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The 411 Dumpster Fire of the Week: The Top 5 Worst DVD Commentary Tracks

May 6, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Day of the Dead Bub

The 411mania Dumpster Fire of the Week

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of The 411 Dumpster Fire of the Week. I’m Bryan Kristopowitz.

One of the most important special features on a DVD or Blu-ray for movie nerds is the commentary track. Whether it’s a director, producer, actor, or some other person involved in the movie in question, it’s a great way to learn things about how a movie was made, how it happened, what happened while making it, and how the movie changed someone’s career, for good or bad (the last one is mostly for older movies). Sometimes these tracks are the best special feature on a disc and sometimes they’re just one of many bad, poorly produced special features. Commentary tracks are always worth a listen, though.

Unfortunately, it seems as though fewer and fewer new movies are getting commentary tracks on their DVDs and Blu-rays, and I’m not sure why that is. Most special edition/collector’s edition DVDs and Blu-rays seem to have them, but not all of them (the upcoming Escape from L.A. Blu-ray doesn’t have a John Carpenter/Kurt Russell commentary track, which is just outrageous. I’m assuming the ongoing pandemic prevented that from happening, but, still, it’s incredibly disappointing that we’re not getting another Carpenter/Russell commentary track). Documentary featurettes and on screen interviews are cool, but they’re not the same as commentary tracks. They’re certainly not as cool.

Anyway, for this 411 Dumpster Fire of the Week Special Edition I’ve decided to look at the Top 5 Worst DVD commentary tracks according to me. Now, obviously I haven’t heard every single commentary track ever produced so I’m limited to the commentary tracks I have heard. I’m sure there are ones that you have heard that are terrible that I haven’t heard, so don’t be surprised if I “missed” the terrible ones that you have heard.

And so, what are the Top 5 Worst DVD Commentary Tracks, according to me?

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411 Dumpster Fire of the Week: The Top 5 Worst DVD Commentary Tracks Edition

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5- Richard Rubinstein (producer) and Perry Martin (DVD producer)- Dawn of the Dead Extended Version: I first heard this when I got the Dawn of the Dead Ultimate Edition DVD boxed set that Anchor Bay put out years ago and it was an eye opening experience. In terms of information, you learn a lot about how Dawn of the Dead was made, what Rubinstein’s relationship with George A. Romero was like, and, in general, what it took to make an independent movie back in the late 1970’s. What you also learn is that, in general, Richard Rubinstein is a goddamn asshole. Now, I can’t say that I’m surprised by that because you probably had to be an asshole back in the day to get anything done in the independent movie world, especially with something as ambitious as Dawn of the Dead, but it’s still jarring to hear. My biggest complaint about the track, though, is Rubinstein’s insistence that Dawn of the Dead is a mainstream movie and not a cult movie. Yes, it was a major box office hit in 1979 and was successful across the United States, but to say that it’s a mainstream movie because of that is ridiculous, especially when you look at the movie now. And the way Rubinstein shuts down Perry when he asks about the movie’s cult status is just deplorable. Martin didn’t deserve that.

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4- Paul Verhoeven (director) and Ahnold Schwarzenegger (actor)- Total Recall Special Edition: Total Recall is one of my favorite movies and, when the special edition DVD was announced, I was stoked that Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger were going to do a tandem track. What sort of stories would they have about what it took to make Total Recall in Mexico, dealing with the special effects, and everything else involved with the movie? It was going to be awesome. Unfortunately, the actual track is a fucking disaster. Verhoeven is a fountain of knowledge about the movie, both in terms of how it came about for him and the technical shit he had to deal with, while Ahnold adds jack shit to the conversation. And when I say jack shit I mean jack fucking shit. He has zero insight into anything involved with the movie. Even when Verhoeven engages him in conversation Ahnold doesn’t really say anything. What the hell? Was Schwarzenegger distracted with his political ambitions at the time he did the track with Verhoeven? Is that why he had nothing to say? I wish he would redo this track with Verhoeven. I bet, now that he’s an actor again and not saddled with politics, that he would actually contribute more to the track.

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3- John Carl Buechler (director), Kane Hodder (actor), and Lar Park Lincoln (actor)- Friday the 13th Part vii: The New Blood Deluxe Edition: When this deluxe edition release of The New Blood was announced I was surprised to see that there was a new commentary track on it featuring director Buechler and Jason actor Hodder along with “Tina” actor Lar Park Lincoln because the commentary track Buechler and Hodder did on the Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan Ultimate Edition boxed set release was fantastic. Why not have that track and a new track with Buechler, Lincoln, maybe Terry Kiser or some other people involved with the movie, too? I was still intrigued by the announced track, though, because what sort of stuff would Lincoln add to whatever Buechler and Hodder were going to say? Sadly, the track is horrible because Buechler, Hodder, and Lincoln do not sound like they’re in the same room. In fact, Hodder participates in the track via phone, and when he chimes in it’s a distraction and I’m pretty sure Lincoln did a track on her own and then the DVD producers cut that track up and inserted her bits into the track. I can’t say that the track isn’t interesting, but, man, they should have found a way to get them all in one room to do this. The conversation would have definitely played better. And now that Buechler is no longer with us, it was a missed opportunity.

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2- Justin Lin (director), Dave Collard (screenwriter), and Fred Raskin (editor)- Annapolis: Annapolis isn’t a very good movie (it’s watchable but it isn’t anything special) and I was wondering what sort of bullshit Lin, Collard, and Raskin were going to engage in on the commentary track. I figured they would all talk about how the movie was great, how working with James Franco was great, how the movie was important, etc. Instead, the track is basically three exhausted people talking about a movie that, at the time they made the track, wasn’t even finished yet. Why have filmmakers talk about a movie that isn’t done yet when they’re talking about it? That makes no sense. Directors, writers, even on new movies, need a little time, a chance to gain some perspective on what they’ve done in order to talk about the movie. It’s ridiculous to do anything else.

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And the 411 Dumpster Fire of the Week: The Top 5 Worst DVD Commentary Tracks Edition top spot goes to:

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1- Roger Avary- Day of the Dead: I’ve always been leery of what amounts to “fan” commentary tracks on DVDs, even when that fan is an accomplished filmmaker. I’d much rather hear from people who actually made the movie. Now, a filmmaker that appears in a documentary featurette to talk about how the movie inspired them to become a filmmaker, that’s cool, but a solo commentary track just because you’re a fan and a filmmaker? There better be a really, really, really good reason for doing that. So when Anchor Bay announced that it was set to have Roger Avary, of Pulp Fiction and Killing Zoe fame, on its Day of the Dead Divimax Special Edition doing a commentary track I was dumbfounded. Why the hell was Roger Avary doing a commentary track for a movie that he didn’t make/wasn’t involved with/wasn’t doing a remake of? It made no sense to me then, and it makes no sense to me now. And, truthfully, I’ve never been able to get through the whole thing with Avary talking. I just don’t care.

Now, if someone involved with the Phantasm movies wanted to do a commentary track with Avary, I’d be fine with that. He’s friends with Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli and Avary wrote a big deal Phantasm sequel script that never got made because it was too expensive. I bet he would have something interesting to say about the Phantasm franchise. But Day of the Dead? Nah.

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