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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:00 am 
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They're a label with a good enough catalog and whose heart are in the right place... and though of course some of their transfers could be better, they're a very small company and I don't hold it against them. Great catalog of 30's - 60's US & UK programmer-gems. Every here & there you get stunningly perfect releases like CITY OF THE DEAD (Horror Hotel) next to which Criterions transfers have absolutely nothing on image & sound & extras-wise. I love their SEX AND BUTTERED POPCORN complilation of rare and very very old exploitation flicks via mining Kit Parker's trove of rarities. Even their old ho-hum releases of the Mann Alton TMEN & RAW DEAL have yet to be bettered, despite a recent release from Sony of both.

Has anybody picked up CHU CHIN CHOW, the early British sound film with Anna May Wong & Fritz Kortner derived from the super successful stage musical from the UK 20's & 30's (and beyond... I believe there's a restaurant in the UK still operating named CHU CHIN CHOW)? I've had this set in my hands a few times but opted for something else. As a curiousity of the era (and especially Erno Metzner's THIEF OF BAGDHAD-scale stupendous set design, if for no other reason) it seems to be a given, but no-one I know has seen it, and reliable reviews of the disc are scarce.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:17 am 
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Here is a link to VCI's site. I have purchased directly from them in the past, and the service was friendly and fast (although, do not expect automated responses during the order process).

The following thread on the films of Allan Dwan on DVD took a right turn into a duscussion on the merits of VCI, and gives something like a list of recommendations.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:52 am 
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The only thing that annoys me about the VCI website is that in the title specs for each film-- after you select them from the master (or by genre) list-- don't include the date the film was made/released.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:24 am 
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I agree, VCI's site leaves some things to be desired.

I was just looking at DVDEmpire, who is usually a lot more detailed in their info on releases. Here is their list for VCI. However, it appears that they are not up to date, and that a lot of titles are listed as "unavailable." I wonder if they are in the process of weeding out VCI from their catalogue?

EDIT: Just looked at Chu Chin Chow, and it looks like an incredible package!! Another, similarly stacked release from VCI that I have had my eye on is Blonde Ice. Anyone familiar with this title?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 11:47 am 
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My alltime favorite menu screen is on VCI's "Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" dvd. I can't explain why it rocks. You have to see it in motion for the full effect. Anyway, a superb film and an acceptable transfer.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:16 am 
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BLONDE ICE looks fascinating. I'll keep my eyes open for it.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 4:41 pm 
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I have been very pleased with the VCI releases that I have purchased so far, and I generally like this type of thread, so since I had some free time available today, I decided to browse through the catalogue, and compile a list of things that I might be interested in getting in the future.

These are obviously not recommendations, since I do not own the discs, but they might give an idea of the kinds of films that VCI specializes in, and, as always, it would be great to hear from anyone who owns any of these titles, both with respect to the films themselves and the quality of the DVDs (I have omitted titles already mentioned in this and the Allan Dwan threads):

To begin with some of the better know titles in the catalogue, VCI offers a 2-disc special edition with a wealth of extras of Lloyd Bacon's The Fighting Sullivans – often mentioned as the film (based on a true story) that inspired Saving Private Ryan. They have a lavish edition of The Great Train Robbery with many extras including several other silent films. And, John Ford's December 7th is available with additional footage. There is a release of Albert Lewin's The Moon and the Sixpence based on Maugham's novel on the life of Gaugain. And, there is a special edition of Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace that includes commentary with Tim Lucas and a number of other extra features.

Film Noir – the real poverty row kind – is a favorite stable for VCI, and they have some really exotic titles like the six volumes in the Forgotten Noir series directed by such people as William Berke, Sam Newfield, William Beudine and Richard Vernon. There is a Western Film Noir double feature. Also, there are two double features – The Scar/The Limping Man and The Chase/Bury Me Dead. There is also a whole series of Hammer Noir double features. And, finally, in addition to the Anthony Mann titles already mentioned by Schreck, another early Mann noir -- The Great Flamarion – starring none other than Erich von Stroheim is also available.

