While Stanley Kubrick was deep in post-production on what would be his last film, "Eyes Wide Shut," the celebrated perfectionist was also very involved in preparing video and DVD releases of several of his previous films.
"I think there was a high consistency of his approach between the theatrical product and the video product," says Mark Horak, vice president of marketing for Warner Home Video. "He really put a lot of time and attention into all of his work, even when it went to video--things like type style, the key art, the back panel copy, the selling materials, consumer ads and every aspect of the marketing campaign."
Before his death at age 70 in March, Kubrick even viewed the master prints that would be used for the DVDs.
"They were what we consider high quality, but we wanted to make sure Stanley had a chance to see them just to make sure that he was happy with the quality," Horak says.
Warner Home Video, MGM and Columbia TriStar are all involved in this new promotion of Kubrick's titles on VHS and DVD, which coincides with the much-anticipated opening of "Eyes Wide Shut," with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, on July 16. Ten of his 11 films are being re-released this week.
Warner Home Video is distributing a gift set collection featuring "Lolita," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "Barry Lyndon," "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket." MGM has Kubrick's earliest films: 1955's "Killer's Kiss," 1956's "The Killing" and the seminal antiwar film, 1957's "Paths of Glory." Columbia TriStar is putting out his 1964 Oscar nominee "Dr. Strangelove."
All are also out on DVD--the first time in that format for all but "Strangelove" and "2001."
Only Kubrick's 1960 epic, "Spartacus," which belongs to Universal Home Video, is not part of the new collection.
"We originally looked at that, but Kubrick decided not to put it in," Horak says. "He never really explained why; he just said go with these." A spokesperson for Universal Home Video said the company didn't want to repackage the film, which had been readily available on video for seven years and already had been released on DVD too.
Warner's new DVD of "2001" includes an interview with author Arthur C. Clarke, and "The Shining" contains a behind-the-scenes documentary by Kubrick's daughter, Vivian, titled "The Making of the Shining."
"We were very interested in trying to get the collection out on DVD to coincide with the release of 'Eyes Wide Shut,' " Horak says. "While we have some enhancements on some of the titles, there were plans to come out with more extensive releases at a later date, working with Mr. Kubrick when he had more time."
Unlike Warner's and Columbia's titles, MGM's three Kubrick vehicles are not well known to most moviegoers. Though these three films have been available on video, MGM marketing manager David Miller says they have not been star performers. "Kubrick products in general tend to appeal to the real film enthusiast," he says.
He hopes "Eyes Wide Shut" will change all that. "With Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in it, it gives them a little bit broader appeal. People now have a chance to see these films where they might not have ventured before into the territory. It broadens the audience significantly."
Kubrick, though, was not involved with MGM in preparing its three releases. "He's pretty much a Warner Bros. director," Miller says.
Miller believes the films offer a "real exciting look" into Kubrick's early vision.
" 'Paths of Glory' is pretty well produced and solid," he explains, "but the other two, you can really see Kubrick's talent before it got too glossy. A lot of people wouldn't call Kubrick 'glossy,' but if you compare 'The Killing' to something like 'A Clockwork Orange,' it looks like a movie that was made by the same person years earlier before he really got everything perfected. It's much easier to see his techniques."
The VHS versions of Kubrick's films are $20, except for "Barry Lyndon," which is $25. The DVDs are $25. The six-disc Warners gift set is $150.