With the holidays in full swing, it’s hard to find time to kick back and enjoy a good flick. One way around that dilemma is to give gifts with ulterior motives. And the solution is right here, where you’ll find a list of some giftable DVD and Blu-ray box sets that you can watch along with your lucky recipients—and make it a win-win all the way around.
I Need a Dodge
During the mid ’80s, The Clash’s Joe Strummer was in dire straights. His superstar band had lost a key member in Mick Jones and then further splintered following the release of one of the most derided albums of the decade, Cut The Crap. Add in the death of his father and managerial problems and Joe needed a serious distraction, which he found in the mountains of Spain.
Long a place where Strummer would find solace and inspiration, the punk pioneer quickly became a local fixture on the scene, producing young bands, and taking in the nightspots and cultural landmarks. At one point, Joe began pining for the glory days of yore and decided he needed a Dodge Dart to help him cope with his feelings. After borrowing some cash and garnering help from the locals, a Dodge was procured and for a short time, all was right in the world, until Joe went back to London to be with his family.
Years later during a 1997 interview on Spanish radio, Joe mentioned his beloved Dodge, and how he thought he left it at the airport, prompting not only interest from Strummer fans around the missing car, but eventually, the film I Need a Dodge.
Filmmaker Nick Hall chronicles both the situation with the missing Dodge and Joe’s extended diversion in Granada and Madrid during 1985-86. While Clash fans probably wouldn’t bat too much of an eye at this period, I Need a Dodge gives it a whole new meaning and significance, moving the story along with a series of interviews, vignettes and Strummer commentary, not to mention the epic search for the missing Dodge. It’s a compelling story, one that takes on new life in this cool little flick, which comes in a deluxe gift set complete with a DVD, postcard, book, a Joe Strummer “One Million One” bill and a cassette copy of the 1997 interview that kicked the whole thing off. For Clash fans and music fans in general, this is the perfect gift. (MVD)
Game of Thrones Steel Books
Diehard fans of the groundbreaking HBO epic can now own the first two seasons in deluxe steel book packaging that replicates some of the show’s iconography. If you happen to be a Luddite or for some reason holed up in a cave for the past few years, Game of Thrones is the epic fantasy tale of politics, revenge, dragons and badass frozen dead. These new Blu-ray versions provide several bonuses to enhance the experience.
Risk: Game of Thrones Board Game
If you thrive at chess or Fantasy Football, this GoF version of Risk may be for you. This new twist on the game allows for three different ways to play, so if you wanna have the opposing houses go at it, and set things right, it’s your choice. What makes this game extra special is the attention to detail—the game pieces, board and maps are all meticulously crafted and look fantastic. (USAopoly)
The work of Edgar Allan Poe has gone on to inspire many films over the years, some of the most notable being from US filmmaker Roger Corman during the 1960s. But on the seedier side, Poe’s work has also been given equal treatment from the likes of Italian filmmakers Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino.
