With 2004 behind us some of DVDBeaver's ListServ Members takes a look back at their favorite releases... and the year in general.


Individual Choices and Comments (click to view)


Adam Lemke     Bill McAlpine     Bradon Bentley     Brook Kennon     Bryce Hashizume     Clifford Groves     Donald Brown     Frank C.     Gary Tooze     Henrik Sylow     Jerry Gerber     Mark Nigara    Matthew McGee     Maurizio Di Marino     Mikkel Leffers Svendstrup     Noel Bjorndahl     Per-Olof Strandberg     Peter Hourigan       Peter Mann     Rob Janik     Ross Wilbanks     Steven Harrison

Incidental Reading


The Final Tallies


Top 10 by votes      Top 10 by points      Top 10 combined     Sundry Awards     Final Comments


 DVDs that received at least one vote (CLICK COVERS for more information):




NOTE: Available Beaver reviews/comparisons are linked in the titles:


Adam Lemke


Syracuse, New York


1.  Un Chien Andalou + L'Age D'or (BFI)

2.  Pickup on South Street (Criterion)

3.  In a Year with 13 Moons (Fantoma)

4.  Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion)

5.  Fast Company/Stereo/Crimes of the Future (Blue Underground)

6.  John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

7.  Golden Swallow (Celestial)

8.  Unknown Pleasures/Xiao Wu (Artificial Eye)

9.  Early Summer (Criterion)

10. Woman is the Future of Man (Bear Entertainment)

*honorable mention – Thriller-A Cruel Picture (Synapse Films)

Well… Every year my DVD purchasing seems to grow exponentially, so I suppose that means the production companies are doing something right. Owning a multi-region DVD player is the only way to survive and if it weren’t for the powerhouse R1 companies, this would be overly apparent in my list.  Region 3 titles from Asia continue to flood my mailbox, and for the price of a single Criterion DVD, one can purchase four or five titles from this part of the world.  In the world of Region 1, companies like Warner and Criterion continue to be so good that it hurts.  I bow down to Warner for finally ditching those cheap cardboard snap cases. Two companies have stepped up and shown that they will be a force to reckon with in 2005—Blue Underground and Fantoma—both have shown a true dedication to obscure arthouse and genre films from around the world. Facets Video continues to maintain the low water mark for image quality, and given their wonderful library of titles, this is truly a sin.


Bill McAlpine

Ontario, Canada

1. John Cassavetes – Five Films(Criterion)

2. The Tin Drum (Criterion)

3. The Chaplin Collection Vol. 2 (Warner)

4. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly SE (MGM)

5. Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

6. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 2 (Warner)

7. Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines (Walt Disney Home Entertainment)

8. Stat Trek: The Original Series - Seasons 1, 2 & 3 (Paramount)

9. Ikiru (Criterion)

10. Ed Wood (Buena Vista)

I'm very happy to see a greater output of foreign, obscure and cult titles finally making it to DVD, but still very frustrated at being unable to find any of these titles at the retail level. Even more disappointing is the apparent reduction of DVD shelf space to make way for entire aisles of DVD box sets of every bad TV show imaginable. On the positive side, Canada finally gets the national DVD rent-by-mail service that it deserves in the 25,000+ title inventory of Zip.ca. I'm extremely happy with their service.


Brandon Bentley

Atlanta, Georgia


1. Sunrise (Eureka)

2. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

3. The Chaplin Collection Vol. 2 (Warner)

4. Galaxie 500 - Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste (Wea Corp)

5. Videodrome  (Criterion)

6.  Ikiru  (Criterion)

7.  Wong Kar-Wai Collection (Kino International)

8.  Futurama, Vol. 4 (Fox)

9.  Peter Gabriel – Play: The Videos (Wea Corp)

10.  A Man Escaped (New Yorker)

2004 was a good year to catch up on 2003 releases.  I am looking forward to seeing some 2004 releases in 2005.


