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Miriam Collection Readies Second Lavish DVD Release

29 Feb, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The Fall of the Roman Empire

Bob and Harvey Weinstein have already made their mark on Hollywood. Now, they're bent on leaving their imprint on the DVD business as well, with a premium label they hope will be put in the same category by movie buffs as the prestigious Criterion Collection or Warner Home Video's extravagant collector's editions of marquee films such as Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz and Ben-Hur.

The Miriam Collection, named after the brothers' mother, launched in late January with the release of one of the last great epics not previously available on DVD, Anthony Mann's El Cid.

Release No. 2 is another Anthony Mann film, The Fall of the Roman Empire, a lavish 1961 production starring Alec Guinness, Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif, that earned its place in the record books for the largest outdoor set in Hollywood history: more than 55 acres, with a reconstructed Roman Forum that measured in at 1,312 feet by 754 feet.

The film comes to DVD April 29 from Genius Products, the independent DVD distribution company majority-owned by the Weinsteins.

“The Miriam Collection is a very personal selection of films,” said Harvey Weinstein. “The brand is not only about remastering films for the best picture and sound, but also to showcase the backstory of each film and develop compelling features that complement the title.”

Weinstein said he and his brother plan on picking 12 to 15 films for branded release each year, ranging from big productions such as El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Circus World and 55 Days at Peking to critically acclaimed niche films such as two movies about British band Joy Division, the documentary Joy Division and the award-winning band biopic Control; as well as the Oscar-nominated The Deal, Stephen Frears' followup to The Queen.

Weinstein clearly relishes being able to play kingmaker, to give deserving films the true DVD VIP treatment a la the fabled Criterion Collection.

The Fall of the Roman Empire, for example, is fully loaded,” Weinstein said. “It looks and sounds astonishing, and the bonus materials fully explore the sheer magnitude and grandeur of making a film of this scale in a time long before the advent of CGI.”

Indeed, the Weinstein's DVD version of The Fall of the Roman Empire will come in an elegantly packaged three-disc limited collector's edition that features a host of extras, both on the discs and in the package. The film itself has been digitally remastered, both picture and sound. Extras include a commentary by Bill Bronston, son of producer Samuel Bronston, and film expert Mel Martin; a reproduction of the original 1964 souvenir program; a behind-the-scenes look at the real fall of the Roman empire; a detailed making-of documentary; five Encyclopedia Britannica featurettes on the Roman Empire; and a set of six color production stills.

The Fall of the Roman Empire was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for best original music score.

The film was written by then-blacklisted writer Ben Barzman, who also wrote El Cid.

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