Archive for the ‘The Criterion Collection’ Category

blu-ray-coverSpine #843

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 01:35:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.39:1

Bitrate: 34.77 Mbps

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available from Criterion, and is also available in various DVD editions from Sony Pictures Classics. This new edition from Criterion is superior to these earlier releases. 

title

“I wasn’t writing the script and then thought of Adam [Sandler]. I actually wanted to write a movie for Adam—something I thought he would have fun doing.” –Paul Thomas Anderson (BBC, February 07, 2003)

Punch-Drunk Love isn’t an Adam Sandler film. It is a Paul Thomas Anderson film that subverts the Sandler persona while humanizing it. Let us take a very quick look at three prototypical Sandler vehicles:

In Happy Gilmore (1996), the titular character is a wannabe hockey player forced into professional golf in an effort to buy his grandmother’s house when it is repossessed. Happy is given to violent outbursts of rage when the game isn’t going his way.

The Wedding Singer (1998) finds Robbie Hart jilted at the altar, and this sends him spiraling into a breakdown. His repressed rage and self-loathing surfaces while performing at a wedding. While giving a self-pitying speech, he explodes into a tantrum, insults the guests, and even threatens to strangle someone with his microphone wire.

The Waterboy (1998) details the rise of a mentally challenged water boy named Bobby Boucher who discovers that his violent bouts of rage give him the edge on the football field when properly channeled.

angry-adam

Angry Adam: Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, and The Waterboy.

These are only three examples, but Sandler’s career has been built on portraying similar characters. All are basically decent and kind hearted underdogs who are prone to emotional outbursts of violent rage, and Paul Thomas Anderson was obviously aware of this pattern. In Punch-Drunk Love, Barry Egan is a lonely man suffering from social anxiety and a lifetime of small emotional wounds that have accumulated over time. His suppressed emotions manifest themselves in—you guessed it—fits of destructive rage. However, this isn’t played in broad comic strokes for cheap laughs. It is all too clear that these problems are keeping Barry from happiness. There is a poignancy to Barry’s outbursts, and his loneliness is palpable.

However, Anderson isn’t finished yet. He understands that by giving his audience a laundry list of unexplained but interesting details about Barry, he is simultaneously raising twice as many questions. Characters can give a story a remarkably strong drive when a storyteller is skilled, and the creator of Punch-Drunk Love is one of cinema’s best contemporary filmmakers.

Why, for instance, is Barry so eager to take advantage of a promotion that offers a ridiculous number of frequent flyer miles? Barry’s obsessive drive to accumulate as much pudding as he possibly can so that he can earn frequent flyer miles is confounding to an audience because it is established that he doesn’t even travel. Interestingly, this particular element was inspired by a true story.

“There is an engineer in California, who in fact bought $12,000 of pudding to get these frequent flyer miles.  But it went even further: There was a promotion of seven or eight South American airline companies that wanted to advertise their flights between North- and South America.  If you would fly on these airlines within a specific timeframe, they would promise you one million frequent flyer miles.  This guy really did it.  He was in twelve countries in four days.  He now had something like five million frequent flyer miles.  But I have no idea if he had violent outbursts, or what kinds of suits he wore.” –Paul Thomas Anderson (Spiegel, April 13th, 2003)

Anderson’s mention of suits at the end of this quote alludes to the bright blue suit worn by Barry throughout the film. It is yet another interesting but unexplained detail that sets the character apart from everyone else. More interesting than the suit, however, is his interest in an old harmonium that has been left on the side of the road. Barry might feel compelled to rescue the harmonium because it is unwanted and abandoned. It seems reasonable to conclude that Barry might see the harmonium as a sort of symbol for himself. He certainly feels driven to rescue it and he has a mystifying fascination with the instrument (as does the audience).

Roadside Harmonium.jpg

The lonely man meets the unwanted harmonium.

Even hints at Barry’s backstory seem to raise as many questions about our misfit hero as are answered. It is more than apparent that he is an outsider in his own family, and his sisters obviously look down on him. Their reminders of painful moments merge with insult in the guise of incidental small talk: “Remember when we used to call you gay boy and you’d get all mad?” Such small talk is common in families, but they betray an unpleasant past in which Barry has been made to feel separate from those closest to him. Furthermore, it is clear that this alienation has followed him into adulthood. He doesn’t engage with others.

 Of course, he wants and needs to feel a connection with someone, and this basic human need motivates him to call a phone sex hotline. As this initially awkward phone conversation progresses, anyone with misguided notions that they are watching a stereotypical romantic comedy will probably assume that a romantic relationship will form with this phone sex operator. Unfortunately for Barry Egan, this is nothing like a stereotypical romantic comedy. In fact, she calls him the next morning in an effort to blackmail him for money.

The film’s romance is instead launched soon after this when one of his sisters introduces him to the lovely Lena (Emily Watson). Lina seems to offer him hope for happiness—but only if he can overcome his own anxieties and put an end to the chaos in his life. It should be mentioned that the aforementioned harmonium comes into play again here, because—whatever it represents to Barry—it seems to symbolize equilibrium (or “harmony”) in the film context of the overall film. Barry needs to find balance and peace of mind in order for his relationship with Lena to be successful. This has been written about elsewhere, most notably in Cubie King’s essay, “Punch Drunk Love: The Budding of an Auteur.”

 “The root word of harmonium is harmony. The harmonium, like Lena, appears suddenly in Barry’s life; when things are going poorly for Barry, the harmonium is somehow mysteriously ripped, and like his new relationship Barry must learn to find its harmony… After returning from Utah, Barry grabs the harmonium and physically brings it to Lena’s apartment door, thus combining the two elements that bring him joy. It is as if Barry has suddenly recognized their connection, a surreal moment…

…In the final shot of the film the puzzle is solved. Barry plays the exact notes from Jon Brion’s score for Punch-Drunk Love, playing the harmonium almost concurrently with the music that plays over the scene. The diegetic and non-diegetic music playing together is a moment of cinematic harmony; Barry, Lena, and the harmonium are now in sync.” –Cubie King (Senses of Cinema, April 2005)

bleeding-love

Barry Egan and his harmonium.

There is plenty of visual support for this theory, as the harmonium is often seen placed in the background between Barry and Lina in Anderson’s miseen-scène. His use of composition and color is actually of paramount importance to one’s reading of Punch-Drunk Love, and his color scheme was discussed at length in King’s essay.

“Anderson also uses colors as key indicators of Barry’s psychological battle; blue, red and white being the most prominent. Blue is largely seen in Barry’s workplace and home; it is also the color of Barry’s suit that he curiously begins wearing the day the film begins. Barry is literally blue throughout most of the film…

Red serves as the color that leads to Barry’s happiness. Very precise red objects throughout the film visually direct Barry out of his damaged life (or psyche) and point him in the direction of escape and/or change. Take for instance the first scene in the supermarket. Barry walks down an aisle whispering to himself, ‘What am I looking for?’ As he utters this, in the far background, a woman in a red dress is visible. When Barry turns his head and notices her watching him she quickly walks off. This woman could be seen as Lena, but more importantly a manifestation of the ‘idea’ of Lena, what Barry is actually ‘looking for.’ Because the woman is never identified, the color red becomes the most important aspect of the sequence. Anderson answers Barry’s “What am I looking for?” visually (there is no motivation otherwise to explain this), thus showing us tangible elements of Barry’s subconscious in an environment which we assume is entirely real.

