After almost a decade of growth, and with DVD now firmly entrenched as THE entertainment medium of choice, there are plenty of titles out on the market that were released before the days when special editions were the norm rather than the exception. That means there are plenty of titles that deserve a second release in order to take advantage of better technology or simply to better represent a title on disc. (If any studio execs want any pointers, just drop a line. You can start with Falling Down
and Better Off Dead
and work up from there.)
2004 was a big year for double-dipping, as at least 70 major titles saw their second (and in some cases third, fourth or fifth) release, whether as definitive special editions, anniversary celebrations or simply as promotional tools used to make a few more bucks. For some titles, the new discs were welcome additions to the library, cleaning up for prior DVD sins, while others just perpetuated crimes against the loyal. Here's a look at the best and worst repeat offenders of 2004*.
1. Panic Room: Special Edition - Columbia/Tri-Star
Panic Room might be the least respected of David Fincher's non-Aliens work, to the point where when it was announced that a three-disc set was coming, following the original bare-bones SuperBit disc, people complained that it was too much Panic Room. However, when the discs, produced by super-DVD producer David Prior, hit the shelves, that opinion changed tremendously. Essentially, what the set became, was a course in filmmaking on three DVDs. Three commentaries (including one hosted by the legendary William Goldman) serve as lectures, focusing on acting, directing and writing, while an amazing assortment of featurettes cover pre-production, shooting and post work. This set's greatest strength may be that it is almost a set about filmmaking and David Fincher, instead of about Panic Room. Don't forget the stunning menus either.
(Reviewed by Aaron Beierle and Jason Bovberg.)
2. Dawn of the Dead: The Ultimate Edition - Anchor Bay
Sure, this is not really a double-dip, but rather the 73,239th dip (thanks to the gods of double-dipping, Anchor Bay), but this time, they definitely made it one you couldn't pass up. A four-disc extravaganza, featuring not one, not two, but three versions of the film, and a laundry list of extras that leave nothing out, this package will satisfy any Dead fan, and won't have them complaining about the extra cost. Three commentaries, a ton of art galleries and commercials, two massive documentaries on the film, and a bunch of assorted goodies make the label "Ultimate Edition" as true as it possible could be.
(Reviewed by G. Noel Gross and DVD Savant.)
3. Clerks X - Miramax
When Clerks was first released on DVD, it carried over from laserdisc a decent assortment of extras. So 10 years after the film was released, when creator Kevin Smith and his crew revisited the film, they had to do a lot to justify a second release for fans who pony’d up well over $30 for the first release. What they did was put out a three-disc set with improved audio and video presentations, two separate cuts of the film, as well as a new audio commentary, short film and "lost" scene. And there's plenty more where that came from, with The Snowball Effect, a feature-length documentary, Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary, Smith's first short film. There's so much content here that anyone owning the first DVD should be unable to deny themselves this new set.
(Reviewed by Aaron Beirle and Randy Miller III.)
4. Gone with The Wind: Collector's Edition - Warner Brothers
I'll confess something here: I don't like Gone with the Wind. I just simply can't get into this kind of epic costume melodrama. I think it's the same problem holding me back from really getting into Lord of the Rings. But I know this is considered a true film classic by many. I also know a quality DVD when I see it. Though I hate the idea of changing or flipping a DVD in order to finish a film, in order to give this movie a proper (and improved) presentation, the movie was split over a pair of platters, with another two discs included for bonus materials. Though the commentary is rather dry (I doubt many could speak for this long without running out of steam), the rest of the bonus materials are outstanding, including a feature-length documentary and tons of archival footage. Warner Brothers had released this film twice before, but the third time was the charm.
(Reviewed by Gil Jawetz.)
5. M - Criterion
Criterion could have stopped at their outstanding new transfer and they would have had a winner on their hands, compared to their first bare-bones release of this Fritz Lang masterpiece. But instead they supplemented this successful restoration with an entire second disc of bonus features, including an excellent commentary track, interviews, a rare French short-film version of M and an informative interview between Lang and William Friedkin. The difference between this set and the original DVD is like day and night.
(Reviewed by DVD Savant and Gil Jawetz (who included a comprehensive visual transfer comparison.))
6. Enter the Dragon: Two-Disc Special Edition - Warner Brothers
For the longest time, you could pick up a bargain one-disc special edition DVD of Enter the Dragon for around $10. There would have been nothing wrong with thinking it was the best release this old kung-fu movie would receive, with a commentary and two documentaries. But then Warner Brothers added the Bruce Lee classic to their special edition program, and the result was an outstandingly deep trifecta, as the main feature (with an improved transfer) is joined by a pair of feature-length documentaries, one on his career and one on the deaths of Bruce and his son Brandon. There's a ton of other extras (including most of the bonuses from the first release), but if this one only had the better transfer and the two documentaries, it still would have been worth upgrading. To the benefit of DVD fans though, the DVD producer didn't stop there.
