News and Commentary: July 1999

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Friday, 30 July 1999
Weekend Dispatch

Long weekend: We're taking the day off for some site maintenance, but new DVD reviews are on the way, including Payback, October Sky, and an extensive look at Criterion's out-of-print The Killer. We'll also announce the winner of our July DVD Contest (will you score our copy of A Bug's Life?), and we'll have a new contest and reader poll up and running as well. Check back on Monday for all the latest stuff, and have a great weekend.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 29 July 1999

In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

  • Paramount is on the board with the classic titles Barefoot In The Park and Breakfast At Tiffany's, in addition to the recent release The Out Of Towners. All are due on Sept. 21.
  • New stuff on the way from Columbia TriStar includes The Thirteenth Floor: Special Edition (Sept. 21), which will include a commentary by director Josef Rusnak and production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, and This Is My Father: Special Edition (Sept. 21), with a commentary by writer/director Paul Quinn and actor Aidan Quinn. Also look for Desert Heat (Sept. 28).
  • DreamWorks is planning a new disc of Forces Of Nature (Sept. 14) starring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck, which will include a featurette, "never-before-seen footage," and a trailer.
  • Anchor Bay is planning to release Night Of The Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Special Edition, which will feature over 15 minutes of new scenes, a commentary track, an "all-new musical score," behind-the-scenes footage, a still gallery, and lots more stuff. Other horror flicks on the way include Alice, Sweet Alice: Special Edition, Fade To Black, Hell Night: Special Edition, I Saw What You Did, New York Ripper, Nightmares, and Tenderness Of The Wolves: Special Edition. Get 'em all on Aug. 24.

boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: If you think the final night of Woodstock '99 was the most violent music festival ever, think twice. As far as rock festivals go, the original 1969 Woodstock may have made the greatest impression on American history, but the Altamont Speedway festival, held in the San Francisco Bay Area just four months later, was the most horrific, in part because five people died during the one-day event (one was stabbed to death), and because Bay Area filmmakers David and Albert Maysles captured the event on film, the landmark Gimme Shelter, which vividly illustrated a turning point in American popular culture. And it isn't on DVD.

The entire Altamont event was a recipe for disaster from the start. Held at a massive raceway, the crowd was estimated at 300,000 -- substantially more than the 150,000-to-225,000 who attended Woodstock '99. As a "free festival," no admission was charged, which meant that anybody off the street could show up. Drugs were taken by many attendees in dangerously large quantities. And perhaps worst of all, the Hells Angels were hired to handle security (legend has it they were paid 500 cases of beer for their trouble). Starting with a set by The Flying Burrito Brothers, the event seemed to begin well, even if some tempers were short, but by the time The Jefferson Airplane took the stage, clashes between audience members and the Angels got out of hand, as the bikers were given instructions to not let anybody on the stage and were only too happy to comply with the business end of pool cues. The scuffles became so bad that The Airplane began to have difficulty finishing songs, and by the time one of the band members was knocked unconscious, members of the group began having verbal confrontations with the biker gang -- using microphones to argue back and forth. Grace Slick tried to calm the crowd by declaring "You shouldn't be putting your body on other people's bodies unless your intent is love" -- but like so much hippie bullshit, her pleas went unheeded.

With night falling, The Rolling Stones -- the marquee act on the bill -- launched their set with "Sympathy for the Devil," and got barely into it until more scuffles brought the song to a halt. Like Slick, Mick Jagger began pleading with his "brothers and sisters" to "cool out," but even Keith Richards was getting so pissed off that he threatened to leave the stage. Jagger eventually managed to get the audience in front of the stage to sit down (!), but even this tactic failed. More fights broke out. More songs were abandoned before they could be finished. Bad vibes hung over the winter evening.

And then it happened. Meredith Hunter, a concert attendee, pulled what looked like a gun just feet from the stage. The Angels reacted swiftly, tackling him while one member drove a knife into his back. The incident was so swift that nobody even knew what had happened until Hunter was taken outside and zipped up in a bodybag. The Stones finished their set. The crowd began to disperse. And, as Gimme Shelter demonstrated, the '60s were over.

Gimme Shelter changed rock festivals, pop music, and they way Americans would come to regard the "peace-and-love" hippie credo (a mantra that actually preached that irresponsibility and self-indulgence are good things), and last week's Woodstock event marked a foreboding return of mob violence to the normally placid outdoor rock festivals of the last 30 years. But what makes Gimme Shelter so fascinating is that the entire film was captured by only three cameras, all of them on the stage during the concert footage, giving viewers the frightening impression that they are right there with the performers, trying to control an uncontrollable situation. It's a concert film told from the point of view of the musicians and not the audience, who are merely a violent, faceless mob. The video clips of distant bonfires from Woodstock '99 simply cannot compare, and the day-after footage from that abandoned Air Force base only asks the viewer to surmise what the violence must have been like. Gimme Shelter captures the violence -- the "day-after" stuff is saved for the end of the film, when Mick Jagger is shown the film clip of Meredith Hunter being stabbed in the back. The normally animated singer, unable to summon up much comment, simply looks like he's going to be sick. Before long, the Stones would only perform stadium gigs behind tall chain-link fences.

As low-budget independent filmmakers, it was the Maysles brothers themselves who handled two of the cameras at Altamont, but they knew that they needed a third, causing David to recruit a young film student for the job. It was one of his first film projects. Did he capture the brutal stabbing of Meredith Hunter? The incident happened quickly, and the budding cinematographer has since said that he can't remember -- but it could have been his camera.

His name was George Lucas.

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 28 July 1999

Mailbag: Wednesday is mail day here at The DVD Journal. Let's get to it:

  • Why not identify Orion Pictures as the studio that produced Excalibur (and 10, Silence of the Lambs, Dances with Wolves, Amadeus, Platoon, Wall Street, Caddyshack, Robocop, etc.)? For ten years Orion produced many of the best films in Hollywood. Although Warner Brothers was the parent distribution company, and the video rights to Orion films belong to other companies such as Image Entertainment, I think that Orion deserves to be identified as the creator/producer of these and many other excellent films.

    -- Edward

    The reason why we don't talk about Orion too much is because they don't produce any DVDs, and our main editorial focus here is new DVD releases. We agree that Orion was an important studio when they were in business, but the vast majority of our readers aren't concerned with who originally produced a particular film for theatrical release -- they want to know who is going to make the disc. As it stands right now, most DVD fans know that there is a flavor to the current releases, and which studio is producing a DVD can make the difference between pre-ordering the disc, renting it, or skipping it altogether in some cases. If a popular title is on the way from MGM or Columbia TriStar for example, it's pretty much a slam-dunk that the disc is going to be of acceptable quality. However, some other studios and budget-video companies (we won't name names here) have released questionable transfers. We expect many of our readers to grasp that a new disc of Excaliburfrom Warner will probably be of good quality (the Kubrick Collection aside, Warner still has a good batting average), and furthermore, that it will have a lower street price than some other releases.

    However, when a movie has yet to arrive on disc (see our DVD MIA List for some choice titles), we often will note which studio originally produced the film, since it's a good way to determine who would street any new DVD release. Many films on our MIA list are noted to be Orion films, and if they are released, they would most likely come from Image, who currently holds the home-video rights to the Orion catalog.

  • I think you guys SUCK at reviewing movies!!!!!

    -- Devin

    Whatever. Next letter, please....

  • I recently saw Hard Boiled: The Criterion Collection listed at an auction site as out-of-print. Is it?

    -- Mark

    It is decidedly not, which is why everybody who buys stuff from online auctions should do their homework first. As for Hard Boiled: The Criterion Collection, all you have to do is drop by the Criterion website ( and get a look at their current catalog, where you will find Hard Boiled, along with a number of other excellent discs. As of this point, only four Criterion DVDs are out-of-print -- The Killer, The 400 Blows, Salo, and This is Spinal Tap. We're happy to note that we have recently obtained a copy of Criterion's Killer disc, and even though it's no longer for sale, we should have a new review of it on the board next week.

