This Examiner column has sometimes talked about the act of double and triple dipping, when it comes to DVD’s of classic movies. The practice has often been criticized by DVD and Blu-ray fans, especially when they have to spend more money to upgrade from a previous edition to another – just to get the new extras the previous edition didn’t have.
One such film has already been given the double-dip treatment, but soon will take one step further into triple-dip infamy: Sidney Lumet’s legendary adaptation of Reginald Rose’s TV play 12 Angry Men, released in 1957 and starring Henry Fonda. The story is so well-known: jury takes on a case of a young boy accused of murder, 11 vote guilty while 1 (Fonda) says not guilty, and soon the jurors slowly realize there could be more to the case than they originally thought. It’s a powerful movie, and a great debut for Lumet – who won his first Oscar nomination. Any other reviews on this film can be found on Examiner, or anywhere else.
In 2001, MGM began the DVD process for 12 Angry Men on their “Vintage Classics” line. There was nothing spectacular to write home about – just a trailer and good picture & sound for the movie. No commentaries, no documentaries – no special features to be found.
In 2008, soon after the film’s 50th anniversary, it received another DVD edition – this time, MGM was sure to add more. They did include a commentary, but not from Lumet or actor Jack Klugman (who might be the remaining survivor of the cast) – though they are prominently featured in one of the two featurettes included. The commentary honors went to USC film professor Dr. Drew Casper. Two featurettes on the film and its real-life impact on the court system are featured, with Lumet, Klugman, historians and law experts – and even George Wendt & Richard Thomas (who appeared in a stage production of 12 Angry Men) chiming in. The trailer was oddly missing from this set.
On November 22, seven months after Lumet’s death at the age of 86, the Criterion Collection will release their own edition of 12 Angry Men – for both DVD and Blu-ray consumers. This release may have been prepared to mark Lumet’s passing, and help cement his reputation as one of the truly great American directors. The trailer is found here, but the Casper commentary and featurettes from the 50th anniversary set are nowhere to be found. There are interview featurettes on Lumet, writer Reginald Rose, and cinematographer Boris Kaufman (whose intense photography made the film all the more claustrophobic).
Yet the real bonus of Criterion’s set is the 1955 TV version of 12 Angry Men, directed by future Oscar winner Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton). A video essay comparing that version to the film is also included, as well as another 1956 teleplay featuring Rose writing and Lumet directing.
Even with the bounty of extras included on this Criterion set, it’s hard to not see 12 Angry Men as another victim of the dreaded triple-dip syndrome. It seems everyone has to buy at least two editions to get ALL of the extras – more likely the 50th anniversary and the Criterion set would make things even. Then again, for those who prefer just the movie and nothing else to ruin the surprise of how it was made, then the first release will probably do just fine.
This whole triple-dipping doesn’t ruin the impact and genius of 12 Angry Men – it’s just unfortunate there couldn’t have been one set for every extra to come together, and be the “definitive” version of this classic film.