The Good

This is a movie that never gets old and never goes out of style.

The Bad

I wanted Robin Williams to be more involved with the Special Features.

"Oh Captain, my Captain..."

Dead Poets Society is the kind of movie that gives you the chills, and brings tears to your eyes every time you watch it. This masterfully told tale from director Peter Weir about a teacher named John Keating who comes into Welton Academy, and encourages his students to make their lives extraordinary is the kind of film that may have been Oscar bait at the time but it certainly didn't feel like it. Robin Williams is superb as Keating and Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard do very strong work as two students struggling with the expectations of their families and society at large.

In the end, a spirit like Keating is just too much for school like Welton to suffer, but during his time there, it is apparent that this teacher has left a mark on the Dead Poets Society forever.

Features

"Dead Poets": A Look Back

Director Peter Weir, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and some of the other poets are on hand here to discuss what it was like to make this film. They talk about the experience of being young actors and working with Robin Williams, what it was like to make a movie that has such a strong message, and what it was like working with a director of the caliber of Peter Weir. Weir himself offers some keen insights into why he wanted to make this film, and overall this was one of the more interesting "making of" featurettes I have seen.

Raw Takes

Cinematography Master Class

John Seale gives would be cinematographers a succinct, if not somewhat brief showcase on how to light scenes for movies. I went into this with a healthy amount of skepticism, and I even wondered why it was on this DVD. After I watched the film it suddenly began to make sense. I had forgotten just how rich and well crafted Dead Poets Society was. All in all, unless you have a burning desire to know about this aspect of moviemaking, you can probably skip this segment.

Master of Sound: Alan Splet

Audio Commentary

Director Peter Weir, cinematographer John Seale and writer Tom Schulman sit back and discuss making this film. I think if you are a fan of this movie, or if you are fan of literature and this movie, you should definitely listen to this track. You don't need to be a cinephile, though, I am sure that that helps, too. These three men are like great writers sitting back and examining one of their masterworks. They really have a respect for the material and that is why you never hear about Dead Poets Society being called a "teenage" film. It is a coming of age movie for everyone.

Video

1.85:1 - Aspect Ratio. When I was 15 and I saw this movie at a late night showing, I will admit that I fell asleep. It's pace was too deliberate and the lighting scheme was too dark. Later that summer, I watched the movie again and I loved it. Revisiting it almost 20 years later on DVD, I found that I truly think this movie looks amazing. It doesn't even look like a period film so much as if it was made during the period (1959) that it is taking place.

Audio

English - Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound in this movie is very much linked with the characters. As they change through their involvement with John Keating, the mood of the film and the tone changes as well. Things become more opened up. We hear hear things in the soundtrack that let us know about the changes happening to the characters. Everything is nicely composed and layered here.

Package

The iconic image of the poets as they carry John Keating across the field is the perfect image for the front of this DVD cover. The back cover has some shots from the movie, a description of what Dead Poets Society is about, a Special Features listing, a cast list, and technical specs. All in all, this is one of the few Special Editions that lives up to that title.

Final Word

This film is especially personal to me because I have had two John Keating's in my life. One was a my 6th Grade teacher, Mr. Lamb, who made me realize that I needed to feed my love for reading and writing. The other was Rabbi David Grossman, who took me seriously as a man when I was only 12 years old. He believed in me and helped me out when I was headed down a road that might have ultimately landed me in jail. Sadly, Mr. Lamb passed away from cancer some years ago, and I sadly have lost touch with Rabbi Grossman.

However, I remember when Dead Poets Society first came out. There was a featurette on HBO where Robin Williams talked about the kind of teacher that Keating was, and how everybody has one of these kinds of teachers at some point in their lives. Well, I was lucky enough to have two and I think I am lucky enough to still have people in my life to help me strive to do great things with it.

Dead Poets Society is a celebration of that aspect of the human spirit, and, even though you may no longer be around people who brought that side of you out, that celebration truly never ends.

Dead Poets Society was released June 2, 1989.