Criterion Jumps to Blu-ray

It’s official: the e-mail below appeared in my in-box this morning, from Criterion’s New York publicist:

Hello – The time has arrived! Several titles from the Criterion Collection are set for Blu-ray treatment beginning in October. These new editions will feature glorious high-definition picture and sound, all the supplemental content of the DVD releases, and will be priced to match Criterion’s standard-def editions.

Titles lined up at this point include:

The Third Man
Bottle Rocket
Chungking Express
The Man Who Fell to Earth
The Last Emperor
El Norte
The 400 Blows
Gimme Shelter
The Complete Monterey Pop
Contempt
Walkabout
For All Mankind
The Wages of Fear

Alongside the DVD and Blu-ray box sets of The Last Emperor, Criterion will also release the theatrical version as a stand-alone release in both formats, priced at $39.95. The Blu-ray release of Walkabout will be an all-new edition, featuring new supplements as well as a new transfer. An updated anamorphic DVD of Nicolas Roeg’s outback masterpiece will be released at the same time.

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In other news, Glenn Kenny, whacked by the front office imbeciles at premiere.com, has set up shop with his own Typepad blog, which he’s calling
Some Came Running (after the Minnelli masterpiece which, by happy coincidence, finally comes out on DVD this Tuesday).

37 comments to Criterion Jumps to Blu-ray

  • Robert Chatain

    “Bottle Rocket”? That would be on my second 10,000-title list for Blu-ray release.

  • Professor Echo

    Hmmm, now if only Alpha would announce their Blu-Ray releases I would be on board! Tod Slaughter in High Def? I am so there, dude.

  • Mike Grost

    Suggestion for a series of paid articles Dave Kehr could write for some publication:
    Articles that explain in words of one syllable, what all this Blu-ray means to film lovers.
    There are probably lots of nuances and implications most of us don’t understand yet.
    *
    One worry:
    Currently, we can see lots of rarities on DVD. I’m happy as a clam, plopping in the DVD of “Jordan Belson: Five Essential Films”, or the DVD of Joseph H. Lewis’ TV pilot for “The Fat Man” (1958?). These will never be big sellers. But they have enough niche market that this cinephile gets to see them.
    Will all this go away?
    Will they be able to release more Belson on DVD, even if they have to call it “Belson: Five Inessential Films”?
    Please tell all, preferably in an article that pays off in big bucks (I will buy a copy of the magazine).

  • I’m very much of two minds about this. Obviously, it’s good to have films reproduced on video in the highest quality available; on the other hand, every time there has been an technological advance in home video, hundreds if not thousands of titles have dropped out of circulation, to the point where even VHS is starting to look like a golden age for film availability. I haven’t been thrilled with the few classic films I’ve seen in HD — the image is not significantly better to my (tired, old) eyes than an upconverted standard definition disc, at least not enough to justify the considerable expense of upgrading my system. What looks good on HD video is programming that was originated on HD video — network television, for example — where the faster frame rate (30 vs 24) yields a smoother sense of movement. And of course, 1080p is only a small step on the way to 2K or 4K resolutions, so the whole format will most likely be obsolete in a few years anyway. And none of it will look as good as 35-millimeter nitrate, a format that died out half a century ago . . .

  • Alex

    There are films that benefit immeasurably from projection from 35 millimeter nitrate stock, often films not simply films of a certain photographic quality but for which a play of light (e.g., quietist or transcendental in expressive function) seems expressively central. “The Magnificent Ambersons,” several technicolor films of Jack Cardif such as “Black Narcissus,” and “Gate of Hell” (though I nowe see this is in mere Eastman color) come to mind. Would a 1080p DVD on an HDTV spell a tangible difference for these? Or is the extra sensitivity gained by current, or even foreseeable future, DVD formats simply too trivial to move us toward that nitrate ideal?

  • Ben

    Dave says,”1080p is only a small step on the way to 2K or 4K resolutions, so the whole format will most likely be obsolete in a few years anyway.”

    I must point out the current HD resolution is not that far away from 2K and it’s not likely to be obsoletely anytime soon, since HD is a video standard and will take effect for TV stations in 2009. HD pixel resolution is 1920×1080 and 2K is 2048×1556 but 2K is 4×3 aspect ratio and most modern movies are shot at or wider than 16×9 so at least a quarter of the film grains are not being used, hence the decision by some cinematographers to shoot 3-perf instead of the traditional 4-perf image to save film stock. As you can see a 2k image cropped to 16×9 aspect ration would be 2048×1152 and that’s not too far from the HD’s 1920×1080.

