Jim's Film Website: Best DVD of the Year

There are three criteria for selecting the Best DVD of the Year: (1) the exceptional importance of the film(s), (2) the excellence of the transfer, including any restoration work done to film and sound elements, preserving in the original theatrical release aspect ratio, and (3) the quality of the supplemental features.

Best DVD of 2008

star Glitterbox: Derek Jarman x 4 —  The Angelic Conversation, Caravaggio, Wittgenstein, Blue and Glitterbug

Directed by Derek Jarman

1985–1993, UK — Experimental

Glitterbox

On June 24, 2008, Zeitgeist Films released the outstanding collection Glitterbox: Derek Jarman x 4, featuring the DVD debuts of Jarman's The Angelic Conversation, Caravaggio, Wittgenstein, Blue, and the posthumous tribute Glitterbug, edited from Jarman's personal film diaries. All five films boast fully-restored image and sound; and they come with a wealth of illuminating special features, including documentaries, interviews, production art, and more.

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Best DVD of 2007 (tie)

For the first time, there were two releases of such exceptional importance and quality — each featuring miraculous restorations — that I'm naming them both Best DVD of the year.

starBerlin Alexanderplatz Berlin Alexanderplatz

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

1980, Germany — 940 minutes, color, 1.33 aspect ratio — Drama

Fassbinder's magnum opus is this 16-hour adaptation of Alfred Döblin's classic modernist novel about a hapless German Everyman trying to make a life for himself in late 1920s Berlin. It encapsulates, and expands upon, the themes and techinques that make Fassbinder's body of work unique, and it features virtually every actor associated with him, including Harry Baer, Margit Carstensen, Irm Hermann, Brigitte Mira, Hanna Schygulla, and dozens more. The Fassbinder Foundation spent two years in the painstaking recovery of this monumental work, with help from the German Cultural Institute, and the Criterion Collection now presents it in a definitive 7-disc box set that also includes a wealth of supplements — ranging from documentaries to a book of essays — as well as Phil Jutzi's 90-minute 1931 film of Berln Alexanderplatz, co-written by the novel's author.

Click here to read my review of Berlin Alexanderplatz and to learn about the DVD's many special features.

Films of Kenneth AngerFilms of Kenneth AngerstarThe Films of Kenneth Anger Volume One and Volume Two

Directed by Kenneth Anger

1947–2002, US — respectively 88 minutes and 91 minutes, black & white and color, 1.33 aspect ratio — Experimental

These two volumes comprise all of Kenneth Anger's visionary short films, including the complete nine-part Magick Lantern Cycle (1947–1981), in gorgeous restorations personally supervised by the filmmaker and released by Fantoma. Anger defines experimental filmmaking at its best, and most seductive. He is a revolutionary auteur — writing, producing, directing, editing, and usually shooting his pictures himself — who combines myth, eroticism and outrageous beauty. His brilliant innovations in color design, editing and the use of music have influenced filmmakers as diverse as Martin Scorsese (who writes exceptional introductory essays for each of these two volumes), George Lucas, Stan Brakhage, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Derek Jarman, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin, and David Lynch, not to mention virtually every music video. Each volume also includes Anger's eloquent commentaries on each film, plus a lavish, and substantive, 48-page book featuring essays by Anger, other filmmakers and critics, Anger's never before seen sketches and plans for unproduced films, rare photos, and more.

Click here to read my review of The Films of Kenneth Anger Volume One and Volume Two and to learn about the DVD's many special features.

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PhantomBest DVD of 2006

star Phantom

Directed by F.W. Murnau

1922, Germany — 120 minutes, black & white (color tinted), 1.33 aspect ratio — Psychological Drama

A hapless city clerk becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman, which begins his descent into madness and crime. Murnau's once-lost film – from the same period during which he made such masterpieces as Nosferatu and The Last Laugh – is a fascinating psychological study with extraordinary visual flourishes, in a gorgeously restored DVD with many supplemental features, from Flicker Alley. This film is a welcome (re)addition to the Murnau canon. As in previous years, there were many contenders for the best DVD; but Flicker Alley has distinguished itself as a new company that takes exceptional care in every aspect of their DVDs, from the films selected (neglected but ripe for rediscovery), to meticulously restoring image, to commissioning imaginative musical scores, to including a wealth of supplemental materials.

