Latest Review – Criterion Collection [Round-up] [Blu-ray]

The Criterion Collection: Round-up

The Criterion Collection has officially launched their UK line with a selection of films licensed from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) as part of their multi-year home entertainment distribution deal.

We take a closer look at the first six titles to be released as part of the new UK Criterion range.


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THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH

Director: Roman Polanski

Distributor: Criterion Collection

Spine No.: 736

Genre: Drama | Historical • Year: 1971 • Country: UK | US • Running Time: 140 minutes [2:20:26] • Certificate: 15 • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English • Region: B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 • Subtitles: Optional English SDH

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Famed for its copious use of graphic violence and nudity, Roman Polanski’s unrelenting and dramatically intense adaptation of Shakespeare’s great tragedy can only be described as an original and masterful interpretation of its well-trodden source material, utilising a refreshingly young cast, led by a fabulous Jon Finch, to depict its tale.

Polanski’s Macbeth is a fluid, visceral and uncompromising piece of work, imbued with a genuinely unsettling atmosphere and a level of technical proficiency previously demonstrated in the likes of Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1969).

Released just two years after the murder of Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate and several of his friends at the hands of the Manson Family, the events depicted in Macbeth have, over the years, inevitably drawn strong parallels to the former in their brutal depiction. Though midway through production on the science-fiction thriller The Day of the Dolphin (later directed by Mike Nichols) Polanski quit the project following the murders and sank into a deep depression, and it was during this proceeding period of grieving in which he set about adapting Shakespeare’s play, with the aid of theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. It is a very intense and personal piece of work from the director; there is a prominent dark pulse beating at the core and Polanski clearly throws his heart and soul into what proves a very emotional and passionate film.

Having previously collaborated with Polanski on Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-sac (1966), cinematographer Gil Taylor again works wonders with the lens, conjuring up a surreal sense of visual allegory for some of the more intimate and intense moments and cleverly contrasting this claustrophobic tone with the vast expanse of the glorious location shots, filmed in numerous location across Britain (notably Northumberland and Snowdonia). Thankfully the effects of a troublesome shooting schedule caused by the unreliable British weather don’t affect the final results.

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Special Features:

• New 4K digital restoration, approved by director Roman Polanski

• Toil and Trouble: Making “Macbeth”, a new documentary featuring interviews with Polanski, producer Andrew Braunsberg, assistant executive producer Victor Lownes, and actors Francesca Annis and Martin Shaw (1:00:29)

• Polanski Meets Macbeth, a 1971 documentary by Frank Simon featuring rare footage of the film’s cast and crew at work (47:31)

• Interview with coscreenwriter Kenneth Tynan from a 1971 episode of The Dick Cavett Show (13:34)

• “Two Macbeths,” a segment from a 1972 episode of the British television series Aquarius featuring Polanski and theater director Peter Coe (30:03)

• Trailers (3:40)

• Booklet essay by critic Terrence Rafferty

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Available Now (click image to buy):

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IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT

Director: Frank Capra

Distributor: Criterion Collection

Spine No.: 736

Genre: Comedy • Year: 1934 • Country: US • Running Time: 105 minutes [1:45:16] • Certificate: PG • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 • Image: Black & White • Language: English • Region: B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English LPCM Audio 1.0 • Subtitles: Optional English SDH

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The first film to win all five major OSCARS at the 7th Academy Awards back in 1935 – an impressive feat matched only years later by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Frank Capra’s landmark pre-code film is still to this day considered one of the finest and most polished romantic screwball comedies Hollywood has seen, near failing to impress with its signature blend of razor sharp wit and effortless charm – not to mention two stars at the very top of their game.

Based on the 1933 short story Night Bus, by Samuel Hopkins Adams, the classic chalk and cheese comedy stars Claudette Colbert as spoiled socialite Ellen ‘Ellie’ Andrews, an heiress who decides to run away from home after her millionaire father declares her current fortune hunter spouse ‘King’ Westley is only interested in her vast fortune. Jumping ship in Florida and escaping her father’s yacht she quickly boards a bus to New York City in order to reunite with the man she loves. Once aboard the bus she meets Clark Gable’s tipsy, out-of-work newspaper reporter Peter Warne, who soon recognises the young runaway and decides to make her an offer which sets the wheels of this hilarious road trip in motion: If she agrees to give him an exclusive on her story, he will help her reunite with her man.. If not, he will tell her father where she is.

In his fifth of eight collaborations with Frank Capra, Robert Riskin’s adapted screenplay is once again authentic, intelligent and razor sharp, further developing the comic gems previously heard in the likes of Platinum Blonde (1931) Lady for a Day (1933) and bequeathing the rather simplistic story with a greater sense of depth and rhythm.

Given the sparkling natural chemistry between Colbert and Gable it is perhaps very surprising to learn that numerous other stars were both originally considered for and subsequently offered the roles before them, so it is to be thanked that the likes of Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, Margaret Sullavan, Constance Bennett, Carole Lombard and Loretta Young all declined, for various different reasons.

It is also surprising to consider the almost universal dislike towards Riskin’s script at the time, with the majority of previously considered names declining the offer because of it. Colbert’s continued dissatisfaction with the script, combined with her displeasure on set, has been well documented over the years, and indeed Capra himself has commented that her many tantrums were motivated by her antipathy towards him following their collaboration on Colbert’s disastrous 1927 debut For the Love of Mike, a major commercial flop now considered to be a lost film. That said, It Happened One Night sees Colbert deliver what is arguably her finest and most celebrated perfomance, and Riskin’s joyous screenplay is largely responsible for the success of it.

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Special Features:

• Screwball Comedy?, a new conversation between critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate (38:36)

• Interview with Frank Capra Jr. from 1999 (11:17)

• Frank Capra’s American Dream, a 1997 feature-length documentary about the director’s life and career (1:36:03)

• New digital transfer of Capra’s first film, the 1921 silent short Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House, with a new score composed and performed by Donald Sosin (12:03)

• American Film Institute tribute to Capra from 1982 (59:12)

• Trailer (1:24)

• Booklet essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme

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Available Now (click image to buy):

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SPEEDY

Director: Ted Wilde

Distributor: Criterion Collection

Spine No.: 788

Genre: Comedy • Year: 1928 • Country: US • Running Time: 86 minutes [1:26:22] • Certificate: 12 • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 • Image: Black & White • Language: Silent • Region: B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English LPCM Audio 2.0 [Feature & Commentary Track] • Subtitles: English Intertitles

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In what was to be Harold Lloyd’s final feature of the silent era, Speedy once again sees the comedy legend reprising his iconic ‘Glasses Character’ for this sublime, energetic homage to the city of New York; a work that stands proudly alongside Safety Last (1923) and The Freshman (1925) as one of his finest and most enduring films.

Lloyd stars as the carefree Harold ‘Speedy’ Swift, a good-natured yet featherbrained young baseball-obsessed city boy who just cannot seem to maintain job, no matter how hard he tries. When his girlfriend Jane’s (Ann Christy) grandfather ‘Pop’ (Bert Woodruff) refuses to sell the city’s last small, horse-drawn streetcar franchise to one of the city’s larger streetcar operators the ruthless businessmen then set out to destroy the business in order to proceed with their planned merger. Upon hearing this, ‘Speedy’ seizes his chance to intervene and help out, rounding up Pop’s equally aged friends in attempt to thwart the bullies and end the wicked scheme.

As with all Harold Lloyd features, Speedy is yet another frantic, fast-paced affair, bursting with apparently inexhaustible levels of energy and technical skill – as we have of course come to expect – and featuring the comedy icon at the very top of his game.

Perhaps most importantly though, Speedy serves as a truly fascinating time capsule of 1920s New York, complete with riveting glimpses of contemporary street life, intriguing panoramas of the developing skyline and even a cameo from the legendary Babe Ruth himself.

This really is a must own release, and Criterion’s stunning new 4K transfer serves up the strongest presentation we are likely to see.

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Special Features:

• New 4K digital restoration from elements preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive

• Musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1992, synchronized and restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray

• New audio commentary featuring Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum, and Turner Classic Movies director of program production Scott McGee

• In the Footsteps of “Speedy,” a new short documentary by Goldstein about the film’s New York shoot (31:06)

• Selection of rare archival footage from UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Hearst Newsreel Collection of baseball legend Babe Ruth, who has a cameo in the film, presented by David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts (40:24)

• New visual essay featuring stills of deleted scenes from the film and narrated by Goldstein (4:24)

• Selection of actor Harold Lloyd’s home movies, narrated by his granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd (17:45)

• Bumping into Broadway, a 1919 Lloyd two-reeler, newly restored and with a 2004 score by Robert Israel (25:51)

• Booklet essay by critic Phillip Lopate

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Available Now (click image to buy):

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ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS

Director: Howard Hawks

Distributor: Criterion Collection

Spine No.: 806

Genre: Drama • Year: 1939 • Country: US • Running Time: 121 minutes [2:01:15] • Certificate: U • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 • Image: Black & White • Language: English • Region: B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English LPCM Audio 1.0 • Subtitles: Optional English SDH

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Electrified by crackling dialogue and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur as a traveling entertainer who gets more than she bargained for during a stopover in a South American port town. There she meets a handsome and aloof daredevil pilot, played by Cary Grant, who runs an airmail company, staring down death while servicing towns in treacherous mountain terrain. Both attracted to and repelled by his romantic sense of danger, she decides to stay on, despite his protestations. This masterful and mysterious adventure, featuring Oscar-nominated special effects, high-wire aerial photography, and Rita Hayworth in a small but breakout role, explores Hawks’s recurring themes of masculine codes and the strong-willed women who question them.

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Special Features:

• Audio excerpts from a 1972 conversation between filmmakers Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich (19:31)

• New interview with film critic David Thomson (17:04)

• Howard Hawks and His Aviation Movies, a new program featuring film scholars Craig Barron and Ben Burtt (20:51)

• Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1939, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, and Thomas Mitchell, and hosted by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille (56:37)

• Trailer (2:45)

• Booklet essay by critic Michael Sragow

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Available Now (click image to buy):

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TOOTSIE

Director: Sydney Pollack

Distributor: Criterion Collection

Spine No.: 738

Genre: Comedy • Year: 1982 • Country: US • Running Time: 117 minutes [1:57:19] • Certificate: 15 • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English • Region: B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English LPCM Audio 1.0 [Feature] | English Dolby Digital 1.0 [Commentary Track] • Subtitles: Optional English SDH

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In Tootsie, Michael Dorsey lands the role of a lifetime—as did the actor playing him, Dustin Hoffman. This multilayered comedy from Sydney Pollack follows the elaborate deception of a down-on-his-luck New York actor who poses as a woman to get a soap opera gig; while “Dorothy Michaels” skyrockets to fame, Michael finds himself learning to be a better man. Given support by a stellar cast that includes Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Teri Garr, George Gaynes, Bill Murray, and, in a breakthrough performance, Jessica Lange, Tootsie is a funny, cutting, and poignant film from an American moment defined by shifting social and sexual identities.

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Special Features:

• New 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

• Audio commentary featuring director Sydney Pollack

• New interviews with actor Dustin Hoffman (18:03) and comedy writer Phil Rosenthal (15:37)

• Interview with Dorothy Michaels by film critic Gene Shalit (4:25)

The Making of “Tootsie” (1982) and A Better Man: The Making of “Tootsie” (2007), two documentaries featuring interviews with cast and crew (33:40) + (1:08:55)

• Screen and wardrobe test footage (6:45)

• Deleted scenes (10:21) and trailers (1:24 | 1:02 | 1:00)

• Booklet essay by critic Michael Sragow

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Available Now (click image to buy):

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GREY GARDENS

Director: David Maysles | Albert Maysles

Distributor: Criterion Collection

Spine No.: 123

Genre: Documentary • Year: 1976 • Country: US • Running Time: 95 minutes [1:35:23] • Certificate: 12 • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English • Region: B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English LPCM Audio 1.0 [Feature] | English Dolby Digital 1.0 [Commentary Track] • Subtitles: Optional English SDH

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Meet Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis. The two manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, New York, mansion, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot. An impossibly intimate portrait, this 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, codirected by Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, quickly became a cult classic and established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen. The Blu-ray edition features the 2006 follow-up to the film, The Beales of Grey Gardens,constructed from hours of extra footage in the filmmakers’ vaults.

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Special Features:

• New 2K digital film restoration, approved by director Albert Maysles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

• Digital transfer of The Beales of Grey Gardens, approved by Maysles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

• Audio commentary for Grey Gardens, featuring Maysles, co-directors Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, and associate producer Susan Froemke

• Introduction to The Beales of Grey Gardens by Maysles

• Audio excerpts from a 1976 interview with Little Edie Beale, conducted by Kathryn G. Graham (40:51)

• Interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the continuing influence of Grey Gardens (5:25) + (5:23)

• Behind-the-scenes photographs

• Trailer (2:15)

• Booklet featuring an essay by critic Hilton Als

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Available Now (click image to buy):

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