Brook Kennon 

Duluth, Georgia


1. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion) - Finally a great American filmmaker gets his due

2. In a Year with 13 Moons (Fantoma) - The best never-seen-before film I saw this year (300+ and counting) in an outstanding single disc presentation from Fantoma

3. Ikiru (Criterion) - One of my favorite of all films gets a quality presentation

4. The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (Criterion) - Criterion does it again in bringing attention to this lesser seen Fritz Lang masterwork

5. Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion) - I liked Early Summer better strictly in a film sense, but will give the nod to the double dose of Ozu films & extras)

6. The Tin Drum (Criterion) - Improves on all previous editions and presents substantial and interesting extras

7. Freaks (Warner) - Best bang for the buck of the year, outstanding SE of this horror classic that can be had for under $10

8. Looney Tunes Gold Collection, Volume 2 (Warner) - Timeless comedy supported by hours of supplements

9. Superfly (Warner) - Underappreciated black empowerment film given the same respect by Warners on this DVD as they give their better known classics.

10. Dawn Of The Dead Uncut SE (Remake) (Universal) - While a new film having outstanding sound and A/V is no surprise, one that has interesting and entertaining supplements is. Plus from what I've seen, it remains one of the best films of the year.


By far the fewest DVD's I've purchased in a year, I haven't seen the DVD's of many of the popular and praised releases of this year, including Battle of Algiers, Fanny & Alexander, The Lower Depths, the Hitchcock set, the Warner Film Noir box, the new release of M, Gone with the Wind, or really any of the year's international releases as I only bought 3 non-r1 DVD's for the whole year. But I saw about 330 movies (and counting) I'd never seen before in 2004, so I still had a pretty wonderful year of viewing cinema including experiencing many great films for the first time such as: Last Year At Marienbad, Autumn Tale, The Sacrifice, Minnie & Moskowitz, Week-End, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Dogville, In A Year With 13 Moons, A Page Of Madness, Early Summer, and Once Upon A Time In America, to name just a few.


Bryce Hashizume

1. M (Criterion) - A bit of a cheat to list this, since it is a re-release, and the rating is for the film alone

2. Before Sunset (Warner)

3. Dogville (Lionsgate)

4. demonlover (Palm) - for the film, not the PAL sourced -- but otherwise nice – transfer.

5. 2046 (Mei Ah)

6. Together (MGM)

7. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (BitWin)

9. Zatoichi

10. Star Wars Trilogy (Twentieth Century Fox)

I've been picking up a lot of cheap R3 DVDs, which has really expanded my ability to explore older films which I wouldn't otherwise have seen. When you can get a film for $3, and usually with a pretty good transfer, it opens up a lot of possibilities. Living in Japan has put me out of the loop in regards to current theatrical releases, which isn't all that bad because I've been looking more and more towards international films and classics.


Clifford Groves

Berkeley, California


1. The Jean Vigo Collection (Artificial Eye) - Two of the greatest movies of all time and

Dita Parlo is just too damn hot to ignore in L'Atalante.  She's even a babe in the excellent documentary that is included.

2. Jerry Lewis releases (Paramount) - I waited a long time for these and with one exception they look fantastic.  In case you're still living in the dark ages, Jerry Lewis, known these days as host of a certain labor day telethon, was a great director in addition to being an icon, genius and everything else.  Just watch the scriptless Bellboy and see what a great director can do with a movie camera and nice hotel.  Caveat: The Patsy- The idiots on auto-pilot who allowed this incredible movie (Peter Lorre's last movie and one of the few times you ever get to see the guy in color!) to be released in a disgustingly cropped format should be shot and fed to the sharks.  Will they go back and correct their error?  Of course not.  Because nobody cares.

3. The Savage Innocents (Suevia Films) - did this come out this year or not? either way, it must be mentioned.  Where are the rest of Nicholas Ray's movies?  How is it possible that The Lusty Men has not seen a DVD release?  Where is Criterion's edition of Johnny Guitar???

4. Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion)- Both versions are great and the cinematography and color on the later version is stupendous.  I will never tire of seeing a wet Machiko Kyo lit by Kazuo Miyagawa!!!!

5.  Mouchette (Noveaux) - A beautiful transfer of this movie, one of the greatest of all time.  This might be number one if it weren't for the non-removable subtitles which prevent me from watching the movie as Bresson intended it to be watched.

6. Rolling Stones  "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (bootleg) - Watch out for the CDR rip offs of this great DVD, which includes a fine book of accompanying photos and description.  Fantastic compilation of early Stones TV appearances, including some incendiary live footage.  Thank God there are some serious collectors out there willing to spread this stuff around.

