As always, fans are anxiously anticipating this spring and summer’s annual movie blockbusters, which will include sequels, spinoffs, remakes, recycles and reboots of franchise favorites.
We already have King Kong and “Beauty and the Beast” redos in theaters, and upcoming are more chapters of Power Rangers, Smurfs, The Fast and the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, Cars, Transformers, Despicable Me, Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes and many more.
But fans of another sort — those who collect vintage titles — are looking forward to a lot of older movies that will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the coming weeks by boutique labels that specialize in video debuts, high-definition upgrades and bundles of bonus features.
At the head of the list is “The Pink Panther Film Collection Starring Peter Sellers,” to be released June 27 by Shout! Factory.
This set marks the Blu-ray debuts of all six of the Inspector Clouseau comedies in which Sellers starred, and which were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards: “The Pink Panther” (1964), “A Shot in the Dark” (1964), “Return of the Pink Panther” (1975), “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976), “Revenge of the Pink Panther” (1978) and “Trail of the Pink Panther” (1982).
Five of the films were produced by the United Artists studio and have been released in various DVD box sets over the years, but “Return of the Pink Panther” was produced independently and this marks the first time that film has been included with the others.
Also upcoming from Shout! Factory (along with its specialty line, Shout Select) are these kitschy Blu-ray collector’s set debuts.
- This week: Stephen King’s “Firestarter” (1982), with Drew Barrymore as the little girl who has trouble controlling her propensity for combustion, and “Red Dawn” (1984), the thriller about Patrick Swayze leading teens into battle against invading Russians
- April 25: “Man of La Mancha” (1972), an adaptation of the Broadway musical, starring Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren
- May 2: “Streets of Fire” (1984), an offbeat “rock ‘n‘ roll fable”
- May 16: “Willard” (1971), the horror tale of a boy and his rats, along with its sequel, “Ben” (1972)
Over at Criterion Collection — where they generally dabble in more erudite titles, ranging from foreign films to Hollywood classics, with an emphasis on Blu-ray upgrades and bounteous bonus features — there are some real gems on tap.
- March 21: Peter Sellers’ last great film, the political satire “Being There” (1979)
- April 18: The first of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn’s nine films together, the hilarious “Woman of the Year” (1942, b/w), in which his earthy sports reporter cuts her prissy political commentator down to size
- May 23: Orson Welles’ legendary version of Shakespeare’s “Othello” (1952, b/w)
Another top-flight boutique label is Twilight Time, on the Screen Archives website, where Blu-ray upgrades (with a bonus feature or two) are its stock-in-trade.
- This week: The very funny musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (1967); the low-key British espionage satire “Our Man in Havana” (1959, b/w) with Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara; and “Peyton Place” (1957), the popular soap opera movie, starring Lana Turner, which fostered a franchise
Kino Lorber also specializes in Blu-rays and occasionally includes bonus features.
- March 21: Bela Lugosi is a kindly doctor hypnotized to commit murder in “The Invisible Ghost” (1941, b/w), with Utah native Betty Compson as his manipulative wife, and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic tale of eight stranded people in a “Lifeboat” (1944, b/w) after their ship is sunk during World War II
- April 11: The home video debut of Jerry Lewis’ naval farce, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” (1959, b/w)
- April 18: James Stewart as an ex-soldier seeking peace with Cochise in “Broken Arrow” (1950)
- May 30: Jackie Gleason stars in the turn of the 20th century comedy-drama “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
Another label specializing in Blu-ray upgrades for classic titles is Olive Films (with no bonus features) and its specialty line, Olive Signature (which does have bonus features).
- March 21: “Blast-Off” (1967), titled for the U.S. market “Those Fantastic Flying Fools,” is a British comedy about a Victorian-era race to the moon, based on a Jules Verne novel; Robert Altman’s first feature, the B-movie thriller, “The Delinquents” (1957, b/w); and an all-star spoof of Hollywood in the 1920s, “Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood” (1976)
Warner Archive also has some Blu-ray upgrades coming (usually without bonus features).
- This week: The fanciful Francis Ford Coppola musical “Finian’s Rainbow” (1968), starring Fred Astaire and Ray Harryhausen’s tale of cowboys and dinosaurs, “The Valley of Gwangi” (1969)
- March 28: “World Without End” (1956), a better than average time travel, apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, starring Rod Taylor