A Dozen Blu-ray Imports Worth Considering

The simple fact remains that there are a lot of great movies out there.  For one reason or another a lot of them haven’t been released on Blu-ray, either at all or in the states.  Some because they don’t have suitable materials to create an HD transfer, some because they don’t have the marketability, and some due to rights issues.  Fortunately for fans, a good chunk of these happen to be available elsewhere and just need to be imported.  Some of these will require a multi-region capable player and some will play in any region.  I’ve done my best to call attention to those that are region locked to help those interested in the movies, but be warned that occasionally new pressings change region coding.  Some of these are movies originally from the US and some of these are movies from other countries, while some of these movies have been available stateside, but now they are out of print and some of these have never had a US Blu-ray release. These are all imports worth looking at in no particular ranking.

1) Fright Night (1985)

 

We start our list with an 80s fan favorite. It was popular enough to spawn a sequel and a remake starring the talented Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell (not to mention the 10th Doctor!). This film while not especially scary it is loved by many fans of 80s horror. It is a shame that it hasn’t been widely available in HD in the US after having several releases both by itself and in multipacks on DVD. Fright Night has been released twice by one of my least favorite distributors, Twilight Time. Once with scant extras and once with plenty of extras that I would love to see. Both of these editions have sold out to fans lucky enough to get in and tons of scalpers thanks to TT’s inane limited edition scheme. There is however something out there for fans late to the party. Both Germany and Australia have multi-region capable versions of the movie on Blu-ray. While some prefer the image on this release over TT’s, it is unfortunately a barebones release. Until Sony pulls a “Christine” and releases nearly the same disc as Twilight Time as a wide release, this will have to do for many fans.

2) Fright Night Part II (1988)

Not to be confused with the near universally hated Fright Night 2(2013), this is the sequel to the original Fright Night above. Some people love it, some people hate it, but many seem to enjoy it as a decent sequel to a movie they love. Much like the original movie, fans have been crying out for this release for years. And it seems like the time might finally be coming from ’84 Entertainment. Information is still limited, but it looks to be built around the original HD Master supplied by Paramount. Should this come to fruition, it will be a release sought by many simply because of how hard it has been to attain on home video. There was a poor to mediocre improperly framed DVD release that was shortly available several years ago. Other than that, many fans have resorted to recording a copy of an HD viewing off of cable. Whether it be supplement-laden or barebone, I will surely be one of the first looking to pick this up when it hits the market.

3) Waxwork (1988)

 

Starring Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame, Waxwork is a fantastically enjoyable horror comedy centered on a group of friends attending a wax museum that is more than meets the eye. With a wonderfully chaotic fight at the end, Waxwork may be no masterpiece, but it is a great time with overflowing with 80s cheesy love for the classic horror creatures and a middle aged Gimli. Despite both Waxwork and the sequel Waxwork II: Lost in Time are available in a double feature DVD, we have been out of luck in regards to an HD home video option. That is until the near future. Waxwork is expected to come out later this year in Germany and I for one can not wait to add it to my regular October rotation.   Hopefully the sequel will be soon to follow in the original’s HD footsteps!

4) Payback (1999)

I know, I know, this is easily available on Blu-ray in the US. That said, I would personally advocate importing it so that you can see both cuts of the movie. The US blu-ray release includes only the “Straight Up” director’s cut of the film. For those who don’t know the story, the movie was filmed and the studio (and some believe Gibson) were not happy with the way it turned out. The film had a quick rewrite and some reshoots making the film less dark and making the main character more likable in the theatrical cut. This theatrical cut is the cut that is endorsed by both the studio and the Mel Gibson. Which is why I find it terribly perplexing that only the director’s cut is on the Blu-ray and not the theatrical. What is even more frustrating is it seems every other country with this film seems to have both cuts. Before owning the UK disc, I owned the theatrical release on VHS and the Straight Up cut on Blu-ray. The theatrical is significantly more upbeat and mainstream styled whereas the director’s cut is much darker and moodier. I wouldn’t call one or the other superior personally, but just different. I know a lot of people prefer one cut or the other of the film, so I say watch both and choose for yourself. I recommend the UK release. The cover art is familiar, the text is in English, and the ratings are small and not as intrusive as some other countries you’ll see in this post.

