Revisiting THE WRATH OF KHAN
A Review of the Special Edition DVD
Plus: SPEED Deluxe Edition, RESIDENT EVIL, and The
An Aisle Seat Entry
By Andy Dursin
Can you believe it was 20 years ago this summer that STAR TREK II: THE
WRATH OF KHAN was released?
Undoubtedly the reason why Star Trek is still alive and kicking in the
21st century, THE WRATH OF KHAN traded in the evocative visuals and stilted
story of "The Motion Picture" for a more exciting, action-packed, and far
more human tale that -- as director Nicholas Meyer explains in his new
DVD commentary -- touches upon old age, death, heroism, tragedy and triumph.
The movie needs no introduction for most viewers, except to say that
it was the film that really got the cinematic series going, providing a
strong, character-oriented story with terrific special effects, a sweeping
score by James Horner (that placed him on the map), a swift pace, and a
phenomenal performance by Ricardo Montalban that remains a highlight of
the sci-fi/fantasy genre, even two decades following its release.
No matter how many times I see STAR TREK II (****, 116 mins.,
1982, PG; Paramount, available August 6), I always get a huge charge out
of Montalban's performance as Khan, the vengeance-seeking bad guy who was
banished by Captain Kirk back in an episode of the old TV series, "Space
Seed." Unlike so many cardboard movie villains, Montalban brings this deranged
and yet oddly sympathetic villain totally, completely to life, providing
Kirk and the Star Trek universe itself with their most formidable nemesis
(I still don't believe that the Borg matches him, if only because there's
nothing more chilling than a villain every bit as human as his heroic counterpart).
The scenes in which he spars with Kirk are charged with so much emotion
that I often find myself re-running them because they're so marvelously
executed in terms of writing, direction, and -- of course -- performance.
The most amazing thing about the movie -- which I watched again over
the weekend in Paramount's new Special Edition DVD -- is that Khan and
Kirk never meet on-screen. Credited screenwriter Jack B. Sowards had written
a confrontation between the two prior to one of the story's magnificent
space battles, but it was dropped over budgetary concerns. A shame, because
while KHAN works splendidly as is, it would have been fascinating to see
Montalban and Bill Shatner go at it man-to-man!
When Paramount released their first, movie-only DVD of "The Wrath of
Khan" two years ago, I wrote
at that time that "I'm sure someday we will see Special Editions of [all]
the original TREK movies."
That time has (happily) come to pass, following last year's terrific
package of "The Motion Picture" and "The Search For Spock" now tentatively
set for October. THE WRATH OF KHAN's two-disc edition isn't as comprehensive
a package as the one produced for "The Motion Picture," but it's still
more than satisfactory.
First, Meyer has included his 116-minute "Director's Edition" of the
film, which is basically identical to the one ABC broadcast in their initial
TV showings back in the '80s. It restores the Peter Preston bits and various
lines of dialogue here and there (most notably an added exchange between
McCoy and Spock over the Genesis Project), along with one alternate take
(when Carol Marcus debates with her staff prior to the Reliant's arrival).
The additions are all good ones, though I've never felt that the tone of
the film was radically changed one way or another by their restoration.
For Special Features, the supplements on WRATH OF KHAN are interesting
but, if you're a fan of the film, are admittedly going to come across as
somewhat disappointing. There are few revelations here that most fans likely
didn't know already, and the lack of additional deleted scenes is regrettable.
First, on the positive side, there's a terrific commentary track from
Nick Meyer that features all kinds of trivia and information that Trekkies
are going to love. Certainly he covers the production of the film in far
greater detail than the 30-minute documentary, which offers interviews
with Meyer, Harve Bennett, Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Montalban, but is
often tedious and dry, marred by close-ups of the participants staring
directly into the camera. After a few minutes, viewers may find themselves
looking away from the screen while Bennett's eyes are permanently transfixed
Meyer's commentary is fascinating when he talks about working with Bill
Shatner (who he says delivered better takes the more he did them) and Montalban
("less is more"), as well as coping with the film's modest budget. He rarely
ruffles any feathers, never talking about Jack B. Soward's sole credit
on the script, or talking at length about his complaints over the ending
that was changed without his consent, but aside from moments of self- congratulation,
Meyer's talk is candid and quite interesting.
