21 February 2008

The poor DVD editions are heeeeeeere!

Time for a DVD complaint session, centered on my favorite movie year, 1982. The Blade Runner four-disc release made me very happy, but all is not well in other corners of the Great Year.

Blade Runner wasn’t the only classic 1982 flick that finally got a twenty-fifth anniversary DVD release at the end of 2007. One of that year’s biggest hits, Poltergeist, got a new disc in October. Poltergeist was one of the very first movies released for the format, but like most early discs it didn’t have an impressive transfer. The new disc fixes all that; I’m glad to report that after watching the DVD last night that the image looks great and the 5.1 sound does wonders with some of the great “jump” sound effects and eerie moments—Carol Anne’s voice echoes from different speakers as she communicates through the television—and Goldsmith score has never sounded better.

However, this Poltergeist doesn’t qualify as a special edition of any kind. It’s a “25th Anniversary” edition because it was released twenty-five years after the film’s premiere, and for no other reason. For a major film, a cultural touchstone with Steven Spielberg’s name attached to it, the lack of bonus features on this is embarrassing. The only feature is a half-hour documentary about the “science” of ghost-hunting. It uses clips from the movie, but it isn’t about the movie at all. It’s just the usual paranormal pseudoscience hokum. I enjoy this hokum in the context of the film, but not delivered to me as a “documentary,” especially when I’m expecting something specific about the making of the movie. Poltergeist has a complex history, with the death of two of its stars at young ages (Heather O’Rourke and Dominique Dunn) and a controversy surrounding Spielberg’s involvement and how much Tobe Hooper was responsible for the film’s direction. Many of the major participants are still alive and could offer great insights into it—come on, at least drag out Zelda Rubinstein!—and the film features some of the earliest effects from the recently formed ILM. There’s a haunted house-full of material here, and the DVD delivers none of it. It’s enough to make me want to rip my face off.

Next I’ll complain about the skimpy treatment that Fox gave to the 2-disc “Family Fun” edition of another 1982 masterpiece, The Secret of NIMH. Here’s a preview: there was no reason they couldn’t have fit it all onto one disc.

And while on the topic of DVDs of 1982, Warner Bros. needs to hustle out a new disc of The Road Warrior. They’ve had the same transfer with no special features since 1997. A recent double-feature disc of The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome actually presented both films in pan & scan, which is worse than no movie at all. This film is a legend, and needs appropriate treatment.