7. Rolling Stones "Marquee/Montreux Rumble" (4Reel Productions) - Probably the best of all possible source material we'll ever get a hold of the Stones live televised concert at the Marquee Club, in decent sound, and some dynamite extra features (e.g., Montreaux Rehearsals and Dick Cavett show).  It's a Mick Taylor lovers wet dream, my friends.  4Reel leads the way for quality releases of otherwise unavailable musical documents (except Cocksucker Blues, having seen this at the Castro Theatre a few years ago when Robert Frank was in town, I know what the best elements look like. They look pretty fucking great.  4Reel made this edition available only in Dolby 5.1 (booo!!!) and it just doesn't look THAT much better than the barely watchable bootlegs everybody has already seen.  On the other hand, the bonus material is absolutely essential (e.g., great Australian tour documentary, early pre-MTV promo videos from Goat's Head Soup).

8. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion) - I admit to only watching the last 45 minutes of Faces so far but I don't see how this box set can be left out of the top 10.

9. Delius (BFI) - I refuse to believe that television was ever this good.  I think only the best episodes of the original Star Trek comes close to this.  bfi's willingness to release this truly discomforting and inspiring Ken Russell flick must be rewarded!  Keep it coming! (and I might never have heard of this if not for the Beaver).

10. TIE:  Martha (Fantoma) and Forty Guns (Optimum) - Two great movies by two of the greatest directors who ever lived, given the professional treatment they deserve: no cropping, no cheating on the transfers.  Just a quality job all the way around.  How is it possible for some companies to achieve this level of quality and others to fall so short?  Truly astounding.  I'll also note that there are some extraordinary films by Fassbinder (Jailbait and Berlin Alexanderplatz) and Fuller (Baron of Arizona and Run of the Arrow) remaining to see the light of day on DVD. 


Donald Brown

Pennsylvania, USA

1. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

2. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

3. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

4. SCTV Network 90 Vol. 1 (Shout Factory)

5. Scenes From a Marriage (Criterion)

6. Michael (Eureka/MoC)

7. Unknown Pleasures/Xiao Wu (Artificial Eye)

8. Early Summer (Criterion)

9. Coffret Peter Greenaway (mk2)

10. Reno 911 - The Complete First Season (Paramount)


*Criterion continues to be untouchable. 

*The Eureka/MoC marriage is off to an impressive start, and 2005 looks to be even better. 

*Bresson finally gets represented on DVD, but there are still too may giants missing or under-represented: Naruse, Ophuls, etc. 

*Rental services like GreenCine and Netflix are proving to be great ways to see DVDs for those with limited budgets. 

*The power of the internet's influence on the spreading of film knowledge and on DVD production cannot be overstated.  It brings film fans all over the world together and introduces them to the greats, both old and new, and directly leads to films getting released that may never have seen the light of day.  It also helps hold DVD producers accountable, as in the MGM/Bergman affair.


Frank C.

Camarillo, CA

1. Ikiru (Criterion)

2. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

3.Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

4. My Darling Clementine (Twentieth Century Fox)

5. The Film Noir Classic Collection (Warner)

6. A Man Escaped (New Yorker)

7. Diary of a Country Priest (Criterion)

8. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

9. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

10. The Grapes of Wrath (Fox)

2004 was an excellent year for Criterion, Warner, and Fox releases.  My hope is other studios and distributors will get more proactive and release long overdue classics in 2005.  Hopefully 2005 will be a big year for Bresson, Mizoguchi, and Ozu in the Criterion Collection.  


Gary Tooze


1. Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

2. Au Hasard Balthazar (Noveaux)

3. The Film Noir Classic Collection (Warner)

4. The Edge of the World (BFI)

5. The Grapes of Wrath (Fox Studio Classics)

6. Ed Wood (Buena Vista) / The Ed Wood Box (Image)

7. House of Sand and Fog (UMVD/Dreamworks)

8. Un Chien Andalou + L'Age D'or (BFI)

9. Paris, Texas (Fox)

10. Columbo - Season 1 (Universal)

11. Picadilly (BFI)

12) Forty Guns (Optimum- R2)