(Reviewed by Ian Jane.)
7. Hellboy: Director's Cut - Columbia/Tri-Star
This three-disc edition of Hellboy might have been the quickest double-dip on the list, clocking in at just under three months from DVD to DVD. But this was no quickie cash grab. Instead, it's a 15-minute longer, and in many ways better film, with brand-new commentaries by director Guillermo del Toro and composer Marco Beltrami (on an isolated score track.) Though the original commentary by del Toro is gone (since this isn't the same cut), the cast commentary has been moved to a third disc, and has been turned into a video commentary. Most of the original supplements are still here, but in addition to some special effects "Production Workshops," the third platter embraces Hellboy's comic book routes, with several featurettes about comics and their creators, including a comic convention Q&A session. A comic geek's dream, this disc provides plenty of bang for the buck for owners of the previous disc, who also received a much-appreciated coupon for this edition.
(Reviewed by Randy Miller III and Aaron Beierle.)
8. The Lost Boys: Special Edition - Warner Brothers
Putting this list together, it becomes obvious that Warner Brothers was busy in 2004 when it came to re-releases, landing five titles on the top 10 (and sadly two on the bottom 10.) What's great is, that those five include some unexpected picks, including this vampire cult favorite. Originally put out with a decent widescreen transfer and zero bonuses, The Lost Boys re-emerged this year in a two-disc set with a much-better video presentation and extras that told the film's backstory. One of the most welcome surprises of the year had to be "Haimster & Feldog: The Story of the 2 Coreys," a featurette on Corey Haim and Corey Feldman's intertwined careers. It was extras like this that made this set a hit with the film's fans.
(Reviewed by Mike Long.)
9. The Shawshank Remption: 10th Anniversary - Warner Brothers
This is one of those unusual discs that has had three planned releases, but only saw two hit stores. Originally scheduled for early 1999, the DVD was going to be in letterboxed full-screen with a commentary by Morgan Freeman, but was canceled. Then, later that year, a bare-bones edition (though this time in anamorphic widescreen) came out to great disappointment. It took five years, but now a true special edition is available, though sadly without a Freeman track. The video and audio haven't changed, but plenty of extras have been added to the package, including a great Frank Darabont commentary and four lengthy featurettes. These are your usual four-minute clips, as evidenced by the 48-minute anamorphic widescreen (!) "Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature," which goes deeper in depth into the film than most of the supplementals I've seen. That such a wonderful film has finally received this kind of treatment puts this disc on my list.
(Reviewed by Holly E. Ordway.)
10. Purple Rain: 20th Anniversary - Warner Brothers
While Prince was busy going coast to coast with his "Musicology" tour, re-introducing America to his music, his former "slavemaster" Warner Brothers re-introduced his seminal film, in a two-disc set packed with extras. Though The Purple One was not involved (a true shame) those still on-hand turned out a package that did the film right with featurettes on Prince and the making of the film and a time-capsule worthy MTV special on the film's lame premiere party (complete with awful clothes and hair, an oddly unglamorous Little Richard and a shirtless Eddie Murphy.) Add a much-improved anamorphic widescreen transfer, following the original pan-and-scan release, and this is a double-dip worthy of a second investment.
(Reviewed by Robert Spuhler.)
Honorable mention: Trainspotting (much improved but it's basically a port-over from the 2003 British DVD)
Saving Private Ryan: D-Day 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition - Dreamworks
This upgrade from the 1999 DVD provides the same transfer (though considered one of the best around) but actually removes the excellent DTS soundtrack from that disc and a 30-minute featurette. But it does include 80 minutes of in-depth extras, that are solely movie motivated (no sequel promos or music videos of songs inspired by the film.) That almost makes up for Steven Spielberg's unwillingness to provide a commentary on his films. The reason why this falls somewhere between good and bad is the fact that, though there's plenty of good content and a fabulous presentation, in order to get the complete DVD experience of this film, one has to buy three separate releases. That's asking a lot for any DVD fan.
(Reviewed by Matthew Millheiser.)
1. The Animal: Uncut Special Edition - Columbia/Tri-Star
This is one of the lamest double-dips in the history of double-dips, and not just because the movie was awful. The only difference between the two releases are some small additions of nudity and swearing. There's not a single new extra, not a single improvement to the presentation and not a single reason to buy this disc. Even the film's biggest fan (yes you, Mr. President) couldn't justify laying out a single extra dollar for this disc. Just a waste of plastic, time and money. There's a special corner of hell reserved for the executive that greenlighted this bastard DVD (and every other rip-off re-release too.)
(Reviewed by Don Houston.)