    Many movies today have to go through DI (Digital Intermediate)process to manipulate the color and contrast and you might be surprised to find out majority of them are scanned at 2K resolution before color correction and then “film out” to either a film negative, interpositive, or positive print. By common consent, film industry people agree that 4k is the full resolution of a full frame 35mm film but due to computer speed and storage, most films are scanned at 2K for DI, except for some hi-end projects or studio blockbusters. What I am saying is that the movies you see in the multiplex these days have been processed at 2K, and if you look at the chart below, essentially at super16mm resolution in the analog world. One can say if the close to 2K resolution of HD is good enough for DI, it’s certainly good enough for home viewing.

    It does seem like we are going backward in term of resolution compare to chain of from 35mm capture to 35mm process, and to 35mm viewing, if we look at it mathematically but the benefit of creative options outweighs that and 4k DI process is becoming more popular. With the development of 4K digital camera, such as the RED camera, 35mm filmmaking will dwindle and certainly is killing off 16mm. But from what I saw, I am optimistic about the future of celluloid aesthetics because digital cameras are actually getting closer to look like film due to the recent use of film lenses with its filmic depth of field instead of the ugly flatness of early video cameras. If the HD version of some classic films has not been impressive, I suspect they were upconverted from a Standard Definition SD video master and friends have reported similar complaints from their rentals or purchases. While I am optimistic with future development of the technology, the preservation of classic films and cultural heritage is a legitimate concern. And no amount of hi-tech equipment will help if film holders don’t handle and transfer them properly for future generations.

    ———————————————-
    TV Standards & Film, Pixel numbers, Aspect Ratio

    Standard Definition Television
    NTSC= 720 x 486 = 00,349,920 pixels = 4×3
    High Definition Television
    720P = 1280 x 0720 = 00,921,600 p = 16×9
    HDTV = 1920 x 1080 = 02,073,600 p = 16×9
    35mm Film Scan Data Resolution
    2k = 2048 x 1556 = 03,186,688 p = 4×3
    4k = 4096 x 3112 = 12,746,752 p = 4×3
    16mm Film Scan Data Resolution
    16mm = 1712 x 1240 = 02,122,880 p = 4×3
    S16mm = 2048 x 1240 = 02,539,520 p = 1.6516

  • I agree with you, Dave. It seems like for whatever small advances the blu-ray will offer us in terms of quality, it won’t last long. And in the mean time, things get more expensive and less available to people who truly care about film.

  • David Hare

    Ben, Thanx for the updated info.

    It is also my impression that BD/HD discs are essentially the same quality as 2k. and indeed I suspect the 4k mastered discs (like Blade Runner) are so superbly mastered (half the rez of 35mm film for example??) their superior detail translates downwards just as beautifully to “standrad” HD as a gorgeously mastered HD like the Paramount Vistavision tiltes do, to standard NTSC 480 rez or PAl 576 Rez DVD.

    I am obliged to take an opposite view to DaveK here, because, simply, I do not have the access the 35 archival or vault prints in Sydney, that people do in say London or NYC or LAX.

  • Ben, thank you for the detailed information. I’m certainly not opposed to HD on technical grounds (which would be futile in any case — it’s coming whether we like it or not), but I am wary of how the content providers will make use of the new medium, based on their past records. For the moment, I don’t see the need to invest in a $700 player in order to enjoy “Pirates of the Caribbean” at a higher resolution, though when the price drops and more classic films become available, I’m sure I’ll be making the transition. But can we imagine any of the more neglectful studios — Universal, Sony, Paramount — investing in 2K or 4K masters of their library titles, apart from the most famous and easily marketed of them? I’m told that Warners, by far the most responsible of the studio libraries, is routinely making 2K scans, every time they check one of their nitrate negatives out of the Library of Congress, and one hopes that the other studios are or will be following suit. But somehow I doubt it, given the lack of respect for old films that their corporate parents have consistently demonstrated. After their spectacular VistaVision transfers last year, Paramount Home Video seems to have lost all interest in library titles and now mainly serves up television programming from their corporate cousin, CBS.