5) Small Soldiers (1998)

I will admit that I am biased as a Joe Dante fan and enjoy a lot of his work, especially Gremlins. That said, I know that Small Soldiers has its share of fans and detractors. I believe it does actually hold up quite well showing a lot of charm when revisited with fresh eyes and without the expectation of it being strictly a kids movie. With a young Kirsten Dunst as the love interest, Phil Hartman as her father, Tommy Lee Jones and Frank Langella as voices for action figures, there are some familiar faces to enjoy. Add in Jay Mohr and Denis Leary for good measure and we have a good time. If you are a fan of the movie, you will have to have a multi region player because once again you’ll be looking at a region B coded Blu-ray from Germany. If you already have such a player, I think this is definitely worth a look.

6) Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

A bit of an odd film overall, this French flick from 2001 was a reasonably solid success internationally and even made a small splash stateside here during its theatrical run. I struggle to classify this film a bit as it has a lot of pieces put together to make it. We start off with a very atmospheric period piece, mix in some swordfights, some mysticism and even some martial arts fighting
to create this unique selection. The visuals and direction work effectively to draw you into this moody picture. The plot is inspired by 18th century killings that took place in France associated with the legend of the Beast of Gevaudan. I would recommend the German release specifically as this is a multi region disc that includes both the theatrical and director’s cut. Different people will have their preferences on which cut is better with no clear winner and as such, I always prefer to have both on hand and available.

7) Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stephen King directing! AC/DC scoring! Emilio Estevez with an earring! How could it possibly go wrong? Well, in a lot of ways. Maximum Overdrive was not a successful movie and it was critically panned. It is honestly not a very good movie. But it is stupid 80s fun with a blaring soundtrack of non-stop AC/DC. I believe Lionsgate currently holds the rights to this one and they don’t have a track record for rushing to get their catalog properties out on Blu-ray. As it stands, this is one cult-loved flick that will not be hitting the shelves at your local Best Buy any time soon. You can however import a multi-region copy from either Italy to get your man-killing truck action fix.

8) Infernal Affairs Trilogy

The original movie, Infernal Affairs was one of the most successful Hong Kong movies at the time and was remade into Scorsese’s The Departed. Now, I won’t say the Scorsese improved on it or made a cheap knock off. I think they both stand on their own quite well and feel like very different movies. The motions may feel similar at times, but the directing style and feel are different enough. They are both very good movies that deserve their fair share of respect on their own accord. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend Infernal Affairs to anybody who enjoys crime films or even just films in general. While the two sequels are not as good as the original, but are still quite good in their own right and should be given a watch at least once. The original holds up to repeated and regular viewings. Unfortunately, only the original has been released stateside and you will have to import to get the two sequels on Blu-ray, but it is worth owning. You can buy the UK release if you have a multi-region capable player, but if not you can look to YesAsia to buy the multi region release from there.

9) Taxi 1-4

 

Once upon a time Luc Besson put out a movie in France called Taxi. It was a huge hit and went on to spawn three sequels. The series is one of the most successful franchises in France. As such, one would wonder why we haven’t seen them in the US by now.  Well, Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon have a clue as to why. While reasonably successful financially, the remake they starred in was almost universally panned by critics. The movie since has seemed to fall into obscurity and took with it the chances of getting the French films released in the US. It’s case is not helped by the short-lived TV series put out by NBC. While not exactly high art, Taxi has good humor, likable characters, and some intensely fun car driving scenes. Like most sequels in a film series, Taxi 2-4 are not as good as the first, but they still have redeeming car racing scenes and character humor. Now the French and UK releases of the first movie are both reported to be multi-region. If you want the entire series, you need to order the set from Germany, which is unfortunately region locked.

