Ultimate Complete Final Cut Collection (Volume 1), by Ric Meyers
If you happen to have three hundred and twenty-five smackaroos lying around, you can secure a DVD-lover’s dream. Because that’s about how much it’ll cost you to give yourself — or others — my top DVD picks for this season’s gift-giving.
Oh sure, you could simply go back amongst my previous columns and cherry pick my favorites, but what’s the fun of that? Wouldn’t it be, oh, so much better to lay on your chosen a mass media item that they’ll never forget? Imagine the joy and confusion on your preferred holiday morning when they receive not only a mass o’discs but a handy attaché case as well?
Yes, there are not one, but two special editions available just in time for ho-ho-ho-ing that come in a super nifty briefcase. The first, and most hefty, is the long-awaited The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Collection, available only from Time Life Video (until the autumn of ’08). Although it comes with a hefty pricetag to match ($250) it includes 41 discs, so that’s really only about six bucks each.
Let’s get one thing straight: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is to James Bond what The Monkees are to The Beatles. But plenty people like The Monkees, myself included, so that’s okay. When the 1960’s TV networks saw how well 007 was doing, they scrambled to get a piece of the action. MGM and NBC’s answer was to go to the source: James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, who took a minor mobster character from Goldfinger, and turned him into Napoleon Solo, the man from the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Sam Rolfe, a veteran writer/producer (Twilight Zone, Have Gun Will Travel) took the idea and ran with it.
The result was four seasons of quality-fluctuating espionage action with star Robert Vaughn and breakout star David McCallum (as super-cool, ultra-hip Russian UNCLEr, Illya Kuryakin, who was only supposed to be an occasional guest until the audience laid eyes on him). Tragically, the network decided to take the easier, campy, route once the Adam West Batman appeared, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but U.N.C.L.E. remains a beloved milestone to many. Time Life certainly seems to agree, since there’s more than ten hours of superlative extras in the set, incorporating the full, enthusiastic, audio-commentating collaboration of Vaughn and McCallum.
Let’s see now: there’s four booklets written by top fans and critics, ten featurettes, including an extensive “making of,” new interviews with the stars, directors, producers, writers, and even the cinematographer, docs about the guns, gadgets, girls, garb, cars (you didn’t think everything started with “g”, did you?), music, merchandising, and the fans. There’s also McCallum’s home movies, an overview of the show’s many top guest stars, publicity clips, and loads of stills — including Ian Fleming’s original notes, network memos, production designs, and pics from before and behind the camera. Naturally, they also cram in many promos, trailers and television commercials as they could find.
Is that all? No, that’s not all. Wait, there’s more. To top it off, they also include one of the European feature films they created by combining a two-part episode with newly filmed footage, as well as Solo, the original, never broadcast, pilot. For anyone with even a minor interest in the show, this is the mother lode.
But hark, I hear three of you say, what about us fans of the landmark 1982 science fiction thriller Blade Runner? Don’t we get an overstuffed briefcase too? Well, I’m glad you spoke up. As a matter of fact, yes, you do. The Blade Runner Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes out this coming Tuesday, and while it’s not as “yeesh-worthy” as the U.N.C.L.E. monolith, it’s still very neat.
There’s one disc just for director Ridley Scott’s “no, really, I mean it this time” remastered “Final Cut,” which had a theatrical release a few weeks back. Then there’s another disc for three other cuts of the film (the original, the international version, and the 1992 first stab at a director’s cut). There’s an entire disc just for an exhaustive and exhausting “Making of” documentary. Then, as if that’s not enough, a fourth disc wrestles the inspiration, inception, pre-production, production, post production, release, and legacy to the ground – often with multiple featurettes each.
Had enough? Well, tough. The suitcase is not through with you. Disc five contains the work print version. Yes, the work print … and, finally, a UK TV documentary which was the first hint that this was not just another well-meaning but flawed sci-fi misstep that the studio treated it as. In any case (all puns intended), your rewards for watching every second of this is a lecticular motion image from the film, a collectible model, an origami Unicorn (!), and even a “letter” from Ridley Scott. It’s a really great monument to the enduring film, but there’s certainly one subtextual message: you had better really like this movie.
Of course, if luggage isn’t your thing, you can always hand over the remastered four-disc Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 Volume 1 and the remastered two-disc The Three Stooges Collection, Volume 1, 1934 – 1936 (which is tragically, nearly criminally, bereft of a single special feature), and have done with it. They’re loaded with laughs, easier to display, and about three hundred bucks less.
But who am I to quibble with gift costs? In fact, I’m so busy with North Pole preparations and deliveries, I won’t be able to watch any more DVDs myself until after the holiday. So rest assured The Simpsons Movie DVD is watchable, Eastern Promises is an okay B-movie thriller, and Rush Hour 3 is missable, no matter how much I like Jackie Chan.
I’ll see you back here December 28th. Merry Xmas to all … and to all a good sight!
Ric Meyers is the author of Murder On The Air, Doomstar, The Great Science-Fiction Films, Murder in Halruua, For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films, Fear Itself, and numerous other books and has (and sometimes still is) on the editorial staff of such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Starlog, Fangoria, Inside Kung-Fu, The Armchair Detective and Asian Cult Cinema. He’s also a television and motion picture consultant whose credits include The Twilight Zone, Columbo, A&E’s Biography and The Incredibly Strange Film Show.