J. Hurtado's 10 (ish) Favorite Blu-ray/DVD Releases Of 2015

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)

Just to be straight with all of you, I'm going to cheat.

There is no way I could get this list down to only ten discs, but I think I've managed to whittle it down pretty darned well. So, for those of you with Christmas gift cards burning holes in your pockets, here's a good guide with which you can start shopping. Off we go!

Charlie Hobbs contributed to this story.

First up is a pair of Duke Mitchell Blu-rays from Grindhouse Releasing. These films are unique gems, even in the world of exploitation cinema. Mitchell was an auteur who was unappreciated in his time, and forty years later his ability to tell stories completely on his own terms is astonishing to watch. It's amazing what a filmmaker can do when no one tells them no.

I reviewed these discs earlier in the year and left extensive notes, but here are some choice cuts from Massacre Mafia Style:

Grindhouse Releasing's Blu-ray release of Massacre Mafia Style is a monumental improvement over the old tape sourced DVD. The image quality of the older disc, which I described as "ugly" is no more. It is replaced with an impossibly clean and polished looking restoration from Grindhouse that makes this grimy film look like it could have been shot yesterday. The quality is truly amazing, and for the fans of film grain out there, you're in for a treat. Gone is the rusty, drab looking VHS dub and now we get real, honest to goodness film grain to replace it. I can't shower enough praise on the team at Grindhouse for this restoration, it is amazing. As I suspected, the film does crop beautifully to 1.85:1 from the original open matte DVD, well done, guys. The audio, which was less terrible on the old DVD, gets a substantial upgrade with a new lossless audio mono track that, again, brings the film into the modern era without skipping a beat.

And Gone With the Pope:

Like Massacre Mafia Style, Gone With the Pope underwent an amazing restoration from Grindhouse Releasing and the resulting Blu-ray presentation is beautiful. It's hard to believe that this footage sat around for nearly 30 years before someone finally decided to do something with it. There is a restoration featurette on the disc that shows just how extensive the work had to be, and it is impressive. This was no pristine print, there was a lot of color and damage correction that had to be done, but the beautiful filmlike image is completely worth it.

In terms of extras, Grindhouse has gone the extra mile again, no big surprise. First up is a lengthy making of documentary, more a series of interviews, with everyone from the performers like Jim LoBianco to both editors who worked on the film, a cinematographer, Mitchell's pal Matt Cimber, and more. This documentary is an invaluable piece of evidence in decoding the successes and failures of the film. Even more interesting to me was the footage from the 2010 world premiere at The Egyptian in LA which includes the Q & A from after the film where Bob Murawski and Jeffrey Mitchell talk about the genesis of the project at length. This is totally fascinating to listen to and brings yet another level of interest to the film.

Grindhouse doesn't stop there, though, and the features continue, though none are as interesting as the two listed above. There are deleted scenes and additional musical performances cut from the film. These are all minor, but welcome additions to an already stacked disc. While Gone With the Pope will never unseat Massacre Mafia Style for me, it's a genuine curiosity that any fan of '70s exploitation cinema shouldn't be without. Highly recommended
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