Hundreds and hundreds of westerns, mostly programmers and series, but here are a couple that caught my eye: The Tall Texan by Elmo Williams and starring Lloyd Bridges and Lee J. Cobb, released with a respectable amount of extras. Also by Elmo Williams -- The Cowboy, a documentary about real cowboys in the '50s, the DVD has commentaries with some of the cowboys in the film and a number of other extras. And, a couple of other ones with credits of various interest:High Lonesome; Find a Place to Die and The Young Land.

They also have some cartoon collections that sound more than promising – lots of content at $10-$20 a pop, and, at least in the case of Alice, the transfers are advertised to be directly from original 35mm nitrate negatives: Alice In Cartoonland, Somewhere In Dreamland, Popeye: 75th Anniversary Collection (no longer available from VCI's own site).

There are two recent DVD releases of ‘60s sexploitation flicks that sound like they could be fun: 3 Nuts In Search of a Bolt and Promises! Promises! starring Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield, respectively, and including “uncensored on-the-set photosâ€


Last edited by Scharphedin2 on Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:04 pm 

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I can comment on one title not listed so far. A couple of years ago I bought all the available PD DVDs of Sam Wood's 1940 Our Town, to see if there was a decent transfer among them. (They're all very cheap.)

Predictably, all the DVDs of this film derive from the familiar badly cropped 16mm source that decapitates the heroine for part of Act III. Since all VHS releases and the version shown on TCM also derive from this source, it would be naive to hope for anything better in the foreseeable future. Some people have even queried whether good uncropped source material still exists for this film at all.

That being said, I found the VCI release to be decidedly the least bad of the available DVDs, in terms both of picture quality and sound quality. It's still exasperatingly inadequate because of the cropping and the 16mm fuzziness, but if you want the film, you may feel that half a loaf (the bottom half) is better than no bread.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:26 pm 
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Thanks for this tip Goldfish. I recently viewed the film for the first time on the FocusFilm release, and I have to say it is the poorest DVD of any film that I own. A real shame, because it is a very good and interesting film.

However, I just checked the VCI site, and I do not see a DVD of the film listed (not at DVDEmpire either), only a VHS VCI release. Is this what you meant, or can you direct me to a place that carries the VCI?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:01 pm 

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How odd. How very, very odd.

I can't now recall exactly where I bought my "VCI" DVD -- some small internet company or other. Examining the DVD again, it certainly appears to have the VCI cover, but I think the disc itself may be a bootleg. I'm not even sure that it's been transferred from the VCI videotape -- there's nothing on the disc itself to suggest that.

It indicates just how awful all the available releases of a film are, when a bootlegger can produce more acceptable results than any of the legitimate public domain companies!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:33 pm 
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Are you sure it's DVD and not DVD-R? VCI released a few films they had on VHS on DVD-R only. Perhaps Our Town was released as well, but they no longer sell it.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:02 pm 

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I'm pretty sure it's a bootleg, unfortunately, not a now-deleted genuine VCI. Now that my suspicions are raised, I notice that when the disc is played, there are no VCI logos either before or after the film (not even the logo that you'd get if you copied a VCI videotape). I think the bootlegger simply happened to own the VCI tape and copied its cover rather than constructing a new one.

Ruling out the fake "VCI", I'd say that the least bad of the Sam Wood Our Town DVDs on my shelves is the Delta. Overall it has the most audible soundtrack, and its picture quality, though fuzzy, is no fuzzier than any of the others. However, neither in audio nor in picture quality does it match the very best of the old VHS tapes (e.g. the Prism Entertainment release). Maybe the bootlegger worked from one of those.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:32 pm 
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This is a bit off-topic, but here's a review by DVD Savant of authorized FOCUSfilm/Image disc.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 1:07 am 
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scharf2 wrote:
They have a lavish edition of The Great Train Robbery with many extras including several other silent films.

Great post as usual scharf, but on the above title I'd flag for you what I consider-- along with UNSEEN CINEMA, and the TREASURES/MORE TREASURES FROM THE AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES-- the greatest use of the dvd medium to date: EDISON, THE INVENTION OF THE MOVIES , the relatively recent (2005) four-disc box set from Kino. I have a number of the various releases & sets which have this Porter film, but this is by far the finest representation of it we're going to get, with exhaustive scholarship and analysis, program notes, advertising sell-sheet & catalog reproductions from the Edison lab on the film, and comments by Musser, the legendary Ms. Bowser from the MoMa and her present day successor.