My trouble with this year is trying to keep up with all the great releases. You have to cut back somewhere (he says owning over 3000 DVDs), so I missed out on Erice's Dream of Light, Bergman Boxes and Individuals etc. Having two infant children my viewing pleasure has been cut back extensively and I watched a number of good TV Boxsets - Walking With Dinosaurs and Walking with Cavemen, Columbo - Season 1 (made the list!), Seinfeld, King of the Hill, Futurama, Northern Exposure etc. I really got into old Hitch and Film Noir this year and the funniest thing about my list is the lack of Criterions (I have NONE listed) - this is not to infer that I don't support the greatest DVD production company in the world as I could have easily added - Early Summer, Ikiru, M, Diary of a Country Priest, but this list only reflects my mood at the moment. Criterion certainly don't need me to reiterate that they are at the top. Frankly, the best DVD I saw in 2004 was the pre-release of Eureka's Metropolis  - out officially in 2005, so I'm told it doesn't count! To support some of my odd-ball choices - The Ed Wood Box and Paris, Texas are just such amazing value for the dollar that I had to include them. Columbo - Season 1 gave me some of the most enjoyable nostalgic moments and as far as I am concerned House of Sand and Fog was unjustly passed over. Honestly, I have trouble keeping up with all these releases... too much!


Henrik Sylow


1. Gone with the Wind - 4-Disc Collectors Edition (Warner)

2. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

3.  Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

4. Hou Hsiao Hsien Classics: 1983-1986 (Sino Movie)

5. Zatoichi – Collectors Edition (Artificial Eye)

6. That's Entertainment: The Complete Collection (Warner)

7. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

8. Bruce Lee – Ultimate Collection (Fortune Star)

9. Dawn Of The Dead Uncut SE (Anchor Bay)

10. Mickey Mouse in Black and White – Part 2 (Disney)

As I wrote in my reflections for Senses of Cinema:

"Imagine ordering a pizza and discovering it to be old leftovers, and if you are really lucky, some pieces still have cheese on them. Now imagine doing it for a year. That was pretty much 2004 in terms of cinema for me."


I've seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 films this year, as I do each year, and still, my top 10 list of the year has 8 of the 10 titles I put on it back in January. I have rarely been so disappointed by the films I've seen. In fact, I would say, that outside of festivals and DVD, I have not seen one great film this year.


Professionally the year has been very good. I've met Takeshi-san, I became a dotcom site, I am amongst the most visited filmsites around with about 150,000 unique hits a months, and I've received both respect and goodwill from professionals, who normally was "up there" for me. The moment where the editor of American Cinematographer just mailed me an upcoming article about the cinematography of Zatoichi, was when I knew there were other than just fanboys who read my site. Within the last 6 months, I've passed all other fansites in hits and is today the worlds most visited (daily and in total), the worlds most read and the worlds definitive site on Kitano. And within the next few months, I will expand the site and make it even better. Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way.


Jerry Gerber

1. Au Hasard Balthazard (Noveaux)

2. Mouchette (Noveaux)

3. More Treasures from the American Archive (Image)

4. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

5. Joao Cesar Monteiro Box (Gemini)

6. Stage and Spectacle – Three Films by Jean Renoir (Criterion)

7. The Film Noir Classic Collection (Warner)

8. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

9. The Lower Depths (Criterion)

10. Scenes From a Marriage (Criterion)

I think this has been the very best year yet for dvds in terms of catching up with the canonical. Next year will even be better. I also like the ability to dive in to the depth of any of the great directors...like Tartan's Bergman collection...I want more dedication like that to our other great directors living or dead. I still find joy in shopping in France, Spain and Italy...and until that diversion ceases, I know that the region one market has still a way to go. I am thrilled by the silent films making their way to dvd and reconstruction for all of our film history before the talkies.


Mark Nigara

1. Slacker (Criterion) - This remains a seminal film and memorable experience. I saw it in 1993 at a time when I was just beginning to fall in love with foreign and independent cinema, and it is still as big an influence on me as any Antonioni or Bergman film. It was clearly a labor of love for the producer. I would have been happy with a single-disc release, but its wealth of extras exceeded all expectations.

2. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion) - Normally, Criterion's CASSAVETES box set, which was a coup of sorts for them, and also something I've been wanting for a long time, would be a no-brainer for Release of the Year, but ultimately, with all the infighting and negativity surrounding the release, plus the absence of Carney's alternate version of SHADOWS, which any Cassavetes fan HAS to be curious about, I'm slightly disappointed. Though Carney's hubris is certainly reproachable, he's still the leading Cassavetes scholar, and the absence of a even a commentary by him is regrettable. Still, it's great to have all of these in one box, released by the CC.

