Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Malcolm McDowell, Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, Diane Johnson, Frederic Raphael, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
MPAA Rating: G, R
Running Time: 600
Date: 19/03/2013

Warner Home Video Director's Series: Stanley Kubrick (2007)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Full Metal Packet

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Warner Home Video Director's Series: Stanley Kubrick on DVD

In 1999, Warner Home Video released a box set of Stanley Kubrick films that was widely criticized as a botched job. Two years later, they re-released the entire box, which fixed most of the problems. One issue remained: The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999) were presented only in full-screen editions, rather than widescreen (apparently according to Kubrick's wishes). Moreover, Eyes Wide Shut was offered only in its censored American theatrical release version with no option to view the uncensored, unrated European release version. Now in 2007, Warner Home Video has once again righted a wrong with their new 10-disc box set. The new set contains, newly letterboxed and remastered, 2001: A Space Odyssey (2 discs), A Clockwork Orange (2 discs), The Shining (2 discs), Full Metal Jacket (1 disc), Eyes Wide Shut (2 discs) and Jan Harlan's warm, wonderful documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (1 disc).

However, there's one major, glaring error. Both the outer box and the DVD case for Eyes Wide Shut promise the option to watch either the censored American cut or the uncensored European cut, and only the uncensored version is actually on the disc. This may not be a problem, since many people will choose not to watch the censored version anyway, but I believe it's crucial to include the choice, if for nothing else so that we have a documented record of our prudery and censorship.

Also, purists may notice that the new letterboxing drastically changes the picture from the pan-and-scan versions. It looks as if the new pictures simply chop off the top and bottom of the frame, but in fact these new versions are correct and they do add a little new information on the sides of the frame. (They're closer to the theatrical presentation than the old DVDs were.) When Kubrick ordered the pan-and-scan versions, he did so without the future knowledge of widescreen TVs, and so the Kubrick estate felt justified in authorizing these new editions. On a side note, Harlan's documentary still uses clips of the full-screen versions.

The new box comes with lots of new extras, notably several commentary tracks: Actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood provide one for 2001, Malcolm McDowell (interviewed by historian Nick Redman) does one for Clockwork, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and film critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks team up for a Full Metal Jacket commentary track, and Steadicam operator Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter talk about The Shining. The set includes a bunch of new featurettes (mostly talking heads and clips), and a few older ones. (Vivian Kubrick's amazing "The Making of the Shining" is still here.) Most intriguing is Kubrick's filmed 1998 acceptance speech for his D.W. Griffith Award. But the best new extra has to be the new feature-length documentary O Lucky Malcolm!, from Jan Harlan, Kubrick's brother-in-law and co-producer on four of his films. I interviewed McDowell in 2001, and he was one of my all-time favorites; he's brutally honest and never seems weary of talking about Kubrick or Lindsay Anderson. He's a great storyteller and an amazing fellow.

Finally, here are some notes on the five films included (if you bought the 2001 box set, you'll need to hang on to your old copies of Lolita, Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon -- and I would hang onto the "R" rated Eyes Wide Shut as well, just for aesthetic reasons).

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is still an undisputed classic, and is a good deal more engaging and entertaining than it seems from its chilly pedestal.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) brilliantly plays with the idea of the "likeable" protagonist by giving us a total scoundrel and then reversing him to be a respectable citizen, who is no longer nearly as much fun. The ending says volumes about today's desperate dulling of the American cinema, constantly in search of non-offensive material.

The Shining (1980) is one of the great horror films, set not in dark, shadowy rooms or in the woods, but in a brightly-lit, cavernous space using eerily smooth, gliding camerawork. It's the antithesis of most of today's horror films, and the landmark Steadicam work comes closer to the actual human experience than the modern, trendy shaky-cam.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) didn't work so well for me the first time I saw it, but I've come to appreciate its first 45 minutes some of the greatest, scariest and funniest work Kubrick has ever done.

I've written extensively about Eyes Wide Shut (1999) already, so suffice to say that I think it's Kubrick's best and most mature film.

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