Psycho (Oct. 19)- The #8 film on our 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release is now available on the format. One of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films, and arguably his most iconic, will look and sound better than ever on Blu-ray this week in honor of its 50th anniversary.
The new 5.1 DTS-HD surround sound should bring an entirely new element to the amazing film. The mono track will be available for viewers who want to hear the film in its original form, but why would you with the new surround sound. This is a testament to the power of the Blu-ray transfer on every level.
Revisit the legendary shower scene with this Blu-ray re-release and explore the making of Psycho with over a dozen supplements.
- Feature-length audio commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho)
- The Making of Psycho: A feature-length documentary on Hitchcock’s most shocking film
- In the Master’s Shadow – Hitchcock’s Legacy: Some of Hollywood’s top filmmakers discuss Hitchcock’s influence and why his movies continue to thrill audiences.
- Hitchcock/Truffaut Interviews: Excerpts from a 1962 audio interview with Alfred Hitchcock.
- Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho: Vintage newsreel on the unique policy Alfred Hitchcock insisted upon for the release of the film.
- The Shower Scene: A look at the impact of music on the infamous “shower scene.”
- The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass: Original storyboard design.
- Production Notes: Read an essay on the making of the film.
- The Psycho Archives: See the gallery of on-set photo stills from the film’s production.
- Posters and Psycho Ads: See a gallery of original posters and ads from the theatrical campaign.
- Lobby Cards: View a gallery of promotional lobby cards from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- Behind-The-Scenes Photographs: View rare photos showing the cast and crew at work.
- Psycho Sound: A never-before-seen piece that looks at the re-mastering process required to create a 5.1 mix from the original mono elements using Audionamix technology.
- Theatrical Trailer: Watch the original promotional trailer from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- Re-Release Trailers: Watch the promotional trailer created for the re-release of the film.
The Exorcist (Oct. 5) – If The Exorcist was too scary for you to even think about again, this 2-disc Digibook release may not be for you. The special edition will provide unprecedented features and both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film. That’s enough to turn your head all the way around.
The real treat here is in the extensive special features. It’s easy to look forward to a great movie on Blu-ray, but a real treat when the studio gives you an all-access pass to the cinematic legend. Add to this a 40-page booklet with images and backstory on the film’s creation and this is the most comprehensive Exorcist release ever.
Disc 1: – Extended Director’s Cut (2000) plus Special Features
- Commentary by William Friedkin
- Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist – set footage produced and photographed by Owen Roizman, camera and makeup tests, and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair, author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty and Owen Roizman (new; Blu-ray exclusive)
- The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now – Featuring a tour of the iconic locations where the film was shot (new; Blu-ray exclusive)
- Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist – with director William Friedkin and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty discussing the different versions of the film and featuring outtakes from the film (new; Blu-ray exclusive)
- Trailers, TV spots & radio spots from the film’s 2000 release
Disc 2 – Theatrical Cut (1973) plus Special Features
- Introduction by William Friedkin
- Commentaries by William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty with Special Sound Effects Tests
- The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist [1998 BBC documentary]
- Additional interviews with William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty:
- Original ending
- Sketches & storyboards
- Trailers & TV spots from the 1973 version
Apocalypse Now (Oct. 19) – Arguably the most epic production of all time, Apocalypse Now comes full-force, or should I say Full Disclosure, to the Blu-ray market. I begged for this in my 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release article in April.
The Apocalypse Now Full Disclosure Edition features the 1979 theatrical cut, the Redux cut and the greatest behind-the-scenes documentary ever made, Hearts of Darkness.
Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliantly constructed retelling of the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness puts the tale in the middle of the Vietnam War. Be sure and get the edition with the Hearts of Darkness documentary attached – one of the most detailed documentaries of all time, in my opinion. This is one of the better releases I’ve ever seen on Blu-ray.
- “A Conversation with Martin Sheen” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
- “An Interview with John Milius” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
- Complete Francis Ford Coppola interview with Roger Ebert at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival
- Monkey Sampan “lost scene”
- Additional Scenes
- “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” end credits with audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola
- “The Hollow Men,” video of Marlon Brando reading T.S. Eliot’s poem
- The Birth of 5.1 Sound
- Ghost Helicopter Flyover sound effects demonstration
- A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now
- The Music of Apocalypse Now
- Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now
- The Final Mix
- Apocalypse Then and Now
- The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
- PBR Streetgang
- The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
- The Synthesizer Soundtrack” article by music synthesizer inventor Bob Moog
Full Disclosure Edition Also Includes:
- Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — Optional audio commentary with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola
- 48-page collectible printed booklet with special note from Francis Ford Coppola, never-before-seen archives from the set, behind the scenes photos and more
- John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Ford Coppola Notes
- Storyboard Gallery
- Photo Gallery, including images from photographer Mary Ellen Mark
- Marketing Archive
Sound of Music (Nov. 2)- The 1965 musical that won five Oscars finally heads to Blu-ray. Brush off your vocal chords and get ready to sing along to Robert Wise’s classic.
