September – Hits and Misses ^ This month has some heavy hitters in the ranks, including “Citizen Kane’s Special Edition” treatment by Warner (who thankfully got rid of the infamous paper sleeve).
The Must Have: “Citizen Kane,” “The French Connection: Five Star Edition,” “Cape Fear” (1962 and 1991) SE’s ^ “Citizen Kane” is here simply for entertainment value, bang for the buck, and cinematic significance. With a knock-out picture and a great documentary, it’s a no-brainer if there ever was one. Fox’s “The French Connection: Five Star Edition” is also worth your time, with some great supplements, commentary, and a documentary that can’t be beat (always look overseas for some of the most revealing doc material around). ^ Universal’s own one-two punch came from the dual “Cape Fear” releases. The 1962 and 1991 versions are loaded with supplements as well as fine transfers. Both are highly recommended for stellar acting and some true suspense.
The Should Have Been: “Heathers Special Limited Edition Tin,” Memento, and “The Neverending Story” ^ The only difference between the regular keep-case version of “Heathers” and the tin is a little booklet of stills, a 6″ ruler with “Heathers” written on it, and the tin itself. Yup, that’s it, a ruler and some photos. No extra features on the disc itself, leading to massive letdown on the part of the producer. Jeez Anchor Bay, if you’re going to charge twice the price for the tin, try to add some features, wouldja? ^ Columbia Tri-Star’s Memento deserves a what-the-hell-happened notice, with a good transfer, decent soundtrack and an interview with Christopher Nolan. Also included were pictures of the tattoos that Guy Pierce wore. Ooh! Sign me up! PICTURES of FAKE TATTOOS! Wow! ^ Lastly, “The Neverending Story” got shafted, with a spotty anamorphic transfer but not much else. A few text supplements aren’t worth your time or expense, and I can’t believe I waited all this time to be let down. Thanks, Warner.
The Hell No’s: Spy Kids ^ This Buena Vista disgrace takes a wonderful opportunity for a Special Edition and decides to cash in on the bucks instead of providing the good stuff (this same thing happened with Dogma). Robert Rodriguez is obviously a fan of special editions judging by his contributions to the Dusk Till Dawn laserdiscs and “El Mariachi/Desperado Special Edition.” He couldn’t be reached to provide supplementary material since he was off filming “Once Upon A Time in Mexico.” Well Buena Vista, if he couldn’t be reached, you should have waited. Unless your little niece of nephew screams their head off wanting to see it, stay away until the SE knocks at your door.
October – Paramount’s Folly ^ Well, it could be called the “Month of the Menace,” or “An Offer We Should’ve Refused.” Star Wars Episode I finally came to DVD, though it’s unfortunate the bastard child of the series had to rear its head first. But let’s not forget Paramount’s (mis)treatment of “The Godfather.” Some heavy hitters were released this month from almost every studio, in hopes of those holiday dollars. Let’s see what happened.
The Must Have: Star Wars Episode I, “Terminator: Special Edition,” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: Platinum Series” ^ Goddammit, you can’t help but get the Star Wars disc. Sure the movie is crap – save for that awesome pod race sequence – but the DVD shines. A fantastic Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack that’s sure to wow your friends for years to come. It includes a stellar documentary that might turn out to be the best of the year. It certainly won’t win the greatest DVD of all time contest, but still a worthy addition to any library. Reports were that Lucas spent $7 million dollars to finish the deleted scenes and even included some of them in the film – too bad the movie and the new scenes still suck a*s. ^ MGM’s awesome “Terminator Special Edition” deserves some recognition for being the first James Cameron film to include commentary by the director himself – if only in the deleted scenes. It’s a real shame too, since the guy sounds like he’s smart as hell and knows just what he’s doing with every second of screen time. The new soundtrack, remixed from crappy mono to full-blown Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, is really well done, with the movie now having much more resonance on the audio side of things, instead of being a purely visual film, as it was in the past. The documentary is extraordinary as well, with some real in-depth info on how the film came to be, and the struggle to get it made. ^ Disney also introduced their Platinum Series, starting with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” I got to tell ya, it’s a great disc. Disney’s special editions are usually a lot of sizzle without the substance, but this one delivers. Great introspective stuff, commentary and documentaries, you can’t call yourself an animation fan and not have it sitting on your shelf.
The Should Have Been: “The Godfather Collection” ^ Here we have Paramount’s DVD Folly of the Year. While Paramount has screwed up many, many releases, I think this one takes the cake. ^ “The Godfather Collection” is a 5-disc set that has “The Godfather” on disc 1, “The Godfather Part II” on discs 2 and 3 and “The Godfather Part III,” the bastard child of the series, on disc 4. Disc 5 is full of great supplements, but that’s about the most praise I can give this set. ^ Now I’m fully aware of the age of these films, and I don’t require “Citizen Kane”-like restoration on them to be satisfied, but damn. These prints are awful. In anamorphic widescreen, their flaws are just about all you can see. Grain, dirt, scratches, noise, it’s all there. Why bother using the same laserdisc masters that have been sitting around the Paramount vaults for years and years? Shitty a*s laserdisc masters just look like shitty a*s laserdisc masters, anamorphic or not. Did Francis Ford even look at these things? Hell, did anybody at Paramount? Not to mention they’re cropped to 1.78:1 for some ungodly reason. Why not show them in their full 1.85:1 glory? I know it’s trivial, but in a few shots it’s obvious that some of the actors are cut off by the framing. Considering “The Godfather” and “Part II” occupy two spots in the top 5 films of all time over at the IMDB (#1 and #5, respectively), this shoddy work is just unacceptable. ^ Did they think there wasn’t going to be demand? Do they think time restraints would stop people from buying it? They must have realized that fans have been waiting this long, and they would’ve gladly waited longer if promised brand new sparkling transfers, digitally enhanced and cleaned up, and new 5.1 Soundtracks that don’t suck. These new remixes, sorry guys, just ain’t going to cut it. Granted, the supplement disc is filled with good stuff and it’s a welcome addition to the set, but the movies themselves are of prime importance, and dropping the ball isn’t even the euphemism to begin with on this disaster.
The Hell No’s: The Mummy Returns Collector’s Edition ^ I put that in quotes for a reason. Bluntly put, this disc is one big f*****g commercial. There is not one thing on this disc-aside from the commentary-that has anything to do with the film other than promoting itself and “The Scorpion King,” the soon-to-be-bomb from “The Rock.” EPKs stacked on more EPKs just lead to anger when you realize how superficial this disc really is.
Get the rest of the list in the next part of FILM THREAT’S 2001 DVD YEAR IN REVIEW: NOV – DEC>>>