    More Lucas retitles: We don't know what George Lucas is going to do next, but after he chose to retitle Raiders of the Lost Ark the more laborious Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark for the upcoming VHS re-release, we've gone to our deepest sources to learn what new cine-monikers The Man is working on:

    • Luke Skywalker and the Return of the Jedi
    • Indiana Jones and His Dad and The Last Crusade
    • Darth Vader and His Empire Strike Back
    • Howard: The Duck That Talks
    • The Very Odd Story of the Radioland Murders
    • A Guy in the Future Who Is Named THX 1138
    • American Kids Who Ride Around In Hot-Rods Looking For Action
    • Tucker: The Man and His Dream To Make a Car With Three Headlights

    But it's all just speculation at this point....

    Panasonic set to ship: With the official launch of DVD Audio just around the corner, Panasonic has announced that they are prepared to street two new DVD Audio/Video players in October. On the way will be the Panasonic DVD-A7 (MSRP $999.95), and the Technics DVD-A10 ($1,199.95), and both players will handle DVD Audio discs, DVD Video discs, and conventional CDs. Those of you who adopted DVD Video early enough to remember when the players had price tags like these, raise your hands now.

    Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:

    1. Ghostbusters
    2. La Femme Nikita
    3. Brazil: The Criterion Collection
    4. Patch Adams
    5. A Civil Action
    6. She's All That
    7. The Stanley Kubrick Collection
    8. Enemy of the State
    9. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
    10. Chaplin

    Scorsese takes a walk: Martin Scorsese (we don't have to tell you who he is, do we?) got married last week to Helen Morris, a book editor who collaborated with the noted director on the book version of Kundun. It is her second marriage, his fifth, and the details of the hush-hush ceremony were released yesterday by a Scorsese spokesman. In fact, here's the entire press release:

    "Martin Scorsese and Helen Morris were married
    Thursday July 22 in New York City."

    Translation: "If you're reading this, you weren't invited."

    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 27 July 1999

    In the Works: Criterion is currently updating their release calendar for August, but the word on the street is that both Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps and Stanley Donen's Charade will be released this year as Criterion Collection discs. Both films have already arrived on DVD (LaserLight's 39 Steps was a pretty good transfer; the two budget editions of Charade aren't so hot), but these new discs are sure to be standard-setting stuff.

    In other DVD news, Image has acquired the rights to Cheryl Crow: The Globe Sessions Tour 1999, a live concert taped in Detroit, and it is expected they will street a new DVD later this year, complete with Dolby Digital, DTS, and stereo tracks, all overseen by Crow herself. A shortened version of the concert will air on VH-1 in September, but Image says that the forthcoming DVD will have additional concert footage.

    On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Baby Geniuses
    • Bed Of Roses
    • Blast From The Past
    • The Car
    • City Hall
    • Congo
    • Deathtrap
    • The Happiest Millionaire
    • Heat
    • Heaven Can Wait
    • In Country
    • In Love and War
    • Insomnia: The Criterion Collection
    • King Kong (1976)
    • Lansky
    • Love Jones
    • Never Talk To Strangers
    • Night Shift
    • Noah's Ark (1999)
    • October Sky: Special Edition
    • Out Of The Blue: Special Edition
    • Payback
    • South Central
    • Striptease

    Surf's Up: Those of you with a taste for horror films on DVD might want to drop by DVD Nightmare, a new website dedicated to everything that's scary on disc. The editors are just getting started, but we think it's going to be a great source of DVD horror info.

    Get in the game: If you haven't entered our Free DVD Contest for this month, this week's your last chance to score a copy of Disney's A Bug's Life, so be sure to drop by our Monthly Contest Page, and don't forget to take our reader poll while you're there.

    See ya later.

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 26 July 1999

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Terry Gilliam's 1985 Brazil doesn't take place in the future, even though the totalitarian state it depicts resembles the cautionary novels of Aldus Huxley and George Orwell. Brazil doesn't take place in the past either, despite it's Art Deco milieu, 1930s clothing and hairstyles, and clunky, jerry-rigged technology. Brazil happens in the 20th century -- it just isn't our 20th century. It's more like Franz Kafka's 20th Century. In this parallel society of writer/director Terry Gilliam's fervent imagination, the government watches over everything, ruling with all the efficiency that a massive bureaucratic machine can muster. Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is one of the civil servants working for the Department of Records, but he's not the type who throws himself into his job. Instead, he dreams, and always about the same thing -- saving his damsel-in-distress (Kim Griest) from the Forces of Darkness. But Sam's waking nightmare, the society in which he lives and the government he serves, has no use for dreamers or hopeless romantics -- and he knows it. Sam's is a conformist, far too mild-mannered to question the system. But after Sam encounters renegade handyman Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro) -- the sort of lone hero that he only dreams of being -- he glimpses a young woman who is unmistakably the girl of his dreams. Suddenly, Sam decides to track the girl down -- just so he can tell her he has been dreaming about her and that he loves her. This DVD edition of Brazil brings Criterion's five Laserdiscs platters to a more manageable three, and with all of the benefits that DVD has to offer. One glance at the extras on this big box is all you will need before you cancel your weekend plans. The Gilliam-approved 142-minute cut of Brazil (including a commentary track by Gilliam) is on Disc One, and it looks great. Disc Two holds all the extras, including textual and video supplements on script development, storyboards, production design, costume design, special effects, and production and publicity stills. The original theatrical trailer can also be found here, along with a documentary short on the score with composer Michael Kamen, Rob Hedden's 30-minute documentary "What is Brazil?", which features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with the cast and crew, and the 60-minute feature "The Battle of Brazil," a detailed look at the struggles between Gilliam and the bean-counters at Universal. Disc Three offers the Universal-cut "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil with a commentary track by journalist David Morgan. Have no doubt about two things: Brazil is a great film, perhaps Gilliam's best, full of shocking images, dark humor, and visual surprises. And Brazil: The Criterion Collection is, to date, the most impressive DVD package to ever hit the street.

    Indiana Jones and the (fill in the blank): Been waiting for Raiders of the Lost Ark to arrive on DVD? Well, if it ever does, it won't be called that, because the powers-that-be at Lucasfilm (possessed by another snit of reworking stuff that's already done) have officially retitled the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in preparation for a remastered VHS release later this year. Presumably, all original videotapes, lobby posters, and other memorabilia from that title that never existed will be rounded up and destroyed -- much as the original Star Wars trilogy was.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Haunting
      $33,000,000 ($33,000,000 to date)
    2. Inspector Gadget
      $22,000,000 ($22,000,000 to date)
    3. American Pie
      $10,300,000 ($64,700,000 to date)
    4. Eyes Wide Shut
      $9,900,000 ($40,100,000 to date)
    5. Big Daddy
      $6,100,000 ($146,100,000 to date)
    6. Lake Placid
      $5,500,000 ($21,300,000 to date)
    7. Wild Wild West
      $5,400,000 ($104,100,000 to date)
    8. The Wood
      $4,900,000 ($16,400,000 to date)
    9. Tarzan
      $4,800,000 ($152,400,000 to date)
    10. The Phantom Menace
      $4,200,000 ($402,900,000 to date)
    11. Drop Dead Gorgeous
      $4,000,000 ($4,000,000 to date)
    12. The General's Daughter
      $3,900,000 ($94,100,000 to date)

    On the Board: A new full review of Brazil: The Criterion Collection has been posted and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Clerks: Collector's Series, Witness, Can't Hardly Wait, The Parallax View, and Westworld, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

    We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.

    -- Ed.

    Friday, 23 July 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Warner is dipping into their back-catalog for some exciting new titles, including two John Boorman films, Deliverance and Excalibur. Also look for Rebel Without a Cause: Special Edition, which will include a behind-the-scenes documentary, documentary TV segments, and trailers, The Pajama Game, Sommersby, and the excellent Local Hero. All are due on Sept. 21.
    • You know that the silly season must be on the way, because Warner is also planning to street A Christmas Story and a double-feature of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who. Both discs are due on Sept. 28.
    • The original disc of Re-Animator may have been deep-sixed, but Pioneer is preparing a disc of Bride of Re-Animator: Special Edition (Oct. 5), which will include a commentary track, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and even more stuff.
    • For those of you who like to snap up an investment, Image has announced that they will no longer distribute their double-feature DVD of Plan 9 From Outer Space and The Ed Wood Story due to a potential rights dispute. The forthcoming Plan 9 disc acquired from the Wade Williams Collection will take its place, which Image says is fully authorized. Grab the discontinued one if you can find it anywhere, because it's probably going to go for big bucks on eBay before much longer.
    • The upcoming Warner special edition of The Wizard Of Oz (the rights to which they recently acquired from MGM) will come in two separate versions -- one will be the feature-packed disc, whereas the "Deluxe Edition Gift Set" will also include a reproduction of the original script, still photos, and color theatrical poster reproductions. We're guessing it's the latter that will sport the hefty $50 retail price we reported earlier this week.

