The Martin Scorsese Collection: Who's That Knocking On My Door?, Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, GoodFellas, After Hours
(Warner, 1969-1990) D: Martin Scorsese, w/ Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Ellen Burstyn, Joe Pesci, Griffin Dunne. Rating: NNNN
who's that knocking on my door and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore complete the release of all Martin Scorsese's feature films on DVD, and GoodFellas gets its long-overdue special edition. Not much can be said about the films here. Scorsese's reputation as the greatest living American filmmaker can be argued persuasively without ever leaving this box. I'd forgotten how brilliant the music cues are: Layla's piano coda playing over the corpse montage in GoodFellas, the transition from Alice Faye to Mott the Hoople at the beginning of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.
We get first-rate transfers on all the films, in anamorphic wide-screen with unobtrusive 5.1 soundtracks.
There's one oddity in the presentation. Each disc case advertises a commentary, but with the exception of GoodFellas, the films have scene commentaries with Scorsese and various participants - Burstyn, Kristofferson and Diane Ladd on Alice, assistant director Mardik Martin on Who's That Knocking. These contributions from Scorsese and various cast members cover about half of each film, but no two speakers are ever in the same room, and you never get the feeling that anyone, except Ladd on Alice, is watching the movie.
Warner has set up the DVD so that if you select the commentary option you can watch the scenes with commentary, but the subtitles don't work, so you can't play the commentaries and follow the dialogue.
Some of this was done on the quick. A couple of verbal suggestions, as well as the presence of cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker on some commentaries, suggest that Scorsese was in production on The Aviator while doing his commentaries. And why nothing from Harvey Keitel?
That said, if you've been holding out for special editions and commentaries, it's a terrific, reasonably priced package; I've seen preorder prices just over $50 online. Even if you only want three of the single discs, it's still cheaper to buy the box.
EXTRAS Director/cast/crew scene commentaries, theatrical trailers, short making-of featurettes. GoodFellas: director/cast/crew and Henry Hill commentaries, three making-of documentaries, trailers, storyboard comparisons. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
(Kino/Pixi, 1976) D: Krzysztof Kieslowski, w/ Franciszek Pieczka, Stanislaw Igar. Rating: NNNNN
(Kino/Pixi 1979) D: Kieslowski w/ Jerzy Stuhr, Malgorzata Zabkowska. Rating: NNNN
these are part of a four-film release of Krzysztof Kieslowski's early films that also includes Blind Chance and No End. The Scar was his first feature after a decade of documentaries, and Blind Chance tells you where they got the idea for Sliding Doors and Run Lola Run. The Scar is a broad social drama about a rural town where a massive factory building project suddenly starts shredding the forests and outlying neighbourhoods. Kieslowski's documentary background shows in his treatment of meetings and arguments. It all feels very real.
Camera Buff is about a man who buys an 8mm camera to film the growth of his newborn child and finds himself making a documentary for his company. In the process, he encounters "suggestions" from his superiors and the joy of film juries discussing his "artistry." It's a fascinating metaphor for the artist under the tyranny of state socialism.
Kieslowski hadn't yet developed the lyrical style of his later work, but The Scar has a startling sense of composition. (Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak would eventually shoot Black Hawk Down.) Kino's packages are imported from MK2 in France and include interviews with Kieslowski friends and collaborators and short films and comments by Kieslowski scholar Annette Insdorf. A sign of the economic constraints within which these projects operate is that Insdorf offered to redo her material in English, but Kino felt it couldn't justify the expense.
EXTRAS The Scar: interviews with Idziak, Agnieszka Holland, sound engineer Michal Zarnecki, theatrical trailer, Concert Of Requests (a 1967 Kieslowski short film). Polish with English subtitles.
Camera Buff: interviews with Krzysztof Zanussi, Holland, Insdorf, Talking Heads (a 1980 Kieslowski short documentary), theatrical trailer. Polish with English subtitles.
(Universal, 1972) D: Steven Speilberg, w/ Dennis Weaver. Rating: NNNN
speaking of completing directo rial oeuv res, Universal fills a couple of Speilberg gaps with this week's release of D uel and The Sugarland Express. Duel, a taut little television thriller about a man, a car and a malevolent truck, holds up startlingly well. The premise has an elemental appeal (screenwriter Richard Matheson has a genius for premise: The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Last Man On Earth, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet), and Spielberg is indecently assured for someone barely 24. Great crisp transfer; the old video tended to lose the difference between the blue of the sky and the blue of Dennis Weaver's shirt. Spielberg doesn't do commentaries, but 45 minutes of interviews with Spielberg and Richard Matheson in the extras should satisfy anyone's commentary needs. The most startling fact in the interview - I'd certainly never been aware of it - is that Duel was shot in 10 days. And the climactic shot of the film is a single take - no cuts, no special effects. Note to Universal: now can we please have Something Evil, Spielberg's second tele-feature? I've always been very fond of it.
EXTRAS The Making Of Duel: Spielberg interview, Spielberg And The Small Screen featurette, Richard Matheson And The Writing Of Duel, theatrical trailer (Duel got theatrical release in Europe), photo gallery. French, Spanish subtitles.
Candyman: Special Edition
(Columbia/TriStar, 1992) D: Bernard Rose, w/ Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd. Rating: NNNN
candyman remains one of the most elegantly frightening horror films of the 90s. Its pedigree is impeccable: Clive Barker wrote the original story and screenplay and executive produced, Bernard Rose previously directed Paperhouse, and Philip Glass did the score. Set in Chicago's Cabrini Green project, it's an urban legend come to life, offering terror in great bloody chunks that gave the filmmakers some ratings problems. Add the tremendous central performances of Virginia Madsen, the most interesting almost-star of the era, and Tony Todd in the title role and the result is a minor classic.
The special edition includes a director commentary (revelation: one of the actors who read for the lead was the then unknown Sandra Bullock), a making-of documentary and an interview with Clive Barker, who as he ages sounds increasingly like the English Harvey Fierstein.
EXTRAS Director commentary, Sweets To The Sweet: The Candyman Mythos, Clive Barker: Raising Hell, storyboard gallery, theatrical trailer. English, French versions, English, French, Portuguese subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, August 24
Harsh Realm: The Complete Series
(20th Century Fox, 1999) Someday I'll understand how producer Chris Carter's Millennium lasted three seasons while Harsh Realm, much more interesting and a lot weirder, didn't last one.
(Criterion/Morningstar, 1953) Fellini's classic about small-town guys hanging out. Watch it back-to-back with Mean Streets.
(Lions Gate, 2003) Lars von Trier abuses Nicole Kidman for three hours.
Gia: Unrated Version
(Warner, 1998) Six more minutes of Angelina Jolie nudity. Woohoo!
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb