Disc Jockey: Box sets to give people (or yourself) for the holidays
This gift-giving season, consider giving people expensive Blu-ray/DVD sets, including all the Bond films, old Vivien Leigh movies and Zatoichi.
The 007 franchise is better as a whole and in specific bits than as individual films. Even the peak — “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” — has problems, and one of them isn’t George Lazenby. That’s why it’s best, if you must, to get your hands on all 22 of them. It’s a fascinating series, one that adapts nimbly (one could say cynically) to the times. When “Star Wars” becomes big, next comes “Moonraker”; when grit and origin stories are popular, it’s time for a reboot and brooding Daniel Craig. You’ve likely veged out to these during marathons, but how often has that meant the wrong aspect ratio and commercials that make “Octopussy” seem even longer than it is? And “Die Another Day” will make a great coaster.
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
You’re probably not going to get a better deal than this: 25 movies for just over $200, all Criterion Collection quality. And unlike the Bonds, it’s for a series of which you’ve likely seen zero. Created for the screen, the character Zatoichi (played in every single one by Shintaro Katsu) is one of the more unique martial arts badasses: a seemingly gentle, blind wanderer who just happens to have incomparably lightning fast moves and deadly accuracy. The series ran from 1962 to 1973, with a few resurrections (including a delightful one from 2003 with Takeshi Kitano). Here’s your chance to delve deep into a Japanese institution, including an entry where our hero runs smack into another legend, Toshiro Mifune’s cranky Yojimbo.
Forbidden Hollywood Volumes 6 and 7
You know how most classic Hollywood films are absurdly tame? For a brief, flickering moment, they weren’t. The period between the advent of sound in the late ‘20s and 1934 is known as the “Pre-Code” era, when the puritanical Production Code existed but wasn’t enforced. Though tame by today’s standards, movies then were sexier, dirtier, more realistic and better with strong female characters. Warner Brothers’ series of obscure, quickie programmers are always fun, and the most recent two volumes boast plenty with forgotten Pre-Code star Warren William.
Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection
Despite headlining the most successful film of all time, the star of “Gone With the Wind” boasts a slim filmography, due to illness and a preference for the stage. But she remains one of the more mesmerizing screen stars. This box brings back four from her youth, including 1937’s “Fire Over England,” which paired her with her new lover, Laurence Olivier. Leigh’s beauty (and actual British accent) are great, but there’s few things hotter than watching lovers played by real lovers.
A return to the well five years ago (with another one threatened) ruined what was a fairly tight franchise, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas rehashing the adventure serials they loved so much, and did so with the same amount of zeal. You don’t need anyone to remind you of the Rube Goldberg-like brilliance of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But may we stick up for “Temple of Doom,” whose singular darkness (hearts ripped out, people burned alive, copious bugs) was the result of its makers both going through nasty divorces?