Click here to read my review of Phantom and to learn about the DVD's many special features.

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Val Lewton Horror CollectionBest DVD of 2005

star The Val Lewton Horror Collection (5-Disc Box Set)

Cat People / The Curse of the Cat People / I Walked with a Zombie / The Body Snatcher / Isle of the Dead / Bedlam / The Leopard Man / The Ghost Ship / The Seventh Victim / new documentary Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy

Produced by Val Lewton / Directed by Jacques Tourneur, Mark Robson, or Robert Wise (see respective directorial credits below)

1942–1946, US — each of the nine feature films runs just over one hour, black & white, 1.33 aspect ratio — Fantasy, Horror, Suspense

Val Lewton is one of only a handful of producers who merit the "authorship" credit on films they made, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg (when soloing as producer) being two others. Lewton's nine "horror films" – although today we would call them psychological thrillers, even poetic fantasies – are among the most distinctive films of the 1940s, each showing his unmistakable visual, dramatic, and psychological style. In case you're put off by the lurid titles, know that Lewton was too. RKO, which bankrolled all of these productions, insisted on the names, even though these Lewton mega-hits single-handledly saved the studio from bankruptcy, after the financial debacle (but artistic triumph) of Citizen Kane.

One of the most rewarding film/DVD experiences I had in 2005 was closely re-watching these nine Lewton classics, each one just over an hour long, in conjunction with reading Joel E. Siegel's excellent 1973 study, Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror, and the wealth of materials at the Val Lewton Screenplay Collection site, which includes the authentic scripts, period newspaper and magazine clippings, and more.

Lewton's films are supremely visual, with their unique atmosphere, which is part expressionistic and part film noir, yet completely original. The brooding style of Lewton's films, which suggests a sinister alternate reality intruding into our world, unifies the nine films, regardless of which young director Lewton collaborated with. Six decades later, Lewton continues to influence the genre as much as any other filmmaker. In commentaries or in the excellent feature-length documentary, it is a privilege to hear reflections on Lewton from such leading modern directors as George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), Joe Dante (Gremlins), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), William Friedkin (The Exorcist), and Robert Wise (The Haunting).

If I had to name Lewton's single greatest film, I would select The Seventh Victim, about a young woman searching 1940s Greenwich Village for her missing sister, who was involved with devil worshippers. With its quiet but ultimately shattering series of cumulative chills, it is arguably one of the greatest films of the 1940s, and a masterpiece of its genre. An ultimate double feature would be it and Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, although the landmark shower sequence in Psycho may have been inspired by an unnerving parallel scene in The Seventh Victim. (Hitchock and Lewton knew each other while working for producer David O. Selznick; in fact, Lewton conceived the pivotal crane shot in Selznick's Gone With the Wind, with Scarlett O'Hara running amidst the hundreds of wounded soldiers.) I'm a lifelong veteran of horror films, but The Seventh Victim, with almost no overt violence, scared the stuffing out of me like nothing else. Cat People, directed by Jacques Tourneur, is that rarest of films, which looks better with each re-viewing, and over the years I've seen it a dozen times. Lewton/Tourneur's I Walked With a Zombie, suggested by the backstory of Jane Eyre, virtually defines cinematic poetic horror, while their The Leopard Man contains one of the most perfect suspense sequences I've ever seen, with a young girl being pursued by something in the night. (Tourneur later made the seminal film noir, 1947's Out of the Past, and one of the best, and most Lewtonesque, horror films of its decade, 1958's Curse of the Demon, aka Night of the Demon.) Curse of the Cat People, the first film directed by the great Robert Wise, is one of the most extraordinary sequels ever made; in fact, it's more of a psychological fantasy about the inner life of a lonely little girl than a continuation of its predecessor, although the ghost of the "Cat Woman" drives the plot.

