DVD sets of TV shows industry's bread 'n' butter
By Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
By Terry Lawson
The DVD desk is deluged with mail, which can be divided into two categories:
When is (favorite all-time movie) being released on disc?
When are you going to review the new box set of (favorite TV show)?
The latter request was not difficult to fulfill even three years ago, when series collections were still a novelty. Sure, there are gotta-see-it-again hits like this week's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (Warner), available in widescreen and full screen in an extras-packed two-disc "Special Edition." But nowadays TV boxes are the bread and the butter of the business.
That's because they provide a relatively inexpensive way to market material produced before everybody involved wanted a piece of the action and with a steady, pre-sold customer base.
Time constraints prevent me from properly reviewing most TV boxes — it would take 15 hours to get through the 30 half-hours of "Hogan's Heroes" now available, all originally shown in 1967-68.
Even an incomplete list of the boxes available this week — for fairly complete info, check out www.tvshowsondvd.com — offers a picture of just how important the TV-show audience is becoming to the DVD industry:
If you wondered what "Howl's Moving Castle" was doing competing in the best animated film category at the Oscars, the answer can be found on the DVD version (Walt Disney) of the fantasy-adventure by revered Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, a pioneer of the distinctive style that has come to be known as anime.
It's the story of a young woman who becomes old as the result of a curse.
In an effort to reverse her situation, she becomes the housekeeper of the petulant young wizard Howl, and while sweeping chimneys in the magical abode of the title, she inspires him to use his powers to prevent impending catastrophe.
"Howl's" is entertaining and ingenious, but it is not the best introduction to Miyazaki's world. A more entrancing choice for beginners would be 1988's anime "My Neighbor Totoro" (Walt Disney), a magical film that also involves a home in an enchanted forest, now released in a two-disc special edition.
The most important aspect of the new two-DVD version is the option allowing us to hear the dialogue in the original Japanese, with English subtitles.
Though purists will squabble that the term "film noir" is so overused that any black-and-white film in which someone wears a fedora qualifies, lumping questionable older films in that category has an up side. It gets them back in print, often remastered and remixed.
Three new titles with Fox's Film Noir imprint all deserve the attention of film lovers who have never seen them.
From 1950 is "No Way Out," not to be confused with the 1987 Kevin Costner thriller of the same name.
It's notable for a number of reasons. It was directed and cowritten by the great Joseph Mankiewiez, and featured the film debuts of Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Poitier plays a hospital intern whose attempts to save the life of a white man fail, causing the late man's brother, played by a wild-eyed Richard Widmark, to whip up a hate campaign that results in riots.
Robert Wise directed "House on Telegraph Hill," an atmospheric thriller starring Valentina Cortese as a European World War II survivor who assumes the identity of a dead friend from a relocation camp and comes to San Francisco in search of the woman's son.
The truest "noir" of the trio is Otto Preminger's "Fallen Angel" from 1945, with Dana Andrews as a con man who drifts into a small California town and romances heiress Alice Faye, much to the distress of her protective sister Ann Revere.
All three films come with commentary by Eddie Muller, who co-wrote Tab Hunter's recent autobiography.