    No f#%ing way, dude!: A recent analysis of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut by Media Update, a Colorado-based firm, has scientifically determined that the new Trey Parker/Matt Stone flick is the most f#%ing profane movie in history, beating out the previous record-holder, 1994's Pulp Fiction. According to Media Update, the brief 80-minute feature includes no less than 399 foul words and 128 crude gestures -- a whopping five foul expressions per minute. In addition, Bigger, Longer, and Uncut also features 221 violent acts, which comes out to nearly three per minute. It sounds hella-cool until you remember that Parker and Stone actually had to tone down the movie in order to receive an 'R' rating from the MPAA. We can only wonder what the original version is like -- and if Paramount will have the cajones to release it on DVD.

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including a look at the new three-disc set of Brazil: The Criterion Collection, as well as others. Check back on Monday morning for all the latest.

    Have a great weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday, 22 July 1999

    Diamond gets out of the rough: Coming off a losing fiscal year, budget home-video company Diamond Entertainment has announced that they will begin producing DVDs, hoping to take advantage of the ever-growing DVD market. Diamond does not own any exclusive films, but they specialize in many licensed and public-domain titles, and have released VHS editions of Life With Father, Meet John Doe, and Pygmalion, amongst others -- all of which could turn up on disc. The company also produces their own video collections of favorite performers, such as The Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Milton Berle. Look for new discs from Diamond sometime in 2000.

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Summer is in full swing, and even though it will soon be gone, one American filmmaker back in 1965 wondered what it would be like if summer lasted forever. The result was The Endless Summer from documentarian, avid surfer, and California boy Bruce Brown, a fascinating, funny documentary, and even though it has become the ultimate surf flick over many years, it has yet to arrive on DVD. Brown, who clearly was more interested in pipelines than lens caps, created this film around one simple-but-ingenious idea -- what would it be like if he followed two surfers around the world for almost a year, dipping south of the equator during the winter months to take advantage of the down-under summer? And beyond that, what would happen if they decided to seek out beaches and waves that had yet to see a surfboard? Back in '65, surfing was pretty much confined to Southern California and Hawaii, but Brown surmised (correctly) that even better waves existed on foreign shores. With ace surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson as Brown's subjects, the three began their now-storied journey in Africa, where they demonstrated the new sport for fascinated locals, who decided to have a go at it as well. In Africa they also discovered "the perfect wave" on an isolated beach -- a long, slow curl that could be ridden for up to a minute or more without stopping. Surfing pals were found in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and some fantastic footage of the Hawaiian shores -- featuring the world's biggest waves and some astonishing wipe-outs -- is unforgettable stuff. Throughout it all, Brown offers a tongue-in-cheek commentary that demonstrates his love for a sport that he doesn't take too seriously. After all, as The Endless Summer tells us, surfing -- and summer -- is supposed to be about having fun. Let's hope this one arrives on disc in time for next year's surf season.

    DVD honors: Award finalists in several categories for this year's Discus Awards for Creative Excellence have been announced, and notably in the Consumer DVD category, which will include From the Earth to the Moon, Ghostbusters, and Tomorrow Never Dies. In Best Packaging category, top discs include From the Earth to the Moon, More Tales of the City, Pleasantville, and The Ten Commandments. The winners will be announced Aug. 16 at the DVD PRO Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco.

    A sad farewell: British film producer and director David Puttnam -- the man behind such classics as Chariots of Fire, Midnight Express, and The Killing Fields -- has announced that he is retiring from film in order to pursue his position with the British government. Puttnam, who was also the chairman of Columbia pictures for a brief period in the 1980s, told Reuters that "I just can't swing back between the world of reality and real problems and the world of dreams anymore." Puttnam was granted a life peerage in the House of Lords in 1997 by Prime Minister Tony Blair, and currently is a junior minister for education. We will miss his contributions to cinema, but don't think he has any regrets about his career change. "I'm very happy to be moving to a world of real people making real money," Puttnam noted, "and away from one of some absurd people making some very unreal money. I'm no longer having conversations with people about how large their Winnebago is." Puttnam's final film, A Life So Far, opens in the United States this weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 21 July 1999

    It would be funny if it wasn't true: Remember Divx? That pay-to-play DVD format brought to you by... uhh... who was that retailer?....

    Of course, you say, Circuit City. You didn't forget -- but The Big Plug would rather you had, because this morning has seen the launch of, a new consumer website from the folks in Richmond offering all sorts of hi-tech gadgets and goodies, including DVDs. Open DVDs. And they'd sure like y'all to drop by and get a few of 'em, because they're really behind the DVD format. It's gonna be the next big thing. It ain't crap, like that Dix... Divi....

    What was that pay-per-view thingamaroo called?....

    DVDs Done Dirt Cheap: So screw that. We don't want you to pay retail, and our friends at have the cheapest DVDs on the Web, so punch this link and get the goods. Here's this week's rock-bottom discs:

    1. Titanic (pre-order) -- $14.99 (!)
    2. Ghostbusters -- $14.99 (!)
    3. There's Something About Mary (pre-order) -- $17.49
    4. The Prince of Egypt (pre-order) -- $17.49
    5. Payback (pre-order) -- $14.99
    6. The Replacement Killers -- $14.99
    7. La Femme Nikita -- $12.49
    8. Psycho (1998) -- $17.49
    9. Chaplin -- $12.49
    10. Patch Adams -- $12.49

    Those prices are not typos -- and don't forget, DVDs at ship for less than two bucks.

    The "Men" might be back: Judging by your letters and reader poll comments, 1997's Men in Black is one of the most anticipated movies that has yet to arrive on DVD -- and according to Reuters, enough time has passed for Columbia TriStar to start planning a sequel by hiring screenwriter Robert Gordon to draft a new script. However, neither Will Smith nor Tommy Lee Jones has signed for a second movie, and if Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment gets behind the project (Spielberg's production company oversaw the first film, which is why there's no DVD), his cut could be as high as 50%. But the Sony-owned Columbia TriStar is still interested in pursuing the sequel -- not least in part because Men in Black was the highest-grossing film in CT's history.

    For the geek who has everything: Hey, wanna buy a Phantom Menace lobby poster? Signed by every member in the cast and George Lucas too? The only one in existence? Well, if your dad is Bill Gates or somebody like that, the auction for this one-of-a-kind one-sheet is this Friday.

    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 20 July 1999

    Bond is back! MGM is planning to re-release titles in their deep-sixed Bond series starting on Oct. 19, but this time The Lion, as part of their 75th Anniversary celebration, will release all 19 Bond films as special editions. The news is not a complete surprise, since MGM made no secret that their Bond library was only on moratorium until the latest Bond flick, The World Is Not Enough, opens in American theaters this holiday season, but the comprehensive release of all Bond films is a welcome note. Start saving your pennies now.

    In the Works: Here's some more new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Horror fans get ready for the upcoming New Line box set The Nightmare On Elm Street Collection, which will include all seven Elm Street slashers with lots of extras and an eighth disc called "The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia." Look for it on Sept. 7 with a suggested retail of $129.98.
    • Warner is planning to release The Wizard Of Oz: Special Edition on Oct. 19, and it will be a comprehensive disc, including a "making-of" documentary hosted by Angela Lansbury; outtakes (including the rarely seen "Jitterbug" dance); interviews with Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley; trailers; outtakes from the original recording sessions; excerpts from previous versions of "Oz," including the 1914 and 1925 silent films and the 1933 cartoon version; a portrait gallery; special effects stills and stills from the Hollywood premiere; original sketches and storyboards; costume designs and make-up tests; rare still photos; and color theatrical poster reproductions. If it sounds packed, it won't come cheap -- suggested retail is $49.98.
    • Three new South Park discs are also on the way from Warner, all due on Oct. 12 with a nice street price of around $15 each.
    • Columbia TriStar has a slew of new releases on the board, including A Soldier's Story: Special Edition (Aug. 31), The Dark Crystal (Sept. 21), Idle Hands: Special Edition (Aug. 31), Frank Capra's 1931 Lost Horizon: Special Edition (Aug. 31), and Howard Hawks 1939 Only Angels Have Wings (Aug. 31).
    • Columbia TriStar has also announced that they will re-release their disc of Silverado with the correct aspect ratio, but no new street date has been announced. The current disc has been discontinued.
    • Disney has announced new discs of Halloween H20: Special Edition and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Both are due on Sept. 28.
    • Fox has announced new DVDs of Strange Days (Sept. 7), Ravenous (Sept. 21), and Wallace and Gromit: The Complete Collection (Sept. 7), which will include all three Wallace and Gromit animation shorts on one disc.
    • An eclectic group of new releases is on the way from Fox Lorber, including Antonia's Line, the controversial documentary Kurt and Courtney, the 1997 Mrs. Dalloway, and a two-disc set of The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. Get 'em all on Sept. 28.