The documentary program, though, is surprisingly superficial, covering
many stories we've heard before but in greater detail elsewhere (such as
the ending, which Shatner provided a far better account of in his "Star
Trek Movie Memories" tome). There's no discussion of the casting of Kirstie
Alley or Merritt Butrick (or anyone else, for that matter), no talk about
other deleted scenes, of which there are many. It's still an acceptable
presentation for viewers new to THE WRATH OF KHAN, but certainly isn't
as comprehensive or detailed as I would have liked it to be.
Separate featurettes examine the production design and ILM's work on
the film. This fascinating latter segment includes interviews with the
ILM staffers who wisely decided to have the FX on the film fall somewhere
between the evocative visual design of THE MOTION PICTURE and the simpler
effects of the original series.
An even longer featurette profiles a pair of authors who recently wrote
Khan-inspired books, which is OK for real die-hards (if not blatantly self-promotional),
but why not use this space to include other deleted scenes -- such as Kirk
and Spock's exchange about Saavik's half-Romulan nature, the would-be romance
between Saavik and David (which I assume had to have been partially shot),
and other alternate takes from the TV version. They exist, so why not include
these sequences for fans, which surely would have been the most revealing
segment of the DVD itself?
Other extras include storyboards, the same trailer that was on the original
DVD, and a terrific text (caption) commentary by Michael Okuda that's superior
to his earlier effort on the TMP Special Edition package (which moved so
quickly it was hard to keep up with). For viewers unaware of the changes
to this edition, Okuda does an excellent job noting the alternations, as
well as which FX shots originated from TMP stock footage or new work by
ILM. Rounding out the disc are some ten minutes of promotional interviews
with Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Montalban shot in 1982, shortly
before the film's release.
Visually, I compared the new disc to the original DVD release and was
hard-pressed to discern major differences between the two. If anything,
the new 2.35 transfer is a mite less grainy and more consistent in terms
of colors, but I thought the original release was perfectly acceptable
and found this transfer pretty much identical to it. The 5.1 soundtrack
seems to be exactly the same as the older DVD release; it could have used
a full-fledged digital remix, but it's certainly passable considering the
age of the picture.
Overall, this is a solid DVD edition that will leave some fans wanting
more -- something that another release down the road some day will hopefully
rectify (a hopeful prognostication, yet again!).
New and Noteworthy
RESIDENT EVIL (**, 101 mins., 2002, R; Columbia): A scantily
clad Milla Jovovich and zombies running amok proves to be a decent cinematic
combination in this so-so adaptation of the Capcom videogame series, which
garnered nearly $40 million in domestic box-office and earned its director
an apparent crack at the long-in-development "Aliens Vs. Predator" flick
in the process.
An evil corporation working on a top-secret and deadly virus sends a
team of military types -- including amnesiac agent Milla Jovovich -- to
clean up the mess after the plague breaks out of containment, turning an
entire building into foul, blood-sucking zombies.
Paul Anderson (of "Soldier" and "Mortal Kombat" infamy, not the "Magnolia"
guy) directed this U.S.-German co-production, which boasts generic characters
and situations, along with a cliché-ridden script. If you've seen
"Night of the Living Dead," "Aliens" or Anderson's "Event Horizon," you
have some idea how nearly every scene in this predictable horror flick
Still, despite the thinness of the material and a mind-numbing, overbearing
rock score by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson (which was so loud in theaters
I had my hands over my ears for nearly the entire duration of the film),
RESIDENT EVIL works on a mindless, trashy level. Jovovich packing heat
and shooting the heads off zombie workers, zombie dogs, and a -- well --
whatever the heck that monstrosity is at the end, is all kind of entertaining,
particularly on DVD where you can lower the volume at your leisure.
