Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday Talkback: Blu-Ray documentaries

I spent a fair amount of time last weekend watching some of the many intensive behind-the-scenes documentaries on the Blu-Rays for The Expendables and Kick-Ass. Both of them have fairly in-depth documentaries on the making of - a far cry from the days when a "Behind the Scenes" segment was a 20-minute EPK that consisted mostly of press junket interviews intercut with some occasional on-set B-Roll. These were deep enough to be considered documentaries in their own right.

2009's Star Trek Blu-Ray also had one of the most in-depth behind the scenes features I've ever seen for a film, as did 2006's Superman Returns. In fact, the documentary on Superman Returns runs three full hours! I'm always glad to see such care go into these features as I've heard from people in the DVD business that their figures show only 25% of the sales come from buyers looking for that sort of peek behind-the-curtain. Apparently that sort of production doesn't come cheap, and for a while it looked like the market would soon reach the point where it was no longer cost effective to produce those kinds of features for the little difference they make to the sales.

The other thing that occurred to me as I watched this is that it would be truly fascinating to have the same sort of access to classic films. Can you imagine a three-hour documentary following Orson Wells as he directed Citizen Kane? Or what about a feature-length glimpse inside Alfred Hitchcock's process on Psycho? If it were possible, what film would you like to send a documentary crew back in time to study?

For me, it would have to be either Jaws or the simultaneous production of Superman and Superman II. Both films have rather infamous tales of production woes. Both fell behind schedule drastically. On Jaws, the stories of shooting days gone wrong have passed into legend. Imagine an all-access crew being there to document every moment of it - ever trial that Spielberg faced, certain that his career was over... only to emerge with what was the biggest box office hit up to that time.

On the Superman films, I'd love to see Richard Donner working to keep everything together as he simultaneously shot two films and dealt with producers with rather dubious ethics... and then there's the whole matter of bringing on a new director for the remainder of the second film and reshooting fully half of the movie. Yes, all parties involved have had their say in interviews, but to actually see it play out before us would be very compelling.

So what behind-the-scenes documentaries do YOU wish existed?


  1. I think a documentary about any Kubrick movie would have been fascinating, he seems like such an elusive and mysterious filmmaker.

    On another note, the documentary Lost in La Mancha that chronicles Terry Gilliam's ill-fated production of Don Quixote is epic! If only to show how deeply troubled films can crumble and fold.

    I agree it would be interesting to see something like the Gilliam documentary, but for a film that actually overcame the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to become legendary.

  2. Were these rentals? Maybe I have just checked the wrong movies but some are really lacking in the commentary dept these days. I have seen/listened to a few that basically had the director and a couple of the actors saying "oh yeah, that was the day after we shot that scene and it was cold". Really exciting stuff. I'd like to see more but with so few movies being worth the purchase I doubt I will if the material is not on rentals.

  3. @Mike - Netflix lately seems to have only been getting the "bare-bones" DVD versions. It's really hard to get anything released in the last year with a lot of special features and commentaries if the studios also happened to release a "movie-only" version.

    I think will become more common because the Netflix version of "Get Him To the Greek" still lists all the featurettes on the DVD menu, only to prove inaccessible. Instead you get a message that essentially says, "If you wanna see this, buy it!"

    As for the two that I mentioned in the article, they were on Blu-Rays I got as gifts. Not sure which - if any - of those features are on the standard DVD.