When I first hooked up our DVD player, I was giddy with anticipation. I'd purchased The Filth & The Fury: A Sex Pistols Film - the latest flick to tickle my brain - and was keen to tap into all the extras listed on the menu.
Everyone with a DVD player already knows the end of this particular story: BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE. The extras were a soul-draining waste of my time, especially the director's commentary, which was pedestrian ("What I was trying to do was capture...") and repetitious. This was a terrible let-down: the film is energetic, beguiling, thrilling and repulsive, confused in its messages, but resolute in its passion ... pretty much like the punk scene itself. When I saw it for the first time, it was as if I'd seen punk for the first time. It brought back a host of memories of that era, and served as the mythical flight to London that all the cool kids at Pyramid Records were hoping to score. The extras, on the other hand, actually detracted from the experience. (For the record, I wasn't much of a punk. I hung around the fringes with my mullet, my second-hand clothes and my wrap-around sunglasses, but the truth is I preferred the cheerful vapidity of The Knack to the spittle of The Sex Pistols).
Consequently, it's a rare DVD package that can entice me to tap into its extra features. I keep my ear to the ground, and if someone recommends an extra I'll give it a look. Ron Howard's Cinderella Man has one such feature: a bit of informed musing from Norman Mailer, following three rounds of the actual Braddock/Baer fight. Several revelations shine through in the black & white footage. Baer lopes into the ring, and the first thing you notice is the bright Star of David stitched onto his trunks. Clearly, staying true to this particular historical detail would have added a complexity to the film that Howard was not prepared to explore. Also, the final round isn't as dramatically compelling as the movie makes it - you've basically got two big louts, spent and ineffectual, propping each other up. And Mailer remains a lucid commentator on "the sweet science".
For my money, though, the extras that have entertained me most are the ones that come with the Star Trek movies (the "special editions" are absolutely loaded with goodies). Since I'm a Trekkie, and most people aren't, here are some highlights.
Commentary by Nicholas Meyer. Meyer directed ST2: The Wrath of Khan and ST6: The Undiscovered Country. Khan is generally considered the best of the ST movies, a stature I'll reluctantly concede. I was thrilled with it at the time of its release, but 20 years later, it's an unmistakable platter of ham. Meyer doesn't see it that way, though. He seems content with what he accomplished on an astonishingly tight budget, and he offers insight (working with Shatner is a bit of a trick, he says, because Shatner is intent on being The Actor of every scene he's in. Thankfully, says Meyer, Shatner also gets bored quickly, so Meyer's strategy was to do the scene four or five times until Shatner got played out, then film it on the sixth. What treasures were lost in the first take? The mind reels!) and dish (that really is Ricardo Montalban's chest on display).
His commentary on ST6 doesn't have quite the same novelty. He is joined by writer Denny Martin Flinn, who makes it clear why Meyer thinks he was so well-suited to the task of writing for Star Trek: Flinn glad-hands Meyer every chance he gets. Flinn does make some astute comments though, and quite rightly credits Meyer for saving the franchise. ST1 all but tanked at the box-office, for clothing the Enterprise crew in flannel PJs and then putting the audience to sleep. Unfortunately, this hewed all too closely to creator Gene Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek. Meyer re-introduced martial themes, conflict, and genuine energy to the mix, and - viola - the franchise got legs. (25 years later those legs have buckled, but that's another story.)
Those are some of my favourite extras. Any you'd like to share?