    David, we have surprisingly little access to archive prints here in NYC, apart from occasional special presentations. For better or for worse, the great majority of people will continue to see older films on video, just as I do in my daily life. As I said, I’m deeply divided about this: at the same time I want the highest technical standards and the highest number of movies in active circulation, two goals that for the moment seem irreconcilable. I’m afraid that what we’ll end up with is a superb home viewing experience of atrocities like “Speed Racer,” while the greatest accomplishments of world cinema continue to recede into the horizon line of memory.

  • Ben

    While I am championing the new technology, how it is delivered to the consumer is a different matter. I forgot to add that mastering from film to DVD or Blu-Ray requires digital compression to fit in the chosen medium. And compressing digital files ELEGANTLY is almost like an art form in itself. It’s invaluable to people like DVDBeaver to act as watchdogs. An uncompressed 2K file of a single 35mm frame takes up about 12MB! A minute worth of footage takes up 17GB and a 120 minute feature will take up 2 TERABYTES!! If a Blu-Ray disc storage is 25GB per movie then the compression ratio is 82 to 1. And that’s some serious compression. Of course the 2K original will scale down to HD uncompressed including cropping image to reduce the file size and then compressed it down to fit DVD or Blu-Ray, so it’s not as severe. It can still look great and that’s very much at the hands of the compressionist or mastering house. Many cable networks are sending down very compressed signal to the households and it looks it – like crap, full of motion artifacts and jitter pixels. I guess the point is that just because something is tauted as Hi-Def doesn’t mean it is. Let’s just hope the good people at Criterion do a good job at handling these classic films including some dubious titles – The Rock anyone? – in their catalog.

  • Professor Echo

    Ben, in addition to the invaluable information supplied by Gary Tooze at DVDBeaver, you might also check the Home Theater Forum from time to time, if you don’t already do so. Film restoration expert and archivist Robert Harris posts there regularly and often reviews both SD and BD releases from all decades.

  • Joel

    Is Criterion seriously adding Gregory Nava’s “El Norte” to its collection??? Or is this some other “El Norte” I’m unaware of?

    If it’s Nava’s, I can only imagine the next Eclipse box set will be a collection of Lifetime Channel Original Movies.

  • michaelgsmith

    Kino is next:

    http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=1281

    Since Fallen Angels is their inaugural release, it looks like it will be a good year for Wong Kar-Wai fans.

  • Rick

    “Obviously, it’s good to have films reproduced on video in the highest quality available; on the other hand, every time there has been an technological advance in home video, hundreds if not thousands of titles have dropped out of circulation, to the point where even VHS is starting to look like a golden age for film availability.”

    Dave, while there are undoubtedly gaps in the catalog of available titles, do you really think the situation with VHS was better than it is today? The John Ford box, nearly the entire oeuvres of Mizoguchi (in French editions, granted) and Ozu, good beginnings with Naruse and Shimizu (with English subtitles!), most of Renoir and Murnau, Treasures from the American Film Archives, the Warner noir boxes, the Guitry Box, Unseen Cinema . . .I don’t remember so great a depth and breadth of selection available on videotape.

  • Yes, I do, Rick. Certainly there have been gains, but overall the pool of available classics is smaller. We’ve gained some Fords (though none that were not available on 16mm) but lost others, such as “The Sun Shines Bright.” Many of the Mizoguchis were available from New Yorker and Janus, as were several of the Ozus. A huge number of the Columbia, Universal and Paramount films from the 30s through the 60s have disappeared, including masterpieces like “A Man’s Castle” and “Make Way for Tomorrow.” We can get John Ford’s “What Price Glory” in a decent DVD edition, but the Raoul Walsh original has vanished from circulation, along with “Docks of New York,” “Wings,” “The Wedding March” and so on and on. On the plus side, we have a lot more foreign genre pictures available now, but what does it profit a man to gain Jess Franco and lose Frank Borzage?

  • Rick

    Point taken, sir, but – as I clutch my VHS-transferred-to-DVD copy of “History is Made at Night” – I’d argue it’s a draw (assuming you like foreign genre pictures). We don’t have “Wedding March” but we do have “Foolish Wives,” “Blind Husbands,” and “Queen Kelly.” Warners finally got around to releasing the preCode sets, and let’s hope the rumors of Borzage and Murnau from Fox in the fall are true.

    The situation reminds me of the early days of CD, when the only way to get your hands on classic American jazz albums was to buy expensive Japanese imports. It’s cold comfort, but least “Caught” and “Letter from an Unknown Woman” are available in France, “The Reckless Moment” in the UK, “Wagon Master” in the UK, most of the missing Sirks throughout Europe, and (gasp) even “Desert Fury” in Australia. And in the meantime, we can be thankful for TCM.

  • Ben

    “The situation reminds me of the early days of CD, when the only way to get your hands on classic American jazz albums was to buy expensive Japanese imports.”

    Now they are over doing CD re-issues as there are so many redundant versions of classic albums by Miles, Trane, Monk, etc… all in the name of advanced technology and remastering but still in the redbook 44K/16bit CD format. Yawn. I’m keeping my vinyls. How many versions of “Kind of Blue” do we need? It’s ridiculous how they can retitle their boxsets ad nauseam of the same thing. Is it any wonder why people just had enough and started downloading music?

    It might be different situation in film but the fact remains for both is that the obscure titles will take forever or never to surface on the market. Bring on the Shimizu boxset please.

  • Professor Echo

    I think the inherent profitability to mankind between Franco and Borzage is a bit too subjective a cheap shot for me. Why should one be deemed more significant than the other in terms of their benefits-or lack of same thereof-as criteria for home video? Who gets to be the home video police and dictate what is worth everyone’s time and effort and what isn’t? My world doesn’t turn only for Criterion releases and never will.

    You can decry the lack of personal favorites-or even professionally estimated necessities-being released in a timely manner, or not at all, and apply sound judgment in your argument for same. But to arbitrarily compare apples and oranges and deem one superior over the other doesn’t solve anything. It only makes someone appear to be coughing up some dubious elitism and misguided nostalgia.

    A less specious question would be to ask what does it profit a man to watch Borzage OR Franco on a clearly inferior mode of presentation such as videotape, one that only makes each seem that much further from the original source? Perhaps the argument about the quantity of videotape titles reigning over the quality of DVDs, HD or SD, can be a valid one, but that’s not to say it has blanket merit nor come without any sacrifices of its own.

    As Rick intimated, there are other avenues of discovery alloted Borzage. Many of his films do play on TCM and a satellite feed of the network is still better looking than any videotape could ever be. Franco, on the other hand, has only previously been accessible through horribly low budget videotapes with asphyxiating quality, more often than not pirated and even then probably dropped overboard by the pirates into salt water, none of which ever gave him much of a chance. Whether you think he warrants one or not, at least DVD has provided us the opportunity to make the choice ourselves. And I do think more personal choice profits a man, despite the horrors we keep seeing with deregulated industries in this country. Sigh…. Now THERE’S an argument!

    Let the home video police arrest me; I’m happy to have both Borzage and Franco in my home and replicated on television at least a little more faithfully than we’ve ever had before.

    And last time I looked they are still making VCRs and the apparent plethora of videotape titles that have yet to make it onto DVD are probably still available somewhere out there. The same way that you can still get original LPs for those that never made it to CD, much less individual downloads. If it’s true that with each succeeding format the choices from the previous ones keep diminishing, it’s also true that in this day and age very few formats need ever become completely fossilized.

  • Dave K

    The rumors about the Murnau/Borzage set are definitely true: it will be Fox’s equivalent for this holiday shopping season of the great “Ford at Fox” set last year. I’m hearing that the set will consists of “Sunrise,” “City Girl” and the reconstruction of “Four Devils” that Janet Bergstrom put together; on the Borzage side, it looks like “Seventh Heaven,” “Street Angel,” “They Had to See Paris,” “Liliom” and “The River” — which of course I hope is just for starters.

    I don’t know why it is that every time I suggest that the blessings of DVD have been mixed it seems to be interpreted as a blanket condemnation of the medium. I’ll say again that this is definitely, absolutely, unequivocally not the way I feel: DVDs represent a tremendous technical advance over VHS, perhaps the worst medium for moving images ever invented, and I would never want to return to the VHS days. The Murnau/Borzage box is a perfect example of the benefits that DVD has to offer. These are films that have not been on television in my memory, and probably have not been in commercial distribution at all since Paul Killiam circulated “Seventh Heaven” on 16-millimeter. (Though I have dim memories that Films, Inc. distributed “Street Angel” — at least, I know I saw it somewhere in a good 16-millimeter print.) And if Fox Home Video does its usual job, they will look very, very good.