For people interested in GLBT Cinema, there are some intriguing same-sex connections in these films, both in front of and behind the camera. Lewton was the nephew of the flamboyant bisexual Russian-born actress Alla Nazimova, who not only became one of Hollywood's great silent screen icons but starred in and, in effect, directed the scandalous 1923 Salome, a landmark GLBT film which captured the homoerotic content of Oscar Wilde's original play and Aubrey Beardsley's unique illustrations (Nazimova was also the godmother of actress and first lady Nancy Davis Reagan). Three of the greatest films in the Val Lewton Horror Collection are from original screenplays by gay author DeWitt Bodeen: Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, and The Seventh Victim. Not only are these screenplays the finest Lewton ever received, the uniquely poetic prose style of Bodeen's scripts marks him as an exceptional literary talent. In Cat People, the ancient curse which can transform a human into a giant cat (wisely, and economically, only suggested by shadows) is connected to a lesbian sisterhood: note the restaurant scene in which the mysterious dark lady calls the central character "sister" – she might as well have said 'Sapphic sister.' The Ghost Ship, which remained unseen for decades because of a protracted legal dispute, is unmistakably homoerotic, both in the central plotline of the psychotic captain who's set his sights on a new mate (in both the nautical and other sense), and, much more affirmatively, in the all-male community of the ship. In case you think Lewton has heterosexuality ultimately triumph over bisexuality, note the profoundly unsettling final shot.

This five-disc box set also includes an informative, feature-length 2005 documentary, Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy, which includes a wealth of archival material about Lewton, including rare home movies, as well as interviews with Val Lewton, Jr., Sara Karloff (Lewton/Wise captured perhaps the finest performances of both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in their film of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher, also the last time the two legendary actors worked together), and some of the greatest contemporary horror directors, mentioned above, who assess the importance of Lewton to their work and the genre.

Despite my immense admiration and enjoyment of these nine films, I do have a couple of cavils about this collection (which obviously didn't keep me from naming it 2005's best DVD). Not all of the transfers are equally excellent, although I suspect that they are the best that can be derived from the surviving film elements. Although the commentaries are informative, they are not included for each film. Also, I wish that these DVDs had been released as definitive editions, with all surviving materials, such as design sketches, included: instead, these five double-feature discs are rather bare-bones (pun intended), although the informative documentary is a welcome extra. Still, it is a privilege at last to have all nine of these films on DVD, looking better than they ever have before.

Technical Information

Release Information

DVD Release: Warner Bros Home Video / Turner Home Entertainment
Theatrical Release Dates: 1942–1946
DVD Release Date: October 4, 2005

Disc Information

Aspect Ratio: Full Screen – 1.33:1 (as in the original theatrical release)
• 5-disc box set, black & white, closed-captioned, NTSC
• Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital Mono)
• Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Edition Details – 5-Disc Box Set: (* three of these five discs are available separately, but the collection is 'value priced' and the only way to get arguably Lewton's masterpiece, The Seventh Victim)

Disc 1: Cat People (Tourneur / 1942) / The Curse Of The Cat People (Wise & von Fritsch / 1944) *
• Commentary on both films by Historian Greg Mank
• Audio interview excerpts of Simone Simon
• Theatrical Trailers

Disc 2: I Walked with a Zombie (Tourneur / 1943) / The Body Snatcher (Wise / 1945) *
• Commentary by film and literary horror historians Kim Newman (also novelist, Anno Dracula) and Steve Jones on I Walked with a Zombie
• Commentary by director Robert Wise with film historian Steve Haberman on The Body Snatcher
• Theatrical Trailers

Disc 3: Isle of the Dead (Robson / 1945) / Bedlam (Robson / 1946) *
• Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver on Bedlam

Disc 4: The Leopard Man (Tourneur / 1943) / The Ghost Ship (Robson / 1943) (only available as part of box-set Collection)
• Commentary by director William Friedkin on The Leopard Man
• Theatrical Trailer for The Leopard Man

Disc 5: The Seventh Victim (Robson / 1943) / new documentary Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (produced by Constantine Nasr; no directorial credit given) (2005) (only available as part of box-set Collection)
• Commentary by film historian Steve Haberman on The Seventh Victim
• Theatrical Trailer
Shadows in the Dark, narrated by actor James Cromwell, includes interviews with Val Lewton, Jr., Sara Karloff and filmmakers George Romero, Joe Dante, John Landis, William Friedkin, and Robert Wise.

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ImageBest DVD of 2004

star The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Platinum Series Special Extended Edition) (New Line Home Entertainment)

Directed & Co-Written by Peter Jackson

2003, New Zealand — 250 minutes, color, 2.35 widescreen anamorphic aspect ratio — Fantasy

Access two hidden features: A prank played on actor Elijah Wood (Frodo) by Dominic Monaghan (Merry), and a hilarious clip from the 2004 MTV Awards featuring Peter Jackson.