    On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, also courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • 8MM: Special Edition
    • The 400 Blows
    • Always
    • The Associate
    • Bye Bye Birdie
    • Chihuly Over Venice: The Criterion Collection
    • Circuit Music Journal 1:2
    • Double Platinum
    • Down In The Delta
    • Earth Girls Are Easy: Special Edition
    • The General
    • Hilary and Jackie
    • Mallrats: Special Edition
    • Mercury Rising (DTS)
    • Plan 9 From Outer Space/The Ed Wood Story
    • Return Of The Pink Panther
    • The Trigger Effect
    • Virus: Special Edition
    • Xanadu

    See ya.

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 19 July 1999

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: In The Name of the Father a powerful 1993 film from director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot), tells the true story of the "Guilford Four," who were wrongly identified as IRA terrorists by the British government and given lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit. The outstanding performances by Daniel Day Lewis and Pete Posthlewaite dominate the film, as Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon, the son and father who share a single cell and a lifetime of frustrations with each other, and while Lewis delivers another in a string of excellent film roles, the opportunity to see the gifted Posthlewaite (too often a supporting actor) take on a leading role should not be missed. Emma Thompson gives support as the English barrister who takes on the Guilford case, and while her appearance here is enjoyable, she essentially walks through a role that requires nothing but a walk-through anyway. The interrogation scenes in the first part of the movie are some of the most harrowing ever filmed, effectively portraying how experienced police officers can force a confession from a suspect with relentless psychological torture. The court scenes that frame the film are engaging as well, but don't expect In The Name of the Father to be either a cop movie or a legal thriller -- all of the really interesting stuff happens behind prison walls, between a father and son who never form a relationship until the worst of circumstances force them to confront their mutual disappointment in each other, and Sheridan does a commendable job of turning what could have been a routine political statement into something much more worthy -- a drama about love, sacrifice, and redemption. The DVD from Universal may have little more than the movie, a trailer, and some production notes, but it's one of our favorites and well worth a spin.

    Hi-Def Horizon: For those of you interested in the upcoming DVD Audio and SACD music formats, E-Town has posted the details of their recent hi-def audio poll. The results? We'd call 'em pretty inconclusive -- but it still makes for an interesting read. As for our monthly Reader Poll, about half of you have indicated that you are "curious" about DVD Audio or SACD, but very few of you have any plans to buy either one of these new audio formats in the near future.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. Eyes Wide Shut
      $22,800,000 ($22,800,000 to date)
    2. American Pie
      $13,300,000 ($45,300,000 to date)
    3. Big Daddy
      $10,500,000 ($134,600,000 to date)
    4. Lake Placid
      $10,200,000 ($10,200,000 to date)
    5. Wild Wild West
      $10,000,000 ($94,000,000 to date)
    6. The Wood
      $8,600,000 ($8,600,000 to date)
    7. Tarzan
      $7,400,000 ($142,800,000 to date)
    8. The Phantom Menace
      $5,300,000 ($394,900,000 to date)
    9. The General's Daughter
      $5,200,000 ($87,900,000 to date)
    10. Muppets From Space
      $5,100,000 ($7,000,000 to date)
    11. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
      $4,600,000 ($190,900,000 to date)
    12. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
      $4,300,000 ($43,400,000 to date)

    On the Board: A new full review has been posted for Your Friends and Neighbors, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Varsity Blues, Patch Adams: Collector's Edition, In The Name of the Father, Rollerball, and Jesus Christ Superstar, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

    R.I.P.: And if you're thinking about heading out to your local multiplex sometime this week to enjoy a movie in one of those concrete boxes with sticky floors and squeaky seats, take a moment to remember Stan Durwood the longtime chairman of AMC Entertainment, who died over the weekend. Over several decades, Durwood built the AMC chain from a mere 10 theaters in Kansas to more than 2,700 screens today, and in his pursuit of more seats, more screens, and more profits, Durwood is credited with inventing the multiplex, a phenomenon that transported moviegoers from massive gala theaters to shopping malls, following the progression of Americans from urban homes to suburban living after the end of the Second World War. And if you hate multiplexes, also know that Durwood is credited with both stadium seating and installing the cupholders on your seat -- innovations for which we are grateful. Durwood was 78.

    -- Ed.

    Friday, 16 July 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Columbia TriStar has announced a disc of Sense and Sensibility: Special Edition, which will include two commentary tracks, one with Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran, the other with director Ang Lee and co-producer James Schamus. The disc will also feature deleted scenes and Thompson's Golden Globe acceptance speech (she nabbed a statuette for her adapted screenplay). Also expect a Columbia TriStar disc of Go: Special Edition, which will include a commentary track with director Doug Limon and editor Stephen Mirrione, a featurette, 14 deleted scenes, three music videos, and a trailer. Both are due on August 24.
    • Ken Russell fans can look forward to a new disc from Pioneer of his 1988 Salome's Last Dance, which will include a commentary by Russell. Look for it on August 14.
    • If you like the MTV claymation-fest "Celebrity Deathmatch," a DVD collection of fave fights is due from Sony on Sept. 7. Fans of more family-friendly claymation can look forward to a new DVD of the 1964 Rankin-Bass Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, due on Aug. 31.
    • Rhino is planning to release a new disc in their "Classic Albums" series, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland (Aug. 24), which will feature interviews and rare archival footage.
    • Several Truffaut films are on the way from Fox Lorber, including Jules and Jim, Soft Skin, Stolen Kisses, The Woman Next Door, Bed and Board, and a collection of Truffaut shorts. Get all of 'em on Aug. 24.
    • Simitar is preparing the box sets The Godzilla Collection and The Jackie Chan Collection for release on August 3 with a suggested retail of $69.99. The monster-mash will include Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Godzilla's Revenge, Terror of Mechagodzilla, and the special effects documentary "The Art of Illusion." The Chan set will include New Fist of Fury, To Kill with Intrigue, Spiritual Kung Fu, Fearless Hyena, Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, and Fearless Hyena 2.

    Hi-Def Horizon: Before you start saving up for that spendy HDTV, be aware that E-Town is reporting that the fledgling DTV/HDTV format suffered a double-blow this week that leaves its future prospects in undetermined territory. First, Sinclair Broadcasting is lobbying the FCC to dump their convoluted DTV broadcast standards altogether, which could set the format back several years. Secondly, the marketing group Forrester Research released a study this week noting that one-third of all U.S. consumers have never heard of DTV. Forrester also notes that the preferred size of television for consumers is 27" -- not a small screen, to be sure, but not large enough either to reveal the dramatic improvement in resolution that 40"+ HDTV screens can deliver. As a result, Forrester regards the future prognosis of DTV as "poor."

    A big-ass DTV in every American living room may sound nice, but as we've noted before, just because the U.S. government is passing laws that force broadcasters and cable-providers to deliver DTV signals, they can't force American consumers to buy these new-fangled sets. Frankly, with most consumers still buying $99 mono VCRs like mad, we have never understood what market forces are supposed to make $5,000 DTVs all the rage. And if it takes the government to launch a new CE format (something they have no business doing, frankly), we fail to see where the consumer demand is. After all, the FCC didn't invent DVD, and we didn't need a bunch of laws to create a viable new entertainment format. We don't expect DTV development to end tomorrow, but at the same time, unless there's a massive price-drop in these sets, we don't expect our 520-line NTSC televisions to disappear anytime soon either.

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Varsity Blues, Patch Adams, In the Name of the Father, and others. Check back on Monday morning for all the latest stuff.

