It's difficult to keep up with what's being released on DVD and the newish Blu-ray high-resolution format. Even in nonholiday seasons, stacks of box sets, collector's editions and director's cuts arrive every Tuesday in stores and rental houses. The following could only be a sampling, even with twice the space. The only guiding idea was to avoid recent theatrical releases in order to highlight interesting examples of all the classics and obscure stuff digital media has allowed us to own, often for the first time.
After perusing Richard Schickel and George Perry's recent book about Warner Bros., “You Must Remember This,” also a documentary on PBS in the fall, readers may be in the mood for classics like the studio's most cherished hit, “Casablanca.” The film is out on DVD again, an elaborate box-set version that features its own book and other extras. It's also one of the relatively few classics available on Blu-ray, along with Criterion's rerelease of “The Third Man,” starring Orson Welles, whose film “Touch of Evil” is out in a 50th Anniversary Edition.
Other recently remastered classics include the “Bonnie and Clyde Ultimate Collector's Edition,” “Sunset Boulevard” in the Centennial Collection, “The Godfather — The Coppola Restoration” and a two-disc special edition of the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in anticipation of the remake starring Keanu Reeves. If it's difficult to pick and choose from the volume of these great old movies, there are always big compilations like the “Columbia Best Pictures Collection,” with 11 Oscar picks from the Columbia vault, ranging from 1934's “It Happened One Night” to 1982's “Gandhi.” Similar sets include “The Homefront Collection” of war-time movies from Warner. United Artists still offers a 30-film set that came out last year, as well as the monstrous 90-title prestige edition.
It's amazing what old TV shows are being put out on DVD these days. Not only do the most marginal, short-lived new TV series get the DVD treatment, but so do such cable-generation camp classics like “Benson,” “Gimme a Break!” and even “Too Close for Comfort.” New releases for the holidays include “Charmed: The Complete Series,” the show about teenage witches; the show about the frontier doctor lady, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Series Megaset”; the show about the New Jersey mob, “The Sopranos Complete Series”; and a bunch of older TV favorites like “The Lone Ranger 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition,” “The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series,” “Howdy Doody” and the “Studio One Anthology,” a drama series CBS used to run that featured such productions as “12 Angry Men” and actors such as Charlton Heston. For dad, the Western television heyday doesn't have to be over, especially with the revival of HBO's “Deadwood,” released for the first time as a complete series. As for pioneers, the ever-amazing “Have Gun: Will Travel” and its stirring theme music has been on DVD for a while, joined recently by such memorable series as “Wagon Train: The Complete Color Series,” and “The Wild, Wild West: The Complete Series.”
Whether it's a question of outrageous size, like the “Hollywood Musical Collection,” (suggested retail price $499), or of merit (“Knight Rider: The Complete Series” $99.99), the entertainment industry doesn't mind asking. Box sets only seem to get bigger and more profligate. Every odd passion has its fix, from every episode of the Little Rascals to every film by Abbot and Costello to every television episode of Monty Python in “The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus Collector's Edition Megaset.” Even the more respectable channels are getting in on the action, with PBS releasing its excellent presidential series in a complete set and an A&E production called “The 60s Megaset” (“megaset” is a popular descriptive this year), a collection of documentaries on the hippie decade. So much for tuning out. S