Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

As has more or less been established here, I very much enjoy watching movies on physical media, whether Blu-ray or DVD (depending on what’s available). Of course, with some Blu-ray releases, I also enjoy getting to see the movies restored and looking better than they have in years! So, with regards to the many movies released on physical media in 2020, here’s my list of what I think are some of the best releases for the year!  Again, my thoughts are coming ONLY from what I have been able to see myself. I do NOT receive screeners of any kind (nor, quite frankly, would I want to), these are all movies I myself bought. These are chosen from among the 2020 releases I have seen, as of 11/25/2020. Admittedly, the list only includes stuff released up through October 2020, as my budget (and Christmas getting closer) didn’t leave me room for any November releases (or December, since, as I said before, I don’t get any screeners and therefore could not see any of those releases before their official release date). So, this list is what it is (but, I will give a shout-out to some of the others afterwards).  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to use my affiliate links to go to Amazon and buy them!

  1. Sergeant York (1941) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Gary Cooper stars in this classic biographical film about World War I hero Alvin York. With the original camera negative long gone (possibly as far back as the 1950s), this movie hasn’t looked that great for some time. But, the good people at Warner Archive have put in a lot of effort and time (more than a year, from the sound of things) to get this movie looking better than it has in a LOOOONNNG time! And of course, it’s a wonderful movie, too (has to be, for a big musical fan like myself to claim it as the best release of the year over a number of other big musicals that I also like)! Full review here.
  2. Show Boat (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The 1936 version of Show Boat, starring Irene Dunne and Allan Jones is considered to be the best version of the three. This year, it made it out on Blu-ray, featuring a new 4K restoration. That restoration brings this wonderful film to life, with its wonderful music, fun comedy, and all-around great performances from the cast. This new release was a treat to see, and certainly comes with some of my highest recommendations for the year! Full review here.
  3. Love Me Tonight (1932) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The third of four movies pairing Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald (and the first to make it to Blu-ray), this pre-Code has Maurice as a tailor who has to impersonate a baron to get money owed him, but falls in love with the princess, played by Jeanette. The new Blu-ray from Kino looks fantastic with its new 4K remaster, and it’s extras are also quite interesting. A film I’ve looked forward to seeing after hearing it was coming, and neither the movie nor the presentation disappoints! Full review here.
  4. Girl Crazy (1943) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10) (Full review here) &
  5. Strike Up The Band (1940) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10) (Full review here)
    • This year, we finally got two of the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland “let’s put on a show” team-up movies on Blu-ray! Strike Up The Band features Mickey Rooney as a high school orchestra leader, with Judy as a singer, and Girl Crazy features Mickey being sent out to a Western college to get away from girls (and, wouldn’t you know, Judy just happens to be the only one there). Both films are wonderful (obviously, everybody will get different mileage out of them), with wonderful new transfers that leave them both looking better than they have in years! I’d certainly suggest grabbing both of them (especially if you want to see at least their other two “let’s put on a show” films make the jump to Blu-ray, along with some of the other films they worked together on)!
  6. Pat And Mike (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10) (Full review here) &
  7. Without Love (1945) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10) (Full review here)
    • Here we have another pair of films featuring a classic screen team, and this time, it’s Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn! In Pat And Mike, Katharine is a rising golf and tennis player, and Spencer Tracy is the sports promoter who helps her to get into all the tournaments where the big money is. In Without Love, they play a pair of scientists who decide to try a marriage without love, while they work on some stuff for the government. Both films give us that classic Tracy and Hepburn chemistry, and both films have been given new transfers that are sure to wow! Again, if you want more of the Warner-owned films they made together (or apart), I would certainly recommend looking into this pair of Blu-rays!
  8. Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Esther Williams stars in this biographical film about Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman. It’s considered one of her best films (partly because it doesn’t require as many plot devices to get her into the water), and I would definitely agree! And, of course, it’s been restored for Blu-ray, allowing us to see the color and detail in those swimming sequences even better now than before! One I think is certainly worth consideration! Full review here.
  9. Holiday (1938 and 1930) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Ratings: 10/10 for 1938 and 6/10 for 1930)
    • With this classic 1938 film, we have the third of the four films pairing up Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Here, he plays a self-made man now engaged to one of the elite, but has to face off with their way of living as it clashes with his own ideas. The 1938 film has been restored for this release, and I’ll say that it certainly looks fantastic! And among the extras is the 1930 version (which, along with the 1938 film, features Edward Everett Horton as part of the cast)! See review for 1938 film here, 1930 film here and my comments comparing the two films here.
  10. Africa Screams (1949) (Classicflix, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • This Abbott and Costello film is a must on this list, in my opinion. While the film may not be Bud and Lou at their absolute best, it’s still close enough, especially with this newly restored Blu-ray or DVD! After a successful Kickstarter campaign in December 2019, this public domain film was restored by Bob Furmanek and his team the the 3-D Film Archive, and it looks better than it has in years! Throw in a host of fun extras, and this really is one of the best releases of 2020! One last note, though: this is a limited edition, and I’m hearing that this one is getting close to sold out, so, if you want it, don’t delay, or you’ll regret it! Full review here.

