eKC feature
January 4, 2008


DVD year-in-review
by Loey Lockerby

DVD sales may have dropped in 2007, but with high-definition format wars and endless Super Special Ultimate Editions, it was still an interesting year for the shiny little discs.

Most Welcome Industry Trend: The release of entire television series — including some near-forgotten treasures — in reasonably priced sets, filled with bonus features. From Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition to the complete Freaks and Geeks series, it was a banner year for couch potatoes. Even the expensive Star Trek set, featuring the entire remastered original series in both standard and HD formats, is probably worth every penny.

Least Welcome Industry Trend: Nice as it may be, the Star Trek set highlights the most annoying thing about the DVD market, namely the practice of releasing the same title numerous times. Captain Kirk and company are on their third complete series release, and that’s not counting the numerous episodes found on the “Fan Collective” and other compilations. Feature films aren’t exempt from this either, with Titanic on its third release and Blade Runner coming out in three different “Final Cut” sets in 2007 alone (that’s on top of at least two earlier versions). Enough already!

Best First-Time Releases: At least it’s not all double- (and triple- and quadruple-) dipping. DVD companies are also digging into the vaults, finding “lost” and little-known films and giving them the royal treatment. Last year saw New Yorker Video’s release of Charles Burnett’s 1977 low-budget drama Killer of Sheep, along with several of his other films, which provide a fascinating, unvarnished look at life among struggling African-Americans in poor urban neighborhoods. Also getting their due were Billy Wilder’s 1951 drama Ace in the Hole, the 1961 Roger Corman racism expose The Intruder, and a whole new batch of obscure treasures from the American Film Archives.

Best Packaging: These days, it’s not just what’s on the disc that matters — it’s what the disc is in. Nothing grabs a collector’s attention like a unique package design. Each set in the ‘80s animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe, is in a molded metal tin shaped like the head of one of the show’s robotic heroes (they’re even stackable). Almost as cool are the fleece-lined bag which holds the complete Northern Exposure series and the puffy Elvis jacket in which the Bubba Ho-Tep: Hail to the King Limited Edition resides.

Best Cheesy Horror Titles: There are plenty of goofy straight-to-DVD titles, but the makers of Z-grade horror films are always good for a particular chuckle: 2007 saw some true classics: Dead Clowns, The Severed Head Network, Chainsaw Sally, Sex Hex, The Blood Shed and Blood Monkey. They all must live on the Splatter Farm.

The Golden Betamax Award: To all those people who just had to rush out and buy an HD or Blu-ray player. Eventually, one format is going to dominate the market, and half the people who spent upwards of $400 for a new DVD player are going to own very expensive doorstops. Which will probably look great next to the 8-track, Beta and laserdisc players they already own.

The “Let It Go” Award: To Oliver Stone, who wasn’t content to foist the horrible Alexander on moviegoers, then try to whittle it down to a watchable director’s cut on its first DVD release. In ’07, he came up with a “Final Cut,” which ran a whopping 3 1⁄2 hours. That’s another 45 minutes, added to a movie that felt 12 hours long in the first place. Will anyone besides Stone even want to watch this?

Most Disappointing Marketing Decision: When the Grindhouse double feature didn’t do well at the box office, the Weinstein Company panicked and split it up into separate DVD releases. Gone were most of the fake trailers and overall wacked-out ‘70s experience of the theatrical version. Granted, you can’t replicate that in your living room (or a suburban megaplex), but the fun of Grindhouse came from pretending you could. Now, fans will just have to wait until the Weinsteins decide to release the whole thing as it was intended. Given the ongoing need for this thing to turn a profit, they undoubtedly will.

Wish List for 2008: Aside from a complete Grindhouse set, it would be nice to see a director’s cut of The Golden Compass, which was almost certainly a much better film before New Line meddled with it. It’s the kind of movie that just screams for a multi-disc extended version (unlike, say, Alexander). There are also several TV series out there whose DVD releases stopped after a season or two, due to a lack of sales. The studios could put out bare-bones releases — no extras, necessarily, but good, uncut complete series so fans of those shows could finish what they started. Also, I’d love to see Disney re-release some of its classic animated films and keep them on the market for a while (even Song of the South, perhaps?).

I would also like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to visit me personally. Maybe in 2009…


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