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Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

Over the course of this week, we’ve seen the release of the ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘ Blu-ray packaged in an oversized box set with an umbrella, as well as announcements for at least two more similarly elaborate sets for ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘ and a 3D conversion of ‘I, Robot‘ (the latter with a replica robot head!). Some fans love these trinket-packed collectors’ editions, while others deplore the waste of shelf space. In today’s Roundtable, we’ll give you our picks for some of the most notable video box sets we’ve come across over the years, both good and bad.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

OK, maybe it’s not as sexy as the light-up Nite Owl ship that ‘Watchmen’ arrived in or a zombified head skewered by a screwdriver, but my all-time favorite box set packaging is the ‘Freaks and Geeks‘ DVD yearbook. Forget those tiny, flimsy little Digibooks that other studios have started to gravitate towards over the past few years. This full-size, hardbound yearbook spans more than eighty pages, complete with countless behind-the-scenes photos, scores of retrospectives from the cast and crew, a detailed episode guide, and… heck, even a slew of in-character signatures. To sweeten the pot, there are zero embarrassing photos of me in there, putting it well above the real yearbooks I own. The lavish ‘Freaks and Geeks’ DVD release is a love letter to the series’ endlessly loyal legions of fans, and it certainly has the packaging to match.

freaksgeeks Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

freaksgeeks2 Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

Nate Boss

My picks for both the best and the worst go to the same item: The ‘Ichi the Killer‘ “Blood Pack” 2-disc DVD set. Come on, it’s a bag of fucking “blood” for a very violent, disturbed film. It’s fitting, it looks awesome, and… if it isn’t stored at the right temperature to a tenth of a degree, it coagulates and loses its ooey-gooeyness. The plastic inside the bag holding the discs sticks to them and makes removing them a nightmare. And get this: It can pop, and your home will look like a scene out of the movie. Great idea, horrible execution.

ichi Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

Aaron Peck

Best: I really love the ‘Star Wars: Complete Saga‘ packaging. It’s sleek, small, and comes with very stylish artwork. The book that was crafted for the packaging feels sturdy and well made. I know that many people would’ve preferred disc hubs (I probably would too) but the slip-in cut-outs for the discs aren’t unduly hard to use and don’t feel like they will ever scratch the discs. For such a famous bunch of films, I was impressed that this release was reigned in and given a shelf-friendly, well-constructed set. It could’ve easily been packaged with all sorts of useless memorabilia, but it was kept simple. That’s what I love about it.

starwars Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

Worst: I loved the first two ‘Harry Potter’ Ultimate Editions. Not for their packaging, but because they offered a product that was worthwhile for fans to own. Not only did the movies get new in-depth special features, but they also got previously unseen extended cuts of the films. Also, the boxes (although huge) seemed very nicely constructed, with wonderfully understated slipcovers. Then came the rest of the Ultimate Editions. Warner Bros. decided to abandon the extended cuts and simply resell the same movies in a different package. Not only that, but the packaging was completely different from the first two releases. People who collect this stuff care about the cases looking uniform. When the simple, nice slipcover was changed out for a gaudy outer slipcase with cheap-looking hologram cover art, I got mad. Warner Bros. made the Ultimate Editions nearly worthless. The discs still had the new special features, but the packaging was changed up, and we lost the main draw of buying these sets in the first place – getting extended cuts of the films. What we were left with was repackaged movies that lost continuity in packaging after the second entry. It’s maddening when a studio does that to its fans without any good reason.

potter ultimate Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

Brian Hoss

Overpriced, overpromised, chintzy, and everything but the kitchen sink thrown into bulky packing, plus exclusive content that later could be had by anyone for cheap. These are all characteristics of the PS3 ‘Arkham Asylum Collector’s Edition‘. Yet the giant box is ambitious, and I enjoy how it looks on a mantle.

Each item, individually, may be underwhelming. The batarang is plastic, unfinished (many buyers thought they had received a production reject due to how scratched-up the batarang appears) and worst of all, attached to a super crummy grey stand (probably to deter anyone from tossing the batarang at an eye socket.) The game case is downgraded from a normal PS3 keepcase to a paper and plastic DVD-style case. The “exclusive” maps were later sold on PSN and then bundled in the Game of the Year Edition. The contents in the journal were taken straight from game and looked like screenprints.

