Freeheld stumbles over too many hurdles to recommend it. The film’s heart is in the right place, but its focus is not.
List of DVD Spoilers (Updated March 16, 2006)
“Barton Fink” (menu) “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (cover art) “The Candy Snatchers” (transitions between features) “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (menu, packaging, disc label) “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (menu) Hitchcock Universal DVDs: “Psycho” (1960) and “Rear Window” (pre-menu montage) “The Hitcher” (back cover art) “The Hudsucker Proxy” (cover art and menu) “The Ice Harvest” (menu) “Indiana Jones Trilogy” (menu) “The Letter” (cover quotation) “The Lost Boys” (menu) “Magnolia” (cover art) “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (cover art) “Oldboy” (pre-menu montage) "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (menu) “The Pit and the Pendulum” (back cover description) “The Planet of the Apes” (1968) (cover art) “Random Harvest” (cover art) "Red Eye" (menu) “The Shawshank Redemption” (menu) “Six Feet Under” (pre-episode on-screen synopsis) “Spider” (chapter titles) "Star Wars -- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (transition image between menu and film) “Suicide Kings” (menu) “13 Rue Madeleine” (back cover art)
* * * *
WARNING: More information about readers’ experiences with these DVD spoilers can be found below. But, of course, the descriptions of the spoilers they've found contain spoilers!
* * * *
The worst DVD spoiler I've come across is on the disc for "Barton Fink.” The menu shows almost the entire climax of the film. As soon as you put in the disc, you see John Goodman running through the burning hotel screaming "I'll show the life of the Mind" and wielding a shotgun.
Michael Auritt Temple University
The most egregious DVD spoiler in my collection is for the Coen Bros. "Barton Fink." I've implored friends to leave the room or turn away during the menu, which reveals the true nature of John Goodman's character, one of the more shocking revelations of the movie. It surprises me that the Coens would allow such a thing on their DVD, but maybe they weren't aware of it. Do you think directors have some control over the menus and displays of their DVDs?
Mark J. Hansen Des Moines, IA
”The Bridge on the River Kwai”
There is a copy of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" out there that features a picture of the bridge blowing up on the cover of the package. Unreal.
"The Candy Snatchers"
The 1973 kidnap thriller “The Candy Snatchers” from Subversive Cinema is a movie that works best when the viewer knows little or nothing about the events to transpire. It is reasonably safe to watch the main menu, but access any of the other options, and the transitions will involve scenes from all over the movie, often blowing crucial twists. The menu designer basically got carried away in a manner that you described, likely thinking the majority of buyers of the movie would have already seen it because of its devoted cult following, and appreciate the "greatest hits" vibe he was creating. First-time viewers are strongly advised to press play right away, do whatever audio changes with your remote while the movie's in progress.
Name withheld by request
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition”
I have to just say, that for me any image on the DVD pertaining to a clip or the plot can be a spoiler. Seeing the Bun-Vac on the “Wallace & Gromit” menu, seeing Steven Colbert telling Larry David that 'He will fail' on the Season 4 “Curb your Enthusiasm” DVD….
Here's a big one, on the Special Edition of "Close Encounters," the film actually starts out with the five note song, the one which is in context so subtle and beautiful. The menu itself, and particularly the presentation of the song is brilliant, but it does a disservice to the film. It’s not a question of what WILL happen (although some are eager to spoil that too), but HOW it will happen, and such menus make the matter lean closer to the other end than it should.
Aleksander Firer Okaru, NT
Sure, I know tons of people have already seen it, but does the "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" disc art and menu HAVE to show the mothership rising above Devil's Tower? I think the spare "open road" art is much more haunting.
Nathan Cone San Antonio, TX
”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" menu reveals that Jen Yu eventually turns out to be the villain and turns on Yu Shu Lien. Annoying!
Paul Christian Glenn
Hitchcock Universal DVDs: including “Psycho” and “Rear Window”
The Hitchcock Universal DVDs contain spoilers shortly before the film starts. This musical prelude contains the endings to both “Rear Window” and “Psycho.”
On the back of the case for the Region 1 DVD of "The Hitcher" (1986), the fate of a major character is more or less spelled out for all to see. This otherwise surprising and intense plot point is completely ruined, thanks to the shameless package designer(s).
John Pavlich Lake Dallas, TX.
”The Hudsucker Proxy”
The DVD for “The Hudsucker Proxy” apparently follows the strategy of the advertising team for its theatrical release by absolutely ruining the best joke I know of – one that, in the film, takes over an hour to hit the punchline (about just what exactly Tim Robbins' idiotic "brilliant idea" is: “You know – for kids”). The spoiler is not only on the main menu page, but on the DVD case itself. Trying to keep guests and newcomers from seeing the case to a movie whose title has usually already made them a reluctant viewer... That's a fun time.
