Archive for the ‘The Criterion Collection’ Category

Spine #986

TBW Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:14:08

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 32.49 Mbps

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

TBW Title

It has been said that the French have decidedly different attitudes concerning infidelity than Americans, and it would be difficult to argue otherwise. While Marcel Pagnol’s The Baker’s Wife showcases some of these diverging attitudes, the film manages to play quite well across both cultures. The story was derived from a decidedly incidental episode in Jean Giono’s 1932 novel, “Jean le Bleu” (“Blue Boy“) and tells how a close-knit provincial village is thrown into disarray when the new baker’s wife runs off with a shepherd. Raimu gives a terrific performance as Aimable Castanier (the aforementioned baker) as he manages to elicit the viewer’s sympathy even when making himself both ridiculous and pathetic. In any case, the villagers joke about Aimable’s predicament, but it soon becomes clear that he won’t be making any more of his delicious bread until he has his wife back. Feuds, age-old animosities, and opposing philosophies will have to be set aside if they wish to enjoy their daily bread again. It is a well-told (and deceptively simple) folk-tale that Pagnol renders in his typical no-frills style.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases. The cover sleeve includes attractive cover artwork that has been credited to Manuel Fior. It’s a nice design as is usually the case for Criterion. Also included in the case is a pamphlet that includes an interesting essay by Ginette Vincendeau entitled, “The Baker’s Wife: Bread, Love, and a Trophy Wife.” Technical details about the transfer are also included.

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Criterion’s static menu features more of Fior’s artwork and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s excellent transfer utilizes an excellent “4K digital restoration,” and the resulting is probably as good as it is ever going to look on this format. It’s really quite remarkable considering the film’s age as it offers a detailed image that is free from noticeable age-related anomalies or damage. An organic layer of film grain adds to the filmic texture of the image and resolves quite naturally. Fans will be pleased.

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Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Those with reasonable expectations should be pleased with Criterion’s uncompressed 24-bit audio transfer as the track’s limitations were inherent in the original soundtrack. It’s difficult for these American ears to adequately judge the clarity of the French dialogue, but there weren’t any obvious problems with the sound to report. Vincent Scotto’s score is limited by the era’s sound production practices but not by this excellent transfer which seems to represent the original audio admirably.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Selected-Scene Audio Commentary with Brett Bowles – (Introduction: 03:54) – (Reconciling a Divided France: 11:44) – (The Folklore of Bakers and Bread: 11:33) – (Sexuality and Marriage: 11:47)

This scholarly examination of Pagnol’s classic may be better described as a video essay that has been divided into three sections (four if one considers the Introduction). Each section examines the film through a different microscope: Reconciling a Divided France discusses the film in the context of Frances social and political climate in 1938. The left was divided against the right, and this film mirrors many of the national squabbles through various characters (the most pointed example would be that of the priest and the teacher). The Folklore of Bakers and Bread discusses archetypes in France’s folklore that are mirrored in The Baker’s Wife. Sexuality and Marriage examines the film’s depiction of various gender roles in the context of the time in which it was made. Bowles’s analysis is certainly worth watching as it provides interesting analysis that can only enrich one’s viewing experience and enhance one’s appreciation of the film.

Introduction by Marcel Pagnol (1967) – (05:31)

To call this interview an “Introduction” to the film is a bit misleading. It’s actually a brief but incredibly informative interview with Pagnol. He discusses the film’s origins, the production, and working with Raimu with extreme candor. Criterion did well to include it in on the disc.

Cinéastes de notre temps: Marcel Pagnol Ou Le Cinéma Tel Qu’on Le Parle (1966) – (26:09)

This is the second of two episodes of a French television series entitled Cinéastes de notre temps that focused on Pagnol. It is essentially a lengthy interview with the filmmaker in his Paris flat. It’s actually an extremely interesting discussion that covers quite a bit of territory. He elaborates on his attitudes about silent and sound cinema, discusses the origins and practical reasons for making The Baker’s Wife, and muses about various differences between theater and the cinema. The program is slightly padded with excerpts from The Baker’s Wife, but it covers more territory than one might think. It is of enormous value to anyone interested in Pagnol’s work.

1976 News Program Revisiting the Village of Le Castellet – (13:19)

This short segment from a 1976 French news program revisits the village of Le Castellet (the film’s primary location). Ginette Leclerc and Charles Moulin make appearances and are briefly interviewed as are various residents that remember the production. It’s a charming addition to the disc (even if it isn’t terribly revelatory).

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Final Words:

Criterion continues their reputation for terrific transfers of cinematic masterworks with their Blu-ray release of Marcel Pagnol’s The Baker’s Wife. Those who are interested should indulge without hesitation.

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One Sheet

 

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Spine #975

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Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Region: Region A

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 German DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3962 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 33.77 Mbps

Notes: This is the North American Blu-ray debut of Funny Games.

Title

“The film is a film about the representation of violence in the media, not about violence per se. It is a self-reflexive film, after all.” –Michael Haneke (Cinema.com, 2007)

Michael Haneke’s Funny Games has been making enemies since its release, and to say that the critical opinion was polarized is an understatement. It should be said upfront that yours truly despised the film upon the first viewing, and this wasn’t because of the overwhelming mean spiritedness behind it. Instead, it was—in the words of Haneke himself—the self-reflexive nature of the proceedings that simply seemed to be one step too far. Fourth wall breaks have never appealed to this viewer and it is doubtful that they ever will. However, it is important to keep in mind the intentions of the filmmaker and to ignore one’s own prejudices and preferences in order to judge a film fairly.

Therefore, it is important to understand what Michael Haneke was trying to achieve:

“It’s meant as a provocation, and of course, all the rules that usually make the viewer go home happy and contented are broken in my film. There’s this unspoken rule that you can’t harm animals. What do I do? I kill the dog first thing. The same thing with the boy. You’re not supposed to break the illusion. What do I do? I break the illusion. It’s the principle of the whole film. It’s a very ironic film… When I did Benny’s Video, which was done before the first Funny Games, I had depicted violence but I felt that not everything was said. I was thinking, how I could continue this dialogue…

…I wanted to show the audience how much they can be manipulated. First they think it’s all an illusion, just a film, then I do this rewinding and suddenly you go back. I look at the viewer directly. I talk to him. I wink at him. I do this again and again to show how much one can manipulate. In view of this overriding illusion in movies, it’s a good idea to create a little bit of mistrust in the verité, in the truth of moving pictures.” –Michael Haneke (Cinema Blend, 2007)

The “slap-in-the face” aspect of the film certainly resonates, but one wonders if he even needed to go as far as he did to make his point. French auteur Jacques Rivette voiced his dislike of the film in no uncertain terms after seeing the film at Cannes and was still annoyed at the film a few years later when he called Funny Games a “complete piece of shit” in a 2001 interview published by Senses of Cinema. Haneke has the film’s two villains wink at the camera, speak to the audience, and rewind the events of the film via remote control. He takes a sledge hammer approach to a goal that could have easily been achieved more gracefully without these devices. There is a decided arrogance to this approach that rightfully rubs many viewers the wrong way, and one would have to label the film a success if this were Haneke’s only objective.

