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The most beloved movie of the '90s

'Shawshank' finds redemption again on DVD

By Douglas Hyde
Special to

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in "The Shawshank Redemption."
Frank Darabont

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- With its unwieldy name and some high-profile competition from the likes of "Pulp Fiction" and "Forrest Gump," "The Shawshank Redemption" kind of got lost in the shuffle in 1994.

But like "It's a Wonderful Life," the film found new life after its original theatrical run. Although the prison drama underachieved at the box office, it found its own "redemption" on home video, fueled by critical acclaim and positive word of mouth.

Writer-director Frank Darabont certainly knows the debt "Shawshank" owes to home video: "Without that it would be a forgotten movie. Instead, it's something that's very beloved by people."

So beloved in fact, that the film -- based on a Stephen King novella, "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" -- currently ranks No. 3 (behind only "The Godfather" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," with which it sometimes changes places) on the Internet Movie Database Web site's user poll of the top 250 movies of all time.

For its 10th anniversary, Darabont has spearheaded a bonus feature-laden special edition DVD (which came out Tuesday) and a limited theatrical re-release.

"It occurred to me last year that we were coming up on a 10-year anniversary, and I thought, I've been meaning to do a special edition DVD for some years anyway, what better time to do that," Darabont said. "From there, kind of sprang the idea of doing a theatrical re-release.

"You know, we're opening in eight cities again, and it's sort of a celebratory thing," he added. "It's also a chance to give some of the fans of the movie that have kind of built through the years, who discovered it on video, a chance to see it on the big screen, where it was really meant to be seen."

'A long shadow'

Darabont's subsequent films -- "The Green Mile" (also based on a King work) with Tom Hanks and "The Majestic" with Jim Carrey -- haven't been short on star power, but they have failed to find their way into the hearts of movie-lovers as "Shawshank" has. Indeed, "Shawshank" has proven to be a tough film for Darabont to top.

"Of course, you try to make a movie audiences will love. But when it becomes sort of like this, it happens by accident. So you can't hold that over your own head the rest of your life, you gotta keep making, doing what you do," he said. " 'Shawshank' may cast a long shadow. If that's what I'm remembered for, more than any other film I make, great. How many other people get that chance in life to have one thing that people really really love, that means something to them?"

Director Frank Darabont's other films include "The Green Mile" and "The Majestic."

Darabont's no "prisoner" to the past, though. He's busy writing the screenplay for "Mission Impossible 3," and is slated to write and direct a new version of Ray Bradbury's sci-fi classic "Fahrenheit 451" -- not to be confused with that OTHER film by Michael Moore.

He even wrote an "Indiana Jones 4" screenplay for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, but alas, 'twas not meant to be.

"I wrote a script, Steven loved it, wanted to shoot it this year. George didn't love it, it got sort of lost between two conflicting opinions and now I think they're trying to figure out what, if anything, to do from here," Darabont said.

Which prompts the question, what didn't Lucas like?

"You know what, it's a disappointment and not really worth getting into details on it. Suffice it to say, he didn't like it nearly as much as Steven and I did. Sometimes it works that way," he shrugged. "As they say in 'The Godfather,' 'This is the business we have chosen.' Sometimes things go really well, sometimes things don't go really well. I try to weather both successes and disappointments with equal grace."

Well, it's easy to be graceful when you've got a little something called "The Shawshank Redemption" on your resume.

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