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Fox Lorber presents
The Directors: Steven Spielberg (1999)

"I've never worked as hard, I've never worked as fast, and yet for some strange reason I miss, looking back, never having worked as hard and as fast as I worked on Duel."
- Steven Spielberg

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 30, 2000

Stars: Steven Spielberg
Other Stars: Harrison Ford, Debbie Allen, Laura Dern, Morgan Freeman, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hanks, Ben Kingsley, Liam Neeson, Roy Scheider
Director: Robert J. Emery

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 58m:00s
Release Date: August 01, 2000
UPC: 720917309224
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B-C+ D

DVD Review

The films of Steven Spielberg are among those most awaited for DVD treatment. This program gives us a tantalizing taste of those films, as well as extensive interviews with Spielberg himself and a substantial group of A-list actors.

Another of Robert Emery's entries in the The Directors television series created in cooperation with the American Film Institute, this program gives us a good deal of behind the scenes footage as well as a bundle of interesting anecdotes about the making of his films. For instance, did you know that Spielberg intended to direct a James Bond film, but was talked out of it by George Lucas, who wanted him to take on Raiders of the Lost Ark?

The documentary includes copious film clips from many of Spielberg's films, including three of his amateur films, such as the short Amblin', which gives its name to Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment production company. We then follow his early career from instant classics like the telefilm Duel and Sugarland Express, through the triumphs of Jaws, E.T. and all the rest. Unfortunately, rather short shrift is given to the Indiana Jones series, but the program successfully focuses on a few of his films in some depth while skipping lightly over others. This technique is more successful in giving a picture of the director's work than giving a mediocre treatment to all of the pictures.

Spielberg comes across as personable and self-effacing; he seems a rather likeable guy. What we learn from the interviews with others is the level of his obsession with his films (such as editing Schindler's List in his dreams). This obsession pays off in high quality, entertaining films, and it's a joy to see so many of them on this disc. Spielberg (taped in 1999) even acknowledges that his most recent cut of Close Encounters will be on DVD, although he doesn't give any time frame.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The interview segments are all excellent in color and sharpness, with good blacks. The film clips are of varying quality, and oddly enough the early Duel (long ago announced for DVD but yet to appear) looks better than the much more recent Amistad. In general, the films are lacking in black levels and have a slightly washed-out appearance. Sugarland Express looks the worst of the professional films, with a murky transfer that exhibits little detail. Even the recent films have a less than optimal appearance at times. This is a little disappointing, but not terribly surprising in the context of a television documentary.

The amateur films and Duel are presented in their original 1.33:1 ratios. Jaws, Close Encounters, 1941, E.T., Color Purple. Jurassic Park and Schindler's List are all presented in their original widescreen formats. Sugarland Express, the Indiana Jones films and Always appear only as Pan & Scan abominations. Saving Private Ryan and Amistad are represented by clips in both formats. I'd much prefer that the actual aspect ratio be used consistently, but at least many of the most important films are represented properly.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a passable 2.0 DD mono. Range is quite limited, with precious little bass. The film clips (especially Jurassic Park) really suffer from this sound format, with no depth or impact to be felt from the audio. The sound is, however, clear and free of noise and hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. List of awards and nominations for Spielberg
  2. Weblink to http://www.winstarvideo.com
Extras Review: There's not much to be found in the way of extras here; there is a 2-screen selected Spielberg filmography, and 4 screens of his awards and nominations. There is a weblink to Winstar's website. Most annoying is the opening trailer for The Directors series on VHS and DVD; it is a forced trailer and cannot be skipped, fast-forwarded or defeated (except by stopping the disc altogether and going to the menu from there). This is a highly annoying addition which was absent on earlier volumes in the series; this is a step in the wrong direction.

Since Spielberg's short amateur films are excerpted in the main program, would it have been too difficult to include one or more of them complete, as an extra? I doubt that there's any other way we're likely to see them.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Overall a very enjoyable hour with some great films. Very highly recommended for at least a rental; the short content and lack of extras would indicate a purchase only for devotees of Spielberg. But right now it's the only way to see a little bit of E.T. on DVD!


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