    As for the other avenues allotted to the discovery of Borzage, for folks who were not around for the 16-millimeter days, I am unaware of them, although TCM does occasionally show some of his MGM films. Tried to track down “Moonrise” lately? There are similarly huge gaps in availability for many of the major US and European auteurs, whose work is bound up with the big studios and holding companies. Franco (whose work I truly do not like — can someone point me to an interpretation other than “so bad it’s good”?) has the benefit of not being in the stable of the majors, and a number of smart independent distributors, notably Bill Lustig at Blue Underground, have taken advantage of Franco’s outsider status to license his films (at relatively low cost, I assume) and issue them in beautifully restored and transferred editions. I only wish we had equivalent releases in this country for Antonioni, Pasolini, Rossellini, Ophuls, Renoir, Chabrol, Rivette, Sirk, Siegel, Sidomak and so on and so forth. (The reason some of these films turn up in Europoean editions is because the markets are much smaller and the licensing fees are correspondingly much lower.)

    Obviously, PE, I think that more personal choice profits everyone. All I am saying is that, contrary to popular belief (and as promulgated recently by at least a couple of first rate critics who should know better), DVD has not created a paradise on earth for cinephiles. There are gains and there are losses.

  • Kent Jones

    There are many Borzages that turn up on TCM and many that don’t. Such as his Republic titles, including two of his very best films, MOONRISE and I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU (I’m sure many of us have held onto our lasers of those films). TILL WE MEET AGAIN is one of his very best films, and all I’ve ever seen is a severely damaged 16mm print. I never see DISPUTED PASSAGE on TCM. And many of the talkies made before the Warners/MGM years never see the light of day on cable or DVD, including BAD GIRL, a terrific film. I would say that the representation of Borzage on cable is spotty at best, and all but non-existent on DVD.

  • Dave, the rollout of classic titles on High-Definition DVD formats has been slow indeed, and the waters will only get muddier as smaller companies release public domain titles in the High-Def formats. BCI’s double-feature HD disc sets of “Road to Rio/Bali” and “My Favorite Brunette/Son Of Paleface” are peculiarly mixed blessings—I’ve never seen better video versions of them, but they don’t even begin to approach what one might consider the platonic ideal.

    Warner has been doing the best job in turning classic stuff to High Def, because they’ve been mastering in Hi-Def since before the formats themselves arrived. Their “Adventures of Robin Hood” and “Casablanca” HD discs are a real pleasure to watch. I used the Warner Blu-Ray of “The Wild Bunch” as my test disc when I shopped for a big-screen TV (good thing I got THAT purchase out of the way last year…). Other good-looking High-Def discs from the company include “The Getaway,” “Bullitt,” and “Bonnie and Clyde.” Obviously what’s gonna get rolled out first by the majors are the more, let’s say, popular classics of the canon, which is one reason why Criterion’s announcement inspires such joy as it does.

  • Professor Echo

    On a related note, KINO has also announced that they will start releasing Blu-Ray titles in the fall, Wong Kar Wei’s FALLEN ANGELS the only film mentioned thus far. Though the quality of their releases can sometimes be considered, shall we say, imbalanced, this could theoretically mean the potential for some beautiful transfers of extraordinary silent films.

    Dave, with regards to unrepentant Francophiling, I am hardly a staunch devotee, but I won’t summarily dismiss him either. In any case, I think it would truly sadden me to ever read a profound analysis or insightful examination of any of his films because that way madness lies. I do believe at times he does transcend the “So bad, it’s good” backhand, but dirge-like Criterion liner notes explaining why he needs to be taken seriously would spoil the fun. Franco is a different party than the one I threw for Ozu.