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This wink represents the first in a series of fourth wall breaks employed in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games.

However, the film’s success is open for serious debate if the director honestly intended to force his audience to consider how they are manipulated by the rules and structure of the genre while also critiquing their thirst for violent entertainment. For one thing, there are plenty of genre fans who enjoy the film’s cruel and nihilistic nature. They experience the film just as they would any other entertainment—just as they enjoy films like Scream (which affectionately critiques the slasher genre without ever having to break the fourth wall). What’s more, these fourth wall breaks become less distracting (and less distancing) upon repeated viewings, and one becomes desensitized by their knowledge of upcoming events. In other words, this film (which was originally intended as a “provocation”) eventually turns into another genre entertainment. One has to wonder if the director would be pleased about this particular fact.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases (we actually prefer this to their digipaks). The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate cover artwork that utilizes either a still or a screenshot from the film itself. It’s isn’t one of Criterion’s most brilliant designs, but it certainly serves its purpose. Also included in the case is a pamphlet that includes more film-related imagery and an interesting essay by Bilge Ebiri that is an interesting read even if you ultimately disagree with some of what is included within the text. Information about the transfer and technical credits are also included therein.

Menu

Criterion’s static menu features the film’s title in black against a red background in the same style utilized by both the film and Criterion’s cover. A loop of the television noises heard within the film provide accompaniment for this image, and the layout is exactly what collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It will come as no surprise to the already initiated that Criterion’s image transfer is top notch and a huge improvement over all previous DVD editions of the film. These improvements go beyond the greater resolution offered by the DVD format as it offers a sharper and cleaner image (even in darker scenes) and showcases with better blacks and improved color throughout the duration. Whites are well controlled but quite brilliant, and fine detail consistently impresses as well. Contrast is also expertly handled here, and there is a natural layer of film grain that is well resolved and never distracting. The disc’s encode seems well handled and utilizes a relatively high bitrate, and there are no anomalies to complain about here. The restoration was personally supervised by Michael Haneke, so it seems reasonable to assume that this is how the film is intended to look and represents the his intentions.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a nicely handled representation of the film’s original sound. It seems likely that certain audiophiles may wish for a more dynamic mix, but I’m not sure that their disappointment would be reasonable. What we are given is a clean and clear mix with a reasonable level of separation. In all honesty, the track is fairly dynamic, it just doesn’t reinvent the wheel for a new generation of viewers (and purists will be pleased by this decision). It’s somewhat difficult to gauge the level of clarity in the dialogue elements, because German is foreign to this pair of ears. However, there doesn’t seem to be any issues here, and ambience, effects, and music are also admirably handled.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Trojan Horses – (25:09)

Criterion’s new retrospective interview with Michael Haneke finds the director candidly discussing the film’s origins and script evolution, ‘behind-the-scenes’ production challenges, the untimely deaths of three of the film’s four primary actors, and his intentions for the film. The film’s remake is also discussed (albeit briefly), but this topic probably deserved more time than it received. His discussion is often surprisingly thorough, and there is at least one surprising revelation as to one of his influences. It is a thorough discussion about the film and a worthwhile addition to Criterion’s supplemental package. As a matter of fact, it is the disc’s strongest extra.

Bad Boy – (17:56)

Arno Frisch’s new interview is also surprisingly revealing and offers plenty of interesting information about the film’s script and production. It is clear that he is proud of the film and is enthusiastic throughout the duration. His revelations here add to those given by Haneke and gives the viewer a greater appreciation for the movie itself. He also discusses his vivid memory of the walkouts during the Cannes screenings of the film.

Game Culture – (28:07)

Alexander Horwath gives what might be described as a scholarly appreciation of the film. It does offer the viewer some food for thought, but it honestly isn’t terribly revelatory overall and pales in comparison to the two previous interviews. Most of his observations are either obvious or debatable, and most viewers will have already considered much of what he has to offer here. It’s a worthwhile addition to the disc, but fans of the film may find it wanting.

Cannes Film Festival Press Conference (1997) – (44:12)

It is nice to find this vintage press conference included here as it offers quite a bit of information even as it hints at the film’s divided reception. The information divulged is sometimes hindered by some of the reporters as they sometimes asked asinine questions, but such is always the case. Many of the questions betrayed an innate misunderstanding of the material and seemed to both annoy and amuse Haneke himself. In addition, Susanne Lothar and Ulrich Mühe were largely ignored in favor of Arno Frisch (despite the fact that they had more difficult roles and did an outstanding job in the film). The answers are sometimes repetitive due to the ridiculous questions being asked, but at least this gives the viewer more opportunity to absorb the repeated information. It is a nice—if limited—addition that adds to the value of the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:12)

The film’s original theatrical trailer rounds out the list of supplements admirably.

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Final Words:

Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is an “experimental provocation” that continues to polarize viewers. Some believe that the film is a successful critique of media violence while others believe that it is a hypocritical endeavor that merely raises the proverbial middle finger towards anyone who endeavors to watch the film.

This reviewer stands somewhere in the middle. It’s an interesting effort and worth seeing if only so that you can make up your own mind, and Criterion’s disc is probably the best way to experience it in one’s home environment.

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One Sheet

Spine #970

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Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:06:11

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 35.82 Mbps

Title

Zapata! and Face the Crowd were both scorned when they came out and so was Splendor in the Grass; now they’re minor classics. I know many of the critics and I don’t think of them as God-like figures. What can they do to hurt me? Sure, I might be slightly embarrassed for a day, but then you just go your own way.” –Elia Kazan (Interview, 1969)

Everyone has probably seen at least one episode of The Andy Griffith Show, so it might be worth posing the following question: What if Andy Taylor—the extremely modest and benevolent rural Sherriff portrayed in this series—was in actuality an amoral and maniacal megalomaniac? What if his country boy charm and kindly disposition were merely a pretense? I ask these questions because Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith’s character in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd) has a public persona that isn’t terribly different from the character that Griffith portrayed in his hit series, but this persona is merely a sociopath’s mask.

