5 Beloved Movies (That Had Completely Bonkers DVDs)
The days of DVD menu screens are a bygone era. As hard as it may sound to believe, just five short years ago, DVD and BluRay was still the preferred format for home entertainment. Streaming services only overtook DVD sales in 2017, which means a majority of the population still favored sitting through DVD menu screens before they were able to watch their movies and shows. DVD menus did not have a tough job; one button takes you to the movie, one button lets you choose by chapter, and then maybe a third button for some blooper reels and production stills. And while their decline may seem bittersweet to some enthusiasts out there, the rest of us remember what an absolute dump truck the majority of those unskippable DVD menus were. Let's take a standard-quality look into some of the worst offenders.
A Knight's Tale
Ask any movie buff what their favorite movie starring The Joker, Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones, The Vision, and Steve the Pirate is, and almost every time, they will tell you it's 2001's A Knight's Tale.
This tale was filmed early on in Ledger's career, long before he put on the purple and green suit. And instead of telling stories about his scars, he's causing quite a few of them via the lost art of the horseback joust. But don't let the time period fool you; this ain't your great-great-great-great ancestor's story about a knight in shining armor. No, this film anachronistically modernizes an age-old tale by including modern references and music that our research shows us was not readily available in the 14th century. Nonetheless, this medieval action/adventure story features some of the finest rock music the 1970s had to offer, including Queen, AC/DC, and even Bowie. But while this rockin' OST managed to work out well in the film, it turns out too much rock music can be a bad thing. (All those parents and preachers were right!)
A Knight's Tale came to be around the same time disk-based media really started to take off. It also seemed vehemently determined to run with the theme of "blasting music that doesn't belong there" because that feature carried right on over into the production of the film's DVD. Now, Cracked.com was not in the room and, in fact, did not exist during the DVD brainstorming session for A Knight's Tale. But we have to imagine it went a bit like this:
Exec 1: "You know all that cool, loud music we have in the movie?"
Exec 2: "Yes, of course! The kicking rad soundtrack!"
Exec 1: "The very same! Put that on the DVD."
Exec 2: "I…you….put what on the DVD? It will be in the movie!"
Exec 1: "Not enough. Play it throughout the whole DVD."
Exec 2: "You…want it to just play on the DVD...all the time?"
Exec 1: "The whole time."
Then, after that meeting, the DVD was made, and you paid upwards of $25 dollars for the menu to do this to you.
If that is not Thine Beastly Boys, then it is someone trying extremely hard to sound like the most abrasive part of their song Sabotage. Specifically, a part of the menu where they scream the "WOAAAAAHHHH" lyric every 11 seconds, ad infinitum, until you either hit the Play button or you toss the entire DVD player out the nearest window. And if you thought you could get away from it by clicking on another option like Special Features, guess again! Because that just gives you that same yell but in a higher pitch!
Between the faux Beastie Boys and the triumphant, thunderous orchestrated theme which plays throughout the different menus, you are hit with a sensory overload that makes you want to smash the mute button and never turn it off. Sure, just turning it off sounds like a surefire way to get rid of it. But consider how often you fall asleep while streaming your favorite shows and movies, and imagine what being sent back to the menu screen would mean for your eardrums. Falling asleep when this DVD menu loops around again guarantees at the least a rude awakening and, at worst, a mild heart attack.
Rocky Horror Picture Show DVD Menu
Before we even jump into the actual meat and potatoes of RHPS's DVD, we do need to start off with a reminder of how the DVD watching experience works. First and foremost, and is the case for all the titles in this article, is the FBI warning telling you, "Hey … HEY…! don't you copy this disk to your computer, put it on your iPod, or, god forbid, give it to your friends." To which we all replied, "sure!" with a smile and a wink to the camera.
From there you usually had to sit through a bunch of trailers which you could make short work of by pressing the skip button. After that, you're finally ready to get to the movie, right? Not this time, Jack!
Putting on a DVD used to be a whole song and dance. And, in cases like the Rocky Horror Picture Show DVD, it was an actual song and dance number. Before you could see your favorite Transylvanians doing the Time Warp again or touch-a-touch-a-touching all over each other, you had to sit through some dude doing a pretty rough Tim Curry impersonation.
The DVD menu starts by asking you to choose how you want to proceed. And apparently, there is a wrong answer because we are warned to "Proceed at our own risk."
Putting aside that this gatekeeping screen provides absolutely no context as to what you are agreeing to, it succeeds in providing yet another obstacle between you and the sexually charged cult classic. Picking your region is only the difference between one more song playing during the film or not, but you wouldn't know that from this totally necessary and not at all irritating screen. If you are too anxious to make a decision, they have you covered there as well since selecting "I'm Frightened" takes you back to our old friend, the FBI warning screen.
Once you've made it past that screen, you're probably hoping you can rest your button-pressin' finger. Well, the joke's on you because you're only almost to the menu. First, you have to be introduced to the DVD by someone pretending to be Tim Curry, who is pretending to be Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is furthermore pretending to be a human. This is presented to you in the form of the famously recognizable giant lips, which, canonically, were never meant to be Frank-N-Furter and thus renders this entire menu OUTSIDE OF CANON!
The poor impersonation of beloved character actor Tim Curry continues until you make your selection. It is at this point that we should also mention the disembodied pair of legs that dance along while the menu screen is showing. Either a casting call went out for someone to play "Just a pair of legs in lingerie and high heels," or they drew straws in the office, and this intern got the short one. Whatever way it occurred, those legs serve no other purpose than to perform a few little dance moves here and there before trotting off once you make a selection.
