There is no shortage of DVD coverage in the world today. There are a plethora of media sources that pretend to be informing consumers of what’s new in the world of DVD. What this coverage mostly consists of is a list of titles that are coming out in a particular week. (Usually a far from complete list, it omits anything but the most high profile titles from the largest companies.) Sometimes you even get a review of the movie itself. For true movie lovers who would like to know something more than who stars in the movie and how much money it made on its opening weekend there is a nifty little magazine called Video Watchdog.
Video Watchdog has been out since 1990, beginning its life as a compilation of reviews of film rarities that barely got any attention in the mainstream press. This small magazine (about the size of TV Guide before its recent revamp) was born out of publisher Tim Lucas’ love for odd movies: cult movies, B-movies, cheapo horror flicks and sleazy exploitation films of every stripe. Most of these films could not even be found in stores. It was actually a job to track them down on barely-legal bootleg tapes. Now that DVDs have taken over the world, these once hard-to-find treasures are becoming more and more accessible and DVDs have become the primary focus of the magazine. There are a few short columns dealing with books and CDs but the bulk of each issue if taken up with DVD reviews.
The writers for Video Watchdog are movie fans first and foremost. Therefore when they are describing the contents of a particular DVD they are doing it from a collector’s perspective. To true movie fans there is more to a DVD than just the movie. A review of the movie is actually of less importance than reviews of the extra features. In most cases, the DVD collector has already seen the movie in question so a review of the film would be of little interest. What is of more interest to Video Watchdog’s readers and writers is what is being done in the area of film restoration and preservation. Many rare films were thought to be lost for yearsÃ¢Â?Â¦ but thanks to new advances in digital technology they have been saved for future generations to discover and enjoy. Video Watchdog has been instrumental in alerting the public as to which movies are in danger of being lost forever and which are in most need of rescue.
The writers of Video Watchdog provide a more in-depth contemplation of what the makers of the DVD have deigned to include. While most DVDs come packed with all sorts of extra material some are just “quickie” releases with little or no special features. Video Watchdog’s reviewers take this all into account. They even go so far as to compare DVD releases of the same movies from different countries or regions. Many films are distributed in different packages in different parts of the world. In some cases, bonus features that are available on UK releases are not available in the US and vice versa. Video Watchdog is invaluable in pointing out these little details.
Rather than go on at length about the merits of a particular film, equal emphasis is put on the merits of the extra features. Is there a commentary track? If so, it is any good? Are there deleted scenes? Are they essential viewing or were they deleted for very good reasons? Other items of interest to DVD collectors are picture and sound quality, aspect ratio and an analysis of whatever other archival footage may be included. Many older movies come with digital representations of vintage advertising and promotional material: posters, flyers and lobby cards. Trailers, Making Of features and screen tests may also be part of the DVD package and be worthy of consideration.
Video Watchdog is a monthly magazine (currently on a bi-monthly schedule while Lucas and his wife prepare a massive biographical work on director Mario Bava for publication). It is available at better magazine outlets or by subscription. Up-to-date information can be found on their website.