Sunday, October 7, 2012

Soapbox Topic #2: DVD Special Features (Or the Lack Thereof)

So last week I picked up The Cabin in the Woods on DVD, all excited not only to see the movie again but also to check out the special features on the disc. With a movie like this, and with the creators involved, I figured the extras would be tons of fun and super-informative. Feature-length commentaries are probably my favorite kind of DVD special feature, so I was stoked that both director/writer Drew Goddard and producer/writer Joss Whedon did a commentary for The Cabin in the Woods.

Problem was, their commentary sucked. It was god-awful terrible. They didn't talk about a goshdarn important thing and I was insanely pissed off the whole time I was listening to it. It was basically Goddard and Whedon (sorry to be crude) jerking each other off the whole time and then occasionally talking about what was on screen. No explanation or discussion about how they even came up with the concept for such an inventive movie, no talking about all the monsters in the cubes (which is still kinda hard to see on my smallish TV), no nothing that I wanted to hear about. Such a huge freaking disappointment - I really thought Joss would give me something better.

Is it really so much to ask for to have some features that actually, you know, add to the experience of the movie and stuff? If you're like me, you not only love movies, but you're also interested in the whole movie-making process. I want to know how the effects were achieved, I want to know about any fun incidents on set, the casting process, the production process, the editing process... I love that shit. When DVDs first came out (gosh, how old am I going to feel when I tell younger people that I was around when DVDs were invented?), the promise of getting to see all that behind-the-scenes stuff along with the movie was the thing that I was most excited about.

And while many DVDs have sometimes exceeded my expectations in terms of the extras (heck, my Gone with the Wind collection has four discs), I have been disappointed many a time by others. Who thinks that they can just slap on a 5 minute featurette, a ridiculous poster gallery, and a trailer and think I'll be satisfied with the DVD? Because I won't be satisfied, and in fact, I will feel very, very cheated. I don't know what goes into the whole DVD-feature-selecting-and-making process and I don't care. I don't care if you have to release the DVD a few months later to actually make it worthwhile. Have somebody film behind-the-scenes stuff during pre-production, production, and post-production and make something interesting out of all of it later. Check out what people are saying in reviews and stuff after the movie is released, and use that in commentaries and whatnot to answer any of their questions. It's a DVD! You have the disc space to fill it with tons of interesting tidbits, so goshdarnit, MAKE IT SO!

Anyway, this topic got me thinking about all the features on some of my DVDs that I have loved, and not just the usual stuff like commentaries and making-of featurettes, but those things that filmmakers put on the discs that are a little "extra" special. Here's just a handful of them:

Sin City (2005)
The All Green Screen Version

Robert Rodriguez is known to have lots of awesome features on almost all of his DVDs (though he seems to have really neglected The Faculty... hint hint, Robert) - the 15-minute film schools, the cooking segments - and to me this is by far the best one. This feature is the entire movie's raw footage in front of the green screen, and shows the viewer just how much work still had to be done after everything was shot. The footage is sped up so it takes less than 10 minutes to get through the whole movie, and it is very interesting to watch and see just how minimal all the sets are and stuff. Awesome!

Halloween (2007)
Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween Documentary

Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects also has a great making-of documentary that goes through almost day by day what was going on on the set, but this documentary goes way beyond that. Get this: it is freaking 4 and a half hours long. Yes, I have watched it more than once, and I love it. For those who have a fascination with filmmaking and how things are done... this won't really teach you much of anything, but behind-the-scenes stuff are always interesting to me and this feature certainly has plenty of that.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart

Okay, this picture is obviously of a different flip chart for a different movie (a possible third film from the duo). The flip chart they did for Shaun of the Dead was a pre-script version of the movie, and in the feature they go through most of the pages, sometimes making non-related jokes, but mostly they do a good job of showing all their initial ideas for the movie and how much thought actually went into the final draft. I think this is a good inspiration for anybody out there making a movie and shows a great way to get it done and put all your thoughts on (really big) paper.
Another great feature on this disc is the animated "Plot Hole Explanations."

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Feature-Length Commentary by Joe Bob Briggs

To any horror fan that doesn't really know how to feel about the 1978 rape-revenge movie I Spit on Your Grave, I will always recommend that they watch the movie with the commentary recorded by drive-in guru Joe Bob Briggs, found on the Millennium Edition DVD. I can't watch the movie without his commentary on. He uses his trademark wit to make the commentary interesting, but he also has some really insightful things to say about the movie, things that made me look at the movie in a different way.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Reservoir Dolls

Found on the 15th Anniversary Edition DVD, this short but amusing feature always makes me smile. I don't know who created it and I wish I did. Using the Reservoir Dogs action figures for Mr. Blonde and the cop Marvin Nash, they act out the ear-cutting torture scene frame by frame, with a little inset of the actual scene playing at the top of the screen. They even made a little set to look like the warehouse. Very cute feature and a nice bonus for fans of the movie.

What say you?! Been disappointed by some of your DVDs? Have any favorite special features that you'd like to share? Tell me!


  1. Hey, if you want awesome DVD commentary, look no further than Max Magician and the Legend of the Rings. Thrill as you hear the directors specify that yes, they do have licenses to own hawks, make excuses for the crappy effects by saying that they only got the program a short while before post-production, and (my favorite) lapse into awkward silence for about a good 15-20 seconds after one particularly awful scene where they appear to have utterly forgotten to even put a special effect in for some knights disappearing (seriously, they're just there and then they're not, no effects, no sounds, no nothing, and the commentary track reaches that point and the directors just kind of stop in the middle of what they were saying and can't think of anything to say, so about 20 seconds later they just start up on something else entirely). I love that movie's commentary track--it's hilarious.

  2. Another great commentary track is the one for 'Deathstalker 2.' Jim Wynorski basically makes fun of his own movie and it's shortcomings. He points out the re-use of stuntmen (it's always the same three guards), silly use of props (a door knob as a magical orb) and even goofs (he points out a Volkswagen Bug in the back of a shot).

    The best part is when he mentions how their lead actress hated her body double for one scene...since she had cellulite. Well, it's either that or the bit when he explains that a P.O.V. shot was done by having her straddle a 300-lb camera man. That's great too.

    *Just to note: I don't know if it's on the 4-Film re-release of the film*

    Oh and I'd throw a shout-out to most of the Corman re-release discs. They're chock-full of stuff, be it 'Galaxy of Terror' or 'Piranha.' You get a real eye for how much of a businessman Corman is- right or wrong.

  3. Dammit, I knew I forgot one...

    If you like Joe Bob Briggs on Commentary, I know that Netflix carries the versions of 'Samurai Cop' (truly awful) and 'Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter' with his Commentary on them. They make the films watchable- which is an amazing compliment IMO.