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The Alamo

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Prime specimens of post-Ben Hur elephantiasis in Hollywood, these potboiler historical epics look and sound properly sprawling on disc. While a so-called letterboxed cassette of The Alamo in fact crops the edges of the picture, all three of these discs exhume the full, original wide-screen images, cramming in every bloody bit player who falls in the service of postwar Zionist leader Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman), ”Texican” Davy Crockett (John Wayne), and ancient Rome’s best-known rebel slave (Kirk Douglas).

Each of these martyr-and-his-mate spectacles comes with supplements on disc. For the plodding Exodus, MGM/UA throws in two tacky trailers. The Alamo contains 41 minutes of gloriously self-indulgent restored footage (such as a birthday-party scene starring producer-director-star Wayne’s granddaughter), plus a making-of program including new interviews on how John Ford showed up uninvited and bullied his way into directing scenes. Criterion’s Spartacus boasts one of the most thorough behind-the-scenes disc documentaries yet attempted. Highlights include vintage ”press-kit” chats with the stars, and a stirring portrait of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who wrote both Spartacus and Exodus. As deliciously overblown home-viewing experiences, these discs rate a half grade higher than the movies they enshrine. Exodus: B- Alamo: B+ Spartacus: A

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