Still, the bundled items were a launch day celebration of an instant classic. The game is a boss fight or two away from perfection. Looking over the Collector’s Edition brings back memories of the months of doubts that the public cast at this game, while trying to spoil each aspect of it. ‘Arkham Asylum’ was compared to ‘Superman 64′ and ‘Too Human’, and when it got delayed three months, the public doubt only increased. My decision to blindly preorder this CE was vindicated the night the game released. Combined with how cool the big packaging is, and I have a big soft spot for this box set.

arkham Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

Josh Zyber

I’ve written in the past about some of the favorite box sets I’ve purchased over the years as part of my Unboxed series, and will surely do so again later. For this Roundtable, I’ve decided instead to highlight a DVD collector’s edition that I didn’t buy, but perhaps perversely wish that I had: the so-called ‘Alien’ Head DVD set that was sold in Japan and Europe. The following photos are not my own, but were found via Google:

alien head dvd3 Weekend Roundtable: Box Sets and Fancy Packaging

I passed on importing this for obvious reasons. It’s large and bulky and impractical and kind of ridiculous. Where would I put the thing? But isn’t it also, maybe, just a little bit awesome?

Tell us about the video box sets you love or hate in the Comments.

17 comments

  1. Josh Zyber
    Author

    I love that Freaks and Geeks yearbook as well, but at the same time, I’m still upset that Shout! Factory swore up and down that it was a one-time-only, you’ll-never-see-it-again-unless-you-purchase-it-right-away limited edition, and then of course reissued the damn thing later.

  2. The Harry Potter Ultimate Editions are very frustrating. Not only do they change from the first two films to the third and forth but they change the packaging again for the fifth and sixth films.

    • William Henley

      I completely agree with you and Aaron. This has got to be one of the biggest blunders in the history of special editions. I only bought the first two – while the additional documentary was really interesting, that in and of itself wasn’t enough to justify the $35 price tag per film. I bought them mainly for the extended cuts, with the bonus features being a nice extra.

      As far as packaging, the Harry Potter Trunk is a bit annoying, as the discs inside are not of uniform size. Movies 4 and 5 were both in cardboard cases that actually fit in the case. Movies 1-3 were in CD sized cardboard cases, and have to be held in place by a piece of plastic. I guess its not TOO bad, because I pretty much dig the movies out once or twice a year, but it is still a bit of an annoyance.

      My favorite collectors edition is really more for sentimental reasons and conversation starters than for what actually is included in it. It is the Fantasia Laserdisc Collectors Edition

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Disney-Fantasia-Movie-Laserdisc-3-Disc-Box-Set-Used-/330538058556

      No, that’s not mine, just the best picture I could find of it. I was 10 when this thing came out, and thought it was the coolest thing ever. We didn’t have a laserdisc player growing up, so I swore that one day, I would own this thing, and about 4 years ago, when I finally got a laserdisc player (yes, I got it AFTER I got a Blu-Ray and HD-DVD player), Fantasia was one fo the first movies I picked up. I know Josh and I have this debate every time I bring up something Laserdisc based, but I actually prefered the picture quality on this disc to the DVD release, and it got quite a bit of play until I finally picked up the movie on Blu-Ray.

      As far as what is in the set, its not all that much. There is 3 discs, as in CAV format, you can only fit a maximum of 30 minutes a side, and to keep from splitting in the middle of a musical piece, there is at least one side that only has a 9 minute segment (I think its The Sorcorer’s Apprentace). There is a colored insert that has a very brief overview of the film, there is a certificate of authenticity , and a lithograph (not shown in the ebay link). Like I said, pretty lacking as far as boxed sets are concerned.

      What really makes this stand out is the box itself. Its beautiful. Its like a blue embossed (sp?) background with an inlay (I think that is the right word) of the Fantasia logo. And the box is HUGE as it is housing laserdiscs. I keep this displayed with the rest of my boxed sets, and regardless of how beautiful the Tron Frisbee looks, or the velvet of the Gone With The Wind box, or the beauty of The Ten Commandments, everyones eyes always go straight to the Fantasia box. You can’t miss it! Of course, this always leads to a longer discussion – very few people have ever even heard of laserdiscs, much less seen one.

  3. My favourite is the “My Fair Lady” LaserDisc set. Three discs (including one full of extras), a book, a film cell, the CD soundtrack, 6 lithos and a folder make for one extremely nice collection. Best of all, I paid $8 for it.

