Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Keep Watching the Shelves!

There seems to be an unhealthy amount of over-the-top DVD releases coming out this summer. With releases like these, it's easy to say to yourself "hey, I can wait two years to upgrade to HD-DVD!" A couple of these discs were once thought to be in permanent residence in the film graveyard, but with their coming out party now give hope to those still residing six feet under (more on that later). In addition to the forthcoming Ultimate Western Fanboy Box Set (which recently had its perfect coverart revealed), these are the releases I've been salivating over for weeks.

Grand Prix (July 11)
I have written before on the injustice of not having John Frankenheimer's ground-breaking Grand Prix available on DVD. Thanks in part to a vigilant online petition, the stunning film will now get a two-disc 40th anniversary release. This news was nothing short of shocking to fans of the movie, who were told for years by Warner Bros. that there was little interest in a DVD release, and would have been happy with just as happy with a bare bones anamorphic disc. On DVD, 'Grand Prix' will be fully enjoyed for the first time since its theatrical run, where its Super Panavision 70mm 2.20:1 aspect ratio was fully exploited. For those who have never experienced it, prepare to be blown away in Dolby Digital 5.1 by the opening credits, which creates a one-of-a-kind symphony using engine notes and the sounds of a raceway. The only shame about this release is that it will not contain the views of the commentary-friendly Frankenheimer, who died suddenly in 2002.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (June 13)
Russ Meyer's big budget, girl band vixen murder ride easily made my Top WTF!?! Movies list, but that doesn't mean I won't be picking up this long-overdue release. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has been available in Region 2 for a few years, but will now hit shelves on the same day as the movie that inspired it, Valley of the Dolls. Truthfully, I probably wouldn't pick this one up if not for its signature extra: a commentary track by the movie's co-writer, a one Roger Ebert (yes -- that Roger). Ebert's commentaries are always excellent, and it will be interesting to hear his thoughts on his own work. Okay, I would have bought it, but just to shock my friends with the 'I am Supergirl!' decapitation scene.

Amazing Stories, Season 1 (July 18)
This series deserved to be rediscovered on DVD, as many have forgotten about it. Created by Steven Spielberg, who got his start on a similar series, Night Gallery. Amazing Stories is quite different than 'Night Gallery' or even 'Twilight Zone,' since it is generally geared toward a younger audience -- like many of Spielberg's movies. Being Spielberg, he was able to recruit some of the best actors and directors around to be involved with the series. Like any series of this genre, it is hit and miss, but there are some real gems in the first season, such as Mummy, Daddy about an actor who has an eventful night with a real-life version of the character he's playing. Perhaps the best-known episode from season 1 is Hell Toupee, directed by Irvin 'I fucking directed The Empire Strikes Back!' Kershner, it's about a man who gets a hair transplant from a convicted murderer.

Dazed and Confused: The Criterion Collection (June 6)
For the big fans of Dazed and Confused, this release could represent a triple dip, as it replaces the respectable Flashback Edition which was released last year, which replaced a very early bare bones disc. It's an easy sell for me just because of the cover art (if you can't tell, that's an outer jacket, with 'peepholes' inside to the inner disc cover, ala Led Zeppelin III), but being Criterion, it has a load of extras as well. Richard Linklater is of course on board for a commentary (and also has his name prominently on the cover now), a new 50-minute documentary, an expectedly exhaustive and entertaining booklet that only Criterion can do, and even a poster.

The Simpsons, season 8 (August 15)
As someone who has fiendishly purchased every Simpsons season shortly after it was released, I have long told myself that this will be the final season in my collection. Season 8 marks the last truly great Simpsons season, before it started its slow decline the following year. Generally, all the episdodes in this set are great (with some true classics such as Homer vs. the 18th Amendment and Bart After Dark), but it also has a couple duds, which forecast the decline on the horizon (notably, Mountain of Madness and Brother From Another Series). Fox will continue its ridiculous head-design, but will hopefully offer a traditional box design like they did for Season 7.

Graveyard tenants: Monster Squad/Night of the Creeps
Both of these Frank Dekker cult classics are still unavailable on DVD, and there is no release in sight. Aint-It-Cool recently held a reunion screening in Austin, and their recap details how the rights to both movies have bounced around lately, and who to write your letter to about how shitty this is. This is one of the rare cases where a pair of contemporary movies are almost unwatchable just because there is nowhere to find them. The only way you can see either is to buy an old VHS or a bootlegged DVD off eBay. I have actually never seen Night of the Creeps, but it sounds fun enough, if it's anything like Monster Squad, which was one of my favorite movies growing up. Hope seems slim for a DVD release for these 80s horror/comedies, but if Grand Prix can be released, anything is possible.

NOTE: DVD Panache was recently on hiatus due to a relocation to better quarters and a corporate outing to Cabo San Lucas. Rest assured, we are still going strong and look for some regular posting starting this week.

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