Videomatica’s Top Ten Blu-ray

1 belladonna One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, never before officially released in the U.S., BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is a mad, swirling, psychedelic light-show of medieval tarot-card imagery with horned demons, haunted forests and La Belle Dame Sans Merci with J.R.R. Tolkien influences. The last film in the Animerama trilogy produced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka and directed by his longtime collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (ASTRO BOY and KIMBA THE WHITE LION), BELLADONNA unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together. A young woman, Jeanne (voiced by Aiko Nagayama) is assaulted by the local lord on her wedding night. To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself (voiced by Tatsuya Nakadai, from Akira Kurosawa’s RAN) who appears as a sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire.

Extremely transgressive, BELLADONNA is fueled by a mind-blowing Japanese psych rock soundtrack by noted avant-garde jazz composer Masahiko Satoh. The film has been newly restored by Cinelicious Pics using the original 35 mm camera negative and sound elements and including over 8 minutes of surreal footage cut from the negative. On par with Rene Laloux’s FANTASTIC PLANET and Ralph Bakshi’s WIZARDS as an LSD-stoked 1970s head trip, BELLADONNA marks a major rediscovery for animation fans. If Led Zeppelin had a favorite film, this would be it. In other words, Stairway to Hell.

2 greenroom Down on their luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are finishing up a long and unsuccessful tour, and are about to call it quits when they get an unexpected booking at an isolated, run-down club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. What seems merely to be a third-rate gig escalates into something much more sinister when they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see. Now trapped backstage, they must face off against the club’s depraved owner, Darcy Banker (Stewart), a man who will do anything to protect the secrets of his nefarious enterprise. But while Darcy and his henchmen think the band will be easy to get rid of, The Ain’t Rights prove themselves much more cunning and capable than anyone expected, turning the tables on their unsuspecting captors and setting the stage for the ultimate life-or-death showdown.
3 returnofthelivingdead On his first day on the job at an army surplus store, poor Freddy (Thom Mathews) unwittingly releases nerve gas from a secret U.S. military canister, unleashing an unbelievable terror. The gas re-animates an army of corpses, who arise from their graves with a ravenous hunger… for human brains! And luckily for those carnivorous cadavers, there is a group of partying teens nearby, just waiting to be eaten!
4 rayharryhausen The remarkable career of the movie industry s most admired and influential special-effects auteur, the legendary Ray Harryhausen, is the subject of Gilles Penso’s definitive documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan.

Leaving no doubt as to Harryhausen’s seminal influence on modern-day special effects, the documentary features enlightening and entertaining interviews with the man himself, Randy Cook, Peter Jackson, Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Terry Gilliam, Dennis Muren, John Landis, Guillermo del Toro, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and many more. These filmmakers, who today push the boundaries of special effects movie-making, pay tribute to the father of Stop Motion animation and films such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms , It Came from Beneath the Sea , The 7th Voyage of Sinbad , Mysterious Island , Jason and the Argonauts and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad the films that enthralled them as children and inspired them to become filmmakers in their own right.

5 fantasticplanet

Nothing else has ever looked or felt like director René Laloux’s animated marvel Fantastic Planet, a politically minded and visually inventive work of science fiction. The film is set on a distant planet called Ygam, where enslaved humans (Oms) are the playthings of giant blue native inhabitants (Draags). After Terr, kept as a pet since infancy, escapes from his gigantic child captor, he is swept up by a band of radical fellow Oms who are resisting the Draags’ oppression and violence. With its eerie, coolly surreal cutout animation by Roland Topor; brilliant psychedelic jazz score by Alain Goraguer; and wondrous creatures and landscapes, this Cannes-awarded 1973 counterculture classic is a perennially compelling statement against conformity and violence.

6 phantom of the paradise Phantom Of The Paradise is a ground-breaking cult film favorite from acclaimed writer/director Brian De Palma (Carrie, Dressed To Kill).

Paul Williams wrote the acclaimed score for this musical horror classic, and stars as an evil record tycoon haunted and taunted by the disfigured composer Winslow Leach (William Finley, Sisters) he once wronged. Cheered by the Los Angeles Times as a delightful, outrageous…visual triumph, and also starring Jessica Harper (Suspiria, Shock Treatment) and Gerrit Graham (Used Cars, Terrorvision), this hilarious send-up of the glam rock era is pure entertainment from beginning to end.

7 touchofzen Ku Shen Chai (Shih Jun), an unmotivated artist in his early 30s, still lives with his mother, but he is shaken from his comfortable rut by the arrival of beautiful and mysterious Yang Hui-ching (Feng Hsu), a princess on the run from Gen. Ou-Yang Nin (Tien Peng), who murdered her entire family. Yang brings Ku into her circle of protectors, including Nin’s rival, Gen. Shih Wen-Chiao (Pai Ying), and the nameless monk (Roy Chiao) whose spiritual guidance transforms Ku into a valiant fighter.
8 takingofpelham Screen legends Walter Matthau  and Robert Shaw  team up with Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo to deliver a sure-fire entertainment that’s gripping and exciting from beginning to end and is guaranteed to give you the ride of your life. A gang of armed professionals hijack a New York subway train somewhere outside the Pelham station threatening to kill one hostage per minute unless their demands are met. Forced to stall these unknown assailants until a ransom is delivered or a rescue is made, transit chief Lt. Garber (Matthau) must shrewdly outmaneuver one of the craftiest and cruelest villains (Shaw) in a battle of wits that will either end heroically or tragically. Featuring masterful direction by Joseph Sargent , gorgeous widescreen cinematography by Owen Roizman , a classic rousing score by David Shire and top-notch editing by Jerry Greenberg and Robert Q. Lovett .
9 carnivalofsouls A young woman in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, the eerily effective B-movie classic Carnival of Souls was intended to have “the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau”—and, with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it succeeds. Herk Harvey’s macabre masterpiece gained a cult following on late-night television and continues to inspire filmmakers today.
10 yellowsky  Screen legends Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark co-star in this brilliantly cast western epic featuring an unusually fine story and magnificent direction by the great William Wellman – unleashing dramatic power seldom found in this type of film. A band of outlaws, led by tough, gruff Stretch (Peck), find themselves knocking at death’s door after becoming lost in the treacherous western Badlands – only to find their salvation in a lonesome town called Yellow Sky, where the only inhabitants are a doddering old man and his mysterious alluring daughter. But their deliverance from danger is short-lived when the gang discovers a fateful secret hidden within the dusty, rotting walls of this ghost town – one that will turn brother against brother in a desperate battle to the death! Beautifully shot in glorious black-and-white by Joseph MacDonald and features a splendid cast that includes Anne Baxter , John Russell and Harry Morgan.

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