There have been some tremendous multi-disc/film box sets releases during 2020, and some really big hitters from the likes of Columbia and Disney, but smaller companies like Arrow have also hit the ground running with legacy content packaged in lavish sets; our pick of the best is below..
10. The Ladykillers
Often regarded, and rightly so, as Ealing Studio’s greatest comedy, The Ladykillers celebrates its 65th Anniversary with this new 4K Blu-ray. The story of a bunch of hapless, small time crooks who unwittingly enlist the help of a sweet, but meddlesome, old lady to assist in their robbery and eventually become undone by her has been retold many times over the years. But the original is a pure classic, with superlative casting, wonderful direction, class editing, outstanding performances and a story to die for, it is little wonder that the film has endured so well.
As a 4K UHD set the package is amazing; the native 4K picture has had a terrific clean up, is bright, extremely well detailed and shows a depth of colour never seen before, while perfectly capturing the cinematic process. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track appears to hail from the 2010 re-master and is clear and precise without any hiss or distortion. The extras package has been expanded upon with a few new features as well as including a host of those previously available and the collector's set has even more goodies!
9. The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man is David Lynch’s retelling of the true life of Joseph Merrick, a poor soul who was born with and grew into the most unfortunate deformities. Like all films based on real people, it takes certain liberties with the truth to make for a more dramatic narrative, but the end result is a study in dignity that is emotional, enthralling and above all unforgettable.
As a 4K UHD set, the anniversary package from Studiocanal is sensational; the native 4K image is awash with detail and keen edges, while the greyscale gives a tremendous look with pitch blacks and luminous whites, while the DTS-HD MA stereo track is wide, layered with clear dialogue and strong bass. The supplementary materials, along with the packaging, are fully rounded making this a tremendous buy.
8. Total Recall
Total Recall is easily one of Arnie's top five movies, up there with the likes of Predator and Terminator 2, boasting some epic visuals, impressive production design, award-winning scoring, a perfect supporting cast, some tremendous action sequences, and a story which - but for some niggling plot holes and an arguably flawed ending - was certainly more cerebral than anything Arnie fans had previously been familiar with from his movies. Sure, Arnie's acting was a limitation, as was his somewhat implausible role as a mere construction worker - or as a triple-agent spy - but somehow the film managed to bend to those limitations like a boxer on the ropes and launch back with the one-two punch of Arnie action and Verhoeven excess. It's blisteringly great sci-fi action entertainment.
With excellent native 4K video with Dolby Vision, and solid accompanying Atmos, as well as a comprehensive selection of extra features as part of a lavish boxset, Total Recall 4K is an absolutely unmissable release of a stone cold sci-fi action classic, and an utter joy to revisit.
Difficult to believe Tremors was released 30 years ago. The film is ageless; taking its inspiration from the 50’s Drive-in horror genre and injecting the clever and witty script with humour and likeable, believable characters, the film is lean, mean, funny and above all entertaining; it is in many ways a perfect movie and continues to win fans today.
The box set from Arrow is great; the native 4K image is detailed, bright, colourful with strong blacks, and maintains the integral grain structure, while the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track is well separated, dynamic with decent bass. When it comes to the extras package, the UHD has a whole host of newly recorded and archival material, with even more available on the limited edition.
6. Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon has no right to be so damn good; on paper it is a combination of some of the worst dialogue, storytelling, acting, casting, and producing, and yet somehow, unbelievably - fused to the most inappropriately appropriate score for any mainstream movie - it just works. It's an absolute hoot, laugh out loud funny (often for all the wrong reasons) and hugely, hugely entertaining.
Studiocanal's UK 4K release of Flash Gordon is a stunning, 5-disc set, with a superb 4K presentation - and Dolby Vision too - that works wonders with the lavish source material, a stomping score, and a boat-load of extras to just about justify the hefty price tag. It comes highly recommended.
5. Star Wars
The ‘Skywalker Saga’ box set brought together all nine Star Wars features in one lavish box set, here’s what we said about the titular film.
There is not much that can be said about Star Wars that has not already been said – a landmark film that means so much to a generation and a franchise that gives as much as it takes away; a simple story told with verve and one that still manages to capture the imagination.