A Face in the Crowd follows the rise and descent of Rhodes as he is discovered by Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) in an Arkansas jail trying to sleep off a terrible hangover (any similarities to Otis Campbell end here). Jeffries soon has him employed as a charismatic local radio personality, but this is merely a single step on his journey to becoming a national television celebrity. However, this isn’t your typical rags-to-riches yarn as it soon becomes a scarily prescient satire about demagoguery. It forces us to consider just how possible a truly democratic system of government is in a land full of people who are more than willing to let others do their thinking for them (especially when the media is more than happy to oblige them).

Perhaps the film was a flop because it was released in an era when questioning our system of government was looked at with extreme skepticism, but those who look seriously at our current sociopolitical climate might wish that people had paid closer attention.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases. The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate cover artwork that has been credited to Marc Aspinall. It’s a nice design as is usually the case for Criterion (even if it isn’t one of their best).

Also included in the case is a booklet that includes more attractive artwork and plenty of production photography that serve as illustration for an interesting essay by April Wolfe entitled, “American Character,” a second essay by Elia Kazan (the film’s director) entitled, “About Screenwriters,” and a vintage New York Times feature entitled “Strange Chronicle of Andy Griffith” by Gilbert Millstein. All three of these writings offer something worthwhile and should add to the viewer’s appreciation of the film. Technical details about the transfer are also included within its pages.

Menu

Criterion’s static menu features thematically appropriate artwork and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. Frankly, it isn’t one of their more attractive menus, but it should still be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion provides the following information about this new Blu-ray transfer of A Face In the Crowd:

“This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics director 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 jitter, flicker, and small dirt…” –Liner Notes

The resulting image is a huge leap forward from previous home video transfers, and the differences aren’t merely the result of the new 4K scan (although it certainly contributes to this transfer’s superiority). It certainly showcases much more fine detail, but it also sees a huge improvement in nearly all other areas. Shadows are more detailed even as deeper blacks are on display, the film looks much better in motion, both clarity and image stability is greatly improved, and grain patterns look more organic and are better resolved. There doesn’t seem to be any problematic digital tampering on display here either.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s Mono PCM Audio transfer is a healthy rendering of the film’s original audio elements and is faithful to the original artistic intentions of the filmmakers. The original source elements seem to have been incredibly healthy, and there aren’t any encoding issues to mar the film’s original sound elements. The result is a stable audio transfer that is free from the distracting blemishes that one might expect to find from a film of its era. Certainly any perceived issues are inherent in the source.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Facing the Past – (29:10)

Facing the Past is a short documentary about the film’s creation and reception that includes interviews with Andy Griffith, Budd Schulberg, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Jeff Young, and Leo Braudy. It has been carried over from a previous Warner Brother’s DVD release, but it is arguably the disc’s most comprehensive examination of the film. It’s a thorough look at the film and the talent who brought it to life. Those involved are surprisingly open and candid about the challenges that they faced while working with Kazan, scholars are on hand to discuss biographical influences, and there is a surprising focus on the director’s controversial HUAC testimony that colors the entire length of the program. It is well worth a half hour of the viewer’s time.

Ron Briley on A Face of the Crowd – (20:43)

Ron Briley is the author if “The Ambivalent Legacy of Elia Kazan: The Politics of the Post-HUAC Films,” and this fact should provide viewers with a clue as to what they can expect from his informative interview. However, they will be quite surprised at just how digestible the information actually is as his delivery isn’t nearly as dry one might expect. Kazan’s political and professional background is discussed, the HUAC testimonies are examined with some level of depth, and Briley also examines how this biographical information influenced the film and its themes. It is interesting to learn that both Arthur Godfrey and Will Rogers informed the characterization of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes. In fact, Budd Schulberg’s inspiration for the story was born out of a drunken conversation with Will Rogers, Jr. about the reality behind his father’s public persona. There is quite a bit of information here that was also covered in the older Warner documentary, but it also contains enough new information to make it a worthwhile addition to this package.

Evan Dalton Smith on A Face In the Crowd – (19:43)

Evan Dalton Smith’s interview zeroes in on the background and career of Andy Griffith. Griffith’s early career as a monologist, his early stage success, his first few films (including A Face in the Crowd), and finally his iconic television series are discussed here in some depth. It is the lightest supplement on the disc, but there is still enough meat to add to the viewer’s appreciation and understanding of A Face in the Crowd and its star performer. It is worth the viewer’s time if only to learn of Kazan’s diabolical manipulation of Griffith’s emotional triggers as it was an experience that left its mark on the actor.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:19)

An original theatrical trailer for the film has also been included here. It is interesting to see as the approach is far from typical of trailers during this period. It might offer a clue as to why the film failed at the box office.

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Final Words:

A Face in the Crowd is essential viewing for fans of both Andy Griffith and Elia Kazan, and Criterion’s terrific Blu-ray release of the film is probably the best way to do this.

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One Sheet

Spine #966
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Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: March 19, 2019

Region: Region A & B

Length: 01:09:05

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 35.73 Mbps

Notes: This marks the film’s Blu-ray debut after suffering from years of inferior public domain releases.

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Detour is a movie so filled with imperfections that it would not earn the director a passing grade in film school. This movie from Hollywood’s poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it… Placing style above common sense is completely consistent with Ulmer’s approach throughout the film. Do these limitations and stylistic transgressions hurt the film? No. They are the film…” –Roger Ebert (Great Movies, June 7, 1998)

Roger Ebert’s review of Edgar G. Ulmer’s poverty row classic may be marred by a factual error as he reports the popular myth that the film was shot in only six days when it actually took over fourteen days (and cost $117,226.80 instead of the commonly reported $30,000), but it is difficult to improve on his critique of the film’s content. Frankly, it seems as if the film’s power lies in the limitations of the production. It isn’t so much a quintessential example of film noir as it is a collection of unvarnished noir tropes, but it has an unsanitary edge and a sharp simplicity that manages to make its mark on all who see it.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases (we actually prefer this to their digipaks). The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate cover artwork that has been credited to Jennifer Dionisio. It’s a nice design that is actually in keeping with the film’s original publicity materials as they obviously served as inspiration. Also included in the case is a booklet that includes more attractive artwork and an interesting essay by Robert Polito entitled, “Some Detours to Detour.” The essay is quite detailed and well researched as it corrects some of the many myths about the film’s production. What’s more, it provides tons of new ‘behind the scenes’ information about the production that should thrill and perhaps even surprise fans of the film. Technical details about the restoration and transfer are also included within its pages.

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Menu

Criterion’s animated menu features footage from the film and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality

5 of 5 Stars

It is impossible to discuss this transfer without first giving our reader’s a thorough understanding of the incredible work that went into creating this 4K restoration. Luckily, an earlier article on the process was published on the Criterion site:

“The director of the Academy Film Archive, Michael Pogorzelski, and film preservationist Heather Linville ended up supervising the complicated process of tracking down existing prints and ultimately piecing together the best elements. There was a 16 mm print that had gone through much wear-and-tear from being in circulation, and was used for reference in the restoration. There was also a 35 mm duplicate negative in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, but it too was a problematic source: it contained a number of jump cuts, the result of many missing frames that were lost from the 35 mm release print from which it was made. ‘Heather spent ten years (on and off) searching the world for 35 mm elements that were comparable to or of higher quality than the MoMA element,’ Pogorzelski says.

Finally, last year, the Archive had a breakthrough when it contacted the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique in Brussels, which holds a 35 mm nitrate print of Detour in its collection. ‘This element had never been considered as a possible preservation source because it contained both Flemish and French subtitles burned into the frame,’ Pogorzelski explains. ‘We asked to have a scan made thinking that perhaps we might get lucky and find some shots that didn’t contain subtitles that could fill in the frames that were missing from the MoMA element. Instead of a few frames here and there, we got one of the best surprises of our careers: the print had been struck from the original camera negative of Detour, and the image quality was better than anything we had seen in ten years of searching.’

But even with this exciting discovery, there were still challenges ahead, including the question of how to remove the subtitles from the Cinémathèque’s 4K scans without affecting the quality of the image. Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank, California, developed and tested two methods to accomplish this. First, frames from the subtitled Brussels print were composited with frames from the MoMA negative. But because the MoMA print was missing frames, and because significant camera movement resulted in unsatisfactory composites, the second approach was to meticulously paint out the subtitles by hand. And after this work was done, a single shot that didn’t exist in either element was sourced from a safety 35 mm print housed at the Cinémathèque Française.” –Inside Criterion (Back to the Big Screen, November 2018)

Comparisons

4K Final

The resulting image is a revelation to those who have only seen previous public domain prints of the film in standard definition. Those releases were detrimental to the viewer’s enjoyment and to the tonal consistency of the story. Style and cinematography is of paramount importance to the effect of film noir (even poverty row noir), and such deficiencies ruined the experience. Luckily, this new transfer is truly an unqualified success as any weaknesses were likely inherent in the film as it originally projected in 1945. Depth, clarity, and contrast see a noticeable improvement over previous transfers, and if the consistency isn’t one hundred percent perfect, it certainly isn’t the fault of the restoration or Criterion’s encode. Grain is noticeable but has a healthy and organic consistency and never gets in the way of revelatory fine detail. There are textures on display here that have never been evident in the previous transfers. Best of all, it is a more filmic experience as it plays much better in motion. Finally, the age related anomalies that fans of the film know all too well by now have been largely eradicated. It is representative of the best existing film elements, and it would be ridiculous to expect anything better.

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Sound Quality

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s linear PCM track has also been restored to its original mono glory and can now be experienced without the wall of hiss that marred previous home video releases. It is a crisp and healthy sounding track as it has room to breathe now that it is free from compression. Of course, the film was made in 1945 at a poverty row studio and never represented a flawless sonic experience, but this transfer represents the original soundtrack quite nicely.

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Special Features

4 of 5 Stars

Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen – (01:15:36)

This documentary about the Edgar G. Ulmer is without question the crown jewel of the disc’s supplemental content. The program was produced in 2004 and features retrospective interviews with numerous participants: Ann Savage, Arianne Ulmer Cipes (Ulmer’s daughter), William Schallert, Jon Saxon, Peter Bogdanovich (who had interviewed the director), Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Wim Wenders, and John Landis. One wonders why Joe Dante and John Landis appears in so many of these retrospectives. Neither could be considered experts on Ulmer’s career and do not bring much to the table. However, some of the other participants make up for their questionable participation as they discuss the filmmaker’s career in B-movie exile. It’s a diverting and reasonably informative look at an incredibly interesting figure.

Noah Isenberg on Detour – (21:11)

Noah Isenberg (author of Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins, Detour: BFI Film Classics, We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Film, etc.) gives an interesting appreciation of the film as he covers such topics as Ulmer’s early career, his ability to make the most of limited budget, observations about Detour (including mistakes in the film), and other pertinent topics. He’s a knowledgeable source and his interview should add to the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Restoring Detour – (11:02)

Those who enjoy knowing about the immense amount of effort that goes into a proper restoration will be happy to know that the disc includes this informative featurette. Mike Pogorzelski and Heather Linville give a general account of their search for proper source elements, the removal of burned-in subtitles, and other interesting challenges that they faced during their restoration of Detour. Their information is illustrated with element comparisons.

Janus Films Re-Release Trailer – (01:32)

The restoration release trailer is also included. One wishes that the original trailer was included here with it, but this is a minor criticism of what it actually quite a nice supplemental package (though admittedly modest by Criterion standards).

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Final Words

Criterion’s release of a pristine restoration of Detour should thrill noir fans. The transfer is immaculate and the supplements will only add to the viewer’s appreciation of this low budget classic (and for the work that went into this restoration). It comes highly recommended.

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Alfred Hitchcock Master

Spine # 137
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Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 01:41:37

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 29.73 Mbps

Notes:This title is also available both individually and as part of The Premiere Collection boxed set (both with different cover art) in the DVD format and was given an incredible release in the same format by The Criterion Collection several years before that release.

The film was later given a lackluster Blu-ray release by MGM Home Entertainment both as part of a three-film set entitled, The Classic Collection and as an individual release. This new Criterion edition is from a new 4K restoration transfer of the film and represents an upgrade in quality.

