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Headsup: A Double Shot of Classic Films

Agony and the Ecstasy DVD China Syndrome special edition DVD cover art

The Agony and the Ecstasy. It’s always been a problem getting good help for home improvement projects. Take Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison). He wants a nice fresco for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to honor the glory of God (and himself). So he gets the best, Michelangelo (Charlton Heston). Michelangelo turns out to be a temperamental artiste who complains about he needs inspiration, that his back hurts, and the paint keeps getting in his eyes. Of course, he doesn’t appreciate all the good natured encouragement the pontiff gives. Still, for some painted plaster, the result is truly magnificent. The movie is truly a beauty to behold and Heston and Harrison fill the screen with their performances. Unfortunately, the DVD only comes with a featurette comparing the recent digital remastering of the film but you can’t beat the scene chewing from the two stars. (Buy it from Amazon.)

The China Syndrome: Special Edition. Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) has stumbled on the biggest story of the year. While covering a puff piece about the Ventana nuclear power plant, a faulty needle gauge nearly leads to a complete meltdown. Her cameraman, Richard Adams (Michael Douglas), secretly gets it all on film. However, the TV station doesn’t want to air it because it doesn’t fit with their “happy news” format. And there are in fear of angering the power company and their phalanx of lawyers. Meanwhile, the shift supervisor, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon), is trying to get some needed repairs to his beloved plant, but the executives don’t want to decrease their profit margin. Why should they give up their country club memberships and three martini lunches over nuclear fallout and thousands of deaths? When high energy physics and unbridled greed collide, what will stop the China Syndrome? More of a “modern classic,” it became even more controversial when Three Mile Island went critical within days of the opening. The disc comes with two in-depth documentaries on the making of the film and several deleted scenes. (Buy it from Amazon.)