The rapid ascent of DVD as a consumer format has been a boon just about any way you look at it. Manufacturers get to sell a lot more home theater gear, studios get to re-release catalog material, engineers get more work, and consumers…well, besides the flood of bonus features, consumers have a chance to revisit classic films and hear them as they were meant to be heard.
Mix will be “reviewing” a number of DVD titles on a monthly basis. The intent is not to “review” in the traditional sense — plenty of consumer titles will do that, technically and critically. Rather, we'd like to point readers toward films that use sound in creative ways, because, after all, whenever you talk to sound designers, they don't want to talk about bit rates and transfers; they want to talk about the “use” of sound in a film.
Toward that end, this first installment by Rick Clark points out a few re-released films that use music particularly well. Go back, rent the DVD and listen!
Of all of Tim Burton's films, Edward Scissorhands (1990) most successfully synthesizes the elements of compassion, humor and wildly creative fanciful vision to create an experience that is touching one moment and very funny the next.
While the DVD doesn't feature 5.1, the LCRS provides excellent full-range sound. One of the major elements that elevates the movie in its most magical moments is Danny Elfman's wondrous score. Ten years after the release, Elfman's work on Edward Scissorhands ranks among his very best efforts. It certainly has been incredibly influential, as evidenced by the numerous TV and film pieces that have borrowed blatantly from the score.
As for special features? Well, you can listen to Tim Burton, which is always entertaining, but even better is Elfman's insight — you can watch the entire film with music only, plus Elfman's narration.
20th Century Fox. Directed by Tim Burton. Music by Danny Elfman. Supervising Sound Editor: Richard Anderson. Re-Recording Mixers: Steve Maslow, Stanley Kastner. Score Mixer: Shawn Murphy.
Sony/TriStar's two-disc Special Edition of Glory, winner of three 1989 Academy Awards, is first-rate from beginning to end. Though Donald O. Mitchell, Gregg C. Rudloff, Elliot Tyson and Russell Williams II deservedly won the Oscar for Best Sound, it was James Horner's stirring score, featuring The Boys Choir of Harlem, that wonderfully supported the emotional thrust of this powerful story about a tragically suicidal attack on a Confederate fort.
A Sony/TriStar Film. Directed by Edward Zwick. Music by James Horner. Supervising Sound Editor: Lon Bender. Re-Recording Mixers: Donald O. Mitchell, Gregg Rudloff, Elliot Tyson. Scoring Mixer: Shawn Murphy. Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo.
This amazing collection of four supernatural fantasies, released in 1965, is one of cinema's unique achievements. Each tale possesses an eerily quiet power that draws the viewer into a somber netherworld of ghosts and shadows.
Toru Takemitsu's soundtrack is startling with its sparse punctuations and haunting, trance-like ambience. There isn't a wasted note or visual throughout. But this is also a film where silence is used to full effect, often augmenting the surreal sets that are striking in their rich colors and lighting. While Hollywood has increasingly followed the idea that visual and sonic overkill is required to scare an audience, Kwaidan rewards the intellect and attention span of the viewer with its thoughtful dimensionality. It won't make you jump out of your seat, but the spell of Kwaidan will stay with you. This is a first-rate job by Criterion.
The Criterion Collection. Directed by Masaki Kobayashi. Re-released by Criterion. Monaural.
BEASTIE BOYS VIDEO ANTHOLOGY
Often pop artist video collections are just that — no-frills anthologies and not much more. The Beastie Boys Video Anthology is a major exception. Just as the Beasties smartly push the boundaries of hip hop and rap, this two-disc set is loaded with everything the format is touted to offer.
Besides the usual stereo/5.1 audio options and commentaries, Video Anthology offers more than 100 multi-angles and remixes that are switchable at any time of playback. There are even a cappella versions of the tracks. The level of visual, musical creativity and humor displayed throughout this set offers new rewards with each viewing.
The Criterion Collection. Dolby Digital and Stereo.