Video Event of the Week: Could Image's DVD of Adam Resurrected, the Paul Schrader-directed death camp survivor tale starring Jeff Goldblum, possibly qualify? Might Anvil! The Story of Anvil, the fabulous music documentary about the real-life Spinal Tap from VHI1 Films conceivably make the grade? Or to my absolute and utter shock, could Fox's My Life in Ruins, the latest comedy from My Big Fat Greek Wedding auteur Nia Vardalos against the odds turn out to be The One?
All worthy, to be sure (although the answer to the last question above is "no") but for my money it's got to be Disney's Diamond Edition DVD and Blu-ray set of the newly restored to a fare-thee-well Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Here's a bit of the "Heigh Ho!" sequence to give you a little idea of the (in the abstract) quite astonishing quality of the upgraded video and audio.
So what's in the set? Well, disc one is a DVD with the spruced up classic, an audio commentary, a new music video (blech) by Tiffany Thornton, and a sneak peek at Disney's forthcoming The Princess and the Frog (underwhelming). Disc two is the Blu-ray Snow White, and the third disc (also a Blu-ray) is stuffed to the proverbial gills with extras and bonuses. The short list: newly discovered storyboards, a tour of the original Disney studio, a karaoke sing-along, a making-of doc, and lots more stuff that I frankly will never have time to watch. The most important question, I guess, is whether the Blu-ray of the film looks significantly better than the DVD; the answer, for me anyway, is yeah, but just incrementally. It's like the difference between seeing a film in a better than average Hell Octaplex or the Ziegfeld Theater (hey -- those of you in NYC will know what I mean)
As for the restoration itself, I had much the same reaction to it I had to Disney's previous revamp of Pinocchio. Paraphrasing what I said back then, the ineluctable fact is that the restored Snow White (as seen in either the DVD or Blu-ray versions) is in many ways a different film than you may remember. It's not simply a question of whether the images are more detailed or the colors brighter -- they are, obviously -- and that the ravages of age afflicting the source material (inevitable with a 70 year old film) have been digitally repaired. What Disney's technicians have done here, instead, is eliminate every vestige of human handicraft or imperfection. Smudging? A frame where the hand-painted color was inconsistent? History. In fact, what they seem to have set out to achieve (successfully) is to present Snow White as it might have looked if its creators had been able to to produce it directly in the digital domain without ever having to go through the whole cellulloid thing. It's Snow White as CGI, and on that level it's indisputably dazzling. But there's something off about it, something missing, and I don't think I'm necessarily a Luddite film snob if I suggest that it might be heart.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a tad to make a point, obviously, but I'll stand by the assessment. With one additional cavil: There's something deeply weird about hearing a 70 year old mono optical soundtrack rejiggered into stereo, let alone into 7.1. surround sound. I'm in awe of the science and artistry with which the Disney engineers have pulled off off the trick, and it mostly works. But in the end your (or at least my) stubborn ears insist on hearing the limited dynamic range of the original, and it's a tad jarring. Fortunately, both discs give you the option of listening to the film with the original track (albeit cleaned up and purged of pops and whistles); it's the only way to go, IMHO.
In any case, the above reservations notwithstanding, this new set is an astounding technological feat, and the film itself remains an unarguable masterpiece (although post-Enchanted, it seems somewhat less minty fresh than it used to). You can -- and obviously should -- order it here.
Okay, with that out of the way, and since things are likely to be little quiet around here for a few days, here's a relevant and hopefully fun little project for us all:
Scariest or Most Disturbing Movie Ostensibly Aimed at Kids!!!
And my totally top of my head Top Five is:
5. Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010)
Obviously, this won't be out till next year and equally obviously I haven't seen it, but I have absolutely no doubt that this is going to be nightmare fodder for an entire generation of as yet un-f**ked up kids. Thank you, Tim and Johnny!!!!
4. Invaders From Mars (William Cameron Menzies, 1953)
Not a kid's movie per se, but without question the scariest film ever told from the perspective of a kid. And having first encountered it at just the right age, I can testify that any kid who's ever seen it has never forgotten it.
3. Old Yeller (Robert Stevenson,1957)
He goes all rabid and Cujo on them. Tommy Kirk has to shoot him. I don't know about you, but I haven't been the same since.
2. Alice in Wonderland (Norman Z. McLeod, 1933)
And speaking of nightmare fodder, that's W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty. This has never been on home video, alas, but Turner Classic Movies shows it occasionally. If you dare.
And the numero uno dude-you're freaking-me-out flick, quite obviously is..
1. The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (Roy Rowland, 1953)
Courtesy of Dr. Seuss -- what happens when a kid doesn't practice the piano? He's sent to this horrific vision of Hell. Thanks, Doc!!!!
Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?