2. Bourne Identity: Explosive Extended Edition - Universal
Explosive? Hardly. Extended? Not really. Edition? Well, yeah, I guess it's an edition. Is one out of three not bad? Yes. Yes it is. After a well-presented first release with a top-notch commentary by director Doug Liman, deleted scenes, and some bells and whistles, the follow-up actually removes more than it adds. In, are an assortment of short and shallow featurettes and a branching version of the movie that adds next to nothing. Out are the enveloping DTS track and the best part of the first DVD, the Doug Liman commentary. It's a definite misfire, which existed mainly to grab more cash and promote the film's sequel through an enclosed movie coupon. Worse yet is Universal's decision to discontinue the original disc, effectively sending Liman's commentary into obscurity.
(Reviewed by Aaron Beierle, Blake Kunisch and Jason Bovberg.)
3. Pirates of the Carribean: 3-Disc Special Edition - Disney
The first release of this film was excellent, with plenty of bonus features and an outstanding video transfer and audio mix. So why was it necessary for another release is a mystery worth sailing the seven seas to solve. Unlike re-releases like Enter the Dragon the extra disc space isn't filled with documentaries, and the longest featurette is just 15-minutes long (and that's a combination of three pieces.) Plus the packaging, combining the original disc with a cheapie slim tray for the third disc, is a simple shrink-wrap job, hammering home the lack of thought involved in this set (and inspiring future weak-ass repackagings, like The Ring Collector's Set.) The worst part is that we can look forward to the fourth "lost" disc, with a bonus movie ticket, when the sequel comes out. I can't wait to see the packaging for that one. Maybe they'll just tape two boxes together.
(Reviewed by Holly E. Ordway.)
4. Flirting with Disaster: Collector's Edition - Miramax
When Miramax announced they would be releasing new collector series DVDs for Trainspotting, Cop Land and Flirting with Disaster, I was ecstatic, mainly for Flirting, which is a favorite of mine. I looked forward to replacing the bare-bones first release with a packed special edition. The two-disc Trainspotting was great, and the director's cut of Cop Land was excellent. Flirting may have an improved transfer, but the supplements are thin, cobbled from old material and seemingly made without director David O. Russell's involvement. Consider, the biggest extra is a five-minute EPK. Compared to the other Collector's Editions released the same day, this may as well have been bare-bones once again. One of the most glaring misuses of the label "Collector's Edition" seen this year.
(Reviewed by Jason Bovberg.)
5. Pitch Black: Widescreen Unrated Director's Cut - Universal
This was one of the worst examples of a promotional rerelease, produced solely to capitalize on the release of Pitch Black's sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick. From the reworked cover art to the untouched audio and video to the enclosed movie ticket and six new extras (all of which are connected to the sequel), this DVD is a soulless double-dip marketer's dream: change the cover and hope to scam some of the original movie's fans. The only redeeming factor of this disc is the absence of the first release's "Raveworld Pitch Black Event," as pointless a featurette as any ever made.
(Reviewed by Shannon Nutt.)
6. The New Guy: Director's Cut - Columbia/Tri-Star
Ponder this for a moment... You can't get a special edition of Real Genius on DVD, but there are two different versions of The New Guy. Want to watch Monster Squad in digital widescreen glory? Well you can't. But here's another disc of inane crap to tide you over. The way some of these DVD decisions are made makes me question the existence of a higher power. It's not even like there was much added to this double-dip, besides four minutes of pointless scenes and an average commentary. I can't even fathom the motivation for creating this disc. It really is confounding.
(Reviewed by Jeffrey Robinson.)
7. Gothika: Special Edition - Warner Brothers
This disc touched a new height in promotional re-releases, as it came out in time for the theatrical release of Halle Berry's Catwoman, a movie connected to Gothika in star and studio only. In addition to the same DVD originally released, there's a second disc with three very brief featurettes about the movie's production and storyline, and two MTV shows, including the making of Limp Bizkit's "Behind Blue Eyes" video. The lack of effort on this special edition (outside of some OK character files) is the kind of crass commercialism that gives double-dipping its bad name. I think it even came with a Catwoman movie ticket, which may be an even bigger affront to movie fans.
(Reviewed by Daniel W. Kelly.)
8. Showgirls: V.I.P. Edition - MGM
While this set has its moments, namely a pair of nifty shot glasses and a ridiculously over-the-top commentary, it's not really a DVD set. If fact, looking at it, the DVD is almost like an afterthought, added to a Showgirls-themed bachelor party kit. If, perhaps, Paul Verhoeven or maybe Joe Eszterhas or just Elizabeth Berkley or that girl who made the costumes in the movie was involved, this would feel more like a proper double-dip. But unfortunately, the most movie-related difference from the first bare-bones release is an anamorphic widescreen transfer. Otherwise, all you get are some slightly-disguised promos for the famous strip club Scores, 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, and the set's true saving grace, a bitchy subtitle trivia track. Had they released this disc on its own, it may have avoided landing on this list, but forcing fans (and the curious) to buy $40 worth of crap to get the disc is simply not cool.