10) [Rec] Saga Collection

Do you remember the movie Quarantine? I do. How about the sequel Quarantine 2? Yeah, so do I. I also wish I didn’t. While I liked some pieces of the first movie, I don’t remember liking anything in the second. But neither really worked succeeded all the way for me. But if you look back before Quarantine and find the movie it remade, [Rec], you might find something a lot like Quarantine, but better. At least I think its better. The second one is pretty good as well. The third one wasn’t good, but watchable. Now the fourth, was just no good at all in my opinion and what seems to be the consensus. Unfortunately despite Quarantine being released on Blu-ray, [Rec] has not. If you want to see it and the sequel, you will need to look to Europe. If you set your sights on Spain, you will find a nice little Blu-ray set with all four movies in it. You’ll get the two good ones along with the two lesser ones, but all for a reasonable price at around 15 euros. Pretty solid deal for two good found footage films before the gimmick was tired and overdone.

11) The Librarian Trilogy

I know, I know. Somebody is going to say “Come on, get that made for TV garbage out of here!” I get it. These three movies were just made for TV movies for TNT starring Noah Wyle and didn’t make a huge splash outside of leading to the TV series “The Librarians”. But hey, I like these movies. I know to some they are just middling attempts and making humorous Indiana Jones knock offs, but they are still enjoyable as cheap and low barrier of entry adventure films. And I love Indiana Jones. I also love movies like Indiana Jones, which is why I think that these are worth checking out. They will never get as much play as Jones, but I certainly enjoy watching them from time to time. In between viewings, I will continue to try to figure out why Turner seems to be enamored with Noah Wyle so much. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the guy. It just seems like a lot of his work has been through part of Turner. Three made for TV Librarian films, three seasons of “The Librarians” TV series, five seasons of “Falling Skies”, the fun TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley all on TNT. Maybe Turner just fell in love with him after buying the re-runs of “ER”, but I digress.

12) Goosebumps: Complete Series

First off, I’ll put one caveat in before you read any further. While this may be on Blu-ray, it is standard definition in 480i. The Jack Black vehicle from last year led to a lot of fans minds on sentimental thoughts of the book series and the tv series from the 90s. You can pick up all four seasons, with over 1700 mins of memories on two Blu-ray Discs for just under 30 euros; you just have to order it from Germany. Sure it isn’t high definition, but it is also a 90s tv show aimed at kids that ran on Fox Kids and YTV. I’m not sure this is the type of property that would get HD remastering thrown at it; maybe if the movie was an enormous success. We’ll see if it gets remastered or put out stateside when the sequel hits, but until then, this is a solid value.

Honorable Mentions

The ‘Burbs (1989)

Another selection from Joe Dante, is the 80s classic with Tom Hanks, The ‘Burbs. Coming to Blu-ray in the US from Universal in the form of a Best Buy exclusive (not sure how long the exclusive lasts) in May, this perhaps seems like an odd choice for this list but I have my reasons. The Universal release, priced at $10 will likely be a barebones release. Maybe it will have the trailer, but I doubt much if anything else as far as supplements go. The Arrow UK release of The ‘Burbs is packed to the brim with extras including a workprint cut sourced from Joe Dante’s personal collection. For fans of the film, the Arrow release is honestly a no brainer if you can grab it during one of their sales. Perhaps this is an instance where it merits a double dip so you can have the wonderful extras as well as a copy that plays in all your region A players.

Near Dark (1987)

Better known for Zero Dark Thirty, Hurt Locker, and Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow directed this 80s vampire western flick. Before Twilight ruined human-vampire romances, Near Dark offered a darker stylized take on the concept. With a human man slowly becoming a vampire and trying to learn to fit in with his vampire love’s family. The family, headed up by the likes of Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton are demented and a blast. There is so much atmosphere and fun in this one that I feel it is an essential view for 80s horror fans. While released in the US by Lionsgate, it has long since gone OOP and is becoming a little pricey and more difficult to pick up. The video quality leaves a bit to be desired, but is still a marked improvement over the DVD. The only problem is it seems every international release is region locked. Only for those who are region free, otherwise hope to find a used copy at a pawn shop or second hand store somewhere. This is currently more of a soon to consider importing, I don’t know how much longer until this is hard enough to find that importing is the only reasonable option.

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