“The truth is out there” The X Files has long told us, and now its own truth is this: The franchise’s second movie — following a strong first one in 1998 — looms July 25, and the pump must be primed for its release.
Thus, an inevitable new X Files DVD is due Tuesday, inevitable not because it’s got much new, but because new flick The X Files: I Want to Believe must be marketed, and the new DVD from Fox, The X Files: Revelations, does the job.
Besides that, it’s been six years since the series ended, and the two-disc set’s refresher bent works well enough.
Creator Chris Carter has “handpicked” (is there any other way to choose?) eight episodes from his show’s nine seasons of intrepid FBI agents (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) chasing threats with a sci-fi, supernatural or “things that go bump” bent. Actually, the eight shows are spread out over the first six seasons only and include the very first episode, the 1993 pilot in which Duchovny looks so young he almost seems wet behind the ears, not a toughened FBI veteran.
Carter’s concept is that if you’re not familiar with the show, these eight episodes are a fitting sampler to prepare you for the new movie. Fair enough. There’s also a one-minute teaser trailer for that film , intros to each episode by Carter and exec producer Frank Spotnitz, and a sprinkling of other extras.
For loyal fans who already have purchased these eight episodes by buying the series’ entire nine-season run on DVD, those aren’t much. For those who truly do want and need a sampler, this set isn’t bad. But for those who seek stellar performances — well, there’s only one to be truly savored.
It’s not from Anderson, though at least she doesn’t phone it in, as Duchovny often seems to do. Hey, I love the guy, and I think he found a much better role that he loves far more in Californication, also new to DVD. But he certainly pales next to some of this show’s guest stars and supporting players, and none more so than Brad Dourif.
In the set’s second episode, Beyond the Sea, from later in the first season, Dourif plays a loathesome murderer who’s soon to be executed and who barters for a stay by revealing details about two kidnap victims via alleged paranormal powers. Haunted by her father’s recent death, Anderson’s Dana Scully is the female FBI agent sent to interview the murdering maniac in prison, and is this sounding a lot like The Silence of the Lambs or what?
The creators do acknowledge this in the intro — then downplay it by stressing how different it is. Yeah, well, the characters have different names, and Dourif doesn’t play a cannibal. But it is sooo like Silence of the Lambs.
At any rate, let’s not go there, because then we might start comparing Dourif to Anthony Hopkins, and that might undercut what should be our enthusiasm for and appreciation of yet another great performance by a character actor who’s been a master of twitchy, quirky, desperate roles since he made his first splash in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Here, the truth is, Dourif is quite wonderful He’s both internalized (you feel his rage, fear and frustration, not just hear it) and externalized, ranting and railing while trying to avoid trudging past visions of his victims as he nears the gas chamber — a fate he figures he’ll experience over and over for eternity in hell (creepyyyyy).
Yes, the performance is intense, even crazed, but no, Dourif doesn’t resort to cheap histrionics. Many actors simply pull a Pee-wee’s Playhouse and “scream real loud” to hammer home alleged intensity; with Dourif, it also comes from the eyes and the gut, and it feels like the real deal.
Besides Silence of the Lambs, The X Files certainly owed another debt to Twin Peaks, which also preceeded it, and you may recognize a fine actor from that “FBI Meets Boogeymen” show in Don S. Davis, who plays Scully’s father in this episode and one other. On Twin Peaks, he was the military major incongruously based in the sleepy logging town and, despite his surface serenity, involved in creepy things himself.
So there you have it: the truth now out there is that this new set primes the pump for what could be another great flick — I thought the ’98 movie was fully realized — and it’s good to see certain actors again, even if they aren’t the two leads. Which reminds me: the great Billy Connolly is in I Want to Believe, too. In fact, he’s prominent in the brief trailer you get on this DVD.
Whodat, you say? You can see Connolly out in countless fine films, including Oscar nominee Mrs Brown, but be sure to seek out Still Crazy, in which he plays an aging rock roadie who joins a reuniting ’70s group for a final hurrah.
Coincidentally, Still Crazy was issued in the same year as the first X Files movie, and the truth is — granted, we’re comparing apples to orangutans — it’s even more worth seeing. In fact, that tuneful, funny, heart-filled film (also with the fantastic Bill Nighy) is one of the finest relatively unsung movies ever made. And that’s the truth.