• Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
A strange thought occurred to me the other day. I've seen every so-called "cult" movie of my generation during its original theatrical run. Maybe even a couple of times a piece. I saw Evil Dead 2 three times over the course of its opening weekend (March 13th, opposite Raising Arizona). Why? Because Roger Ebert told me too. I took my dad, and he thought it was pretty goofy. But he enjoyed himself. I saw Donnie Darko at the Lemmle 5 on Sunset. I saw Napoleon Dynamite at the same theater. When I was three, I wandered into The Warriors somewhere in San Diego by myself. That sh*t scared me, and scarred me for life. My brother and I snuck into both Repo Man and Heathers while living in Corvallis, Oregon. Same with that weird Lone Ranger movie starring Christopher Lloyd (damn it, where's the DVD?). If it was slightly askew and it came out between 1975 and 2005, I probably saw it on the big screen. What's so weird about that, and what all of these films have in common is, they never really found an audience, or made a substantial amount of money upon first impact. That's why they call it a cult movie. Not many people paid for a ticket, only later discovering these films at the video store or on cable.

Me, personally? I like crap. And any "out of the norm" picture is automatically put on my must see list. That's pretty much why nothing has ever escaped me. I've never had to fain oblivious when it comes to a so-called cult film. And usually, when it comes to these types of entertainments, I can tell right away that it's going to take on a life of its own years after its theatrical release. Except for one film, and that was The Big Lebowski.

Not because I didn't see it on opening weekend. I did. Three times before it left the multiplex as a matter of fact. Thing is, I misunderstood this film's cult status because I thought it was a hit. I was under the misunderstanding that quite a few people saw this and loved it upon its initial release. At the time, I was living in Portland, Oregon. And it seems like everyone I knew was quoting the film before it ever hit video. I'd go to that weird Chinese Restaurant/Karaoke Bar on Burnside, and more than half the bar was compulsively ordering White Russians. Because it was the thing to do. I've never known a time when this film wasn't popular. At least with my crowd. Some films have to earn their cult status. This thing tanged out of the box. Sure, it took a while for it to catch on World Wide, but since day one; it was a favorite with just about everyone I knew.

Not only that, it was one of the first films ever released on DVD. The medium was being utilized by film buffs tired of flipping their laser discs over. The Big Lebowski came as a favorable companion to those brand new versatile players. It was a great movie amongst a myriad of crap. Back then, there were only a handful of titles too chose from. I'm betting that 98% of DVD owners today have this film in their personal library.

This Tuesday, Universal is releasing a special edition DVD for the Big Lebowski. And, quite honestly, I can't tell you to run out and double dip the disc if you already own the version released by Polygram back in 1999. Why? Because there's not much of a difference between the two seperate copies (with the exception of the cover; I like the original better). The print looks as immaculate as it always has. Because it was digitally preserved early in its career. And the special features are pretty much the same, except for one glaring non-treat. The 30-minute behind the scenes featurette with the Coen brothers hasn't been changed a bit. Neither have the production notes. But there are some cool black & white photos taken by Jeff Bridges on the set that weren't available that first go-around. I'm not sure where, but I had seen most of these before. The real capper and the most substantial thing to note is a new little three minute piece entitled Mortimer Young's Exclusive Introduction. Yikes.

This thing is pretty awful. I'm not sure if the Coen Brothers had anything to do with it. It reeks like someone trying to riff on the Coen vibe, but it doesn't work. It actually reminds me of a missing scene from the Mr. Show movie Run Ronnie, Run. It has Mortimer Young, an obviously fictitious film historian, waxing poetically about the restoration of this "lost classic." It's not really very funny. It's kind of annoying, and it automatically plays when you start the movie. The only way to skip it is to go directly to the chapter menu. It's like a cancerous growth on an otherwise smooth, beautiful baby. It's unnecessary.

If you don't already own the movie, I can't recommend picking this new DVD up enough, though. I mean, it's the Big Lebowski. Just because they stuck some dumb introduction on there doesn't mean you won't enjoy the actual film itself. And that's what it's all about. The film. Seriously. Why don't you own this already? That's blasphemy. I kind of understand why they didn't go balls out with a bunch of new features on this stand alone disc. Universal knows most people aren't going to buy it again. That's why they're also releasing something you Lebowski fanatics are going to want to pick up. It's called The Big Lebowski: The Achiever's Edition. Now this is where it's at. This is what you need to spend your money on. You might not splurge if the Special Features on the stand alone disc were an improvement on what has already been offered. It doesn't matter, now. Sure, this boasts the same exact disc, but you get a lot of cool sh*t with this edition. You know this is where you need to put your money. You get actual Jeff Bridges Prints from the set. Drink Coasters. And a Bowler's Towel. And it's only going to cost you about twenty-five dollars from Best Buy on the Tuesday it comes out. You know you want it. Splurge. It's worth it. Like I said, just re-buying the single disc itself is pointless.

Watching the movie again, I realized how great a piece of pulp culture it really is. Every single line of dialogue is quotable. And every single time I watch it, I discover something new and funny I missed from the last time I saw it. For some reason, this time around, I really thought the off-handed line about Nancy Reagan was too funny. I don't remember ever having laughed at that before. The movie is just so detailed and intricate; it takes about fifty viewings to catch every little nuance. The Big Lebowski is more of a Classic than it is a Cult masterpiece. Its pedigree is a little sharper.

Even though this thing came close on the heels of the Coen's award winning Fargo, the movie isn't so much a follow-up as the beginning of their second career. Everything leading up to Fargo had a far more serious approach to it. Everything after Lebowski has taken the Dude esthetic and twisted it to new lengths. This thing here is more a continuation of what they started with Raising Arizona, and then seemed to abandon for a good stretch of years.

I personally love The Big Lebowski. And I'm grateful to have the DVD in my collection, Collector's Edition or otherwise.
I guess I went over this in my review of the disc. Like I said, the cool stuff here are the freebie collectables that come with the Achiever's Edition. You get actual prints as photographed by Jeff Bridges on the set. A bunch of character oriented drink coasters (to set your White Russians on). And a bowling towel. Awesome.

Now, for the actual special features on the disc, these are pretty lame. Especially for a new "Collector's Edition." You get the same 30-minute Making Of that was on the Polygram Version. And the same Production Notes that you probably wont read. New to this disc is the slide show of Jeff Bridges' on set photography, which runs about 5 minutes. And a truly horrible introduction by Mortimer Young, which you are forced to sit through every time you play the movie, unless you go to the Chapter Stops.

It's the chachkeys in the Achiever's Edition that make this worth replacing. The new Special Features are lame.
1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture looks as good as the Polygram version that came out a million years ago, somewhere around the dawn of the DVD player. This movie was made in the digital age. So, it looks pretty fresh and clean.
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), and Spanish.

Again, I like the cover art on the original disc. The Dude and Walter are iconic. And the bowling alley in the back captured the over-all feel of the piece. I like the subtlety of the Achiever's Edition. It carries the bowling motif beautifully. But the actually disc artwork, a close-up of Bridges face with the carpet reflected in his glasses, is slightly off-putting. I don't like it much.
This movie is a classic. Everybody needs to have a copy in their DVD library, if they don't already. There's no real reason to rush out and buy this new version if you already own it, though. The Collector Edition special features just plain suck. Why not a doc*mentary on the real Dude, Jeff Dowd? Or a Lebowskifest Retrospective? They put absolutely no thought into this thing what so ever.

But a Lebowski Bowling Towel is pretty neat.

Buy it.

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