October 7, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES II & IV • Page 17 The ultimate Disney classic is now on Blu-ray by Dennis Seuling Most people thought Walt Disney was crazy when he proposed an animated feature-length movie. His studio had made a name for itself with its Technicolor Silly Symphonies cartoons and Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck adventures, but these were shorts of about six minutes each. Who would sit still for a full-length cartoon? An astute businessman, Disney recognized that, no matter how good his short subjects were, the lion’s share of box office money would go to the studio that produced the feature, or main attraction. Determined to forge ahead with the time-consuming task of creating an 83-minute animated feature, Disney announced that this milestone effort would be an adaptation of the fairy tale classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” This was long before the days of computer animation. Hundreds of artists had to draw and paint individual pictures on cels -- clear plastic -- which were then photographed one frame at a time. When the film was run at the normal 24 frames-per-second speed, the illusion of movement was created. There are incredible moments that are still breathtaking. As Snow White washes the stone floor of the castle, water flows into and around the cracks. When the Evil Queen makes her way down a flight of steps, the hem of her cloak skims over each step. During the climactic thunderstorm, individual rain drops splash onto people, rocks, the ground and tree branches, and many break into secondary droplets. This amazing attention to detail enhances the beauty of the film. Released previously in both VHS and DVD formats, “Snow White” is now in the Blu-ray format, and the results are simply spectacular. The three-disc diamond edition contains both Blu-ray and DVD versions, a newly restored picture and digital theater system hi-def Surround Sound, and many extras. The film was originally shot in the old aspect ratio -- a fairly square image rather than the widescreen image that has become the norm in Blu-ray titles. This is why on widescreen TVs, older films are shown with black bars on the sides of the screen. DisneyView, one of the most interesting extras, has filled in these dark areas, extending the original image with new artwork so the entire screen is filled. If this sounds like tampering with a classic, don’t worry: Another option plays “Snow White” as originally seen in theaters. Extras also include a featurette about the first Disney studio, a look at how “Snow White” changed the world of animation, three games, a music video, newly discovered storyboards that indicate a sequel to “Snow White” may have been planned, and a sneak peak at the upcoming Disney animated feature, “The Princess and the Frog.” “Dark Country” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) marks the directorial debut of actor Thomas Jane (“Hung”). The film was made for theatrical 3-D release, but has come directly to DVD in a regular flat version. Two honeymooners (Thomas Jane, Lauren German) rescue a mysterious car crash survivor in the Las Vegas desert. They try to bring him somewhere where he can get help, but they keep getting lost, and he turns on them. Questions arise as to the identity of the man, and an aura of paranoia takes over, providing nice atmosphere for this suspense thriller. It is clearly a low-budget effort, but Jane’s performance and his behind-the-camera decisions contribute to a taut movie that starts grounded in reality and gradually enters the realm of the surreal. Extras include a making-of featurette and audio commentary with Jane, the screenwriter, and the producer. Anyone who attended public school in the 1950s or 1960s will remember those scratchy black-and-white 10minute films that covered hygiene, dealing with the opposite sex, good manners, and avoiding trouble with the law. Kino On Video has compiled many of these shorts into two DVD collections, “How to Be a Man” and “How to Be a Woman.” Today, these films have taken on a definite camp quality as booming narrators propagandize and less-than-stellar actors present scenarios about adolescence, the wonders of reproduction, avoiding sexual temptations, and common A scene from Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.’ fears. The films were designed for school use since many of these topics were not being taught at home. It’s interesting to note the values of the era. The “How to Be a Woman” DVD contains shorts on how to make a sandwich, the joy of being brainy, and “Why Study Home Economics?” Some of the “How to Be a Man” shorts are “Car Theft,” “The Decision Is Yours” (about sexual abstinence), and “Act Your Age.” The little films offer a look at a repressed period and an attempt to address important social issues. They also illustrate the power of cinema to educate and indoctrinate the young. “Marlene” (Kino On Video), an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary, is actor/director Maximilian Schell’s tribute to screen legend Marlene Dietrich. In September 1982, Schell arrived in Paris for a series of camera interviews with Dietrich, his “Judgment at Nuremburg” co-star, intended for a documentary on her life and work. Despite having agreed to participate, the reclusive Dietrich, always concerned with her appearance, withdrew permission for Schell to photograph her. Instead, in over 40 hours of audiotaped interviews, the 81-year-old star provoked a battle of conversational mind games leading to raw and truthful emotional revelations. Using Dietrich’s candid, infuriating, and occasionally touching off-camera reflections on childhood, marriage, sex, love, collaborators, co-stars, life, death, and the Holocaust, Schell sets her words to captivating images of the young Dietrich. The result is a fascinating portrait of a woman whose career spanned five decades. “Assassination of a High School President” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) features Bruce Willis in a comic role as the tightly wound principal of Saint Donovan’s, a private high school shrouded in mystery with a quirky student body. 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