I had a friend in college who was a huge film buff - mainly sci-fi, horror and cult films - with a movie collection that covered nearly every wall of his apartment. Provided he's transferred some of those VHS tapes onto DVD, he might be able to see sunlight through his windows again. On the other hand, with the myriad DVD collections and box sets on the market, he's likely just making room for an even larger and more comprehensive catalog.
The DVD medium, with its capacity to hold a feature film plus bonus interviews, director's cuts, music videos and other special items, has shifted the home video market to a more balanced ratio of renters and buyers, and its affordability and portability makes it more feasible for consumers to take a risk on purchasing films they haven't seen, or even investing in an entire collection if they like at least one film from a particular actor or director.
DVD collections and special box sets cater to amateur and experienced film collectors alike. The market has grown to accommodate everyone from kids to adults, and from cartoon-watchers and mainstream film fans to celluloid scholars with more refined tastes. And as restoration technology becomes more advanced, collectors of black-and-white classics and silent films can finally own copies of rare films that have been restored to their original luster. As the new HD-DVDs arrive on the market, that quality, as well as a disc's storage capacity, increases even further. Like their music CD counterparts, DVD boxes make obvious gift choices, but also prove a popular self-indulgence year-round. With the caveat that specialized box sets go in and out of print more often than cats go in and out of the house, here's a look at some of the more intriguing titles.
Frodo and Sam can't decide between the different Return of the King
One of the most popular more mainstream options is the four-disc edition of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, as well as a five-disc "collector's gift set" that includes a 52-minute concert DVD from composer Howard Shore, exclusive box art from J.R.R. Tolkien illustrator Alan Lee, and a sculpture of Minas Tirith, the seven-tiered City of Kings and capital of Gondor designed by Weta Workshop. By a similar "tolkien" (sorry), there's the Harry Potter - Years 1-4 Collection, which includes Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets,Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire; and the Indiana Jones set remains quite appealing, especially for the bonus disc full of behind the scenes docs. For the commercial action movie fan, Elektra and Warner Home Video, respectively, have assembled Blade and Lethal Weapon collections. For silly comic relief, those same individuals can take home Austin Powers, Vacation, Police Academy, and Friday collections.
If they so choose, Reese Witherspoon fans can indulge in Collector's Edition of Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2, but I wouldn't condone such a thing. Instead, I'll point you to a number of boxes on the market that compile the work of notable directors, beloved classics, and hard-to-find gems into reasonably affordable collectives.
The Martin Scorsese Collection includes such favorites as Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, After Hours and Who's That Knocking at My Door?, while the similarly titled and equally excellent Martin Scorsese Film Collection contains four more superb films - Boxcar Bertha, The Last Waltz, New York, New York and the masterpiece Raging Bull. The Ultimate Oliver Stone Collection covers 12 films on 14 discs, most notably Any Given Sunday, JFK, Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July. The Spike Lee Joint Collection, originally issued in 1991, contains Lee's excellent quintet of Clockers, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, and Crooklyn, all for around $20. Fans of Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, Wesley Snipes and the late Robin Harris will see some of their earlier performances, directed by one of the most important filmmakers of the 1990s.
Francis Ford Coppola's masterful The Godfather and The Godfather II were packaged with the less masterful (but still critical for completists) third film in The Godfather Collection box set that also included a bonus disc - 3 hours worth of extras like "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside" featurette and a Coppola "notebook." Coppola would surely be honored and grateful if you invite this set into your home; it's essential for film collectors.
Some of the most worthy DVD collections, however, include sought-after works from famed and/or foreign directors. Five of Swedish filmmaker's Ingmar Bergman's finest films can be found on The Ingmar Bergman Special Edition DVD Collection, which includes digitally restored versions of Persona, Shame, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna, and The Serpent's Egg, as well as poster stills, featurettes on each film, interviews with star Liv Ullmann, and original trailers. A bonus disc offers interviews with Bergman himself, photos galleries, and articles on Bergman's filmography. From another place an era, but equally important to film history, Monumental Epics collects five of D.W. Griffith's most influential silent films: The Birth of a Nation (with 25-minute documentary), Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, and the talkie Abraham Lincoln.
Several DVD collections bear Alfred Hitchcock's name, the most extensive being the aptly named Masterpiece Collection. The set contains 14 films on 15 discs, all packaged in a velvet box with 36-page booklet of poster art and stills, as well as bonus documentaries, commentaries and other bonus material. Famous films such as Psycho and The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, and The Birds reside with the less famous but still artistically significant Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, the creepy Marnie and others, featuring legendary stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Doris Day and Sean Connery; all makes this a most worthy investment.
"...the work Val Lewton produced at RKO between 1942 and 1946 is some of the most creative in B-movie history."
More in the cult favorite category, four of Herschell Gordon Lewis' 1960s gore-fests appear on The Herschell Gordon Lewis Collection: Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, The Gruesome Twosome, and Color Me Blood Red. It's a lot of blood, go-go boots and bad acting for one sitting, but could be worth the purchase for novelty factor alone.
Moving into the classic horror realm, the work Val Lewton produced at RKO between 1942 and 1946 is some of the most creative in B-movie history. The Val Lewton Horror Collection comprises of his work with director Jacques Tourneur, Mark Robson and Robert Wise for the classic chillers Cat People and the sort-of sequel The Curse of the Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, along with The Seventh Victim, The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, Bedlam, The Leopard Man, The Ghost Ship, and Shadows in the Dark, all lovingly restored and accompanied by audio commentary, documentaries on three of the nine films, and another on Lewton himself.
Less bloody but no less dangerous, The Film Noir Classic Collection comes in two volumes (so far). The first set includes such masterpieces as The Asphalt Jungle, Gun Crazy, Out of the Past, Murder My Sweet, and The Set Up - all of them considered essentials of the film noir genre. With commentary on each film included (Martin Scorsese talks excitedly over The Set-Up), the set makes a good starter kit for those new to the genre, as well as a treasure for longtime fans. Volume 2 is also well chosen, with such titles as Born to Kill, Crossfire, Dillinger, Clash By Night, and Narrow Margin, along with audio excerpts from the directors and screenwriters and original trailers.
Fans of the classic Hollywood really have it made as film companies release more and more collections centered on film icons from the Golden Age and beyond. Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, James Dean, and Marlene Dietrich (Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection) all have DVD collections in their honor, as do iconic figures such as Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille, and The Marx Brothers (although the best set for the latter is already out of print, alas; a collection of lively docs about the Marxes is worth a look). Most notably, the newly released Busby Berkeley Collection offers five remastered Warner Bros. classics from one of the all-time great motion picture choreographers. The six-disc set includes 1930s dazzlers 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933 (featuring Ginger Rogers' "We're In the Money"), Footlight Parade, Dames, and Gold Diggers of 1935, as well as an exclusive Busby Berkeley bonus disc with 20 musical numbers from nine of his films. The set also includes a stunning amount of vintage featurettes, cartoons, trailers, and film notes.
Moving forward through the decades, one can own collections from comedy maestro Mel Brooks [pictured at left in his Silent Movie], a trilogy of Gidget movies, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, or director Sam Peckinpah's legendary westerns gift sets. Star duos such as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Rock Hudson and Doris Day each have film collections on the market.
Whether you're a connoisseur of British comedy (which makes The Peter Sellers Collection a requirement), American comedy (Richard Pryor box, perhaps?), French New Wave (check out The Truffaut Adventures of Antoine Doinel Collection) or the Star Wars trilogy, there's likely a DVD set compiled to suit your fancy. With such a wide variety of multi-disc sets on the market, my college friend will probably have to rent his own warehouse soon.