The usage of the color red goes well beyond Lena’s dress (which she wears in all but a few scenes)—a red arrow can be spotted pointing the way to escape from the four blonde brothers, [and] in the supermarket a red arrow points in the direction of where Barry will find the pudding (the pudding offers a way out for Barry)…

…White, on the other hand, takes on a much more sophisticated role. White is the color that coats many of the barren rooms throughout the film. If red works towards Barry’s mirth [sic], then white works in the opposite, as his oppressor. Throughout the film, Barry travels through all white environments that are sparse, isolated, nondescript, and cold. Instances such as Barry’s workplace resembling a large white box, or scenes of Barry running like a trapped mouse through white mazes while attempting to escape the blonde brothers, or finding Lena’s apartment door, demonstrate its recurring influence. White is also the color of the oppressive blown-out light which floods in and suffocates Barry from the outside world, thus emphasizing a greater suppression Barry feels in all his environments. This suppression correlates to the film’s many compositions that imprison Barry within the frame.” –Cubie King (Senses of Cinema, April 2005)

It is interesting that King fails to mention that the harmonium was dropped at the side of the road by someone in a red taxi because this detail would support the theories about color and those about the harmonium. However, it isn’t necessarily important to overanalyze what these colors represent. If the meaning cannot be articulated or explained intellectually, they can certainly be absorbed and felt by the viewer emotionally—which is actually better. After all, this is what the cinema does best.

It would certainly be difficult to explain the meaning behind the unusual transitions in the film, which utilize Jeremy Blake’s tailor-made artwork.

“I had written that there would be some kind of color—bursts of color. I didn’t know what it was exactly. I didn’t know. After we finished shooting the first chunk of the movie, we actually ended up shooting two chunks, and after the first chunk was shot I saw [Jeremy Blake’s] work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and called him up and he came to Los Angeles and had him in our studio. We had this great studio where we set everything up. He saw the movie. All I had done was put red, white, blue and green flashes as placeholders for him. We talked for a while and he did ten or fifteen different pieces a day and it was just sort of a great thing. I ended up with a lot more than I thought I would get.” –Paul Thomas Anderson (BAM Q&A, June 23, 2013)

 That Anderson had intended such transitions from the beginning says something about the importance of these transitions, which has an enormous effect on the viewer’s experience. It creates a kind of euphoric dizziness that can again be felt but never articulated. Some of the best films of all time feel as if they are dreams that have been put onto celluloid, and Punch-Drunk Love can certainly be added to the list of these films.

 Those who expect the film to be a pessimistic study of human relationships will be pleasantly surprised. Barry’s character is certainly alienated and rather disturbed, but the universe seems to be doing everything in its power to help Barry. The harmonium seems to have been left for him to find it, he seems to be magically led to the pudding isle, and he is introduced to Lena despite his own objections. Barry might not think that he is worth loving, but the universe doesn’t agree. What could be more positive than that? This is one of Anderson’s only “feel good” efforts, and it is worth seeing for this reason alone.

SS01.jpg

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. While Criterion is known for their brilliant tailor-made cover designs, Dustin Stanton’s cover for Punch-Drunk Love is somewhat disappointing. It utilizes a still from the film that reminds one of the covers found on run-of-the-mill Blu-ray releases. Wouldn’t it be more sophisticated if they were to utilize some of Jeremy Blake’s wonderful artwork for the film—or even the film’s original one-sheet design? This is a minor complaint, and one doubts if most people will be terribly disappointed with the presentation as it stands. It is simply disappointing when one compares the artwork to some of Criterion’s other releases. As is their habit, Criterion also includes a fold-out pamphlet featuring an admiring essay by Miranda July.

The disc’s menu showcases the harmonium that features largely in the film coupled with Jon Brion’s unusual score. The result is elegant in its simplicity.

SS02.jpg

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars 

Criterion’s 1080p transfer of Punch-Drunk Love almost makes up for the fact that PTA fans had to wait such a ridiculously long time to own the film on Blu-ray. As always, the film’s transfer is discussed in the leaflet provided in the disc’s case:

Punch-Drunk Love is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. Supervised by Paul Thomas Anderson, this high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35mm interpositive.” –Liner Notes

The result is an image vastly superior to the film’s original Super-bit DVD transfer. It probably goes without saying that Detail, depth, and clarity are all substantially improved upon as the image reveals textures that were never before evident while viewing the film on home video. Colors also show substantial improvement, which is good news considering the film’s creative use of vibrant color. Perhaps the biggest improvement over the Super-bit DVD release is that there are none of the ugly and distracting compression anomalies that marred the earlier release.

It is probably possible to complain about a few moments of minor noise and muddy shadowy areas of the frame, but one wonders if these problems might be related to the actual production photography. Franky, blacks are—for the most part—extremely well handled here. There might also be a few quick moments of mild ringing, but this too seems to be a production related issue and not the fault of this excellent transfer. As is usually the case, Criterion has cleaned quite a bit if dirt and other anomalies from their scan of the film leaving fans with an immaculate image. It is easy to understand why Anderson improved this wonderful transfer.

SS03.jpg

Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio—which was re-mastered from the 35mm magnetic track—is as close to perfect as any reasonable listener could possibly expect. Jon Brion’s score, sound effects, and dialogue are all masterfully mixed into what stands as a surprisingly effective sonic experience—especially for a film of its kind. It goes without saying that Anderson makes good use of sound design in his films, and Punch-Drunk Love isn’t an exception.

This is truly a surprisingly dynamic mix that finds Brion’s score dramatically crossing across all five speakers. The directional mix also gives weight to some of Barry’s more chaotic scenes—where his head seems to be going in all directions. It really elevates the entire experience in interesting ways. It has the effect of placing the viewer in Barry’s mind. It’s brilliant work! An entire book could be written about the film’s sound design.

ss04

Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion carries over Sony’s previous DVD supplements over for the film’s Blu-ray debut while adding quite a few new features for fans to enjoy. The materials carried over from Sony’s previous DVD edition are simply presented in up-scaled standard definition, but most of Criterion’s new video features are in true high definition. One wishes that the deleted scenes could have received a new high definition transfer for this release, but one shouldn’t complain about such trifles.

Deleted Scenes:

The Sisters Call – (07:18)

It is interesting to compare this sequence with the abbreviated version that is included in the film. While this series of telephone calls is amusing and interesting, Anderson made the correct decision when he simplified things. The phone conversations in the finished film have more pathos. Less is sometimes more.

“Are You from California” – (02:23)

This interaction between Barry and the goons sent to intimidate him wouldn’t have added anything interesting to the film, but it is instructive to see what was cut from the finished picture.

Blossoms & Blood – (11:58)

Blossoms & Blood is simply a 12-minute assemblage of various deleted and alternate scenes that have been woven together with Jeremy Blake’s art and Jon Brion’s music. Since deleted scenes are amongst the most useful and interesting of all supplemental features, it is wonderful to see this carried over from Sony’s original 2-Disc DVD release.

Mattress Man Commercial – (00:52)

This humorous short spoof on those ridiculously low budget regional commercials that are a staple of late night cable. Actually, it is an almost verbatim reenactment of an actual commercial outtake from the 1980s! (The real commercial is available on Youtube.) It isn’t clear whether this spoof was shot specifically for Punch Drunk Love and deleted from the final cut of the film or if it was merely intended as a fun promotional artifact. Either way, it is a rather amusing addition to the disc. Fans should be pleased to see this carried over from Sony’s original 2-Disc DVD edition of the film.