Columbia's DVD is advertised as a Special Edition, featuring commentary
tracks from Anderson and the cast (including Jovovich), a handful of featurettes,
trailers, and a music video, but apparently there's a double-disc edition
due out sometime in the near future that will boast deleted scenes, an
alternate ending, and plenty more supplements than are contained here.
With that in mind, Columbia's DVD comes recommended for die-hard fans,
with the 1.85 transfer looking good and the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack
dominated by bass. Casual viewers may want to give this one a rental spin
and hold off for the more elaborate edition down the road.
SPEED: DELUXE EDITION (***, 115 mins., 1994, R;
SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (**, 125 mins., 1997, PG-13; Fox)
One of the top action films of the '90s has been given lavish Special
Edition treatment by Fox in a new 2-DVD release.
Back in 1994, few ever expected a film from a former cinematographer
and a star whose greatest accomplishment was "Bill and Ted's Excellent
Adventure" to achieve blockbuster status, but SPEED did just that. Graham
Yost's script took a simple scenario - what happens when a bomb is equipped
to go off on a bus if its speed goes under 50 MPH -- and gave it a workout
in a movie that managed to push all the right buttons, from Reeves' competent
performance and Dennis Hopper's batty villain to Sandra Bullock's star-making
turn as a passenger who reluctantly takes over the reigns driving the vehicle.
This "adrenaline rush" pushed its two leads into superstardom and made
director Jan DeBont an "A list" auteur, at least for a while, remaining
a favorite of action fans who are going to love this new release.
Fox's original DVD was one of several released very early on in the
format's history. Like the "Die Hard" series, the studio has gone back,
performed a THX remastering of the 2.35 frame and 5.1 soundtrack, and come
up with a superb new disc. This is a flawless looking transfer that bests
the old DVD in every conceivable way, while the 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital
soundtracks likewise show a little more oomph in the process.
For supplements, you've got 'em. Separate commentary tracks include
director Jan DeBont, and writer Yost and producer Mark Gordon. These are
surprisingly candid and appreciably more informative than your typical
DVD talk-a-thon, which fans will undoubtedly find compelling.
Disc Two boasts a bounty full of supplements: five extended scenes,
a new "On Location" featurette, separate featurettes on the stunts, visual
effects, the "Metrorail crash," and four interactive multi-angle stunt
comparisons. There are also multi-angle storyboard-to-film comparisons,
promotional interviews done with the stars at the time, the original HBO
Special, trailers, TV spots, still galleries, and even the full-length
The new edition of "Speed" has also resulted in Fox's remastered release
of the lamentable 1997 sequel SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL.
Not the worst movie in Hollywood history but a textbook example of why
certain sequels don't need to be made, SPEED 2 finds Bullock reprising
her original role and Jason Patric providing a stiff fill-in for Keanu,
who understandably (and wisely) ducked out of this needless follow-up.
Set this time aboard a cruise ship destined for disaster (couldn't they
think of an object that moved faster than The Love Boat?), SPEED 2 is water-logged
and pedestrian pretty much all the way. DeBont opted to forgo "Godzilla"
for this tired, misguided effort, which coasts along much of the time solely
on Bullock's charisma, though she pretty much confirmed the fact that she's
no action superstar based on her performance here.
However, just when you think the ship is permanently adrift, SPEED 2
gets bailed out by Willem Dafoe's laughably over-the-top bad guy (the scene
with the leeches is a semi-classic) and the slam-bang special effects finale,
which glosses over the obvious loss of life on land for a huge disaster
spectacle climax. SPEED 2 likely should never have left port, but at least
it's an engaging, colorful mess just the same.
Fox's DVD likewise corrects the mediocre old DVD release with an all-new
16:9, THX 2.35 transfer. The DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks are also
superb, while a handful of trailers and the original HBO Making Of special
compliment a superior presentation recommended mostly for Bullock fans
and Dafoe die-hards.
