The Big Lebowski: Collector's Edition

The Big Lebowski: Collector's Edition (1998)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro
Extras: Documentary, Photo Montage, Production Notes

Ethan and Joel Coen (Raising Arizona, Fargo) are at it again, mixing odd ball situations and quirky humor that revolve around complications brought on by their trademark kidnapping plot line, told with a tremendously off-the-wall style of storytelling that is sure to amuse.

"The Big Lebowski", in my opinion one of the most underrated films from the Coen brothers that truly deserved a little more attention during its theatrical run. Later going on to secure a spot as one of the more infamous cultural phenomena and garnering such cult-status that has adoring fans spawning annual tributes to their favorite film and characters, aptly named "Lebowski-Fest", which takes place in various cities such as New York.

Loosely based on real life long-time friend of creator's Ethan and Joel Coen, "The Big Lebowski" tells the story of laid-back aging pot head Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), whose only real ambition is to spend time bowling with his pals or mixing up a white Russian cocktail, who insists you address him as "The Dude". One day chaos enters the Dude's rather uneventful life as he is mistaken by a couple of bumbling hoodlums for another Jeffrey Lebowski, millionaire and husband to estranged and very young wife Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid), who owes California porn king Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara) a large sum of money. Soon after, the intruders realize that the Dude is not the Jeffrey Lebowski they seek, leaving one of the intruders deciding to relieve himself on an area rug in the Dude's apartment! One the Dude thought "really tied the room together". Determining that he is an innocent bystander in this identity mix-up, the Dude attempts to acquire a replacement rug from the millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski, a move that only furthers his involvement in a twisted kidnapping plot filled with all sorts of mayhem. Providing some of the most original and hilarious circumstances that only the Coen brothers could devise and shot with some elaborate and very surreal dream sequences, the Dude, with his pals; Walter (John Goodman) and Danny (Steve Buscemi) cross paths with a group of nihilists, an obsessive bowler with a dark past named Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), expressionist painter Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore) and a roaming stranger (Sam Elliot).

Universal Home Entertainment provides a great new digitally re-mastered anamorphic widescreen transfer for "The Big Lebowski: Collector's Edition". Comparing the previous transfer from PolyGram Home Video to this new "Collector's Edition", I noticed similar use of good color saturation that nicely highlights some of the more unusual characters, like fellow bowler Jesus Quintana's rather flashy purple jump suit to the neon signs adorning the Dude's favorite bowling alley, while continually maintaining natural appearing flesh tones. Black levels are rich and deep offering great detail throughout, with compression artifacts and dust particles almost non existent, which is a great improvement in image quality over the previous DVD presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is virtually identical to the previous DVD release of "The Big Lebowski", one that provides good balance throughout the entire presentation and reproduces naturally appearing vocals throughout. Good use of surrounds and appropriate bass levels were again, almost identical to the earlier soundtrack mix.

I was a little disappointed with the overall labeling of this DVD as a "Collector's Edition", aside from the all-new re-mastered picture, Universal Home Entertainment provides the same 24 minute "Making Of The Big Lebowski" documentary and text based production notes from the former edition. This new release does offer a neat feature, in the form of a short photo montage of stills that were taken by actor Jeff Bridges during production, with the nice touch of adding hand written notes at the bottom of each photograph. There is also a rather hilarious exclusive introduction to the film from Mortimer Young, an apparent practitioner of "non-uptight" film preservation that has a running time of just over 3 minutes. That's pretty much all you get, Universal has even omitted the teaser trailer that was available on the previous DVD! What's up with that?

I admit that I am one of those gullible film fans who contribute to the constant lining of Studios pockets by continually purchasing new so-called "special" editions, etc. I can easily recommend this DVD based on its relatively low price and great new presentation, but for extras alone, fans might just want to hang onto their existing copy of "The Big Lebowski". Also available as a limited "Achiever's Edition", which includes the "Collector's Edition" DVD, plus 8 photo reproductions taken by actor Jeff Bridges, a selection of 4 coasters featuring the main characters and a bowling chamois. Neatly packaged in a larger rectangle box that replicates the look of a bowling lane, this set is kind of cool, but at 2 ½ times the price of the stand alone "Collector's Edition", serious collector's need only be bothered.