Wednesday, November 16, 2005

DVD update

I’ve said this before, lots of times, and I’ll say it again: if you’re more than a casual movie-watcher – if you’re even slightly interested in the filmmaking process or in film history – then the Extras on DVDs are treasures beyond compare. I particularly love the audio commentary tracks – when done well, they are a boon to any movie buff.

My one hour at the HMV store on Oxford Street (yes, that’s all the time I got away from the wedding madness) ended with the acquisition of the following films:

- Visconti’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)

- Special two-disc edition of Hitchcock’s Psycho (long overdue; always owned the videocassette but never had a DVD)

- Special two-disc edition of Spartacus

- Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line

- Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

- A David Lynch triple bill: Mulholland Drive, The Lost Highway and Eraserhead

- A Coen Brothers box set: Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Blood Simple and The Hudsucker Proxy

- Dario Argento’s Suspiria

- George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead

(When you add the last two titles and Eraserhead to my existing collection, I now have a sizable number of cult horror titles. But more on that later.)

That was a static list of movies. Now let’s look at some of those titles again, this time listing the bonus material on each disc:

The Leopard
Feature-length audio commentary by David Forgacs and Rossana Capitano (this is a three-hour film set in mid-19th century Italy, a period of crucial social and political change, and an understanding of historical context is important).
Half-hour interview with actress Claudia Cardinale

Revenge of the Sith
- Three full-length (30-minute-plus) documentaries, including a superb one titled “Within a Minute”, which takes a sixty-second scene from the climax of the film and then examines the painstaking effort that went into creating every aspect of it. It’s a real eye-opener; you’ll never look at a Star Wars action scene in the same way again.
- Six deleted scenes with introductions and context
- Full-length audio commentary by George Lucas and members of his technical crew

A second disc with a 76-minute documentary on Dario Argento, that Italian master of the horror genre (and a director I’m fascinated by)

Night of the Living Dead
Two audio commentary tracks – one by Romero, the other by cast members – providing completely different perspectives on the filming (the actors' experience of shooting a horror film usually is very different from the director's)


Interview with Hitchcock, plus footage from the American Film Institute's tribute to him - speeches by Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Henry Fonda among others

And best of all, Spartacus, which has an absolutely enthralling commentary track featuring Kirk Douglas, Peter Ustinov, novelist Howard Fast and others, as well as a scene-by-scene analysis by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who had been famously blacklisted in the Commie-hunt of the 1950s) and another delightful interview with the multi-talented Ustinov, a great raconteur and mimic. (Separate blog on Spartacus coming up soon.)

The DVDs in the box sets are a little less exciting but even those have a couple of short interviews scattered here and there.

My only problem with discs with so many goodies on them is that I’m often tempted to ignore the actual film and watch all the extras instead – or to keep switching to one of the commentary tracks instead of listening to the original soundtrack, even on a first viewing of the film. Note to self: must overcome this habit. Take it one disc at a time.


  1. Show off! Waiting for your book list :-)

  2. okay, some useless pedantry...

    it is not "THE" Lost is just "Lost Highway"

    Actually, to think of it, it is not entirely useless. "THE" does take away some meaning from the title :)

  3. Sorry - Haven't seen any of these except for Psycho and TRL.

  4. I was hoping to get a Terrence Malik Box set but that seems unlikely in the immediate future.

    Looking forward to Terrnce Malick's "The New World" - to be released in 2006.

  5. I love DVD extras! My friends and I always make it a point to watch the extras (the interviews, outtakes) after the film. I've seen some very good extras, like the deleted scenes in "Sideways" with commentary by Alexander Payne, and an interview with Costa Gavras on the "Z" DVD.

  6. You should see Central Station (it's in Portugese) and check out the director's commentary on the extras... fantastic!

  7. On a similar note, I recently started watching documentary features about music albums and absolutely loved them. The making of Dark Side of the Moon, Electric Ladyland and Metallica's St Anger (called Some Kind of Monster) all offered great insights. And of course, there's the old favourite, The Beatles Anthology, which is a must have for Beatles fans. The Wall and the special features DVD accompanying it are also superb.
    - Nanda Kishore

  8. Great! I wish I were in Delhi and could borrow the Psycho twin CD set. The extras must be great.

  9. why can't i read/open the debate on chetan bhagat's book?

  10. Fool on the Hill: actually, the extras on the Psycho DVD aren’t so great. The Hitch interview and the American Insti’s tribute are only about 20 minutes each, and that’s all there is on the second DVD! They could easily have fitted it all on one disc but I think they wanted to make a big fuss about it.

    Saudamini: the post is right there, in the archives under October 2005, close to the top.

  11. hey..i was referring to the "inscrutable readers / reviewers" post. anything wrong withe the post? am unable to open it.

  12. Saudamini: the post is visible both on the front page, and in the November 2005 archive. It's a short, two-para post - maybe you thought it was longer? Also, I had disabled comments on it - will enable them soon.