However, if you thought Anchor Bay was finished, 2007 proved that they were just getting started, as they continued to raid the vaults for obscure titles like The Manitou. However, that year most notably brought some re-releases of some major titles that either had gone out of print or featured poor (or no) DVD releases in the first place. One of the crowning achievements that year was the release of their two Mario Bava box sets. Featuring 13 films between the two sets, these release chronicles the career of the Italian master and present an array of his films (even Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, a spaghetti western, is thrown in for good measure). Among the films included are four of Bavaís most famous and influential, beginning with 1963ís The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Often considered the first giallo, this one introduces many of the elements that would come to define that sub-genre: a jazzy score, a memorable killer, intense, suspenseful scenes, a twist ending, and John Saxon (okay, we only wish that Sax showed up in every giallo).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, 1972ís Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve and a dozen other titles) is an early example of a body count film that influenced a number of other gratuitous slashers. Like a giallo on steroids, this one features a number of head-spinning twists and gory, violent murder scenes, some of which were directly lifted by the Friday the 13th series (for example, the double impalement of the couple in bed). Unlike Psycho (often referred to as a proto-slasher), this one actually introduced several stereotypes that would come to define the genre, right down to the awesome, unexpected ending that many slashers would try to imitate, yet few would top.
Not content to simply highlight Bavaís murder-filled carnage pictures, Anchor Bay also treated fans to two of his strongest Gothic-tinged efforts, Black Sunday and Black Sabbath. The former film made Barbara Steele a star, as she was featured in not one, but two roles. One of the few definitive witchcraft pictures out there, Black Sundayís evocative black and white photography carries a classical feel; however, the scenes of graphic violence are rooted in a more modern aesthetic, making this one quite an interesting crossroads of horror history. Black Sabbath, on the other hand, is presented in glorious Technicolor and offers an array of horrors hosted by the legendary Boris Karloff. This one is one of horrorís grandest anthology films, with the Wurdalak sequence especially standing out as one of the best gothic tales of all time.
Stuart Gordonís Re-Animator still represents one of the best horror-comedy and gore romps ever. It also showed the world that very few people can play a smug bastard as well as Jeffrey Combs, whose Herbert West character will stop at nothing to re-animate the dead. Pets, school deans, a roommateís love interest: no one is off limits in this one! The equally fun supporting cast of characters keeps this one interesting even when the bloodletting isnít happening (which isnít often!). Like many major titles, this one saw more than one release from Anchor Bay, and the latest repackaging even came with a cool pen styled after Westís syringe to boot!
One of horrorís most underrated franchises also saw DVD releases from Anchor Bay. Though fans had seen the exploits of the creepy Tall Man in the Phantasm series on disc early in the formatís lifespan, Anchor Bay re-released the original film with a nice special edition. Don Coscarelliís film is a masterwork that expertly captures the feeling of a waking dream on film as protagonist Mike is forced to reckon with the untimely death of his parents. He also has to confront The Tall Man, a creepy mortician whose bizarre flying spheres hollow out the skulls of his unfortunate victims.
While Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is the weakest entry in the series, it still manages to be a fun ride with some memorable characters. Itís not as atmospheric as other films in the series, and itís admittedly a retread of the second film, but it packs in just enough action as we continue to follow the exploits of the ever-cool Reggie Bannister. Original film star Michael Baldwin also returns here, though he spends a lot of time in the clutches of the creepy Tall Man. The as-of-now final entry in the series was also released by Anchor Bay, and it fares better than the other two sequels. It manages to capture the bizarre, hallucinogenic tone of the original film (partially by using cut footage from it) and provides some hints into who (or what) The Tall Man is. Itís an amazingly well-constructed film considering the budget constraints and has become increasingly more satisfying as itís aged. The fact that Anchor Bay was able to release such notable titles ten years into DVD's lifespan speaks to the depth of their library and their commitment to keeping some of horror's biggest names on store shelves.
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