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Headsup: Disney Treasures, Paramount’s Centennial Releases and Lee Marvin Kicking Ass

There’s a deluge out there. A deluge of stuff. Should you buy this stuff? I will try to navigate through the piles for you. Follow me.

Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Vol. 4 1951-1961 DVD cover art
Walt Disney Treasures: Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh DVD cover art
Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette 1957-1958 Season DVD cover art

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you know that I constantly hammer on you to grab the Walt Disney Treasures releases. Just because they’re Disney’s answer to the Criterion Collection. And while the presentation here on Wave VIII isn’t as good as we had back at the beginning, I still dig this stuff: because where else are you going to get this stuff? And they’re limited editions and then if you miss one, you’ve got to go order them used or find them on eBay, and honestly: who needs the hassle?

[ad#longpost]First up, we’re completing the Donald Duck shorts with Vol. 4 of The Chronological Donald. All the shorts are restored and look freaking great. There’s a total of thirty-one, including five characterized as “From the Vault,” which means Leonard Maltin (godfather of the Walt Disney Treasures line of releases) is there to put them in the appropriate context. Disney characters haven’t always been PC, shall we say. But bravo on Disney for allowing them out. (And trust me–Walt Disney Treasures is the only way we’re going to get a Song of the South Region 1 release.) This also has one of my favorite Donald Duck shorts: “Donald Applecore,” which if you know the gag I’ve already told you everything you need to know. Also of note: “Bee on Guard,” in which Donald goes undercover as a bee and “Trick or Treat,” in which Donald pisses off a witch. Anyway, two of the shorts, “Working for Peanuts” and “Grand Canyonscope” have commentary from Maltin and Jerry Beck. Bonus bits include: Eric Goldberg taking ten minutes to pitch “Trouble Shooters,” an unmade short and a comic book featurette. Do you need to buy it? Yes. Yes, you do. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Next there’s Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. This is from the Wonderful World of Disney show from 1964. And this must have a helluva following that I’ve never run into because I knew about the character of Dr. Syn but not this adaptation of him. It’s three episodes that make up this story, and the good Doctor is played by Patrick McGoohan of The Prisoner fame. He’s vicar by day, smuggler hero dressed up as a scarecrow by night. So not only do you get the three original episodes of the miniseries, but you get the feature film version, which apparently has some bits taken out and other bits thrown in. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the intros from Disney himself provided in widescreen, a featurette on the character, and then a featurette about Disney’s live action work in England. Should you buy it? Well, I’ve made it clear that all Walt Disney Treasures are must-buys, but Patrick McGoohan fans won’t need any convincing. If you’re unsure, you can give a rental, but if this sells out, and you regret it later, well, then don’t cry in your espresso. Because that’s not good for the espresso. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lastly, we get something else I don’t remember running across before: the serial Annette which ran on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1958. I knew Annette Funicello had been the biggest name Mouseketeer back in the day, later going on to have the good taste to appear with Fishbone in a beach movie. But this I had not seen before. It’s a star vehicle for the head burrito (or burrita, I guess) mouseketeer. She plays a girl named Annette who becomes a bit of a country fish out of water when she shows up on the city doorstep of her aunt and uncle. Twenty short episodes follow (it is a serial) in which her story is played out. It’s good that we have this on DVD just for posterity’s sake as watching the tried and true plot play out from 1958 is amusing enough on its own. Apart from the twenty episodes of the serial, you get full episodes of Club when the serial began and ended. There’s also two featurettes, both sort of retrospectives of her career. The only thing about this is that since we are dealing with the #1 Mouseketeer, you can’t tell me there weren’t some other bonus appearances or something that could have been pulled from the vaults as extras. So that’s a bit of a disappointment. Regardless, if you like the old Club or are an Annette fan, this is for you. And indeed, it’s a Walt Disney Treasure release, so I’m saying buy it regardless. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sunset Boulevard: Centennial Collection DVD cover art
Roman Holiday: Centennial Collection DVD cover art
Sabrina: Centennial Collection DVD cover art

I always appreciate when classic films (even if you stretch the definition of “classic”) get the special edition treatment. Fox did that with a bunch of their vintage titles, and they did a respectable job of putting bonus bits on films that you wouldn’t think would get that sort of thing. The Studio Classics collection, if I remember correctly. That appears to be what Paramount is up to with their “Centennial Collection,” even though I don’t think Paramount is technically a hundred years old yet. Anyway, regardless. The first three entries are here.

