Video Box Sets
All the warning signsare here: brightly colored lights on houses, plastic Kris Kringles leering from roofs, endless repetitions of "Silent Night," grinning deer figurines in front lawns, traffic jams (and fender benders) at the malls. Aliens visiting from another planet would be terribly confused and might assume that it is an everyday part of our culture (hmm, that could be a premise for a movie by itself), but we Earthlings know that (sing along with me) it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
So you've made the list, trying to steer clear of the boring old mundane gifts like underwear, socks, sweaters (useful about five days a year in Austin), checked it twice, don't give a damn who's naughty or nice, but you've still got one person who is just plain difficult to buy for. How about video box sets? They're the gift that keeps on giving, at least until video is completely superseded by DVDs.
Increasing numbers of people are opting for online shopping and avoiding the mano y mano, Greco-Roman, no-holds-barred, every-man-for-himself scene at the shopping malls. What's happening with Web sources for video?
Sinister is offering up their "Lucky 7" sale this holiday season (buy any six titles and get the seventh one free), in the categories of horror, action/adventure, Edgar and Bryan Wallace, spaghetti/Euro-westerns, jungle thrills, spies/ espionage, mystery/film noir, and juvenile shlock. Also, there's Santa's Sinister Sale, guaranteed to score big points with that picky, picky, picky movie geek: buy four titles from the categories of sci-fi, sword & sandal, jungle thrills, or horror for $59 postpaid, complete with custompackaging. Hell, at that price, pick out one for yourself and don't tell!
Reel's offerings this year include a Jim Carrey collection (Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber/The Mask), a Pam Grier anthology (Coffy/Foxy Brown/Friday Foster), and three Frank Sinatra films (High Society/Anchors Aweigh/On the Town). Know any Trekkies who don't drive you nuts? How about the Talking Tribbles Gift Set, which includes the original "Trouble With Tribbles" episode from the Sixties, a Deep Space 9 episode
with the profligate critters, and a free pet Tribble of your own! Test your friend's stamina with a seven-movie compendium of all the Star Trek films. The TV-minded might like The X-Files Movie Collector's Set, which includes a making of The X Files video, interviews with the stars, director and creator Chris Carter, three reproductions of the movie's poster art, and a 128-page collector's book. If that's not enough, it includes a copy of the movie script and a specially mounted strip of five frames from the theatrical print. Ultra-cool! Don't forget the John Waters box set, which features four classics of gross-out cinema: Desperate Living, Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, and Polyester. Maybe there's a Mel Gibson/Danny Glover maniac who can't live without the Lethal Weapon director's cut anthology, or the Mad Max collection.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay provides some of the best quality video around, in terms of prints and packaging both, and their offerings this holiday season include a very nice clamshell-packaged set of the Hitchcock classics Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound, and The Paradine Case. Also look for a Jerry Lewis four-pack (Cinderfella, The Errand Boy, The Patsy, The Bellboy), the five-part investigative series The Men Who Killed Kennedy (for any conspiracy nuts on your list), House/House II, Hellraiser/Hellbound, and the Charles Bronson two-packs of Assassination/Death Wish 4 and Messenger of Death/Murphy's Law, among others. Horror fans would appreciate the special Dawn of the Dead two-pack which includes an alternative soundtrack and domestic and international trailers, as well as 11 minutes not included in the theatrical release.
Rhino Home Video
Leave it to the Rhino weirdos to come up with something like the Ed Wood Angora Box Set; the trash classics Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, and Bride of the Monster packaged in ever-so-fuzzy blue fun-fur angora. Feel like splurging on a Monkees fanatic? There's The Monkees set that includes all 58 episodes of the show (including the super-rare pilot episode), photos, a 48-page book, and complete plot synopses of each show (it'll only set you back a cool $400). A more conservative choice might be the Monkees Lunchbox; yes, a groovy tin lunchbox which includes a jigsaw puzzle of the plucky lads inside a Monkees cereal box, and a 110-minute video with the fellas introducing their fave TV episodes. There's also the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 set, complete with a pair of special Crow and Tom Servo boxer shorts to cram your sorry ass into. Or perhaps the Karloff box set of four films: The Torture Zone, Cult of the Dead, Alien Terror, and Dance of Death, as well as three tales of the supernatural hosted by the K-man himself. Rhino also offers up titles that are closer to the mainstream, all in splendid packaging (2001, Gigi, Singin' in the Rain, Frank Capra's WWII Why We Fight series, Casablanca). Rock fans may appreciate the video-and-CD sets of Iron Butterfly's Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida, Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, The Band, or the Grateful Dead.
