Archive for August, 2007

The Hard Up Life

We’re less well off currently, so random DVD purchases have been curtailed. Understandably, I’m not happy about this, but what can you do when the wolf is at the door? I’ve given up the smokes (three weeks on patches – yippee!) and cut back on our Sky viewing card, losing the Sports channels (I didn’t watch enough football to justify it, and thought Sky Movies had taken a decisive turn for the worse). Those are my concessions, and along with them go the drunken trips to Amazon or Play.com – I’m sure I’m not the only one here who has coughed up thirty quid after a sustained session, and regretted it a little the following day.

Charlton wished the Roman Empire hadn't repealed gun laws so he could have dealt with that pesky MessalaWhat this really means is that I can start piling into the unwatched DVDs lying around the house, purchases that seemed to make sense at the time, but are yet to be viewed. Many of these I’ve made because they were unmistakeable bargains – The French Connection two-disc set for £1.99; three quid blown on student favourite, Betty Blue. But as mine wife would say, after wading through discarded shrink-wrapping, what’s the point if I don’t watch them? Well, now it’s time to start. Here are a few of the snap buys I’ll be checking out, in the absence of anything else to do…

Ben-Hur (four-disc set) – Amazon had this on offer for £4.97, and despite finding it a bit on the boring side last time around, who was I to say no? The set is a handsome one, with the 1925 version thrown in alongside the 1959 Oscar-mower, arranged over two discs. Despite my general misgivings over watching such an overblown affair once more, I have to say my long-term memories of it are good, certainly up to the chariot race, which follows Mr Hur to his lowest ebb, and then back to the top again. Afterwards, I recall a good deal of talking, some Christian business, lepers, etc, and perhaps I’ll be drawn in enough by that point to withstand the imagery and simple epic sentimentality. The documentaries on disc four look fascinating.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (two-disc set) - £2.97 from HMV for this much parodied classic, which I’ve never seen. That will have to change shortly.

Hitchcock Boxset – this is the one I’ve been tracking in the site’s ‘Getting Hitched’ articles, and I confess it’s partly the commitment of covering it for Mmmm that has stopped me from seeing more. The next on my list is Rear Window, which seems a hard title to discuss. What can I say apart from ‘Yes, it’s good, really good,’ and you all know that anyway?

Hitchcock: the Early Years – a collection of silent classics and infancy era talkies, whilst Hitch was still working in Britain and learning his trade. I bought it during an especially ‘must have that!’ phase (you’ve all had them, surely), but I’ve only seen half of The Ring, which leaves the majority of this set unwatched. By all accounts, the Master is far from his best here, and you would view it chiefly to catch early signs of his talents. The set doesn’t contain The Lodger, which I’m quite looking forward to seeing one day.

The Longest Day – I had some time off sick several months ago, and bought this to help me through the days of nothing. Maybe I fell asleep instead. It’s several years since I last watched it, and reading the blurb it appears the film could be the longest three hours I’ll ever spend. I’m sure that I am wrong and in fact being cruel here, and will try harder.

The X Files (Season Two) – I haven’t been too bad here, and am halfway through the set. However, due to its episodic nature it’s a show I can leave for weeks at a time, and then pick up again safely weeks later. Following Scully’s kidnap and return, things seem to have slowed down a bit, though I’m sure we’re building up to a suitably paranoid conclusion. The episode with the vampires, but without Gillian Anderson, has been a series standout.

Betty Blue – ah, Beatrice Dalle. An outstanding movie when I watched it at the student cinema, some years ago, and I’m sure it’ll be great now, and even if it isn’t there’s always la belle Beatrice’s oft naked form to enjoy. Let’s face it, mine wife’s right. It’s one for the lads, disguised as a classy study of one woman’s descent into madness. I bet the poster wouldn’t have occupied as many halls of residence walls if, say, Imelda Staunton had been cast as Betty.

Barry, the Times crossword toting hero from The Smoking RoomThe Smoking Room (Complete) – not so much a sitcom as an artefact, with the eponymous smoking rooms a thing of the past. A good thing too, as I’m sure anyone who has spent hours of their tab-wasted lives in drab, plain, yellowing, enclosed quarters with the other damned will agree. Try as they might, companies I worked for were entirely unable to confine the smell of nicotine to the smoking room – it had a way of seeping out. And if ever smokers were instructed their room was a thing of the past, they simply found other quarters. I once worked in a place where the stairwell was an unofficial cigarette stop-off, ever in circulation and defeating the object of the zone being a fire exit when this was the most likely place from which the flames would spread. The programmes collected here are generally excellent, with memorable characters and offering a sense of familiarity to anyone who has patronised them. It was one of those places that collected everyone, from the manager to some ageing security guard, from bored office workers to the bloke employed as a handyman. The set’s contents are displayed on the cover in a thick black box, just like the health warning on the front of a pack of twenty. It’s an underrated, modern classic, and I should give it the time it deserves.

Ninja Scroll (two-disc set) – when I learned a little more about anime, I was told there were three movies that anyone wanting an introduction to the form ought to see – Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and this, an adult tale of medieval Japan featuring demons, plagues and the ample spillage of blood. I seem to recall paying £5.99 for it some months ago, probably from HMV, and yet the two times I’ve sat down to give it a viewing, I have ended up dropping off. That’s no reflection on the movie’s quality. What I saw, I enjoyed, and I probably need to start going to bed earlier if I want to find out what all the fuss is about.

All this and more, with no doubt several titles still gathering dust in a lonely corner of the cupboard and begging for satisfaction. Maybe this time, my flat, plastic friend, you’ll get it…

Posted on 1st August 2007
Under: DVDs | 3 Comments »

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