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Weighing Merits of ‘Crash,’ ‘Damage’ Laserdiscs Versus DVDs

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Lovers of the morbid and the darkly erotic, rejoice. David Cronenberg’s “Crash” and Louis Malle’s “Damage” have just been released on DVD by New Line Home Video.

Although strikingly different in tone and intent, both films share the desire to explore the most unpleasant sides of the human psyche. “Crash,” with its strangely naive discovery that sex and death are closely related, and “Damage,” the tale of a man whose libido catches fire and then self-destroys, will be of sure interest to Freudian psychiatrists worldwide, leaving the average viewer either disgusted or simply bored.

Both releases, however, bring forth new questions to the ongoing debate about laserdisc and DVD, cornering the serious collector into the expensive decision to invest in both formats.

Take the DVD edition of “Crash,” for instance. It includes a digitally remastered version of the film, both the R and NC-17 cuts of the movie (seriously, folks, is there anybody who will choose seeing the R-rated version of this title?), the theatrical trailer and the usual cast and crew bios.

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But the laserdisc edition, released in 1997 by the Criterion Collection, includes not only behind-the-scenes footage and interview clips, but also an audio commentary with Cronenberg. And in a film as twisted and puzzling as this, a commentary in which the director explains his vision scene by scene is by far the most fascinating feature.

Similarly, the “Damage” DVD includes both R and unrated cuts (there’s only a one-minute difference between them), the trailer and bios, and a 15-minute video interview with the inimitable Malle.

The Criterion Edition contains not only a longer version of the interview, but also a full-length audio commentary. Although Malle took a number of false steps during the course of his copious filmography, passing up an opportunity to hear him talk is something you just don’t want to do.

According to New Line, the extras on these laserdiscs are property of Criterion and it would be too costly to acquire them for DVD. The company hopes to lure consumers into the DVD versions with their lower price and superior transfers of the films.

Truth be said, not every movie deserves a special edition. Garrett Lee, marketing director for Image Entertainment, put things in perspective during a recent interview. “There appears to be a mandate whereby everything on DVD needs to be special,” he said. “But if you make everything special, then nothing is special. I mean, 20 years from now, is anybody going to listen to somebody reminisce about a film like ‘The Beautician and the Beast’? I don’t think so.”


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