Marathon movies

Big, fat DVD boxsets of clas­sic films and TV shows will pro­vide many hours of com­pul­sive view­ing, writes Michael Dwyer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

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: 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

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