Once you're through all that rigmarole and have ignored an additional FBI warning, it is finally time to kick back, relax and see those singin' lips for the second time. The magic of DVD Home Video!
There must have been a memo or something going around to DVD production studios about turning their opening DVD menus into teeny, tiny self-contained films. It only makes sense if it was at some point established in the industry that if your DVD had a static menu and no action, you were garbage and shouldn't be allowed near a DVD-RW disk.
Die Hard's DVD was no exception to that Rule of Dumb. This film, and any released by 20th Century Fox during the height of DVD production, really went all out when designing their opening selection screen. Beginning with another string of FBI warnings, the DVD first takes you through a trailer about how great Fox's DVDs are before taking you to your menu. Only you wouldn't know it was the menu because it takes exactly 22 seconds between showing the Fox Studios logo and taking you to a screen where you can make a selection. They must have felt that just choosing your on-screen option wasn't badass enough, so instead, you're treated to a fully animated CGI pan around the Nakatomi Building while helicopters, giant explosions, and a full orchestra blast your eyes and eardrums right in their faces.
It contains all your favorite cinematography from Die Hard but without any of the characters, dialogue, or plot points that make it enjoyable! For the entirety of the main menu, you'll witness helicopters noisily flying around like it's freaking 'Nam, until you have a full-on breakdown or you make your selection. But only one of those options will stop the madness because each selection you make brings about an additional animation of no less than ten more seconds before you land where you wanted. And heaven forbid you're 1-in-3 people who suffers from motion sickness because you were toast the second you popped that disk in.
Thanks to streaming services, you no longer have to put up with choppy, early-2000s CGI if you don't want to. So this Christmas, just look for Die Hard on your streaming platform of choice, realize they don't have the rights to stream Die Hard, and then go dig through your stored DVD library so you can ring in the holiday season the correct, albeit nauseating, way.
The Cat in the Hat
The book The Cat in the Hat is one of the best known and most recognizable Dr. Seuss stories, with over 250 million copies sold worldwide in more than 20 different languages. Compare that with the film version of The Cat in the Hat, which … also exists.
The 2004 "adaptation" somehow made back its filming budget despite piss poor reviews, a shaky production process, and the script being written on an actual toilet seat. It was also supposed to star Tim Allen instead of Mike Meyers, but scheduling conflicts forced the replacement and robbed us of a movie based on Meyers SNL Sprockets sketches.
So what is a studio to do when their movie bombs but they are still required to release a DVD? And when the stakes are high, they want their DVD to really pop! So they took the natural course of action, doubled down, and created essentially another film contained within the DVD menu. And it runs for quite. a. while.
When you plop the disk down into the player, it is a good 30 seconds before you're even presented with a Play button. That gives time for the Seussian contraption to form around the kids, as well as allows the children to make some light introductions. Then things just sort of … happen. For several minutes.
The children from the film are shown playing games, chatting, and having a dance party, among other things.
Then, as if it's us wasting their time and not the other way around, they have the gall and the gumption to demand you make a choice while spending several minutes absolutely roasting you for being slow about it. Each child on the screen is also selectable, and clicking on them brings you to another part of the screen. But, as is the case with everything except the Play button, nothing is labeled! So you have no idea what you're agreeing to! Just a suspicious, blue splatter icon that can select certain items on the screen.
This "kids riffing in front of a green screen while Mike Meyers shouts at them from the background" bit has a full 13 minutes of footage included that is strictly Main Menu content. And it plays whether or not you want it to. To its credit, once you're able to navigate the whimsical hellscape that is Mike Meyers' realm, you can find typical DVD features. In addition to games, behind-the-scenes footage, and director's commentary, you can also find expletive-ridden outtakes reel where everyone seems pissed off, but they are trying like hell to hold it together for the kids.
The Fifth Element
Do you want all of the worst parts about being on a roller coaster but from the comfort of your own living room? Do you enjoy headaches, nausea, and dizziness? Do you like almost-costumes that cover nothing and look like they are made from toilet paper? Well then, have we got the Digital Versatile Disk for you!
The Fifth Element features Bruce Willis at his Bruce Williest and explores what his life would be like if he lived in the 23rd century. His whole world turns upside-down once a scantily clad Milla Jovovich lands on his flying taxicab and thrusts him into a fantastical world of intergalactic war, exciting characters, and magical stones that can save the world. The production company in charge of setting up the DVD content saw all those amazing plot points and, from that, decided the Special Edition DVD menu should 100% be from the POV of the aforementioned flying taxi while featuring none of that other stuff.
We know this movie likes to play hard, but they did not have to go that hard on the realistic shaky cam seeing as it is the very first thing you see after firing up your DVD player. And if it wasn't enough of a slap in the face for you, they also have all the menu options fly across the screen towards you at fantastic speeds but get this … they never stop! You are required to wait for the selection you want to fly across the screen and then hope that you're quick enough to hit it. Essentially taunting you while simultaneously making you vomit like some kind of third-grade bully.
It is possible they designed this menu to be as intricate and confusing as the mystery surrounding the elements from the film as kind of an Alternate Reality Game type thing. It could also be they never wanted anyone to be able to watch it in the first place and purposely sabotaged the menu to prevent viewership. We can't be sure of the reasons behind the decisions made in 2005. But we can be sure that if you need a thoughtful gift for someone you hate, a Special Edition DVD of The Fifth Element is just what the doctor ordered. As long as we're talking about a doctor who recommended you induce vomiting in order to live. Otherwise, maybe a gift card or something.
Erik Germ tries so hard at Twitter. Catch him over at Planet Scum.
Top Image: 20th Century Studios, Universal Pictures