It's hard to dispute that Quentin Tarantino was the most influential filmmaker of the 1990s. The former video clerk-turned-indie director not only reinvented the syntax of modern cinema but he also did so in a way that was immensely successful at the box office.
In honor of this and to kill time during his notoriously lengthy hiatuses between projects Tarantino's two most recent features are being released today in a new format loaded with extras.
The "Pulp Fiction Collector's Edition DVD" leaves no doubt that the 1994 crime epic was one of the landmark efforts of the decade. It's pop culture-obsessed dialogue, stylized violence, breaks in linear narrative and eccentric use of music remain vital templates for contemporary filmmakers.
This new edition includes a predictable surplus of cinematic goodies, from awards show acceptance speeches to an intricate featurette on the production design. One of the most interesting is the on-set documentary, "Pulp Fiction: The Facts." Here, the cast's and crew's enthusiasm for the enterprise is contagious all seem justifiably convinced they are making a classic.
The real treat on this two-disc set, however, lies in the deleted scenes. The chatty Tarantino introduces each segment by explaining that he didn't need to place these back into the picture as some kind of definitive director's cut, "because I made the movie I wanted to make the first time." But in deference to pacing, certain compelling moments were cut out, such as a nifty monologue about the kindness of strangers delivered by Eric Stoltz's easygoing drug dealer and an extended date scene with stars John Travolta and Uma Thurman at Jack Rabbit Slim's diner.
(The DVD's packaging includes a colorful menu from Jack Rabbit Slim's, proving one really can order a Five Dollar Milk Shake.)
The "Jackie Brown Collector's Edition DVD" is formatted similar to its companion, with interviews, alternate takes, TV spots and the original "Siskel & Ebert" review.
The 1997 movie itself, based on Elmore Leonard's tale "Rum Punch," details the plight of a money-laundering flight attendant ('70s icon Pam Grier), whose relationship with her gun-running employer (Samuel L. Jackson) turns sour after she is cornered by police. Though the flick is paced noticeably slower than "Pulp Fiction," it features fine personality-driven performances and a wonderfully subtle relationship between the title character and an aging bail bondsman (Robert Forster).
Standout extras include trailers from Grier and D-movie veteran Forster's checkered past, and the complete video "Chicks With Guns" that Jackson's gangster watches on television. In this hilarious faux infomercial, bikini-clad gals fire dozens of rounds while spouting such bon mot's as "Nothing comes between me and my AK-47."
Regrettably, there is still no director's commentary track on either release, which could go a long way in clarifying some of the vaporous mysteries pertaining to "Pulp Fiction." For a guy who likes to talk about movies so much, Tarantino remains conspicuously silent about his own work.