we’ll just have to wait that much longer, if ever, for it to show up one day. That said this is definitely my little green bag. (A quick shout out for Paramount’s 4K release of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction as well.)
TOUCH OF EVIL (Kino Lorber)
Released over a decade ago on Blu-ray to much fanfare from Universal, it’s amazing to see how much the studios have lost interest in their catalogs with the studio sub-licensing one of their most iconic classics to Kino-Lorber. Fortunately, Kino-Lorber has upped their game in a big way in 2022 and Touch of Evil is one of the many 4K Ultra HD releases they’ve knocked out of the park. Including the original theatrical version as well as the re-worked cut based on Orson Welles’ original notes when they recut the film, it’s a great disc and a welcome addition to 4K. And if this Welles’ classic isn’t big enough for you, Kino-Lorber’s 4K upgrades of The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three, The Usual Suspects, and The Great Escape last year were equally impressive.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Criterion)
Another film noir classic gets its due and with Kino-Lorber’s sensational releases of The Apartment and Some Like It Hot, we’re even more wild about Wilder on 4K with Criterion’s beautiful release of this crackerjack adaptation of the James L. Cain crime classic. Criterion includes its requisite extensive and detailed liner notes (something that should be commonplace across the industry for significant films, especially given the dearth of great film magazines still being published and helps justify their releases higher retail prices), audio commentary by the great film critic Richard Schickel as well as several new bonus features about the film as well as the 1945 and 1950 radio adaptations. There’s a speed limit in this town, Mr. Neff and Criterion just passed it. What can we say, we love you, Keyes.
GET CARTER (BFI)
Although currently technically only available in Britain, you can’t beat this new 4K upgrade of the Mike Hodges gangster classic with an introduction by Michael Caine himself. There’s also a ton of juicy bonus features that puts the old Warner Bros Blu-ray to shame. Fortunately this excellent 4K transfer does not look like pissholes in the snow. And if you’re interested in paying homage to the late, great Mike Hodges, consider a double feature with Arrow’s magnificent 4K set of Flash Gordon which is not only the best the film has ever looked but filled with a bevy of great bonus features.
- Mark A. Altman
Mark A. Altman is a television showrunner and writer/producer whose credits include The CW’s Pandora, Agent X, The Librarians, Castle, and more. He is author of the bestselling oral histories of Star Trek from St. Martin’s Press, The Fifty-Year Mission as well as last year’s They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun-Fu & The New Age of Action. He is also the co-host of the popular movie podcast, The 4:30 Movie as well as the Trek-centric, Inglorious Treksperts. His documentary, 1982: Greatest Geek Year Ever, will be released later this year. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.