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Somewhere in Time: Collector's Edition

If you count yourself among the most hardened cynics on this earth, Somewhere in Time is not your movie. In fact, even if you tend to raise an eyebrow over the slightest bit of heartrending cinematic manipulation, you're bound to find Jeannot Szwarc's 1980 pulp-romance a bit hard to swallow. But don't tell that to the apparent legions of Somewhere in Time fans who carry the torch for Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour's time-torn love affair — in fact, the amount of people out there who go mega-mushy over this movie apparently were enough to convince Universal to re-issue their previous bare-bones DVD as one of their prized "Collector's Edition" discs. Reeve stars as Richard Collier, a Chicago playwright who has a chance encounter with an elderly woman in 1972 — a total stranger who tells him, barely in passing, to "Come back to me." Unable to resolve the unusual event, Richard soon determines she is Elise McKenna , a famous American actress who enjoyed a successful career in the early 20th century. And, upon the advice of an eccentric academic (George Voskovec), Richard soon finds a way to "hypnotize" himself back in time, to 1912, at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, Michigan, where Elise is performing. With this sort of chuckleheaded premise, Szwarc might want to shy away from the more excessive elements of his story (taken from scenarist Richard Matheson's novel Bid Time Return), but where other directors may have explored various "Twilight Zone" tangents, Szwarc accepts the genre for what it is — a romance novel — and plays it to the hilt. Even though Richard comes across as an obsessive stalker (who in any other film would be slapped with a restraining order), and even though Elise resists his advances (as any normal woman would), the unlikely love affair between the stage goddess and her dogged admirer is chalked up to "destiny." And just to add to the genre exercise, Christopher Plummer (giving his role a cursory walk-through) plays Elise's manager, who opposes her involvement with any man and is willing to deliver a few tongue-lashings to the defiant Richard with brisk economy. It all comes with some sumptuous mise-en-scene (filmed entirely on location at Michagan's magnificent Grand Hotel), with lyrical turn-of-the-century outdoor settings that shamelessly evoke Seurat's Pointillist "A Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte." In the midst of it all, the idyllic moments (especially shots of Seymour) are shot through a gauze filter so extreme it might as well be a white cotton towel. So fans (and you know who you are), grab the Kleenex and turn out the lights — Somewhere in Time: Collector's Edition offers a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) of the film, monaural audio (DD 2.0) that does nothing to hamper John Barry's profuse, paint-by-numbers score, and features include a commentary with Szwarc, a new one-hour documentary featuring interviews with all of the film's principals, a brief look at the long-standing fan club INSITE (including one woman, dressed in period costume, who is her own walking press-release), a photo gallery of publicity stills, production notes, and cast bios. Keep-case.

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