Pause and Rewind

The best DVDs of '07 made old movies feel new again.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Warner Bros.): It's the collector's-set briefcase that seals the deal, a gunmetal gray case that all but shouts "Completist dork!" Also: There's damn near every single version imaginable, plus a making-of doc almost as essential as any iteration of the movie itself. Film school in a box, grade A-plus.

Nosferatu: Ultimate Edition (Kino): Kino busted heads all year with its special editions of silent classics (see also: Battleship Potemkin). This gorgeous restoration practically made a new movie out of F.W. Murnau's Dracula prototype, and clips from other Murnau films show there's plenty more left in the vault.

In a year when old was gold, Blade Runner was a relative newcomer.
In a year when old was gold, Blade Runner was a relative newcomer.

Knocked Up (Universal) and Superbad (Sony) unrated, extended editions: For Judd Apatow, theatrical releases appear to be mere excuses for DVD extras — like Knocked Up's casting-call mockumentary, in which Apatow tries to play "young," and the Superbad audition short that tops anything in the actual movie.

Ford at Fox: The Collection (Fox): The John Holmes of holiday DVDs, this set of early Ford bullied its way to stardom through sheer size. There's plenty worth watching (21 discs — how could there not be?) and a bit to read too: A hardcover book and well-made documentary make this a must-own for fans of early American films and those with lots of shelf space.

Ace in the Hole (Criterion): This ranks high among Billy Wilder's least-known offerings, starring Kirk Douglas as a loathsome, scheming journalist for whom swapping a life for a headline ain't no big thing. With several wild-about-Billy docs, a Spike Lee outro, and other essentials, it's the year's most important release — history lesson as cautionary tale.

The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky (Anchor Bay): Here it is, folks: win, place, and show in the International What the Fuck? Film Festival. Long-cherished among people on drugs, these previously unavailable, weird-ass, and bloody art flicks will freak you out and confound you in equal measures.

House of Games (Criterion): Not David Mamet's best work, but this edition exists almost solely as a vehicle for the commentary track between Mamet and star/con-artist consultant/coolest-man-on-Earth Ricky Jay. Their freewheeling conversation about dramatic structure, fraud, and how to steal without a gun might be the first commentary that's better than the movie.

Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition (Paramount): After years of studio dicking around, the most uneven show in television history gets the full-bore treatment it deserves. The previously unavailable feature-length pilot alone would be reason enough to cheer, but the heavy helping of docs makes this set a classic. Of course, the second season still blows.

The First Films of Samuel Fuller (Criterion): Released the same year Brad Pitt dolled up and hammed it up as Jesse James, this box features Fuller's shorter, sharper take on Bob Ford's betrayal by bullet, I Shot Jesse James. Also: Vincent Price is The Baron of Arizona in his best performance outside of a Batman episode, while the director dons The Steel Helmet in 1951 for the first, best movie about the Korean War till M*A*S*H two decades later.

Planet Earth (BBC): The high-def version renders the big blue marble a three-dimensional trippy-trip, perfect for those who like to travel without getting any wetter than bong water. Educational too, so we're told, except that every time you try learning something — like, oh, how polar bears are riding out global warming — the visuals prove so intoxicating it takes a good 12, 14 viewings for the substance to stick.

 
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