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“In spy films—in all spy films—we have what is called ‘The MacGuffin.’ The MacGuffin, if…

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Spine #952

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: November 20, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:28:22

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 31.33 Mbps

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“They destroyed Ambersons and the picture itself destroyed me! I didn’t get a job as a director for years afterwards.” –Orson Welles (The Orson Welles Story)

So goes the legend of Orson Welles and The Magnificent Ambersons—another “mutilated masterpiece” in a career full of “mutilated masterpieces.” In any case, this is what Welles would have the world believe. It cannot be denied that the man knew how to spin a good yarn. The best of all of these tales may actually be his own revisionist history. There is certainly evidence to dispute many of his claims as to the details surrounding R.K.O.’s reshaping of Ambersons, but the legendary Welles version will always be the accepted version as it paints the picture of a misunderstood genius in an industry full of philistines.

The one thing that is absolutely certain is that the finished product was a source of sadness and regret for the director.

“I loved ‘Ambersons’ [and] wanted to make a movie of it, [but] the point of Ambersons—everything that is any good in it is that part of it that is really just a preparation for the decay of the Ambersons…

…It was thought by everybody in Hollywood while I was in South America that it was too downbeat—a famous Hollywood word at the time, downbeat—so it was all taken out, but it was the purpose of the movie to see how they all slid downhill, you see, in one way or another…

…There’s no scene in a hospital. Nothing like that ever happened in the story, and the great long scene—which was the key long scene at the end—which was ‘Aggie’ Moorehead in a third rate lodging house… and Joe Cotton has come to see how she is, and that was the best scene in the picture and it was what the picture was about… It’s gone… In other words, [at] about the time Major Amberson dies, the picture starts to become another picture—becomes their picture.” –Orson Welles (The Orson Welles Story)

Welles mentions “South America” and this alludes to one of the director’s unfinished projects entitled It’s All True. Unfortunately, this particular unfinished project played a major role in the misfortunes that befell The Magnificent Ambersons.

“I was in terrible trouble then, because I was sent to South America by Nelson Rockefeller and Jock Whitney. I was told that it was my patriotic duty to go and spend a million dollars shooting the carnival in Rio. Now, I don’t like things like carnivals and Mardi Gras and all that, but they put it to me that it would be a real contribution to Inter-American Affairs and the Latin American world and so, without a salary and a budget of a million dollars, I was sent to Rio to make up a movie about the carnival. But in the meantime comes the new government. RKO is now a new government… They had promised me when I went to South America that they would send a moviola and cutters to me and that I would finish the cutting of Ambersons there. They never did. They cut it themselves.” –Orson Welles (The Orson Welles Story)

Robert Wise, the film’s editor, is often vilified for his part in the reshaping of Ambersons, but the reality is that he was simply carrying out orders. If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else. In any case, it wasn’t simply a matter of the film being edited without his input, and it wasn’t altered simply because it had a bleak tone. The actual trouble seems to have been the result of an unsuccessful preview screening of the film.

“At a certain point the studio became concerned because they had a lot of money tied up in the picture, about a million dollars, which was a big budget in those days. So we went out for some previews with our work print. At a certain point the studio became concerned because they had a lot of money tied up in the picture, about a million dollars, which was a big budget in those days. So we went out for some previews with our work print… We took this one to Pomona and the preview was just a disaster. The audience disliked it, they walked out, they were laughing at Aggie Moorehead’s character and it was an absolute disaster. So what were we going to do with it? We went back and cut out the scenes with Aggie Moorehead where they were laughing at her over-the-top performance. It was a long picture, as I recall…

…Well, we took it the next time to Pasadena and it played a little better but still not acceptable. We then cut some more and re-arranged things and the third time we took it to Inglewood but we had cut so much out we had continuity problems and needed some new scenes to bridge the gaps. They asked me to direct a scene between George and his mother and that was one of my first directing experiences, that scene between Dolores Costello and Tim Holt in her bedroom. We took it to Long Beach and they sat for it, they didn’t walk out, they didn’t laugh. And that’s the way it went out. We had to get a version that would play for an audience.” –Robert Wise (In Search of Lost “Ambersons)

Scholars are always talking about the “original version” of The Magnificent Ambersons as if the theatrical version of the film isn’t the “original version.” The fact of the matter is that the preview version of the film wasn’t a finished version, and Orson Welles never actually got to cut the film to his liking before heading to Rio. One imagines that the preview version was closer to the director’s intentions than the finished product, but this edit was simply an unfinished assembly of the film. Nobody really knows how closely that version actually matched the director’s vision for the Ambersons. The true tragedy is that only one “finished” edit of the film has ever existed, and this is what was released into theaters on the bottom half of a double bill. No true director’s cut of the film can ever exist (even if someone miraculously finds the earlier preview cut), because Welles was never allowed to oversee a definitive cut. This is what truly bothered Welles.

“Even if I’d stayed in the US to finish The Magnificent Ambersons, I would’ve had to make compromises on the editing, but these would’ve been mine and not the fruit of confused and often semi-hysterical committees. If I had been there myself, I would have found my own solutions and saved the picture in a form which would have carried the stamp of my own effort.” –Orson Welles

Orson Welles During Production #2

Orson Welles during the production of The Magnificent Ambersons

One certainly wishes that circumstances had been different. As it turns out, the longer preview version of the film is forever lost to history since the film was made at a time when little thought was given to the future of a studio’s catalogue.

“It was standard practice that, after the previews, when you’d come back and take sequences out you’d put them in the vault. About six months after the films were released and if you didn’t need to change the film, they’d sell the footage for the silver. But that was nothing particular with Ambersons. It was just company practice. All this about how we destroyed and mutilated it is nonsense.” –Robert Wise (In Search of Lost “Ambersons)

Some sources claim that the negative was melted down because the silver nitrate was needed for the WWII war effort. Just think of the countless treasures that are now lost to history as a result of such a shortsighted practice. It should make us grateful for the treasures that still remain. To call The Magnificent Ambersons a “lost film” seems ridiculous. It may be a bastardized version of the director’s original intentions, but it exists in its original theatrical form—and this existing version is really quite remarkable (even if it is something less than a masterpiece).

