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Farewell to a Groundbreaking Movie — and DVD — Series

13 Dec, 2004 By: Stephanie Prange

I had the chance to peruse the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the final installment in the series, this weekend. It's one of those DVDs best viewed on a rainy day or on a day when you're laid up sick (as I was this weekend).

At more than four hours long, the extended edition takes up quite a bit of viewing time, but it's worth it. Like the extended editions of the two previous films, the longer King is a nearly indispensable addition to the franchise fan's DVD library. Among the extra goodies is a seven-minute farewell to Sarumon, in which he meets a dramatic end.

While director's cuts of movies have been around for years — many of them vanity projects that add nothing to the films — the “Rings” series is the first to take that concept to a new level. The voluminous material from J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy offered fodder for much more content than could be crammed into three theatrical-length features. People just would not have been able to keep seated that long. That's what made the marriage of the series and the extended DVD so perfect. At home, viewers could pause the DVD for a moment or view it with the intermission of their own choosing.

With “Rings,” viewers in essence got the more complete version of the franchise on DVD. With the demise of theatrical intermissions, four-hour films have little chance of making it to theaters. One wonders what would have been cut out of Gone With the Wind had it been released in theaters today. Likely, viewers would have gotten the version we all know and love later on DVD.

While the Oscar-winning “Rings” features deservedly got numerous accolades, New Line Home Entertainment and director Peter Jackson should get further kudos for bringing the extended editions — the versions I like to remember — to DVD.

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