From DVD Talk/Savant's review of the set (predictably Tooze blooped right over this crucial release):

Quote:
One of the highlights of this set is the collection is Porter's 1903 The Great Train Robbery. The first really big hit movie, this film is a highpoint in very early cinema. Here Porter tells a new story, one the audience didn't know before entering the theater. The plot is simple but effective: A group of crooks tie up a station agent and then rob a train while it is stopped for water, and then are chased by a local posse. This movie is stunning when compared to the films that came before it. The story is linear and easy to follow, there is action and the chase scene at the end is even suspenseful. One of the very first films to tell an entire story, The Great Train Robbery holds up well even today. The print used for this collection is excellent, and is the only print still surviving that has the original tinting and hand coloring. A wonderful looking film.

and re the video:

Quote:
Kino did a splendid job with the video aspect of this collection. They have resisted the temptation to do a quick and dirty 'cleaning up' of the video with digital filters, I'm happy to announce. Digital noise reduction and the like can make a picture appear cleaner, but it also softens the image, and I'm glad these weren't altered digitally.

Some of the films in this collection have gone through restoration, but many of them haven't. It is amazing that these exist at all, since most of the films are over 100 years old and printed on film stock that decomposes fairly quickly. Almost all of the films show some sign of print damage, and there are some instances where the emulsion has started to decompose, but this is to be expected. In general, the image is sharp and bright and a pleasure to watch.

The official joint Kino/MoMa/Library of Congress site

For any serious cineaste of the history and technical origins of the medium, this is probably the single greatest set available. A virtual museum in your home.

EDIT: Re THE PHANTOM, I at first thought, until I popped the link you provided, that you were talking about THE PHANTOM available on this release called "Forgotten Terrors", an interesting compendium of completely forgotten b-flicks from the very dawn of the sound era from Retromedia. Some of them are "bad" films, but in that extremely odd badness from the very earliest sound horror films that give them an extremely quirky & strange edge, and work in favor of the gloomy atmosphere. From the description of the film:

Quote:
The Phantom: A master criminal known as the Phantom makes a spectacular escape from Death Row and, aided by a grotesque being called "the Thing," continues his murderous activities. Holding a grudge, the Phantom threatens the district attorney whose daughter and a reporter set out to find the fiend. Soon the duo and killer wind up at an old dark house... that also happens to be an insane asylum. Good spooky fun!

This is a perfect example of what's most annoying about VCI's lack of film dating-- potential for confusion between similar titles... especially if they're from the same era.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:57 am 
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Schreck, I completely agree with you on everything you write about the Edison set and other early/experimental anthology sets. I recently picked them up on your past recommendations, and although I have only so far managed to dip into them, they are among my prized possessions. Film museums in your own home is right.

Ashirg, thanks for the link to Glenn's review. I am surprised that he rates the image quality of this particular disc so relatively high (it is the one I own). I just checked and the box does say that it is "remasterd from original negative elements." It hardly seems possible to believe. It really does not look great, and that is coming from someone who is not easily discouraged by poor transfers.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:07 pm 

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I fully agree. The FocusFilm Our Town is one of the worst on my shelves. (Its transfer of the Lux radio broadcast is also vastly inferior to those available from the standard PD vintage radio sellers.)

Afterthought: I suspect the FocusFilm cover box was prepared from a template previously set up for some other film, and the person changing the data forgot to delete the statement "remastered from original negative elements". It clearly doesn't apply to this particular transfer.

I'd suggest that anyone wanting the film should wait until a PD company manages to issue a DVD at least comparable to the best of the old VHS transfers!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:18 am 

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HerrSchreck wrote:
Every here & there you get stunningly perfect releases like CITY OF THE DEAD (Horror Hotel) next to which Criterions transfers have absolutely nothing on image & sound & extras-wise.

Not true. The transfer's lovely, but the extras are a rambling, disorganised mess, despite (or, more precisely, because of) the fact they fill up the disc. The film's a bit of a clanger too.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:09 pm 
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I went and ordered quite a number of VCI's releases through DVDPacific. Many of them were not in stock, and DVDPacific has a policy of sending only 12 discs at a time with overseas airmail, so I will receive them in 3 or 4 consignments. The first arrived on Friday, and here are some notes on this batch of discs:

Forgotten Noir, Vols. 1-3 -- All the transfers look respectable at a quick glance. I viewed Shadow Man in its entirety, and it even looked very good. In motion at least, the image appears very clear and almost spotless. If I remember correctly, Beaver featured caps of some of these releases a while back, and it may be worth looking at these for anyone very exacting about transfers. The films also look interesting, and in terms of story and mood, I think Shadow Man is on a par with a number of the films released by Warner and Fox in their respective noir series. In short, a very positive surprise.

