Criterion releases Kurosawa and Vampyr

High and Low cover (image: Criterion)I guess that there’s no need for me to introduce you to the Criterion Collection. Albeit not especially cheap, these DVDs are so full of extras it would be best to describe them as the definitive edition of the movie, sometimes even for DVDs you wouldn’t expect to get such a gigantic release. Criterion are having a busy month, already they have released Jacques Tati‘s Traffic, Paul Schrader‘s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and the long short (or however you’d describe a movie of 27 minutes) Patriotism by Yukio Mishima. They’ve also released a Canadian movie I’d never heard of, Mon Oncle Antoine by Jutra, but that is dubbed “the best Canadian movie of all times” by certain critics. Looks promising.
But, as I said, the month isn’t over and Criterion is still going to release a couple of movies.

First up is High and Low by Akira Kurosawa. A businessman has to choose what he’s going to do with a sum of money he’s raised. On the one hand he could use it for a vital business deal, or he could spend it as ransom money for his kidnapped son. The movie was based on the detective novel King’s Ransom by Ed McBain (the man also penned the novels for The Blackboard Jungle and The Birds). Apart from a booklet on the movie, you’ll also get several interviews: the interview with the actor who plays the kidnapper was recorded for this release, the interview with the movie’s lead Toshiro Mifune comes from Japanese tv. There’s also a documentary on the making of this movie (37 minutes) and the movie has an alternative  audiotrack for a commentary by a Kurosawa scholar.
This special edition (2 discs) comes out on July 22 and will cost $39.95.

Vampyr's cover (image: Criterion) On the same day Criterion will release a movie that sparked off this article: Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s Vampyr. This movie has been released a couple of times already, but I wouldn’t blame you for not buying it: some releases were downright shoddy. Knowing Criterion’s reputation, you can be sure you’ll spend your money on a grand release. Rather than attempting to describe the movie myself, I’ll let Criterion do the job for me:

With Vampyr, Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer’s brilliance at achieving mesmerizing atmosphere and austere, profoundly unsettling imagery (The Passion of Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath) was for once applied to the horror genre. Yet the result—concerning an occult student assailed by various supernatural haunts and local evildoers in a village outside Paris—is nearly unclassifiable, a host of stunning camera and editing tricks and densely layered sounds creating a mood of dreamlike terror. With its roiling fogs, ominous scythes, and foreboding echoes, Vampyr is one of cinema’s great nightmares.

The original German version that was restored in 1998 will now be shown in a high-def digital version. There’s also a “newly credited alternate version with English text”. Apart from an audio commentary by a film scholar, you’ll also be treated to the 1966 documentary on Dreyer’s work by Jørgen Roos, a visual essay on Dreyer’s influences for this film and a 1958 radio broadcast on filmmaking by Dreyer himself. Even that is not all… there’s even a “booklet featuring new essays by Mark Le Fanu and Kim Newman, Koerber on the restoration, and a 1964 interview with producer and star Nicolas de Gunzburg, as well as a book featuring Dreyer and Christen Jul‘s original screenplay and Sheridan Le Fanu 1872 story Carmilla, a source for the film.”
$39.95 may sound like a lot of cash, but I’m pretty sure you’re getting your money’s worth with this release.

P.S. You can buy Criterion movies straight from the source (which means you’ll get a pleasant reduction), but you can also buy them elsewhere and sometimes even cheaper. We of Delirium Vault recommend DVD Pacific.

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2 thoughts on “Criterion releases Kurosawa and Vampyr

  1. Deeopey July 16, 2008 / 02:55

    They do a damn good DVD they do. Make sure you have a region free player though and stay away from ebay when trying to pick them up cheap.

  2. Nekoneko July 16, 2008 / 07:33

    I actually was luck and saw “Vampyr” on TCM when they ran it one Halloween…. weird and nifty. I’ll just have to grab this one when it comes out.

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