March 19, 2008

The Version Suicides

Never Say Special Again

The Evil Dead: Ultimate EditionAnchor Bay released The Evil Dead: Ultimate Edition a few months ago, making it at least the sixth version of the film to be released on DVD in Region 1. This 3-Disc set offers nearly four hours of bonus material, but one has to question if yet another edition was really necessary. The other two entries in Sam Raimi's trilogy have been equally whored out, with four versions of Evil Dead 2 and six versions of Army of Darkness on DVD. There are other film franchises that have been repeat offenders. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix trilogy, George Romero's original zombie trilogy, and the vast James Bond canon are available in a variety of versions on DVD.

The term "Special Edition" begins to lose its meaning when there are two or three other versions of the same film to choose from, often with their own assortment of bonus material. Sometimes the studios will switch it up and call it a "Collector's Edition." Other times it may be "Limited Edition" and come housed in a custom tin, or gift box, or some other fanciful packaging twist.

When an even more special edition comes along, the ante is upped and we get majestic proclamations like "Deluxe Edition," "Definitive Edition," and "Ultimate Edition." Warner Bros. attempted to cover all the bases with their 10-disc Ultimate Matrix Collection Limited Edition Collector's Set.

The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers: Platinum Series Special Extended Edition Collector's Gift SetIt would seem difficult to justify any further re-release of a film after such bold nomenclature, but the studios have plenty of other angles they can work. There's always an "Unrated Edition," an "Extended Edition," or a "Director's Edition" that can be unveiled.

If not, marketers can do a lateral move and employ such ambiguously regal banners as "Signature Edition," "Gold Edition," and "Platinum Edition." New Line took a bunch and mixed them all into a mouthful for The Lord of the Rings: Platinum Series Special Extended Edition Collector's Gift Set. Should that somehow fail to lure the completists, the occasional "Commemorative Edition" tends to work, and of course, anniversaries are ripe for exploiting every five years. Fans of the films Pretty Woman and Edward Scissorhands recently had their once adequate "10th Anniversary Edition" upstaged by a newly packaged "15th Anniversary Edition."

Mrs. Doubtfire: Behind-the-Seams EditionEven with this vast array of gimmicks to re-release films under, 20th Century Fox still felt that none of the labels could adequately represent the fanfare that something like the third DVD version of Mrs. Doubtfire deserved. So the studio used another approach: the Cutesy Pun Edition. Thus their triple dip release became Mrs. Doubtfire: Behind-the-Seams Edition.

Unfortunately, this release was hardly the first instance of such winking wordplay in a DVD edition title. There had already been Sony's Kung Fu Hustle: Axe-Kickin' Edition, Paramount's Summer School: Life's a Beach Edition, and Fox's Ice Age: Super-Cool Edition. The studios are no longer concerned with making each subsequent edition bigger and better, so they've largely dropped the exponentially hyperbolic labels. Now they just make sure each version has its own wacky edition title to differentiate it from future re-releases.

Five years ago, Universal hit upon the catch phrase method with their Animal House: Double Secret Probation Edition. An oft-quoted line from the film is used in the edition title, resulting in something like Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Awesome! Totally Awesome! Special Edition.

Airplane: Don't Call Me Shirley EditionParamount took this idea and ran with it, churning out far more of these inane DVD titles than any other studio. They started out by giving us Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition and Clueless: "Whatever!" Edition, which were quickly followed by Airplane!: "Don't Call Me Shirley!" Edition, Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Bueller... Bueller... Edition, Pretty in Pink: Everything's Duckie Edition, and Trading Places: "Looking Good, Feeling Good" Edition.

It wasn't long before Fox realized that they, too, had plenty of quotable movies that could be re-released in ridiculously titled versions. The DVD market was therefore graced with Revenge of the Nerds: Panty Raid Edition, Porky's: The One Size Fits All Edition, Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition, and the most impressive one yet: 9 to 5: Sexist, Egotistical, Lying Hypocritical Bigot Edition.

Office Space: Special Edition with FlairFox showed admirable restraint in the titling of special editions for two of their most obnoxiously over-quoted comedies. Rather than pull from the expected pool of PC Load Letter/Oh! Face/Case of the Mondays/TPS Report quotes, they went with Office Space: Special Edition with Flair. We were likewise spared from the wealth of irritating Napoleon Dynamite lines, and instead were presented with Like, the Best Special Edition Ever!

It's refreshing when the joke is a little more subtle, such as with Universal's The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition or Billy Madison: Special Ed-ition. A simple twist on the special edition idea is always preferred, especially when the wordplay echoes the movie's theme. You know there's bonus material included with titles like MGM's The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert: Extra Frills Edition, Back to School: Extra-Curricular Edition, and Sony's Little Man: Loaded With Extra Crap Edition. It's less clear with awkward titles like Disney's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Friendship Edition, The Shaggy D.A.: The Canine Candidate Edition, or The Emperor's New Groove: The New Groove Edition.

When the marketers are at a loss for wordplay or if they feel the film isn't well known enough for its own catch phrase, they tend to go with a third, increasingly common method: the Random Reference Edition. This involves a word or two that's related to the film in some way and almost makes the re-release sound like a cheesy direct-to-video sequel, like in Universal's Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition or Xanadu: Magical Musical Edition. The phrase is almost meaningless, and can be typically concocted from a quick scan of the movie's artwork or plot synopsis.

The guilty parties include Buena Vista's Rock 'n' Roll High School: Rock On Edition, Sony's 13 Going on 30: Fun & Flirty Edition, Fox's The Siege: Martial Law Edition, and Paramount's The Wood: Back in the Day Edition and Grease: Rockin' Rydell Edition.

The studios aren't likely to end this practice anytime soon. Selling your favorite movie to you over and over again in absurdly titled, slightly different versions is their business, and as the corporate cliché goes, business is good.

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