DVD Article

Boxed Sets and Other Gift Ideas -- Bond And Beyond

Holiday Video Preview '95 -- We check out the key releases, including the ''Bond 007 Gift Set,'' ''A Flintstones Christmas Carol,'' and ''Black Adder''

With Goldeneye just hitting the big screens, moviegoers will be introduced to yet another new James Bond. Now, we like Pierce Brosnan; thought it was a shame when his Remington Steele contract kept him from Bond-age back in 1986. But his biggest battle will be against a phantom: Like a first love who mocks his successors by his absence, Sean Connery is still Ian Fleming's casually cruel superspy in the pop-culture memory banks. As a welcome reminder, MGM/UA Home Video has rereleased the first six Connery/Bond classics in boxed gift sets. It has also rereleased 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, starring George Lazenby (the most hapless of the ersatz Bonds), and 1973's Live and Let Die, with the initial appearance of Roger Moore. Needless to say, these two aren't part of the gift boxes.

The gift-giving possibilities are complex enough to make Q's head spin: You can buy all the Connery movies (excluding 1983's Never Say Never Again) plus two hour-long documentaries on the making of Goldfinger and Thunderball in the Bond 007 Gift Set, or as two sets, with Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), and Behind-the-Scenes With Goldfinger in one box and Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Behind-the-Scenes With Thunderball in the other. All three sets are available letterboxed or in pan-and-scan versions, as well. If you're on a tight budget, go for volume one: The first three Bond films remain the leanest, meanest, and least prone to camp. Which is not to say that any movie with a character named Pussy Galore can be taken seriously; Le Carré this ain't. But Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger bristle with a blissfully serene machismo that is no less delightful for being completely out of date. The franchise may be revived by Pierce Brosnan, but no-nonsense Connery still cuts sharper and deeper. —Ty Burr

VIDEOCASSETTES

A Flintstones Christmas Carol A stocking stuffer for fans who like their Flintstones the old-fashioned way — animated. But purists be prepared: This feature-length 1994 cartoon stars the Bedrock gang in a Stone Age version of Dickens' seasonal classic — with Fred as Scrooge, Barney as Bob Cratchit, and Wilma as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Hey, if Mickey Mouse can do it, why not the 'Stones? —Michael Sauter

Alien Trilogy Bring this boxed set to your holiday gathering and chase away those post-turkey blahs. Alien and Aliens will keep the adrenaline pumping for hours. The big surprise is Alien3. Dubbed a fizzle when first released, director David Fincher's brooding film — which boasts some of the scariest creature footage — is a visually stunning, cathartic finish to the series. —Tim Purtell

Lon Chaney Collection For your nephew who's sick of watching The Mask for the umpteenth time, try this eight-cassette intro to the early master of makeup and physical transformation. There's The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but also five lesser-known gems, among them Tod Browning's Outside the Law and Oliver Twist, in which Chaney plays Fagin. The series also includes Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask, a 1995 documentary about the actor. —Tim Purtell nto the Woods

Into the Woods Know any parents sugared out by the kids' incessant playback of Disney cartoon fables? Give 'em Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's witty, gritty Broadway musical, taped in 1990 for public TV, now transfigured into VHS form. It's a brilliantly adult, live-action deconstruction of fairy-tale plots that revels in such Grimm realities as a bad-mom witch (Bernadette Peters), an oversexed, anatomically correct wolf, and a prince who uncharmingly dumps Cinderella to boff Sleeping Beauty. —Steve Daly

Black Adder Backstabbing louts don't come more comedically odious than Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh (Rowan Atkinson). A.k.a. the Black Adder, he heads a long line of dastardly descendants who make a merry mockery of British history. Spanning the centuries from the Dark Ages to World War I, these eight tapes cover 24 episodes of the Pythonesque BBC series — boxed here for the first time. —Michael Sauter

Vincent Price Collection Sad that Halloween's been and gone? Give the gift that keeps on screaming with a boxed set of the late, lugubrious Vincent Price's four best films: three Edgar Allan Poe adaptations from producer-director Roger Corman — 1962's Tales of Terror, 1964's The Tomb of Ligeia and The Masque of the Red Death — and 1968's Conqueror Worm, a great chiller from England's Tigon studio that isn't by Poe, no matter what the box says. —Ty Burr

