Jonathan Crocker

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DVD review: Stanley Kubrick Boxset

Posted by Jonathan On February - 26 - 2008

spaceodysseyNearly a decade has drifted since his sudden death, but Stanley Kubrick‘s astonishing oeuvre  – and it’s easy to forget he made just 13 films – continue to loom like a monolithic shadow. Megalomaniac giant, superhuman obsessive and hermit genius, he often seemed more myth than moviemaker. But Kubrick was a visionary culture-grinder of the modern era, leaving behind truly unique spectacles, all with Big Questions throbbing inside their unforgettable structures.

It’s been a long, long wait – a Kubrickian wait – but finally a worthy DVD boxset gathers five of his greatest films in scrubbed-up Special Editions. And boy, has it been worth that wait. Each comes with its own commentary and (bar Full Metal Jacket) a second disc of gripping, intimate docs and featurettes. Biggest of the bunch is 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film in which Kubrick went to infinity and beyond – a year before man set foot on the moon. Hours of Making Of material and legacy assessment begin with lengthy new doc The Making Of A Myth, presented by James Cameron, no less. There’s vintage on-set footage of Kubrick at work, past and present interviews with Arthur C Clarke, along with fresh interviews with Kubrick’s producer, tech crew and, well, seemingly everyone else, from William Friedkin and Spider-Man FX guru John Dykstra to Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and doughy US critic Roger Ebert. Effects maestro Douglas Trumbell and Christiane Kubrick recall how they achieved a cosmic trip to satisfying the director’s demands (“Stanley would walk around saying, ‘Please draw me an image that doesn’t remind me of anything in a colour that doesn’t exist'”). Trumbell spills yet more info on the commentary, although cardboard star Keir Dullea fills the dead air with empty babble.

No danger of that from Malcolm McDowall. The bulging-eyed Brit is a tremendous presence on A Clockwork Orange‘s chat-track (he’s joined by doc-maker Nick Redman) and on terrific 86-min doc O Lucky Malcolm!, where he rattles off fantastic stories from his entire career and gets saluted by a Brit film industry who’s who. Two more smashing docs complete the disc: Still Tickin’ wades through the shit-storm surrounding the film’s release and withdrawal and return, while Great Bolshy Yarblockos! sees another galaxy of filmmakers (hello Mr Spielberg), collaborators and critics unload a massively informed, anecdote-rich Making Of.

Nine years after Kubrick’s mesmerising horrorshow of stylised swagger and surgical intellect became the most controversial film in Brit cinema history, the director returned with The Shining. Kubrick’s stay at the Overlook gets the same quality treatment across a superb commentary by steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and biographer John Baxter, plus two utterly comprehensive Making Of docs. Each runs to less than 30 minutes, but not a second is wasted: the sheer weight of first-hand accounts, insight and pure affectionate is phenomenal. Vivian Kubrick’s precious mini-doc, shot hand-held during filming, survives from the previous DVD release and there’s a further bonus in an interview with Kubrick’s longtime composer Wendy Carlos.

It was another seven years before Full Metal Jacket‘s double-barrelled assault on ‘Nam and another 12 years before Eyes Wide Shut proved that even the world’s biggest movie stars would bow to Kubrick’s might. Gangs Of New York screenwriter Jay Cocks and stars Vincent D’Onofrio, R Lee Ermey and Adam Baldwin lay on Jacket’s cut’n’paste commentary, sharply edited for minimum waffle. The disc’s Making Of doc doesn’t disappoint either, with much marvel directed at Ermey’s “endless resource for obscenities”, the fact that East London doubled for Vietnam and how Kubrick coaxes a performance (D’Onofrio: “‘Do it again. Do it better.’ He’ll say it right to you”).

Just a single-discer, mind, but in a boxset packed with great stories, Ermey gets to tell what might be the best. “We’re driving in Stanley’s wife’s brand new SUV,” explains Full Metal Jacket’s iconic drill sergeant. “We’re looking for a place to do a scene. Stanley’s driving and pointing and talking. And I’m sitting there watching us driving towards a six-foot deep ditch. Stanley, as he talked, drove off into this ditch and the car went over on its side. Stanley reached up, pushed the door open, climbed up on top… and he’s still talking. ‘We’ll put up the tent over here…’ Then he climbs down and just starts walking back to camp. Can you believe this shit?”

Kubrick’s fin de siècle sign-off Eyes Wide Shut – another meisterwerk, not about sex, but about Christmas – gets the smart discussion it deserves in the commentary by Sydney Pollack and historian Peter Loewenberg, while the second disc devotes itself to the method and madness of the legendary shoot (listed as The Guinness Book of World Records‘ ‘Longest Constant Movie Shoot’). plus a rundown of Kubrick’s numerous unrealised dream projects in two more stellar docs. Of Kubrick’s fully formed classics, only Paths Of GloryBarry Lyndon and Lolita now continue to wait for the Special Edition treatment. But there’s enough here to keep any Kubrick fan hooked, and hooked hard, until they happen. Utterly essential.

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Read the original article at Total Film.

3 Responses to “DVD review: Stanley Kubrick Boxset”

  1. […] closer… Kubrick films are full of in-jokes for other Kubrick films. You can see the soundtrack album for 2001: A Space […]

  2. […] of duels, war, gambling, aristocracy, amputation and bitter cynicism. But the cruellest movie of Kubrick’s career is also one of the most breathtakingly beautiful ever made. Watching it is like falling into a […]

  3. […] Even Blu-ray can’t recreate the ultimate trip of the original 70mm film, but Kubrick’s monolithic sci-fi spectacle has never looked this stunning in your living room. Cleaned up for HD, every sequence is an treat […]

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Jonathan is a London-based journalist, critic and editor. He currently works for data visualisation agency Beyond Words.

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