364-368 Monsters and Madmen

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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denti alligator
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#101 Post by denti alligator » Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:12 pm

Schreck, I understand your frustration with the pricing on this one, but I think you're wrong. Criterion adjusts prices not according to the film or even the quality of the print, but according to the amount of extras. To complain that these are "overpriced" is to say that they should lower the price of a DVD based on the film content, which is to shoot yourself in the foot, because you'd be admitting that these films are somehow of "lesser" quality than, say, Ozu or de Sica. Ok, so maybe Criterion should have released these "bare-bones" in the Eclipse line, but I'm pretty sure they had already done a good amount of work on the extras before that line was conceived of. So there you have it: same price for the same amount of films and extras as you always get with Criterion. How can you complain about this one and not about Seven Samurai? If you do, you're essentially saying that the quality of the actual film is somehow of "lesser value" than that of the "great" art pictures CC usually releases.

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sevenarts
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#102 Post by sevenarts » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:10 pm

denti alligator wrote:you'd be admitting that these films are somehow of "lesser" quality than, say, Ozu or de Sica.
Are you really claiming that they're NOT of lesser quality than most of the "art pictures" in the collection? I've never been much into monster movies, but I'd love to see someone make that argument on behalf of these films -- it might even convince me to buy 'em.

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denti alligator
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#103 Post by denti alligator » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:15 pm

sevenarts wrote:Are you really claiming that they're NOT of lesser quality than most of the "art pictures" in the collection? I've never been much into monster movies, but I'd love to see someone make that argument on behalf of these films -- it might even convince me to buy 'em.
Ok, so it depends on how we define "quality." I'm probably more with you than with Schreck on this, but his point begs the question. If the complaint grounded in a belief that these films are somehow inferior, then it goes in the face of what Schreck has been saying all along (that he would take B-movies over Ozu). if it's a financial question (the rights cost less), then we have to keep in mind that Criterion has never increased or decreased a title's price based on how much they paid for it.

Ishmael
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#104 Post by Ishmael » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:49 pm

Denti, I think Shreck's complaint has less to do with the intrinsic worth of the films and more to do with the fact that many other companies are releasing excellent editions of this same type of material at a much lower price point. Nobody's releasing Ozu, Bresson, and Dreyer in great transfers for $6; Criterion's pricing for art films just seems to be par for the course. Look at it like this: all Cadillac dealers sell cars for about the same price. However, if a Cadillac dealer got a few Fords on the lot, you'd expect the Fords to be competitively priced with other Fords rather than to have their prices jacked up to Cadillac level.

Not that Shreck needs any help clarifying what he meant.

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denti alligator
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#105 Post by denti alligator » Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:02 pm

That's not true. Cheap--decent to very good--editions of Ozu, et al are available. And even if they weren't: what makes a Cadillac cost more than a Ford is what the dealer has to pay, and--as I said--what Criterion actually pays for these films does not reflect what they charge. It's that simple. Criterion isn't in competition with the rest of the "regular" DVD market. I understand that if Warner had gotten a hold of these films they'd be made available for 1/3 the price. But I also understand that if Warner had gotten a hold of the Cassavetes films they'd also be made available for 1/3 the price. Big deal. Why complain about these films in particular? Why not boycott the Sturges films, which can also be had in equally as fine transfers for less than 1/4 the price?

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#106 Post by Ishmael » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:18 pm

denti alligator wrote:That's not true. Cheap--decent to very good--editions of Ozu, et al are available.
My mistake, but it doesn't matter much because the perception of Ozu films is that they're special, highbrow, limited appeal items—which certainly increases the amount of money people would be willing to pay for them, even if they don't have to in every case.
denti alligator wrote:And even if they weren't: what makes a Cadillac cost more than a Ford is what the dealer has to pay, and--as I said--what Criterion actually pays for these films does not reflect what they charge. It's that simple.
How do you know what rights cost? I think a lot of the difference between Fords and Cadillacs (metaphorical or otherwise) is perceived value. I honestly have no idea how much rights cost—and I assume they vary wildly—but I would assume that most entities that have to pay for rights pay roughly the same amount for products which have roughly the same appeal, i.e. perceived value, in the marketplace. This can be created by advertising or word of mouth or simply the cool design of the packaging. I really can't believe that manufacturing costs really vary that much either (although I'm not saying that they don't vary at all). Now, you could shoot down my analogy by saying that the Ford and the Cadillac dealership probably have roughly the same overhead, where Criterion and Warner have vastly different costs. But then wasn't part of the point that smaller labels, with presumably similar overheads as Criterion, also are putting out excellent releases of similar material much more cheaply? You could also argue that Criterion won't sell as many units as a major studio, but I'm not even sure that's true when it comes to products aimed at similar markets.
denti alligator wrote:Criterion isn't in competition with the rest of the "regular" DVD market.

