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XENA: 10TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars:  Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor
Directors: Various
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Surround
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Anchor Bay 
Features: See Review
Length:  720 Minutes           
Release Date:  July 26, 2005

“Xena coming to your town…Xena don’t you wear a frown.”

Ahh… the sound of cracking walnuts in the morning!

Any true Xena fan worth their salt will know exactly who sang this little song, why he sang this song, and where his influence for using walnuts as a drum beat came from.

Set ****

In 1995 something wonderful happened to television.  All of the TV executives over at Universal decided to take a chance on a gal in leather riding a big horse, and her little sidekick carrying a big stick. 

What was the result of Universal’s gamble?  

Six seasons of action packed butt kicking, a legion of devoted fans, merchandise galore (I own a Chakram and I’m not afraid to admit it!), and an internet following the likes of which only Star Trek fans can come close to equaling.

Now, as a way to thank us for being devoted (sometimes loony) fans, Anchor Bay presents Xena Warrior Princess: 10th Anniversary Collection on DVD.  This seven disc DVD box set contains 16 action packed episodes of the Warrior Princess and her Battling Bard.

In order to thank the fans for their devotion to Xena and Gabrielle, Anchor Bay let us choose the 16 episodes contained in this box set. 

The only way to start off a 10th anniversary box set about this show is to include “Sins of the Past”, the very first episode of Xena.  

In this first episode none of us knew who Xena was, or who she was ultimately going to be.  However, it didn’t take long to realize that Xena was a tortured soul looking for redemption, and Gabrielle was the feisty spirit that would help balance and center her sometime stoic partner. 

From the very beginning the entertainment value was there, along with some great acting, and script writing as well.  As for production…I can forgive the quality of the special effects and funny looking Cyclops if you can!

The episode list on this box set is a compilation of some of Xena and Gabrielle’s finest moments.  I would have to say that my favorite of all the Xena episodes is, “One Against An Army.” 

Most of the time TV shows have a hard time balancing action with real human interaction and emotions.   This episode does all of that perfectly.   Your emotions will run the gambit with this episode, much as mine did (yes I cried, okay are you happy now?).

For every beginning, there is ultimately an ending.  Xena’s time came literally, and we fans were forced to watch as the woman who had defied death for love, fought with death literally for her son, and faced down the mighty Olympian Gods was spitted with arrows and had her head cut off.  Now for me, that was more than a little disturbing.  Even after four years without the show, I still can’t watch the final two-part episode, “A Friend In Need.”  However, don’t let that deter you, because “A Friend In Need I & II” are the final fan chosen episodes of this amazing box set. 

One thing a compilation box set like this helps bring out is the character development that you would normally have to watch each individual season to see.   Not only do Xena and Gabrielle switch roles somewhat by the end of the series, the actresses who play them developed as actors as this series progressed.

Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor managed to transform themselves through the life of this series, and it is never more prevalent than when you watch a disc from this box set that contains episodes, which span more than one season.

For those meticulous fans that are wondering what the box set is going to look like so they can readjust their DVD case to make room for this amazing set, here are the details:

This box set comes in a faux leather, hard side case.  The DVDs are enclosed in a folder style, flip case.  Each DVD contains the episode titles on that disc, as well as the extra features included.

Speaking of Extra Features, this DVD set contains the Lollapalooza of Xena features.  Check out my commentary in the features section for a detailed list of all the bonus stuff.

Whether you are an old fan, a new fan, or are just wondering what the heck is Xena about, there is a little something for everyone in this box set.  

This collection on DVD is a Xena fans dream, and as someone who has an entire wall in her new house dedicated to Xena, I ought to know!

Video ****

I’m impressed!  Anchor Bay has done an excellent job with the video quality of the Xena DVDs as season after season was released.  This box set is no exception!

The 1.33:1 standard fullscreen is full of bright, vivid colors, and very little dirt or graininess visible.  I think this is what has impressed me the most.  The first season of Xena was filmed using 16MM cameras.  Anchor Bay has managed to make 16MM transfers look like 32MM high quality transfers. 

The visual quality on these discs is really great.  I’ll be watching these DVDs for years to come and I can count on excellent visual quality with every spin of the disc!

Audio ****

It’s box sets like these that make me truly thankful for surround sound!

The audio on these DVDs was very nice.   The levels remained constant throughout with very few dropouts.   The mix between sound effect, and spoken dialogue was well balanced, and neither type of audio ever overwhelmed the other.

The one thing to note is that dialogue looped in during post- production was audibly different than that of the dialogue captured during initial filming.  However, while it was noticeable at times, it never took away from the over all experience.

Features ****

Features...get your extra features here!  

Interviews and visual episode commentary by: Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor, Liz Friedman, Katherine Fugate (I loved “When Fates Collide"!), Robert Field, Rob Tapert, Jane Holland, Josephine Davison, Rick Jacobson, Adrienne Wilkinson, William Gregory Lee, Ted Raimi, Adam Armus, Kay Foster, Hudson Leick, RJ Stewart, and many more.

Select Episode Audio Commentary with: Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor, Robert Tapert, Eric Gruendemann, and RJ Stewart. 

Footage from the 2005 10th Anniversary Xena Convention is included.  Along with Fan Contests like Xena Fanatic – Fan submitted videos showing why each person should be named the biggest Xena Fan out there.  

There are Xena Reenactment’s, which are fan submitted reenactments of memorable and favorite Xena scenes.  This was great, and the actresses were really on the mark!

Comic Relief is a first-time sit down interview with actor Robert Trebor on his character Salmoneus.  This guy is funny.  I mean you see it on the show, but Rob is definitely a funny, funny guy.

Xena’s Hong Kong Origins lets you explore the influence Hong Kong action movies had on Xena, her style, and action.

Mythology vs. Xena was really fun to watch.  Alex Tydings along with Greek Mythology experts explore the mythology and origins of the character Aphrodite. 

Seeing Double takes you behind the scenes on the set of Xena and into the world of Stunt Women.   The interview with Xena stunt double Zoe Bell is fun and entertaining.

Extras, A Documentary is also a behind the scenes look at the people who helped make Xena’s world more of a reality for fans around the globe.

Finally, we have “B” is for Bruce.  “B” is for Bruce is a detailed look at the long and successful B-Movie career of Mr. Bruce (Evil Dead) Campbell. 

However, don’t let the B-Movie talk fool you because when it comes to comic relief on Xena, Bruce Campbell gets A’s across the board!

Summary:

This DVD box set is definitely a must have for the Xena fans of the past, present, and future.  All of the episodes are top notch, and the extras are out of this world.  Do your part for the greater good, and take home Xena on DVD today!

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