BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
Directed by Various
Produced by Marti Noxon & Joss Whedon
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Michael Gershman
Music by Christophe Beck
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head & Seth Green
1999-2000/990 mins/Color/2.0 Surround
1.33:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
How is it that vampires automatically know martial arts when they are resurrected? Anyway, that question aside, I became a fan of the TV series "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" very late in the series' life-cycle. Actually, it wasn't until I received the Season 3 set to review that I really watched a complete episode of the show... and I instantly became hooked. (And had to immediately get Seasons 1 and 2 to view!) All of the prejudices and pre-conceptions that I had about the show (based mostly on the horrid 1992 feature film) were completely incorrect, and I found the series to be well-written, funny, moving, and for prime-time TV, very violent. So, it was with great glee that I devoured the newly released "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" Season 4 DVD box set, and I'm happy to report that the show just keeps getting better.
***SPOILER WARNING *** (If you haven't seen the previous seasons, this synopsis of Season 4 many give away some important plot-points.) Following the explosion-filled graduation day finale of Season 3, Season 4 opens with Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and Oz (Seth Green) moving on to the University of California at Sunnydale. Meanwhile, Xander (Nicholas Brendon), having returned from his ill-fated cross-country trip, moves into his parent's basement, and becomes the requisite "townie-loser guy". Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), having been relieved of his duties as Buffy's Watcher, suddenly finds himself with loads of free-time. The usually unflappable Buffy, having become quite mellow after years of slayage, suddenly finds herself overwhelmed by her freshman year of college, and struggles to find her niche. And while she may not know where she fits in on campus, she's never bored, as the assorted band of meanies find their way into the university. On top of that, one of Buffy's greatest foes returns to Springfield, and she comes face-to-face with a mysterious group operating at the college. To say anymore would be giving away far too much. *** END SPOILER WARNING ***
While series creator Joss Whedon and company have always done an exemplary job with the writing on "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer", Season 4 reveals a series that has really hit its stride. Since its inception, the show has done an excellent job of balancing the story with the kind of character development which is rarely seen on TV, and the 22-episodes included here continue that trend. It's very clear that the writers brainstormed about the perils of entering college and found clever ways to literally or symbolically bring them to light. And while the absence of Angel does diminish the emotional quality of the show somewhat, the dialogue truly shines here, as it alternates between poignant to laugh out loud funny. The series over-riding story arc does wear a bit thin after a while, but the action is always good (featuring some gory scenes that led me to say "Can you show that on TV?!"), and the series finale is a great example of the show's risk-taking sensibility. Season 4 features the Emmy-nominated episode "Hush", which contains some of the creepiest images that I've ever seen on TV. (Just don't think too hard about the episode afterwards.) Fans of the show will love this season and non-fans just don't know what they are missing. I certainly didn't.
"Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" Season 4 arrives on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in a handsome six-disc box set. The episodes are presented in a full-frame 1.33:1 format. Showing the care that goes into these sets, creator Joss Whedon has included a note in the box explaining that the shows were framed and shot in the 1.33:1 format, hoping to assuage the disappointment of those who expected a widecreen format. The shows look very good, rivaling digital broadcast quality. The images are sharp and clear, showing only very minute grain at times, and displaying few defects from the source materials. The colors are good, and the image is never too dark. There is the occasional problem from artifacting, but this doesn't detract from the viewing experience. The set features an outstanding Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track, which surpasses many Dolby 5.1 tracks that I've heard. The dialogue is always clear and audible, and there is no audidble hissing. The use of stereo and surround effects are plentiful and add real oomph to the show. There is also a great deal of bass response. Technically, this set is fine.
In the realm of extra features, Fox has added even more to this set, which is great, as most fans are probably just glad to have the shows. There are audio commentaries on six episodes ("Wild at Heart", "The Initiative", "Hush", "Superstar", "Primeval", and "Restless") by various crew members such as Joss Whedon, writer David Fury, and producer Marti Noxon. These commentaries are always fun and give a great deal of info about the show. Whedon is especially generous with his thoughts and insights about what he was attempting to accomplish with the show. Also, some episode feature the original scripts. Disc 3 features several featurettes, although it's beyond me why they are on Disc 3, as they contain details about the entire season. There is a 5-minute segment which gives an overview of the episode "Hush". Set designer Carey Meyer examines the show's sets in a 9-minute segment. The popular character Spike is explored in an 11-minute segment which features an interview with actor James Marsters. "Buffy, Inside the Music" offers an interview with series composer Christophe Beck, and looks at the rock music on the show. This featurette corrects a mistake which has plagued the previous three "Buffy" releases, as it offers an interview with the band Nerf Herder, who perform the show's theme song. Finally, an 11-minute segement explores the Oz character and offers many quips from actor Seth Green. Disc 3 also contains cast bios. There is a 37-minute season overview on Disc 6, as well as a still gallery. Long-time fans of the show will find a lot to explore with these extras.
Oh yeah, where does Anya live... I mean really?
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©