3. The Fearless Vampire Killers (Warner) - An all-time favorite--just thrilled to have this on DVD.

4. SCTV Network 90 Vol. 1 (Shout Factory) - Still laughing with friends about the "Gerry Todd Show."

5. Wattstax (Warner) - In my rock and roll time-travel fantasies, I'd go to the Monterey Pop Festival first, and then skip ahead to 1972 for this. Spectacular release.

6. Freaks (Warner) - Cross another off my top 5 "unreleased" list.

7. Le Cercle Rouge (Criterion) - Saw this for the first time at the Castro last year, and I'm still in love with it.

8. Mr. Klein (HVE) - Light on the extras, but still delighted to have it.

9. The Weather Underground (New Video Group) - Commentaries from original Weather(wo)men, original audio communiqués, bonus films and excerpts from previous WU films--a great documentary is even better on DVD.

10. 5 Films About Christo & Jeanne-Claude (Plexifilm) - Fun, beautiful, and fascinating documentaries--too bad they couldn't wait to include a doc about their Feb. 2005 installation in Central Park, but who's complaining.

*Sorry to not include the M re-release, Evilspeak (classic '80s horror), The Battle of Algiers (I don't own it yet), the spectacular The Rules of the Game release (except for that damn cover design), The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse, Ed Wood, the Star Wars trilogy, Onibaba, and The Ed Wood Box for sheer value (thanks for tipping me off to it, Gary!).


Matthew McGee

1. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

2. Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

3. Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time (Docurama)

4. Hou Hsiao Hsien Classics: 1983-1986 (Sino Movie)

5. Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion)

6. The Lower Depths – Renoir & Kurosawa (Criterion)

7a. Urusei Yatsura TV 26-30 Boxset (AnimEigo)

7b. Urusei Yatsura TV 31-35 Boxset (Animeigo)

9. Zatoichi 2 Disc (Bandai)  

10. Columbo - Season 1 (Universal)

As 2003 ended with the usual late December discomfort and the early January uncertainty I lamented 2003 a disappointment for film. That I was not alone in my disappointment reinforced my position and allowed me to wallow in a semblance of collective dissatisfaction. However, it occurs to me that I am at my most negative around this time of the year and that, indeed, I am not disinclined to claim every year a disappointment.


I decided that for 2004 onward, I’m going to be more positive about the state of cinema. In much the same way in music when one can’t simply turn on the radio and expect to be artistically enthused by the aural selection, one cannot expect to meander into a local Blockbuster and be gob smacked with an assortment of films benefiting from originality and interesting, personal voices. It is most unfortunate that the burden of effort, research, awareness, and decision-making is squarely placed upon us in order to be artistically enriched. However, our options are not as limited as they may seem, and are in fact growing larger and better every day thanks to the ongoing and very sincere appreciation of film and filmmakers and from the increasingly more demanding cinephile (negative connotation fiercely removed).


And while there is a very clear and critical statement to be made about the state of our popular society and its value systems, I intend to do my best to support the continuing effort of my fellow film-lovers who have defied the collective burden and helped secure a more knowledgeable, resolute reality for cinema’s past, present, and future.


Maurizio Di Marino

1. Fanny & Alexander (Criterion)

2. Un Chien Andalou + L'Age D'or (Bfi)

3. Sunrise (Eureka)

4. Les Sentiments (TF1)

5. Il Buono, il Brutto e il Cattivo (MGM)

6. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

7. Niki et Flo (mk2)

8. Mystic River (Warner)

9. Persona (MGM)

10. In the Cut (Sony)

I am satisfied because of the number of releases who have filled important historical gaps, but in my list I have tried to make room for recent releases that I have appreciated too. From this point of view I am sorry not even one Asian film is in my list. Overall I am worried since the compulsory subs trouble is expanding (that's why Bresson's films by NP didn't made my list).


Mikkel Leffers Svendstrup, Denmark

1. Offret (Swedish Film Institute)

2. Au Hasard Balthazar (Noveaux Pictures)

3. Diary of a Country Priest (Criterion)

4. Mouchette (Noveaux Pictures)

5. The Leopard (Criterion Collection)

6. I am Alive (Vindrose/Borgen)

7. Saraband (SF Film)

8. 2046 (Mei Ah)

9. Videodrome            (Criterion Collection)

10. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly SE (MGM)

2004 has been a very good year for DVD and Film enthusiasts. Finally Bresson is available widely on DVD.  MoC and Eureka launched a great looking new series. Criterion got even better.


