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Lair of the beast
A region 0 DVD review of OLDBOY from Tartan's Vengeance Trilogy 6-Disc Box Set by Slarek
 

I have covered the film itself in my review of the 2-Disc Special Edition release of the film, which you can access here.

What I will mention here, something I inexplicably failed to include in that review and could see no easy way of shoehorning in later, is the music score, a delicious and most unexpected mixture of moody film noir strings, dreamy and melancholy waltzes, and driving action beats. Memorable and so effective in their own right, the tracks are amusingly named not for the action they underscore, but after favourite films of Park and his long-time musical director Cho Young-wook.

This is part of a six disc, three film set. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance have been reviewed seperately.

sound and vision

This is the only film in the set that is not being presented in a new transfer, but that's because it's not really in need of one. The picture is identical to that on the 2-disc Special Edition, as are the three Korean soundtracks. But wait, what's this new bit at the bottom of the audio options screen...?

OK, I have never been and never will be a fan of dubbed soundtracks, as although they potentially widen the film's audience to include the culturally lazy, they rob the actors of half of their performance, and it's not as if their voices are being replaced by western actors of similar stature and talent. The English track here, or should I say American English track, perfectly illustrates my point, replacing Oh Dae-su's frantic gabbling through the food door of his cell with what sounds like a 20-year-old college boy gasping "Hey sir! Sir! Fuck it! Come here you asshole!" and the like. Just horrible. If you watch the movie with this soundtrack, you should be punished. Actually, in a way, you will be.

extra features

The three Commentary Tracks you'll find here are the same as those on the 2-disc special edition, as is the Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now if you were overwhelmed by the sheer number of extras on disc 2 of the 2-Disc Special Edition, you're in for a real start when you load up the extra features disc that accompanies this release of Oldboy. The menu appears and there's only one thing on it. Eh? Can this be right? Indeed it can. But just you wait.

Oldboy Autobiography (210:03) is a behind-the-scenes documentary, or at least a collection of behind-the-scenes footage, since this extra is devoid of interview (well, almost) and voice-over. You've seen these before, right? Sure, they're on half the DVDs out there, footage grabbed during the shoot used as part of DVD featurettes or to spice up interviews conducted with cast and crew or to make up EPKs. But this one is, wait for it, three-and-a-half hours long. You heard me. That's an hour-and-a-half longer than the film itself. And there's no coverage of planning or post-production, this is just the shoot itself, from the first to the last day and covering the filming of just about every scene, and even a couple of sequences that never made it to the final cut.

Now many will find the sheer idea of sitting through 210 minutes of behind-the-scenes material a mind-numbing prospect, but for anyone seriously interested in the process of film production this will prove compelling stuff, as we almost become part of the crew, following every aspect of the shoot itself and treated to detail and cast/crew interraction that is too often edited out. Even at this length there is some obvious and serious trimming, with shots you expect to run for some time being cut short in just a couple of seconds.

There were brief glimpses of the footage used here on several of the extra features on the previous release, but here you get so, so much more. Detail aside, there's some priceless stuff here, including some crowd near-hysteria on a night location shoot, Choi Min-sik's sheer physical exhaustion on completing take after take of the corridor fight, and everyone from the actors to the director himself doubled up with laughter at the actions of others (Park hiding his out-of-control giggling under the sushi counter as Choi's live squid meal grabs his face is a gem). A degree of drama is introduced on the trip to New Zealand when costumes and a prime lens are mislaid by the airline, and Choi talks about taking a New Zealand production assistant home after she repeatedly supplies objects to keep the actor comfortable. Perhaps most extraordinary is the filming of the penthouse climax, with both Choi Min-sik and his stunt double suffering some astonishing physical punishment (its hard to imagine a Hollywood star agreeing to or simply being allowed to be hurled around as Choi is here) – when the injuries inevitably happen they do prove alarming, with one bad fall knocking the stuntman cold.

The on-set atmosphere is always good, though, and this was clearly a great film to work on, even at its toughest. Actor Song Kang-ho, who played Park Dong-jin in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Detective Park Doo-Man in Memories of Murder, seems to have spent all his spare time hanging around the set having the time of his life – Choi nearly throws something at him when, after they have finally completed the corridor fight and he is still gasping for breath, Song cheerfully suggests he do it again.

This is not going to be for everyone, but I really, really appreciated the chance to follow the shoot from start to end in such detail. Personally I loved this feature and wish there were a few more like it.

summary

Of the three films in the Vengeance Trilogy Box Set, this is probably the one that offers the fewest reasons for repurchase, given that disc one is pretty much as it was (save for that bloody English dub). But fans of the film who want to become virtual crew members will find plenty to justify its acquisition in that genuinely exhaustive documentary. For my money, this is the best new extra feature in the whole Box Set.

Oldboy
The Vengeance Trilogy

South Korea 2003
115 mins
director
Park Chan-wook
starring
Choi Min-sik
Yoo Ji-Tae
Kang Hye-jung
Yoon Jin-seo
Chi Dae-han
Kim Byoung-ok
Oh Dal-soo

DVD details
region 0
video
2.35:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby 2.0 stereo
Dolby 5.1 EX surround
DTS-ES 6.1 surround
languages
Korean
English
subtitles .
English
extras
Director's commentary
Director and cinematographer commentary

Director and cast comemntary

Oldboy Autobiography documentary
Trailer
distributor
Tartan
release date
23 October 2006
review posted
10 January 2007

Related reviews:
Oldboy (2-disc special edition)
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Vengeance Trilogy edition)
Lady Vengeance
Lady Vengeance (Vengeance Trilogy edition)

See all of Slarek's reviews