- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2006

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.

‘A History of Violence’

(New Line Home Entertainment, $28.99)

Based on John (“Judge Dredd”) Wagner’s

cq8 graphic novel of the same name, last year’s film about a quiet man forced to deal with his violent past enabled actor Viggo Mortensen to break away from his “Lord of the Rings” Aragorn persona and garnered William Hurt a best-supporting-actor nomination for this year’s Oscars.

New Line offers its Platinum Series tribute to the release in a single-disc DVD that adds extras ignoring the film’s comic-book origins but deconstructing the vision of director David Cronenberg better than a well-versed film professor.

The 96-minute, disturbingly violent R-rated effort mixes the organized crime and revenge cinema genres. It is embellished first by an informative commentary track by Mr. Cronenberg, who meticulously reflects on the choices he made within the film, comparing them to his other works.

The eight-part, 60-minute “Acts of Violence” documentary looks deeper into the film, breaking down each of the graphic screens to reveal the Cronenberg process, the special effects and choreography as each is highlighted by interviews from the principals.

Unfortunately, I could not find mention of the DC Comics graphic novel. Only a stop at the movie’s Web site, accessible via the disc when placed into a DVD-enabled PC computer system, offers a downloadable excerpt of the book. It’s a well-hidden extra.

Why couldn’t New Line just include a minicomic, already seen packaged with such special DVD releases as “The Punisher” and “Constantine,” to supplement the movie fan’s experience?

Additionally, normal for the Platinum Series releases, when the disc is popped into the PC, viewers get an enhanced script-to-screen feature that enables them to compare the original written dialogue against actual film scenes through an interface using multiple onscreen windows.

Although this is a fantastic idea, I would have liked to have seen panels from the comic book incorporated into the design to offer another tier of comparison involving adapting a sequential artwork into a film.

Read all about it: DC Comics’ imprint Vertigo publishes the 286-page black-and-white graphic novel “A History of Violence” ($9.99) featuring some gruesome art by Vince Locke.

The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection’

(MGM Home Entertainment, $69.96)

Blake Edwards’ cinematic adventures of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau helped turn actor Peter Sellers into an international comedic legend and gave the world a cool cartoon character that would tickle audiences’ funny bones for almost two decades.

The animated Pink Panther graced cinema and television through a series of six-minute adventures between 1964 and 1980, and now all 124 of them have been compiled into a five-disc DVD set well worth a look.

Produced by former Warner Bros. animation legend Friz Freleng and his business partner David DePatie, each episode offers the cool cat working through precarious situations and aggravating his on-screen rival (either Clouseau or a permutation of a short white man said to have been Mr. Freleng) while variations of Henry Mancini’s ultrahip theme song embellishes the action.

Cartoon highlights range from the 1964 Academy Award-winning short “The Pink Phink” to my childhood favorite from 1975, “Pink Plasma,” which has the Panther making a vampire’s life miserable.

Information extras include artist Art Leonardi teaching fans about the animation process and how to draw the Pink Panther, a tribute to Friz Freleng delivered with help from his daughters, a text-based interview of the creators from 1978 and all of the introductory animated sequences that began the live-action Pink Panther movies.

My only regret is that producers did not digitally remaster the cartoons, and a few of them come with moronic laugh tracks used when the shorts were part of the Pink Panther’s Saturday morning television years.

Also, let’s not discuss the plastic slipcase packaging and its puffy pink exterior, which is a cute idea, but functionally frustrating to anyone trying to extract the discs.

Read all about it: Gold Key brought the Pink Panther to comic books with its own series between 1971 and 1984. Collectors should find at least some of the 87 issues either online or in comic-book stores. They range in price between $7 and $55 for near-mint copies.

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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