I bought an HD DVD player a couple of years ago but the demise of the format and the relatively high price points of the competing Blu Ray players caused me to shy away from HiDef for a while…until recently.
I’d been doing some research — see, I wanted to go “region free” AND I wanted to go Blu as well. Luckily there turned out to be a bargain-priced option in one box.
The Momitsu BDP 899 was touted on several video forums as being able to handle any disc — all regions of DVD, PAL, NTSC, all regions of Blu Ray. The only problem was the price. The Momitsu was going for a cool $300 and change. Well, when sources confirmed that the new budget Sherwood BDP 5004 was nothing less than a clone of the Momistu — at half the price — I decided to jump.
Since I’ve only had the Sherwood a couple of weeks, my impressions aren’t absolutely conclusive, but I can say so far that it’s a great bargain for home theater fans who want to watch PAL DVDs and Region B locked Blu Ray discs from Europe but are willing to do without all the bells and whistles of streaming web, Netflix, etc (the Sherwood is capable of BD-Live via an ethernet cable, but by all accounts it’s actually a liability to the player’s performance). In addition to regular Region 1 DVDs and Blu Rays, my viewing options have opened up to include discs from all over the world — a must for a fan of Eurocrime, giallos and art cinema like me.
There are a quite a few “Europe only” discs of note out there that I strongly recommend. First off Paramount’s Blu Ray of ZULU can be had for around $16 on Amazon.co.uk and the picture is astounding, easily besting all previous DVD releases. It’s also region free, so it’ll play on any U.S. player. BFI put out Kenneth Anger‘s MAGICK LANTERN CYCLE on Blu and it’s a revelation for fans of experiemental cinema. Highly recommended. Also available only as a Region B locked blu is Terry Gilliam‘s TIME BANDITS. Some fans have decried the rather rough print used for the digital transfer but the clarity and sharpness are top notch. Definitely an upgrade over previous DVDs. Michael Anderson‘s classic post WWII effort THE DAM BUSTERS is also available as a low-priced UK-only Blu. You’ll probably never see this released in the U.S. — thanks to the name of the Wing Commander Gibson’s dog! (although there are still rumors out there that Peter Jackson is remaking this one).
The UK video label Masters of Cinema frequently duplicates Criterion‘s efforts here in the States but there are a few exclusive titles including Franju‘s JUDEX and the spooky Japanese cult-classic-in-waiting, HAUSU. Shameless offers region free PAL discs of slumming Eurotrash such as THE DESIGNATED VICTIM and THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN. And for the price of breakfast, you can get your mitts on the enhanced for 16:9 DVDs of Hammer’s DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS or QUATERMASS AND THE PIT which have only been released here in the States as OOP non-enhanced discs from Anchor Bay.
The German branch of Amazon has it’s own treasures, although the shipping, for some reason, is prohibitively expensive (usually more than the cost of the DVD itself). However, Sergio Corbucci‘s THE MERCENARY coming out on Koch DVD at the end of this month is nearly enough to make me sell my 16mm TV print. Maybe that’ll cover the s/h cost. Now if only I could figure out how to read German…