The home video revolution of the 1980s may have changed the way we watch movies, but one thing stayed the same: Films still weren't for keeping. Before video, you left the theater when the movie was over. Now you just returned the tape.
At last that's changing, too. Video companies are finally releasing movies at prices that make it only too tempting to buy. (And people are buying analysts predict $1.3 billion worth of prerecorded videos will go home for good this holiday season.) As well as reducing prices on films that have passed their rental peak, video marketers are debuting some theatrical hits like Pretty Woman in the affordable $20 range.
This year spiffy boxed sets of the Star Wars trilogy, all four Rockys, and the three Karate Kids are available to satisfy holiday buying binges. But even single tapes are great for stuffing in stockings and VCRs: Not only is it easy to match the folks on your list to specific movies, sports tapes, or how-to videos, it's more personal and it beats giving everybody fruitcake. Here are some of the season's best video deals, on both new releases and price-reduced evergreens.
They're always a good impulse-shopping bet (they fit the seasonal spirit better than, for instance, a boxed set of Ingmar Bergman films), and this year offers comedy hits new (The Naked Gun), and old (Bananas). Our picks:
This Is Spinal Tap 1984
Rob Reiner's directorial debut is a rock-schlock mockumentary so straight-faced that a lot of people thought it was about a real band. The satire is loving, merciless, and, until that distant day when pompous excess no longer has a place in rock, pertinent.
A Night at the Opera 1935
A Day at the Races 1937
Marx Brothers movies have an added advantage on video: With a rewind button, you can catch every one of Groucho's warp-speed one-liners. The boys' first two MGM films saddle them with dippy romantic costars, but anarchy still takes the field in Night's stateroom scene and Day's examining-room madness.
A Christmas Story 1983
This adaptation of Jean Shepherd's tales of growing up in the 1940s Midwest shows Christmas to be a hilarious rush of cranky department-store Santas, bunny pajamas given by senile aunts, and baby brothers hiding under the kitchen sink. Nostalgic Americana has never been deflated so warmly.
When the real world gets too cold, John Patrick Shanley's eccentric wordplay, a never-never Brooklyn setting, and Cher and Nicolas Cage at their most likable make this a comedy to restore your faith in romance.
Great dramas make great collectibles. Whether they're sentimental favorites like On Golden Pond and Rain Man or refined showstoppers such as Amadeus and A Room With a View, the care that goes into them and the emotions they evoke are worth savoring. Our picks:
The Godfather 1972
The Godfather Part II 1974
The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic 1981
Not that we'd look a dead gift horse in the mouth, but nothing less than The Complete Epic, Francis Ford Coppola's dazzling, chronological reediting of parts I and II, will do, especially with the latest chapter about to hit theaters.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975
There are plenty of reasons to own this one: It made Jack Nicholson a superstar. It swept the Oscars. Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd are so convincing as loonies, we thought they were for real. But the main reason is that this movie's achingly funny, uncompromisingly bitter message can still move you to tears.
The Year of Living Dangerously 1983
By setting this romance in the political tinderbox of mid-'60s Indonesia, director Peter Weir gave it a feverish edge that few films achieve. The secret of its emotional pull is that we watch Mel Gibson's and Sigourney Weaver's breathtaking glamour with the same awestruck envy that Linda Hunt's Billy Kwan does.