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Chris Hicks: DVD collections renew old favorites

A DVD collection combines an enhanced version of "The Wizard of Oz" with four collectable silent versions.
A DVD collection combines an enhanced version of "The Wizard of Oz" with four collectable silent versions.
Deseret Morning News Archives

A slew of reissues disguised as new releases are among DVDs on shelves this week.

"The Wizard of Oz: Three-Disc Collector's Edition" (Warner, 1939, G. $49.92). If this isn't a four-star bell-ringer, then there is no such thing. You've no doubt seen "The Wizard of Oz" a dozen times or more, but the color and sound are magnificent here, and the bonus features are bountiful. The three-disc set (there's also a new two-disc alternative) is a real keeper for fans and collectors, and includes four different silent versions of the story (one featuring Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man), a 1933 cartoon version and a 1967 TV adaptation.

Extras: Full frame, audio commentary (historian John Fricke), making-of documentary (hosted by Angela Lansbury), making-of featurettes, home movies, deleted scenes, outtakes, music/effects-only tracks, storybook, audio recordings, photo gallery, trailers, other "Wizard of Oz" adaptations for TV and early films, chapters; two sets of color photos/advertising reproductions. (Also available in a two-disc special edition, $26.99.)

"Titanic: Special Collector's Edition" (Paramount, 1997, PG-13, $29.99, three discs). I'm not the biggest fan of this film, which I see as riddled with flaws, but I do like it for what it is — a spectacle without much weight until that last hour when the special-effects take over. And does any movie need three audio commentaries? For fans who just can't get enough.

Extras: Widescreen, three audio commentaries (Cameron, cast, crew), deleted scenes, alternate ending, making-of featurettes, language options (English, French, Spanish), optional English subtitles.

"Jerry Lewis: The 'Legendary Jerry' Collection" (Paramount, 1953-65, not rated, b/w and color, $54.99, 10 discs). This box set is comprised of the 10 Lewis films that were released a year ago — his handpicked favorites — each on its own disc but encased in double-feature boxes. The only thing new about this set is its packaging, along with a note from Lewis thanking his fans for their loyalty. But there are some goodies: My favorites are "The Bellboy," "The Ladies Man" and "The Errand Boy." "The Nutty Professor" is here, of course, along with "The Delicate Delinquent," "Cinderfella," "The Disorderly Orderly," "The Patsy," "The Family Jewels," and one Martin & Lewis film, "The Stooge."

Extras: Widescreen (except for "The Stooge," which is in full frame), audio commentaries (by Lewis and Steve Lawrence on all except "The Stooge," "The Delicate Delinquent" and "The Disorderly Orderly"), making-of featurettes (on "The Nutty Professor"), archival materials, trailers, subtitle options (English, Spanish), chapters.

"Tarzan: Special Edition" (Disney, 1999, G, $29.99). This Disney animated adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, as with most "Tarzan" movies, eschews the original tale to go its own way. But it is still an entertaining romp, a clever reinterpretation of familiar material for kids.

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary, alternate opening, deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, interactive games, music videos, subtitle options (English, French, Spanish), chapters.

"The Emperor's New Groove: The New Groove Edition" (Disney, 2000, G, $29.99). David Spade voices the title character, an Incan emperor turned into a llama. Some funny moments, but snarky Spade wears out his welcome before this one is over.

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary, deleted scenes, making-of featurette, interactive games, music videos, language options (English, French), chapters.

"Ken Burns: American Lives" (PBS/Paramount, 1997-2004, not rated, $139.99, nine discs). These seven biographical PBS documentaries by Ken Burns are all sterling films about various historical figures, some better known than others.

Burns' singular talent at bringing history to life is evident throughout each of these titles: "Thomas Jefferson," "Lewis & Clark," "Frank Lloyd Wright," "Not For Ourselves Alone" (about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women's equality), "Horatio's Drive" (a rare foray into comedy, about Haratio Nelson Jackson, the first person to drive a car across the continent) and "Unforgivable Blackness" (about the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson).

Extras: Widescreen and full-frame, interviews, making-of featurettes, optional English subtitles, chapters. (Also available individually, $24.99 each.)

"Dynasties: People and Passions That Changed the World" (PBS/Paramount, 1999-2004, not rated, $89.99, five discs). This collection of excellent PBS documentaries is made up of five profiles of world kingdoms and rulers: "The Greeks," "The Roman Empire," "Egypt's Golden Empire," "Japan" and "The Medici" (an Italian family of art patrons that ignited the Renaissance).

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, optional English subtitles, chapters. (Also available individually, $19.99 each; except "Japan," $24.99.)

"The 'Mystery!' Collection" (WGBH, 1997-2001, not rated, $59.95, five discs). Three British cop shows, all much more intriguing than what is made stateside, are gathered together for this box set. "Touching Evil 1" (1997, widescreen) is a brooding and sinister show with Robson Green tracking serial killers. "Second Sight 1" (1999) is an excellent mystery with Clive Owen as a sharp-eyed police detective who is gradually losing his eyesight. And "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: A Great Deliverance" (2001) is the terrific pilot for the series with upper-crust Inspector Lynley (Nathaniel Parker) and his reluctant working-class partner Sgt. Havers (Sharon Small).

Extras: Optional English subtitles, chapters; printable materials.

"The Charles Dickens Collection" (WGBH, not rated, 1999-2000, $59.95, five discs). Three Dickens adaptations that aired on PBS are in this box set. "Great Expectations" (1999) distinguishes itself by being remarkably faithful to the book. "Oliver Twist" (1999) devotes the first two-hour episode to Oliver's parentage, something that is explained only briefly and hurriedly at the end of the novel. Andy Serkis (Golem in the "Lord of the Rings" movies) is Sikes and Keira Knightly shows up in "Part 3." "David Copperfield" (2000, widescreen) features "Harry Potter's" Daniel Radcliffe in the title role here, with Maggie Smith (another "Potter" vet) as Aunt Betsey and Bob Hoskins as Micawber.

Extras: Optional English subtitles, described for visually impaired, chapters; printable materials.

"The Masterpiece Theatre Collection: Romance" (WGBH, 1997-2000, not rated, $79.95, seven discs). This box set is "Masterpiece Theatre" shows: "Anna Karenina" (2000, widescreen, two discs), a faithful and fairly enjoyable (albeit racy) adaptation of Tolstoy's novel; "Wuthering Heights" (1998), a not-particularly-faithful adaptation of the Brontmelodrama about a May-December adulterous romance, with excellent performances by Robson Green and Francesca Annis.