Big, fat DVD boxsets of classic films and TV shows will provide many hours of compulsive viewing, writes Michael Dwyer
AS THE DVD market continues to grow at a rapid pace, distributors are delving deep into the archives for pristine prints of classics, many of which never made it on to VHS. Here are some of the best and most interesting recent releases available to buy on DVD. Bear in mind that prices will vary considerably at different outlets, so it’s best to shop around. Most of the best deals are available online, and I particularly recommend the three sites I use most often in building my overflowing DVD library: www.play. com, www.blahdvd.com and www.sendit. com, none of which charges for postage on deliveries to Ireland.
Tartan DVD has assembled an indispensable compilation in The Bergman Collection: The Definitive Film Library, which features 30 films directed by the great Ingmar Bergman from his 1946 debut, Crisis, to his most recent, Saraband (2003). Now 86, Bergman has been one of cinema’s most acute – and often merciless – explorers of the human condition, and one of the most influential of all film-makers. This set features the masterpiece The Seventh Seal (1956), in which a knight (Max von Sydow) plays a chess game with Death, and one of Bergman’s warmest pictures, Wild Strawberries (1957), along with several emotionally raw dramas featuring his muse, Liv Ullmann, most notably Persona and Cries and Whispers. The box includes David Parkinson’s new book, Ingmar Bergman: A Life in Film.
The Wong Kar-wai Collection (also from Tartan) brings together the Hong Kong stylist’s first two feature films, As Tears Go By and Days of Being Wild, and his most recent, 2046, all in their original Cantonese versions. Extras include an audio commentary from director Richard Jobson, interviews with Wong and Zhang Ziyi, and behind-the-scenes footage. Another Tartan box set, The Vengeance Collection, features South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s edgy trilogy of Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, the creepily powerful Old Boy and Lady Vengeance.
The Paul Newman Collection features the venerable star (who turned 81 this year) in two of his earliest roles, as boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and as Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun (1957; with commentary by director Arthur Penn), along with his two outings as private eye Lew Harper, Harper (1966) and The Drowning Pool (1975), and John Huston’s The Mackintosh Man (1973).
The adjective in the title of Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection is not hyperbole, given this five-disc set contains a quartet of memorable oaters: his second feature, Ride the High Country (1962) with Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea; the elegiac Ballad of CableHogue (1970) starring Jason Robards; two different cuts of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) with James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson in the title roles, and Bob Dylan as Billy’s sidekick; and arguably the greatest western ever made and Peckinpah’s towering achievement, The Wild Bunch (1969).
Superman: The Ultimate Collector’s Boxset features the four movies starring the late Christopher Reeve in the title role as well as Bryan Singer’s vigorous revival of the series in the recent Superman Returns. The 13-disc set comes with oodles of extras.
For audiences of all ages, Disney’s enchanting animated musical The Little Mermaid is now available on DVD for the first time, and the two-disc edition is stuffed with extras, as is Disney’s 12-disc Pixar Complete Collection, featuring the two Toy Story movies, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles and Cars.
Optimum Home Entertainment has plundered the vaults to assemble attractive boxed sets of British movies. The Definitive Ealing Boxset features 16 films from the golden age of Ealing Studios (1944-55), including such timeless comedies as Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers, all featuring Alec Guinness long before he played Ben ObiWan Kenobi.
The Graham Greene Collection features four remarkable adaptations: The Fallen Idol and The Third Man, both directed by Carol Reed; Brighton Rock, starring a young Richard Attenborough as smalltime hoodlum Pinkie; and The Heart of the Matter. Stiff upper lips abound in The Complete War Collection, featuring 12 movies, among them The Dam Busters (soon to be remade with Peter Jackson as producer), The Colditz Story and In Which We Serve.
Optimum’s Ultimate Hammer Boxset contains 21 movies from the heyday (1965-72) of Hammer Films , mixing classic horror movies – Christopher Lee features in two Dracula movies and in Terence Fisher’s outstanding horror-thriller, The Devil Rides Out – and prehistoric romps (She, One Million Years BC) with scantily clad actors and extras. And those who flocked to his Dublin concerts this week doubtless will savour The Cliff Richard Singalong Boxset, featuring his hit 1960s musicals, The Young Ones, Summer Holiday and Wonderful Life.
One of the most entertaining and enjoyably lazy Christmas routines Chez Dwyer is to watch a full season of a quality TV series over the course of a few days, without ad breaks or having to wait a week for the next episode. Be warned that this can play havoc with routine household arrangements, and it’s recommended to have a selection of take-out menus to hand as cooking will be out of the question.
An ideal series for such a marathon is 24, and it can become so addictive that the temptation lingers to watch it in real-time, but that would take the best part of a day, so we will be watching 24: Season Five, generally regarded as the best since the first, over two or three days.
Prime Suspect: Complete Collection is what it says on the boxset – all seven dramas in the riveting series starring Helen Mirren on superlative form as DCI Jane Tennison, including the gripping and moving final two-part episode broadcast recently.
If you’ve fallen behind, Lost: Series 2 is now available, with masses of extras exploring the locations and connections between the characters, and offering new insights from never-before-seen flashbacks. While the third series of Desperate Housewives soars in the US ratings, the second series is now available on DVD, complete with many extras on the six-disc Extra Juicy Edition.
For cutting-edge humour that takes a sharp caustic, expletive-littered and frequently hilarious view of Irish mores, Fitting In features Des Bishop at hismost exuberant on his 2005 Irish tour.
Wong Kar-wai’s 2046
Clockwise from above: Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Christopher Reeve in Superman, The Wild Bunch and Christopher Lee in Dracula