Mysteries of the Bible A seven-tape set devoted to Bible study may not sound like a cool yule gift, but it's actually fascinating. Produced for the A&E network, this documentary travels to archaeological digs, while historians and theologians offer up new insights about the Crucifixion, the Book of Revelation, and other biblical enigmas. Richard Kiley and Jean Simmons narrate, with a gallery of great paintings as sumptuous visual aids. —Michael Sauter

Little Women Perfect for the season: a cozy film that celebrates the joys of family life, packaged in a charmingly inventive dollhouse-like carton. But along with the sterling-silver-plated locket included here is another cheap imitation: a novelette of the film, twice removed from Louisa May Alcott's classic. Do your little girl (and Alcott) a favor and stuff a copy of the original novel in her stocking too. —Caren Weiner

The Monkees Deluxe Limited Edition Box Set Enough about the Beatles already. The Monkees too have been repackaged for posterity. The 21 tapes in this gorilla-size boxed set contain all 58 episodes of their TV show, plus the series pilot, plus their 1969 special, plus a 48-page booklet. But wait, there's more: a Monkees wristwatch in the first 2,000 sets. For all serious collectors of '60s kitsch. —Michael Sauter

LASERDISCS

The Three Stooges Comedy Classics Like slapstick lampreys, the Stooges have glommed on to each new medium and subverted it with cheery, unassuming sadism. First it was TV, then videotape, now laserdisc — when can we expect the virtual-reality Stooges? (That might hurt, come to think of it.) This three-disc compendium ponies up 18 Columbia shorts from the '30s, '40s, and '50s — 15 featuring the gloriously weird Curly Howard. Digitally remastered, too, which we guess means that you can now see every strand of Larry's hair as Moe rips it out. —Ty Burr

The Gene Kelly Collection Click off MTV and spin one of this boxed set's four laserdiscs for any dance fan on your list. That beefy guy with the grin really is making all those impossibly athletic and simultaneously balletic moves — without cheating with constant camera cuts. And he choreographed virtually everything he danced. And often directed himself. Here are three complete movies (1949's On the Town, 1954's Brigadoon, and 1955's It's Always Fair Weather) along with enough studio outtakes and background footage to give Gene Kelly the stature of Fred Astaire, Busby Berkeley, and Vincente Minnelli — combined. —David Hajdu

The Art of Buster Keaton Here's a gift of movies that'll spin the propellers on anybody's head. No filmmaker has ever explored the struggle between soul and machine with the arch wit and imagination that Buster Keaton brought to bear in the silent-movie masterworks of his prime. This breathtaking collection — 10 discs in three boxed-set volumes — brings together all 11 of the master actor-director's independent features and 19 of his shorts in transfers as sharp and lovely as a Keaton gag. —David Hajdu

The Rocky Horror Picture Show 20th Anniversary Special Edition Twenty years? Already? To commemorate the occasion, this laserdisc arrives with all sorts of extra goodies — including two musical numbers cut from the original film, a karaoke sing-along section, and footage of Rocky Horror stage productions around the world. Getting the gang up to do the Time Warp, though, is your responsibility. —Michael Sauter

CRITIC'S CHOICE

'The Rat Pack Collection'

With Justin Walker's ace Sinatra impression in Clueless, it looks as if the Brat Pack's out and the original Rat Pack's back in. So you could do worse than stuff your kiddie hipster's Christmas stocking with The Rat Pack Collection, a box of three lightweight, leering capers featuring the Chairman of the Board and assorted Board members. ''Ocean's 11'' (1960) is the Rosetta stone of this subgenre, since it features Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop — hell, anybody who hoisted a martini with Ol' Blue Eyes in 1960. 4 for Texas (1963) and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) are pretty ring-a-ding-ding too, but connoisseurs of the species Rattus lasvegas may be chagrined at the omission of 1962's Sergeants 3, not made for Warner and so not in this collection. —Ty Burr

Originally posted Nov 24, 1995 Published in issue #302 Nov 24, 1995 Order article reprints