    Have a great weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday, 15 July 1999

    Image scores more rights: Those hard-working folks at Image Entertainment have done it again, gaining the rights to release on DVD films from the Wade Williams Collection. Williams, a noted film producer, has spent years collecting and maintaining prints of several classic Hollywood films from the 1950s, and among the titles we can expect from his library on disc are D.O.A., And Then There Were None, and Detour. Williams has also collected several sci-fi/horror classics, including such titles as Kronos, Destination Moon, and Rocketship X-M. Also expect new transfers from Image of several Ed Wood films, such as Plan 9 From Outer Space, Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait, and Night of the Ghouls. A combination of original '50s poster art and new artwork will be used for the packaging of these discs, and if many of these titles sound like they'd be worth a few chuckles, it's still good to know that a substantial portion of Hollywood schlock history will be committed to DVD for eternity. At least we think it's a good thing.

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 The Conversation has yet to arrive on DVD, but some fans of the film got an odd glimpse of it when Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott's Enemy of the State was released on DVD a couple of weeks ago. In that action-fest, Gene Hackman plays Brill, a former NSA agent whose knowledge of electronic surveillance saves a harried Will Smith from the bad guys. The movie's a fun ride for Hackman fans, but his portrayal of Brill -- with his privacy, paranoia, and even his eyeglasses -- is a drop-dead doppleganger for Harry Caul, Coppola's protagonist from 25 years earlier. Hackman's role in The Conversation is an unusual one for him, since he's often typecast either as hot-headed anti-heroes or nasty villains. Harry Caul is neither. He is simply a talented, well-paid electronic spy who lives his life in relative seclusion, presumably because he knows what can happen to people who don't safeguard their privacy. Often working for corporate clients who want to get the scoop on their competition, Caul is also a moral seclusionist, wanting to believe that he is simply an instrument for other people's deeds and trying not to care about what they do with the information he provides them. But when a new client asks him to trail two employees, Caul is convinced that his electronic targets will soon become the targets of an assassin, forcing him into the sort of ethical dilemma that he has lived his life to avoid.

    The supporting cast in The Conversation is full of Coppola regulars, including Cindy Williams, who had previously starred in the Coppola-produced American Graffiti, and Frederic Forrest, who turned up in Apocalypse Now (and keep your eyes open for a young Harrison Ford, who had supporting roles in both movies). Coming between The Godfather, Part II and Apocalypse Now, two movies that have had far greater impact on filmgoers, The Conversation has been sadly overlooked by all but the most serious Coppola fans, and with neither of those films on DVD yet, the odds of a Conversation disc are not good. The fact that the VHS edition is currently unavailable isn't a promising sign either. Paramount's got the rights to this one -- let's hope they're taking care of the print.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 14 July 1999

    Mailbag: It's time to clean out some of the reader mail here at The DVD Journal:

  • I've heard that after the Criterion edition of This Is Spinal Tap was discontinued, both Robocop and The Silence of the Lambs as Criterion Collection discs are going to be discontinued as well. Is there any truth to this rumor? If so, I'm figuring these discs will not ever be available in the same way again. I already own Robocop and have just picked up Silence, and now I'm wondering if these discs will become collectors' discs too? When are they supposed to disappear, and how much will they be worth if they do?

    -- Thomas

    Criterion is not a film studio, and as such they do not own any films. In order to produce their excellent line of DVDs they have to purchase licenses from studios, which means that everything in the Criterion Collection that is not a public-domain title (i.e., virtually every American film made in the last 50 years), stands to go out-of-print sooner or later. The second-hand Laserdisc market is full of prized Criterion lasers that were only released for a limited time, and even though many of these films have since been released on DVD by their studios (e.g., Se7en and Taxi Driver, to name two), the Criterion lasers offered much better features that won't be on any studio-produced DVDs, since the studio owns the film but Criterion owns the extras. With This Is Spinal Tap now discontinued from the Criterion line to make way for a studio release, that particular disc and its plentiful extras will probably never arrive on retail shelves ever again. We haven't heard any specific word about either Robocop or The Silence of the Lambs, but we would be far from surprised if they disappeared in the near future. And since that's often the case with Criterion stuff, we make a point of buying their DVDs first. After all, what's more likely to be removed from the market -- Criterion's Armageddon or Buena Vista's Armageddon? One disc might be living on borrowed time, whereas the other is a home-video cash cow for its proprietary studio. As for how much DVDs are worth when they go out of print, their value is no more (nor less) than what the market will bear, primarily via online auctions. To get a look at some recent auction prices for rare DVDs, read on.

    On the Block: Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare DVDs from online auctions at eBay :

    1. THX Trailer DVD -- $355.00
    2. Little Shop of Horrors -- $222.50
    3. Leon (aka The Professional), region 2 -- $202.50
    4. Salo: The Criterion Collection -- $177.50
    5. Re-Animator -- $158.50
    6. The Killer: The Criterion Collection -- $152.50
    7. Platoon -- $109.50
    8. Live at Knebworth -- $83.00
    9. The Usual Suspects -- $81.00
    10. This Is Spinal Tap: The Criterion Collection -- $76.00

    The Lion's turf: Sure, some movie studios may still have their big toe in the water when it comes to DVD, but not MGM. At a shareholders meeting on Monday, MGM Chairman Alex Yemenidjian said that, in addition to several new policies designed to put the roar back into the Lion, an emphasis on DVD and other home-video technologies would form a key part of MGM's future marketing strategy. In addition, MGM is thinking of launching their own cable movie channel, which would be filled with the more than 5,000 movies currently in the studio's vaults. Yemenidjian said that Monday's wide-ranging meeting, which covered everything from e-commerce to actors' paychecks, would be remembered as "the defining moment when MGM once again became a force in the entertainment industry." Maybe so -- since it certainly won't be when MGM's The Mod Squad arrives on DVD in a few more weeks.

    Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:

    1. Ghostbusters
    2. The Truman Show
    3. Blade
    4. Patch Adams
    5. Practical Magic
    6. Full Metal Jacket
    7. The Stanley Kubrick Collection
    8. Rushmore
    9. Enemy of the State
    10. Varsity Blues

    "Eyes Wide" altered, part deux: After telling you about the digital alteration of an orgy scene from Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, which opens this weekend (see yesterday's update), the adjusted film has been screened for several critics -- and they ain't happy. Newsweek magazine's take? "Annoying and ludicrous." Roger Ebert claims that "the altered version is a travesty," and in his review for The Chicago Sun-Times he even compared the 65-second sequence to some carefully crafted visual gags in Austin Powers. However, since the MPAA-requested digital impositions are only required to gain an "R" rating in U.S. theaters, the altered Eyes Wide Shut will only be shown on these shores, whereas international audiences will be shown the original Kubrick-approved vision.

    Didn't we suggest something yesterday about an "unrated" Eyes Wide Shut on DVD? Now we're pretty much expecting it.

    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 13 July 1999

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements posted recently at Image Entertainment:

    • Trek fans can rejoice that Paramount is now issuing classic Trek TV episodes on disc. Look for Star Trek TV #1, which will include "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Corbomite Maneuver," and Star Trek TV #2, containing "Mudd's Women" and "The Enemy Within." Paramount has also announced new discs for 200 Cigarettes and Three Days Of The Condor. Look for all of these on August 17.
    • PolyGram will street the UK cult hit Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, due on August 10.
    • Chow Yun-Fat fans can look forward to a New Line disc of The Corruptor, also starring Mark Wahlberg, and including a "making-of" featurette, a music video, and DVD-ROM content. Also expect new discs of Deep Cover, Set It Off, and The Players Club. All are due on August 10.
    • Fox is on the board with Bruce Lee: The Master Collection (Aug. 31), a box set that will include new discs of The Chinese Connection, Fists of Fury, Game of Death, and Return of the Dragon. Also look for new Fox DVDs of Bartok The Magnificent (Nov. 16), Office Space (Aug. 31), and Simply Irresistible (Aug 17).
    • Columbia TriStar is working on new discs for The Deep End of the Ocean, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams, Finding Graceland: Special Edition with Harvey Keitel, and Iron Eagle 1 with Louis Gossett Jr. All are due on August 10.
    • MGM is planing to release Ulee's Gold, starring Peter Fonda, The Mod Squad: The Movie with Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, and Omar Epps, Dirty Work starring Norm MacDonald, and Fled with Laurence Fishburn and Stephen Baldwin. Look for all of them on August 24.
    • Chris Rock fans can expect a new "The Best of the Chris Rock Show" disc from HBO on August 31.
    • The Warner-distributed DVD Mags has new editions on the way of both Short Cinema Journal (Aug. 17) and Circuit Music Journal (July 20).

