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Toronto Star

21 July 2005

Cheesy, heartfelt, silly and kick-ass


Xee Xena run. Xee Xena fight. Xee Xena smooch with her girlfriend.

Xee the fans go wild.

The already available six seasons of Xena are among the very best DVD releases. Packed with commentaries, featurettes and other extras, they offer hours and hours of insight into a series that came to define fan love and loyalty.

The entertaining, cheesy, heartfelt, silly, kick-ass series would, one could conclude, already have gotten its DVD due. To release yet another set would seem superfluous and cash-grabby. However, with The Xena 10th Anniversary collection, Anchor Bay has put together a set that works equally well as an intro to the Xena neophyte and as a big wet kiss to
the fans.

Through online questionnaires and convention polls, fans selected 17 favourite episodes. They are "Sins of the Past," "Calisto," "Is there a Doctor in the House," "A Day in the Life," "Been There, Done That," "The Bitter Suite," "One Against an Army," "The Ides of March," "Fallen Angel," "Lyre, Lyre Heart on Fire," "Amphipolis under Siege," "Motherhood," "Old Ares had a Farm," "When Fates Collide," "Many Happy Returns," and "A Friend in Need Part 1 & 2."

The commentaries (video and audio, both) and interviews with Lucy Lawless, Renée O'Connor and the rest of the cast and crew that go with them, have all been previously released, so if you already own the season sets, don't expect anything new.

But if you're new, don't miss them.

The featurettes, however, are all fresh and shiny.

On disc six, "Fan Tribute" has two parts — "2005 10th Anniversary Xena Convention" and "Fan Contests." The 10-minute "Convention" has reams of fans (all but one are women) explaining which episode, (some of which did, ultimately not make it onto the collection) they voted for.

"Contests" (13 mins.) shows the winner of a "fanatic" contest, a soldier whose fandom helps her get through deployment to Afghanistan, and the winners of the hilarious and eerie "reenactment contest." Also on disc six, "Comic Relief" is 45 minutes with the witty Robert Trebor, who talks about playing, well, the comic relief Salmoneus on both Hercules and Xena, and tells great anecdotes about various scenes.

Disc seven is all extras, three hours worth in all. As opposed to often disappointing, rushed featurettes on many DVD sets, here we get in-depth, unhurried documentaries.

The insightful "Xena's Hong Kong Origins" has exec producer Rob Tapert, producer Liz Friedman, director Doug Lefter and action consultant David Pollison round-tabling on the influence of Chinese Ghoststory, The Legend of Drunken Master, The Killers, Dragon Inn, Ashes of Time and others interspersed and juxtaposed with clips from the series. Tapert interestingly describes the character of Xena as a mix of Josey Wales and a variety of Chinese female action heroes.

Sheila Briggs, a professor of religion and gender studies, and Amy Richlin, a professor of classics, hold forth on Greek myth (mainly Aphrodite and Ares), Sappho and the twilight of the gods, in "Mythology vs. Xena."

"Seeing Double" is about stunt doubles and has Xena's stunt woman Zoe Bell explaining how one ends up taking kicks to the head for a living. The weird existence (mostly smoking and waiting) and the personal stories of some of the extras that made up the background crowds on Xena — to the tune of $50 a day — is explored in "Extras: A Documentary."

Last but not least, "B is for Bruce" is a portrait of the incomparable Bruce Campbell, king of the B-actors, who played Autolycos, King of Thieves, on Xena and also served as a director on a few episodes. He motor-mouths about the Raimis, Evil Dead, how his dad helped him and a hundred other things. No one's cooler than Bruce.

Also worth mentioning is the absolutely gorgeous packaging with poster-worthy black-and-white photographs of the principals.

If you're hardcore, you know that life isn't really life without a Xena Discman CD Holder and a Xena Letter Opener. Heavily promoted on the set,, while somewhat gag-worthy for those of us not into Xena Chakram Jewelry Boxes, is ready to serve those needs. Enter at own risk.

The pink "Gabrielle Dances with Cherubs" T-shirt is only $9.95.

For more Xena info until the set is released on Tuesday, check out , an index of fan sites, ,
the pop culture journal/Xena studies site
and the official fan club at  or pick up Toronto homegirl Nikki Stafford's How Xena Changed our Lives: True Stories by Fans for Fans.

Also, Bruce Campbell is at the Bay and Bloor Indigo store Monday at 6 p.m., shilling for his new book, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way.

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