DVD commentary tracks appear to be aimed at one of two markets:
a) obsessively geeky fans, who want to know everything ever about their beloved film.
b) people clearly with too much time on their hands.
Sadly, i appear to fall into both camps.
Some can be rather sombre affairs, often befitting the film itself. Peter Cowie’s comments on Criterion’s The Seventh Seal turn into a veritable snore-fest within minutes. Others are strangely subdued: the Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams commentary to Airplane!, surely the funniest film ever made, is really rather dull and technical. Others are perhaps unwittingly funny: Nick Roeg’s mumbled, bumbling words about Don’t Look Now seem comically at odds with the terror on-screen. Here are what i think are some of the funniest, intentionally or not:
1. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (Universal)
Trust the Pythons to take full comedic advantage of the format. The commentaries of Jones, Gilliam, Cleese and Palin are strangely subdued, but the real winner is the “Soundtrack For the Lonely”, subtitled “A soundtrack for people watching alone at home”. This basically consists of the sound of a bloke pottering around, answering the phone, making tea and only occasionally making comments about the film, in general completely ignoring it. Very odd, but strangely compelling…
2. Conan the Barbarian (20th Century Fox)
John Milius and Arnie team up on this one, with Milius waxing lyrical about symbolism, cinematography and choreography, whilst Arnold simply getting a bit over-excited every time Conan chops a head off with his sword.
3. This is Spinal Tap (MGM)
Featuring messrs Guest, McKean and Shearer in character as Nigel Tufnell, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls. ‘Nuff said, really.
4. Hunter S. Thompson on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Criterion)
The Criterion edition is stuffed with no less than three commentaries: a lively and informative one by Terry Gilliam, a rather tedious one with Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, and then a fantastically grumpy one with author Hunter S. Thompson where he explains how most of the film is wrong, and anyway none of it really happened anyway. Yeah, right.
5. Anything by Werner Herzog, particularly Fitzcarraldo (Anchor Bay)
Always stuffed with tales of crew members, cast, director and Klaus Kinski getting into scrapes, having to cut their own legs off etc.. etc.. all with Herzog’s disctinctly monotone German drawl. Often more dramatic than the films themselves. Brilliant.