OnDVD: Tarrantino’s glorious ‘Inglourious’

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 12:11am
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During the extensive publicity campaign that ran for weeks before the opening of his film Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarrantino admitted several times he was worried about audience reaction to his unorthodox war film.

Rather than crafting a standard action film that faithfully adhered to the historical record, Tarrantino delivered a "re-imaging" of World War II that converged elements of westerns, revenge thrillers, even mystery/suspense works into a relentlessly violent, yet also charming and appealing production, one of his best since Pulp Fiction.

Inglourious Basterds (Two-disc Special Edition) (Universal) will be released on DVD this week. Though Tarrantino cites Enzo G. Castellari's The Inglorious Bastards as one of his all-time favorite films, its influence can scarcely be detected in this work.

His film actually blends three tales into one flowing narrative. Part of it covers the soft-spoken, yet also maniac Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a Tennessee soldier assembling a squad to hunt and execute Nazis. Each member of the unit is expected to account for at least 100 scalps.

The other compelling figures are the chilling German officer Landa (Christoph Waltz), nicknamed "The Jew Killer" and a beautiful theater owner (Melanie Laurent) who witnessed first hand some of Landa's work and has vowed to avenge her family and friends.

Tarrantino juggles events, ignores the historical record, and creates a rollicking, often absurd, but captivating saga of wartime conflict, evil and atonement.

The two-DVD package (a single set is also available) contains numerous Tarrantino specials, among them extra footage, photos, interviews, featurettes and other items.

Despite the bloodshed and blatant disregard for what actually happened during the time, Inglourious Basterds ranks among the most entertaining, surprising and satisfying movies Quentin Tarrantino has ever done.

Other releases

One of the year's biggest comedy hits also arrives this week on DVD. The Hangover (Two-Disc Special Edition) was another commercial triumph for Todd Phillips, whose Old School stands as one of the seminal efforts in the slacker/slapstick vein.

The storyline here follows a group of friends on a trip to Las Vegas aimed at celebrating the impending wedding of one friend. But 12 hours and a bunch of drinks later, they wake up to total chaos, confusion and anarchy. How they recover and salvage the situation provides the rest of The Hangover's thematic framework.

The first disc contains the unrated version of The Hangover. It makes the actual R-rated film look tame by comparison, and it's easy to see why it took a few more weeks than anticipated to get this in shape from rough cut to final product. It also has lots of other extras that include a gag reel, several interviews, deleted scenes, photos and featurettes.

The second disc has the theatrical version and a few select bonus items.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha and Heather Graham are key cast members in one of the few influential comedies done in recent years that wasn't written, produced or directed by Judd Apatow.

TV on DVD

John Houseman won an Oscar for his portrayal of the brilliant, aloof law professor Charles Kingsfield in the 1973 film The Paper Chase. The movie was based on a 1970 novel by Harvard Law School grad and author John Jay Osborn, Jr. about his experiences as a first-year student.

The TV show of the same name revolved around the interaction of first-year student James T. Hart (James Stephens) and Kingsfield, as well as Hart's friendships with other students and difficulties in making the transition from a farm in the Midwest to life at Harvard.

Despite universal critical praise and a Peabody award, The Paper Chase was canceled after its first season.

PBS eventually picked up the reruns of that first year, then in 1983 Showtime picked up the series and continued it for three more years, after which Hart and his friends graduated. Over that time Hart became head of The Law Review, and continued his relationship with Kingsfield that was part admiration, part exasperation.

This week, the six-disc set The Paper Chase: Season 2 (Shout! Factory) will be released on DVD. It presents the 19 episodes of that second year, marking the first time any of them have ever been available on DVD.

Hopefully the entire series will eventually be released, because it's easily the best and most accurate show ever produced about law school and the price students pay to become attorneys.