Wonderland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture offered a largely satisfying piece.
Sharpness appeared solid. I noticed no signs of softness or unintentional fuzziness at any point in the flick. Overall, the movie came across as nicely defined and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no problems, but I did notice a slight amount of edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, the movie mostly avoided them. It demonstrated occasional examples of specks, but these weren’t terribly significant.
Wonderland featured a fairly stylized palette, so it demonstrated different forms of hues throughout the story. Much of the movie featured shots with a rather sickly green tone or other unattractive hues. Some other shots came across as more natural, while a few went for a fairly sepia appearance. Colors looked solid across the board, as long as we examined them within their stylistic parameters. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy without excessive thickness. Wonderland lost a few points mostly due to its light edge enhancement and minor print flaws, but it still seemed pretty solid overall.
Mostly due to its aggressive use of music, Wonderland featured a pretty solid Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield definitely favored the score. Those elements demonstrated very good stereo spread in the front and also used the surrounds well to reinforce the music. Effects also popped up from the sides and rear as appropriate and presented accurate placement and movement. Nonetheless, the music offered the best use of the various channels and helped propel the movie.
Audio quality seemed positive. A few lines of speech demonstrated light edginess, and the lines at the party suffered from some weak balance; it became tough to understand what the participants said because the music overwhelmed them. Otherwise, the dialogue seemed natural and distinctive. (The scene that interpreted events from Lind’s heroin-addled perspective were intentionally marred, so I didn’t think of them as problematic.) Effects appeared accurate and tight, with no problems connected to distortion. As noted, the music dominated, and those parts sounded very good. The track was clear and vibrant, and the music showed deep and rich bass. Overall, the audio of Wonderland seemed very satisfying.
As we move to the supplements in this two-disc set, we launch with DVD One’s audio commentary. This features co-writer/director James Cox and co-writer Captain Mauzner, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. For the most part, they prove to be eager and fairly involving participants. They cover a mix of subjects. We get notes about the facts behind the tale as well as some backstory for the characters. They also discuss drafts of the script, the processes used by the actors, production design, and other issues. They seem nicely chatty, though occasional dead air slows down the piece. Nonetheless, they shed some light on various areas and offer a mostly interesting commentary.
When we go to Interviews, we get chats with four of the actors. We hear from Val Kilmer (55 seconds), Josh Lucas (92 seconds), Tim Blake Nelson (51 seconds), and Eric Bogosian (80 seconds). These include some nice introspection and analysis, but their brevity renders them less effective.
Next we find seven fairly short deleted scenes. These run between 21 seconds and three minutes, 31 seconds for a total of 10 minutes of material. None of these seems particularly valuable, though Janeane Garafalo’s drugged-out riff on Fantasy Island inequities is funny.
A quick take on the case shows up in Court TV: Hollywood At Large. This five-minute and 43-second program includes movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews with actors Kilmer, Dylan McDermott, Kate Bosworth and Lucas as well as Dawn Schiller and LAPD detectives Bob Souza and Tom Lange. This brushes through the details and mainly comes across as a promotional feature for the movie, though we do get some interesting insight from Schiller.
After this we find the 23-minute and 38-second LAPD Crime Scene Video. Not for the squeamish, this tape shows some rather banal shots along with gruesome images of the victims. I can’t call this fun to watch, but it gives us a valuable look at the actual crime.
Finally, the Photo Gallery includes 15 pictures from the production. It seems like a pretty lackluster little set.
DVD Two includes only one piece, but it’s a big one. We get the film Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes. A 105-minute and 39-second documentary by Cass Paley, this project gives us a mix of clips from various movies, other archival materials, and many interviews. We find notes from LA Times film critic Ken Turan, producer/director Anne Perry, “Swedish Erotica” director Bob Vosse, producer Bobby Hollander, producer and Holmes’ manager Bill Amerson, photographer Jess Sussman, actor Richard Pacheco, director Bob Chinn, publisher Al Goldstein, retired LAPD vice Detective Tom Blake, First Amendment attorney Paul Cambria, publisher Larry Flynt, producer/actor William Margold, actor/director John Leslie, actor Ron Jeremy, Boogie Nights writer/director PT Anderson, actresses Bunny Bleu, Annette Haven, Gloria Leonard, Kitten Natividad, “Aunt Peg”, Candida Royale, Miss Sharon Mitchell, and Cicciolina, agent “Reb” Sawitz, makeup artist David Clark, former LA district attorney Ron Coen, psychologist Dr. Vonda Lia, Holmes’ defense attorney Mitchell Egers, journalist Mike Sager, adult cinema historian Jim Holliday, Sharon Holmes, Dawn Schiller, actress and John’s second wife Laurie Holmes, actor Don Fernando, Holmes’ godson Sean “Duke” Amerson and goddaughter Denise Amerson. We also hear remarks from Holmes himself, most of which seem to come from the Exhausted puff-piece documentary.
Don’t expect much – if any – veracity from Holmes. As we’ll see, he preferred his own myth to reality, so his comments mostly offer a counterpoint to the statements from others. The film covers the background of porn movies and the sexual revolution of the Seventies, the development of the business in that era, Holmes’ impact on the industry and his early days, the growth of his career, his personality, personal life, and history. It jumps around chronologically through about the time in the Seventies when Holmes met Schiller, but after that it follows his life in order. We learn more about his alleged involvement in the Wonderland murders as well as what happened after that.
Wadd offers a fairly splendid examination of Holmes’ life. It pulls absolutely no punches and gives us a gritty and frank accounting. Given the many characters involved – and Holmes’ various personalities – we find many different takes on the man, plus some contradictory opinions. The worst blood seems to come between second wife Laurie and manager Amerson and his kids; those two sides both clearly have a long of dislike for each other. Overall, Wadd is a terrific piece that actually seems more interesting than Wonderland itself.
Not that the main feature isn’t a pretty good flick. Wonderland suffers from some choppiness and stylistic excesses, but it also boasts solid acting and a generally intriguing look at its subject. The DVD features very good picture and sound plus an excellent set of extras highlighted by a terrific documentary. Due to its graphic subject matter, Wonderland won’t be for everyone, but for those with an interest in the topic, this fine DVD package earns my recommendation.
Footnote: this release of Wonderland comes promoted as a “limited edition”. That means the second DVD is only available via the limited version. No one seems to know how limited this is, so I don’t know how long they’ll be on the market, but I thought I’d mention the apparent restricted availability of the 2-DVD set.