Subversive - September 26, 2006
Picture Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen.
Picture Quality: This is an amazing print of the film that Subversive has obviously gone to great lengths to give us. I wish more DVD companies would take note and use this a benchmark as to how to release an obscure favorite that fans have been waiting for.
Extras: Subversive has gone crazy with the extras in this set. Not only do we get Richard Stanley's final version of the film but we also get a work print, three documentaries directed by Stanley, and the soundtrack. This is all spread over five discs! In addition, the set contains three booklets which consist of a Dust Devil production diary, a Dust Devil comic, and some notes on the documentaries. This plethora of information and entertainment is enclosed in a very nice package that is limited to 9,999 copies.
The first disc contains the 'final cut' of the film and is the version that I based my review on. The main extra on this disc is an elaborate commentary from Stanley where he is interviewed by Subversive's Norman Hill. This was fascinating to listen to and I couldn't get over how deep Stanley's understanding and passion about the subject matter runs. Saying that this commentary enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the film is a vast understatement and Stanley may be one of the most intense filmmakers around in today's day and age. Listening to the things this guy has gone through as well as the numerous challenges faced when making the film give both him and the film a mythical quality much like the Dust Devil himself. I often complain about how today's filmmakers don't seem to have interesting backgrounds or crazy stories to tell like the tortured artists of the past but Stanley is clearly an exception to that generalization.
Following the commentary, I opened the special features page only to be greeted with one of the creepier DVD menus I have encountered. The first choice is a 35-minute interview with Stanley expanding on his career and again telling a number of stories about his past while constantly smoking. It is great to see Stanley in person describing his experiences and, like in the commentary, being very candid about his frustrations and feelings. A small portion of the interview is dedicated to composer Simon Boswell and how he came to work with Stanley. Next, we get an 18-minute documentary about the making of the film. This was unique because it is footage that was actually shot on set and although the quality is not as high as we are used to seeing in this type of extra, it has some great footage of the locations as well as interviews with Stanley and many of the key players. Next, there is a trailer and still gallery dedicated to the lost 16mm original version of the film. This rare look at all that remains from this version was a treat and you can see a number of similarities between it and the final product. Rounding out the extras, we get bios, a short still gallery that surprisingly did not contain any on-set photos, and trailers including ones for the other Stanley films in the set.
Disc two consists of the work print of the film with a brief introduction from Stanley. There are no special features to speak of other than the fact that the chapter stops are timed so that you can see the majority of the footage that differs from the final cut quite easily. This is a non-anamorphic transfer that contains some time code at certain points as well as some differing quality. I found this to be an interesting inclusion and it was neat to see the differences but it is unlikely that I will ever revisit this disc in the future. Still, it is cool to have it.
The third disc contains a feature length documentary from Stanley entitled The Secret Glory. This is the story of a man named Otto Rahn, an archaeologist of sorts who was searching for the Holy Grail. To obtain more resources for his quest, Rahn became a member of the Nazi SS. The narrative centers on the search for the Grail but also examines the horrors of war and attempts to cover Rahn' entire life. I'll admit that on first viewing, I found this to be a little overwhelming (especially late at night) due to the sheer volume of information, unanswered questions, and roads which led to nowhere. It was not until I watched the insightful commentary by Stanley (again moderated by Subversive's Norman Hill), that I really developed an appreciation for the film. The amount that Stanley knows about the subject and the fact that he calls it a work in process made me feel a lot better about not understanding some aspects of the film. He also points out that the film was deliberately split into 15-minute segments so as to help prevent information overload. I found the commentary as well as the 27-minute interview with Stanley really enhanced my appreciation and understanding of the subject and further adds to the Richard Stanley mythos explained earlier. The disc also contains a few other Subversive trailers and a Stanley bio.
Disc four contains two more documentaries directed by Stanley. The first is entitled Voice of the Moon and is a series of images that were shot in Afghanistan around the time when Russia withdrew from the country but while there was still a war going on. This was interesting in how Stanley chose to open the documentary with scenes of the Afghan people enjoying life in their village and then have the film become more sinister as its short 32-minute running time progresses and as weapons are introduced to the imagery. What begins as a peaceful slice-of-life of village living quickly turns into a scary battle zone. As with The Secret Glory, your appreciation and enjoyment of the film will be enhanced greatly by rewatching the film with Stanley's commentary and the accompanying interview. You will hear some great stories of what went on during the filming and some of the insights that are provided will have you shaking your head at the crazy situations that this guy finds himself in. The second documentary on this disc is entitled The White Darkness and is a look at voodoo practices in Haiti. I found this to be the more interesting film to watch on initial viewing but I did not find the extras added to the experience as much as they did with the other films in the set. The subject matter is pretty bizarre as we see people possessed by spirits, animal sacrifices, and more over the 48-minute running time. Some of the imagery in this film is truly unforgettable with a sequence under a waterfall near the end of the film being a part that especially stands out.
The fifth disc is a CD that contains the soundtrack for Dust Devil. This score was performed by Simon Boswell who got his start with goth band Sex Gang Children and has done scores for a variety of genre movies including Ghosthouse, Stagefright, and Demons 2. Boswell's score for Dust Devil is quite cool and has both spaghetti western influences with a touch of Goblin.
All in all, Subversive has raised the bar in terms of what is meant by the words 'special edition'. This was by far one of the most impressive DVD releases of 2006.
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