DVD Picks: 'Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection'

May 31, 2011
Originally published on June 1, 2011 9:19 am

It's time for our home video feature. Bob Mondello spent much of his Memorial Day weekend holed up with a new 10-dvd set: Stanley Kubrick: the Essential Collection.

Think of all the movie moments Stanley Kubrick gave us: Roman slaves shouting "I'm Spartacus" to save Kirk Douglas; Slim Pickens yee-hawing as he rides the atom bomb like a bronco; Keir Dullea asking HAL to open the pod bay doors; Jack Nicholson sneering "Heeeere's Johnny" through a bathroom door at Shelley Duvall in The Shining; Malcolm McDowell grinning maniacally through a bit of the ol' ultraviolence.

Also Lolita, Barry Lyndon, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut. In just over four decades, Kubrick created some of the twentieth century's most distinctive, and distinctively different, films, nine of which are included here. From epic to satire to sci-fi to horror, this director did everything pretty brilliantly. Also pretty originally.

What becomes clear from this set is that while other filmmakers copy each other, Kubrick quotes only himself. Say, at the beginning of Lolita, when James Mason asks Peter Sellers if he's Quilty, and Sellers responds, "No, I'm Spartacus...you come to free the slaves or something?" A little ad-libbed joke to set a comic tone, in case someone wandered in expecting nothing but sex.

In addition to gorgeous remasterings of all the films, there are some nifty extras, especially in the "Limited Edition" Blu-Ray set, which has additional hours of interviews and scenes movie audiences never heard, including an audio-only scene that offers a few extra lines when Charles Laughton's Roman senator commits suicide in Spartacus.

Even the regular DVD collection has plenty to recommend it, like the story of how Kubrick cobbled together different cameras to do the supposedly impossible: shoot scenes by candle-light in Barry Lyndon. And shots of the huge cream-pie fight that became the most famous unseen sequence in movie history. It was supposed to reduce Dr. Strangelove's War Room to chaos, and would have, except the actors couldn't stop laughing. Instead, Kubrick came up with the more chilling ending that arguably makes the film the masterpiece it is.

Nine movies, each controversial on first release, some of the best of them, critically panned. And every one now imitated and celebrated. The title gets it right: Stanley Kubrick, the Essential Collection.

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DVD: "Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BOB MONDELLO: Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (as character) I'm Spartacus.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SPARTACUS")

I L: Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (as Bombardier) Hey, what about Major Kong?

SLIM PICKENS: (as Major Kong) (Screaming)

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY")

KEIR DULLEA: (as Dr. Dave Bowman) Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

DOUGLAS RAIN: (as voice of HAL 9000) I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE SHINING")

JACK NICHOLSON: (as Jack Torrance) Here's Johnny.

MONDELLO: Also, "Lolita," "Barry Lyndon," "Full Metal Jacket," Kubrick created some of the 20th century's most distinctive and distinctively different films, nine of which are included here. From epic to satire to sci-fi to horror, this director did everything brilliantly and originally. While other filmmakers copy each other, Kubrick quotes only himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LOLITA")

JAMES MASON: (as Professor Humbert Humbert) Are you Quilty?

PETER SELLERS: (as Clare Quilty) No, I'm Spartacus.

MONDELLO: In addition to gorgeous remasterings of all the films, there are some nifty extras, especially in the limited edition Blu-ray set, which has additional hours of interviews and scenes movie audiences never heard, like this one, offering a few extra lines when Charles Laughton's Roman senator commits suicide in Spartacus.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SPARTACUS")

JIL JARMYN: (as Julia) Is there nothing more we can do for you?

CHARLES LAUGHTON: (as Sempronius Gracchus) The new master of Rome will be calling on me tomorrow. He wants me to make a speech. When I meet you in paradise, describe to me the expression on his face when he saw me dead. Now go away.

MONDELLO: Even the regular DVD collection has plenty to recommend it, like the story of how Kubrick cobbled together different cameras to do the supposedly impossible: shoot scenes by candlelight in "Barry Lyndon" and shots of the huge cream pie fight that became the most famous unseen sequence in movie history. It was supposed to reduce Dr. Strangelove's War Room to chaos, and would have, except the actors couldn't stop laughing. Instead, Kubrick came up with the more chilling ending that arguably makes the film the masterpiece it is.

L: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb")

SELLERS: (as Dr. Strangelove) I have a plan. Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.