Cannes Film Festival, 2002: Press Conference – (37:43)

This lengthy panel discussion featuring Paul Thomas Anderson, Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and JoAnne Sellar is only limited by the sometimes ridiculous questions asked during its duration. At its best, this is an informative discussion about the film and its production. At its worst, it is an amusing glimpse of the aforementioned panelists as they try to answer questions that are either unclear or unbelievably pretentious. Since it entertains when it doesn’t enlighten, fans should agree that its inclusion adds quite a bit of value to the disc.

Cannes Film Festival, 2002: Studio Interviews – (07:02)

This “live” television interview with Paul Thomas Anderson, Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is both interesting and entertaining without ever offering much in the way of revelatory information. It is one of those surface level group interviews where all participants praise the work and collaborative efforts of all other participants as they generally discuss the film without ever revealing anything about it. However, it is certainly an amusing way to spend seven minutes and it is nice to have it included in the supplemental package.

Jon Brion on Punch Drunk Love – (27:19)

Many fans will undoubtedly consider this incredibly informative interview with Jon Brion to be the standout amongst the new Criterion offerings available on the disc. Brion is simultaneously engaging and comprehensive in this discussion about his collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson. He discusses their work together in a manner that even viewers who are completely ignorant about music and sound production should be able to understand. Better yet, the information revealed enhances the viewer’s understanding and appreciation of the film itself.

Jon Brion’s Recording Session – (09:56)

Those interested in film scores will find this “home video” footage taken from behind the scenes of Brion’s recording sessions of the Punch Drunk Love score especially interesting. It is a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of Brion and his orchestra at work without any additional commentary to give the footage context. This lack of context may frustrate certain viewers, but most will welcome it as a rare glimpse behind the curtain.

Gangitano and Connor: Jeremy Blake’s Artwork – (20:25)

Michael Connor and Lia Gangitano discuss Jeremy Blake’s background, artwork, and work on the film in an impressive amount of detail. The viewer is also shown a liberal amount of Blake’s art throughout the conversation, which certainly adds value to the program. Unfortunately, their dry shop-talk tends to be slightly less than completely digestible for the average viewer and there isn’t nearly enough information or analysis about Blake’s work on Punch Drunk Love—which should really be priority one. It is certainly a valuable addition to the disc, but most will probably see it as a missed opportunity.

Katie Couric Interview with David Phillips – (05:04)

This interview with Katie Couric and David Phillips was probably aired as part of NBC’s Today show in 2000. David Phillips (aka “the pudding guy”) is interviewed about his efforts to collect frequent flyer miles by purchasing an enormous quantity of “Healthy Choice” products—most notably pudding. Paul Thomas Anderson used Phillips’ unusual mission as the starting point for Sandler’s character in Punch Drunk Love.

Additional Artwork by Jeremy Blake – (02:42)

This is essentially a gallery of additional artwork that was completed by Jeremy Blake for the film presented in slideshow form and set a Hawaiian-flavored song by Annie Kerr entitled “I’ve Gone Native Now.”

Twelve Scopitones – (06:20)

To call these short segments “Scopitones” seems misleading. They are merely very short clips edited from Jeremy Blake’s artwork and footage shot for the film.

Trailers:

Standard Theatrical Trailer(02:27)

The standard theatrical trailer isn’t much different than most other trailers, but the quirky nature of Anderson’s under-appreciated gem shines through here.

Jeremy’s Blake’s Love – (01:24)

Jeremy Blake’s artwork is utilized prominently here until it finally bleeds into live action footage of Barry and Lena. It is a nice little teaser that must have raised a lot of questions about the film upon its initial release.

Eat Tomorrow – (00:33)

This teaser seems to have been made for French audiences. It is a nice little advertisement that captures the tonal flavor of the film, but it is the least effective of the three trailers included here. One wonders if this wasn’t actually a foreign television spot for the film.

SS05.jpg

Final Words:

Punch-Drunk Love lives up to Paul Thomas Anderson’s reputation for creating brilliant cinema, and Criterion gives the film a solid Blu-ray debut.

SS06

Review by: Devon Powell

blu-ray-cover

Spine #839

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 02:45:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 32.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released by Paramount as a Blu-ray/DVD combo and in a standalone DVD edition. This Criterion collection represents a significant upgrade but doesn’t carry over Paramount’s two supplements. A 2 Disc DVD edition of the Criterion Collection is also available.

title

“I had been a dad for about seven or eight years, and I wanted to express something about childhood. You know this now: when you have a kid, it puts you so much in the present tense with their lives, but you can’t help but churn through your own life at that age. It’s such an interesting refraction. So I was thinking a lot about development and childhood. I wanted to do something from a kid’s point of view, but all the ideas that I wanted to express from my own life were so spread out. I couldn’t pick one year, one moment. I was going to maybe write a novel—some little weird, experimental novel. And it hit me, this film idea: What if I filmed a little bit every year and just saw everybody, this family, age? The kids would grow up, the parents would age. In a way, it’s a simple idea, but so damn impractical.” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Boyhood isn’t simply a remarkable film; it is a miracle on celluloid. Having recently won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Film, it isn’t terribly surprising that the film received as many as six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Director – Richard Linklater, Best Original Screenplay – Richard Linklater, Best Supporting Actor – Ethan Hawke, Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette, and Best Film Editing – Sandra Adair). What Richard Linklater has accomplished with this film is nothing short of extraordinary. A few reviewers have noted a similarity with Michael Apted’s series of Up documentaries, but Boyhood is something very different.

The cast of Boyhood had to commit to a film that would take twelve years to complete.

“I called up Patricia [Arquette], who I had only met once, and she jumped aboard. I sat down with Ethan and told him what I was thinking, and he wanted to do it. Then I started casting, looking for kids. Lorelei, my daughter, demanded to have the part. I had the luxury of, every year, just tapping in. I would hang out with her and Ellar, the boy, and just try to pick up where they were at their age, what I felt they could do that year, and then work stories around all that. But pretty soon Lorelei was the sullen teenager who did not want to do it anymore… She’s like the person on the TV series who wants off. ‘Can you kill my character?’ [laughs] I’m like, ‘No. That’s a little too dramatic for this movie.’” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Instead of writing a screenplay for his project, Linklater made a detailed outline of the major events that he wanted to occur. A short script was written every year for each individual shoot. This allowed Linklater to incorporate the personality of the actors into the film in an organic manner.

“All the marriages, divorces, moves, big stuff—I knew he’d go to college and I knew the last shot of the movie from the beginning. The photographer thing? I knew by high school he’d be expressing himself. I thought he’d be a writer. Knowing Ellar [Coltrane] himself at that point—he’s living in a music town, his dad is a musician; I thought he might be in a band. I thought I’d be filming band practice. The film would go where he wanted to some degree. That’s not what happened. He ended up with an interest in photography. I thought, ‘Great.’ I like that more. That’s closer to who I was [at that age]. I was taking pictures. I was observational. It was more fitting. That’s a good example of us going in his direction.” –Richard Linklater (Interview with Brian Tallerico)

Of course, there were many logistical headaches involved with a twelve year production model.

“I didn’t know that heading in, but you can’t contract for more than seven years—which is a good thing, especially when working with children. This was all a wing and a prayer. It was a life project that everyone committed to. Certainly, a few people shifted around. But we all make our life commitments—whether it’s to a family or a partner or a career.” –Richard Linklater (A.V. Club)

The cast and crew would shoot for about three days every year during the twelve year period. This might sound easy, but each shoot required a lot of preparation.

