THE GREAT SPECIAL EDITION SWINDLE 


;Look. God knows, I'm not much for righting wrongs – or even quelling minor annoyances – via the ol' "brute-strength" method. I generally lack the disposition (and, in my present, pudgy-pacifist state, a not-insignificant portion of the ammo, as well).

;

;That aside: This weak crap keeps up, someone's gonna get a spirited kick to the nuts.

;

;Clearly, I'm partly to blame for this mess. I know it. How could I not? The proof's right there in front of me, wedged snugly on a shelf between Manhattan and Clash of the Titans, not 10 feet from where I'm sitting now.

;;Exhibit A: Airplane!.

;;Now, prithee, don't misunderstand. I, like everyone else in the world with a discernible pulse, can't get enough Airplane!. Which is why, when I spied it on the rack at Wal-Mart for a veritable song ($9.99-ish), little choice was involved. I can now fire it up proudly whenever I get the itch. I have done my children a service. Plus, the special features are top-notch.

;

;The problem, then?

;

;Nomenclature. The cover looks just as you'd expect – a cottony-cloud sky, a jet liner knotted into a pretzel, big red letters – save for an illustrated ribbon, stretched gaudily across the bottom, informing me that I'm holding the "‘Don't Call Me Shirley!' Edition."

;

;Now, sure, at a glance, that may not seem all that unbearable. I mean, it's cutesy and cloying, but harmless, right? And transparent, too: Take a well-loved line from a movie + Slap it on the front of a DVD = Instant diehard-fan fodder.

;

;And then, of course, there's the gripe that "‘Don't Call Me Shirley!' Edition" doesn't really mean anything. At all. It isn't like there's any sort of effort expended to unify the DVD elements under the "Don't Call Me Shirley!" banner, or to highlight the underlying significance of the line to the film as a whole. And why not? Because that would be ludicrous. It's a one-liner, a throwaway bit: "‘Surely you can't be serious.' ‘I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.'" A great one-liner, indisputably, but a one-liner nonetheless, and it's brainless – and contrary to the spirit of the flick they're presumably trying to commemorate – to try to cull more meaning from it than was intended, or to assign it undue weight.

;

;So: cloying, transparent, patronizing, meaningless, brainless. Corporate marketing, in other words. But what else can you expect? A point would be nice.

;

;The thing is, I really would try to let it go. I would.

;

;If it were the only one.

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;Here: I'll give you a string of cash-grabby DVD titles; you try to suss out the ones I made up. 'K? Go: Tommy Boy: "Holy Schnike" Edition; Dazed and Confused: Flashback Edition; 13 Going on 30: Fun & Flirty Edition; Animal House: Double-Secret Probation Edition; Clueless: "Whatever" Edition, The Longest Yard: Lockdown Edition (so … the edition where nothing is allowed in or out, due to security concerns?); Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "Bueller ... Bueller ..." Edition; 9 to 5: "Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot" Edition.

;;And I have to stop now. Because, as you may've guessed, they're all real. And there are more (Dreamgirls: 2-disc "Showstopper" Edition, Fletch: "Jane Doe" Edition, Porky's: The "One Size Fits All" Edition, Grease: "Rockin' Rydell" Edition, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo: "Little Black Book" Edition) all the time. Add all these to the interminable and seemingly indiscriminate list of "Unrated-Extended-Extreme-Director's Cut" editions (far too many to mention, but recent head-scratchers include That Thing You Do and Big), and we've got an epidemic on our hands. (Helpful barometer: Caligula = OK. Grandma's Boy = Eat me.)

;

;What's really galling is not so much that all this is a naked attempt to rack up sales based on manufactured nostalgia and faux "insider" cred – it's that it's done so shoddily. What separates something like "Shirley!" from such droolingly exquisite efforts as those proffered by, say, the Criterion Collection is not substance, but style. Sure, the average spread of CC extras easily outguns that of the cheaper variety, but the core goodies are roughly the same in either case. Criterion, though, loves up on its reissues (as do the better double/triple-disc sets out there) – and it's not just packaging, it's a tangible respect for the film.

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;Boiling something like Midnight Cowboy down to a single line, offering me the "‘I'm Walkin' Here!' Edition" doesn't evince an intimate, nuanced, sensitive approach to the material, which is what I'm looking for. It evinces an IMDb visit. I don't need a blaring, gorilla-fisted reminder of the line everybody knows (the "‘I Want You to Hit Me as Hard as You Can' Edition"?); just call it a "Special Edition" – or, if you really wanna sex me up, the "Collector's" – and spend your energy on what's inside. I'll willingly and happily swallow a marketing line if I sense that there's been some time and thought invested, if it seems like there's a little more there. Or if you at least give me a hand in fooling myself that there has been.

;

;Meanwhile, my "Shirley!" edition sits there, gnawing, crying out to me like the Tell-Tale Heart ("Evil Eye" Edition).

; film@orlandoweekly.com

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