The 4K UHD package from Disney is amazing; a lavish box set, housing all discs from the ‘Skywalker Saga’ in a presentation book; with Star Wars receiving a new scan that shows up more detail than ever before with a rich colour scheme that is bold and vivid, even if it’s based on the last ‘Special Edition’ so the colours are not ‘pure’ in terms of how they used to be. The Dolby Atmos surround track is simply a triumph with lovely separation and powerful bass. The extras package is immense and even manages to slip a few new features into the mix.
4. Columbia Classics
Wonderfully remastered with a fine attention to detail, The Columbia Classics Box Set covered such diverse films as: A League of their Own, Gandhi, Dr Strangelove, Mr Smith goes to Washington, Jerry Maguire, and Lawrence of Arabia; here’s what we said about David Lean's masterpiece:
David Lean’s undisputed king of the epics, Lawrence of Arabia, may be mostly fantasy in terms of its titular character and his actions, but the film is completely magnificent – running at 3 hours 48 minutes the length is a positive boon to the narrative; allowing scenes to unfold naturally, giving a true sense of scale to the picture. The whole is epic in every sense of the word; locations, sets, acting talent, design and story – we are unlikely to ever see its like again.
This Lawrence of Arabia 4K UHD is only available as part of the Columbia Classics Box Set. It uses the 50th Anniversary restoration as its starting point but with additional clean-up and HDR giving rise to the most spectacular picture the format has ever produced; incredibly detailed, beautifully coloured with tremendous blacks and outstanding whites; the Dolby Atmos surround track really opens up the sound environment with stunning effects, wide separation and great bass. There are a whole host of extras spread over the UHD and the two included Blu-rays.
3. Hitchcock Classics Collection
Probably the film that Hitchcock is most well-known for and indeed made him the most money due to his firm belief it would be a hit, and the studio's disinterest. Made cheaply but with verve, it is so frightening because the monster is so human. It made an icon of Norman Bates and forever coloured Perkins’ career; but he, like us, wouldn’t have it any other way. Available now, for the first time, in its original theatrical release form, it is even more shocking! Psycho tops off what is a classic, classic box set of classics!
The 4K UHD set is stunning, the native 4K image is out of this world with incredible detail and a full range greyscale, the DTS: X surround track is totally immersive creating a real sense of direction and being there. The extras package has been seen before, but it is exhaustive.
2. Back to the Future
Back to the future
Now regarded as one of the Greatest Film Trilogies of all time, Back to the Future has been served pretty well on disc in the past; but all are put to shame with the Universal Trilogy Box set which contains Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3; here’s what we said about the original:
Back to the Future is a tremendous all-time classic, impressively put together, superbly cast, wonderfully and energetically acted and, with a pitch-perfect blend of sci-fi craziness and man-out-of-time comedy, hitting the mark on every count.
Universal's Back to the Future Trilogy box set brings all three movies to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with native 4K presentations and Dolby Atmos tracks, as well as a boat-load of extras not only on the 4K disc itself but also on a dedicated Bonus Disc in the set. It's an absolutely unmissable must-have set.
1. The Lord of the Rings
Perhaps the greatest of all trilogies; Peter Jackson’s monumental achievement to bring Tolkien’s ‘unfilmable’ Lord of the Rings to the screen was an absolute triumph, and is celebrated with a 4K Box set to rule them all, containing both Theatrical and Extended cuts of Fellowship, Two Towers and Return of the King, here’s what we said about Fellowship:
Being the first in the trilogy, with the most direct and together storyline, The Fellowship of the Ring, is a near masterpiece with everything coming together to form a perfect whole; casting, score, effects, characterisation and editing, all making for a truly magnificent film that just gets better with time.
The set from Warner is terrific: holding all three films in both their Theatrical and Extended cuts, Fellowship being just the first to deliver with stunning native 4K pictures that are detailed, well coloured with amazing black levels that truly are beautifully filmic images, and with a thoroughly immersive Dolby Atmos surround track that is engaging, absorbing, effects laden, and with tremendous bass – all making for incredible viewing. No extras at all though.
So there you have it; do you agree with our picks? Please let us know and tell us what you're most looking forward to in 2021 in the discussion!