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection has given this release special Digipak packaging. Like many other collectors, this reviewer tends to prefer Criterion’s usual clear case presentations. However, this particular design is undeniably attractive. The artwork by Eric Skillman should certainly please fans of the film. Also included is a booklet that resembles the film’s screenplay—a twice-stapled bundle of white pages with most essays written in the courier font (the exception is a short selection by Welles himself)—with the original script’s title page as its cover. The pages contain six worthwhile essays, including “What Is and What Might Have Been” by Molly Haskell, “Surfaces and Depths” by Luc Sante, “Echoes of Tarkington” by Geoffrey O’Brien, “The Voice of Orson Welles” by Farren Smith Nehme, “Loving the Ruins: Or, Does ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ Exist” by Jonathan Lethem, and an excerpt from Orson Welles’s unfinished 1982 memoir entitled “My Father Wore Black Spats.” All essays are worth reading and add to one’s appreciation of the film.

Menu

Criterion’s static menu features film-related artwork rendered in the same style employed for the packaging and the layout is exactly what collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s transfer was taken from a 4K restoration that was scanned from a 35mm nitrate fine-grain from the Museum of Modern Art. As is their usual practice, they cleaned the scan of dirt and debris while also correcting age-related anomalies such as warps, splices, scratches, and etc. Purists will be pleased to discover that they have retained the 1.37:1 aspect ratio of the film’s original theatrical presentation, and the resulting image looks much better than this reviewer was expecting. It is a vast improvement over the somewhat rare DVD edition (from earlier special editions of Citizen Kane) in that the darker scenes aren’t nearly as uneven and showcase more detail. Contrast appears to be more accurate here as well and the texture is more filmic. There may be a few density issues inherited from the source elements, but these aren’t terribly problematic. The digital corrections made during the restoration process were obviously made with incredible care and didn’t leave any room for criticism. It looks great in motion as well. This is a release that fans of Orson Welles have been waiting for and it shouldn’t disappoint them.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s restoration extended to the film’s original audio as the track was taken from the 35mm print and cleaned of hiss, hum, crackle, clicks, and thumps. Their work is featured in the film’s original mono presentation as a Linear PCM audio track that showcases great stability but can admittedly sound slightly thin on occasion—though this never really becomes troublesome. It never impedes one’s ability to understand the dialogue or distracts the viewer by calling attention to itself. Bernard Herrmann’s score sounds much better without being oppressed by the excessive compression of the DVD format as it is given more breathing room. In short, the limitations of the track are due to the limitations of the original production techniques and the age of the source elements. Criterion offers viewers a track that is as good as can be reasonably expected.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Robert L. Carringer

It is difficult to think of a more appropriate commentator on The Magnificent Ambersons as Carringer had written a number of books about Orson Welles and his work—most notably “The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction.” The book reconstructs the “lost” version of the film by analyzing the various surviving production documents and other artifacts and personal interviews with several of the people who worked on the film.

We can’t say that he does the same in this commentary, but he does manage to point out many of the scenes that have been altered while filling us in on what has been removed. The commentary was recorded in 1985 for Criterion’s ancient laserdisc release of the film but holds up nicely even if his tone is more scholarly than enthusiastic.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by James Naremore and Jonathan Rosenbaum

James Naremore (author of The Magic World of Orson Welles, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane: A Casebook, On Kubrick, Film Adaptation, and etc.) and Jonathan Rosenbaum (author of Discovering Orson Welles, Cinematic Encounters: Interviews and Dialogues, Cinematic Encounters 2: Portraits and Polemics, and etc.) lend their expertise to a new commentary that is just as scholarly as the Robert L. Carringer track. The film’s style is discussed as is some of the film’s history. They both comment about the film’s mutilation by the studio and the effect that this has on the fluidity of the film.

A Dangerous Nostalgia: Simon Callow on ‘The Magnificent Ambersons – (25:58)

Simon Callow (author of a three volume biography on Orson Welles: Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu, Orson Welles, Volume 2: Hello Americans, and Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band as well as other works about such figures as Charles Laughton and Oscar Wilde) discusses how the fate of The Magnificent Ambersons led to his own fall from glory while also examining the original Tarkington novel. Callow also references some of the specific alterations made by RKO. It is a worthwhile interview that could have been much longer as it is an interesting discussion that engages the viewer’s interest.

Joseph McBride on ‘The Magnificent Ambersons – (28:54)

Joseph McBride (author of What Ever Happened to Orson Welles, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Searching for John Ford, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Two Cheers for Hollywood and several other cinema-related titles) discusses the studio politics behind RKO’s fateful decision to rework The Magnificent Ambersons into the film that we have today. It is an engaging interview that should again add something to the viewer’s appreciation of and interest in the director and this film specifically.

Graceful Symmetries: Welles’s Long Version of ‘The Magnificent Ambersons – (18:47)

Christopher Husted’s essay discusses the film’s mutated score by the great Bernard Herrmann and uses this score for clues as to what the so-called “lost” longer edit may have looked like. Again, this original essay adds quite a bit of value to the proceedings.

The Cinematographers – (15:40)

François Thomas (author of Orson Welles at Work) offers a scholarly essay about the film’s cinematography and how the various cinematographers involved brought a different aesthetic to their work on the film. This is a great way to examine the film’s history and overall aesthetic as it will certainly add to the viewer’s appreciation and understanding of the final theatrical “product.”

Orson Welles on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ (1970) – (36:34)

This May 04th, 1970 episode of The Dick Cavett Show features Orson Welles as one of the guests (along with Jack Lemmon) and covers a wide variety of topics. These include his early life, commonly believed exaggerations about him, his work, and etc. The information is both fascinating and entertaining. It might be the disc’s best supplemental feature (and this is saying a great deal).

Two To One (1927) – (28:05)

Two to One is a short film that was edited from a seventy minute silent feature entitled Pampered Youth (1927). It represents a silent adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons.” This shorter version was released in Britain in 1931.

Pampered Youth One Sheet

Those who are fond of the Welles version should agree that the inclusion of this short film offers the viewer a unique opportunity to compare the two different versions, and one imagines that it will add to people’s appreciation of the film (especially since sound is such a huge part of the aesthetic in an Orson Welles film).

Peter Bogdanovich Interview with Orson Welles (Audio) – (36:00)

These priceless excerpts from Peter Bogdanovich’s lengthy foundational interview with Welles were conducted throughout the latter part of the 1960s and the early 1970s and will make for fascinating listening for anyone with even the remotest interest in the director. He’s always engaging and it is revealing to learn his views on such topics as cinematography, composition, acting, and the work of other directors.