One of the most sublime films I have ever seen, and a peerless climax to the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King is even more powerful in this "Special Extended Edition." Writer/director Peter Jackson has brilliantly added 50 minutes of footage to the award-winning theatrical release to create a genre-defining Fantasy masterpiece. An overwhelming experience on every level.

Technical Information

Release Information
Disc Information

Edition Details

Discs 1 & 2: The Special Extended Version of the Film

Discs 3 & 4: The Appendices

Disc Three: The Appendices Part Five* – "The War of the Ring"

[*The Appendices Parts One and Two appeared on The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition, Appendices Parts Three and Four are on The Two Towers: Extended Edition]

Disc Four: The Appendices Part Six – "The Passing of an Age"

Hidden Features

Prank played on actor Elijah Wood by Dominic Monaghan
On the first disc of the DVD set go to 'Select a Scene' and highlight the very last scene on the disc, entitled 'The Siege of Gondor.' Press the 'Down' arrow key on your remote control and the One Ring will appear on the screen. Press 'Enter' now and you will be treated to a high-spirited prank played on Elijah Wood (Frodo) by his co-star Dominic Monaghan (Merry).

Hilarious clip from 2004 MTV Awards featuring Peter Jackson
On the second disc go to the section 'Select A Scene.' Highlight the entry 'Fan Club Credits' and then hit your remote control's 'Down' arrow key and the One Ring will appear. Press 'Enter' and you will now see a hilarious clip from the 2004 MTV Awards, featuring Peter Jackson, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughan.

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Cocteau's Beauty and the BeastBest DVD of 2003

star Beauty and the Beast (Restored DVD – Criterion Collection)

Directed & Written by Jean Cocteau

1946, France — 93 minutes, black & white, 1.33 aspect ratio — Fantasy

This luminous, genuinely magical, and deeply moving film has received definitive treatment in the new, restored DVD from the Criterion Collection.

My review of the film also details the many special features of the restored DVD (released in 2003), including the complete score to Philip Glass's opera which is synchronized to the film, as Glass intended, on one of the audio tracks.

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Singin' in the RainBest DVD of 2002

star Singin' in the Rain (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Directed by Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen

1952, US — 102 minutes, color, 1.33 aspect ratio — Musical Comedy

Access hidden features: Clips from films which influenced Singin' in the Rain and an interview with Baz Luhrman

Often hailed as the greatest film musical, Singin' in the Rain is pure joy. It exuberantly blends comedy, romance, and eye-popping musical numbers in its recreation of the time when Hollywood was moving from silent movies to "talkies." A hoofer-turned-matinee-idol (Gene Kelly, who also co-directed) is caught in that bumpy transition, along with his best buddy (Donald O'Connor), prospective sweetheart (Debbie Reynolds), and a hellcat of a co-star (Jean Hagen) so silly that she believes her own publicity. The film has never looked or sounded as dazzling as in this brand-new, two-disk 50th Anniversary Special Edition, meticulously restored from the original three-strip Technicolor elements. And it includes a wealth of extraordinary supplements, from commentary by all of the surviving principal filmmakers, to a full-length documentary about producer Arthur Freed, to clips from the original movies in which all of the musical numbers first appeared (screenwriters Comden & Green had to write an original story around producer/lyricist Freed's earlier hit songs); and much more, as you can see below.

Technical Information

Release Information

Production Company: Warner
Studio (DVD Release): Warner Home Video
Theatrical Release Date: April 10, 1952
DVD Release Date: September 24, 2002
Run Time: 102 minutes

Disc Information

Aspect Ratio: Full Screen – 1.33:1 (as in the original theatrical release)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Scene Access ("Chapters")
• Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
• Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Edition Details

Disc 1

• The film in an all-new 2002 digital transfer from state-of-the-art restored elements, taken directly from the three-strip Technicolor positive master
• Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, and author/film historian Rudy Behlmer

Disc 2

What a Glorious Feeling: a new 30-minute documentary about the making and impact of Singin' in the Rain
Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM, an excellent 96-minute documentary about the career of producer/songwriter Arthur Freed, whose other pictures (all represented by clips) include Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, The Band Wagon, and Gigi.
• Excerpts from movies in which Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown songs originated - 12 clips
• Outtake musical number: "You Are My Lucky Star" - Debbie Reynolds solo version
• Stills gallery
• Scoring session music cues - 26 selections, including several alternate takes of key songs
• Theatrical trailers

Hidden Features

Clips from films which influenced Singin' in the Rain
On the first disc's Main Menu, select 'Special Features,' then go to the text feature 'Reel Sound.' Using the 'Right' arrow key on your remote control you can highlight the movie poster seen on each page. For each poster you select, you will be treated to a clip from the film (made between 1925 and 1928); titles range from Silent Era swashbucklers to The Jazz Singer and early musicals.

