Wednesday, October 24, 2007

DVD Review - Stanley Kubrick: Warner Home Video Directors Series

I'm not going to go into an in-depth analysis about any of the 5 films included on Warner's new Stanley Kubrick - Director's Series box set, since it bears no discussion - all these films are classics. There is a lot of debate about what exactly constitutes the contents of each disc however.

Please note that all these DVDs, except Full Metal Jacket, were released separately the very same day as the box set (10/23/07).

First off, the art work for the individually released DVDs of 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Eyes Wide Shut are all different than what is included in the box set. It seems Warner wanted to give a different look to the box set to keep things uniform, which is all well and good, except the artwork isn't consistent. For these 3 movies - plus Full Metal Jacket, which wasn't released on it's own for some reason - the artwork features nearly all black covers with lower case white writing at the top of the case, while a somewhat cheap looking image from the film is superimposed underneath (for example: Hal's eye from 2001 or the 'Born to Kill' helmet from Full Metal Jacket). The Shining DVD does however feature the same artwork as the individually released DVD (the "Here's Johnny!" moment), albeit without the slipcase. It's a minor quibble, but nonetheless an odd decision by Warner Bros, who aren't exactly known for putting out quality product all the time.

The good news is, all the films included are finally presented with Anamorphic Transfers, so you can now take advantage of your wide screen TVs. I'll get to the aspect ratios in a second.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Film (*****)
Extras (*****)

Out of all the DVDs included, this is the most thorough. The features include:

Disc 1
• Commentary by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• Theatrical trailer
Disc 2
• Channel 4 documentary: 2001: The Making of a Myth (43:04)
• Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001 (21:23)
• Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 (21:30)
• 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future (4:3 - 23:10- vintage clip)
• What is Out There (20:40)
• 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork (9:26 with Christine Kubrick)
• Look: Stanley Kubrick! (3:14)
• Audio-only interview with Stanley Kubrick (1:16:24)

A Clockwork Orange
Film (*****)
Extras (*****)

The best movie here, and some very good extras to boot.

Disc 1

• Commentary with Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
• Theatrical Trailer

Disc 2

• Channel Four documentary: Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange (43:35)

• Featurette: Great Bolshi Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange (28:15)

• Career Profile O Lucky Malcolm! (1:26:05)

The Shining
Film (*****)
Extras (*****)

Here is where the controversy arises. This new transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 ratio, which is different from the 1.33:1 ratio of the old Shining DVD, which was how Kubrick intended the film to be seen on regular 4:3 TVs. But now, in the age of 16:9 TVs, everyone wants widescreen, so this new disc has been formatted to appease. However, you will lose some picture on the top and bottom of the frame, albeit by gaining a good amount on either side as well. It's really a pick your poison ordeal, as no one knows how Kubrick would have reacted to widescreen television. For a shot comparison of each version, I'd recommend looking here.

• Commentary by Garrett Brown and John Baxter
• Theatrical trailers
Disc 2
• View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining (30:12)
• The Visions of Stanley Kubrick (17:15)
• The Making of The Shining with optional commentary by Vivian Kubrick (34:58)
• Wendy Carlos, composer (7:30)

Full Metal Jacket
Film (*****)
Extras (***1/2)

This is the only single disc DVD in the box set, which explains the lack of extras. What's included though is quite good however.

Audio Commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'onfrio, R. Lee Ermey and Critic/Screenwriter Jay Cocks
New Featurette - Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil
Theatrical Trailer

Eyes Wide Shut
Film (*****)
Extras (****)

More controversy: Contrary to the advertisements, there is NO commentary track by Sydney Pollack included. Also, despite what the box says, you cannot chose between the censored and uncensored versions of the films. Fortunately the only choice you have is for uncensored version, which has never been released in the US prior to this DVD. The Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman interviews are hold overs from the previous DVD.

Disc 1
The Movie - 1.78:1


• Featurette - The Last Movie - Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut

• Featurette - Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick

• DGA - D.W. Griffith Acceptance Speech, 1998

Interviews with Nicole Kidman (17:45 min), Tom Cruise (08:23 min) and Steven Spielberg (07:49 min)
• US TV Trailer: Jealousy (00:34 min), Combo (00:34 min)

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures
Film (***1/2)
Extras: None

A 2 1/2 hour documentary on the life and films of Kubrick, narrated by Tom Cruise. This was included in the old box set, but up until now wasn't available on its own.

Despite some poor decision making on the part of Warner Bros, this is still a very good set, with some well above average documentaries and audio commentaries. Packaging aside (and not to mention that they left out both Lolita and Barry Lyndon, both of which were included in the prior box set), this is still one of the years most important releases.


shane said...

They also left out Dr. Strangelove. I'll wait on these until I upgrade to the next-gen disks (Except for EYES WIDE SHUT--I'll get that one now!)

Stereo Sanctity said...

you're exactly right. i forgot that Strangelove was in the original box set.

i'm not sure if they lost the rights to it or what, but Columbia has put out both the last two versions of the film though, which is probably why it is isn't here. it's obviously one of the his best pictures.

droidguy1119 said...

Stunningly, the studios actually worked together on that version that had Dr. Strangelove: the film was still owned by Sony but they allowed Warner to create the packaging and stick it in the set. Too bad it's like the only occasion I know of where studios partnered up like that.

Stereo Sanctity said...

thanks droidguy119, i did not know that. it makes a kind of ironic sense though, now that studios fight so vehemently over rights as to not lose a penny on DVD sales.