AFI Symposium on Orson Welles (1978 – Audio) – (29:46)

The audio recording of this 1978 AFI symposium about Orson Welles was excerpted from a longer recording and wasn’t recorded in a manner that makes the information particularly easy to digest, but fans of the director will likely agree that the information discussed makes the challenge well worth it.

The Magnificent Ambersons: Mercury Theatre Radio Adaptation (1939) – (55:42)

It is interesting to compare Orson Welles’s radio adaptation to his film adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. There are many remarkable similarities and a few interesting differences in the two adaptations. The most interesting difference is the absence of Fanny Minafer in the radio adaptation and some subtle rearrangements in the ordering of a few of the scenes. The most interesting similarity is the striking resemblance between the two endings. The ending that the studio forced upon the film version—the ending that Orson Welles criticized so harshly—is remarkably similar to his own ending to the radio adaptation. It is nice to have this radio play included for these reasons. This episode originally aired on October 29, 1939.

Seventeen: Mercury Theatre Radio Adaptation (1938) – (01:00:05)

Orson Welles also adapted Booth Tarkington’s Seventeen for one of his Mercury Theatre radio broadcasts. It is a reasonably diverting play but some of the characterizations are decidedly dated. (One might even argue that one characterization in particular is racist). The episode originally aired on October 16, 1938.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:06)

The original theatrical trailer is an excellent addition to Criterion’s stellar supplemental package. It is always disappointing when the trailer isn’t included on a Blu-ray release, because trailers give interesting insights into how a film was marketed to the public upon its release.

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Final Words:

The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city…” The magnificence of The Magnificent Ambersons, on the other hand, began years later in 1941 and has largely been overlooked due to its interesting backstory regarding RKO’s “sabotage.”

Criterion’s new Blu-ray release serves as a testament to the film’s underrated charms. They even sweeten the deal by offering an incredible array of supplemental features. It comes highly recommended for anyone with even a casual interest in the director’s career.

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One Sheet

 

Spine #950

SLIT Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 02:02:18

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 29.83 Mbps

Notes: MGM released a Blu-ray edition that included a 1.66:1 transfer of the film. While the transfer was rendered with a slightly higher Bit-rate (31.99 Mbps), it was made from a 1080P scan. Needless to say, Criterion’s 4K restoration transfer is superior.

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“Very early in the structure of that picture my friend Mr. Diamond very rightly said, ‘We have to find the hammerlock. We have to find the ironclad thing so that these guys trapped in women’s clothes cannot just take the wigs off and say, “Look, I’m a guy.”

It has to be a question of life and death.’ And that’s where the idea for the St. Valentine’s Day murder came. If they got out of the women’s clothes they would be killed by the Al Capone gang. That was the important invention. When we started working on the picture I had a discussion with David O. Selznick, who was a very fine producer, and I very briefly told him the plot.

He said, ‘You mean there’s going to be machine guns and shooting and killing and blood?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘It’s not going to be funny. No comedy can survive that kind of brutal reality.’ But that’s what made the picture. The two men were on the spot, and we kept them on the spot until the very end.” –Billy Wilder

Only Billy Wilder would think to blend genres like the gangster film and the burlesque comedy. Some Like It Hot is one of those films that should really date terribly—especially in this era of enlightened social understanding, but Wilder’s deft storytelling prowess and unique comic sensibilities have guaranteed the film’s longevity.

As Criterion’s packaging deftly announces: Some Like It Hot is “one of the most beloved films of all time, this sizzling masterpiece set a new standard for Hollywood comedy. After witnessing a mob hit, Chicago musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) skip town by donning drag and joining an all-female band en route to Miami. The charm of the group’s singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) leads them ever further into extravagant lies, as Joe assumes the persona of a millionaire to woo her and Jerry’s female alter ego winds up engaged to a tycoon. With a whip-smart script co-written by I. A. L. Diamond, and sparkling chemistry among its finely tuned cast, Some Like It Hot is as deliriously funny and fresh today as it was when it first knocked audiences out six decades ago.

“The whole trick in the picture is that, while the two were dressed in women’s clothes, their thinking processes were at all times a hundred-percent male. When there was a slight aberration, like Lemmon getting engaged, it became twice as funny. But they were not camping it up. They never thought of themselves as women. Just for one moment Lemmon forgot himself — that was all. The rest of the time, Curtis was out to seduce Monroe, no matter what clothes he was wearing.” –I.A.L. Diamond

Of course, Monroe’s Sugar Cane isn’t the only one being seduced. Most of the film’s viewers also fall under their spell. Lemmon is especially delightful in his portrayal of Jerry/Daphne. In fact, this may very well be Jack Lemmon’s most hilarious performance. He really runs away with the entire film. Of course, he had the guidance of an excellent director. Nobody does it like Wilder.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases (we prefer this to their digipaks). The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate artwork by F. Ron Miller. It’s a decent design that adequately captures the zany qualities of Wilder’s film. Another very different design was considered that showcased Marilyn Monroe much more prominently. One imagines that it was abandoned so that all three of the primary characters could be featured with equal prominence (but this is merely conjecture).

Unused Blu-ray Cover

Criterion’s abandoned cover artwork.

Also included in the case is a pamphlet that includes an appreciative essay by Sam Wasson entitled, “How to have Fun.” Information about the transfer and technical credits are also included in its pages along with various stills from the film.

Menu

Criterion’s menu features film-related art and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

It won’t come as much of a surprise for our readers to learn that Criterion’s 4K image restoration looks incredible on Blu-ray and easily outclasses the earlier MGM transfer. This restoration was actually a collaboration between Criterion, MGM, and Park Circus. Cinephiles will be pleased to learn that the original 35mm camera negative was used as the primary source for their work, but it became necessary for them to also utilize scans of the 35mm duplicate negative and a 35mm fine-grain positive for footage that was missing from the negative.