    • The Alien head had me thinking the same thing. I would have bought the Bender head from CostCo if I had not already owned all the discs.(or if it had been blu ray)

  4. Scott Hunvald

    The Evil Dead, book of the dead special fleshy DVD edition. Had great art inside and just looks extremely cool on my shelf. Another one I really like was the alien set that came with the alien and light up egg. And because I love terminator 2 and didn’t have 800 to buy the sideshow collectables T-800 skull, I had to get the one that came with the sky net edition bluray. Just killer looking. Worst set but then later corrected was the box set for Battlestar Galactica on bluray. Came in that big box with a cylon figure, mine came with two left hands. Bulky and not good looking, universal eventually had a box trade in program and now it’s nice sleek on my shelf.

    • I have this crummy tin, and I am still waiting for a Blu-ray to replace the DVD. Unfortunately, even though I plan to by the new Blu-ray, it looks like it still has the same lossy audio from my 10+ year old DVD.

      • William Henley

        Audio Formats
        English Dolby Digital Surround EX 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
        English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)

        It is not Lossless Audio, but it is way better than the DVD release. The bitrate on DVD is 448kbps for Dolby Digital, and while it is 1.5MBps for DTS, DTS is not the same thing as DTS-HD High Resolution.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DTS_(sound_system)#DTS-HD_High_Resolution_Audio

        I suggest upgrading. The video quality is a bit lacking compared to our modern standards (this disc is like, what, 5 years old?), but I honestly don’t think the audio could sound any better if it was lossless. I am willing to bet that the majority of people cant tell the difference Between DTS-HD High Res and DTS-HD MA.

          • William Henley

            Well, I was talking about the 2006 release. Its actually pretty darn good, and the disc sells for like $7. However, with the Mind Blowing Edition coming out next week, I would suggest just waiting on that.

            I do hope that whomever reviews this will compare it to the 2006 release. I am also wondering who all will end up rebuying the disc.

            The early Lionsgate releases were actually pretty good. Not great, but good. They were certainly upgrades over the DVDs, though.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            The original Total Recall Blu-ray looks like the print’s been dragged through mud. The new one has a director supervised remaster.

          • William Henley

            Hence why I said The video quality is a bit lacking compared to our modern standards. It is STILL better than the DVD. I may have to pick this up, but only if the video is significantly better.

            I think part of the issue, though, was that Total Recall appears to have been shot on a really corse film stock, and I am willing to bet the muddiness we see on the old release is probably from DNR. I haven’t stuck it in in a while, so I am just saying this from memory.

            While this shouldn’t matter, it is also one of the few professionally produced discs that I have seen that the video is MPEG2.

            In any case, the old one offers an improvement over the DVD, but the new one should offer an improvement over the previous release, but don’t expect it to look pristine – Total Recall is supposed to have a gritty look. Or at least, every video release I have ever seen of it was gritty.

          • I’ve had the mind-bending edition pre-ordered for two months. My biggest problem with the DVD (aside from the lousy tin) is the menu, which is unsightly. I had forgotten that DTS-HD had been confirmed for the new Blu-Ray.

            I’ve nearly bought the old Blu-ray many times. It’s been available for cheap and in a two pack with a lesser Terminator version. I watched the VHS enough when I was a kid that I go many years without having to see Total Recall and yet know that it is still awesome. (hilarious commentary as well)

            I actually have that Evil Dead: Book of the Dead DVD, which was toxic with latex dust for years (and probably still a little now).

            In recent years, I have been wary of buying Lionsgate (Artisan) releases, due to how frequently they drum up new sets for the same movies.

            I have never bought Predator on Blu-Ray after waiting for that re-release. And while on the subject (sort of), the opening scenes in the THX approved True Lies DVD are so scratched up, just wow.

          • William Henley

            Yeah, I have actually rebought movies. I bought the original Terminator 2 Blu-Ray release, and then I bought the Skynet Edition. If I am watching the disc on my PS3, I will usually use The Skynet Edition, but if I am watching it on my stand-alone player, I watch the old release, because it takes The Skynet Edition a good 5 minutes or longer to load up on the Samsung. I am not exageratting – I have timed it.

            In the end, though, I like their movies, I want them on Blu-Ray, and their movies are almost always in the bargain bins, so they were all early buys for me when I got my player in January of 2007.

  5. EM

    If this were a Bonus View poll, I would choose “None”, for I avoid the gratuitousness of these expensive, space-hogging editions. That said, some part of my soul would have loved to get the Alien head; however, it’s not a part that makes purchasing decisions.