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The Bottom Shelf by Adam Jahnke

Warner Bros.' Two-Disc Special Editions

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

A while back (quite a while now, actually), Warner Bros. announced that they would be digging back through their vaults and re-releasing a number of titles as spiffy new two-disc special editions. And there was much rejoicing. While most studios would be rightly accused of double-dipping and trying to milk a little more blood from the stone, Warner's new line was welcomed with open arms. After all, Warner had been a pioneer in the introduction of DVD. And as such, they had rushed out more than a few A-list titles as D-list discs back in the early days of the format. The fact that they were now going back and correcting their earlier mistakes was seen as a positive sign that Warner was still as committed as they'd ever been to DVD.

Since that announcement, we've had the opportunity to look at a number of these special editions and get a feel for the way the line is headed. Some of the news is good, some bad. On the plus side, their selection of titles has been impressive. There's little arguing that virtually every title to receive a double disc re-release has deserved an upgrade (well, I might be willing to make several arguments against the merits of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves but even I can't deny that it's a popular, and more importantly for the studio, profitable choice). The packaging, a dual-disc digipack enclosed in a relatively sturdy slipcase, is certainly a big step up from Warner's usual cardboard snapper cases. And from a technical point of view, most if not all of these special editions represent some level of improvement over their original releases.

But with the good comes the bad or, if not outright bad, at least disappointing. The menu designs of most of these titles are singularly uninspired. If you're intensely fed up with overly elaborate animations that make transitioning between menus a chore, you might welcome these as a simplified throwback. But personally, I think there has to be a happy medium between totally static menus and wildly overdesigned screens. More importantly, there is often quite a bit less to these special editions than meets the eye. Certainly most of these movies should be two-disc affairs, if for no other reason than most of them are a whole lot longer than your average picture. But the mere existence of a second disc does not alone a special edition make.

Let me stress that by no means are all of these discs watered-down pseudo-special editions in gussied-up packaging. Some of them are very good indeed, happily holding their own with any DVD out there. But because the movies selected for this treatment are by and large so good, the disappointment you may feel with some of them feels more acute. Having said that, let's take a closer look at five of Warner's two-disc special editions released over the past couple of years...

The Color Purple: Special Edition
JFK: Director's Cut - Special Edition
One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest: Special Edition
The Right Stuff: Special Edition
Singin' in the Rain: Special Edition

Adam Jahnke
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