Three of the 20th century's greatest cinematic spectacles, 1939's Gone with the Wind
, 1959's Ben-Hur
and 1965's Doctor Zhivago
, are collected here in one irresistible box set. Long before computers turned every crowd scene and every grandiose backdrop into a pixellated virtual construct, these movies did it all for real. Nothing can substitute for their authentic sense of what really makes an epic: strong characters, emotionally involving storytelling and the grandest, most romantic sense of large-scale moviemaking. All three contain sequences and images that are indelibly burned into popular consciousness. Just recall Vivien Leigh's walk through the wounded of Atlanta, or her pledge never to be hungry again silhouetted against an achingly vivid sunset. Remember Charlton Heston rowing the Roman galley, or charging round the arena in his chariot. Or the enigmatic beauty of Julie Christie, the train ride to the Urals and the charge into No Man's Land.
On the DVDs: These priceless treasures from the MGM archives have been preserved and restored so marvellously that all three almost look like they were made last year, not decades ago. The vivid colours and detail of Gone with the Wind look astoundingly fresh in this anamorphic 1.33:1 print (just let your eyes drink in those burnished skies). Both Ben-Hur and Zhivago, too, benefit from anamorphic widescreen presentations that reveal every last gorgeous detail. All three discs also contain the full music scores, complete with Overtures and Intermission music: Max Steiner's immortal "Tara Theme" sounds as good as ever on the rich mono soundtrack; Miklos Rozsa's magnificent music for Ben-Hur is deservedly regarded as one of cinema's finest, while Maurice Jarre's famous "Lara's Theme" can even be heard in a separate music-only track on Zhivago. There are no extras on the Gone with the Wind disc, but the other two contain commentaries (from Charlton Heston and Omar Sharif respectively) and new, in-depth making-of documentaries. Zhivago also comes with a second bonus disc that has several contemporary behind-the-scenes pieces. The only moan is the infamous Warner packaging, which consists of their notorious cardboard sleeves that are easily damaged when trying to cram them into the thin cardboard slipcases. --Mark Walker
Epic romantic drama based on Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning novel set during the American Civil War. Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) often uses men to get what she wants, but is unable to get the one man she truly desires, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). She soon meets her match in the roguish Captain Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and in the war itself which destroys the genteel way of life she has always known. With determination she rebuilds her life from the shattered remains the Union Army leaves behind. Despite its sometimes troubled production (director George Cukor was replaced by Victor Fleming, with Sam Wood brought in when Fleming's health failed), the film won ten Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress.