news and comment on the world of DVD by Richard Walls
Wednesday 31 May 2006
years ago, movies on the shiny disc were something of
a curiosity. Like VHS before it, the new format - then
known as the Digital Versatile Disc - had an uncertain
start as differing formats fought for industry acceptance.
was not fully embraced by the movie industry until DreamWorks,
the last of the major American movie studios to hold out,
signed up in September 1998. Within six months, over 1400
titles were released with Warner's, Columbia Tri-Star
and MGM leading the way.
In 1999, industry sources confidently predicted that DVD
would replace VHS by 2005 as the major source of recorded
they had not foreseen was that "movies on the shiny
disc' would have appeal to a far, far wider market than
that enjoyed by the humble video tape.
2002 - just a year after the first posting on 'The
Wall' - those predictions were hopelessly out
of date. DVD had become the fastest growing consumer electronic
product in history. Warner were talking of selling DVD's
in the same way as magazines and, apparently, at much
the same prices.
of DVD players rocketed to new levels and prices dropped
dramatically with basic machines available for under NZ$100.
release of movie titles on DVD around the world became
a virtual avalanche. Studios moved up the release of recent
box office hits. Many are now released within three months
of their movie premiere and the window is shortening.
catalogue releases have poured on to the market as studios
realise the potential revenue that is locked in the vaults
holding their movie libraries.
many of the early DVD releases offered a movie exactly
as it was produced for cinema screening, on-disc extras
such as a commentary by the director and deleted scenes
have become 'the norm' and Collector's or Special Editions
carry even more.
first year of the new millennium saw the first of special
releases that dramatically illustrate just how directors
can use DVD to enhance their work for mass appreciation.
The two-disc set of BOOGIE NIGHTS in the New Line
Platinum Series is in a form that could only have been
dreamed of by director Paul Thomas Anderson when he first
made the movie in 1997.
Ultimate Limited Series was launched with MEN IN BLACK
at the same time as it released a collector's edition
of the same movie. Artisan brought out TERMINATOR 2
-JUDGEMENT DAY, one of the most successful blockbusters
of all time, on a stunning DVD packed with special features.
Spielberg reintroduced INDIANA JONES to a patiently
waiting worldwide audience in 2003 but George Lucas was
not to be rushed. His publicly expressed wish was to give
the Star Wars movies the treatment he believed they deserved.
THE STAR WARS TRILOGY made it to the market in
2004. The only disappointment for purists was Lucas' refusal
to include the original cinema releases but, he was consistently
adamant from the outset, that the 1997 movies (that form
the trilogy on DVD) were the ones he originally intended
to make, and which technology only made possible twenty
years or so after their first release. Just
five years after the major Hollywood studios embraced
it, it could fairly be said that DVD had not only changed
the way we watch movies, but the way top directors make
them. Indeed many now shoot a version for DVD as well
as for the cinema.
an interview with Eddy Friedfeld in 'The New York Post'
(5.11.2000), Bryan Singer, director of The Usual Suspects
and X-Men said, "You definitely think about
the DVD from the moment you start shooting the theatrical
film. The DVD is a new and different piece of work."
Singer cited as an example
five scenes that were deleted from X-Men. The clips were
not discarded but rather incorporated on a DVD take to
make what is, essentially, a different movie. "There
are certain scenes that take away from the theatrical
movie which, when you see them on the DVD, you will understand
why," said Singer.
Legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola - whose wife
created Heart of Darkness to document Coppola's
directing of Apocalypse Now - saw DVD as "putting
more control in the hands of the artist.
is always the pressure from the studios to make movies
shorter. The new technologies offer the ability to create
cinema more on the level of music, totally free, where
you can put forth anything you can dream up." Coppola
set up a DVD lab at American Zoetrope, the studio he co-founded
1969 with George Lucas. "Future DVD's will be even
more interactive," he said correctly predicting the
future, "and you can see what a film is like before
it is whittled down."
was to fall to New Zealand director, Peter Jackson, to
finally unleash the potential of "the shiny disc"
with the release of The Extended Versions of The Lord
Of The Rings Trilogy.
has also boosted many classic movies. The 2-disc Special
Edition of Casablanca - one of the most viewed
movies of all time - includes documentary footage and
outtakes; My Fair Lady offers alternate Audrey
Hepburn vocal tracks; and The Manchurian Candidate
has comments from director John Frankenheimer about
a key scene in which Frank Sinatra delivered an intense
performance, only to learn that the camera had been out
Thirtynine Steps, The Third Man and Brief
Encounter are just three classic movies released by
The Criterion Collection, who specialise in frame-by-frame
restoration of older movies and are undoubtedly pioneers
in this field. They have also released special editions
of more recent movies
such as Robocop and The Royal Tenebaums.
Given all this, it is hard to believe that it was just
two decades ago that the Hollywood studios fought long
and hard to prevent the advent of home
video and VCR's.
Fortunately for those of us interested in movies and,
in particularly, collecting them to watch at home - they
Today the studios receive substantially more revenue from
video releases than at the cinema box office - almost
by a factor of three to one, maybe more.
less than a decade, the product has gone from a tentatively
but exciting new technological development to an undoubtedly
no longer need to 'be chipped' so that they can play DVD's
with differing codes. We no longer have to send to the
US for the latest releases with many of the blockbusters
simultaneously released on a worldwide basis - or nearly
Promotions and differing price points are now commonplace,
more so in the specialist stores than the chains.
are any number of movie and DVD news and review sites
on the internet that provide access to a wealth of information.
pick of them - for the shiny disc: Glenn Erickson's DVD
Savant at DVD Talk (www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant);
DVD Verdict (www.dvdverdict.com)
and Michael D's DVD - Region 4 (www.michaeldvd.com.au).
Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver (www.dvdbeaver.com)
not only lists titles of interest available all over the
globe and links to reviews of classic and back catalogue
releases, but offers visual and technical comparisons
of what each release offers 'the shiny disc'. I do not
know where he gets the time to do it all!
movies: the seemingly indefatigable Londoner, Rich Clein
at Shadows-On-The-Wall (www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk),
manages to view and write on 10-14 movies a week; across
'the ditch' in Australia, Film Ink (www.filmink.com.au)
has some of the best writers around led by the talented
Erin Free; and then there are the multi-review sites Rotten
and Metacritics (www.metacritic.com).
If it is Asian action stuff you are after then nothing
tops Kung Fu Cinema (www.kungfucinema.com)
and Dragon's Den (www.dragonsdenco.uk).
wee selection only touches the surface. I access many
others on a regular basis as testified by the 400 or so
links in my DVD Favorites Folder . broken down into categories
for ease of reference!
Wall" started life as an irregular newsletter to
members of the NZDVD Group recording some of the bits
and pieces I came across while wandering around the internet
and which, I thought, might interest my fellow members.
This prompted Tery to ask me if I would like to write
a regular column for
his newly conceived web site, DVDeNZ.
first posting on 'The Wall' was in the first week of August
2001. In addition to sharing with you the bits and pieces
from my wanderings around the internet, 'The Wall' has
campaigned for a better deal in the timing and scale of
releases and for pricing points that compare with the
US and, more
particularly with Australia.
and large, we seem to have achieved that!
so, with "the shiny disc" now mainstream, DVDeNZ
and 'The Wall' have run their course.
definition DVD has made its appearance in the US but views
on its reach and potential are highly speculative. My
guess is that if it survives in either of the two competing
formats, it will sit as a premium product alongside what
we have now. To pick up on the Warner analogy, there are
glossy magazines and not-so-glossy magazines and any number
of price points. We have 'vanilla' (movie only DVD's)
and special editions sometimes released side-by-side.
And most back catalogue material will not give the studios
an economic a return on Hi-Def.
big 'Thank You' to those who have emailed and an even
bigger thank you - I am certain on behalf of you all -
to Tery for conceiving DVDeNZ and for maintaining the
website, not forgetting the Newsletter that issued over
the last two years. Good luck for the future, Tery!
I summed it all up, the shiny disc has enabled me to discover
movies that I would otherwise have missed. Many have been
mentioned over the five years; many will not be released
here and are only turned up after searching the internet.
it seems appropriate to mention the last wee gem discovered
just before this update - the John Cassavetes directed
Gloria starring the marvellous Gena Rowlands (Cassavete's
wife) in what Glenn Erickson on DVD Savant called "an
excuse to play James Cagney, snarling and glaring her
the ranks of Mafia crooks." Glenn didn't much like
John Adames, who played Phil, the child character opposite
Gloria ("I'm saving your life, stupid" says
Rowlands when he once again gets difficult) but which
I - and those who viewed it with me - found a real hoot
once we got used to the reversal of
the gender roles. Taschen picked Gloria as one of the
best movies of the 80's - and it undoubtedly is. I would
never have met Gloria if not for DVD Savant and, of course,
'the shiny disc'. And I had to buy it from the US as it
has not been released in region 4 and is unlikely too
- at least, not in
the near future!! This says it all really. My first shiny
disc carried LA Confidential, brought back from the US
by sister-in-law a long before it released in New Zealand.
It still rates in my Top Twenty Films Of All Time. Now,
eight years after I first encountered 'the shiny disc',
my all-time favourite (although not necessarily top movie),
the stunning 1935 San Francisco releases (in region 1)