20th Century Fox worked hard on this re-release for the 45th anniversary. The three-disc set features 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio for you surround sound buffs. The special features are extensive, with plenty of chances to interact with the movie.
- Audio commentaries with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and director Robert Wise
- Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration — all-new immersive viewing experience with behind-the-scenes images, on-screen lyrics, trivia track and location quiz
- Music Machine Sing-Along
- Musical Stages: Creating The Sound of Music — all-new interactive “backlot tour” with in-depth featurettes on the songs, the stage show & movie, the film and sound restoration and the real-life von Trapp family
- A City of Song — virtual map of filming locations in Salzburg, Austria
- Vintage Rodgers & Hammerstein and The Sound of Music programs, including a parody with Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews, and an interview with the real Maria von Trapp on The Julie Andrews Hour
- Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music, hosted by Mary Martin
- Screen tests, rare treasures, interviews, photo galleries and more
The Limited Collector’s set adds the following:
- 45th Anniversary soundtrack
- 100-Page “My Favorite Things” scrapbook
- Snapshots from Salzburg
- Reproduction of the original 1965 Souvenir program
- Exclusive “My Favorite Things” Music Box with letter of authenticity
Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition – You may remember the initial bare-bones home video release of Avatar in April. The second coming has arrived with the Extended Collector’s Edition. The new release brings hours of additional footage and enough behind-the-scenes featurettes to make your friends turn green blue with envy. Capture a piece of cinematic history and take the last step in the Avatar journey – until the release of the 3D edition, of course. This is a must buy.
If you have not seen Avatar, you missed quite the show. The massive 3D production not only shattered the box office record for highest grossing movie, but revolutionized the way we make and watch 3D cinema. If the $2.7 billion worldwide box office wasn’t enough for James Cameron, he’ll likely pass the $3 billion mark with the latest home video version of his biggest film to date.
The endless features on Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition may cost you a few extra bucks, but rarely do new releases provide this much coverage of a production. Our own Roth Cornet covers the entirety of the release, but check out some of the details below.
- 3 versions of the film
- An alternate opening depicting life on Earth
- Capturing Avatar – a documentary on the making of the film, as well as several other support pieces on the filmmaking process itself
- 45 minutes of deleted scenes
- An “Interactive Scene Deconstruction” option, in which viewers can experience the various stages of production through 3 different viewing modes
Beauty and the Beast (Oct. 5) – One of the most cherished animated films of all time hits the Blu-ray format in a comprehensive look back at the box office smash hit. The financial success of Beauty and the Beast really was profound – on just a $25 million budget, it made $377 million worldwide.
The Diamond Edition Blu-ray release is getting all kinds of buzz for its all-inclusive features and beautiful audio and video transfer. There is so much to offer with Disney providing two 50 GB discs to fit it all in. Enjoy reading all of the features the two-disc Diamond Edition has to offer.
(Special thanks to Blu-ray for providing the extensive information on the special features.)
- Special Extended and Original Theatrical Editions: Two versions of Beauty and the Beast are available from the outset. A 92-minute “Special Extended Edition” and the film’s 85-minute theatrical cut.
- Storyreel Picture-in-Picture Experience: Fans can view the theatrical cut alongside the filmmakers’ original storyreel, an incredibly early version of the film that features rough animation, hand-drawn storyboards and other preproduction artwork.
- Audio Commentary: Producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale discuss the Special Extended Edition of Beauty and the Beast and waste little time doing so. The trio dissect the story and characters, the animation techniques utilized throughout the film, its place in Disney history, the dialogue and songs, casting and the voice recording sessions, the challenges they faced during its long and complex production and much, much more. It’s a thoroughly engaging and informative track that should not be missed.
- Sing Along Track: The Special Extended cut even offers a text-based “Sing Along Mode” for anyone interested in belting out a Disney tune or two in the privacy of their own home.
- Fast Play: Looking for yet another way to watch Beauty and the Beast? In a fit of overkill, the BD wizards at Disney have also devised a “Fast Play Mode” that allows users to customize and automate their viewing experience based on time and specific interests. It’s rather extraneous, but I’m sure someone will enjoy it. Don’t like it? Move along then, there’s plenty of other content on tap.