    DVD newswire: The major news outlets have recently published a couple of new DVD stories, including a dispatch from Reuters on the high profile of DVD at last week's Video Software Dealers Association convention, and an Associated Press story on how filmmakers today start thinking about DVD production even before they roll the cameras. Check 'em out if you get the chance.

    On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • The 400 Blows
    • And Then There Were None (1945)
    • Brazil: The Criterion Collection
    • Central Station: Special Edition
    • A Civil Action
    • John Coltrane: Blue Train
    • Dangerous Minds
    • Little Voice
    • Pop-Up Videos: The'80s
    • Serial Mom: Special Edition
    • She's All That
    • Spy Hard
    • Your Friends and Neighbors: Special Edition

    As a footnote, the new edition of Truffaut's 400 Blows replaces the Criterion edition, which is now out-of-print and considered a collector's item.

    "Eyes Wide" altered: We seem to recall Tom Cruise claiming that he wouldn't allow any alterations of Stanley Kubrick's forthcoming Eyes Wide Shut, but the Motion Picture Association of America has indeed requested -- and received -- digital alterations during a 65-second orgy sequence that features, well, some serious booty-rumping. The alterations, which will digitally impose people in front of a few busy buttocks, was approved by the film's executive producer, Jan Harlan, who is also Kubrick's brother-in-law. There's no comment from Cruise yet, but if he's as pissed off as he claimed he would be, perhaps he'll use his considerable clout and ask Warner to street an uncut version on DVD. Eyes Wide Shut opens this weekend in the United States.

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 12 July 1999

    No Indy for you: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas's Indiana Jones trilogy -- one of the most highly anticipated film series that has yet to reach DVD -- will be digitally remastered and re-released on Oct. 26 in a widescreen VHS box set, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Are we gonna get the discs? Fuggetaboudit. It would seem that Spielberg and Lucas are no more interested in DVD than they are in eating broken glass, and the word from the Spielberg camp is the same one we've been hearing for months and months now -- no DVD release of Indiana Jonesis planned at this time. But hey, we can buy some new digital transfers of Indyon VHS! Thanks guys!

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Writers Harold Ramis and Dan Ackryod knew they were on to something when they created Ghostbusters, demonstrating that horror and comedy can be two great tastes that taste great together, and paving the way for other top-grossing sci-fi spook-outs such as Men in Black. Ramis and Ackroyd star along with Bill Murray as trio of New York academic burnouts who take their interest of the paranormal into the private sector as "Ghostbusters," a company that specializes in spiritual-pest extermination. But after a few routine removals of Big Apple hobgoblins, the 'busters soon discover that an apartment building on the edge of Central Park is a demon-beacon, as spooks take possession two residents (Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis) who will summon up "Zool," the alpha-female of the netherworld. How could things get worse? It's hard to imagine, unless you are unfortunate enough to cross paths with a 100-foot Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man, the hilarious centerpiece of the film's finale that has pretty much become a part of film history by now. Funny from start to finish, Ghostbusters became a phenomenon in 1984, due to both the rapid-fire gags as well as the creative special effects, and even if the optic-based creatures don't match up to the superior digital creations that Hollywood routinely turns out today, they still retain their charm (and especially the "slimer," a hungry little phantasm who causes the 'busters to destroy a downtown hotel). The three leads invest in well-defined characters, with the rational Ramis and optimist Ackroyd playing against Murray, who offers up a cynical running commentary throughout the film -- it's one of his best performances. The print looks nice, and the supplements on this disc can't be beat, especially the commentary track by Ramis, director Ivan Reitman, and producer Joe Medjuck, which is done in the style of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and nearly as entertaining as the film. Other supplements include feature-length production notes as subtitles, deleted scenes, a "making-of" featurette, a look at the special effects, and trailers. Columbia TriStar got this one right the first time, and this disc is sure to be the definitive edition of Ghostbusters for a very long time to come.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. American Pie
      $18,100,000 ($18,100,000 to date)
    2. Wild Wild West
      $16,700,000 ($76,400,000 to date)
    3. Big Daddy
      $16,300,000 ($116,800,000 to date)
    4. Tarzan
      $11,300,000 ($129,500,000 to date)
    5. The General's Daughter
      $8,100,000 ($79,400,000 to date)
    6. Arlington Road
      $7,400,000 ($7,400,000 to date)
    7. The Phantom Menace
      $7,400,000 ($385,000,000 to date)
    8. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
      $7,100,000 ($35,500,000 to date)
    9. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
      $6,500,000 ($182,200,000 to date)
    10. Summer of Sam
      $3,400,000 ($14,000,000 to date)
    11. Notting Hill
      $3,200,000 ($103,300,000 to date)
    12. An Ideal Husband
      $2,200,000 ($9,000,000 to date)

    On the Board: A new full review has been posted for Kundun, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include So I Married An Axe Murderer, Ghostbusters: Special Edition, 1941: Collector's Edition, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and The Towering Inferno, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

    We'll be back tomorrow with news on this week's street discs.

    -- Ed.

    Friday, 9 July 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    In the Works: Here's an eclectic group of new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Universal has several exciting new titles on the board, including a feature-packed The Prince Of Egypt: Special Edition (Sept. 14), which will include a commentary by directors Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells, a 30-minute "making-of" documentary, and several extras on the animation technology used for the film. Also look for Ed-TV: Special Edition (Aug. 17), featuring a commentary by director Ron Howard and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, a "making-of" featurette, deleted scenes and outtakes, and an isolated music score. Hitchcock fans can look forward to The Hitchcock Collection (Aug. 3), which will include the previously released Vertigo and Psycho, as well as four episodes from the TV series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" directed by The Master himself. Classic horror is also on the way in the form of James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein: Special Edition (August 17), including a commentary track (by whom we don't know), and a documentary and a trailer. Also in the works are Grace Of My Heart: Special Edition and Virus, both due on Aug. 17.
    • Criterion will release the documentary Chihuly Over Venice on July 20, which examines the work of internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, and in particular an intricate 14-chandelier design he created for the city of Venice.
    • Ed Wood fans can look forward to a two-disc set from Passport of Plan 9 From Outer Space and a documentary called The Ed Wood Story, due on July 20. The release will also include theatrical trailers for five Wood flicks.
    • Pioneer is planning to street Curtis Hanson's The Bedroom Window, starring Steve Guttenberg and Elizabeth McGovern, on Aug. 31.
    • The controversial documentary American Pimp is due on July 20 from MacDaddy.
    • The whole Titanic thing has definitely gotten out of hand. Why? Because Titanic: The Premiere, a 75-minute documentary about nothing more than the opening night of Big Jim's Big Boat Flick, held at Mann's Chinese Theatre, is on the way. Look for it from Passport on July 20.
    • Discs that have been postponed with no new date include The Crossing Guard and Up Close and Personal.
    • Finally, you know the cinephile demographic of DVD is getting squeezed when a title like Barney: Let's Play School turns up on the release schedule, with the added blurb from producer Lyric DVD that "Parents will never have to buy a replacement tape!" -- which fails to note that they will be constantly wiping peanut butter and saliva off this shiny, strangely fascinating little frisbee.

    Buena Vista no more?: Before all of you Mouse-haters get too excited over that lead, if Buena Vista disappears, it will be in name only. Top Mouse Michael Eisner announced yesterday that Buena Vista, Disney's home-video division, and ABC Prime Time, which is also owned by Disney, will merge into one company, the unimaginatively named ABC Entertainment Television Group. "This organization move is a further step in recognizing the changing television landscape," said Eisner, and will "prepare the Walt Disney Company for the beginning of the next century," -- a phrase that also indicates a distinct lack of imagination within the Magic Kingdom.

    In other studio news, the MGM shakeup that started at the beginning of this year continues, with MGM and the Disney-owned Miramax announcing a joint-production deal that will see eight films made between the venerable Lion and the Mouse's trendy (and very successful) specialty-film division. In exchange for the deal, Disney will be able to look over MGM's unproduced scripts, and they will also gain access to MGM's enormous film library, which is no small feat -- The Lion owns no less than 50% of all Hollywood films ever made.

