by Jeff Rosado
Another banner year for the industry and it's fans, with many long coveted films (from Damn Yankees to the original Star Wars trilogy) making the shiny platter debuts.
For me, these were the best of the best.
10. Seinfeld-Seasons One, Two and Three (Columbia Tristar Home Video)
After years of mostly inferior and supplemental deprived television sets, Columbia TriStar didn't just hit a home run, they won the World Series with this pair of comprehensive box sets chronicling the early genesis of a TV classic.
9. Gone With The Wind: CE (Warner Home Video)
Though not on my short list of all-time classics, I admire the film as a trend setter for epic storytelling in addition to its great performances by Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Haviland. But what places it in my top ten list for the year is its nifty bonuses, including yet another incredible restoration by Lowry, terrific career retrospectives on Gable and Leigh, a rare chat with DeHaviland, Rudy Behar's exhaustive commentary and the phenomenal The Making Of A Legend, the classic 90s era TNT that may very well be the best documentary on a single feature film ever produced.
8. Peter Gabriel: Play (Rhino)
A terrific compilation of the English rock performer's classic music videos that quietly became the first DVD with DTS encoding at 24 bit/96 khs (which in English means fabulous sound). Unlike most generic cookie cutter videos, the former Genesis singer's clips are as esoterically enriching and stimulating as his music.
7. W.C. Fields Comedy Collection-With recent multi-disc sets devoted to Chaplin and The Marxes, it was only a matter of time before the noted vaudevillian turned movie star would get his due. Save for a few creaky moments in the multi-guest star loaded , the remainder of the set's inclusion are wonderful, particularly 1934's It's A Gift, a flawless masterpiece showcasing the red nosed wiseacre at his best. Also notable: A terrific episode of A & E's Biography with contributions from high profile fans including Ed McMahon, Harry Anderson and Rod Steiger.
6. Live Aid (Warner Home Video)
Long, long, long overdue set that happily preserves one of the most important days in music history, where performers in England and Philadelphia united through the wonders of technology for a day long concert to continue aiding the starving in Africa. Though the griping over missing performers and performances is slightly justified, what remains makes the proceedings more enticing and much tighter as a whole.
5. Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection, Vol. 2 (Warner Home Video)
Another generous helping of cartoon classics from the ACME vaults, with nearly sidelong marathons that will delight enthusiasts of Tweety and the Road Runner (the latter being a major love of mine; does anyone ever get tired of Wile E. Coyote constantly pummeling groundside?). Bonus material this time out is a little anti-climatic, but a short but wonderful chat with animation genius Tex Avery is worth the price of the set.
4. Universal's Abbott and Costello Collections (Universal Home Video)
Vintage comedy's greatest duo were given a smashing introduction to DVD via three double layered, 2-disc sets chronicling nearly all of their cinematic output from 1940-1953. Though the lack of supplements is lamentable, it's hard to complain with fan favorites like Buck Privates, Who Done It? and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein looking better than they have in any format.
3. SCTV: Volumes 1 and 2 (Shout! Factory)
Sketch comedy's best-ever series came in with a bang courtesy of two multi-disc packages. Though more than two decades have passed, time has done little to date wonderful characters like Guy Caballero, Bob and Doug McKenzie and Lola ("I want to bear your chillllldreeen") Heatherton. Wonderful documentaries covering everything you've always wanted to know about the Canadian based TV classic from its humble beginnings in improvisational clubs to the wonderful behind-the-scenes support staff is like icing on already tasty cakes.
2. Elvis '68 Comeback Special and Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii Deluxe Editions (BMG)
Only previously available in inferior versions with missing songs due to copyright gremlins, two of the high points of Elvis Presley's career re-emerged in sparkling re-mastered editions. In addition to the original NBC specials, virtually every surviving outtake, unaired performances and behind the scenes snippets were unearthed, giving viewers an unparalleled look at these legendary TV showcases that rank with the Sun Sessions and his 1969 Memphis recordings as the best of his musical oeuvre.
1. That's Entertainment Trilogy Gift Set (Warner Home Video)
Francis Albert Sinatra was on the money when stating You can wait around and hope, but you'll never see the likes of this again". But how lucky we are to be able to revisit the multi-decade, lovely extended springtime of the great American musical courtesy of three amazing compilation films that comprised the That's Entertainment. Beautifully restored with excellent, remixed soundtracks and fan friendly extras including a rarely seen ABC television special and over a dozen full-length numbers from the MGM archives (including Judy Garland's heart tugging Last Night When We Were Young, inexplicably axed from In The Good Old Summertime).
Any self-respecting DVD fan can't stop at just 10; other notable discs and sets worth mentioning: Paramount's Jerry Lewis releases (now what about the great 50s-era collaborations with Dean?), Warner's classic Film Noir box, The Sunshine Boys, the fun two-fer for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (pairing the 1931 original with MGM's lush 1941 remake), Testament, O' Genio: Ray Charles Live In Brazil 1963, Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection, Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season, Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series, Damn Yankees (who cares about the lack of extras? I'm just happy to have it out!), The Joe Schmo Show: Season One Uncensored, Rocked with Gina Gershon, School Of Rock (gotta love Jack Black's plea to Led Zeppelin for use of one of their songs for the soundtrack in a killer extra), Survivor All-Stars: The Complete Season, Meet Me In St. Louis (with a wonderful commentary track headed by John Fricke) and I Wanna Hold Your Hand.