Welcome back for part two of The Year In Schlock Cinema, 2011 (if you missed out on part one, click here).  The final half focuses on the home video experience, exploring the interesting titles that Schlockmania covered via new DVD’s and blu-rays. The first list is devoted to “Retro Discoveries”:  simply put, it’s a dozen films that were first-ever viewings for Your Humble Reviewer this year and all titles that he recommends to the daring schlock aficionado.  This is followed by special award for two very unique Retro Discoveries in distinctly different areas.

The remainder of this post is devoted to the DVD’s and blu-rays themselves, with a focus on which titles delivered the best transfers and supplements, and a few special awards for deserving studios.  Please note that these lists do not represent a complete survey of all releases and studios for the year.  Instead, please just consider it a friendly list of picks from a fellow traveler in the schlock world.

One last note: As is the house style at Schlockmania, there are no star ratings or ranking schemes: everything here gets a recommendation so allow your personal tastes to guide you in the direction you prefer.  Happy reading and may you find a new obsession in the lists below…

RETRO DISCOVERIES:

Barry Richards T.V. Collection, Vol. 1 – one of the big surprises of 2011 was this jam-packed time capsule of 1970’s rock and underground t.v. goodness – a pair of amazing Alice Cooper band performances is just the tip of the FM-rock iceberg here

The Dorm That Dripped Blood – effective vintage slasher flick where the budgetary seams and rough edges are part of the retro fun – it’s worth it alone for a dazzling triple-kill sequence early on and a deliriously mean finale

Grand Theft Auto – Ron Howard’s 1977 directing debut (for Roger Corman, no less) is a an unsung New World Pictures classic, a sort of mini-It’s A Mad Mad Mad World with killer car stunts, a snappy pace and the right amount of goofball humor

Horror Express – this bargain-bin perennial is perfect late night horror viewing that boasts a unique mix of genres, the best-ever pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, strong direction and even a wild cameo from Telly Savalas

Perfume Of The Lady In Black – a quietly blood-chilling blend of the giallo and the paranoid-psychological thriller, highlighted by an operatic Mimsy Farmer performance and a truly shocking coda

Police Story, Season 1 – this Joseph Wambaugh-created anthology series is considered by many to be the best treatment of police life ever done for the small screen and season 1 lives up to that reputation (it’s also packed with great tough-guy actors)

Rio Conchos – a Hollywood western from 1964 that anticipates the brutal, cynical style of the spaghetti western genre and boasts a truly macho cast (Stuart Whitman, Tony Franciosa AND Jim Brown)

The Secret Of Dorian Gray – deliciously psych-damaged update of the Dorian Gray legend is a swinging Eurotrash classic full of groovy visual and music, not to mention appropriately debauched performances from Helmut Berger and Herbert Lom

Survive! – mondo-drama treatment of the 1972 Andes plane crash tragedy still packs a punch, thanks to crafty re-editing from its American handlers and a grim yet solemn approach to its shocks – one of the all-time 1970’s exploitation classics

To Be Twenty – oft-misunderstood Italian flick starts like a sexed-up youthsploitation romp but gradually takes the viewer into sobering and ultimately shocking territory, truly a one-of-a-kind Eurocult experience

Too Hot To Handle – Cheri Caffaro’s final venture as a drive-in sexbomb is a killer blend of James Bond-style action and kinked-up sexploitation, complete with great location shooting in the Philippines

Women In Cages – frequently overlooked women-in-prison opus from the heyday of New World Pictures is a delightfully seedy and fast-paced sleazefest with an stunningly nasty performance from Pam Grier in a rare villainous role

SPECIAL RETRO DISCOVERY AWARD:

The Work Of Radley Metzger – thanks to the good people at Cult Epics and Synapse, Your Humble Reviewer had a high-quality introduction to the films of Radley Metzger and realized that this American director with a European style might be the best director of erotica ever.  Recommended titles: Camille 2000, The Image, The Lickerish Quartet and Score.

THE RETRO MIND MELTER Of 2011:

Things – in 2011, Severin sublabel InterVision made a bid for its own corner of the cult video marketplace by taking on the world of infamous straight-to-video fare.  In the process, they unleashed Things, which Your Humble Reviewer considers one of the most grueling tests of endurance he’s experienced as a schlock enthusiast.  It inspired much philosophical thought about the difference between “good bad” and “bad bad” – and the review that resulted prompted an unforgettable response from the film’s director himself in its comments section (if you check out the review, be sure to scroll down for a lengthy but very energetic read).

EXCELLENT DISCS:

Women In Cages Collection (blu-ray) – eye-popping transfers of films that have never looked good on home video plus a fun documentary, all at a bargain-basement price.  What are you waiting for?

The Baby and Bloody Birthday (dvd) and Horror Express (blu-ray) – a trio of budget-disc perennials get worthy A/V upgrades plus new bonus features

Battle Beyond The Stars (blu-ray) – another smashing blu-ray from Shout! Factory’s Corman line that giving the producer’s Star Wars cash-in its digital due

Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (blu-ray) – the DVD from last year was already a winner but VCI gave it a blu-ray upgrade that’s worth the money AND added in a killer new documentary from Daniel Griffith

I Spit On Your Grave (1978 version) (blu-ray) – a film often wrongly derided for looking “cheap” gets a dazzling transfer that shows off how gorgeous and lovingly-crafted its visuals actually are, plus it preserves two of the best commentary tracks ever recorded for a cult movie

Santa Sangre (blu-ray) – the lost gem in the Alejandro Jodorowsky filmography gets a jumbo upgrade – a gorgeous new transfer plus hours of worthy extras that involve the always-memorable director

To Be Twenty (2-DVD set) – RaroVideo U.S. did the Italo-cult scholar a big favor here by making this a 2-disc set with transfers of both versions of this infamous item plus a strong documentary

Zombie (2-DVD set) – finally, fans gets a special edition of this with a strong transfer AND a great set of extras all in one package, thanks to Blue Underground

Special Home Video Commendation – Killer Blu-Rays: Synapse Films

Your Humble Reviewer watched many blu-ray remasters of vintage titles this year – and few cult movie companies did such consistently impressive work as Synapse.  With releases like The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Frankenhooker, The Image, Maniac Cop and especially The Exterminator, this label proved that it is possible to breathe new life into vintage titles.

Special Home Video Commendation – Value Conscious Award:  Shout! Factory

This company does the budget-conscious cinemaniac a favor by bundling titles into double, triple and sometimes even quadruple features – in addition to the Women In Cages Collection, other gems from this year included the Wild West Collection, the Lethal Ladies Collection, the Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection and many more.  Their box sets of MST3K episodes offer similar value and always include worthwhile new bonus material – MST3K Vs. Gamera is an example worth checking out.

Special Home Video Commendation – Italian Division: RaroVideo U.S.

This company has really picked up the gauntlet for fans of Italian cult fare. In addition to the aforementioned To Be Twenty set, their discs for Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, The Secret Of Dorian Gray and The Perfume Of The Lady In Black are all worth checking out.