First up is Sunset Boulevard, which has an improved picture but the same commentary from historian/author Ed Sikov that was on the previous release. Some other features repeat, like the script pages for the prologue, the music featurette, the Hollywood location map, the Edith Head featurette, and the Paramount historical featurette. You also get new bits, like another making-of featurette that covers pre-production, a featurette with author Joseph Wambaugh, and featurettes covering both Gloria Swanson and William Holden. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Roman Holiday gets an improved picture–but sadly, no commentary, held over from a previous release or otherwise. There’s three featurettes covering Audrey Hepburn, one on writer Dalton Trumbo and his tribulations, a retrospective featurette that was on the last release, as well as a restoration featurette that was on the last release as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sabrina doesn’t have a restoration featurette but it does say “Mastered in High Definition” on the sticker and it seems to look better. Although perhaps that’s psychosomatic. Videosomatic? Whatever. No commentary, which is again a shame. We do have features, though: an Audrey Hepburn featurette, a featurette about locations for the film, a featurette regarding the supporting actors in the film, a featurette on William Holden, and a documentary plus more. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

As much as I like the improved look of the films, the fact that we get no commentaries on two of these really bugs me. How hard is it to get a film historian to sit and record their thoughts on the film? A Hepburn biographer, perhaps. Somebody. It doesn’t make sense to tout anything as any sort of special edition without a commentary. Call me crazy. That being said, they are only $16 on Amazon, so if you’re an Audrey fanatic, you could probably live with yourself for buying the two on here, for example. I would say if you already own the films–or even if you’re just curious–then rent these to see if either the video or the features is something you want on your shelf–they’re not enough for me to declare them must-buys.

Transsiberian DVD cover art
Transsiberian Blu-Ray cover art

Between getting hauled in for questioning about a serial killer in The Monster of Florence or any number of torture porn films where it seems just stopping in for a crepe or a coffee refill will get your face carved off, seems Americans traveling abroad in books and film these days just can’t catch a break. Such is the case with Transsiberian, the thriller in which our protagonist couple (Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson) finds themselves on a train running into another couple…who might not be quite-so-nice. And if they aren’t all they’re stacked up to be, there’s always Ben Kingsley, playing a Russian detective who’s formidable. Why? Because he’s played by Ben Goddamn Kingsley, that’s why. This is out from First Look on both DVD and Blu-Ray. The DVD is bare bones although the Blu-Ray does come with a making-of. Should you buy them? Well, I don’t know about replay on the movie. It’s a good thriller, but is it something you’re going to feel compelled to pull down off the shelf often? Probably not. The fact that there’s no features doesn’t help things either. Even though you’re looking at $14.99 and $18.95 respectively on Amazon for both, I’d say rental would work fine. (Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon or click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon.)

Hellboy II: THe Golden Army DVD cover art
M Squad: The Complete Series DVD cover art
Studio One Anthology DVD cover art

Well, I’m kind of happy to be talking about Hellboy II, since I wasn’t sure for a while that there would ever be a sequel. But it’s not just here, it’s out from Universal in a 3-disc edition. Let’s dissect, shall we? It’s really your standard 2-disc edition, since the third disc is a digital copy disc. And to make matters worse, it’s just in a sleeve stuck inside the cover, so you better believe that’s going to get lost sooner rather than later. So across the two real discs, you’ve got a commentary with Del Toro and another with actors Selma Blair, Luke Goss and Jeffrey Tambor. You’ve got also a number of short set visits, an animated comic, Del Toro taking you through all the bits he has in the Troll Market, deleted scenes, and info on the puppet theater bit (with optional commentary). The look at Del Toro’s notebook is fascinating–because this is a man with a rather vivid imagination. He showed us in a live Q&A, back when Mimic first came out, bits of his notebook. That’s where he first mentioned his whacked out retro-futuristic western Count of Monte Cristo he wanted to do. Which I’m still waiting for. There’s also my favorite bit: the feature-length making-of called “In Service of the Demon.” I have to say, I’m very happy with the way this release was handled. Is there going to be a better version? Good question. If Del Toro ever finishes screwing around with hobbits there might be a third film, at which point all bets are off as to some kind of trilogy boxed set or something. But for now, if you enjoy the film, there’s no shame in snagging this. Especially at $17.99, the price it is now. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