    But I’m happy to steer you toward one of my favorite web sites for what is often very good writing about Franco and the rest of his disreputable ilk, as well as perpetuating the proposition that sometimes in life you should eat dessert first:

    DVD Drive-In

  • David Hare

    Regarding the old 16mm days, I think a very interesting development is arising in France where, most recently two new boxsets of previously unavailable MIzoguchis have been released by MK2 and Carlotta respetively. Most of the sources are from 16mm – this is fairly if not extremely unusual for new to DVD releases, and because of the rarity of print materials which in several cases only exist in composite 16mm sources held inm Japanese archives, the telecines have been mastered in HD!! The titles for the Mizo Annees 30s MKw box are: Zangiku Monogatari (a rough sources and 16mm), a superb restoration of 47 Ronin, and a gorgeous print of Osaka Elegy. The Annees 30s box (from Carlotta) has three titles from 16mm sources only: the staggering Downfall of Osen, Poppy and Mizo’s adaptation of Boule de Suif (and precursor to Stagecoach) Oyuki the Virgin. An additioanl sinlge disc, also sourced from 16mm is Sisters of the Gion. And one is hopeful Carlotta may come good with Straits of Love and Hate which only exists in a single 16mm source held in Japanese archives.

    Here is real flowering of previously unobtainable material from 16mm sources which is hopefully a sign of more to come.

  • Dave, I spend much of my time fuming about what’s NOT on DVD too, and why the people who could be putting it out aren’t, and I certainly advocate for you to be doing the same as much as possible, especially in the pages of the NY Times. But I still say there’s a certain myopia in your position here. DVD is an aggregate medium onto which all those VHS tapes, laserdiscs, and 16mm collectors’ prints can accrue, and have. So for many of us everything that emerges on DVD is either new to home video or an upgrade, and for everything else that was already out there on tape or from cable, it’s not like it all turned to dust (like Kevin McCarthy in that TWILIGHT ZONE episode) the second DVD was invented. I think that’s the point of view that the “DVD-as-paradise” folks are coming from.

    Regarding your MOONRISE challenge (and clearly recall that I first saw that film after renting the Republic [?] VHS tape from a 20/20 Video on Ventura Blvd. in the summer of ’99), in about 10 seconds I was able to pull up a listing for a DVD-R of the film, supposedly ported straight from the same VHS tape and with box art derived from the VHS cover, for sale on an internet auction site for $5.25. Your 1973 review of the film is, incidentally, quoted in the seller’s text. I realize that for rarer titles one has to be near a good video store, which are themselves becoming scarce, or know the right collector, but you get my point.

  • nicolas saada

    There are at least two or three of these titles by Criterion which are in 1/33: it’s good news. My fear with all this new technology business, is that it focuses on image”quality” and sound: it might throw into oblivion every film made before stereo sound and Cinemascope. Or worse, “crop” them to fill the 16/9 tv, plasma or lcd format. Remember the 1/85 “Touch of Evil” ?
    But it’s also true that we are fortunate to be able to see almost everything on dvd.
    Still, dvd tends to rethink film history in a sometimes terrible way : in aris, you can get a two disc collector’s edition of Fulci “Cannibal Ferox” but you won’t find a dvd of Ophuls’ “Le Plaisir”.
    Scary…

  • Kent Jones

    Dave, I think the Murnau/Borzage box will include LUCKY STAR, LAZYBONES and BAD GIRL.

    As long as we’re discussing titles that are unavailable on DVD, I would like to put in a word for Phil Karlson, whose finest films (KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL excepted) are unavailable.

    Saada, friend and fellow admirer of STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET – didn’t I see you wearing a CANNIBAL FEROX t-shirt?

  • nicolas saada

    Sorry Kent, it was a “I survived the screening of Fried Green Tomatoes t shirt”.
    Other films that have not make their way to DVD are legion: you can find Karlson’s “Walking Tall” on dvd. But I believe this DVd could find you as well ! But so many are missing: Fuller’s Underworld USA, Richard Brooks Deadline USA, Lang’s Man HUnt, most of Borzage’s films…

  • mark Johnson - London

    A rather late addition to this post. RE: Nicolas Saada’s ‘Cannibal Ferox” comment -it is not a Lucio Fulci film, but it is directed by Umberto Lenzi – and yes there is a difference!

    Mark Johnson.