(Reviewed by Jason Bovberg.)
9. Booty Call: The Bootiest Edition - Columbia/Tri-Star
Maybe it's the subtitle, but "The Bootiest Edition" of Booty Call simply makes me cringe. Incredibly, Columbia/Tri-Star (a big double-dip whore, with four titles on this list) felt the need to revisit such a crass and truly unfunny film, an act that should instigate a congressional hearing. Not only did they improve the transfer and the audio mix, they also threw in the original ending, a mini-documentary on "booty calls" and a commentary with the writers and director. This is the kind of effort they put into Booty Call, yet movies like Just One of the Guys and Loverboy rot in bare-bones hell. This time around, it's not so much the treatment, but the movie that received it; a symbolic blow struck for good films everywhere. Besides... no matter how good the disc is, (and it's not very good,) the DVD is named "The Bootiest Edition." "The Bootiest Edition?" Come on...
(Reviewed by David Walker.)
10. Blazing Saddles: 30th Anniversary - Warner Brothers
I've rarely been as disappointed by a DVD as I was by this one. It's one thing to not include a bonus feature or produce a bad one. But to advertise a feature-length screen-specific Mel Brook commentary, and then deliver the same 50-minute audio interview from the previous disc is tantamount to a crime. Yes, the "Back in the Saddle" featurette is a nice touch, but the rest of the material is barely worth watching, which is sad when it comes to the way-too-brief "Intimate Portrait of Madeline Kahn." A beloved movie like this deserves a much better DVD, one that will likely never come now (at least until the next format.)
(Reviewed by Jason Bovberg.)
Honorable mention: Meet the Parents: SE (which actually removes a Stiller/DeNiro commentary in favor of a featurette about a stunt cat)
2004 Double-Dip Special Achievement
Because it's actually double-dipping five separate titles and is so impressive that it should stand on its own, this award goes to:
The Ultimate Matrix Collection
Warner Brothers had a guaranteed smash hit on their hands with this box set, so they didn't exactly need to go all out in order to move DVDs off the shelves. Luckily, the DVD producers didn't see it that way, and put more work into these discs than perhaps any DVD this year (and maybe ever.) This is as immense a work of movie reference as has been seen on DVD. But this wasn't a case of quantity over quality. They also made sure the features were interesting, while answering the many questions the films create. The best example would be the commentaries. Instead of the standard cast/crew chat, "The Ultimate Matrix Collection" provides informative and interesting tracks featuring film critics who didn't particular enjoy the films and philosophy scholars who dissect the subtext present in the trilogy. Instead of using multiple featurettes to promote a band who provided one song for the soundtrack, there's an entire disc devoted to the film's roots in philosophy, religion and science-fiction. It will take a film franchise of massive import and quality to ever match this set. Consider that the Star Wars box set, decades in the making and far more engrained in society, was a paltry four discs that pale in comparison. This is a set that should be on every DVD fan's shelf, and thankfully, Warner Brothers didn't take fans hostage by putting different content in the higher-cost limited edition set, thus allowing fans to make the choice between the price points, instead of having it made for them.
(Reviewed by Jason Bovberg.)
2004 Double-Dip Special Failure
On the flip side, one box set aggravated DVD fans to no end. So to that set goes this award:
Could this release be screwed up any more than it is? Sure, there were good intentions, as each film received a brand-new anamorphic widescreen transfer to go with a new 5.1 audio mix (plus a DTS channel for the first film.) Of course, there were some problems there, as some color concerns cropped up, and the film itself ended up cropped visually, while the sound didn't impress much. But it gets better. On this, the third release of Rocky, all the extras from the special-edition second release, with the exception of the trailer, are gone. The excellent audio commentary, the tribute to Burgess Meredith, the video commentary by Sylvester Stallone and more...all gone. Why? For a DTS track? But, this being a world championship screw-up, the errors don't stop there. Advertised to come with a sixth disc featuring an A&E "Biography" on Stallone, many found their set came with just the five underwhelming discs, with improved (and cropped) video and sound. The only way MGM could have screwed this up more would have been to replace Rocky with Oscar and Rocky IV with Stop or My Mom Will Shoot!. Even like that, this set would have been more satisfying.
(Reviewed by Ian Jane.)
*For anyone wondering where Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Extended Edition is, when you add that much to a flick, you don't have a double-dip. You've got a whole other movie, which you'll find on the Top 20 list.
- Francis Rizzo III