Top 10: Bonus Features Not to Skip

We’re proud of the variety and depth of the Media Services collection. In the interest of bringing you some highlights and deep cuts from our shelves, we’ll be posting unusual and interesting Top 10 lists of some of our favorite DVDs.

When was the last time you watched a DVD bonus feature? At the risk of sounding hackneyed, special features aren’t so special anymore; so many films now receive limited editions with behind-the-scene footage and interviews. Even among the best movie releases (like anything put out by the Criterion Collection), it can be exhausting to go through every featurette, trailer, and commentary track.

But there are a few movies with particularly unusual or interesting special features that are worth the detour to the second disc. In some cases, they’re even better than the film themselves. With the help of the library’s Media and RTL staff, we present the top ten DVD bonus features that are worth tracking down.

Some serious historical research went into this Indiana Jones spinoff television show, and the producers clearly wanted to share their homework with us. This DVD set contains close to 100 mini-documentaries about the subjects of each episode, from ancient Egypt to the story of George S. Patton. (And they’re really great too!)

Many commentary tracks can feel dry, especially when they’re produced very shortly after the film’s release. This is not a problem for Big Trouble in Little China. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell have a wild time re-watching the cult classic together. It’s like sitting in the room with two old friends seeing each other for the first time in years.

Ridley Scott’s cyberpunk masterpiece has been issued and reissued repeatedly in the last 30 years, receiving significant alterations that completely change the film’s subtext and structure. The Final Cut edition contains all four revisions of the film, including a work-in-progress version that circulated among bootleggers as an unofficial “director’s cut.”

Never ones to indulge analysis of their own work, the Coen brothers included a mocking faux-critical commentary track for first major film. The commentator, supposedly from the Forever Young Films preservation group, explains in dead seriousness how every animal is animatronic and why the film had to be shot backwards. Hilariously, he intentionally ignores the most famous shot in the movie.

  • Chuck Jones: Extremes & In-Betweens – A Life in Animation (DVD 4176)

This documentary about the life of legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones is a worthwhile watch for fans or students of animation, but the 14-minute “Chuck Jones Tutorial” is the real gem. In this segment, the man behind Tom & Jerry explains, in his own words and with examples, how to animate with style and panache. It’s a brief master class from one of the legends of the medium.

In lieu of the original filmmakers, many releases of older movies include commentary tracks from film critics or academics. But only a film hailed as one of the greatest of all time lands commentary tracks from Peter Bogdanovich and Roger Ebert, two of the world’s most esteemed film critics.

David Lynch’s most recent movie, like most of his filmography, begs for in-depth discussion about its theme and tidbits from production. On the DVD, Lynch doesn’t offer commentary and instead includes a video of himself cooking quinoa. We’ll take it, I guess.

Memento may have the most confounding DVD menus of all time; the supplemental disc is structured as a psychological test that provides access to different content based on your answers. The most exciting of these is a re-edit of the film in chronological order, an editing experiment that everyone has probably wanted to try or to see at some point. To find it, click the clock on the first menu screen, then answer the question about a woman fixing a flat tire in reverse order.

Appropriate for a film that popularized the mockumentary genre, Spinal Tap‘s bonus features never drop character and treat the movie like the real thing. The main draw is a commentary track featuring the cast in-character at a twentieth anniversary reunion, but other odd “archival” footage is worth seeking out as well.

  • Treasures of the Twilight Zone (DVD 6478)

In 1959, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes interviewed Rod Serling about the state of television, commercialization, and censorship. It’s a riveting half-hour that’s still relevant today, and this collection of Twilight Zone episodes included Serling’s interview as a special feature. (Since it was the 50s, both men smoke during the interview and fill the room with a tobacco haze. It’s funny but distracting.)

Posted in Recommendations and tagged .