You know, it’s funny: I didn’t know M Squad. But I did know Lee Marvin. And I knew Lee Marvin as somebody like Burt Lancaster: seems like a nice enough guy, but when called upon to be a good old-fashioned hardass, could certainly bring that noise. Little did I know that this show, which came out around the same time as Dragnet, is what really got Marvin widely known as an actor. In fact, the damn thing ran for a total of 117 episodes, which is nothing to sneeze at. The M stands for Murder, and Marvin’s Lt. Frank Ballinger is the police detective who’s fighting the bad guys and corruption and all of the things you would expect a black and white noiresque cop show to be fighting. This is the complete series with all of the aforementioned episodes, and that’s why it takes fifteen discs to hold the thing. The video on these varies but it’s a show that’s over a half-century old, so you must cut it some slack. And we’re lucky to have the thing on DVD, so don’t hold your breath for any kind of massive restoration. Besides, did we mention the fact it’s nearly two solid days of viewing to get through the whole thing? There’s no features to speak of, but there is a twelve-track bonus CD with music from the show. Should you buy it? It’s $95.99 right now, which is about 82 cents an episode. So it’s reasonably priced, I would think. I figure if you’re a fan of the show and have been jonesing for it, it’s no problem to get it–this is probably the best it’s ever going to get on DVD. If you want to bone up on your cop show history, or you’re a Lee Marvin fan and want to see what the show was like, then it’s worth renting. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

We go from one bit of archival DVD action to another: Koch Vision throws out the Studio One Anthology. Studio One was a drama anthology series that ran on CBS during the late 1940 and early 1950s. A number of shows are presented here with their original commercials–which to me makes it worth the price of admission from the get go. You’ve got 1984 with Eddie Albert, Art Carney in Confessions of a Nervous Man, Jack Lemmon in June Moon, Charlton Heston in Wuthering Heights and the original teleplay version of Twelve Angry Men. Which means this is a lovely slice of TV history right here. It’s six discs and over sixteen hours of content. It’s also got some bonus bits, including information from the Paley Center’s “Studio One Seminar,” footage from the Archive of American Television, and a featurette covering the history of Studio One. Personally, it’s already rental if you want to see some classic television performances or want to see performances from anybody involved. If you’re a television buff, I highly recommend it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Kung Fu Panda and Secrets of the Furious Five DVD cover art
Kung Fu Panda Blu-Ray cover art

Jack Black’s successful turn as the Kung Fu Panda has hit both DVD and Blu-Ray. And he’s got an impressive vocal cast to back him up: Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Ian McShane and on and on. So when it’s apparent that the whole plot isn’t anything startlingly new, you don’t care because it’s funny and because it’s Jack Black as a panda who’s trying to deliver beatdowns. Sort of hard to miss with that. The two versions of the film here look more different than they actually are. You’ve got a lot of kid-friendly bits that are shared across both versions–but they’re so tiny that I’m going to pass over most of them because they’re probably not what you’re here for. Chances are you know how to use chopsticks, for example, and you aren’t interested in a game involving dumplings. And I’m sorry, but the “Kung Fu Fighting” cover song is terrible, Cee-Lo or no.

You get a commentary track, a vocal cast featurette, sound design featurette, and some others. In the Blu-Ray version a lot of them are HD and you also get a trivia track on the film. The main difference is of course the second disc that’s bundled with the regular DVD. This is a 24-minute origin story for the Furious Five. The bonus bits that are on here are on the Blu-Ray. So you’re only missing that one short if you go Blu-Ray. And if you’re desperate for it, then you can probably snag it from Netflix or something. Should you buy? Well, if you’ve got kids you’re probably going to need to. And I’m sorry I didn’t delve into finding out what fighting style your kid has or anything, but kids decide and if they want it, you’ll probably get it. Looking this over, honestly, with the Secrets short film the only thing you’re missing, it makes sense to buy the Blu-Ray if you have the ability to play it. Seriously, it’s $22.95 and hi-def and has everything but Secrets. The two-disc bundle is $22.99 and the one-disc DVD version (which is missing Secrets and also some more kid-friendly stuff) is $15.99. So if you need it, snag the Blu-Ray if possible–it just seems like the better deal–or if not, the bundle’s your best deal. (Click here to buy the 2-DVD bundle from Amazon or Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon.)


  • Dr. Syn, Forgot about that one. I remember seeing that once and only once.

    There is the Hammer version called Captain Clegg or Night Creatures starring Peter Cushing same premise but for a more mature audience.

  • One more thing about the Dr. Syn/Captain Glegg movies.They are both based on a novel called Dr. Syn by Russell Thorndike. It seems that both the Disney and Hammer films were shot at the same time. Disney secured the rights first. Hammer changed the name of the vicar to Dr. Blyss. Oliver Reed rounds out the cast in Captain Clegg.

    The I got the above information from that wonderful Peter Cushing Companion book you two gave me.

    Now I have to think about having a double feature Dr. Syn movie night soon.

    I am interested in looking for the 1937 movie as well as the book.

    There was also a 1937 film

    I found this information in that Great Peter Cushing book you tow gave me.