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:
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.