“Logistically, things were just off the charts. Crazy… Each time you have to get a crew, you’ve got to rent just for a three-day shoot, you still have to do all of that stuff: Get production insurance, tech-scout, [and] location-scout, cast the additional parts, get the crew together, [and] make deals. So weeks and weeks each year… We had a cast and crew of over 450 people who came through in various capacities for various times. We had a core crew that was there the whole time, with quite a few people who put in nine years or more. And there are probably 10 or 12 [people] who did either 11 or 12 years.” –Richard Linklater (The Dissolve)

This allowed Linklater to edit the film in the same piecemeal fashion that the film was shot. The editing process could then inform what he would shoot the following year.

“We would edit every year, attach it to whatever had gone before and then edit the whole thing again if we had the extra time. Then I could kind of hang out with that for a year, watch it, think about it, how to incorporate my incrementally aging cast, work that into my ideas and—it was just a fine life project. But that gestation time was incredible. Most movies, if you think about it, you put all your thoughts up front, and then you’re shooting, you’re on your toes, you’re making adjustments and dealing with reality, but you’re rendering what you conceived and then you’re editing that. This was in a much different order. I could edit, [and] then think, then I’m writing and shooting and editing again. So it was unlike any film ever.” –Richard Linklater (Indiewire)

It seems incredible that Linklater was able to find financing for such a project, and many studios passed without giving the project any real consideration. Fortunately, the director had worked on previous productions with IFC, and they agreed to finance the project. Their faith in the director has certainly paid off.

Boyhood defies articulate description. It isn’t quite like anything that has preceded it, and yet it seems vaguely familiar. It is difficult to account for the familiarity. Are we somehow reliving something in our own lives through the characters on the screen? The answer to this question is impossible to answer.

Those expecting the typical ‘coming of age’ melodrama might become irritated to some extent. Linklater shows the audience the small moments that make up a life. We are shown the little moments that people cherish in their mind, but that carry little to no importance to anyone besides the person who holds that particular memory. This is the film’s greatest achievement in many ways, because the viewer adopts these moments as he invests in the film. All of these things somehow become personal. We understand these little moments, even if they are different from our own memories. Somehow, we find ourselves adopting these moments (at least for the duration of the film). Perhaps this is due to the dreamlike nature of the film.

One might think that Boyhood would be rather episodic (perhaps with chapter headings that indicate each year). Instead, the film flows without interruption like memories played out in a dream. It is a dream that I plan to have again and again.

SS01.jpg

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. F. Ron Miller’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and is vastly superior to even the film’s original one sheet artwork—not to mention Paramount’s earlier Blu-ray art which utilized the same photograph as the aforementioned poster. An added bonus is the wonderful illustrated booklet included inside the case with the two Blu-ray discs which features an essay by Jonathan Lethem.

menu

menu-disc-2

The disc’s menus utilize footage from the actual film coupled with a song that featured in the film. I admit to not knowing the title of the song but it should be said that the result is quite pleasant. The passing of time seems to be the menu’s core theme and it is really a very nice little montage of moments that follow Mason’s growth and development.

SS02.jpg

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars 

As is their usual practice, the technical details of Boyhood’s transfer is detailed in the booklet provided in the disc’s case:

Boyhood is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm original camera negative.” –Liner Notes

 The result is quite lovely. The filmmakers were able to maintain the continuity of the image’s texture throughout the twelve year production, and this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer accurately showcases this achievement. The texture of the film’s 35mm photography remains intact without ever becoming inconsistent. Actually—with the exception of the occasional fleeting scratch—there aren’t any problematic blemishes to report. Clarity is always excellent and color is vivid while remaining natural. There are no discernable digital artifacts to distract the viewer either. This seems to be a marginal improvement over Paramount’s transfer, and this is likely due to Criterion’s maxed-out bitrate. In any case, there is certainly no reason to complain with the fine quality of this disc’s image.

SS03.jpg

 Sound Quality:

 4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t sound much different than the one that Paramount offered on their 2015 release of the film. This isn’t particularly surprising because that track was quite solid. While the 5.1 mix isn’t likely to give high end speaker systems much of a workout, it does represent the filmmaker’s intentions. Boyhood is an epic drama with a very simple sound design that is appropriate for the film. The mix is made up of the same quaint sounds that viewers hear daily and these sounds are given some subtle separation that never calls attention to itself. Dialogue is heavily favored and is always clear and well-focused.

SS04.jpg

 Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given Boyhood a rather special 2-Disc release that is packed with interesting supplemental materials. There is well over 5 hours and 38 minutes of enlightening supplemental entertainment included in total (and over 2 hours and 53 minutes if one excludes the commentary track). Some might complain about the absence of the two Paramount supplements, but rest assured that the territory covered by those features is covered here as well and in more detail.

Disc 1:

Feature Length Audio Commentary featuring Richard Linklater (Writer/Director), Cathleen Sutherland (Producer), Sandra Adair (Editor), Rodney Becker (Production Designer), Beth Sepko-Lindsey (Casting Director), Kari Perkins (Costume Designer), Vince Plamo Jr. (First Assistant Director), Marco Perella (Actor – Professor Bill Welbrock), Libby Villari (Actor – Grandma) and Andrew Villarreal (Actor – Randy)

This engaging track was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It would be reasonable to expect any commentary track running nearly three hours to be filled with lengthy silent stretches but the participants fill the time with plenty of information and anecdotes about the film’s unusual production. Some listeners might ament the absence of the principal cast, but these actors have plenty of opportunity to contribute during many of the other supplements provided on the disc. Actually, if the track has a weakness it is that the sheer number of participants might make deciphering who is actually speaking somewhat challenging (although this particular listener didn’t have this issue).

Disc 2:

Twelve Years(1080p) – (49:28)

Essentially a chronicle of the film’s massive 12 year production, this documentary primarily utilizes interviews and fly-on-the-wall production footage taken throughout the 12 year period. The interviews illuminate some of the unique qualities of working on such a project (such as vast changes in the personal lives of those involved). The actors are literally involving with their characters, and this seems to be reflected in the final film. In some ways, it might be said that the production is only discussed here in a rather general manner but the “behind the scenes” footage makes up for whatever one might find lacking otherwise. This certainly isn’t the standard EPK drivel that one might expect. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

Memories of the Present – (1080p) – (57:35)

This discussion featuring Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and moderated by John Pierson was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It is a fairly standard panel discussion that somewhat resembles the 2014 Cinefamily discussion that graced the earlier Paramount disc. Similar territory is covered here as the participants candidly discuss the twelve year production. At almost an hour in length, the viewer is given all sorts of interesting information. It is wonderful to have this included on the disc and it is an adequate substitute for the aforementioned Paramount supplement (even when one takes into account the absence of Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke).

Always Now – (1080p) – (30:10)

This is a surprisingly engaging conversation between Coltrane and actor Ethan Hawke. The two actors seem to be having a genuine conversation with one another about their time working on such an unusual production. It is a very nice addition to the disc.

Time of Your Life – (1080p) – (12:29)

Time of Your Life is a video essay by critic Michael Koresky about time in Linklater’s films featuring narration by Ellar Coltrane. Cinephiles who enjoy scholarly examination will find this short piece both instructive and engaging. Several of the director’s films are discussed throughout the length of the essay (Slacker, the Before trilogy, Boyhood). In some ways, this might be the most important supplement because it addresses how Boyhood works as a film. Linklater devotees will no doubt be pleased to have it included here.