- Beyond Beauty (HD, 157 minutes): An interactive, feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary teeming with worthwhile bonus content all its own (simply press “enter” when the on-screen icons appear to extend the experience further). A handy pop-up menu even keeps track of which sub-featurettes and branching segments you have and haven’t watched, making the whole of the documentary as effortless as it is extensive.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 28 minutes): Former Walt Disney Studios chairman Peter Schneider introduces a sprawling alternate opening (pieced together from a studio storyreel created before the official voice actors were cast) and story supervisor Roger Allers does the same for a deleted scene (composed of storyboards) involving Belle’s exploration of the Beast’s library.
- Classic DVD Bonus Features (SD, 62 minutes): The previously released DVD’s high quality materials are included as well, albeit in standard definition. “The Story Behind the Story” digs into seven separate Disney films; Hahn presides over an early presentation reel and an alternate version of “Be Our Guest;” Menken unveils an alternate score for “The Transformation;” Hahn and Menken introduce “Human Again,” a deleted song comprised of storyboards; a collection of “Animation Tests, Roughs & Clean-Ups” proves to be an all-too-short treat; a “Camera Move Test” provides a glimpse at the virtual sets created for the film’s most complex shots; a “Music Video” features Celine Dion performing “Beauty and the Beast;” and a series of trailers and TV spots will satisfy completists.
- Composing a Classic (HD, 20 minutes): Composer Alan Menken, music agent and Disney historian Richard Kraft, and producer Don Hahn chat at length about the film’s rousing songs and musical score, as well as the art of furthering a story through music.
- Broadway Beginnings (HD, 13 minutes): A string of name-that-face celebrities, production team members and stage actors wax poetic about the Broadway adaptation of the film.
- Music Video (HD, 3 minutes): Jordin Sparks performs “Beauty and the Beast.”
- Bonjour – Who Is This? (HD): An interactive game for 2-8 players that, strangely enough, requires each player to use either their home or cell phone. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone going to so much trouble for so little. But I’m sure someone out there will try to assemble their friends to play.
- Enchanted Musical Challenge (HD): A more accessible game in which players have to search the Beast’s castle and answer trivia questions to find four of Belle’s friends.
- Sneak Peeks (HD, 15 minutes): Among the disc’s Blu-ray sneak peeks? Toy Story 3, The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland: Special 60th Anniversary Edition (coming in 2011), Dumbo, A Christmas Carol, Tangled Bambi, Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
- Screen Saver, Adaptive Menus and BD-Live Functionality: A screen saver, another smartly designed Disney Smart Menu and a BD-Live Access Portal round out the supplemental package.
Seven Samurai (Oct. 19) – One of the most influential and beloved films ever made has been finally released on Blu-ray in yet another stunning transfer by Criterion Collection.
In a unique way, Akira Kurosawa’s classic set the standard for many of the westerns we see today. Films such as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and Roger Corman’s 1980 version of ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ were inspired by the epic tale. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they never replaced the Kurosawa classic about a town of besieged villagers pushed to their limit. Those villagers resort to hiring seven strongmen to protect them from the evil bandits who are wreaking havoc on their homes.
The special features on this historic Blu-ray take up two discs. If you have even the slightest love for Akira Kurosawa’s work, these supplements will be a welcome addition.
- Scholars’ Roundtable – a fascinating commentary with popular scholars and critics David Desser, Joan Mellen, Stephen Prince, Tony Rayns, and Donald Richie discussing the history of Seven Samurai, its landmark status, the impact the film and Mr. Kurosawa’s work have had on generations of different filmmakers, etc. The comments provided by the scholars and critics were recorded between 2005 and 2006. In English, not subtitled.
- Michael Jeck – an audio commentary with Japanese film expert Michael Jack, which was recorded exclusively for Criterion in 1988. Most viewers are probably already familiar with it since it appeared on Criterion’s SDVD release of Seven Samurai. In English, not subtitled.
- Akira Kurosawa – It Is Wonderful to Create – a documentary on the making of Seven Samurai, part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create, featuring interviews with various Kurosawa collaborators, including writer Masayuki Yui, screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto, director Hiromichi Horikawa, set decorator Koichi Hamamura, script supervisor Teruyo Nogami, lighting technician Mitsuo Kaneko, actors Seiki Miyaguchi and Yoshio Tsuchiya. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (50 min, 1080i).
- My Life in Cinema: Akira Kurosawa – a lengthy video interview, filmed for the Directors Guild of Japan in 1993, featuring Akira Kurosawa and Nagisa Oshima. The two legendary directors discuss Kurosawa’s life, career and legacy. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (116 min, 1080i).
- Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences – a very good documentary, recorded exclusively for Criterion, focusing on the important role the samurai occupy in Japanese history, art, and cinema. With comments by various scholars and critics, including Tony Rayns, Donald Richie, and David Desser. In English and Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (56 min, 1080i).
- Three Trailers and a Teaser – In Japanese, with optional English subtitles.
- Behind the scenes – (B&W, 1080p).
- Posters – Japanese, Polish, British, U.S., Argentine. (Color, 1080p).
- Booklet – 60-page illustrated booklet containing Kenneth Turan’s essay “The Hours and Times”; Peter Cowie’s essay “Seven Rode Together”; Philip Kemp’s essay “A Time of Honor”; Peggy Chiao’s essay “Kurosawa’s Early Influences”; Alain Silver’s essay “The Rains Came”; Stuart Galbraith’s essay “A Magnificent Year”; a tribute from Arthur Penn; a tribute from Sidney Lumet; and Toshiro Mifune: In His Own Words.
King Kong (1933) (Sept. 28) – One of the most famous films of all-time finally reaches the Blu-ray format with a DigiBook edition. It is difficult to make a case for any film of 1933 quality on the illustrious Blu-ray, but as collections grow with more classics every day, it is a nice addition.
There is no 5.1 surround sound audio and the digital restoration can only go so far, but does a decent job of improving the quality. Some may refuse to even watch the Blu-ray without superior and updated sound design, but who could deny a must-own like King Kong?
- Audio Commentary: While it doesn’t actually begin until the film’s Overture is completed, animation icon Ray Harryhausen, effects master Ken Ralston, actress Fay Wray and producer Merian C. Cooper headline this piecemeal track comprised of Harryhausen and Ralston commentary and archive interviews with Wray and Cooper. Even though they weren’t involved in the production of King Kong (Harryhausen was only thirteen when it hit theaters and Ralston wasn’t born until 1954), the two men are infectious hosts, delivering a grounded yet passionate dissection of the film and its groundbreaking special effects. Meanwhile, the interview segments with Wray and Cooper help fill in some of the track’s gaps and provide a more hands-on perspective of the production. All in all, it’s an easy one to recommend. Cinefiles and students of film history should make a beeline for the disc’s commentary.
- RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, The Eighth Wonder of the World (SD, 159 minutes): A candid, comprehensive, refreshingly thoughtful seven-part documentary that touches on everything from King Kong’s development to its impact on cinema at large, including its then-revolutionary special effects, the film’s grand scale, its Depression-era allure, casting and performances, central themes and much, much more. Worth the price of admission alone, it digs into “The Origins of King Kong,” “Willis O’Brien and Creation,” “Cameras Roll on Kong, The Eighth Wonder,” “A Milestone in Visual Effects,” “Passion, Sound and Fury,” “The Mystery of the Lost Spider Pit Sequence,” and “King Kong’s Legacy.” Set aside some quality time for this one. You won’t regret it.
- The Lost Spider Pit Sequence: Dinosaurs, Kong, rolling logs, several surprisingly gruesome deaths, plus a variety of giant crabs, lizards and spiders… Peter Jackson and crew pay loving tribute to Kong.
- Creation Test Footage with Commentary by Ray Harryhausen: Animation test footage created by Willis O’Brien in which the visual effects pioneer pairs animated dinosaurs with live actors and other real-world elements.
- I’m King Kong! The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper: Cooper was far more than a filmmaker and producer, as revealed at length in this fascinating biography narrated by Alec Baldwin. As James D’Arc puts it, “Merian C. Cooper was unbelievable, if it weren’t all true.”
The Complete Metropolis (Nov. 23) – For years, film historians have attempted to find the complete Metropolis movie that was shortened for American audiences in the late 1920s. A number of editions have claimed to be the most comprehensive but apparently, the entire film has finally been found and is now available on Blu-ray.
The silent epic is one of cinema’s most revered works of all time. The new release is a collaborative collection from dedicated filmmakers across the world. While this won’t be a perfect transfer, even the tremendously damaged reels that have been salvaged look as good as ever. Those of you who claim old movies cannot be any better on Blu-ray should check out this release. It’s the best example of bringing decaying history to life.
You’ll even find a 5.1 surround sound track in addition to the stereo track. One of the earliest behemoths of cinema is truly available for the most advanced home video systems in the world. It’s a wonder to behold.