"Singin' Inspirations"
On the first disc's Main Menu, select 'Special Features,' then you can choose the 'Singin' Inspirations' option to view additional hidden footage which appears at various points throughout the film. Whenever a movie reel icon pops up on the screen, press 'Enter' on your remote and you will be able to learn more about Singin' in the Rain and the films which inspired it.

Interview with Baz Luhrman
On the second disc's Main Menu, press the 'Left' arrow key on your remote control to highlight a lamp on the wall. Press 'Enter' and you will find an interview with director Baz Luhrman in which he discusses the impact Singin' in the Rain has had on his films (Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet, and Moulin Rouge).

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Citizen KaneBest DVD of 2001

star Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Directed & Co-Written by Orson Welles

1941, US — 119 minutes, black & white, 1.33 aspect ratio — Drama

Access two hidden features: Interviews with actress Ruth Warrick and editor Robert Wise

Citizen Kane is often cited as the greatest film ever made; it is also one of the most sheerly entertaining. Orson Welles wrote, directed, and starred in this electrifying portrait of a ruthless, enigmatic publishing tycoon. In its groundbreaking dramatic structure, we learn Charles Foster Kane's story through different characters' – sometimes contradictory – perspectives, as we see him simultaneously mythologized and deconstructed. And it is a visual masterpiece, as cinematographer Gregg Toland and Welles reveal Kane through a series of astonishing, haunting images. The DVD is nothing short of stunning; two years were spent in an international search for the best surviving picture and sound elements, then the film was painstakingly restored to what it must have looked like at its premiere. There are a wealth of supplements which illuminate every aspect of the film; they include two separate full-length commentaries (one by director Peter Bogdanovich, the other by critic Roger Ebert), extensive production art work, studio and personal correspondence, the two-hour documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane (a fascinating dual portrait of Welles and William Randolph Hearst, who both inspired the character of Kane and sabotaged the film's release), and much more.

Technical Information

Release Information

Studio: Warner Home Video
Theatrical Release Date: May 1, 1941
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2001
Run Time: 119 minutes
Production Company: Warner Home Video

Disc Information

Aspect Ratio: Full Screen – 1.33:1 (as in the original theatrical release)
• Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Scene Access ("Chapters")
• Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
• Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Edition Details

Disc 1

• The film digitally restored from the best surviving film and sound elements
• Two separate, full-length commentary tracks: one by Orson Welles biographer Peter Bogdanovich (director of The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc?, and Paper Moon), the other by film critic Roger Ebert
• Theatrical trailers
• 1941 Movie Premiere Newsreel
• Gallery of storyboards, rare photos, alternate ad campaign, studio and personal correspondence, call sheets, other memorabilia
• Production notes, awards, and more

Disc 2

The Battle Over Citizen Kane, a two-hour, Oscar-nominated documentary detailing the power struggle between Orson Welles and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, whose life inspired the film

Hidden Features

Interview with Ruth Warrick, who played Emily Norton Kane
On the first disc's Main Menu, go to 'Special Features.' From there, press the 'Right' arrow on your remote control to highlight the sled. Now press 'Enter' and you can view a 5-minute interview with Ruth Warrick, who played Emily Norton Kane (Kane's first wife), reminiscing about her experiences making the film.

Interview with Robert Wise, who edited the film
On the first disc's Main Menu, go to 'Production Notes.' From there, select 'On The Set' to see a series of text screens. When you get to the one with information about News On The March, you will see another sled in the background. Press the 'Up' arrow key on your remote control, followed by 'Enter', to see a 3-1/2 minute interview with Citizen Kane's editor Robert Wise (who went on to direct West Side Story, The Haunting (1963), and The Sound of Music – visit Films of Robert Wise).

