Here's an album much deserving of a 30th-anniversary treatment. Born to Run still stands as Springsteen's best, and this collection features two excellent DVDs that do the album justice.
This is the album that established Springsteen as a classic composer. His third album after two decent but slightly inconsistent efforts, Born to Run actually stands up better than Born in the USA, his biggest commercial hit. As Springsteen describes in the excellent documentary DVD, Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, the album was supposed to represent an endless summer night, and it does just that.
The documentary utilizes extraordinary archival footage of Springsteen and the E Street Band in the studio. Springsteen was unyielding in his attempts to make the ultimate rock album, and that is evident in the stress seen on band members' faces as they play take after take. The archival footage is combined with candid modern-day interviews with Springsteen and band members such as Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg and Steven Van Zandt.
Among the interesting factoids the documentary reveals: Van Zandt was primarily responsible for fixing the classic riff on the album's title track, which was far less distinctive in the song's original recording. A great moment takes place when Springsteen listens to an original recording of the "Jungleland" intro 30 years later and admits that he should've used it on the final album.
The second DVD, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Hammersmith Odeon, London 1975, is a rousing full-length concert featuring Born to Run and tracks from Springsteen's first two albums. This was during Springsteen's introduction to Europe, where he actually managed to live up to the hype. Incredible moments include a moving version of "Jungleland" and Born to Run's best track, "She's the One."
As Springsteen states in the documentary, Born to Run represented a transition in his career and a statement on the kind of music he wanted to make. Looking back after 30 years, it was a remarkably successful and prophetic statement.
Special Features: A nice color booklet, two DVDs and a remastered album. A great package in a sweet collectible box.
Timothy Treadwell considered himself the protector of grizzly bears. Remarkably, the man lived among the giants for 13 summers before sticking around a little too close to hibernating season. In 2003, he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, met untimely deaths when one particular grizzly didn't succumb to Treadwell's charms.
Director Werner Herzog has compiled footage shot by Treadwell into a documentary that depicts the wildlife preservationist as somewhat of a crazy man. The footage includes many outtakes that Treadwell probably never intended for public consumption. Treadwell often loses his composure in the wilderness, crying or going into extended expletive-laced rants against the government and park services.
However, much of it is quite beautiful, and Treadwell did manage some amazing wildlife footage. His kinship with a family of foxes is especially heartwarming, and most of the bears he got to know seemed to accept him on some level. Because Treadwell got to know many of the bears when they were cubs, the animals were used to his presence. This results in moments such as Treadwell swimming with passive grizzlies, and managing to touch some on their noses without losing limbs.
What happened to Treadwell is horrifying, and the film doesn't shy away from that fact. Herzog actually listens to an audio recording of Treadwell's death, and recommends that the owner of the tape destroy it. In the end, the message of the movie seems to be that Treadwell was a good person, but his mission was an insane one that did more harm than good.
The DVD has one big change from the theatrical version. A segment where Treadwell visited David Letterman's show has been deleted, presumably because the cost of show rights was prohibitive.
Special Features: Just one feature, but it's a good one: a nearly one-hour documentary on the making of the film's soundtrack. The music was produced by Henry Kaiser, with session musicians including the great Richard Thompson on guitar, who composed the tunes.
Roger Corman's sick camp classic gets a special-edition treatment. In the year 2000, racers are given points for running down pedestrians as blood-thirsty fans cheer them on. An interesting satire on sports fandom, it's surprising that Corman actually got away with this ultra-violent movie. David Carradine stars as the celebrity racer Frankenstein, while pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone stars as his chief rival, a man who sprays a stadium with machine-gun fire upon his arrival to the starter's gate.
Special Features: Corman provides a commentary, and there's a so-so look back at the nutball movie.