The special features are small, but worth an extra look. It took enough effort just to get the entire movie on Blu-ray, but there are a few nice supplements:
- Voyage to Metropolis, a 50-minute documentary on the making and restoration of the film (in HD)
- Interview with Paula Felix-Didier, curator of the Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires, where the missing footage was discovered
- 2010 re-release trailer
Fantasia Collection (Nov. 30) – Released in line with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on home video, Disney has re-released the animated classic that inspired the blockbuster, along with its followup film. Now on Blu-ray, you can watch the famous broom scene and listen to “A Night on Bald Mountain” in style.
While the two Fantasia movies are visually spectacular, they thrive on sound. Disney has done their homework and released the collection in DTS-HD 7.1 surround sound. Let’s just say that if you want to wake the neighbors, this is the Blu-ray to do it. It won’t just wake them, you may even leave them hard of hearing as well. My suggestion is to pump up the volume and let one of the better audio transfers in recent memory wash over you.
The four-disc collection has everything you need to travel back in time to the creation of Walt Disney’s vision. When you get done with all the supplements, you’ll wonder where that time actually went. I am most excited for Destino, the unfinished collaboration between Disney and Salvador Dali.
- Fantasia Audio Commentaries: Fantasia includes three audio commentaries. The first, helmed by eloquent Disney historian Brian Sibley, offers a veritable treasure trove of information on the development, design, production and legacy of the film. Sibley not only details and dissects each animated segment and its creation, he weaves a compelling history of Disney’s grand design. The second, introduced by Roy Disney and hosted by historian John Canemaker, features archive interviews, audio recordings, story note recreations and meeting transcript readings. The result? An invaluable posthumous Walt Disney commentary; one that, to its editors great credit, could only be bested if Disney were still alive. Finally, a third commentary with Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker and film restoration manager Scott MacQueen do a fine job filling in whatever blanks remain. Their track suffers from some inherent repetition, but it simply offers too much worthwhile insight to pass up. Together, Fantasia’s three commentaries are an excellent addition to an already strong release.
- Fantasia DisneyView Presentation (HD): Viewers can watch Fantasia in its original 4:3 presentation or with optional DisneyView, a feature that fills the black bars on either side of the image with custom paintings by visual-effects artists and designer Harrison Ellenshaw.
- The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure (HD, 14 minutes): Diane Disney Miller and a variety of notable filmmakers discuss Herman Schultheis’ recently discovered production notebook: a coveted tome that reveals Disney’s secret animation and special effects techniques, knowledge which had been lost for decades.
Interactive Art Galleries (HD): Two sprawling galleries of concept art, storyboards, original paintings and other production materials are on hand for Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
- Disney Family Museum (HD, 4 minutes): A brief promo for the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
- Fantasia 2000 Audio Commentaries: Two tracks are available. First up, the directors and art directors of each animated segment are given the opportunity to discuss their contributions to the sequel. And because each group of commentators only has a limited amount of time to speak, gaps of silence and rambling tangents are nowhere to be found, and the whole of the track is breezy, high-spirited and much easier to digest and enjoy. The second finds Roy Disney, James Levine and producer Donald W. Ernst tackling the entire film, digging into the genesis of the project, Walt Disney’s original intentions, the sequel’s individual shorts and the differences and similarities between Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Though not as essential as the Fantasia commentaries, both are worth a listen.
- Destino (HD, 7 minutes): In 1946, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali began work on a short film they never finished. The recently completed short is presented here in all its weird, wonderful, animated glory. Just be warned: parents of younger children may want to screen this one ahead of time.
- Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino (SD, 82 minutes): A lengthy documentary about the strangest collaboration most of you never knew occurred.
- Musicana (HD, 9 minutes): A look at the long development of a potential Fantasia sequel that never came to fruition, Musicana.
- Disney’s Virtual Vault (SD, 304 minutes): And what of all the missing supplemental content from the previously released DVD editions of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000? All of it can be found and viewed via this handy BD-Live portal, primed for fans and aimed at completists. In it, you’ll find five hours of documentaries, featurettes and other making-of materials that are well worth perusing. (For those keeping track, that amounts to 125 minutes of additional Fantasia features and 178 minutes of Fantasia 2000 goodies).
The switch from DVD to Blu-ray is not an easy one – it costs money and many feel their DVDs are wasted. If you have hundreds of DVDs, you should know they will only be enhanced by the technical aspect of the Blu-ray player. Moreover, the future is Blu-ray and we should all prepare – Best Buy already has. If you followed our guide to understanding Blu-rays, this list is a great starting point for your collection.
There are still plenty of brilliant titles awaiting a worthy Blu-ray transfer. Check out our list of 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release to find out what remains. For now, the 15 above will have to do and they should keep you busy during the cold nights of winter.
What Blu-rays do you own that you can’t live without? Talk Blu-ray in the comments section below.