Warner Brothers' Short series DVDs are generally a great source for high quality independent films running between five and thirty minutes each. The volumes contain about a dozen films, each of which is accompanied by its own selection of extras including multi angle video, director commentaries, cast bios and production credits. Rather than make the discs a mish mash of unrelated films Warner chooses a theme and presents movies that address it. Short 3's theme is authority.
I haven't seen all the discs in the Short collection but the few I have watched were well worth the time spent. Unfortunately Short 3 is a little weaker than some of the others I've reviewed here. There are one or two great selections but the overall tone of the disc is downbeat and less entertaining that other Short offerings.
Night and Fog: Produced in the 1950s, Night and Fog was the first commercial film ever made that depicted the horrors of the Holocaust. This French short is mainly comprised of archival footage showing everything from Hitler rallies and the construction of the concentration camps to close-ups of the desperate faces of internees and ghastly footage of bodies being pushed into mass graves. At the time of its release Night and Fog was hailed for its willingness to address the Nazi atrocities head on and it sparked the first open conversations on the topic of mass genocide. Twenty five years later Night and Fog is no less powerful and stands as a clear warning for present and future generations. This is easily the most significant short on the disc and after watching it the other titles seem more than a little trivial.
Flying Over Mother: This very funny and poignant short concerns the musings of a Cosmonaut facing death as his capsule makes an uncontrolled reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Voice over narration (in Russian with English subtitles) explores the meaning of manhood and the events that lead one to question authority, break away from the family and become an adult.
Dada: The Short series often includes animated films. Dada is an animated short with a humorous theme. It concerns a society whose people are obsessed with status in the form of book learning. When a man and his wife discover that their new son finds knowledge in other ways they face a crisis that calls into question the very basis of their community.
A Girl's Own Story: A surreal look at female teenage life from director Jane Campion of The Piano fame.
Joe: The story of a mental patient and his quest for the perfect pair of shoes.
Performance McKean: A short spoken word piece by Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap, Laverne and Shirley) that will make you question the value of commercialism and voting.
OS Camaradas: This Brazilian short reminds me of the stories of Franz Kafka. It seems to have been influenced by The Trial in particular.
All of the shorts on this disc have been transferred with the greatest of care. The color saturation, black levels, shadow detail and overall contrast are very good in all cases. Only Night and Fog suffers from damaged source material but even it is in better than average shape considering its age.
Most of the shorts are accompanied by Dolby Pro-Logic sound tracks and they're lackluster at best. None of the films has a sound track that draws the viewer in. This is a big departure from other discs in the series which feature more engaging sound and various examples of full blown 5.1 audio.
Almost every film on Short 3 has an alternate audio track with director commentary and each one has text screens with production notes. The extra content on Short 3 is noticeably lacking in comparison to other volumes in the series. The only surprise is a funny bonus short over the main DVD credits screen featuring Ryan Styles of the Drew Carrey Show.
I've been a fan of the Short series for some time now but I have to say that this is the weakest of the lot (at least that I've seen.) Night and Fog alone makes this disc worth owning but lack of comparably valuable shorts on the rest of the DVD will make most buyers think twice.