"The Ice Harvest”
Opening menu ruins the fact that a mobster manages to shoot through the trunk that he is trapped in by Billy Bob Thorton. Also manages to ruin the ending by tipping the fact that John Cusack ends up being run over by a mobile-home camper.
”Indiana Jones Trilogy”
The Indiana Jones trilogy has quite possibly the slickest menu screen I've ever seen. However, it also happens to be a quick romp through the highlights of each film from beginning to end. It never bugged me because I've seen the films countless times. However, upon showing "Temple of Doom" to my girlfriend last week, I realized that it was probably a terrible thing for her to see, considering she had never seen the film before.
Nathan Robbel Chicago, IL
Bette Davis in "The Letter" -- with the vital quote right there on the front cover: "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed!"
"The Lost Boys”
This one's main menu plays a series of clips from the film, including one major spoiler. One of the later clips it plays is a shot of Max in his vampire form. Now, Max's vampirism is one of the big secrets of the movie, and its revelation is the big plot twist at the end of the film. This shot of him could easily ruin the film for someone who hasn't seen it.
The “Magnolia” DVD has a picture of the falling frogs right on the disc.
The menu for the DVD of "Oldboy" shows the big twist. Fortunately, it goes by quickly. In fact, I didn't realize what it had shown until I watched the DVD again. I wasn't spoiled but others may not be so lucky (especially people looking for the twist).
(Anonymous Film Buff)
Another film to add to this list is “Oldboy.” Before the actual menu starts, there's a brief video montage. My friend Tyler insisted that I avoid watching this montage (it shows a main character shooting himself in the head, a major plot point in the film). As such, I had to put the DVD on, walk out of the room, and return in about 2-3 minutes.
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
The DVD for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is guilty: the disc's main menu shows the Chief carrying the sink already ripped from the floor, spoiling the film's ending (more so since, midway through the movie, Nicholson's character explains exactly why one would rip the fountain from the floor).
Jack Fortune Pittsburgh, PA
"The Pit and the Pendulum”
"The Pit and the Pendulum" (1963) : The description on the back gives away the ENTIRE plot, right up to the very, very last twist ending.
"The Planet of the Apes”
Easily the worst offender is the cover for "Planet of the Apes." You know that surprise ending, where Charton Heston discovers the ruined Statue of Liberty, confirming that he's been on Earth all along? Well, people who bought this DVD version and had never seen the movie were probably never in doubt about where he was, thanks to the most inconsiderate cover art I've ever had the misfortune to witness.
"Random Harvest” and “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek”
The covers for both "Random Harvest" and "Miracle of Morgan's Creek" give away key information. In the case of the former, it may be one of the best plot twists Hollywood did during its golden age.
When I gave them to friends, I had to remove the offending paper and reverse it so as not to spoil their pleasure. How would _you_ like to be given a DVD with a blank white cover?
"The Shawshank Redemption”
(Not the special edition released recently.) I was really surprised to find that the menu actually shows the climax of the film at the prison! Nabil Ajaz Karachi, Pakistan
"Six Feet Under”
On the “Six Feet Under” DVD sets, when you go from the main menu to a specific episode, it brings up a screen with a synopsis of the episode. Not cool for those of us watching it for the first time.
Just watched David Cronenberg's "Spider" for the first time. One of the chapter titles -- staring up at you as you open the case -- is "You murdered your mum." Aaargh.
"Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
One of the worst DVD spoilers I've come across is for “Star Wars Episode III.” After you press play, and before the movie starts it shows a group of Jedi entering the Emperor's office, and the Emperor whipping out his light saber and attacking them! For someone who has not seen the movie yet, this spoils a lot of the surprise.
Brian Kelsay Jacksonville, FL
One film that comes in mind for DVD Spoilers is the low-key gangster comedy, “Suicide Kings.” The entire plot is fueled by the constant mystery of the culprit of who has kidnapped one of the main characters’ sister. The enjoyment mostly comes when a character believes he has stumbled upon a revelation, but is found to be wrong and must start all over along with the audience. The only other 'real value' of this gem of cinema is Christopher Walken and Denis Leary playing their usual typecast roles to the best of their abilities. The DVD, however, ruins any mystery to the plot in its title menu by showing both the sister and the team member who caused the entire 'ransom' ordeal sitting together and speaking to… the two gangsters who were hired to take her. Maybe most audiences won't put this together, but it only takes the first twenty minutes for any viewer to realize exactly what they've seen.
Matthew W. Dinning
"Thirteen Rue Madeleine”
“13 Rue Madeleine” has Jimmy Cagney as an instructor at a WWII OSS spy-training facility. He knows one of his charges is in reality a Nazi double agent, but doesn't know which one. He should check the back of the Fox DVD package; the guy is pictured in full Nazi uniform.
An interview with Michael Shannon on Freeheld, 99 Homes, Boardwalk Empire, and more.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.
Our monthly series digs into the career of Wes Craven and comes out with his 3D 2010 film, "My Soul to Take".