Through the Years – (23:59)

This much more engaging than one might expect. A collection of production portraits by photographer Matt Lankes is narrated with commentary by Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Cathleen Sutherland. The various commentaries (and some of the photos) were originally published in Boyhood: 12 Years on Film but they somehow elevate the photography.

ss05

Final Words:

Fans of Boyhood have been hoping for this release since shortly after the film hit theaters. As a matter of fact, Richard Linklater promised such a release in an interview with Hypable on early as July 13, 2014. When asked what fans could expect, he spoke enthusiastically:

“We’ve got a ton of behind the scenes stuff. We made this in the era where everyone has a digital camera so we unearthed an interview from year one with Ellar, Lorelai, Patricia and myself. Patricia interviewed me in 2002. I hadn’t seen this since we shot it, Ellar had forgotten quite a bit of it but he got to see himself as a wide-eyed six year old. For people who like the movie, I think there will be a lot of cool little treasures.” –Richard Linklater (Hypable, July 13, 2014)

Of course, a lot of people were disappointed when Paramount released their 2015 Blu-ray. Cinephiles were uncertain if the promised Criterion release would ever see the light of day. Luckily, it has finally surfaced with excellent results. Criterion’s release of Linklater’s critically lauded film is a definite upgrade.

12 Years.jpg

Review by: Devon Powell

hitchcockmaster

blu-ray-cover

Spine #523

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: September 06, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:35:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Linear PCM Mono Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.34:1

Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available.

title

“At a neighborhood theater where it was showing the other night, I saw six of our prominent directors and Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon and Claudette Colbert in the audience.  You know this is the picture of which Winston Churchill asked to have a special showing.  If you miss it, don’t say.  Marlene Dietrich, Joe Pasternak and Alfred Hitchcock also went to see it.  And Walter Winchell, one of America’s most widely syndicated columnists, described the film as ‘a dazzler.’  The ice it puts on your spine is brand new.” –Hedda Hopper(Los Angeles Times)

Brand new? Perhaps…

View original post 2,097 more words

hitchcockmaster

Blu-ray Cover

Spine #828

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

 Release Date: August 16, 2016

 Region: Region A

Length: 1:54:16

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Multi-Language (Swedish, English, Italian, and French) DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 32.33 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition

Title

“Some years ago I had a chance meeting with Isabella Rossellini, the daughter of Ingrid Bergman, and she presented me with a most direct proposition: ‘Shall we make a film about Mama?’ I saw this as a most challenging project, and when I later got access to her rich posthumous work – diaries, letters, photographs, amateur movies – my appreciation of Ingrid Bergman as a strong and most determined artist grew even bigger. With Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (Jag är Ingrid) I’ve tried to make a rich and multi-colored portrait of this extraordinary…

View original post 2,293 more words

Spine #63

Carnival of Souls - Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA

Release Date: July 12, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:18:14

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono LPCM (48kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 32.37 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition from Criterion, and can also available in an unimpressive DVD release from ‘Off Color Films’ (which also includes a dreadful colorized version). It should be mentioned that both of these editions include the famous “Director’s Cut” of the film, which is eight minutes longer than the film’s theatrical release.

TITLE

“It was sunset, and I was driving back to Kansas from California when I first saw Saltair, an abandoned amusement park located at the end of a long causeway into the Great Salt Lake. The lake had receded, and the pavilion, with its strange Moorish towers, stood silhouetted against the red sky. I felt I had been transported into a different time and dimension. I stopped the car and walked out to the pavilion. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. The stark white of the salt beach, and the dark quiet of the deserted buildings created the weirdest location I had ever seen. When I got back to Kansas I discussed Saltair with my friend, coworker, and writer, John Clifford. We agreed [that] with the Saltair location and others we had scouted locally, we could develop a script for a very eerie feature film.

Well, John wrote the script for Carnival of Souls in three weeks, and our crew spent a week in Salt Lake City filming Saltair, and two weeks in Lawrence Kansas filming the rest of the movie. We were naïve enough to hope for the look of a Bergman film and the feel of a Cocteau. When a preview was shown in Lawrence in the fall of 1961, the audience’s reaction was mixed. The Bergan look and the Cocteau feel were a little too far out for the time and place. That year, Carnival of Souls was shown in shortened form primarily in the south in drive-ins as part of a double bill, and then it went underground.

Making the film had been exciting. Distributing the film had been agonizing… But Carnival of Souls had affected more people during its short run than we thought. Through magazines, books, and television, it has become a cult classic…” –Herk Harvey (Video Introduction)  

Saltair Resort Postcard

This is a vintage postcard that features the Saltair Resort.

Herk Harvey’s description of the film’s strange journey from a low budget passion project to a celebrated cult classic should be encouraging to any future filmmakers who are currently saving their pennies in an effort to make their dreams come true. Carnival of Souls is required viewing for these individuals. However, it also works as an eerie mood piece. Sure, it is a low budget film with many obvious flaws, but there are many people who might argue that these flaws actually add to the surreal nature of the film. Whatever category readers of this review might fall into, it is recommended that everyone see the film once so that they can make an educated decision for themselves (because it could easily go either way).

SS1

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. Edward Kinsella’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and probably surpasses the film’s original one sheet artwork. An added bonus is the wonderful fold out pamphlet featuring an essay by Kier-La Janisse.

The disc’s menus utilize eerie footage from the actual film coupled with Gene Moore’s organ score.

Menu 1Menu 2Menu 3Menu 4

It is an elegant menu that is quite easy to navigate. All of this makes for an extremely attractive presentation.

SS2.jpg

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given viewers an outstanding high definition transfer of the film’s original theatrical cut of the film that looks incredibly clean. Their transfer of the 4K restoration of the film is a marvel to behold. As always, the film’s restoration was explained in technical detail in the leaflet provided in the disc’s case:

“This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, jitter, and flicker.” –Liner Notes

The resulting image is incredibly detailed with remarkable clarity and depth. Contrast is also beautifully rendered while blacks are deep without crushing. Meanwhile, the rich and always consistent grain textures add a beautifully organic quality to the proceedings. One could easily argue that seeing this new restoration of the film gives fans of the film an altogether new experience. It is impossible to find anything to criticize! This is a gorgeous transfer.

SS3.jpg

Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s uncompressed sound transfer is perhaps the most surprisingly immaculate element on this disc. The film’s famous organ music is finally given enough room to breathe while allowing the dialogue to be as crisp and clearly defined as the film’s ambience. As is usual with Criterion discs, steps were taken to ensure that the sound isn’t marred by any distracting anomalies.

“The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.” –Liner Notes

SS4.jpg

Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has included a near-perfect supplemental package for Carnival of Souls. It is as close to perfect as anyone has a right to expect. There are those who may fault Criterion for not including the infamous “Directors Cut” of the film, but this was probably excluded because this version has always been sourced from a one-inch video copy. It would be pointless to release such a copy on Blu-ray (although, a DVD copy of this version could have made a very nifty second disc). Only the most ungrateful cinemaphiles should allow this omission to affect their opinion of this sensational package.

We are given over five hours of material, and all of it is well worth watching.

Audio Commentary with Herk Harvey (Director) and John Clifford (Screenwriter)

This selected scene commentary with the film’s director and writer is taken from a 1989 retrospective interview with the two gentleman. It was edited to create this sparse commentary track (which is always informative and engaging). It is really to bad that it doesn’t fill the entire length of the film.

