New on DVD

By: Jeff Ward

Sense and Sensibility – Columbia/Tristar, 1996 (PG); Theatrical Trailer; $32.00

The Sussex of 1811, impressively recreated in Emma Thompson’s film adaptation, is overwhelmingly alive on DVD. The rendering of the period’s clothing and furniture is worthy of a time machine, and the countryside is so lush you’ll smell the damp hay.

But the crispness of the format reveals a number of anachronisms – in a church cemetery, for instance, one can easily read “DIED 1915” on a tombstone. A niggling detail; but what of the vehicle that carries Col. Brandon so urgently to attend his ailing daughter in London? It is clearly a Pinto.

Careful viewing reveals distant power lines, contact lenses, a Timex watch, a Monkees poster – overall, a level of sloppiness not hinted at by the VHS.

The “enormous tome” sent to Elinor by the dashing Edward turns out to be Yes I Can by Sammy Davis Jr. Most flagrantly of all, in a medium shot of Marianne stuffing herself with JiffyPop and Tofutti by lava lamp, she sets down her bong and switches on American Bandstand, where Salt ‘N’ Pepa are doing their 1994 hit “Shoop” – nearly wrecking the believability of this otherwise masterful film. (Bandstand went off air in 1989.)

Taxi Driver (Special Edition) – Columbia, 1976 (R); Widescreen, Dolby; $19.95

With its musical numbers removed, Taxi Driver became a grim urban drama instead of the delightfully tappy confection envisioned by Scorcese. Seeing them restored reminds us what a lithe, spruce dance team De Niro and Foster were.

The songs are pure champagne. Herrmann & Ebb’s “When You’re Pimpin'” and “Tippy-Tappin’ Teen-Whore from Old Times Square” are the zenith of Columbia production numbers; and De Niro’s specialty, “Bickle with a B,” redefines the water ballet.

The Wizard of Oz – MGM, 1939 (G); $24.98

The big surprise is Kansas – the opening sequence is revealed as a series of Dorothea Lange tableaux, hardly less vivid in their evocative dustiness than Oz itself. Just as surprising is the original ending, unseen since Louis B. Mayer ordered it cut after a disastrous Pomona preview. After Dorothy’s famous exclamation, “There’s no place like home,” Miss Gulch enters her bedroom and demands the return of the escaped Toto.

Uncle Henry and Aunt Em reread the order from the Sheriff and again hand the dog over to Gulch, who this time seals it into her basket with a thick bicycle chain and bears it outdoors to be shot. Dorothy, hysterical, pleads with the farmhands to rescue Toto using their brains, hearts and courage. “We’re drifters, Dorothy,” they explain, and exit to dig the dog a grave.

“Life is bleak, Dorothy,” counsels Aunt Em. “All living things die. You’ll be dead too, someday. Then there’s an afterlife – but that’s an open question, to say the least.

Professor Marvel opens a newspaper and announces the Nazi invasion of Poland. Everyone stares, numb with apprehension, as shots ring out in the yard and Dorothy, now irreversibly unhinged, screams uncontrollably. Fade to credits.

Commentary track by Sam Peckinpah and Lorna Luft.


From May Contain Nuts by Michael J. Rosen. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.

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