How do you get hooked?
An intriguing niche market that appeals to the collector at the heart of every film aficionado, it’s difficult for somebody who loves steelbooks to explain to somebody who doesn’t understand steelbooks what the fuss is all about.
How does it happen? How do you get hooked? Well, it’s probably a slight thing, taking nothing at all – just spotting your favourite film in a collectible package which would stand out amidst all your cheap blue plastic amarays will probably do it. It’s a slippery slope after that, with the one, then two, then twenty shiny metal strips standing out far more impressively than their cheap blue counterparts; offering a consistent, unified series of subtle spines that aren’t busy with all of those multiple ratings certificates. All of a sudden, you’ll want them all, although, as you’ll soon find out – for the majority at least – that’s nigh on impossible.
With more and more steelbooks coming out each month, and increasingly rushed and uninspired designs, justifying paying your way in tin to maintain membership of the steelbook club has become harder and harder to do, but it’s always good to look back at some of your faves, and remember exactly what drew you in to begin with.
10. Maleficent (UK - Zavvi)
Well let’s start with a recent release. Disney’s Maleficent. Originally touted as distinctive white artwork, fans were suitably outraged when the Zavvi Exclusive was changed, literally at the very last minute, to the polar opposite of what was promised – a white background and longer shot of Angelina Jolie’s winged protagonist swapped for a black background and a close-up on her head. White backgrounds are a relative rarity, and the artwork just did not seem as impressive. But when it turned up, all glossy and shiny, with a some wonderful embossing, including a rim around the front framing the image, the title soon became a well-sought after collectible, and every bit as much of a surprise winner as the movie itself.
9. Manhunter (UK - Zavvi)
A personal favourite, this is not all that rare a title and, it would appear, not all that highly regarded but, much as is the case for ardent fans of the movie itself, it does have its winning aspects. The front cover is merely the classic image of the Red Dragon himself – a shot which was never actually in the final cut of the movie, no matter which version you pick up. But the rear is a great little black-on-red shot of Will Graham, gun drawn and ready to shoot. With no writing on the rear either – not even that irritating little copyright / production credits crawl that appears on many steels these days, it remains one of those rare titles which looks extremely impressive when the back cover is being displayed.
8. Avengers (UK - HMV)
The first, but certainly not the last, of the Marvel titles to make the list. Indeed, you could practically make an entire Top 10 out of just the Marvel releases. But Avengers is quite an interesting design. Although soon to be re-released in a 3D form with a much more obvious cover – the more commonly associated picture of the whole set of heroes standing, ready for action, in the middle of a destroyed New York street (complete with that irritating Avengers Assemble UK title) – this still highly sought-after original release sported a much more simplistic design: just a large embossed A in metallic blue.
7. The Rocketeer (UK - Play)
Whatever you might think of the movie – and it’s certainly developed a cult following in the kinder decades since its original release – the classic art-deco style image used for the steelbook is stunning, with layers and layers of embossing making the image come to life. It was a great poster and now it makes for a great steelbook, and, for many, it would have appeared even higher on a Top 10 list.
6. Looper (UK - Play)
Again, despite any mixed feelings about this engaging little time travel thriller, the artwork on this release will simply blow you away, taking a more comic book-style approach to promoting the movie, with a drawn image that looks far better than any of the more traditional posters on offer. Although quite busy – and it’s hit and miss whether or not ‘busy’ steelbook designs are as well appreciated – I think that this is a great little title.
5. Tron: Legacy (Germany)
Wow, if ever there was a poorly-received title, it’s this, but there are still the few that appreciate the audiovisual majesty of the piece, which is just one hell of an experience, no matter what the plot shortcomings. Colours on steelbook covers are seldom as effective as you might think, with some tones not even properly reproduced, but Tron: Legacy’s artwork is perfectly depicted here in all its red-and-blue neon glory. It’s a glorious piece of art, almost alive with electric tones.
4. Leon (Korea - Kimchi)
Somewhat surprisingly for some, the only Kimchidvd title on the list. Sure, T2 would have been the obvious choice, but personal preference leaves this my addition. Kimchidvd go above and beyond with their titles, and provide this one with a gorgeous no-text full slip and a further clear sleeve which has Leon printed across the middle. It’s when you get inside though, that you find the majesty in the artwork, as the actual steelwork cover – front and back – is a precision piece of perfection, sporting that quintessential image on the front of Leon looking up with the city reflected in his sunglasses, whilst the back has mathilda sitting, clutching her bunny and wielding a hand-cannon. These images have been rendered in vibrant glossy colour set against a matte framing, but, even better than that, the two character names are subtly spelt out in large block capitals on the front and back covers, so lightly applied that you almost have to tilt the cover in the light to reveal them. Outstanding.
3. Captain America (UK -HMV)
It’s was a tough call between this and the HMV-exclusive Thor, which is almost as impressive. What’s so great about the first Captain America’s release is that it adopts just the display of the quintessential shield across the front cover, with superb embossing applied to it, and a further, gloriously embossed title across the middle. More steelbooks would have done better from adopting this kind of distinctive, iconic artwork but, then again, not all that many films have the opportunity to just use a symbol on the front cover, and not have some more elaborate work applied.
2. The Raid (UK - Play)
Few will argue at the pure beauty of Jock’s design for the artwork of The Raid, which is still fetching hefty prices due to its superiority. Jock’s only designed a few titles – both Raid films and the first three seasons of The Walking Dead – but this is his piece de resistance, with fantastic front and back artwork, which is debossed right down to each and every window pane. For many, it’ll be the top title, and quite rightly so, but this one gets just edged out by another little masterpiece.
1. Drive (UK - HMV)
For some reason the simplistic design and iconic artwork of the modern cult classic gem, Drive, make for one of the most highly appreciated steelbooks of all time. It’s Gosling, wearing tinted sunglasses, and carrying his tool bag (and not the hammer, as some posters depict), and standing at the back of his car in the middle of the neon-lit streets. That toothpick, that jacket, that pose; the colour design, the gloss title work – it’s a thing of beauty. There’s been several other designs of late, including an interesting mondo design which is just that little bit too busy, and a Novamedia title which makes the most of that classic scorpion jacket, front and back, and even offers a lenticular sleeve. But the original HMV Drive is still the best. A must-have for any collector. Outstanding, just like the movie deserves.
There are plenty that nearly made the cut, from the intricate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy design to the superb red-on-black offerings of both Django Unchained and There Will Be Blood. There’s the superb textless Hurt Locker design (where each and every bomb is glossy against the matte image) and the great Salt steelbook which, like the Kimchi Leon, the title subtly projected against the image of Angelina Jolie with the S and the A above the L and the T. There’s the great walkman design of Guardians of the Galaxy, or the awesome artwork of the Play Terminator. It’s simply impossible to cover all the great titles out there – and all the titles still to come, but these are just a selection of ones that you might appreciate.
Now, what are your favourites? And do you own all the ones on this list?
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