Noel Bjorndahl



1. Mikael (MoC/Eureka)

2. Au Hasard Balthasar (Nouveaux Pictures)

3. Mouchette (Nouveaux Pictures)

4. More Treasures from the American Archive (Image)

5. Fanny & Alexander (Criterion)

6. Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

7. The Film Noir Classic Collection (Warner)

8. Leave Her to Heaven (Fox R2)

9. Port of Shadows (Criterion)

10. Man of the West (Carlotta R2)

I agree with Peter Hourigan that box sets are generally a pleasurable and rewarding trend in DVD marketing. The Criterion "specials" (Fanny & Alexander, The Leopard) are also exceptional value (I haven't yet received my copy of The Battle of Algiers, in this category; I suspect that it may have been in my top ten had it arrived). 


I'm still catching up with great DVDs from previous years and feel especially sorry I was unable to include Bfi's Mad Love:Three Films of Evgenii Bauer. These films were a remarkable personal discovery for me-deep focus images 30 years before Kane, Wyler and Toland; and that sublime three minute take in After Death-my eyes popped out of my head at this level of sophistication in pre-revolutionary Russian film!


Per-Olof Strandberg

1. John Cassavetes – Five Films(Criterion)
2. Short Cuts  (Criterion)
3. The Leopard (Criterion)
My Darling Clementine (Fox)
5. Lost in Translation (Universal)   
Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)
The Film Noir Classic Collection (Warner)
8. Fanny & Alexander (Criterion)
9. The Dreamers  (Fox)   
10. Last Life in Universe (Artificial Eye)    

Much is now on DVD, the next step is to have them on decent transfers!


Peter Hourigan  

Melbourne, Australia

1. More Treasures from the American Archive (Image)

2. Sunrise (Eureka)

3. Pelota Vasca (Basque Ball) – (3 DVD Spanish release version)

4. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

5. Death of Klinghoffer (Decca –Film version of John Adams Opera)

6. Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion)

7. Alan Clarke Boxset (Blue Underground)               

8. Manoel de Oliveira box set (Gemini)

9. Their First Films... (Alto media Korea)

10. Titanic (Germany, 1943, Kino)         

My list includes several box sets. These are potentially one of the real rewards of DVDs, when collections include films that bounce off each other, or give the chance to explore than a single title of a director – Alan Clark, De Oliveira, - or particular films (The two Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds of Ozu, the two versions of The Lower Depths, even the two versions of Imitation of Life, or Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.) And of course, all the wonderful material in my top choice, so meticulously restored and presented. My list also reflects discoveries, even if not great films. Why not the Bressons? – because I’ve got to know (and deeply love) these films over the years. But Titanic (1943) , though no great film, was a real discovery.


Peter Mann


1.  Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection (Warner)

2.  My Darling Clementine (Fox)

3.  Ikiru (Criterion)

4.  The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

5.  John Cassavetes – Five Films(Criterion)

6.  The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

7.  Videodrome (Criterion)

8.  The Leopard  (Criterion)

9.  Early Summer (Criterion)

10. The Film Noir Classic Collection (Warner)

Despite some disappointment there is just too much good out there to be really let down. As many on the list have noted, box sets seem to rule this year with a really impressive set of collections that have made me happy and saved me some money! I hope this trend continues, but not at the expense of quality transfers and meaningful extras.


Rob Janik
Boston, MA. USA

1. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)
2. Fanny & Alexander (Criterion)
3. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)
Un Chien Andalou + L'Age D'or (BFI)
5. Holy Mountain (Eureka)
6. Ikiru (Criterion)
7. The Jean Vigo Collection (Artificial Eye)
8. Complete Monteiro Set (Gemini/Mandragoa)

9. More Treasures from the American Archive (Image)
10. Heimat - A Chronicle Of Germany (Tartan)

Great year, making Criterion as an absolute leader, but few companies from Europe are gaining strength especially BFI.


Ross Wilbanks

Charlotte, NC

1. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

2. Warhol's "4 silent films" (Raro Video)

3. The Jean Vigo Collection (Artificial Eye)

4. Before the Revolution (Ripley's Home Video)

5. Un Chien Andalou + L'Age D'or (BFI)

6. Michael (Eureka/MOC)

7. Chekovian Motifs (RusCiCo)

8. The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (Criterion)

9. Mamma Roma (Criterion)

10. Their First Films... (Alto Media)

This is the year I worked myself into debt discovering the wonderers of a multi-region DVD player.  Living in Charlotte North Carolina I've never been able to experience the cinema fully in a theater.  So this year has been the richest experience yet.


