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review added: 6/21/02



The John Waters DVD Scrapbook
Bonus Disc - 2001 - New Line

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Films of John Waters on DVD

The John Waters DVD Scrapbook (bonus disc)

Program Rating: N/A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/B-/A+

Specs and Features

Approx. 333 mins, NR, various aspect ratios, 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), cardboard sleeve, John Waters' home movies, John Waters' audio interviews with Divine and Edith Massey, video interviews with Waters' friends and associates (including Peter Koper, Pat Moran, Sue Lowe, Morris Martick, Steve Yeager, Liz Renay, Dennis Dermody, Vincent Peranio, Rachel Talalay, Brook Yeaton and Bob Adams), outtakes from Waters' unfinished film Dorothy, The Kansas City Pot Head, theatrical trailers (for Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living, Polyester, Hairspray and Pecker), behind-the-scenes footage, rehearsals and interviews from Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble (from Steve Yeager's Film and Audio Archives), deleted scene from Female Trouble, the Love Letter to Edie documentary, the Take Off TV documentary, the Local Boston TV documentary, the Below San Francisco TV interview, the Get To Know… Baltimore TV news interview, an original Hairspray featurette, video interviews with original Buddy Deane Show dancers Linda and Gene Snyder, the Hairspray Reunion from The Ricki Lake Show, The Making of Pecker featurette, the Sundance Channel's Conversations in World Cinema episode with John Waters, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, languages: English (DD 2.0)

Wondering where all the bonus features are on the three packages that comprise New Line's John Waters Collection? The commentaries are great and at least they throw in trailers, but come on - surely that's not all there is. Indeed it's not. As with Fox's Alien Legacy box set, New Line has created a bonus disc available exclusively through mail order (and only if you purchase all three of New Line's John Waters double feature discs). Your proof of purchase tabs and $5.95 to cover shipping and handling get you the John Waters DVD Scrapbook, a compendium of interviews, trailers, photos and miscellaneous odds and ends. The sheer volume of material on this disc is staggering. I sat down with this disc, intending to go through it rather quickly. Soon enough, one hour became two, two became three, until finally I forced myself to turn it off and finish it up the next day.

The main menu of the disc presents you with the option of navigating through time or by film. This is kind of a cheat, because navigating by film ends up plopping you into the timeline anyway, so this option is really just a way of fast forwarding through the timeline. The timeline offers key events of historical, cultural and sub-cultural importance (the Watergate break-in, the introduction of DVD and the deaths of various Dreamland regulars are all noted). From the timeline, you can access a wealth of audio and video footage. Of primary interest are hours of audio interviews John Waters conducted with both the late Divine and the late Edith Massey. These segments are presented with rare photos and are absolutely invaluable to any true Waters fan.

Other gems on this disc include the legendary short documentary Love Letter to Edie, made by Robert Maier around the time of Female Trouble. In a bizarre mixture of interviews, staged scenes and re-creations, Edith Massey recounts the story of her life, from aspiring singer and dancer to bartender, thrift storeowner and finally cult actress. This alone would be worth six bucks. There's also vintage interviews Waters did with local Baltimore TV and public access cable in San Francisco, footage from Waters' abandoned film Dorothy, The Kansas City Pot Head, home movies of Waters as a kid, new video interviews with a wide range of Waters' collaborators (including long-time production designer Vincent Peranio, sharing original sketches and behind the scenes photos from Desperate Living and Hairspray) and, as they say on infomercials, much, much more. Regrettably, but understandably, nothing is included from the movies Waters made for other studios (Cry-Baby, Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented), although they are mentioned on the timeline.

It's not a big surprise - the video and audio quality is a very mixed bag. Considering the sources of most of this stuff, don't expect much better than what you'd get if you took your old home movies down to the lab to be transferred to DVD. Basically, we're lucky it exists at all. However, the material is all anamorphic, a surprising addition for a free bonus DVD. The only major quibble I had was an annoying and inconsistent tendency to windowbox vintage material like the local TV footage and the Hairspray reunion from Ricki Lake. This stuff was produced for TV in the first place, so why not just let it fill the screen? Or, if you're going to do it, do it with all the material. The recent Conversations in World Cinema episode from the Sundance Channel is presented full-frame, not windowboxed. Maybe New Line wanted to convey the idea that TVs used to be smaller. Whatever the rationale, it's an odd and annoying choice.

The only real question is, should this disc even exist in the first place? Wouldn't it be better to spread this material out onto the movies themselves? When I first started watching this disc, it really bothered me that New Line had chosen to release this stuff in this way. At first glance, this disc seems like a bother at best and, at worst, a scam to milk the consumer for another $5.95. But the deeper I got into the disc, the more I understood why it was done this way. For starters, a lot of material pre-dates Pink Flamingos. So either the material would have had to be spread out to other, later discs where it would make no sense, or Pink Flamingos would end up being a two-disc set anyway, or (worst of all) the material would just be eliminated. Also, the fact that you have to buy the complete set of John Waters packages means that New Line knew exactly who was going to be watching the bonus DVD: hardcore Waters faithful who are familiar with his life and work. Since the people behind this disc knew only real fans would watch it, they don't need to bother with things like explaining who Divine is to the uninitiated. All of John Waters' movies convey this feeling of family. He's been working with the same people for over twenty-five years and if you're watching this DVD, you know these people, too. You're in the club. Now you can relax and get to know everybody.

Simply put, this is a must-have DVD for John Waters fans. It's so good that if you have two of the three collections and are on the fence about one of the others, I'd recommend getting that missing piece of the puzzle so you can get the bonus DVD. If you only enjoy one or two of Waters' movies, then don't worry about it. This disc isn't going to change your mind and make you suddenly love what you used to hate. But those of us who have been in it for the long haul will find plenty to appreciate.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com

The Films of John Waters on DVD


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