SHALLOW HAL (**1/2, 113 mins., 2001, PG-13; Fox):
The Farrelly Brothers' recent producing efforts didn't exactly light up
the box-office (what, you don't remember "Say It Isn't So" and "Osmosis
Jones"?), but SHALLOW HAL is an agreeable enough concoction following the
wake of those two disasters.
Jack Black, who was hilarious in the recent "Orange County," fares fairly
well as a straightforward leading man whose run-in with self-help guru
Tony Robbins results in the swingin' single guy seeing only the interior
beauty of the women he meets. This causes some difficulty when he falls
for a 300-pound bachlorette, played by Gwyneth Paltrow in both a fat suit
and as the dreamy physical object of Black's desire.
The laughs in the Farrelly Bros.-Sean Moynihan script are fairly obvious,
but the movie is good-natured enough that much of it works sufficiently,
and the PG-13 rating thankfully dials down the bathroom humor of the Farrellys'
last couple of cinematic miscues. On the downside, the movie is -- like
much of the filmmakers' previous work -- quite overlong and the dramatic
situations stilted and superficial. It's a mixed bag, but at least it's
better than "Me, Myself and Irene."
Fox's DVD includes a good 1.85 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound,
along with a plethora of special features: audio commentary from the Farrellys,
11 deleted scenes with optional commentary, HBO and Comedy Central specials,
music videos, featurettes on the make-up and effects, and the original
KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST (*, 81 mins., 2002, PG-13;
Fox): I'm not sure whoever thought this digital exercise in spoofery was
funny, but whoever they are must have a different standard of comedy than
the rest of us.
Writer-producer-director-star Steve Oedekerk's made-for-video "Thumb"
parodies apparently have gained him some kind of cult following, but a
little of his act goes a long, long way in KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST, a
misbegotten parody that's part "What's Up Tiger Lilly?" and part "Zelig"
only in description -- definitely NOT execution.
Oedekerk took a '70s Hong Kong kung fu movie ("Tiger and Crane Fists")
and decided to re-dub the entire movie, along with inserting himself in
it as the star. The result is a lumbering, seemingly endless 80-minute
disaster that's amusing for all of about 30 seconds. Don't we already know
that kung fu movies are silly? Hasn't Oedekerk seen "A Fistful of Yen"
from KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE? Obvious cliches are skewered, but they've already
been spoofed to greater effect in countless other films over the years
- - to say nothing of Jackie Chan's own tongue-in-cheek efforts.
Fox's DVD includes 2.35 and Dolby Digital soundtracks, and a vast array
of special features: 20 alternate or deleted scenes (!); visual effects
comparisons, trailers and promo spots, the original Hong Kong soundtrack
and its dubbed English version, Oedekerk's commentary and an equally funny
"Books on Tape" version. KUNG POW may be amusing for undemanding seven
year olds but should be avoided at all costs by everyone else.
The year is 1968. The tag line says "The King Of Rock" meets "The Queen
of Comedy." If it was 2002, who the heck knows which individuals that would
pertain to. Back then, however, it meant Elvis Presley and Mary Tyler Moore,
who joined forces for the unholy pairing that was CHANGE OF HABIT (**,
1968, 90 mins.; Universal).
This dated, "mod" musical-comedy stars Moore as a social worker who
leads an outreach program in the inner city, but harbors a deep, dark secret
(she's a nun, dammit!); Elvis unconvincingly plays a local M.D. who falls
for Moore but finds his usual easy- going charm curtailed by Moore's somewhat
unsteady devotion for the Lord. So what's the King to do? Just grab his
guitar and croon the non-hits "Rubberneckin'," "Have A Happy," "Let Us
Pray" and "Change of Habit," of course!
This later Elvis effort was an obvious attempt at moving away from the
completely frivolous Presley film formula and into a light-hearted but
more "socially conscious" story. Despite the noble intentions, CHANGE OF
HABIT is just as silly as the more unabashedly stupid Elvis musicals, but
not quite as much fun. True, there are laughs to be found (many of the
unintentional variety) in the non-chemistry established between the two
stars, as well as the groan-inducing ambiguous finale -- making CHANGE
OF HABIT worth a view for aficionados of camp or devotees of the King.