Yes they are, as you implicitly recognize in your next sentences:
denti alligator wrote:I understand that if Warner had gotten a hold of these films they'd be made available for 1/3 the price. But I also understand that if Warner had gotten a hold of the Cassavetes films they'd also be made available for 1/3 the price.
Look at Sony's Passenger or Paramount's recent Bertolucci films. These types of films have exactly the same audience as Criterion's arthouse releases.
denti alligator wrote:we have to keep in mind that Criterion has never increased or decreased a title's price based on how much they paid for it.
Again, how do you know this? Why is, say, Metropolitan $40? I realize that it costs money to record commentaries, but I don't buy that that automatically means Criterion needs to charge an extra $10 because of it. Maybe these higher-price titles have something to do with the price of rights... or maybe Criterion just thought the target market for this release would suck up the higher price without thinking.

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zedz
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#107 Post by zedz » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:30 pm

This is rapidly turning into a pricing discussion - and I'm sure there have been others elsewhere in the past. Criterion's policy, as denti points out, is clear and consistent: all titles are consistently priced as upper-tier or lower-tier, regardless of quality, genre, availability. The determining factor for which tier they fit in, allowing for a few abberations, is extras (especially commentaries). It's part of their brand identity.

The relative cost of comparable product (or the same films in other editions) may be a relevant consideration for the purchaser (and this seems to me to be where Schreck is coming from), but all the evidence suggests that it has no relevance whatsoever for Criterion. If they've decided to include a film in their collection, they're not going to apologise for that decision by offering it at half the price of all their other films. If it's not worth it to you, don't buy it.

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sevenarts
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#108 Post by sevenarts » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:45 pm

denti alligator wrote:Ok, so it depends on how we define "quality." I'm probably more with you than with Schreck on this, but his point begs the question. If the complaint grounded in a belief that these films are somehow inferior, then it goes in the face of what Schreck has been saying all along (that he would take B-movies over Ozu).
Ignoring all the price debate here (which is pretty irrelevant as far as I'm concerned), I think this is a pretty interesting line of inquiry as it gets into definitions of "quality," as you say. And the only definition of "quality" I can think of by which a Boris Karloff monster movie could POSSIBLY be considered superior to Ozu is if we equate quality with entertainment. But the definitions of quality by which art films are usually judged involve the quality of the formal elements, the intelligence of the ideas contained in the film, the acting, maybe the plot -- with entertainment value probably ranked considerably lower on the scale.

What this indicates to me is that Criterion seems to have several different scales by which it admits a film into the collection. And it's fairly obvious that this box set is probably judged admissable by a different standard than the one that would admit Rohmer and Ozu and Kurosawa. (And there's maybe a different scale for historically significant but not necessarily "quality" films like -- judging from the discussion in that thread -- the Paul Robeson box).

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gubbelsj
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#109 Post by gubbelsj » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:25 pm

Ishmael wrote:My mistake, but it doesn't matter much because the perception of Ozu films is that they're special, highbrow, limited appeal items—which certainly increases the amount of money people would be willing to pay for them, even if they don't have to in every case.
One could also make the argument that cult / sci-fi / horror films fall into the same category. Special, definitely. Perhaps not highbrow in the accepted sense of the word, but many cult enthusiasts view such films at a level not intended by the creators - which is rather highbrow, wouldn't you say? And cult films have just as much "limited appeal" as art house cinema to the average multiplex and home media consumer. The cult fans out there are just as rabid for quality releases of said films as any art house snob (like me :wink: ), and I suspect are often willing to pay large sums of cash for them. This isn't to debate anybody's arguments concerning CC's pricing of this set, but just to point out that art cinema and cult cinema sit closely (if uneasily) together on the "special" film shelf.

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Darth Lavender
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#110 Post by Darth Lavender » Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:42 pm

Personally, I don't judge the quality of a film at all.

There are films that I enjoy (Faust, Hellraiser II, Solaris, The Godfather Part III, etc.) and there are aspects of films which I admire (the acting in The Godfather, the use of shadow in Kuroneko and Belle et la Bête, etc.) but there's no longer any films of which I say "this is a good film" or "this is a bad film"

The thing about quality, is that so many 'great' films are great for unintended reasons (an example being the Texas Chain Saw Massacre; very raw, very visceral, but that's just because it was made on such a low budget.) Similarly, I can think of some technically flawless films which are considered failures, or mediocre at best ('Hannibal' (a personal favourite) comes to mind; fine acting, cinematography, music, characters, themes, direction, pacing, etc. etc. but I don't think anyone considers it a 'great' film.)

On the subject of the M&M pricing; it just occured to me earlier, when I was reading a review; if Criterion really did spend as much on the elements, extras, etc. as some people have claimed, then they have really *____ed themeselves with the high price. I imagine there's plenty of people prepared to pay a decent amount for this set (just look at how well the "Legends of Horror" and the various Universal horror sets seem to have sold, for a cheaper price) but there's so very few people, aside from the most extreme Karloff fans** and perhaps (if there are any) Criterion completists, that would be prepared to pay so much for the DVD, that I would not be at all surprised if Criterion even experiences a loss on this particular title.

