2021: Favorite Blu-rays

2021 was a very strong year for physical media. While the media tries to make us believe that physical media is dead, companies like Arrow Video, Vinegar Syndrome, 88 Films, and many others are keeping it alive and well. Sure, a lot of these releases are never seeing the inside of a brick-and-mortar store like they used to, but that doesn't matter when we can support the labels directly. Here are my favorite releases of 2021.

The following releases did not make this list for one reason or another. I have included links to my original reviews (where applicable) so that you can read my thoughts on them:

Do the Right Thing 4K (Universal)

Demons 1 and 2 4K (Arrow Video)

The Lucky Stars 3-Movie Collection (Eureka)

Urban Legend Trilogy (88 Films)

One Armed Boxer (Eureka)

Last Action Hero 4K (Sony)

Dr. Strangelove 4K (Sony)

Transformers: The Movie (Shout! Factory)

The Millionaires’ Express (Eureka)

The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee (Severin)

Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman (Arrow Video)

TC 2000 (Vinegar Syndrome)

The Karate Kid 3-Movie Collection 4K (Sony)

If I had to pick a winner for best label of the year, it would be a tie between Eureka Entertainment and 88 Films. The other labels are doing downright amazing work, but these two companies were batting 1,000. Just look at the releases each of these companies had in 2021:

88 Films:

The Young Master, Short Circuit 2, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, Zombie 5: Killing Birds, Erotic Ghost Story, Forbidden City Cop, In Hell, Cyborg, Robotrix, Riki-Oh: Story of Ricky, Disciples of Shaolin, Chinese Boxer, Zombie High, and Armour of God.

Eureka Entertainment:

Nightwing/Shadow of the Hawk (with special features), The Lucky Stars 3-Movie Collection, Time and Tide, One Armed Boxer, PTU, Encounter of the Spooky Kind, Wild Search, The Millionaires' Express, Prophecy, Duel to the Death, Mothra, Cinematic Vengeance: 8 Kung Fu Classics from Joseph Kuo, and Full Alert

Just the sheer number of quality releases between these two companies is staggering. I bought a lot of these releases and have enjoyed every one of them. Both labels did a massive amount of restorations this year and if that were to be the only thing to commend them for, it would be worth it. The fact that they put a ton of care and respect and even love into these releases shows when you watch the films, listen to the commentaries, and hold the packaging in your hands. I am very much looking forward to what these two companies bring us in 2022 and beyond.

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Almost Famous 4K (Paramount) I never really thought that Paramount cared much about ALMOST FAMOUS, but I am glad they started to in 2021. The picture quality is so good and it just feels like it should look (I know that sounds weird, but many will know exactly what I mean) and the special features package gives most blu-rays a run for their money. I am not the biggest fan of SteelBooks, but this one looks nice. Including both versions of the film was one of the smartest moves Paramount made in 2021.

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Armour of God (88 Films) 88 Films started to do their Limited Editions this year with THE YOUNG MASTER, which is a great release, and continued with RIKI-OH and ROBOTRIX. These are great releases, but the one that takes the cake is ARMOUR OF GOD. This release is downright amazing. First, it has two versions of the film, both remastered in 4K, along with 9 audio tracks that cover every release of the film. The special features package is just as amazing with 3 commentary tracks, a bunch of new features about the film and the genre as a whole, and some great legacy interviews. This is one of the most stacked releases of 2021.

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Boardinghouse (AGFA + Bleeding Skull!) I never thought I would ever see BOARDINGHOUSE on blu-ray. The movie was shot on video and always seemed stuck in DVD land. The fact that they used a film print for the transfer (the movie was shot on video but transferred to film so that it could be shown in theaters. Can you imagine walking into a movie theater to watch a movie that was shot on the same camera you have in your closet?) and it looks great. They didn’t do any clean-up work on the transfer and we are happy because it would have taken away from the look of the movie. We get three versions of movie (losing the “Director’s Cut”) but gaining another, unreleased film from the same team as BOARDINGHOUSE. A truly great edition to a truly bizarre movie.

