As Tom Hanks notes at the start of a retrospective documentary on the new two-disc reissue of "Philadelphia" (1993), "I think the movie was made for people who thought they didn't know anybody who died of AIDS -- and after the movie, they [did know] somebody."
Hanks, of course, did memorable work playing sympathetic -- not pitiably powerless -- as a respected lawyer who's fired by his firm after learning he has AIDS, then takes his bosses to court with the help of homophobic, ambulance-chasing colleague Denzel Washington. Revisiting Hanks's Oscar-winning performance is clearly the main attraction here, reminding us as it does that for all the intriguing projects he's taken on over the last decade, only "Cast Away" has approached the dramatic challenge he faced on this one.
Still, the DVD's frequently blunt discussion of the film's conception and then-prevailing public attitudes (or prejudices) also holds considerable interest. Hanks's opening observation is the least of it. Director Jonathan Demme speaks rather eloquently about how important Hanks's endorsement was in getting the movie's message out to a mainstream audience -- but admits there was also an early feeling that humor needed to be another selling point, and that Robin Williams and Bill Murray were on brainstorming lists for Washington's role. Meanwhile, screenwriter Ron Nyswaner notes the irony that the production almost had to replace Ron Vawter, a supporting player left weakened by AIDS at a crucial point in the schedule -- a move that obviously would have reflected strangely on a film about AIDS discrimination.
Extras: Commentary by Demme and Nyswaner; deleted scenes. (Columbia, $24.96)