- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with DVD-ROM-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

‘Blade Trinity: Platinum Series’

New Line Home Entertainment, $29.95

This latest and weakest link in the trio of films based on Marvel Comics’ famed vampire hunter gets royal treatment in a two-disc DVD set that wonderfully demonstrates the potential of the digital video format in a computer environment.

The final cinematic installment of “Blade,” starring Wesley Snipes, features the introduction of the Nightstalkers — Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler — who assist the hero as he attempts to stop a beefcake version of Dracula.

Screenwriter-turned-director David Goyer (who wrote all three films) made too many diversions from the sequential-art property in the third film and never quite achieved the emotional intensity or brutality of the first two movies, leaving what amounted to a slightly humorous 123-minute horror music video.

The first disc gives viewers the R-rated film and an unrated version that extends the headache-inducing action by 10 minutes, along with a pair of optional commentary tracks from the director and some of the cast members. Disc 2 highlights include a 16-part documentary on the making of the film, an alternate ending and Mr. Goyer interviewing himself — which is more clever than enlightening.

Those daring enough to pop the first disc into their PCs are rewarded with another level of extras that display the most amazing, multimedia-rich, interactive presentation I have ever seen accompanying a film released on DVD.

As viewers watch the downside film in the upper right corner of their monitor, it plays beside multiple levels of content accessed via tabs in the upper left corner.

At any given moment, the media presented include starboards, scene extensions, photos, character biographies and extra text information on the action.

The software is so robust that it actually provides a countdown indicating when one of the elements will be appearing so the viewer does not miss a single detail.

While all of this is happening, viewers also get the text version of the dialogue scrolling underneath the movie. Certain words are even highlighted; clicking on them leads to definitions of such terms as cuneiform, vampires, Dracula, Nome King and Pomeranian.

A kill count, found at the bottom of the screen, rounds out the resource. It tallies the number of vampires each hero has finished off (a total of 53 eventually evaporate), the weapon used and a countdown to another bloodsucker’s demise.

Another outstanding PC part to the first disc gives an on-screen script-to-screen comparison as junior Hollywood writers imbibe the difference between a screenplay and what finally makes it to film. A printing option is also available by chapter or for the entire script.

As if that were not more than enough blood for the buck, disc 2 accesses a weapons gallery. It shows each armament surrounded by comprehensive entries, and eight concept pieces of art that, with a click of the mouse, are transformed magically into what they looked like in the actual film.

Read all about it: The DVD package completes the “Blade” immersion with a 24-page, mini comic book written by Jimmy Palmetto and Justin Gray and penciled by Amanda Connor. The sequential art acts as a prequel to the movie by taking a look at the family bonding between Blade’s mentor, Whistler, and his illegitimate daughter, Abigail, along with an introduction to Hannibal King.

Batman and Robin: The Complete 1949 Movie Serial Collection

Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, $29.99

I cannot watch the cutting-edge visuals of “Blade Trinity,” even as bad as it is, and then try to appreciate black-and-white footage of a guy with a gut getting caught in his cape while punching thugs and supposedly portraying the invincible Dark Knight.

However, the 1949 Serial Collection DVD set does provide a great nostalgia trip for older folk who remember the days when cinema was America’s primary form of media entertainment, and it clearly shows how far the arts of special effects and costume design have come.

Through 15 episodes packed on a pair of discs, hard-core fans see the Dynamic Duo retrieve their costumes from a filing cabinet in the Bat Cave, watch Bruce Wayne try to change into his Bat gear in the back seat of a woeful-looking Batmobile (a Mercury convertible) and giggle as the pair try to stop the villainous Wizard, who can control all the vehicles of Gotham City.

Although the cliffhanging action (more than four hours’ worth) supposedly has been digitally remastered, it still suffers from too many flaws to be called a successful transfer, and the absence of extras will make it difficult for younger fans to appreciate the fun. The DVDs cry for some sort of historical documentary or a commentary track by any of the living cast or crew members to put into context the unintentional on-screen hilarity.

Read all about it: DC Comics has done a splendid job of packaging the works of Batman’s creator, Bob Kane. Its latest trade paperback, “Batman Chronicles: Vol. 1,” covers the hero’s 1930s adventures in Detective Comics Nos. 27 to 37 and the first issue of his regular series in 1940 ($14.99).

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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