'Ben-Hur,' 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Jackie Brown': Special Edition DVD, Blu-ray Packages Spruce Up Classics

New extras including documentaries and critics' panels will make movie fans want to get their hands on all three DVDs (which can't be done with digital).

This story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

How can movies on physical discs survive the digital era? By providing something digital doesn't, like the trove of extras in Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Warner Bros., $64.99, Sept. 27). It's a million-dollar restoration that sextuples the clarity of the 212-minute 1959 William Wyler biblical epic that saved MGM and hogged more Oscars (11) than any film in history.

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The big new extra is the 78-minute documentary Charlton Heston by the star's son, Fraser Heston. It adds intimacy to the other two docs, made in 1994 and 2005. There's even a replica of Heston's diary; one entry disses screenwriter Gore Vidal.

The Blu-rays of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (Miramax, $19.99 each, Oct. 4) are extras fests, too. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson dish revealingly in the "Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat" cast interviews. On each disc, Elvis Mitchell skillfully hosts a critics' panel -- not a fanboy gush session but a sharp, articulate exchange of illuminating insights by Scott Foundas, Tim Lucas, Andy Klein and Stephanie Zacharek, who mostly loathes Pulp Fiction's smirky coldness but adores Jackie Brown, Tarantino's "Howard Hawks movie." Mitchell's brilliant panels make you wish he'd hurry up and do one for his new gig at LACMA.

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Asked if Ben-Hur would ever wind up on TV, Wyler said, "I hope I never live to see the day." I wish he could have lived to watch his masterpiece and Tarantino's on a 52-inch Samsung, looking bigger and badder than ever.

 
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