    Kubrick commentaries: While we have been a little irritated that the recently released "Stanley Kubrick Collection" from Warner contained not even a single commentary track from the scores of people who have worked with Kubrick over the years (see Wednesday's update), the August issue of Premiere magazine has gone some way to help us get over it. In an extensive article entitled "Stanley Kubrick: A Cinematic Odyssey," Premiere managed to contact several Kubrick collaborators and get their comments and insights on his many films. If you're planning to spin a few of the new Kubrick discs this weekend, we recommend that you get your hands on this issue (it's the one with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton on the cover). If the article isn't a commentary track, it's the next-best thing. Here's a few of our favorite snippets:

    • "(Kubrick) was going to make Napoleon, and I think (Barry Lyndon) ended up being his version. He told me that he'd have to have the cooperation of an entire country to make Napoleon. He was wonderfully mathematical. He said, 'I'd need at least 5,000 extras a day. But where do you dress them? And then by the time they're dressed, it's lunch. So I'd need a government to help me do that.' "

      -- Ryan O'Neal, Barry Lyndon

    • "I found him fair, gentle. He was, of course, a perfectionist; I think it might have been a little tougher if you were on the technical side. If you were direct with him, everything was fine. Once, I mucked something up, and he said, 'What happened, Margaret?' I just said, 'I forgot the line, Stanley,' and he said, 'Okay.' But if had done any kind of bullshit, I might have been in a spot of bother."

      -- Margaret Tyzack, 2001: A Space Odyssey

    • "Stanley said, 'Well, this is the bit where you carry Patrick Magee down the stairs in a wheelchair.' And I said, 'Pardon? Hang on a minute, Stanley. Patrick Magee must weigh about 170 pounds, and the wheelchair is probably another 20 or 30. So I've got to stagger down three flights of stairs, wheel him to the table, and hold a conversation?' And he said, 'Mmm-hmmm, that's right. You can do it. You're a strong man, aren't you?' And I said, 'Yeah, I am, but your name's not One-Take Kubrick, is it?' The whole set went quiet; everybody thought I was going to get the sack. And he just smiled and said, 'No, fine, we'll get it done as quickly as we possibly can.' We actually shot that scene in about six goes, which was amazing for him."

      -- David Prowse, A Clockwork Orange

    Surf's up: Here's kudos to Jay and his pals at DVD Future, who have a fun and informative DVD-oriented website. Give 'em a visit and say hello from us if you get the chance.

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Ghostbusters: Special Edition, So I Married and Axe Murderer, and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Look for these and others on Monday morning.

    Time for us to pour some beer and fire up the home theater -- we hope you get a chance to do the same. Have a great weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday, 8 July 1999

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Sure, you probably think that the UK film industry does nothing but quirky comedies and lavish Shakespearean productions, but serious Anglo-flick fans know that UK gangster movies are almost as prevalent -- and just as good. Often based in London's notorious East End, several excellent crime movies have come out of Britain over the years, and if they have escaped the attention of American audiences, many of them are well known to influential American directors, such as Scorsese and Tarantino, who have doubtless felt their influence. We're glad to note that our all-time favorite UK gangster flick -- John Mackenzie's brilliant The Long Good Friday -- has been released on DVD by Criterion, but one of our other favorites, the 1973 Get Carter, is sorely missed. Michael Caine stars in Get Carter as Jack Carter, a brutal East End mob lieutenant who returns to his hometown of Newcastle (in the north of England) to attend the funeral of his brother, who died a sudden and unexpected death. But when Carter realizes that his brother has been murdered, he starts poking around the Newcastle underworld looking for his killer -- only to learn that his inquiries are not welcome. Carter's subsequent one-man mob war is part Goodfellas, part Die Hard, and completely entrenched in England's late-industrial society, a world that has little use for one-man crusades. Unflinchingly brutal at times, Get Carter is a film that can't possibly offer up a tidy ending, and it keeps you watching until the bitter, unpredictable end. It's also one of Michael Caine's best performances, showcasing the actor as a younger man capable of both cold-blooded calculation and unconstrained violence -- a far cry from the more polished roles that Caine has undertaken since his transition to the American film industry. We wish we could tell you that this movie is owned by some obscure British film house, which is why it has no chance of arriving on DVD anytime soon, but in fact it's owned by MGM. And if they won't release it, let's hope Criterion gets their hands on it.

    Anamorphic outrage: Since all those ubiquitous "Free DVD! Fight DIVX!" logos were taken down from DVD and home-theater websites mere weeks ago (check out our What Was Divx? page to view that blast from the past), many of you have probably seen this little critter off to the right take its place. That's right, "Wider is Better," and we agree wholeheartedly. But if you're still unclear just what anamorphic transfers are -- or if the whole debate has given you a 16x9-sized headache -- a quick to visit to our DVD Lexicon or this informative new article at E-Town might sort you out.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 7 July 1999

    "The Stanley Kubrick Collection": It's no secret that Warner's "Stanley Kubrick" collection, which was released last week, has left many DVD fans cold, and more than a little stumped. With many highly anticipated film collections arriving on DVD in recent months that lived up to the hype (in particular, Fox's excellent Alien Legacy box set), that fact that DVD trailblazer Warner released a very mixed bag of Kubrick films on disc is stunning -- and disappointing. We are aware that Warner didn't have total control over the terms that dictated the production of the Kubrick Collection, and we do want to be as fair as possible to them, but before we do that, we'd like to run down a brief "buyer's guide" to these new discs:

    • 2001: A Space Odyssey: The rights to this Kubrick classic were passed from MGM to Warner as part of a complicated home-video deal earlier this year. As such, this is a repackaged edition of the original MGM disc released in 1998 -- right down to the fact that some of these were reportedly MGM-marked discs (that had not reached the stores) in the new snapper case. It's a good disc, with a wonderful print and nice transfer, and worth having. But DVD die-hards will undoubtedly want the original MGM edition -- partly because it comes in the preferred Amaray keep-case, and also for the curiosity value of owning an out-of-print item.
    • Barry Lyndon: Of all seven discs in the set, Barry Lyndon is by far the worst. The print is old and washed out, and the transfer is so filled with shimmer and video noise that we racked our brains trying to think if a worse DVD has ever reached the street. We couldn't think of one. Not worth the $20 street price -- and in fact, only marginally superior to the two-tape VHS set that has been in circulation for many years.
    • A Clockwork Orange: Being one of our favorite Kubrick flicks, we were filled with apprehension when we gave this a spin -- but were pleasantly surprised. While the print has a little flecking here and there, it is rich with color and the transfer is solid. Sure, we'd like a bunch of extras -- even just some trivia as textual supplements -- but being as this is A Clockwork Orange, it's good enough, and easily worth the $20 street price. We were perturbed that the disc featured the mis-labeled Clockwork Orange title (and not A Clockwork Orange), but it's based on artwork that has been around for years, licensed to everything from posters to postcards, and we admit that we're just nit-picking.
    • Dr. Strangelove: This is a re-packaged edition of the original Columbia TriStar release (from way back in '97, we think), and it's good enough to own, but our previous comments regarding 2001 apply here as well.
    • Full Metal Jacket: Not as bad as it could have been, with an acceptable source print, but lacking the widescreen matting of the original theatrical release (either 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, depending on country). But Kubrick only approved a full-frame transfer of this film for home video.
    • Lolita: Like 2001, the rights to this one passed from MGM to Warner earlier this year, and it's the best-looking of the bunch. The black-and-white print is nearly flawless, with lots of low-contrast detail, and it's a wickedly funny film. Worth the $20.
    • The Shining: As with Full Metal Jacket, it lacks the widescreen matting of the original theatrical release. If that's only kind of lame, the source print is showing damage and color fading. It's nowhere near the quality we expect for a "collectable" DVD, although the inclusion of Vivian Kubrick's rarely-seen "The Making of The Shining" documentary make this one a toss-up -- rent it if you're curious, buy it if you're a serious Shining fan.

    Obviously, if you're considering dropping the $100+ on this set, for yourself or as a gift to a friend, we are recommending that you hold off and rent these discs first before deciding which ones you will buy. We already have added a few to our library, but we wouldn't part with five bucks for the others.

    As Peter Bracke at has pointed out (in an excellent feature on The Kubrick Collection), people who have been screaming for Warner's blood should relax a little. Everything within The Kubrick Collection is, indeed, "director-approved," because, as far as the quality of the prints go, they are simply the only ones that Kubrick ever approved for home video. Furthermore, the monaural audio and full-frame transfers were according to his wishes.