Cinematic Vengeance: 8 Kung Fu Classics from Director Joseph Kuo (Eureka) Say what you will about the quality of the films included, some people love these films and some think they are the worst things ever, but this collection is one of my favorite things of all of 2021. The picture quality is truly amazing especially when you consider how well films are cared for in some parts of the world, and we get the classic English dubs that most people will have grown up on. Eureka doesn’t play the Criterion “Dubs take away from the sanctity of the films” bullshit. They include any and all dubs they can because they know how important they are to the life of the a kung fu flick. This set is just amazing and I love that it is in my collection.

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Death Screams (Arrow Video) I had never heard of DEATH SCREAMS before Arrow Video announced their awesome blu-ray edition and I wish that I had seen this film sooner. It is a lot of fun and has that warm blanket feel that many regional horror films have. The film isn’t overly gory, but it has some nice characters and some great filmmaking. Arrow Video really did right by this film with this blu-ray release. The film looks really good and the special features are worth the time. I had a lot of fun with this release and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Encounter of the Spooky Kind (Eureka) Who would have thought that Sammo Hung would have been able to combine martial arts and horror so well? This is a really fun film that never takes itself too seriously while giving us some really good scares whenever there isn’t fighting happening. Eureka has given us a wonderful blu-ray for this film with amazing picture and sound and some great extras. This is yet another testament that Eureka is one of the premier companies when it comes to old school marital arts flics.

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Giant from the Unknown (The Film Detective) I liked GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN. Sure, it’s a low-budget B-movie but it is well shot, well-acted, and the monster is scary enough in the context of the film. It was the right film at the right time for me and I appreciate that. The blu-ray is really nice with a really beautiful transfer and some really cool extras.

Night of the Demon (Severin Films) NIGHT OF THE DEMON is one of those films that when you hear about it, you have to see it right away. This is a Big Foot film done in the style of a slasher film by someone who was only told what a slasher consisted of. The film is a riot from start to finish and you will be cursing yourself over not having known about the film earlier. The blu-ray from Severin Films is one of their best. They have given the film a brand new restoration that makes the film look so good, something fans have wanted for a long time. Not only that but we get a whole slew of new interviews and whatnot pertaining to the film. Then, they give us a whole other film for us to experience. THEN, there is a whole disc dedicated to Big Foot and the Video Nasties. I know, it’s crazy, right? Severin really went above and beyond and gave NIGHT OF THE DEMON the blu-ray release it deserved.

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (88 Films) If you read my review for the film, then you know how important this film is to me. I love SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW more than I love most movies and means more than even the films in my official Top Five Movies of All Time list. The picture quality here is excellent and the English dub brings back so many memories. The special features are just the icing on top of an already filled cupcake.

True Romance 4K (Arrow Video) TRUE ROMANCE is a great film. It’s one of those films that hits you when you aren’t looking. It comes out kind of quite before exploding and keep that pace for the rest of the film. It truly is an amazing piece of work and anyone who worked on it should be very proud they got to be a part of this special film. For years, we have had to be happy with the lackluster blu-ray from Warner Brothers. Thank God they lost the rights and Arrow Video (in the UK at least) was able to restore the film to all of it’s glory. I have never seen the film look this good and I have seen the film on every format it has been available on. The special features are truly amazing including some great commentary moments from Bronson Pinchot, and the packaging shows a real love for the film.

Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection (Arrow Video) Bill Rebane is a director more people should know of. I mean that. Sure, almost none of his films are what you would call “good”, but there is something about his films that keeps us coming back for more. There is an earnestness to his films that you don’t see nowadays and I appreciate that. There are six of Rebane’s films in this collection and a full-length documentary about his life and films. Each disc contains two films and a few interviews with Rebane. There are no commentary tracks, which is a bummer, but the doc helps ease that loss. This is a box set that needs to be seen by more people and I think that Arrow did a great job bringing it to us.

The Young Master (88 Films) THE YOUNG MASTER is a Jackie Chan film that I don’t think gets the love it deserves. While everyone is talking about POLICE STORY or PROJECT A or RUSH HOUR, THE YOUNG MASTER is over in the corner just being awesome, waiting for its time to shine. 2021 was that time. The restoration 88 Films has provided is truly amazing and the special features will have you begging for more. This was one of the, if not THE first uber special editions that 88 Films did and they need to keep this up. While I do wish that SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW got this treatment, I do think it went to the next best film.

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