In the Dark: DVD Surprises
Eric D. Snider
The nasty rumors you've heard whispered on the streets and scrawled on bathroom walls are true: I'm now a DVD snob. I have little tolerance for old-fashioned VHS videotapes, and even less for Betamax videotapes, rotary phones, cotton gins, and old people, though I suppose part of that list is only tangentially related.
DVDs are not just a short-lived passing fancy, like the Internet was. They are better than videotapes because they don't wear out as easily, they provide better sound and picture, and they can accommodate extra features such as boring commentaries by hack directors. (In the old days, you had to go to Penelope Spheeris's house to get her thoughts on the making of "Black Sheep"; now you can rent the DVD and hear her tell you about the incident at the wrap party in which a coke-snorting Chris Farley accidentally ingested David Spade.)
Almost all DVDs are also letterboxed, which is where those black bars are placed across the top and bottom of your TV screen. Stupid people often believe this means some of the movie is being cut off, but these stupid people are stupid. In fact, the traditional video format — "pan-and-scan," it's called — cuts off part of the picture, a necessity when transferring a widescreen theatrical release onto a square-shaped TV screen. Some DVDs give you the option of watching the movie in either format, but frankly, if you actually prefer the pan-and-scan, you don't deserve to have a DVD player and should return it to your point of purchase.
My actual point is that while I've always been a fan of home entertainment — after a long day of watching movies, there's nothing I like more than going home and watching a movie — I've become even more couch-bound since getting a DVD player. And I recently discovered something that makes me even fonder of the technology: Easter eggs.
Easter eggs are hidden features on DVDs, similar to the secret passages in some video games that will whisk you off to bonus levels or extra rounds. At least two Web sites — dvdreview.com and eeggs.com — tell you which DVDs have these and how to find them, and the new trend among aficionados is to fool around with the buttons on their remote controls until they stumble upon undiscovered ones themselves.
The new "Toy Story" three-disc set, for example, has an extra outtake on the third disc, easy to find once you know how. (Go here for instructions.) Several other new discs have additional material as well; in fact, it's getting to where most new DVDs have something hidden, no matter how minor.
In my spare time, I've unearthed some hidden features that have not yet been reported by the biased liberal media:
• On the "Big Daddy" DVD, an interactive game allows you to beat Adam Sandler in the head with a fire poker.
• The most recent Freddie Prinze Jr. movie, "Boys and Girls," comes with ninety minutes' worth of outtakes. No, wait, that was the actual movie.
• If you know where to find it, the special edition DVD of "The Godfather" contains a detailed diagram of Marlon Brando's ego.
• A hidden audio track on the "Pokemon" DVD allows you to hear a special commentary from the film's director, Satan.
• The DVD of Disney's "Pocahontas" has a hilarious outtake in which several of the voice actors fall into a boredom-induced sleep while recording their dialogue.
• A behind-the-scenes documentary on the "X-Files" Season Two box set includes footage of David Duchovny's face being reconstructed after it was tragically split in two when the actor attempted to show an emotion. (A now properly warned Gillian Anderson looks on anxiously. But not too anxiously.)
• The "Planet of the Apes" five-disc retrospective has an exciting hidden feature: Move the cursor in just the right pattern, and Charlton Heston leaps out from your TV set and shoots you. Still, this is preferable to watching all five "Planet of the Apes" movies.