Deleted Scenes:

Those who haven’t already seen the film’s director’s cut should find these three deleted scenes fascinating. They were cut from Carnival of Souls before the 1962 release of the film. Unfortunately, the best available source for the deleted footage was a one-inch analog videotape.

Organ Factory – (01:17)

This is a scene that suffers from awkward dialogue (or perhaps wooden delivery of “on the nose” dialogue), but it is a scene that has certain virtues. However, one wonders if the film didn’t benefit from its omission.

Running – (01:00)

While this scene doesn’t seem to add much to the film, the inclusion of this footage did make for a more effective edit.  Out of the three deleted scenes, this is the one that comes the closest to being missed (even if it seems to be the most insignificant).

Doctor’s Office – (01:45)

This scene has a creepy quality that adds to both the film’s tone and story, but it seems to work better in its shorter form.

Outtakes – (27:09)

This lengthy collection of outtakes are accompanied by Gene Moore’s organ score, and there is so much here that it might actually overwhelm the average viewer. While this footage might not be as engaging without any context provided to help guide the viewer, it is certainly a generous offering that fans should find interesting. More supplemental packages should include such a feature.

The Movie That Wouldn’t Die! – (32:13)

This 1989 reunion documentary was made in an effort to celebrate and promote the film’s 1989 theatrical release. Herk Harvey and John Clifford are on hand to explain the conception of the film’s story, the process of funding their project, the location shooting, and the initial reception of the film during its original release. Candace Hilligoss (actress), Glenn Kappelman (one of the investors), Tim DePaepe (filmmaker), and Mark Syverson (fan) also lend their voice to the proceedings. The program was created by Bill Shaffer for a television station in Topeka, Kansas (KTWU – Channel 11), and it is without a doubt one of the better features included on the disc.

Hidden Featurette: The Carnival Tour

Those who wait for the credits to roll on “The Movie That Wouldn’t Die” will discover this tour of some of the film’s locations. (The tour took place in 2000, and the locations have probably changed a bit in the past 16 years.) It is interesting to see what these locations looked like so many years after the release of the film.

Regards from Nowhere – (23:36)

David Cairns (Film Critic) offers a slightly more scholarly appreciation of the film as he discusses various aspects of the film including the unusual netherworld featured in the film. One might call this a video essay or an appreciation instead of a proper documentary, but it is a creatively rendered essay that includes excerpts from interviews with various other participants that appreciate the film, snippets from some of Harvey and Clifford’s industrial shorts, background information, and an impressive presentation. This is exactly the sort of scholarly material that Criterion fans have come to appreciate.

Final Destination – (22:41)

One wonders if Dana Gould (Comedian) can really be seen as a serious authority on Carnival of Souls, but it must be said that his enthusiasm for the film is contagious. He discusses his love for the horror genre and favorably compares Carnival of Souls with The Night of the Living Dead. His discussion of the production is both informative and entertaining.

[Note: He does give the viewer one small nugget of false information. It was not released the same year as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which was released in 1960.]

Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City – (26:00)

This 1966 documentary about the Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City (where the most iconic scenes in the film were shot) was created by Ed Yates for a Salt Lake City television broadcast (KCPX-TV). It presents the rather sad story behind the spooky pavilion seen in Carnival of Souls. It is one of the highlights of this supplemental package (even if the image and sound quality is lacking).

 The Centron Corporation:

Herk Harvey and John Clifford were both working at this industrial film company (which was based in Lawrence, Kansas) when Carnival of Souls went into production. This collection provides a glimpse at some of these industrial films, which provide a kind of context for the production of Carnival of Souls.

The following clips are included:

 The Centron Corporation: Historical Essay – (09:57)

This audial history of the Centron Corporation originally appeared in Ken Smith’s Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1979. Dana Gould lends his voice to the text, which turns this informative excerpt into an effective video essay.

Centron Commercial (1967) – (02:13)

Rebound (1954) – (21:15)

Star 34 (1954) – (12:37)

To Touch a Child (1966) – (12:01)

Case History of a Sales Meeting (1963) – (05:32)

Signals: Read’em or Weep (1982) – (05:24)

Theatrical Trailer – (02:17)

The campy theatrical trailer used to market Carnival of Souls doesn’t do the film justice, but it does provide an interesting look at how the film was positioned upon its original release.

SS5.jpg

Final Words:

Carnival of Souls is one of those cult films that divides audiences. Those that love these quirky little B-movies will agree that Criterion has provided them with a spectacular Blu-ray release that does the film justice. Others will argue that the film has received a better release than it really deserves. Either way, it is difficult to argue against the quality of this incredible disc.

Review by: Devon Powell

Spine #821

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: The Criterion Collection

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:34:58

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Uncompressed Original English Mono Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.66:1

Bitrate: 28.50 Mbps

Notes: A 2-Disc DVD edition of this ‘Criterion’ title is also available. ‘Sony Picture Classics’ previously releases this film on Blu-ray, but the transfer is slightly less impressive and it doesn’t contain nearly as many supplemental features.

Title

“I started out being completely unfamiliar with any of the professional literature in the field of nuclear deterrence. I was at first very impressed with how subtle some of the work was—at least so it seemed starting out with just a primitive concern for survival and a total lack of any ideas of my own. Gradually I became aware of the almost wholly paradoxical nature of deterrence or as it has been described, the Delicate Balance of Terror. If you are weak, you may invite a first strike. If you are becoming too strong, you may provoke a pre-emptive strike. If you try to maintain the delicate balance, it’s almost impossible to do so mainly because secrecy prevents you from knowing what the other side is doing, and vice versa, ad infinitum…” -Stanley Kubrick (as quoted by Alexander Walker in “Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis”)

The paradox described by Kubrick is the basis of what may very well be his finest feature. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is an incisive and unflinching satire that contains ingredients that nearly everyone can enjoy. Kubrick bombards the audience with irreverent humor that includes plenty of sexual innuendo and toilet humor. (The entire framework of the film is sexual… beginning with intercourse [a bomber re-fueling] and ending with orgasm [bombs exploding].)

The Opening Title Sequence

The film’s sexual framework is apparent in the fabulous opening credit sequence.

However, the dark and bone-dry satirical elements combined with shrewd observations about the more ridiculous patterns of human behavior are what sets Strangelove apart from other comedies. Actually, the film was originally conceived as a serious thriller.

“As I tried to build the detail for a scene I found myself tossing away what seemed to me to be very truthful insights because I was afraid the audience would laugh. After a few weeks of this I realized that these incongruous bits of reality were closer to the truth than anything else I was able to imagine. After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?” -Stanley Kubrick (as quoted by Alexander Walker in “Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis)

Instead of forcing the film to conform to his original intentions, Kubrick changed his intentions to better fit his subject matter. This made all the difference in the world.

“…In culling the incongruous, it seemed to me to be less stylized and more realistic than any so-called serious, realistic treatment, which in fact is more stylized than life itself by its careful exclusion of the banal, the absurd, and the incongruous. In the context of impending world destruction, hypocrisy, misunderstanding, lechery, paranoia, ambition, euphemism, patriotism, heroism, and even reasonableness can evoke a grisly laugh.” -Stanley Kubrick (as quoted by Thomas Allen Nelson in “Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze”)

Perhaps the laughs were too grisly for certain viewers. Critical reception at the time was somewhat positive, but praise was given with a certain amount of reservation. Bosley Crowther’s review for the New York Times is one case in point.