Special Honorable Mention:

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

While not a set of movies, this collection is still a lot of fun. It includes nineteen shorts directed by animation legend Tex Avery, with nine of his one-shots alongside series including Screwy Squirrel, George & Junior and Droopy. All of the shorts have been given restorations from 4K scans of the best available elements, with the results juts about as good as you can hope for! And, just as good, Volume 2 has just been announced, so if you haven’t got the first volume yet, be sure to look into it (and be prepared to laugh at all the screwball antics)! Full review here.

Honorable Mentions: Kentucky Kernels (1934) (Warner Archive, Blu-ray), Romance On The High Seas (1948) (Warner Archive, Blu-ray), Murder, He Says (1945) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray)

While 2020 has been a very tough year because of the pandemic, for classic film fans, it has been a great year of releases on physical media! For me personally, the pandemic hitting certainly forced me to step back and re-evaluate the types of movies I was willing to look into. In my mind, Warner Archive Collection won the year again, after a somewhat slow start (that admittedly did have a few titles that I was glad to see make it out on Blu-ray). They really upped their output of pre-1954 films, throwing in three-strip technicolor movies, musicals, and other big, long-awaited classics on Blu-ray. As I said, I can only claim to have seen some of this year’s releases up through October, but November has a few that I look forward to seeing, including Libeled Lady and the finally restored to its original glory The Pirate with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. And, oh, what a December it will also be, with a few Christmas holiday classics coming, like The Shop Around The Corner, It Happened On Fifth Avenue and Holiday Affair, plus The Harvey Girls (I don’t think they’ve released enough Judy Garland on Blu-ray this year, do you? 😉 ), Mister Roberts (1955), and more! With all their musical output this year, I’m certainly a happy camper (I wish Fred Astaire could have been represented, but they said in one of their podcasts earlier in the year that they were working on one of his films, so I guess that gives me something to look forward to in 2021)! And, while it’s not a title I myself am interested in, due to its genre, I do want to plug Warner Archive’s Blu-ray release of the 1933 film The Mystery Of The Wax Museum. A film originally made in the Two-Color Technicolor process but considered, for a time, to be lost, it has been restored in collaboration with UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Film Foundation (and is the only way to see the restoration, as Warner Archive’s reissue of the later 1953 remake House Of Wax still includes the old transfer as an extra, and not the new restoration).

And Warner Archive were hardly the only label to have a good year of releases, either! Kino Lorber has been digging further into Universal’s catalog, both through films licensed through a second deal, as well as a few releases that they worked on remastering/restoring from the first one, all of which resulted in a number of three-film boxsets featuring various actors and actresses and a couple different film genres, like noir and westerns. Criterion has, through their licensing deals with all the studios, managed to get a few wonderful releases out, including two Warner-owned Buster Keaton silent comedies, as well as one Show Boat, plus a number of other big films. And Classicflix has been busy, releasing many Hal Roach streamliners (movies with shorter runtimes, usually about an hour) on DVD only, along with their Blu-ray and DVD releases of Africa Screams, Zenobia (1939) and the Marx Brothers film A Night In Casablanca. Despite the pandemic, 2020 has been filled with MANY wonderful releases on Blu-ray and DVD (and not enough funds to get them all), and I can only hope that 2021 manages to be better yet (both in terms of getting past the pandemic and getting more classic movie releases on disc)!

Previous years:



What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Without Love (1945)

I’m trying something different* this time around, so, at this point, we’ll start off with the two shorts before moving on to the main feature. So sit back and enjoy my reviews of these two shorts (both of which are extras on the new Blu-ray of Without Love (1945) from Warner Archive Collection)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Purity Squad (1945)

(Length: 19 minutes, 52 seconds)

A pair of con artists sell a pill that is supposed to help against type 2 diabetes, until the FDA steps in to stop them. A short from the “Crime Does Not Pay” series produced by MGM. Interesting story, and one that, in some respects, seems way too relevant even now. I will admit that it seems well done, although I myself can’t say as I care much for this series (to be fair, this is so far the only one I have seen).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Swing Shift Cinderella (1945)

(Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)

The Wolf decides to chase Cinderella around instead of Red Riding Hood. Another fun cartoon directed by Tex Avery, and it shows! In some respects, this is very similar to the earlier Red Hot Riding Hood, with the Wolf chasing after Red/Cinderella, and being chased, in this instance, by the Fairy Godmother. The gags come fast and furious (and so do the laughs!), and it’s a lot of fun to watch! At the moment, it doesn’t appear to have been restored yet (at least, not as an extra on this release), but, restored or not, it’s still got Tex Avery’s brand of fun!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In 1942, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were teamed up to great acclaim for the movie Woman Of The Year. Of course, audiences wanted more, and they followed up with the drama Keeper Of The Flame, without as much success. Trying to follow up with a comedy, they made use of the Philip Barry play Without Love, which had been written for (and starred) Katharine Hepburn. The original intention was that Spencer Tracy would co-star with her in the play, but the producers didn’t like the idea and cast somebody else. Still, the play was popular, and Katharine Hepburn was able to convince the MGM executives to buy the film rights.

