It’s time for a look back to another year. The movies of yesteryear. Specifically, the DVD releases of … 2007. These are some of the classic movies released on DVD — not always for the first time — last year that may have slipped under the radar.
"Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse"
Paramount Home Entertainment
96 minutes (plus extras); $24.99
At last, Eleanor Coppola’s 1991 documentary about her husband’s making of "Apocalypse Now" is available on DVD.
The story of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic war film, which took hundreds (yes, plural) of days to film in the Philippines, had more than its share of setbacks — “catastrophe-laden” is a fitting term. Some problems were caused by the director himself, some were not. A hurricane, the heart attack by 36-year-old leading man Martin Sheen, the emotional breakdown by Coppola himself — all part of this documentary that exemplifies the unadulterated passion of the pure filmmaker.
Anyone who loves film or film theory should consider "Hearts of Darkness" compulsory viewing. This DVD also has a new documentary by Eleanor Coppola about Francis Ford Coppola’s latest film, "Youth Without Youth." That documentary, "Coda," is not nearly as important as "Hearts of Darkness," but it is definitely enjoyable and insightful to see how Coppola has changed in the last 30 years.
"Ingrid Bergman: Four Masterworks"
Rated: Not rated
Following the death of legendary filmmaker Ingrid Bergman last year, Criterion released this set of films it had previously released. The set contains "Smiles of a Summer Night," "The Seventh Seal," "Wild Strawberries" and "The Virgin Spring."
While the other films are arguably not as important, "The Seventh Seal" is a must for any film connoisseur. This allegorical tale of a knight in the Middle Ages literally playing a game of chess with Death is as stunning visually and metaphorically today as it was upon release in 1957.
Starring a young (and Bergman favorite) Max von Sydow, the film tells a riveting story and wonderfully exemplifies Bergman’s talent for pulling impossibly beautiful images, scenes, and backgrounds from a mere movie camera. Bergman excelled at this perhaps more than any other director then or now.
If you see only one Bergman film — and that would be a shame — make sure you see "The Seventh Seal." This version, remastered and released by Criterion in 1998, remains the best release of this film. This set as a whole is well worth the retail price.
"Blade Runner: The Final Cut"
Warner Home Video
2-, 4-, and 5-DVD sets
117 minutes/$20.97, $34.99, and $78.92
This Ridley Scott-directed film has been one of the most talked-about and controversial science-fiction films ever made, and was also one of the first to make the then-new and then-leap of faith to DVD with The Director’s Cut in 1999, following its theatrical release in 1982.
While there were sizable and pivotal changes between the theatrical and Director’s Cut versions — the removal of star Harrison Ford’s voiceover, a different ending — the changes for the Final Cut are largely cosmetic. The footage looks much better, the sound is much clearer, and there are some additional effects — but those are the biggest changes, nothing huge.
Nonetheless, this adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” remains a heavily influential movie in the genre and should be part of any collection with an interest in science fiction. Beyond the three main versions of the film are other lesser-known versions, and they are available on the four- and five-disc sets.
"Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition"
Paramount Home Entertainment
1,501 minutes (plus extras); $99.99
Rated: Not rated
“Who killed Laura Palmer?”
This catchphrase kick-started the first water-cooler television show of the 1990s and even resulted in a big-screen prequel in 1992, a year after the show ended. Some would say it revolutionized the water-cooler confab milieu.
More important is the lingering effect the show had on the small-screen, its influence revolutionizing television drama. When this series launched in 1990, created by big-screen director David Lynch, eyes opened around the entertainment world.
As with his films, Lynch’s creation was macabre, not always easy to decipher, and something unlike TV had ever before beheld. From Kyle MacLachlan’s memorable FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper to the murdered Laura Palmer (played postmortem by Sheryl Lee) to the rest of the cast — many of whom found fame as a result of being in the show, many others who already had a Hollywood resume — the show often polarized viewers.
The show itself, named after the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Wash., is — besides plain weird — entertaining and addictive. It’s easy to finish one episode and dive into the next. However, it’s obvious the show was canceled unexpectedly; the Season 2 climax — later known as the series finale — had multiple cliffhangers and was obviously intended for a third season. Even considering how Lynch films work, this final episode left too much undone and unaddressed to think otherwise.
This set is for the Peaks completist. It has the pilot, all 29 episodes, and the European pilot/movie, and just about every extra a fan could hope for. There’s even an audio archive from a 1-900 phone line that offered clues to who committed the murder.
When the show was put on VHS in the later ’90s, creators (for some reason) chose not to include the pilot, irking many of the show’s loyal followers. Beyond the pilot, the DVDs offer TV promo ads, in-show commercial segues (aka the “stay tuned, we’ll be right back after these messages” voice-overs no longer used), a documentary about the annual Twin Peaks Festival in North Bend, Wash., and even the hilarious Saturday Night Live appearance by MacLachlan in September 1990, just before the start of the second season.
Die-hard Lynch fans will likely most enjoy “A Slice of Lynch,” with the director, MacLachlan and other cast members looking back at the show. Who knows, perhaps there are even those out there who enjoy the Log Lady intros to each episode. The intros weren’t my cup o’ Joe (or piece of pie), but I’m not a die-hard Lynch fan.
Still, this set is worth checking out. For those unfamiliar with Lynch, perhaps try your local library or a video-rental store to get a taste before you go all in.