The Other Digital Underground
RTC's Sweet & Lowdown On DVD
The Right Turn Clyde DVD Distribution Patrol was in full effect
this holiday season. For some of you, we disguised our gifts as
presents from Santa. For other, we instigated those blood-thirsty
riots at the Best Buy so you could sneak out the back door we propped
open for you.
Since it now seems this digital "fad" is taking a foothold in the
marketplace, we thought we would unload this cornuccopia of the
typical RTC nonsense to help you decide whether you should replace
that old tape of Bonnie and Clyde that you recorded off of
TBS with a shiny new letterboxed transfer.
Things To Listen For
To paraphrase an old saying, "A commentary track a day will keep
The Doctor away" (see RTC's take on the Psycho
DVD in issue #7) But filmmakers' commentary tracks can inform,
entertain, and even enhance a movie. But beware, for every essential
Ridley Scott commentary, you're also stuck with Kelly Makin talking
about bringing Micky Blue Eyes to the big screen. Here's
a few that have caught our ear.
POISON - One of the more artistically cerebral indie films of the
90's is discussed on an extra track by Christine Vachon and Todd
EASY RIDER - Commentary by Dennis Hopper. Play a game while watching
this. See who remembers more about Easy Rider - you or Dennis.
CHARADE - The only commentary track that has warranted a repeat
listening from MNKE. Screenwriter Peter Stone and Director / Legend
Stanley Donen trade one-liners and bicker like an old married couple.
Like Statler and Waldorf meets Siskel and Ebert. You must hear this.
We also recommend Hudson Hawk for Michael Lehmann's candid
discussion of the film's shortcomings, Pirahna to hear Joe
Dante & Jon Davison discuss the perils of Corman movie-making, and
Godmoney, which is the first DVD to feature a "gag" commentary
track meant to lampoon commentary tracks. Believe us, folks, the
word "gag" is more appropriate than you could ever guess. And finally
a stopwatch for Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe who continue analyzing
Fast Times at Ridgemont High 7 (seven!) minutes after the
credits have rolled.
Things To Watch Out For
Now that you have a DVD player, you must think that you are the
cock of the walk with access to a whole new world of film viewing.
Of course, for every Election with insightful commentary
at your video store, there's 3 copies of Dennis Rodman in Simon
Sez taking up shelf space. So, here are a few titles to be cautious
APOCALYPSE NOW... What? How could you possibly be leery of Francis
Ford's Rumble in the Jungle? This caveat emptor only goes out to
those people conditioned to the DVD EXTRA BONUS MATERIALS royal
treatment. As far as extras go, this is a bit thin on the dessert.
Especially for a movie that Film Threat claimed once had a 6 plus
hour director's cut. Where is the footage of Harvey Keitel? How
about throwing Hearts of Darkness on the same disc? Home
video footage of Tom Waits singing at Spike Jonze / Sofia Coppola's
wedding? Anything! Please.
STRANGE DAYS - Whether you would want to watch this Kathryn Bigelow-directed
/ James Cameron-scripted cyberthriller is a personal decision up
there between abortion and extra cheese on your pizza. At least,
you have to give credit to Strange Days for accurately predicting
a New Year's Eve 2000 in which nothing happens. Just like real life.
Thumbs down to Bigelow's "partial" commentary which would have been
more insightful and engaging had she talked about movies other than
this one. Or at least her kick-ass vampire flick, Near Dark
(not on DVD).
NEW ROSE HOTEL - A RTC DVD rental in the classic sense of the phrase.
Christopher Walken & Willem Dafoe flesh out William Gibson's Burning
Chrome short story in Abel Ferrara's Penthouse-meets-Crackhouse
vision of the future. Asia Argento's bends over backward to make
the film watchable. (Plus she lip-synchs to Cat Power, which is
kryptonite to my critical faculties) The thing that raises our eyebrows
is the sticker on the front of the DVD that boasts 2 or more audio
commentaries. Well, which is it? Two? Three? More? Eighty? Come
on, folks. The only running commentary I want on this film is a
voice telling me how to get my money back.
Things To Die For
Finally, in the short time that DVD's have gone mainstream, there
are two trends that new DVD shoppers need to look for. One is releasing
a movie without any extras and then releasing it a few months later
as a so-called "Collector's Edition". Not very encouraging to people
who are buying DVD's to replace old video copies and then having
to replace them again, often for a superior transfer or sound. Such
has been the case for different DVD versions of Bonnie and Clyde,
Robocop, Taxi Driver, Desperado and The
Silence of the Lambs.
The other evil trend is putting DVD's on moratorium or making them
unavailable to buy. The Criterion Collection is the main culprit
here. Their release of This is Spinal Tap featured two DVDs
(one entirely consisting of bonus materials including over an hour
of deleted footage). Sounds great? Well, log onto e-bay, cause this
title is no longer available in stores. The same goes for DVD copies
of John Woo's The Killer, Hard-Boiled, and The
400 Blows. These titles may become available again, which is
more than can be said about the DVD for Frank Oz's The Little
Shop of Horrors. It featured the never-before-seen "Unhappy
Ending" in which everybody dies and the plants take over. Unfortunately,
a dispute over who owns the rights to this footage arose and all
existing copies were pulled from shelves. (And presumably placed
on the same shelf with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones,
Close Encounters, and The King of Comedy DVD's which
have yet to be made available.)
This year, we hope to focus on more DVD coverage and look forward
to bringing you more news at no cost to you.*
(TRANSLATION: IF ANYONE KNOWS SOMEONE WHO CAN HOOK US UP WITH FREE
DVD'S, DRINKS ARE ON US.)