The Last Picture Show / Nickelodeon Peter Bogdanovich

Twofers usually cram low-res versions of two middling movies into one budget-priced package. So it's quite a surprise to encounter this release. This is a marvellous DVD from top to bottom. It collects two of the best films by director Peter Bogdanovich, who along with Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin (The French Connection) ruled Hollywood in the early '70s. The Last Picture Show remains Bogdanovich's masterpiece and has not aged a day since 1971. Shot in atmospheric black-and-white, it tells the story of a group of characters in a small Texas town that crumbles after its patriarch dies. Told with humour and uncommon sensitivity, the film swept the Oscars the following year and launched the careers of Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Cybill Sheppard. Instead of stripping the DVD to its bare minimum, this edition preserves the bonus features found on the existing director's cut special edition, retaining the discussion with Bogdanovich, fine retrospective "A Look Back," which interviews the cast and crew two decades later, and the older "Theatrical Re-release Featurette." However, the big surprise is the inclusion of a superb commentary by the director that was most likely lifted from the long out-of-print laser disc (and was strangely missing from the special edition DVD). Bogdanovich's commentary offers a stream of anecdotes about the landmark shoot and references his deep knowledge of classic Hollywood cinema. After all, he cast Western icon Ben Johnson, who delivered a stunning performance as the town patriarch. The other film, Nickelodeon, is a fine comedy about a gang of indie filmmakers battling the Hollywood majors a century ago at the dawn of cinema. Ryan O'Neal as a lawyer-turned-director, his young daughter Tatum and Burt Reynolds as a handsome leading man head this pack of eager filmmakers. Again, Bogdanovich's commentary is rich with production anecdotes and cinematic history. Not only does this DVD mark Nickelodeon's long-awaited debut in digital form but it presents two versions of the film: the 1976 original, shot in colour, and the new director's cut, which unspools in glorious black-and-white with a few added scenes. The colour version looks like a TV sitcom, while the black-and-white evokes the atmosphere of the setting, looking just great. Though the DVD packaging is generic and unimaginative, the DVDs inside deliver. Each disc is dual-layered, so there appears to be no compression to the picture and sound. This package is essential for anyone who loves movies. (Sony)