while back (quite a while now, actually), Warner Bros. announced
that they would be digging back through their vaults and
re-releasing a number of titles as spiffy new two-disc special
editions. And there was much rejoicing. While most studios would be
rightly accused of double-dipping and trying to milk a little more
blood from the stone, Warner's new line was welcomed with open arms.
After all, Warner had been a pioneer in the introduction of DVD. And
as such, they had rushed out more than a few A-list titles as D-list
discs back in the early days of the format. The fact that they were
now going back and correcting their earlier mistakes was seen as a
positive sign that Warner was still as committed as they'd ever been
Since that announcement, we've had the opportunity to look at a
number of these special editions and get a feel for the way the line
is headed. Some of the news is good, some bad. On the plus side,
their selection of titles has been impressive. There's little
arguing that virtually every title to receive a double disc
re-release has deserved an upgrade (well, I might be willing to make
several arguments against the merits of Robin
Hood, Prince of Thieves but even I can't deny that it's a
popular, and more importantly for the studio, profitable choice).
The packaging, a dual-disc digipack enclosed in a relatively sturdy
slipcase, is certainly a big step up from Warner's usual cardboard
snapper cases. And from a technical point of view, most if not all
of these special editions represent some level of improvement over
their original releases.
But with the good comes the bad or, if not outright bad, at least
disappointing. The menu designs of most of these titles are
singularly uninspired. If you're intensely fed up with overly
elaborate animations that make transitioning between menus a chore,
you might welcome these as a simplified throwback. But personally, I
think there has to be a happy medium between totally static menus
and wildly overdesigned screens. More importantly, there is often
quite a bit less to these special editions than meets the eye.
Certainly most of these movies should be two-disc affairs, if for no
other reason than most of them are a whole lot longer than your
average picture. But the mere existence of a second disc does not
alone a special edition make.
Let me stress that by no means are all of these discs watered-down
pseudo-special editions in gussied-up packaging. Some of them are
very good indeed, happily holding their own with any DVD out there.
But because the movies selected for this treatment are by and large
so good, the disappointment you may feel with some of them feels
more acute. Having said that, let's take a closer look at five of
Warner's two-disc special editions released over the past couple of
Color Purple: Special Edition
Director's Cut - Special Edition
Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest: Special Edition
Right Stuff: Special Edition
in the Rain: Special Edition