Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 26th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1962, 1966, 1970
Directors: Brian De Palma, Richard Schechner
Writers: Brian De Palma, William Arrowsmith
Cast: William Finley, Remi Barclay, Samuel Blazer, Jason Bosseau, Richard Dia
DVD Released: 2004
Approximate Running Time: 164 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 and 1:33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Carlota
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: $33.95
William Finley who stars in Woton’s Wake and Dionysus in ’69 would work with De Palma on a total of eight films including his most recognizable role as Winslow Leach in Phantom of the Paradise. Early on in his career Brian De Palma’s fixation with voyeurism would become a central theme that he would explore time and again. De Palma in 1977 would help his friend George Lucas on Star Wars he would write the opening scrawl text that opens Star Wars.
The structure Dionysus in’69 is loosely based around Euripides play that deals with the myth of Dionysus and his revenge upon the city responsible for his mortal mother’s death. The chaotic and disjointed nature of this version of Dionysus is due in part to the cast improvising most of the play. Dionysus in’69 marks De Palma first use of split screen and he uses to its fullest advantage as one camera captures the performance while the other observes the audiences reaction to what they are seeing. The cast submerge themselves into the characters they are playing adding to the primal mature of their performances.
The Responsive Eye is a straight forward documentary in which we are introduced to works of perceptual and optical art. There is a narrator who leads us through this tour of the museum and we also get to hear audience members react to the art. This documentary is kind of prophetic since most of De Palma’s films deal with deception through trick photography. Overall The Responsive Eye is more informative then entertaining.
Wonton’s Wake is more of a collage of ideas then a straight forward story. Wonton is a misfit who attacks women and collects souvenirs from their corpses. This short is filled with amazing iconic images like broken glass and black gloves both which would become fixtures in Italian thrillers. The dialog in this short is brief and shows up in the form of subtitles. The Soundtrack consists of only music and sounds. During the last third of the film Wonton appears in scenes that resemble moments from The Seventh Seal, The Phantom of The Opera and King Kong.
Overall the films contained Brian De Palma Annees 60 may not be some of his best films to date, still they show that even early on De Palma had already developed his cinematic style. Wonton’s Wake is the best of the three films included on this set and I found The Responsive Eye to be tedious at times. Dionysus in’69 is the most interesting film of the three included in this set with its razor sharp editing and De Palma’s best use of the split screen to date. De Palma’s willingness to take on controversial subjects and his desire to satisfy himself as filmmaker is one the main reasons he has been able to make films for nearly forty five years and this set of films showcases an artist finding his muse.
Dionysus in’69 is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio that retains the films original aspect ratio. The black and white image is free of artifacts and print damage in minor. The blacks look good and image is sharp through out as grain is kept to minimum. The two short films The Responsive Eye and Wonton’s Wake are both presented in a full frame aspect ratio’s that retains their original aspect ratios. On both of these two films there is print damage in the form of nicks and scratches through out, still considering the rarity of these two films they are more then watch able. While the image is not in the greatest of shape the overall image offers a nice balance of blacks and there are no problems with compression.
All three films come with only one audio option the original English language track that is presented on this DVD in a Dolby Digital mono. The audio for Dionysus in’69 is the cleanest of the three with no sign of hiss or distortion. The audio for The Responsive Eye and Wonton’s Wake suffers from some minor hiss and crackling still the action and dialog is easy to follow. Forced French subtitles have been included that on some DVD players can be disabled by using your controller.
The extras included on this DVD are kind of a mixed bag as most of them are offered in French with no English language options. Extras include brief introductions for Dionysus in’69, The Responsive Eye and Wonton’s Wake all which come with French only language options. Other extras include a twelve page booklet (in French) that appears to be an excerpt from a book released in France that explores Brian De Palma’s career. The final extra is twenty five minute documentary about Brian De Palma. The only parts that are in English are when De Palma speaks and the rest is in French when the narrator speaks. De Palma spends most of the documentary speaking about his films and the filmmaking process. Brian De Palma Annees 60 gives his fans a chance to see some of his rarely seen early works in their best home video presentations to date. This collection of films is not representative of his later works which fans now associate him with. I can only recommend this DVD to his most hardcore fans who are willing to see all of his films warts and all.