Steven Harrison

Greensboro, NC

1. Fanny & Alexander (Criterion)

2. John Cassavetes – Five Films (Criterion)

3. The Quince Tree Sun (Rosebud)

4. Michael (MoC/Eureka's Dreyer)

5. Floating Weeds/A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion)

6. The Lower Depths (Criterion)

7. The Battle of Algiers (Criterion)

8. The Leopard  (Criterion)

9. The Rules of the Game (Criterion)

10. Stage and Spectacle – Three Films by Jean Renoir (Criterion)

What an amazing year... I'm leaving out all the TV on DVD of which there is a huge amount of material worth looking into.  This was really more of a top 20 year than a top 10.




Incidental Reading (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)


The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films
by Jay Carr (Editor)
Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia
by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Adrian Martin
DVD & Video Guide 2005
by Mick Martin, Marsha Porter
How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, and Multimedia : Language, History, Theory
by James Monaco
Teach Yourself Film Studies
by Warren Buckland
Moving Places: A Life at the Movies
by Jonathan Rosenbaum


The Final Tallies




TOP 10 (by VOTES)



14 votes 8 votes 7 votes 7 votes 6 votes 6 votes 5 votes 5 votes 4 votes 4 votes 4 votes 4 votes

TOP 10 (


117 points 61 points 51 points 43 points 38 points 38 points 37 points



30 points 27 points 27 points 27 points

TOP 10 (combined)



Sundry Awards



Videodrome (Criterion) 5 votes


David Kalat - The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Criterion) 4 votes


The Battle of Algiers (Criterion) 5 votes


Cassavetes 5 Films (Criterion) 8 votes


Paris, Texas (Fox) 3 votes


Shaw Brothers Collection (Celestial Pictures) 2 votes


Golden Coach (Criterion) 3 votes



Final Comments


I’m telling you, it’s the best…

It really comes as no surprise that Criterion’s “John Cassavetes – Five Films” turned out as best DVD releases of the year. Historically, Cassavates takes a unique position, and here five of his best films are presented with audio commentaries, interviews, conversations, and to top it all of, one of the most impressive programs I’ve seen about a director, Charles Kiselyak’s “A Constant Forge—The Life and Art of John Cassavetes”. That 25% of the entire points given to DVDs in the top ten went to this release. I think that really says it all.

So why the hell didn’t I make this my number one, instead of only number two? To be honest, it was a tough call, and I spend many days going back and forth between this and what eventually became my number one pick: Warner’s “Gone with the Wind”.

To me, “Gone with the Wind” represents something universal, something eternal, within cinema. It is by many considered one of the best films ever made and like no other film it can still today entrance an audience. Then the DVD itself, which simply is impressive. Warner once again sat a new standard for restoration, as they do every year, with their ultra-resolution technique. Rudy Behlmer, which is my favourite commentarist, did a marathon commentary of almost 4 hours. And then two discs crammed with extras, amongst them one of the best “Making of” documentaries ever made, the 2 hour “The Making of a Legend: Gone With The Wind”.

It really surprised me that only two members voted for this DVD and looking at the Top 10, I believe the answer may be that “Gone with the Wind” isn’t art house material. Reviewing the votes given, it comes as no surprise that one company dominates, namely Criterion, who represented 5 of the positions in the top 10, and films by Criterion likewise made up for aprx 50% of all votes given. Considering the 5 films in the top 10, they also are some major films: Criterion’s “John Cassavetes – Five Films”, “The Battle of Algiers”, “Le Regle du Jeu”, “Ikiru” and “Fanny och Alexander”. These are my any standard great films both historically and for the director. Add to these the two major Bresson releases “Au Hasard, Balthazar” and “Mouchette”, and the Bunuel / Dali collaborations “Un Chien Andalou” and “L’Age d’Or” and you got the top 10, basically. That Warner’s “The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection” thus takes a second position really comes as a surprise.