Universal's DVD contains a colorful 1.85 transfer and decent 2.0 mono
soundtrack. The original trailer (highly amusing in the way that only late
'60s trailers can be) is included along with production notes and bios.
The studio has also released a lengthy new documentary feature, ELVIS:
HIS BEST FRIEND REMEMBERS (2002, 130 mins, Unrated; Universal), which
features recollections by Elvis friend and confidant "Diamond" Joe Esposito.
Lots and lots of newsreel footage, clips, interviews and photos compliment
a fascinating journey into the Elvis phenomenon from an individual who
knew him personally, and Terry Moloney's production does a superb job analyzing
the man as much as it does the myth.
The two-hour plus program, presented in full-frame with a modest 2.0
stereo track, also includes separate featurettes as Special Features. Definitely
worth a rental, if not a purchase, for Elvis fans.
K-9: P.I. (2002, 95 mins., PG-13; Universal): The parade of made-for-video
sequels continues with this above-average follow-up to the original 1989
canine comedy starring Jim Belushi. Unlike a lot of small-screen sequels,
this moderately engaging entry brings the original star back: Belushi's
Tom Dooley is once again paired with that crazy canine Jerry Lee. This
time, though, a botched robbery attempt -- just days from Dooley's latest
attempt at retirement -- result in the cop losing his badge and having
to clear his name with the help of his canine pal. K-9 P.I. certainly isn't
anything out of the ordinary, but it's better done than most made-for-TV
sequels, with Belushi giving an amiable performance and the action scenes
handled adequately by director Richard J. Lewis. As with the original film,
however, there's some sexually-oriented, PG-13 humor that may make parents
wince at showing the film to kids, though for young teens the picture is
certainly acceptable. Universal's DVD offers a strong 1.85 soundtrack and
both 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, along with a brief Making Of
BUTT-UGLY MARTIANS (2002, 66, 70, and 70 mins.,
Unrated): Nickelodeon scored a major hit with the enjoyable "Jimmy Neutron:
Boy Genius" feature (now a weekly TV series) last winter, and has tapped
again into the kid sci-fi genre for this appealing juvenile production
focusing on a trio of wacky Martians who decide Earth isn't so bad after
all. With their canine robotic Dog (a definite Jimmy Neutron influence),
the three aliens try to stop their former boss, Emperor Bog, from invading
the planet, while hanging out with their human pals and producing music
videos. Hey, this IS a Nickelodeon series we're talking about -- you know,
for kids! Universal has released three volumes of episodes (three episodes
on each), with colorful full-frame transfers and Dolby Surround soundtracks,
plus DVD-ROM game demos for kids, who ought to get a charge out of this
From Robert Knaus:
I'm soooooo glad to finally meet someone who appreciates
Top Secret! at the grossly underrated gem that it is. You've GOT to like
a movie that stages a barroom brawl *underwater*, or plays an entire sequence
in reverse, with the backwards dialogue presented with "English" subtitles!
And the songs are a blast, too ("Skeet Surfin'" is a classic), not to mention
Maurice Jarre's fun score (where's the CD?). "Hey, you dropped your phony
From Greg Bryant:
How 'bout a Varese CD Club release of both the songs and the score.
Bob Townson, are you listening??
[Re: viewers not being all that interested in DVD commentaries].
I have to agree. I have little interest in hearing Joe Director or Fred
Actor talk about their triumph in bringing Sequel Number Four to the screen.
From Jean-Michel Cavrois:
On the other hand, hearing Francis Ford Coppola talk about The Conversation,
or Godfather I / II; Speilberg talk about Jaws or (if it were only available),
Welles talking about Citizen Kane really is a worthwhile use of the commentary.
Even hearing Chuck Heston talk about Ben-Hur is probably not a bad
thing, though would think hearing William Wyler talk about it would be
far more interesting and enlightening.
