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.
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.
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?
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
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…