DVD REVIEWS: Extended Editions

GLADIATOR Extended Edition DreamWorks
Movie •••½ Picture/Sound ••••½ Extras ••••½
MAJOR DUNDEE The Extended Version Sony
Movie •••½ Picture/Sound ••• Extras •••
Neither of these longer versions is a director's cut. Watching both, however, it's interesting to see what was originally left out - and the different reasons for the edits. The extended cut of Ridley Scott's highly entertaining Roman Empire spectacle Gladiator (2000) adds back 17 minutes of material that was excised after previews. The footage enriches plot and characters a bit, but none of it is essential, and its understandable deletion kept a long film from getting too long. This three-disc set also includes the theatrical cut. Both versions have vividly detailed images that emphasize the painterly use of color and light, and the sound puts you right in the middle of crowds and carnage. Copious extras include a commentary by Scott and Russell Crowe, an index to the new scenes, a three-hour production documentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and storyboard-to-film comparisons.

Major Dundee (1965), a noble failure from Sam Peckinpah, has Union and Confederate officers (Charlton Heston and Richard Harris) as uneasy allies against the Apaches and French in 1860s Mexico. The film was butchered by the studio, but this cut restores 12 valuable minutes, including an opening massacre sequence and a scene where Heston goes mad. Images have decent color and realistic skin tones. In addition to the original mono soundtrack, you get a 5.1-channel mix with completely new music. It's less intrusive than the old score, but the placement of dialogue and effects seems artificial. Extras include a scholarly commentary and documentary shorts, mostly dealing with the film's troubled production. Both: English, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen. Gladiator: [NR] French, Dolby Digital 5.1; three dual-layer discs. Major Dundee: [PG-13] English and French, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono; dual layer..