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A movie on DVD is not just another form of video: it offers the filmmakers unprecedented opportunities to use everything they shot and more – and talk directly to their audience. MEN IN BLACK - released worldwide on September 5, 2000 – comes in two versions, including a Limited Edition with 13 hours of entertainment on the DVD and will impact on filmmaking and alter our consumption of movies, says ANDREW L. URBAN.

Directors and studios can both have final cut; the stunt crew can show off intricate details their dangerous tricks; the modelmakers get equal time with the director; deleted scenes are no longer forgotten for a generation; alternative endings are valuable assets; and a documentary – even a documentary series – is a part of the filmmaking process, all thanks to DVD.

"the full potential of DVD"

"It’ll alter people’s perception of DVD and it will tell us a lot more about DVD as a medium," says Michele Garra (pic), Managing Director of Columbia TriStar Home Video, about the release of Men In Black. "This is going to alter the perception of movie watching: now we’ll be debating what to watch first, the trailer, the commentary, the making of – or the movie itself."

Filmmakers, she says, can now look at the full potential of DVD: ‘it’s no longer a question of seeing a film in widescreen versus full screen." A lot of the extra material on Men In Black was purpose-generated, and has taken two layers on both sides of two discs, making this the first ‘DVD 18’ release in Australia, and only the 11th in the world. And it took the best part of a year to produce,says Garra.

But it’s not just new blockbusters that are repackaged this way. JAWS 25th anniversary edition on DVD carries interviews with Steven Spielberg and others in the filmmaking team, looking back on the making of that historic film. In August 2000, celebrating the 30th anniversary of its theatrical release, Night of the Living Dead is out on DVD; as well as the original 1968 cult classic, the DVD offers a remastered, re-edited and re-scored version, with an extra 15 minutes of new scenes, audio commentary by cast and crew, plus the music video of Living Dead Beats by Sek (see CLIP).

Men in Black has pushed DVD possibilities even further with a fervour that has set a new benchmark for DVD releases – 13 hours of interactive entertainment for a single release (on the Limited Edition box set; even the standard issue DVD has nine hours!)

"Never has there been such a happy confluence of interests"

It’s one thing seeing a movie in the new world of premier class cinema – bottle of wine in the rack, nibbles on the little table by your leg, girl/boy on your arm in the love seat – but that’s just the start. Having spent x*&%# million dollars on making it, the filmmakers can finally get their money’s worth and show it to us all in grisly detail – from the scraps of deleted footage to the nuances of alternate endings – on the film’s DVD release.

Whether it is the mind numbing detail of countless digital effects shots or the intimate revelations of a director talking about his favourite scenes having to be chopped out, the DVD is both a commercial Christmas for the producers and a creative outlet for the filmmakers. Never has there been such a happy confluence of interests.

No, in Snow Falling on Cedars, Scott Hicks could not include a favoured scene between a Japanese father and his son in the moonlit snow as father explained about honour and its symbol, the traditional sword. But it’s there on the DVD. And it’s there with Hicks’ commentary on the matter.

Never before have filmmakers had the opportunity to show the public what they wanted to make, as well as talk directly to them. If this isn’t revolutionary in filmmaking terms, Alfred Hitchcock was a plumber. And while DVD has been around for a little while (in technology terms it’s hardly new, despite its late arrival in Australia), it is only now being recognised as a completely new form of entertainment – not just a new platform to deliver movies. Unlike the ubiquitous video, the DVD is digitally state of the art, instantly searchable, higher in audio visual quality and capable of carrying far more content.

The additional features are at an additional cost: it cost Columbia US$250,000 just to create the special menus on the DVD release and the whole process takes time – collating all the material and producing it. But the long term implications are unique and profound for moviemakers and audiences: it is creating archival material yet with instant interest.

Men in Black is a fun movie: it was created as a comic book fantasy adventure, but instead of belittling itself, it called on the most creative filmmaking talent to stretch its inventive wings and come up with something that would blend escapism with fantasy, drama with humour and a sense of awe. In doing so, it generated enormous amounts of effort from a vast number of people, and until DVD came along, all that effort would remain behind the scenes. Of course, some people don’t want to see behind the scenes, like they don’t want to discover the tricks in magic tricks.

Fine. They can still enjoy the superb audio visual quality in surround sound and goggle eye clarity of the DVD, a totally different experience to watching a film on ‘old fashioned’ video.

"there is a richer – or enriching - experience to be had with every movie"

Where Men in Black meets the hype of simultaneous world wide release, with a Limited Edition version that goes that extra mile, is that it is a film that can carry the weight of all this extra information-cum-entertainment. And make no mistake, that’s what it’s about. For the consumer, the upside is that there is a richer – or enriching - experience to be had with every movie. Garra says the studio expects to ship about 40,000 copies of the Deluxe Edition and 15,000 copies of the Limited Edition. And come Christmas, the DVD of Gladiator will follow in Men’s footsteps.

And look at it this way: if you watch enough DVDs like these, you’ll learn as much about movie making as a $10,000 film school course could teach you – all in the comfort of your own home.

(August 31, 2000)

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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the Men in Black DVD in Real Audio.

Australia is the first country in which the special DVD releases of Men In Black are available, on September 5, 2000.

The film is the biggest commercial success for Columbia Pictures to date, with global theatrical takings of US$587 million.

Readers have a chance to WIN one of 15 Men In Black packs, comprising
* MIB De Luxe Collector's Edition DVD
* MIB T-Shirt
* Farmer Edgar Conceptual Drawing

Men In Black on DVD, WEBSITE


See a clip from the music video, Night of the Living Dead Beats, by sek: CLIP

Night of the Living Dead on DVD (Force Video) – RRP $32.95 at all major retailers (also available to rent in selected stores).


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