    However, the quality of the transfer on Barry Lyndon is inexcusable, and gives one the impression that Warner rushed these discs through production in order to get them on the street before Eyes Wide Shut reached the theaters this summer. The additional complaint that these discs are feature-thin does nothing to diminish this suspicion. If we can't have new prints (since Kubrick never oversaw any restorations of his work), should we at least expect clean transfers, and perhaps some production stills, a trailer gallery, and extensive textual supplements? Warner normally doesn't find it hard to include these few items on most of their discs, and some of their special editions (including Contact and L.A. Confidential) have been among the best DVDs ever produced -- a fact that only underscores our disappointment.

    Some have said that we should be glad that these have arrived now, and not much later, but, at length, we would rather that The Stanley Kubrick Collection arrived in another year -- perhaps when Eyes Wide Shut is expected to arrive on home video, thus allowing it to be included in the set. In that time, would it have been possible to get Jack Nicholson to do a commentary track on The Shining? He's already participated in one for As Good As It Gets. Could Malcolm McDowell have been persuaded to contribute a track for A Clockwork Orange? What about a round-table commentary from the cast of Full Metal Jacket? While Peter Sellers may be dead (God rest his funny soul), many actors who worked with Kubrick in some of his best-known films are still living today, and -- at the risk of appearing indelicate -- a lot of them don't seem to be working as much as they used to. And one should not forget members of Kubrick's trusted crew, some of whom worked with him for years and undoubtely are full of insights. Kubrick fans everywhere would love the opportunity to hear their recollections of working with the master.

    As for the issue of restored prints, just because a director isn't able to approve a restoration doesn't mean that a restoration can't be undertaken posthumously -- the gorgeous restoration of Hitchcock's Vertigo, and the upcoming release of a restored Rear Window, are a testament to the value -- and necessity -- of print restorations. If Kubrick is no longer able to watch over his films, and the DVD editions of The Shining and Barry Lyndon really are taken from the best prints currently available, the onus falls upon Warner, as the studio who controls the majority of Kubrick's films, to undertake restorations immediately. We understand that this work can take years, and we certainly wouldn't expect these to be available for any current DVD release, but we hope to hear that Warner will begin this task, and soon.

    That said, The Stanley Kubrick Collection, while offering DVD fans a handful of films worth having in their collections, seems to be a squandered opportunity. With the release of these films, any "special edition" re-issue of the set within the next year or two would undoubtedly infuriate many fans -- especially those who have paid out their hard-earned coin for a few or all of these movies. So we advise that you check 'em out and buy what you like. As for Warner, we're serious -- get on the phone and start getting people to record some commentaries, before it's too late. If you re-release The Stanley Kubrick Collection three years from now with rock-solid transfers, cleaned-up or restored prints, and at least one commentary track on each disc, we'll buy the lot of them and we won't be angry. We promise.

    Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:

    1. Ghostbusters
    2. The Truman Show
    3. Blade
    4. Patch Adams
    5. Practical Magic
    6. Enemy of the State
    7. Storm of the Century
    8. The Stanley Kubrick Collection
    9. Alien Legacy: Twentieth Anniversary Collection
    10. 12 Monkeys

    Pioneer leaves Laser behind: Not long after Criterion announced that they would no longer produce titles for Laserdisc, Pioneer Entertainment, another veteran Laser programmer, has announced that their transition from Laser to VHS and DVD is complete. While thin on feature films, Pioneer has created a DVD niche over the past two years by licensing several Anime features, in addition to releasing numerous concerts and music specials on DVD. Pioneer VP Jim McGowan described the transition as the completion of "a dramatic turnaround" -- undoubtedly referring to the fact that all Laserdisc providers have taken a hit in the financial chops since DVD was first introduced in 1997.


    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 6 July 1999

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Max Fischer is an ideal student, except that his grades suck. As president of Rushmore Academy's French, calligraphy, and beekeepers clubs, captain of the debate and fencing teams, and founder of the astronomy, and trap and skeet shooting clubs, the last thing the 15-year-old needs is another distraction. That's when he falls naively in love with widowed first grade teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams). His adolescent crush brings out the best and worst of Max's vaulting ambitions when she turns him away in favor of his new friend, self-loathing millionaire Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Murray's performance is one of the great delights of Rushmore. Blume's adult life is sham -- his marriage is loveless, his children are cretins, and his self-made millions only succeed in spoiling them. While Max assumes a maturity beyond his years, Blume regresses to childlike antics. In their wild swing away from themselves, the two meet beautifully on common ground. Murray is simply brilliant in this persona, always at his funniest wrapped in sadness, and Rushmore re-invents adolescent angst so wondrously and hilariously, that it puts all other teen comedies to instant shame. Despite its brief 93 minutes, it feels like a grand epic. It covers more territory -- more gracefully -- than most films manage in a full two hours, with some wild, yet perfect, shifts in tone, and dynamic characters given the credit for taking a full, exhausting journey. Films like Rushmore -- so pure, unique, and unpredictable -- are a wonderful thing to behold. The new DVD is a great presentation, although the only extras are a trailer -- unless you count sheer delight.

    On the Street: Here's a very brief list of this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Affliction
    • Amistad (DTS)
    • Antz (DTS)
    • Combat Shock: Special Edition
    • Fall Time
    • The King And I (animated/1999)
    • Mouse Hunt (DTS)
    • A Murder Of Crows: Special Edition
    • Paulie (DTS)
    • Peacemaker (DTS)
    • Small Soldiers (DTS)
    • Supreme Sanction: Special Edition
    • Wing Commander

    And the winner is: Ryan B. Williams of Ogden, Utah, wins the free DVD of Armageddon from our June contest. Congrats, Ryan!

    Our Free DVD Contest for the month of July is up and running, and we have a copy of Disney's A Bug's Life up for grabs. Be sure to drop by our contest page and send us your entry, and don't forget to take our Monthly DVD Poll while you're there.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters over the Fourth of July weekend:

    1. Wild Wild West
      $36,800,000 ($50,100,000 to date)
    2. Big Daddy
      $26,400,000 ($90,100,000 to date)
    3. Tarzan
      $19,200,000 ($111,000,000 to date)
    4. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
      $14,800,000 ($23,100,000 to date)
    5. The General's Daughter
      $14,600,000 ($67,800,000 to date)
    6. The Phantom Menace
      $11,700,000 ($371,600,000 to date)
    7. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
      $10,800,000 ($170,100,000 to date)
    8. Summer of Sam
      $7,800,000 ($7,800,000 to date)
    9. Notting Hill
      $5,100,000 ($97,900,000 to date)
    10. An Ideal Husband
      $3,400,000 ($5,500,000 to date)
    11. The Mummy
      $1,000,000 ($148,000,000 to date)
    12. Instinct
      $785,000 ($32,200,000 to date)

    On the Board: A new full review has been posted for Rushmore, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week, O my brothers, concern Warner's "Stanley Kubrick Collection" -- Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Lolita, and The Shining -- and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page. Kubrick films in the collection that have previously been released on DVD and reviewed by us (2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove) can be found on our Quick Reviews Index. We also have new Quick Reviews of the MGM Kubrick releases Killer's Kiss and The Killing on the board.

    We'll be back tomorrow -- and probably with a few more words about the Kubrick Collection, so read the reviews and we'll see you then.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday - Monday, 1 - 5 July 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    Long weekend: The lights have been dimmed, but not shut off, here at The DVD Journal as the staff has been set free to enjoy a much-deserved Fourth of July break. But we're still watching new DVDs, and we'll be back on Tuesday morning with lots of new stuff, including a look at some new Stanley Kubrick films on DVD, all the latest box office and street disc stuff, and whatever earth-shaking (or not-so-earth-shaking) news we can dig up. We will also announce the winner of the free Armageddon DVD and have a new Monthly Contest and Reader Poll up and running (we can't tell you what next month's free DVD will be, but it probably wouldn't bug you too much if you won it).

    I would personally like to take this moment to thank all of our readers who visit the Journal, send us contest entries, and take the time to write us with comments, questions, and even some great gossip now and then. It is our interaction with all of you that makes this website worthwhile, so keep reading and keep those letters coming.

    Have a great holiday weekend. See ya Tuesday.

    -- Ed.

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