  • Professor Echo

    Speaking of cannibalism, I’m almost certain I may never get this chance again on davekehr.com, so I’m seizing it with unrepentant relish. ;) I just caught the very strange 1974 film WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH, aka TENDER FLESH, at a revival theater the other night. It stars and was (over)directed by Laurence Harvey, who apparently was dying at the time from stomach cancer, which may explain at least some of its muddle. What a odd choice it was for him to make an utterly pointless film about the obscurely motivated cannibalism of an American Air Force veteran from the Korean war, complete with British accent. I leave it to wiser souls than myself to sort it all out and point to the theoretical significance and underlying symbolism inherent in the mise en scene of Meg Foster’s nubile naked body inspiring one to literally eat her, all while Lou Rawls croons on the soundtrack, quite plaintively, “Tell Me Why?” And what proud moments in John Ireland and Stuart Whitman’s careers. However I will admit that seeing it in a theater with grindhouse friendly inebriated souls made for a great night’s entertainment and sometimes that’s all that matters when it comes to a good cannibal film. Tastes like chicken.

    On the same topic, I hasten to say I’m serious when I sincerely recommend CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST from 1980, a genuinely good film. It’s a bit heavy handed, but given when it was made and what it has to say about documentarians and the media it was quite prescient. I admit I had to close my eyes during some of the animal cruelty scenes, which supposedly were not staged for the camera, but documented as tribal ritual. Director Ruggero Deodato battled the courts for years because of those scenes and the film was summarily banned in many countries. Still, I find it to be a fascinating film that goes beyond its more obvious roots in exploitation and actually has some keen anthropological and sociological insight into man’s inhumanity and who the real exploiters are. The latter inadvertently including the makers of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT who lifted the idea and structure of this film in whole for their dubious devices.

  • mark Johnson - London

    Professor Echo – Yes, Ruggero Deodato’s ‘Cannibal Holocaust” is interesting – being part of a disreputable sub-genre cycle – it is much under-seen- and it is often mentioned in regard to the film within a film structure that was to prove influential! I don’t think his subsequent films hold much interest or rigour though. If ‘Cannibal Holocaust” holds interest – the cycle, as per Italian exploitation cinema, soon dissolved into shameless pointless rip-offs. I mentioned in an earlier posting about Fulci and Lenzi. If, Lucio Fulci was the most recognized hack – Umberto Lenzi reached the nadir with his offerings. His “Cannibal Ferox” is a truly disgusting affair and would cement the hatred felt towards this cycle of films. Note the influence of this cycle on Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto”.

  • eyes2C

    Dave K wrote: “But can we imagine any of the more neglectful studios — Universal, Sony, Paramount — investing in 2K or 4K masters of their library titles, apart from the most famous and easily marketed of them?”

    And can we trust any of the studios to not ruin their Blu-Ray transfers in order to appease the philistines (remember pan-and-scan?) – see here:

    a few of the Hollywood studios are currently A) using excessive Digital Noise Reduction to completely scrub film grain from their Blu-ray releases, or B) not releasing as many older catalog titles as they might otherwise for fear that people will complain about grain. Some studios are even going so far as to scrub the grain out of NEW releases that have been shot on film.

  • nicolas saada

    Ok, I made a mistake about Cannibal Holocaust and triggered a lecture on the sub genre ! I should have kept my mouth shut !
    Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust is available on dvd in France, Italy, the uS and England, but you won’t find a dvd of Man Hunt or “Moonrise” in any of these countries. Kind of depressing non ?
    Of course, Deodato’s films should be available on dvd, no question about it, athough I think Fulci is a more interesting director.

  • mark Johnson - London

    Nicolas, No offense nor lecture, was ever intended! – Your point is correct though, about “Man Hunt” and “Moonrise’!

  • Professor Echo

    Nicolas and Mark, I can send you both an excellent Region One DVD-R of MAN HUNT, recorded off the Fox Movie Channel, until an official release approximating that of any cannibal epic comes along. Let me know if you are interested.

  • mark Johnson - London

    Professor Echo – A jolly kind offer – thank you very much. Indeed I would like take you up on this. How do we proceed now?

  • Professor Echo

    Mark, send me a note at: echochamber@letterboxes.org

    That’s a first access account I use in public forums, although I’m sure none of Dave’s loyal brethren are spammers!

  • Kent Jones

    MAN’S CASTLE, one of Borzage’s most beautiful films, will be on TCM at 11:30pm on August 31.