Hammer Noir, Vols. 1-3 -- Again, the transfers here were well above my expectations. The credits of several of the films are interesting, as is the whole production history of these films as outlined in a brief video essay that is included on the set. I viewed Bad Blonde in its entirety, and it is a decent enough film for what it is (B-film noir). Considering the low price point of both of these sets, I would consider them small goldmines.

Chu Chin Chow -- For VCI, this is definitely a very high-end release. The films look absolutely fine for mid-'30s films (on a par with the majority of '30s releases from Criterion and the major studios). There are also copious extras available, and even the menu screens have received loving care. The film itself looks exciting, and from what I could tell at a quick flick-through, the production values on the film were high. Really a nice release.

Joel McCrea Double Feature -- Apparently this is not even a VCI release, although it is listed as such. The responsible company is Acme?! The two films included on the disc are Most Dangerous Game and Bird Of Paradise. Both films are weak in image, but at $2.89, my curiosity got the better of me. For what it is worth, Bird of Paradise looks better on this release than on the Alpha disc, which I purchased a little while ago.

Blood and Black Lace -- This Mario Bava film is clearly another prestige release from VCI, and includes commentary by Tim Lucas, soundtrack dubbed in English, Italian and French, as well as some other extras. The colors and general image quality looks strong to my eyes.

The Great Flamarion -- This Anthony Mann noir starring Erich Von Stroheim and Dan Duryea is actually a DVD-R of VCI's VHS release, and along with the McCrea disc, it is by far the weakest of the batch.

I will report back on the rest of the VCI discs that I ordered during the next week or so, as and when they arrive.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:50 pm 
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Acme is public domain releases distributed by VCI. Unlike actual VCI DVDs, they are same quality as other PD discs.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:18 am 
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Narshty wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:
Every here & there you get stunningly perfect releases like CITY OF THE DEAD (Horror Hotel) next to which Criterions transfers have absolutely nothing on image & sound & extras-wise.

Not true. The transfer's lovely, but the extras are a rambling, disorganised mess, despite (or, more precisely, because of) the fact they fill up the disc. The film's a bit of a clanger too.

Not true, Narsh. It is true for me. So nyaa. And the film can only clang up against concrete or petrified wood etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 1:01 pm 
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Here are some prelimary comments on a few more VCI titles that I just received, and took a quick peek at:

Film Noir Double Feature: The Chase/Bury Me Dead -- As with the other VCI film noir releases discussed above, these two films look absolutely fine -- about the same quality as the average noir release from the major studios. Robert Cummings, Peter Lorre and Michele Morgan are amongst the better know names in the casts, and the film were directed by Arthur Ripley and Bernard Vorhaus, respectively. The films feature commentaries by Jay Fenton, as well as trailers and still galleries. Again, a release that I find no reason not to be pleased with.

Fighting Sullivans -- This is another high profile release from VCI with a lot of extras, and a fairly good transfer. Again, it may not be up to the highest highs of a studio like Warner Bros., but we are not that far away.

December 7th -- This release also has a lot of extras inlcuding an additional hour long documentary by Frank Capra, which has some stunning sequences of the Japanese preparing for war. The films are in fairly rough shape, but my sense is that the fault is with the source materials rather than the DVD production.

Hanibal -- I would be very interested in hearing other forum members' opinions on this release. The film is a rather big scale epic directed by none other than Edgar Ulmer, and starring Victor Mature. To my eyes the colors looked very good, although I have no knowledge of the accuracy, or how this was achieved -- the film looks very fresh and new, almost as if it had been newly restored? Also, there is an audio interview included between Ulmer and Bogdanovich that should please the multitudes.

High Lonesome -- A western "whodunnit" filmed on location in Big Bend Texas in technicolor, only the technicolor looks quite tired. I am somewhat of a fan of the western genre, and this one has several good selling points, so I am expecting to be pleased, however, for anyone where preservation of the original look of films is very important, I think this is one to skip.

