Film and TV show collections gather hours of entertainment

Posted 8:15am on Tuesday, Dec. 04, 2012

It's the best thing that has ever happened for movie buffs and TV fanatics.

Thanks to the availability and the compact packaging of DVD and Blu-ray box-set collections, it's easy to be a "completionist."

The task of finding the perfect big Christmas or Hanukkah gift for collectors has been simplified, as well.

It wasn't so many years ago, remember, that giving every film from a popular movie series or every episode from a long-running TV show would have meant wrapping an unwieldy tower of videotapes.

Imagine how clumsy the packaging would be for, say, nearly two dozen James Bond/007 movies or, worse yet, for 10 seasons of JAG.

But today, the $310 JAG megaset -- more than 225 episodes and extras on 56 discs, plus a 38-page "Insider's Manual" book and a "Challenge Coin" like the one that decided Harm and Mac's fate in the finale -- fits neatly in a box that won't look as if you wrapped an air-conditioning unit.

Thanks to advances in home-video technology, you can go big in a finite amount of space.

Here are some showcase DVD and Blu-ray collections that would make spectacular gifts this year. If you shop wisely, you can even find deep discounts off the list prices.

For movie lovers

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection

This 15-film limited-edition Blu-ray set focuses on Hitchcock's Hollywood years, beginning with Saboteur in 1942 and ending with Family Plot, his final film, in 1976. The titles you'll want to watch first, however, are the Master's greatest works: Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest and The Birds. Not coincidentally, these films are the ones accompanied by the most extras. Each movie has been digitally restored. Also included is a collectible book. List price: $299.98.

Universal Classic Monsters: The Essentials Collection

In the 1930s and '40s, Universal Pictures was king of the horror movie and home of the monsters. Films such as Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man have endured as classics. Those and five other favorites ( The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera and Creature From the Black Lagoon) have been digitally restored for this Blu-ray set, and they look beautiful. Also included: more than 12 hours of bonus features and a collectible book. List price: $159.98

Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection

This box set features the first 22 "official" James Bond films, from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, on Blu-ray in one complete offering for the first time. Nine of these films, in fact, are available on Blu-ray for the first time. And thinking ahead, this package's designers left an open slot for Skyfall, No. 23 in the 50-year film series, once it becomes available on home video. There also are more than 130 hours of bonus content, some of it never before seen. List price: $299.99.

Film Movement gift-box collections

Film Movement is a distributor offering limited-edition, 12-film box sets of award-winning movies from film festivals including Cannes, Venice, Tribeca, Sundance, Toronto and South by Southwest. The DVDs come in a holiday gift box, with a nylon 24-DVD carrying case. The six sets are Romance, Sundance Hits, French Language, English Language, Latin American and Audience Favorites. List price: $150. To order, go to www.filmmovement.com.

Also worth considering

Tarantino XX is an eight-film Blu-ray collection celebrating Quentin Tarantino's 20 years of filmmaking. All of the essentials are included (such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the "Kill Bill" movies) as well as the not-so-essential Death Proof. It's priced at $119.99.

The Dark Knight Trilogy, available on DVD and Blu-ray, showcases the three Christian Bale/Christopher Nolan adventures: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The three-disc DVD version costs $38.99; the five-disc Blu-ray version is $52.99.

The Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection is an incomplete history of this director's work. But the five titles ( Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Redux, One From the Heart, Tetro and The Conversation) will make an interesting and eclectic movie marathon. It's $39.99.

For TV lovers

Mission: Impossible: The Complete Television Collection

Let's be honest: If you've got all seven seasons of Mission: Impossible in one DVD box set, you'll spend the bulk of your time watching the first three great seasons, when Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were cast members. Without them, the quality slipped and the plots got repetitive. What's more, there's really no reason to bother with episodes from the 1988-90 remake, which is included here. Still, there are so many great episodes -- and it's wonderfully packaged in an imaginative "dynamite" case. List price: $370.99.

The Fugitive: The Most Wanted Edition

All four seasons of this 1960s classic, starring David Janssen as fugitive Richard Kimble, "an innocent victim of blind justice, falsely convicted for the murder of his wife, reprieved by fate when a train wreck freed him en route to the death house," are in pristine condition, transferred from the original film negatives and audio. The 33-disc set also includes special features and a soundtrack CD of the score by composer Pete Rugolo. There's also a reproduction of Kimble's wanted poster. List price: $259.99.

The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection

The 22-DVD set, with 50 episodes of one of TV's great comedy-variety shows, is housed in a collectible box with a replica curtain from the show's opening. The episodes were hand-picked by Burnett herself. There also are more than 20 hours of bonus features and a 20-page memory book. The megaset costs $199.95, but distributor Time Life also is offering the same product autographed by Burnett, Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway for $399.99.

Also worth considering

All 300 episodes of The Red Green Show, a cult-favorite series about all things manly, Canadian and duct-taped, are on DVD for the first time. The Complete Red Green Show: High (Quality) Quantity Collection costs $299.99.

The Doctor Who: Limited Edition Giftset, spanning Seasons 1-6, comes with a collectible Sonic Screwdriver and a comic book. It costs $249.95.

House: The Complete Series, all eight seasons of Dr. Nasty, packaged together for the first time, is available on DVD for $199.98.

Entourage: The Complete Series, eight seasons on 18 discs, is available on Blu-ray for $299.99 and on DVD for $249.99.

Friends: The Complete Series, with three hours of never-before-seen extras, is available on Blu-ray for the first time. It's $279.99.

Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Early Cases Collection includes all 45 mysteries from the first six seasons. It's listed at $249.99 on Blu-ray, $199.99 on DVD.

For documentary enthusiasts and sports fans

War in HD

This six-disc collection is actually two History channel series lumped together: WWII in HD (which aired in 2009) and Vietnam in HD (2011). When it comes to World War II documentaries, WWII in HD set the standard against which all other must be compared. This was established in large part through the use of high-definition-quality color WWII footage, making the events that many Americans know only through black-and-white newsreel footage into something viscerally new and alive. List price: $69.95.

Titanic At 100: Mystery Solved Collector's Edition

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, this three-disc set contains four documentaries that shed new light on one of the most famous shipwrecks in history. One doc, Titanic at 100, offers never-before-seen views of the wreck site. Another, Titanic's Achilles Heel, explores the theory that the ship's demise might have been due to a design flaw. List price: $49.95.

Ancient Aliens Collector's Edition

Did intelligent life forms visit Earth thousands of years ago and bring technologies that affected the course of human history? Do aliens visit us now? This History series, produced with the cooperation of Chariots of the Gods author Erich von Daniken, blurs the lines between serious investigation and crackpot conspiracy theory. List price: $99.95.

San Francisco Giants: 2012 World Series Collector's Edition

It might be painful for Rangers fans to watch the Giants sweep the Tigers in four games, because it will remind them of a World Series dream unfulfilled, of a crash-and-burn finish to a once-promising season. But if you can handle it, this eight-disc set contains every play from every game, plus a few extra pivotal games from the Giants' championship season. List price: $99.95 for Blu-ray, $79.95 for DVD.

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