Jean-Michel, sorry about the suds, and thanks for the LEGEND article comments
(if anyone is still looking for it online, it's in the magazine -- so go
buy it, dammit!). As far as David Bennett goes, Scott says that he tried
to find his original audio track and restore his voice -- and that the
decision to reloop the character was a poor one. Alas, they couldn't find
it, which is one of the few disappointments associated with the Director's
Cut DVD we have here in America.
Before starting, I want to compliment you on the piece you wrote
for FSM about the LEGEND DVD. It's quite honest and complete, and it very
well explains why the wait has been so long ! But with the mutilated european
version still existing on a Region 2 DVD, I'm starting to think that this
jewel will never exist here. Of course, I "illegaly" purchased the Region
1 DVD (Eh, don't tell anyone!), and, although I was quite able to understand
Ridley's great commentary, I curiously found his mumbling difficult on
the documentary : did he come back from his dentist or what?
You will find it curious, but for me, the greater loss of this edition
is David Bennent's original track, with his german accent. It would have
been a great homage to the Germanic tradition of tales which LEGEND reevokes
with brilliance, even if Jerry Goldsmith does a great job in doing that!
I have a few comments to make about Jeunet's AMELIE. DELICATESSEN
and THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN were co-directed with Marc Caro, who is the
real "dark side" of these movies. Jeunet's inspiration comes from the French
tradition of the réalisme poétique, represented by the talents
of Marcel Carné, Jacques Prévert, Julien Duvivier... It's
an optimistic stylisation and idealisation of the world according to the
main characters' thoughts, personality and emotion. Caro has a darker,
post-apocalyptic inspiration, and, as Jeunet explained in multiple interviews,
Caro couldn't work with him on AMELIE because their conceptions of the
cinema couldn't get together in order to tell that story. And so, with
AMELIE, Jeunet really emerges as an auteur (On ALIEN RESURRECTION, although
he infused a creepy sexual dimension to the beast, he was just a director
for hire), and most French critics didn't understand the unrealistic parti-
pris of Jeunet, someone even called him a "fascist" because of the nostalgic
aspects of the movie ("Things were better before!") and its tendency to
avoid the reality of the French social background. It's not understand
that AMELIE is pure cinema, and that the world it presents exists only
through the characters who live in it. When I saw it for the first time,
in an overcrowded theatre (and with lots, lots of children!), you could
hear and feel the pure joy it created on all the audience without cheesy
sentimentalism and easy tricks, but with invention and honesty. By the
way, the travelling dwarf episode is my favorite highlight!
But last week, I was in Montmartre, and the place was overcrowded
by fans searching for Amélie. Couldn't even drink my beer in peace.
Damn you, Jeunet!
Speaking of that, I still can't believe the amount of viewers online
who prefer the bastardized American cut to the Restored Director's Edition
with Goldsmith's score. All it goes to show is that the pandering to the
MTV market apparently was a wise one -- to some degree -- on the part of
Universal at the time, unfortunately.
From David Coscina:
Dragonheart was one of the most deplorable films I've ever
seen. My initial idea was to write an article comparing the music from
that film to Dragonslayer- thank God Lukas suggested that I just focus
on the latter because I would have been able to write volumes about Dragonheart's
hideous premise and execution (a talking dragon????? pulease).
Reign of Fire wasn't a masterpiece but it was written with a solemn
tone and attempted to focus on the characters. If anything, Bowman was
a little too literal in depicting a post- apocalyptic England since most
of the characters were devoid of emotion (which would result from such
terrible living conditions and the constant threat of being incinerated).
Had a little more time been taken to further develope the dragon's origin
and had there been a little more flair in the direction, it would have
been far more entertaining. But, all things considered, I enjoyed this
film far more than Spielberg's safe and soulless Minority Report.
NEXT WEEK: Andy covers SIGNS, plus DINOTOPIA and
more on DVD! Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
and we'll catch you then. Excelsior!