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North by NorthwestBest DVD of 2000

star North by Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

1959, US — 136 minutes, color, 1.75 aspect ratio — Action/Adventure

In Hitchcock's run-for-your life espionage caper, North by Northwest, Manhattan advertising executive Cary Grant is mistaken for a spy, escapes kidnapping, flees a murder frame-up, encounters a femme fatale (Eva Marie Saint), dodges a crop-dusting airplane spewing bullets, scrambles across the face of Mount Rushmore... and comes to realize that his life is not as "boring" as he once feared. This thrilling, witty, and visually stunning masterpiece is the prototype for hundreds of subsequent Action/Adventure movies, including the James Bond series and Indiana Jones trilogy. It is also one of Hitchcock's greatest films (along with Sabotage, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and others). Not only does the DVD boast superb image and sound, and a wealth of supplements (detailed below), it includes one of my favorite (but all too rare) features: An isolated musical track. You have the option of watching the entire film while hearing only Bernard Herrmann's virtuoso score (one of the greatest ever composed for film), without any dialogue or sound effects; you can switch back to the full soundtrack whenever you like.

Technical Information

Release Information

Studio: Warner Home Video
Theatrical Release Date: July 17, 1959
DVD Release Date: August 29, 2000
Run Time: 136 minutes
Production Company: Warner Brothers

Disc Information

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen anamorphic – 1.75:1 (as in the original theatrical release)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby, Scene Access ("Chapters")
• Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
• Subtitles: English, French

Edition Details

• All-new digital transfer and Dolby 5.1 Audio from restored elements — Widescreen anamorphic format
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailers and TV ads
Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest, a revealing, full-length look at all aspects of the film, featuring actors Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau, screenwriter Ernest Lehman, and others
• Feature-length commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman (who also wrote the films West Side Story and The Sound of Music)
• Production Stills Gallery
Music-only audio track featuring Bernard Herrmann's absolutely complete score

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The Passion of Joan of ArcBest DVD of 1999

star The Passion of Joan of Arc

Directed by Carl Th. Dreyer

1928, Denmark/France — 82 minutes, black & white, 1.33 aspect ratio – silent with optional musical accompaniment — Drama

With its stunning, often vertiginous images, spellbinding narrative drive, and unforgettable lead performance by Renee Falconetti, The Passion of Joan of Arc is the greatest film I have ever seen. The original version was long believed lost to fire, until it was found in 1981 in perfect condition in, of all places, a Norwegian mental hospital. The Criterion Collection has created a pristine DVD; you can see every crease, scar, and hair in breathtaking detail, as originally shot – in bright light, without makeup – by Dreyer and cinematographer Rudolph Maté. In addition to an informative optional commentary by a film historian and a wealth of text-based information about both the film and the life and trial of Joan of Arc, the DVD includes – if you choose to play it – composer Richard Einhorn's acclaimed opera/oratorio Voices of Light, which accompanies the entire length of the film.

Technical Information

Release Information

Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 1928
DVD Release Date: November 9, 1999
Run Time: 82 minutes
Production Company: Criterion Collection

Disc Information

Aspect Ratio: Full Screen – 1.33:1 (as in the original theatrical release)
• Scene Access ("Chapters")
• Audio Tracks: English (Silent) (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for optional musical accompaniment, Richard Einhorn's oratorio Voices of Light)

Edition Details

• Commentary by Casper Tybjerg, Dreyer scholar from the University of Copenhagen
• Production notes
• An optional audio track includes the complete version of Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, an original orchestral and choral work inspired by the film; performed by renowned choral ensemble Anonymous 4, the Nederlands Radio Choir, and the Nederlands Radio Philharmonic
• Notes on Voices of Light, including interviews, essays, photographs and medieval texts used for the libretto
• Interactive essay on the film's production and the life and trial of Joan of Arc
• Multimedia history of the film's many versions
• Restoration demonstration and extensive production design archive

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ImagesAspect Ratio

Aspect ratio is the "shape" of a film image – its width to height ratio.

For example, "1.33" means aspect ratio of 1.33:1, or that the image is one and a third times wider than high; "2.35" indicates that the image is just over two and a third times wider than high. The four most common aspect ratios are:

Always see a work in its original aspect ratio, as the filmmakers designed and shot it.

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