DVD: MIXED NOTES
Random thoughts on random titles...
STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP - Great to finally have on DVD, but where are the extras? There was an entire behind-the-scenes episode that aired in the series' early days, what happened to that? Attractive packaging, but the individual covers make it hard to see which disc is which.
YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS Special Edition - Doesn't particularly look any better than the old version. At least they didn't drop any features from the first one, but you have to scrutinize the cover to find the two added programs. The new documentary is nice, but it suffers from the deliberate omission by Warners of all the visual images from the animation studio in Japan.
THE ODD COUPLE SEASON 1 Entertaining, nicely packaged (5 discs in a standard size jewel box without overlapping the discs) except that disc 5 doesn't stay in place. The bonus disc of Tony & Jack's favorite episodes is nice, and a good incentive to get future seasons, but I'd like to have seen a couple of Garry Marshall's favorites included as well.
SHOW BUSINESS: THE ROAD TO BROADWAY - A very good documentary on a Broadway season, presented reasonably well, with extras that weren't quite as exciting as one might have hoped for.
DISNEYLAND: SECRETS, STORIES & MAGIC - The main feature is interesting, but not very exciting, presentation is a little strange, and why must we be forced to see & hear Leonard Maltin every time we put in the disc? Between these and the Looney Tunes, he is turning up way too often. Otherwise, this set has plenty of interesting things. Tony Baxter can talk for hours and his knowledge and enthusiasm make you want more... And he's not as over exposed as Mr. Maltin.
LOONEY TUNES GOLD COLLECTION VOLUME 5 - Disc labeling on this set continues the bad idea of having the volume number of the set much larger and more prominent than the actual disc number. The choice of cartoons is rather unimpressive as well, and Mr. Maltin's bits in these and similar sets are becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks, but not nearly as addicting. After a while, it's like having gum stuck on your shoe. Not enough variety and too much repetition of less interesting material. However... This is one of those sets that real fans will buy anyway because we're happy to get as many of these cartoons as we can get, and there is always something nice in the extras.
OPUS & BILL IN WISH FOR WINGS THAT WORK - It is nice to finally have Opus on DVD, though the special is a little too bleak and offbeat for me. And where are the special features? When we pay 15 bucks for a 22 minute program, the least they could do is throw in some kind of interview with Berkeley Breathed. How about a video read-through of a couple of his children's books, including the book the program is based on?
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE 2 Disc Set - This title has been repackaged so many times with nothing new added, that it's becoming a case of "the studio that cried wolf." We wonder how many people passed over this version because they've been burned before.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL aka SCROOGE (ALASTAIR SIM) 2 Disc Set - Actually a worthy purchase, as there was a real attempt to seek superior source material and make it look its best. Interesting feature: a widescreen cropped version to fill the newer Hi-Def displays. Pan-Scan for a different reason. As long as the original is included, why not?
BOB HOPE MOVIE COLLECTION (MGM) 6 disc set - Wildly uneven effort from MGM/UA by way of Fox. Some discs have cheap and cheesy artwork and menus, while others have something much nicer, as Warners titles do. Clearly Fox didn't bother making the new-to-DVD titles look as good as the ones MGM/UA released previously.
HAIRSPRAY - Love the movie. Looks and sounds nice. Nice supplements... Did we get a bad copy, or is the "sing-along" subtitle function not indicated ANYWHERE on the disc? it's there but very hard to find.
GONE WITH THE WIND - Excellent work on the picture, handsome package from WBHV as usual, nice supplements... except the classy intros to each feature become a bit tiresome after the 3rd or 4th viewing, and you can't get past them. Some tiny featurettes less than 5 minutes long, also with the inescapable intros, aren't worth enough on their own to sit through the intros, and should have been put together as one feature. Still a very classy set.
MY FAIR LADY - Another classy package from Warners, with beautiful art direction and some nice added content. By why is there time code left on some of the extras, when we have seen them elsewhere without it? Excellent plus: they made a deal and included the nice documentary created for the "hat box" Laserdisc set that was released by another company.
HELLO, DOLLY! - Cheesy by-the-numbers packaging and menus, a dull waste, considering there was far more attractive art created for the film's theatrical run, and, hello? Someone thought they were correcting a mistake on the credit block when they changed "Produced In Todd-AO" to "Produced BY Todd-AO" and should know better. Moderately interesting production short is added.
MAME - It's so nice to have this guilty pleasure back where it belongs, on the shelf next to the other Miss-Cast Musical, HELLO, DOLLY! - but we would like to have seen more supplements. I would have paid a couple extra bucks if they had called Lucie Arnaz and got the crazy HERE'S LUCY episode where Lucy meets Lucy in her MAME dressing room. Someone shot a whole TV special around the World Premiere of MAME at the Cinerama Dome, that would have been a great addition. Some fans of the movie aren't too thrilled with Warners' choice of artwork for the packaging - there were more attractive choices - like the original poster. Surprising, because WB is usually the best at presenting the original key art in an appealing way.
MUSIC AND LYRICS - Love the movie, cute menus, Very few extras, what's there is nice, we'd love to have had a commentary. it looks nice here. Extra songs in the credits that are not on the CD... both recommended.
SPECIAL INTEREST TITLES, relating to Movie Showmanship:
MATINEE - Joe Dante's fun, nostalgic look at old-school movie showmanship, set near a cold-war era Army base, where kids escape to movies enhanced by tingling seats, walking monsters and "Rumble-Rama!" John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty. Hard to find but worth the search.
THE MAJESTIC - Nostalgic but sad look at a blacklist era small town re-opening its family-run movie theatre (much like the one in SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH). Frank Darabont directs Jim Carrey.
SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH - Young Peter Seller plays an old, alcoholic projectionist in a "flea-pit" cinema, inherited by British favorites Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers (BORN FREE) with Margaret Rutherford. It's fun watching them trying to run the dilapidated movie house.
More coming, we plan to recommend titles we especially like, as well as DVDs that we feel didn't quite do the material justice.
TJ Edwards Garan Grey