Here, we get Fulci’s seamy take on Poe’s The Black Cat, which still holds up very well and looks amazing in hi-def. We also get treated to Martino’s Poe-influenced, giallo classic Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, which has a literal black cat named “Satan” starring in it. The Arrow label has done a fine job with the Blu-ray transfers and the packaging is top-notch, making this one of the best home-video releases of the year. (Arrow)
The Complete Series
This new Blu-ray set showcases the HBO undercover cop show in all its gritty glory. What made The Wire different from hordes of network police shows was its unique way of showcasing perspective from both sides, where the line between good and evil often gets inexplicably blurred. It also had some of the more interesting characters committed to film, such as the Robin Hood-esque Omar, whose peculiar version of “The Farmer in the Dell” is always a standout. Now you can see it all come together in hi-def in this tidy little set. (HBO)
Lost in Space
The Complete Adventure
This hip, ’60s show finally gets a proper hi-def release. With a similar feel to the Batman series from the era, the show centered upon a family lost in space with a nasty stowaway in tow to keep things interesting. Featuring special effects and robotics that were years ahead of their time, it still looks great, even 50 years after the fact. This new set includes loads of bonus features including cast interviews and a 1973 Animated Special. (Fox)
The Great American Dream Machine
Years before SNL, SCTV and The Daily Show, The Great American Dream Machine made waves on PBS with its irreverent satire and cast of up-and-coming comics like Chevy Chase and Penny Marshall. Poking fun at the corrupt politics of the day and some of the pitfalls of the American dream, the show ran from 1971-1973. This new set has all of the laughs on four discs with some cool bonus material. (Entertainment One)
James Bond Steel Books
To cash in on the holiday rush, MGM/FOX have reissued several James Bond titles in steel book form, forcing Bond fanatics to buy yet another version to complete their collections. But I must say, the deluxe packaging is pretty svelte, and the Blu-ray transfers look great. Films included in this round are From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. (Fox/MGM)
Special Effects Collection
A few of horror’s lesser-known gems get a hi-def makeover in this release showcasing early masterworks of special-effects work. The set includes four flicks: Them! and its mutant ants, the somewhat obscure King Kong sequel Son of Kong, the similarly flavored Mighty Joe Young and the Ray Harryhausen nuclear-age masterpiece The Beast From 20.000 Fathoms. While the packaging is nothing fancy, the Blu-ray transfers are excellent, making this a must-have for horrors hounds. (Warner Home Video)
The Who: Live at Hyde Park
To commemorate its 50th anniversary, The Who returned to its home city for a loud, heavy celebration earlier this year. While we’ve seen and heard a lot from the band lately through a flurry of live releases, there’s something special about this one. The set is especially electric, with proto-punk and hard rock numbers “Pictures of Lily” and “Bargain” sounding vibrant and alive. The film transfer is crisp and vivid, with excellent sonics all the way around. Best of all, this CD/Blu-ray set can be had for a song. (Eagle Rock)
Indiepix Mix 10
The Indiepix label has made its name releasing interesting and eclectic documentaries, offbeat dramas and dark comedies. Now, you can get a specially curated sampler with the Mix 10 release. The set includes the films All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, Artois the Goat, The Axe in the Attic, Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills, Frontrunner and others.
While each brings something different to the table, my top pick is the eerie and fun All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, featuring the incomparable Angela Bettis in the lead. This set is a great intro to the indie film world and well worth a look. (Indiepix)
The Beatles 1+
When The Beatles 1 comp came out in 2000 it quickly became one of the biggest selling albums of the decade. 1+ expands upon the original concept with not just remastered and enhanced version of the audio but two Blu-rays featuring a total of 50 videos that have all been restored up to 4K resolution.
The videos include 27 promo clips plus 23 additional ones and a massive hardcover book, a treat for fans of all stripes. (Capitol)
Dark Film Mysteries
Quite the opposite of the hi-tech blockbusters of today, the Film Noir era (1940s-50s) of yore was steeped in seedy black and white, lo-fi aesthetics and generally revolved around some type of hard-boiled caper. Dark, pessimistic and brimming with seamy characters, the films showcased the dark underbelly of American life and how fate is not always kind and gentle.
This 3-disc set includes 11 films from the era including several lesser-knowns like the diabolical Detour (1945) and the seriously weird and wonderful The Strange Woman (1946). While the quality varies, Dark Film Mysteries makes for some dark and depressing viewing—just in time for Christmas. (Film Chest)
The Midnight Special
Originally released last year in a very limited format, this new retail version of the groundbreaking rock TV show comes complete in 11 discs with over 100 performances, in a deluxe box-set package. Debuting about a decade before MTV, The Midnight Special featured candid live sets from artists from all over the spectrum including, AC/DC, KISS and others, plus comedians like Steve Martin. For fans of coke-fueled ’70s decadence and vintage rock, this is a great place to start. (Time/Life)
Doctor Who: Christmas Specials Gift Set
Doctor Who fans and Trekkies of all stripes are rejoicing over this slick little set. The set features all of the rebooted show’s Christmas specials from various Doctors including David Tennant, Matt Smith and now Peter Capaldi. Always a quirky ride, what makes this release extra special is the inclusion of a nifty replica of the Doctor’s signature sonic screwdriver. (BBC)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, drop me a line at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. JK