The first immediate difference that springs to mind is that Criterion showcases the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio (1.85:1) as opposed to the 1.66:1 ratio employed for the earlier MGM release. This does result in less detail at the top and bottom of the frame, but this is in keeping with how the film would have been projected during its original theatrical release. Criterion’s image is also more stable in terms of density, is much cleaner, looks better in motion, exhibits more a much more impressive level of fine detail, and contrast is more expertly handled. Better yet, there aren’t really any moments where the level of quality drops due to the restoration team’s use of multiple sources. It all flows as organically as if they had used a single source (and this is incredibly rare). There may be a few incredibly brief moments that are less impressive, but they certainly don’t stand out in any obvious way. Finally, we should mention a noticeable improvement in this transfer’s dynamic range and the more naturally resolved grain. This is an upgrade on every level.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Those who appreciated the 5.1 audio track that was included on the MGM release may be disappointed with this release, but purists will understand why Criterion has chosen to include a lossless PCM rendering of the film’s original monaural mix. Frankly, we found the forced 5.1 re-mix a bit unnatural without really offering a more dynamic sonic experience. This transfer presents the film’s audio as it was originally intended in a clean restoration that is free of distracting age related anomalies (such as hiss or hum) with impressive fidelity for a film of this vintage. The Wilder/Diamond dialogue is allowed to clearly flourish throughout the duration, and the film’s music has plenty of room to breathe. Of course, things are a bit flat—but what do you expect from a movie released in 1959. Be happy! This is as good as one can reasonably expect.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Most of the supplemental material from the 2011 MGM Blu-ray has been carried over to Criterion’s disc, with the Paul Diamond, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel commentary track being the single exception. The stills gallery on that earlier disc was also left off of this release, but this is hardly worth mentioning. Criterion makes up for not including these features by including their own 1989 commentary and several other programs and interviews that weren’t on the earlier release.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Howard Suber and Jack Lemmon

This is an older Criterion commentary from 1989 that features Howard Suber’s scholarly observations in conjunction with some pre-recorded memories from Jack Lemmon. It is on par with the MGM commentary and it touches on many of the same topics. If there is a downside, it is that it is less conversational and therefore feels a bit more like a lecture. The film’s production is discussed as is the film’s overall structure. Suber’s obvious Monroe obsession is both a positive and negative attribute as he has plenty of Monroe trivia and discusses the actress with enthusiasm but sometimes his infatuation disturbs his ability to discuss her contributions to the film in a sober and unbiased manner.

Billy Wilder on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ (1982) – (55:36)

The crown jewel of Criterion’s supplemental package is undoubtedly this two-part interview with the legendary director (who certainly knows how to tell a story). It was conducted on January 14 and 15, 1982 and finds Wilder in great form as he discusses his personal history (including his early years in Germany) with an earnest openness that endears him to the viewer immediately, and he does so without surrendering his acidic humor. He discusses an encounter with Sigmund Freud, his evacuation to America during the dark years of Nazism, the magnificence of pre-war Berlin, relearning to write in English, and some of the various actors he had worked with throughout his career. We hope that Criterion continues to include these Cavett Show interviews on their future releases. They always add enormous value to their discs.

The Making of ‘Some Like It Hot – (25:45)

This documentary short has been carried over from the earlier MGM Blu-ray and it is nice to see that it has been included. The program includes an array of archival interviews with the likes of Billy Wilder, I.A.L Diamond, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and several others and some extremely precious color footage that gives the viewer behind the scenes of the film’s production. While one wishes that this were more comprehensive, it is great to hear the various participants discussing the film’s script, cast, production, and release. Of course, a great deal of time is devoted to the late Marilyn Monroe (who was not particularly easy to work with and rarely arrived to the set on time). It is an engaging and informative glimpse into the film’s history that fans will be thrilled to have included here.

The Legacy of ‘Some Like It Hot– (20:21)

The Legacy of ‘Some Like It Hot’ makes a great companion to The Making of ‘Some Like It Hot’ as it discusses the film’s lasting legacy. It utilizes footage shot at a screening of the film in 1984. Those who appeared in the previous program are back for this one while new voices are added. (It’s difficult to imagine why we really needed to hear from Hugh Hefner and Curtis Hanson, but they are included here in any case.) It’s not a terribly insightful look at the film’s lasting appeal, but it manages to engage the viewer in any case.

A Nostalgic Look Back (2001) – (31:12)

Fans will be pleased to see that Criterion also carried over Leonard Maltin’s “nostalgic” interview with Tony Curtis from MGM’s earlier Blu-ray (actually, this actually goes back even farther to one of the early DVD editions). Their conversation covers his memories of being cast, the film’s production, his experience working with Monroe, his approach to the role, and some amusing anecdotes—but there is something about Curtis that strikes one as incredibly narcissistic and his navel-gazing does grow a bit tiring after a few minutes. I notice that Jack Lemmon tends to discuss and praise Billy Wilder and his fellow actors, but Curtis is a bit more enamored with his own contributions. It is still worth seeing as it adds another perspective and his stories about Monroe are incredibly interesting.

French Television Interview with actor Jack Lemmon (1988) – (09:49)

While this excerpt from an episode of Cinema cinemas (which originally appeared on French television) is much shorter than Maltin’s interview with Curtis, it is also more amusing. It repeats some of the same information included in some of the other programs included here, but it is certainly worth watching.

Memories from ‘The Sweet Sues’ – (12:02)

Memories from ‘The Sweet Sues’ is another featurette that originally appeared on MGM’s Blu-ray release of the film, and it definitely brings something worthwhile to the table as the actresses remember the various members of the cast and their experiences during the production.

Orry-Kelly’s Costumes – (18:57)

Deborah Nadoolman Landis (Costume Designer) and Larry McQueen (Costume Historian and Archivist) discuss Orry-Kelly’s career and legacy and dissect his costumes in Some Like It Hot. This is more of an “appreciation” than a career history or comprehensive examination of his costume work in this film, but it does offer a few truly interesting nuggets of information while always engaging the viewer. Most importantly, it is bound to enhance the viewer’s appreciation of Kelly’s costumes. It is also very nice to see one of the dresses worn by Monroe in the film (which is now owned by McQueen).

Radio Interview with Marilyn Monroe (1955) – (08:44)

In a radio interview with Dave Garroway that predates the film by a few years (it was recorded on June 12, 1955), Monroe discusses her hopes to become a better actress. She seems incredibly personable here, but there is a perceptible sadness to her voice that is impossible to overlook in retrospect. Other topics are also discussed, but the information relayed is trivial. What lingers after these nine minutes is the aforementioned sadness.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:18)

The original vintage theatrical trailer rounds out this incredible supplemental package rather nicely.

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Final Words:

Do you like to laugh (or at least smile)? Well, if the answer to this question is yes, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot earns an easy recommendation (even if it is decidedly old-fashioned in some of its attitudes regarding gender). The Criterion Collection’s new 4K restoration transfer is vastly superior to the earlier MGM disc and might even be worth an upgrade if the film is one of your favorites.

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