If you prefer to keep thosehard-earned Christmas dollars right here in Austin, and feel gutsy enough to go to the mat with the crowds elbowing their way to the checkout stands, it's not really so bad as all that, plus you get to mull over the packaging. (Our friends at I * Video prefer the rental business to special orders, though their oeurve of previously viewed videos is well worth perusing, given their quirky tastes.) Get that plastic ready, if the mag-stripe isn't swiped-out already and the balance is paid down ...
Our pals at 29th and Rio Grande tell us that this year's hot movers are TV-series anthologies; Absolutely Fabulous, South Park, Monty Python, The Avengers '67 (doing a lot better than the movie did), The X-Files, Twin Peaks, etc. Also available are all of TheThin Man series of movies in box sets, as well as loads of Japanese anime titles. PBS fans might appreciate a gift set of one of Ken Burns' excellent documentaries like Baseball, The Civil War, or The Great Depression. Leave a $10 deposit and they'll order to your heart's desire, with the balance payable on delivery.
Suncoast Motion Picture Company
The Highland Mall folks can hook you up with the excellent The Exorcist 25th anniversary package; it includes never-seen footage and the knock-your-socks-off documentary The Fear of God, which includes interviews with Ellen Burstyn, Bill Friedkin, William Peter Blatty, Linda Blair (hell-o!!), and makeup man Dick Smith. The Fear of God also features tons of behind-the-scenes footage on the set, production details, and information on the bad luck that plagued the production (nine people involved in the film died during filming). Ever wonder how they got the set so cold you could see the actors' breath in those scenes? Other hot movers include the Godfather/Godfather II/Godfather III director's cuts, the Lion King/Lion King II set for the young'uns, the Pride and Prejudice series, and of course The X-Files and South Park anthologies.
The Encore folks report that one of this year's top sellers is the charming Wallace and Gromit claymation box set; another indispensable choice for the young 'uns would be the five-tape Golden Age of Looney Tunes compilation. HBO's From the Earth to the Moon series is available on VHS, in its entirety. Much to the chagrin of Coen Brothers fans, though, the Fargo gift pack is sadly out of print (eat your heart out, it came with a snow globe depicting the woodchipper scene ... sob!). Encore also features lots of DVD and laser disc titles, such as the early Hitchcock DVD set, comprised of Sabotage, Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Secret Agent, and Number 17. Revisit your hippie days with the Woodstock laser disc set, or sate your more eclectic tastes with the Manon of the Spring laser disc box.
Kitsch fans ought to love the Liberace set that just came out from Rhino Video (true to form for Rhino, the gold-glitter packaging comes complete with a pop-up cardboard piano and candelabra). Also from Rhino is a John and Yoko Lennon set (which includes their appearance on TheMike Douglas Show in the Sixties). A Planet of the Apes anthology is out now, as well as the silent forerunner to Hong Kong's Irma Vep, the 1915 French silent film Les Vampires. The more scholarly movie maniacs on your list might like a look at the compilation A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese, as the director discusses his favorite films and his unique ideas on the cinema.
The mainstream movie mavens are stocking a John Wayne anthology of his early features Rainbow Valley, 'Neath the Arizona Skies, Texas Terror, The Lawless Range, and Desert Trail. Also on their shelves are a collection of episodes of The Lucy Show, as well as re-releases of Gone With the Wind, the Star Wars trilogy, and documentaries such as Great Battles of WWII. Watch soon for the usual holiday fare such as Frosty the Snowman to keep the progeny spellbound before the electronic campfire while the adults tend to Christmas matters (like egg nog).