It was a dark day when I most recently succumbed to the mystical lure of the DVD Special Edition.
Though perfectly happy with my 2006 copy of The Third Man, Carol Reed’s Vienna-set post-war thriller, I decided to import a copy of the Criterion Collection DVD of the same film with its multiple commentaries, documentaries and radio plays.
I was excited – my favourite film now had something even more to hold my attention, something sparkly and new. But should I have been glad at the prospect or unhappy that the marketing men had seemingly sold me the same thing twice?
In days of old, when CGI was no more than a glint in the corner of a green screen monitor and Amazon was still just the name of a very famous river, VHS ruled OK. Apart from a minor VHS/Betamax battle of the formats in the early 1980s, it seemed that their dominance was assured in the face of their main competitor: the Laserdisc. Then came DVD.
Within a few years DVD became the format of choice for even the most casual of viewer thanks to their superior picture quality, sound…and extras.
In the video era, we were lucky to get a trailer tacked onto the start of a film, perhaps a short ‘Making of’ documentary if the film company felt generous. No we can all become armchair experts with facts, figures and previously unheard information that would otherwise have remained in the vaults.
With The Third Man I now know about things I never even knew I wanted to know, and no doubt another version will pop up in the next year or so.
DVD companies need to make money and the more ways we have to watch films – on TV, laptops or even mobile phones – means that there are more people to buy their wares than ever before.
But if all these archived gems are available to the producers, why not release them the first time around, rather than making the dedicated fan buy different versions each time? And now we have Blu-ray and streaming online versions…where does it all end?
While I ponder whether I should be buying a new film rather than searching for a revised version of one I already own, I think I’ll revisit the sewers of Vienna once again in a five minute short film from 1949. As you do…
Do you have a favourite DVD extra? Or do you just buy your shiny discs for the films themselves? Have your say below…