THE DVD SHELF: Bloomer Girl, Little Shop of Horrors, Quentin Tarantino and More

By Steven Suskin
18 Nov 2012

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In an attempt to boost sales of what are basically reissues of reissues, we have grown accustomed to studios using cut footage to help fill in the bonus features. Said material is often extraneous, which is why they cut it in the first place. Every once in a while, though, the newly found footage is illuminating. Such is the case in the new Blu-ray release of Little Shop of Horrors [Warner]. The Howard Ashman-Alan Menken stage musical ends with Audrey II (the plant) triumphant, having eaten Seymour and Audrey (the girl). The film ends with Seymour and Audrey happily married, with Audrey II having been destroyed.

Now, finally, Warner has provided us with both the official version and the original filmed ending, in which Audrey II voraciously devours the city. Director Frank Oz tells us that test audiences rebelled against the original ending; they wanted Seymour and Audrey alive, so the studio insisted on scrapping the footage. Now we can watch it and decide for ourselves. We get the theatrical version of the film; the Director's Cut with the original ending; Oz's commentary on both versions; outtakes; deleted scenes; and more. Plus Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, and Audrey II.

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Holiday time inevitably brings forth holiday box sets of various sorts; collections focusing on actors, directors, and sometimes studios. Universal, which has of late been reissuing many of their classics as spiffed up DVDs and Blu-rays under the title "100th Anniversary Collector's Series," has now collected a couple dozen of them — "25 unforgettable films remastered in high-definition"--and packaged them as Universal: 100th Anniversary Collection. Said collection is something of a grab-bag, mixing classics, blockbusters and pure entertainment. Any grab-bag that includes titles like "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Sting," "Jaws," "Jurassic Park" and "The Birds" sounds mighty fine to me. Purchase of sets like this depends, to some extent, on just how many of the films you might already have; in this case, many of the major titles have only recently been issued on Blu-ray.



Among the selections are George Lucas' "American Graffiti"; Bela Lugosi as "Dracula"; Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton and Tony Curtis in "Spartacus"; Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams"; Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing"; Steven Spielberg's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"; Matt Damon in "The Bourne Identity"; Ron Howard's "Apollo 13"; Michael J. Fox in "Back to the Future"; John Hughes's "The Breakfast Club"; "Despicable Me"; Rock Hudson and Doris Day in "Pillow Talk"; and Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa." Not the least of them is "All Quiet on the Western Front," Lewis Milestone's 1930 anti-war classic that still retains its power.

And there's more. Eight featurettes about various eras in the history of Universal; three vintage shorts from the 1930s; 14 vintage Universal cartoons; a music CD containing musical selections from Universal films (including Bernard Herrmann's "Psycho"); and a 75-page book offering a breezy and colorful chronicle of the aforesaid 100 years.

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Another holiday gift box, for cheerier (?) viewing of a very different type, is Tarantino XX: Celebrating 20 Years of Filmmaking [Lionsgate]. Quentin Tarantino, that is. One of the most distinctive filmmakers of the last two decades, Tarantino made an astounding debut in 1992 with "Reservoir Dogs." He placed himself in a category all his own in 1994 with "Pulp Fiction," propelled by a set of remarkable performances by John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis. Also included in the box are the 1993 "True Romance," starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette (which was written but not directed by Tarantino); the 1997 "Jackie Brown," with Jackson, Pam Grier, Robert DeNiro and Michael Keaton; "Kill Bill Vol. 1" (in 2003) and Kill Bill Vol. 2" (in 2004), with Thurman, David Carradine, and Daryl Hannah; the 2007 "Death Proof," with Kurt Russell; and finally the 2009 "Inglourious Basterds," with Brad Pitt. The Blu-ray set contains eight films on ten discs, with 15 hours of special features including over five hours of never-before-seen interview footage.

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(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and On the Record columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)