Now that we’ve got some background info out of the way, let’s get into the movie itself. So, no interruptions, please. It’s World War II, and there’s a housing shortage in Washington D.C. Scientist Patrick Jamieson (Spencer Tracy) is in town, and looking for a place to stay. While he is searching, a drunken man hails the cab he is in. This drunk turns out to be Quentin Ladd (Keenan Wynn), who, due to his inebriated state, doesn’t want to return home to his mother, but instead wants to stay overnight at his cousin Jamie’s place. Pat wrangles an overnight invitation out of him, and talks to him a little before Quentin passes out. The morning turns out to be quite interesting.

“How interesting?” (well, someone had to ask!)

Well, it… I forgot to mention, when it comes to “no interruptions,” I meant myself as well. But since I’ve paused anyway…

I would argue that the “morning after” scene is arguably my favorite scene from the whole movie! We start with Quentin waking up, and it would appear that he has completely forgotten the events of the previous evening, although he starts catching up fast as he talks with Pat. Of course, Quentin’s stuck-up fiance, Edwina Collins (Patricia Morison), shows up and starts ordering him around, although Pat hilariously tells her off. Except for Quentin, everybody starts assuming that Pat has come to be the caretaker for the house, including the owner, the widow Jamie Rowan (Katharine Hepburn). But this whole section just really stood out for me, and helped get the movie off to a good start for me, with a few good doses of humor! Anyways, back to the story…

Jamie and Pat butt heads, particularly over relationships, as his own had not gone well, while her marriage, short as it was, gave her enough love for a lifetime (except, she was now withdrawing from the rest of the world as a result). But, she consents to let him stay and be the caretaker for the house, especially when she learns that he is working on an oxygen mask for pilots to help with the war. A few weeks later, in comes Jamie’s friend and business manager Kitty Trimble (Lucille Ball) who…

(waves hand excitedly)

Now, hold on a bit, I’ll get to her… Oh, who am I kidding? For me, Lucille Ball is also one of the best parts of the movie. From her entrance here, she starts in with the wisecracks, and flirts a little with Spencer Tracy’s Pat and he with her, even though it’s obvious the two aren’t really being that serious about it. But her presence and humor lights up the screen whenever she appears. Honestly, if I have much in the way of complaints about this movie, it’s that she’s not there for ENOUGH of it!

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Kitty is showing the house to Paul Carrell (Carl Esmond), who turns out to be someone that Pat knows. While that is happening, Jamie returns from a trip, and during a moment alone with Pat, she decides to let the past be, and proposes marriage to Pat, although not on the basis of love. Since she intends it to be a relationship devoid or love and romance, while allowing them to be friends and work together, he says yes. While they work together, she spends time with Paul Carrell, who accidentally makes her realize that she loves Pat. When Pat is called to Chicago to demonstrate the oxygen mask, she follows along, much to his delight. However, Pat’s ex is in town, and his repeated attempts to avoid her finally get to Jamie, as she worries that this means that he loves his ex more than he is willing to admit. Out of frustration, she leaves right before the test. At this point, obviously, the question is not “how will the test go,” but “will these two be able to work through their issues and reconcile?”

I can certainly tell you, I did enjoy getting the chance to see this movie. I’ve now had the chance to see five of the nine films that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together, and this one is, to my mind, just as good and fun to watch as any of them. Their chemistry is still the big attraction here, which makes it worthwhile (and funny too), with great support from the other cast members. I’ve only had the opportunity to see this movie via the recent Blu-ray release from Warner Archive Collection, which, according to their press release, used a 4K scan of the best surviving archival elements. To my eyes, this transfer looks fantastic, and between that and the wonderful movie itself, I would easily recommend this release as the best way to enjoy this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Libeled Lady (1936) – Spencer Tracy – Father Of The Bride (1950)

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Katharine Hepburn – Pat And Mike (1952)

Having Wonderful Time (1938) – Lucille Ball – Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

* – Disclaimer: the (attempted) humor in this post is in no way indicative of the style of comedy from the movie. It is purely my own as I experiment with trying to do things a little differently than I have been. I hope to refine it as I go, tailoring it a little better to the movies I review (and, of course, feedback is appreciated in the meantime). Fair warning, though, this is something I only intend to do for reviews of musicals and comedies, and will otherwise stick to what I have been doing for dramas.