In addition to the list being heavy on art house, it is also dominated by Region 1 releases. Only the Bresson and Bunuel / Dali are Region 2. Almost the same percentage is characteristic for the entire votes, where approx 75% of all votes are Region 1 releases. Not that there weren’t any great Region 2, or other regions for that matter, releases this year. Quiet the opposite. Let me just name a few like Artificial Eye’s “The Complete Jean Vigo”, Tartan’s “Heimat” and Sino’s “Hou Hsiao Hsien Classics: 1983-1986, all three very important releases, yet basically overlooked by the voters, just as Warner’s “Gone with the Wind” was.

But these comments are mere reflections upon the final list. If one goes thru the individual lists, the members who voted really displayed a lot of variety and some unique taste, and I really do suggest that people should read each top 10 carefully and let themselves become inspired by them. There are some truly great titles on them all.

In the end, the final top 10 only represents less than 10% of the films suggested by the members (10 out of 128) and about 33% of the combined votes (7,4 average of 24 members), where the choice of 4 members was enough to get into the lower top 10. Nevertheless, it is one incredible strong top 10, some truly great films.

However as great a top 10 it is, taking into account, that Criterion’s “John Cassavetes – Five Films” got 25% of all the points given to DVDs in top 10 and that 2/3rd of the members had this DVD on their list, in average between 3rd and 4th position, clearly says it all. This is the best DVD release of the year.

Henrik Sylow

Surprise, Surprise…

If there is one thing that end of the year Top 10 lists have proven in 2004, it has been their ability not to surprise. Just as critical awards in every good film publication have been dominated by films like Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Sideways, our poll proves to be equally dominated by American releases, or Region 1--in the form of Cassavetes, Hitchcock, and Criterion in general. I don’t want to imply that a film like Sideways is by any means an equal to something like a Hitchcock film, but as far as Hitchcock the Boxset is concerned, there are some similarities in the ways that each is marketed, distributed, and consumed by the general public. Both can be found at your local shopping mall, both provide you with some initial thrill, and both turn out to be “minor” upon contemplation some hours later. Even if the realization that I already owned two of the Hitchcock titles in the set, and two more were amongst his weaker films, I couldn’t help but feel like I had jumped to conclusions in purchasing the set. Even if I was left with something far more rewarding than both Sideways and Eternal Sunshine combined (which was 3 Hitchcock masterpieces), what I didn’t have was one of the best DVD releases of the year.


I know that the above comparison is not the strongest, yet it is one of the few parallels one can draw this year when composing a Top 10 film list and a Top 10 DVD list.  The process of picking your favourites is no longer as easy, what with the number of factors that should be weighed in when choosing for a DVD list.  If image quality reigned supreme, and I suspect it does given the dominance of Criterion, then Pickup on South Street would probably top my list, as it remains to be perhaps the best transfer I’ve ever seen from a DVD.   Image quality can’t be everything however, and if it was, then another Sam Fuller film, his 1957 western Forty Guns, would have performed stronger. The region 2 transfer from Optimum is simply astonishing, but the complete lack of any extras included killed its chances in our poll.

Perhaps we should judge the impact these movies had on us as viewers? Both Brook Kennon and I felt like the strongest movie we saw for the first time in 2004 was Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In a Year With 13 Moons.  Other people had strong feelings for films they saw the first time this year such as demonlover or The Quince Tree Sun, but only Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar was able to turn in any substantial results to affect the poll.

Current releases that failed to secure decent, if any, theatrical distribution are also worth considering when composing a ballot. I selected Hong Sang-soo’s Woman is the Future of Man for my ballot because I felt like Hong’s latest masterpiece needed all the attention it could get. After a poor showing at Cannes it was snubbed by the Toronto film festival and unless you live in NYC, it will probably never come to a theatre near you. Until this year, Zhang Yimou’s sword epic Hero could only be seen by North American audiences on R3 DVD, despite having been made in 2002. The fact that hardly anybody I know saw Hero for the first time in 2004, just goes to prove the relevance of non-Region 1 DVD’s in the filmic community.

So exactly what should we consider when weighing in the year of DVD releases? Issues such as packaging, commentaries, and other special features are equally, if not more important than some of the areas that I already discussed. For my money, the only release that scores top ratings in all of these categories is the BFI’s surreal little box release of Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou & L’Age d’or, my selection as the best release of the year.  From the moment this strange little box arrived on my doorstep, it has continued to delight, and above all surprise the film lover inside of me.  

Adam Lemke




Big thanks to Adam and Henrik for their organization in helping collate and prepare this data!



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