“Stanley Kubrick’s new film, called Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is beyond any question the most shattering sick joke I’ve ever come across. And I say that with full recollection of some of the grim ones I’ve heard from Mort Sahl, some of the cartoons I’ve seen by Charles Addams and some of the stuff I’ve read in Mad Magazine.

For this brazenly jesting speculation of what might happen within the Pentagon and within the most responsible council of the President of the United States if some maniac Air Force general should suddenly order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union is at the same time one of the cleverest and most incisive satiric thrusts at the awkwardness and folly of the military that have ever been on the screen…

…My reaction to it is quite divided, because there is so much about it that is grand, so much that is brilliant and amusing, and much that is grave and dangerous.

On the one hand, it cuts right to the soft pulp of the kind of military mind that is lost from all sense of reality in a maze of technical talk, and it shows up this type of mentality for the foolish and frightening thing it is…

…As I say, there are parts of this satire that are almost beyond compare.

On the other hand, I am troubled by the feeling, which runs all through the film, of discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment, up to and even including the hypothetical Commander in Chief.

It is all right to show the general who starts this wild foray as a Communist-hating madman, convinced that a ‘Red conspiracy’ is fluoridating our water in order to pollute our precious body fluids. That is pointed satire, and Sterling Hayden plays the role with just a right blend of wackiness and meanness to give the character significance.

But when virtually everybody turns up stupid or insane–or, what is worse, psychopathic–I want to know what this picture proves. The President, played by Peter Sellers with a shiny bald head, is a dolt, whining and unavailing with the nation in a life-or-death spot. But worse yet, his technical expert, Dr. Strangelove, whom Mr. Sellers also plays, is a devious and noxious ex- German whose mechanical arm insists on making the Nazi salute.

And, oddly enough, the only character who seems to have much common sense is a British flying officer, whom Mr. Sellers–yes, he again–plays.

The ultimate touch of ghoulish humor is when we see the bomb actually going off, dropped on some point in Russia, and a jazzy sound track comes in with a cheerful melodic rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day.’ Somehow, to me, it isn’t funny. It is malefic and sick.” -Bosley Crowther (New York Times, January 30, 1964)

Did Mr. Crowther not understand that satire is supposed to have this dividing effect on the viewer? The entire point is to show the folly in all arguments. Everyone is ridiculous for the simple reason that there is ridiculousness in each point of view. This is what made the cold war situation so dangerous. I suppose the dark nature of the humor might still be too much for certain people to digest, but this is probably a testament to the film’s brilliance. It still seems relevant today.

ss1.jpg

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given Dr. Strangelove the royal treatment. Instead of utilizing their usual clear case packaging (which is usually quite lovely), they have designed an impressive Digipak with film related artwork designed by Eric Skillman.

Inside the digipak is a “Plan R” envelope that contains the following artifacts:

1. A booklet that is beautifully designed to look like a men’s magazine entitled “Strangelove.” This booklet contains an article by Terry Southern about the making of the film that was originally written in 1994. This article is both enjoyable and informative. Fans of the film will love it.

2. An official document that is labeled “TOP SECRET” and contains an essay by David Bromwich about the production of Strangelove.

  1. Holy Bible and Russian Phrases. This tiny little booklet is slightly less impressive than the other two items. There are a few Russian phrases at the beginning of the book, but most of the book is devoted to film and disk credits and technical information about the transfer.

Blu-ray Contents.png

This is really a very clever little package, and it should look terrific on your Blu-ray shelf.

The menus utilize footage from the film accompanied by a dramatic musical arrangement of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” that is featured in the film.

Menu 1Menu 2Menu 3Menu 4

They are quite attractive and easy to navigate.

ss2

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s tiny “Holy Bible & Russian Phrases” booklet details their 1.66:1 high definition transfer in more depth than any review might hope to discuss it:

“…Because of overprinting and damage created at the time of its theatrical release, the original camera negative of Dr. Strangelove was destroyed at the laboratory fifty years ago. As a result, a combination of elements, including 35mm fine-grain master positives, duplicate negatives, and prints were used for this digital transfer, which was created in 4K resolution on an Oxberry wet-gate film scanner at Cineric in New York in 2004. Given the condition of the many elements; the fact that they represented different manufacturing generations from the original camera negative, resulting in wide variations in density and contrast; and the need to maintain the filmmaker’s aesthetic intentions, it was determined that the only way to restore the film properly was in a full 4K digital space.

Daniel DeVincent, Cineric’s director of digital restoration, created lookup tables designed to optimize the scanner for each element and achieve the dynamic range of 35mm film. Under the supervision of Grover Crisp, initial color correction was carried out by DeVincent, with additional color correction done by Scott Ostrowsky at Technicolor and Colorworks in Los Angeles. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed by Cineric using DaVinci’s Revival.”

The result is a fabulous transfer that gives viewers the opportunity to experience the film in a fresh light. Fans who have only viewed the film on previous DVD issues will be especially surprised at the difference in quality.

However, those who own Sony’s 2009 Blu-ray release of the film might need to look quite closely to see a definite difference in quality. The higher bit-rate (28.50 Mbps as opposed to Sony’s 25.95 Mbps) does give Criterion’s transfer a decided edge, and one can see that Criterion’s transfer is marginally superior when one carefully compares the each transfer. The differences are especially clear while comparing the transfers while they are in motion.

The cinematic layer of grain gives the transfer a cinematic texture that is preferable to overzealous DNR, and the picture remains clear throughout the length of the film. The high-definition transfer showcases a level of detail that wasn’t evident on DVD issues of the film, and the transfer exhibits near-perfect contrast with clean gradients in the mid-range. There may be a few minor edge enhancement issues, but one really has to scrutinize the image to notice this. It certainly never becomes distracting. Overall, this is an excellent transfer!

ss3

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The film’s soundtrack was also restored to its former glory by the restoration team.

“The original monaural soundtrack and the alternate 5.1 sound mix were remastered from the best surviving optical tracks at Chase Audio by Deluxe, under [Grover] Crisp’s supervision, [and] additional restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection using Pro Tools and iZotope Rx4.”

Purists will no doubt prefer Criterion’s LPCM English Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit). This mono track sounds quite good for its age. Criterion seems to have cleaned up a few of the track’s blemishes leaving a relatively clear audio experience. Meanwhile, their 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Mix (48 kHz, 3680 kbps, 24-bit) is slightly more dynamic with some subtle activity in the rear speakers, though this track has a few minor anomalies (such as minor hissing) that aren’t quite as obvious in the mono track. It should be said, that these issues are barely noticeable. One would have to have a terrific sound system and a sensitive ear to notice them.

ss3

Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

It is nice to see that most of the terrific supplements from the Sony Blu-ray have been carried over for this disc in addition to Criterion’s brand new bonus features. (The picture-in-picture feature isn’t included, but few will miss it.) There are nearly four hours of supplements on this disc, and it is nearly impossible to imagine that anyone will feel shortchanged.

Inside Dr. Strangelove (2000) – (SD) – (46:04)

David Naylor’s documentary is a better than average look at the making of Kubrick’s masterpiece. The program utilizes a healthy amount of narration to fill in any holes left by the numerous interviewees featured throughout the duration of the piece, and archival stills, newsreel footage, and clips from the film are used to illustrate what the various participants discuss. Participants include James B. Harris, Ken Adam, Peter Murton, Gilbert Taylor, Tracy Reed, James Earl Jones, and probably two times as many others worth mentioning. The result is as entertaining as it is informative.