Popeye: 75th Anniversary Collection; Alice In Cartoonland and Somewhere In Dreamland -- The image quality on the cartoons that I sampled from each of these sets varied somewhere in the mid-range in quality. None looked abysmal, and none looked pristine. They looked like well-preserved cartoons from the late '20s to early '50s are want to look. As to the cartoons themselves, I really enjoy the fun and inventiveness of it all -- Popeye is somethin I grew up with on TV, and I found myself unable to turn off the couple of cartoons I sampled -- a lot of fun and good memories. Alice was apparently an early Disney experiment mixing live footage and cartoons. The image quality is the roughest on this set, but these cartoons are also the oldest. If one is interested in these cartoons, I do not think the image quality will ruin the experience. The Dreamland cartoons probably looked the best on the whole -- I have never seen any of these cartoons before, but they reminded me of a lower league version of Disney's "Silly Symphonies."

Alien Outlaw and Dark Power -- Uhm, I felt that my film library was lacking in some real schlock, so I got these two late '80s Phil Smoot flicks. The thing that sold me was the inclusion in the cast of classic whip-wielding cowboy hero "Lash LaRue." The image quality looks good for low budget films that are twenty years old; the quality of the pictures as such is exactly what you would expect, and then something less, I suppose.

I also thought that some of VCI's descriptions of the films of Mexican Cardona Sr. and Jr. sounded interesting in a cheap-thrills-sort-of-way, so I decided to order Island of Lost Souls, The Bermuda Triangle and Guyana. The image quality reminds me of well-preserved Euro-video-shockers of the seventies that we used to rent on video as kids. There is nothing wrong with these transfers, except that the colors look a little faded in places. The films as such strike me as the kind of disaster/sensation films that Hollywood excelled in during the seventies, only with predominantly Mexican actors and your occasional faded Hollywood or Euro star.

All in all, a lot of generally very nice releases from VCI.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:09 am 
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I keep hunting for BLONDE ICE but I can't find the fucker anywhere. Of course I could order it... but I'd never forgive myself as my online ordering, when it happens, almost always has to be for badly needed MoC's & AEye's & BFI's. Furchrissakes I still have the old CC KWAIDAN.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:31 am 
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I can appreciate how you feel... but at $5.78? Do like me, blow your lunch money on it.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:19 am 
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Oh jeez no it's not the price (VCI's are always dirt cheap)... it's that when I do place an order it's usually from one overseas supplier. Most domestic material I acquire by hand, unless it's advantageous to acquire them (i e cheaper or earlier or dwindling oop stock) online-- good recent example is the rare GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (the first sequel) as well as widescreen Toho-restored premium MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (a heck of a sequel) which have been exclusively available from this storefront for a couple months before they street this coming month (they just appeared in Kim's Columbia U this weekend).

I'm not going to pay a duty plus shipping to acquire a domestic disc from a foreign reseller like cd-wow or Benson's (like I was saying, most of my online orders are for imports, and I'd hafta mix BLONDE ICE in there) when I could grab it here.

I'll find BLONDE ICE, or something will require me to place a domestic online dealer that sells "everything" (versus the Sony/Toho storefront above which sells only those discs) where I can get them to throw it in.

I didn't see you mention acquiring ICe, or maybe I missed your post. I don't see anything above ( I see BAD BLONDE, but not ICE). How is it?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:31 am 
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My copy of Blonde Ice is sitting at DVDPacific waiting for another couple of VCI titles to come in. They ship orders in groups of apx. 12 titles at a time. I did not know that when I placed the order, and basically just went through their list of VCI titles and got all the ones that I thought sounded interesting. So, they've been dripping in over the past two weeks, and I imagine Blonde Ice will follow maybe this week... Great label, VCI...!!! I am really impressed both with selection of titles and the general quality of their releases (much, much better than I thought).

Concerning e-tailers... xploitedcinema is great! I just made a pact with them to help me with R1 releases, and ship together with any international releases that I want. For my purposes they have proven effective in flying under the customs radar so far. I am very curious to see if they continue to manage this. Certainly their service and willingness to find solutions is second to no other e-tailer that I have encountered.


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