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It Makes 'Sense' to View Film Track First

There are lots of interesting extras on DVD release, including clues to plot points and deleted scenes.

March 30, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you still haven't seen "The Sixth Sense," don't under any circumstance watch the supplemental material on the DVD (Hollywood, $30) until you've viewed the Oscar-nominated hit. The bonus material discusses in detail the ghost story's big twist.

But once you've watched the movie, you'll want to see the extras, which include four deleted scenes and explanations of why they were dropped from the film by Oscar-nominated writer-director M. Night Shyamalan.

"The Sixth Sense" opened without a lot of fanfare last August and became the sleeper sensation of 1999. It has brought in more than $288 million at the box office, making it the 11th-highest-grossing film of all time. Bruce Willis stars as a kindly child psychologist trying to help a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who sees dead people.

One of the scenes that didn't make the final cut features Osment breaking down in tears while he plays with toy soldiers. Shyamalan says the scene, which would have taken place early in the film, would have been too confusing for audiences. Another deleted scene, an extended ending, is Shyamalan's favorite moment, but he says he had to excise the sequence because he wanted the film to end on a happy note.

The digital version of the blockbuster is presented in the wide-screen format. Other extras include a discussion of James Newton Howard's evocative score and the film's sound design. There is also a storyboard-to-film comparison of the anniversary dinner scene, rules and clues as to the plot points in the story, interviews with the cast (in which Osment's first name is misspelled as "Hayley") and a conversation with the 29-year-old Shyamalan, who talks about the success of the film with a near-childlike wonder that's rare in Hollywood these days.

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Be prepared to do a lot of reading with Fox's "special edition" two-disc DVD of James Cameron's 1989 thriller, "The Abyss" ($35). It includes countless storyboards and stills, the screenplay, text about the history of the movie and production notes.

The Oscar-winning underwater epic, starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn, features both the wide-screen original theatrical version and the special edition that Cameron released in theaters in the early '90s, which is 28 minutes longer and more dramatically satisfying.

The DVD also offers clever animated menus and the fascinating hourlong documentary "Under Pressure: Making the Abyss," which chronicles in detail the tribulations of making a film under water.

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Universal has just released a nifty collector's edition of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic "The Birds" ($30). Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and flocks of birdies star in this chill-a-minute thriller based on Daphne DuMaurier's story about birds suddenly turning on humankind.

The digital version includes a nice wide-screen transfer of the movie, which is far superior in color quality than the washed-out prints that show up on TV. The extra goodies include a lengthy new documentary, "All About the Birds," which presents fascinating and often funny interviews with Hedren, Taylor and Hitchcock's daughter Patricia, behind-the-scenes footage and storyboards.

Hedren talks about auditioning for the film and about working with real and stuffed birds. Taylor, who has charm to spare, offers a very funny story about a certain raven named Archie who would always attack the actor whenever the bird saw him.

Rounding out the disc is Hedren's lengthy screen test (which also features a glib Martin Balsam), the script pages and still photos of a deleted scene between Hedren and Taylor, the script pages of the original ending and a very kitschy Universal newsreel called "The Birds Is Coming."

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Also New: Donny Osmond scampers around in a loincloth that doesn't leave much to the imagination in the filmed version of the popular Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (Universal, $20 for VHS; $30 for DVD). Maria Friedman, Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins also star in this family musical based on the Bible.

Save for scene selections, Image Entertainment's DVD version of the 1963 French thriller "Any Number Can Win" doesn't offer any bonus material. Which makes it pricey at $30. But the film is worth renting because it's a sturdy and fun caper flick about an old-time thief (the always wonderful Jean Gabin) and his young former cellmate (the always gorgeous Alain Delon) who plan an audacious heist of a Cannes casino.

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