No Fighting in the War Room (2004) – (SD) – (30:04)

“No Fighting in the War Room, or Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat” gives viewers a glimpse into the political atmosphere of the cold war era. Interestingly, Robert McNamara (former secretary of defense) is on hand to explain the finer points of nuclear deterrence in a manner that is simple to understand, and horrifying to contemplate. This contextual information adds to one’s appreciation of the film’s satirical elements.

The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove (2000) – (SD) – (13:50)

This is obviously a companion piece to David Naylor’s “Inside Dr. Strangelove.” Many of the same participants are utilized, and it could have very easily been edited as a part of that particular program. “The Art of Stanley Kubrick” would be the perfect introduction to the work of Stanley Kubrick if it proceeded to discuss the director’s six post-Strangelove efforts. As it is, the viewer is given a general overview of Kubrick’s becoming.

Best Sellers (2004) – (SD) – (18:28)

 “Best Sellers, or Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove” is relatively self-explanatory. This short piece gives the brilliant comedian his due while telling the story of his background and discussing his vast talent. Plenty of participants are on hand to sing his praises as the program finally comes to his legendary three-role performance in Dr. Strangelove.  While this cannot be described as a particularly comprehensive look at the life and career of Peter Sellers, it is an admirable introduction. There are quite a few clips of his early work that will be new to many viewers, and the inclusion of this footage would be enough reason to praise this excellent featurette.

Stanley Kubrick’s Pursuit of Perfection: Joe Dunton and Kelvin Pike – (12:13)

Joe Dunton (Cinematographer) and Kelvin Pike (Camera operator) discuss Kubrick’s photographic knowledge while reminiscing about their experiences working with Kubrick. Pike’s memories are especially interesting (and relevant), because of his work on Strangelove. This is a very welcome addition to the disc!

Deep Impact: David George Remembers Peter George – (10:57)

David George discusses Red Alert (which formed the basis for Dr. Strangelove) and his father’s collaboration with Kubrick and Southern on the film’s screenplay. This program further expands the viewer’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of the film by looking at the evolution of the script. There are some wonderful nuggets of information here.

Flying Solo: Stanley Kubrick as Producer – (19:14)

Mick Broderick has recently written a book about the making of Dr. Strangelove entitled “Reconstructing Strangelove: Inside Stanley Kubrick’s “Nightmare Comedy,” and this program is essentially a one-sided conversation with Broderick about Stanley Kubrick’s first efforts as producer. The information given is more general in nature and offers the viewer information about Kubrick’s working methods.

Exploding Myths: Richard Daniels on the Stanley Kubrick Archive – (14:15)

Daniels discusses some of the misconceptions about Kubrick’s working method while offering evidence of the contrary that can be found in “The Stanley Kubrick Archive.” For example, we are given evidence that Sellers didn’t ad-lib dialogue nearly as much as legend suggests. His improvisations were more in his delivery and physical business. There is quite a bit of information crammed into these fourteen minutes.

Transcending Time: Symbols and Strangelove – (17:25)

In this scholarly discussion, Rodney Hill theorizes about the various Jungian archetypes present in Dr. Strangelove. Hill claims that Kubrick’s appreciation of the writings of Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces) influenced his films. Dr. Strangelove is briefly dissected along these lines. It makes for interesting food for thought (even if one doesn’t agree with Hill’s theories).

Peter Sellers on “The Today Show – (4:23)

This excerpt from a 1980 episode of The Today Show is a very humorous clip of a conversation between Gene Shalit and Peter Sellers. The conversation is less informative than entertaining, but Sellers is always a delight to watch. This archival clip adds a charm to the supplemental package that is most appreciated.

1963 Split Screen Interviews 1963 with Peter Sellers & George C. Scott – (SD) – (7:16)

While these interviews are interesting as artifacts of the film’s marketing and promotion, they suffer from a lack of context. The viewer are only given pre-recorded answers to unknown questions. It is good to have them included here, but it is difficult to gather any concrete knowledge from them.

Exhibitor’s Trailer – (16:53)

This “trailer” is made up of raw footage from the film that is narrated (or explained) by Stanley Kubrick) himself. The most interesting aspect of this short promotional piece (which was never intended to be seen by the public) lies in the fact that this is essentially unedited footage that has been roughly assembled. It has the capacity to give one insight into Kubrick’s shooting and editing process (even if these insights might seem minor).

Jeremy Bernstein Interviews Stanley Kubrick (1966) – (3:06)

This is an excerpt from a 1966 interview with Stanley Kubrick. It must have shocked Jeremy Bernstein when Kubrick agreed to a lengthy interview for what would become a full-length profile for The New Yorker, because the director wasn’t particularly fond of giving interviews. The interview was held in England while Kubrick was working on his newest project (2001: A Space Odyssey). Kubrick even insisted that Bernstein use one of his tape recorders to capture this legendary 77-minute interview… and now we have this wonderful excerpt from this conversation included here on this disc.

The clip focuses on Dr. Strangelove and is essential listening for fans of the film. It is really nice to have this audio footage included on the disk.

Theatrical Trailer – (3:24)

One of the more ambitious and unusual trailers to come out of the Hollywood system, this might be better called a “teaser” than a proper “trailer.” Fans should be grateful to have this included on the disc!

ss5

Final Words:

The final paragraph of Roger Ebert’s 1994 rave about the film sums up this reviewer’s feelings perfectly.

“Seen after 30 years, Dr. Strangelove seems remarkably fresh and undated – a clear-eyed, irreverent, dangerous satire. And its willingness to follow the situation to its logical conclusion – nuclear annihilation – has a purity that today’s lily-livered happy-ending technicians would probably find a way around. Its black and white photography helps, too, putting an unadorned face on its deadly political paradoxes. If movies of this irreverence, intelligence and savagery were still being made, the world would seem a younger place.” –Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, October 28, 1994)

Over ten years have passed since Ebert wrote these words, and Dr. Strangelove still hasn’t grown stale. There is no excuse for ignoring this film, and Criterion has given us the perfect outlet for watching it film on home video. Find a place of honor on your shelves for this one.

ss6

Review by: Devon Powell

hitchcockmaster

Boxed Set

Distributor: The Criterion Collection

Release Date: December 15, 2015

Region: Region A

Notes: Our source at Criterion tells us that this Boxed Set will likely only be available for a very limited time. However, these titles are also available individually on both Blu-ray and DVD.

The Criterion Collection has packaged their currently available Hitchcock titles into a boxed-set called Classic Hitchcock. The set contains the following Criterion titles with the same packaging, supplements, and transfers as their respective individual releases:

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934):

https://hitchcockmaster.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/the-man-who-knew-too-much-1934-the-criterion-blu-ray-spine-643/

The 39 Steps (1935):

https://hitchcockmaster.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/blu-ray-review-the-39-steps-the-criterion-collection/

The Lady Vanishes (1938):

https://hitchcockmaster.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/blu-ray-review-the-lady-vanishes-the-criterion-collection/

Foreign Correspondent (1940):

https://hitchcockmaster.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/blu-ray-review-foreign-correspondent-the-criterion-collection/

(Please click the links to read complete reviews of each of these titles.)

Final Words:

Those who have not already purchased any of these Criterion titles will find that this boxed set saves them quite a bit of money. However, we sincerely hope this release isn’t an…

View original post 44 more words