*Insert profanity of preference
** I'm a moderate Karloff fan, myself. But, despite having enough spare cash just now to buy such an expensive DVD, there is simply no way that I consider it worth the price.

Also, again, on the pricing issue:

I think Criterion's ultra-structured pricing is one of their weakest points.
Aside from the fact that zero-extras, mediocre-transfer DVDs like Kwaidan are still sold at premium prices, it also means films like The Leopard get bumped up into a silly price-bracket just by the inclusion of a third disk (the edited, American version. Which I doubt I would even want to sit through once.)

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zedz
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#111 Post by zedz » Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:27 pm

I'm going to go even further off-topic, but I promise to get back onto it!
Darth Lavender wrote:The thing about quality, is that so many 'great' films are great for unintended reasons (an example being the Texas Chain Saw Massacre; very raw, very visceral, but that's just because it was made on such a low budget.)
I think you're seriously underestimating the level of craft and intelligence behind this film. I think its undercutting of audience expectations and playing with traditional narrative structure is quite conscious, and quite inspired.

Anyway, back to the topic. I still haven't even though about whether I'll pick up this set. Based on past experience, I suspect I'll find the supporting material more interesting than the films. Leaving price / value-for-money issues aside for the moment, can anybody who's seen them lobby on behalf of (or against) the films? Comparison with similar Criterion titles (Fiend without a Face, Equinox etc.) or other horror / science-fiction films of the era would be useful.

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TheRanchHand
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#112 Post by TheRanchHand » Thu Jan 11, 2007 3:47 am

I've been debating on this one too. I am an old bad horror film fan from way back (used to watch every single episode of creature fatures from Wilkins to Stanley) and I do own The Blob, Fiend Without A Face and Equinox. In fact, Equinox is one of my favorite CC releases of the year (next to Seven Samurai). I am more into the Sci Fi titles here and would consider a buy if I really liked two of them. I am OVERLY excited about Robinson Crusoe On Mars as well.

I do appreciate the extras if they are good and address more of the technical and creative choices of the filmmaker as a point of discussion. I make films in Los Angeles so find that study fascinating over the "history" and social ramification discussion commentaries. But, I am not a buy every CC person and pick and choose my favorites. So far this year I will get the two Kurosawas and The Bicycle Thieves and may consider Madmen if I can rent the films first to take a look.

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skuhn8
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#113 Post by skuhn8 » Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:27 am

Just noticed that the trailers for all for of these films are included on the Fiend Without a Face CC DVD. Also just noticed that Fiend and The Blob are both higher tiered DVDs, and not exactly 'cup runeth over' with extras. So in comparison: four at the same price as two. Of course this is going back to a CC vs. CC argument.

In any case, glad I checked into this thread as now I've got Forbidden Planet, City of the Dead and Horror Classics Collection on my DVDPlanet wish list. All I need now is...money.

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#114 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:25 pm


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HerrSchreck
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#115 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 14, 2007 3:11 am

denti alligator wrote:Schreck, I understand your frustration with the pricing on this one, but I think you're wrong. Criterion adjusts prices not according to the film or even the quality of the print, but according to the amount of extras.
HIGH & LOW, DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST, REDBEARD, off the top of my head. $40 srp.
denti alligator wrote:[Ok, so it depends on how we define "quality." I'm probably more with you than with Schreck on this, but his point begs the question. If the complaint grounded in a belief that these films are somehow inferior, then it goes in the face of what Schreck has been saying all along (that he would take B-movies over Ozu). if it's a financial question (the rights cost less), then we have to keep in mind that Criterion has never increased or decreased a title's price based on how much they paid for it.
You and Fletch are missing something which I must not have gotten through in my post from last week. I said-- that is I meant to say-- I like looking at at a silly picture of Boris Karloff bucking his teeth out in a silly looking, not-scary-at-all-scary-face, and say, laughing & pointing & passing the joint "LOOK at that PHOTO of BORIS it's fucking hilarious, this shit is better'n CITIZEN KANE," in a half affectionate, half sarcatsic sort of a way. That didn't mean I genuinely think that all shitbucket cornball horror is better than Ozu/Welles, I was responding to the poster who said "Looking at that photo clinches it, I'm buying the set.." by basically saying that I too understand quite well that spirit of coming down off of one's cinematic high horse and recognizing the great value and spirit of those low B pictures. My point was-- that said-- I still think this is overpriced and probably won't be going for it.
denti alligator wrote:[Schreck, I understand your frustration with the pricing on this one, but I think you're wrong. .
I can't be wrong Dent-- I'm stating my preference and my taste, How can I possibly be wrong in stating what my plans are vis a vis this set? I said I find it overpriced-- and the truth is I find it overpriced. I said I probably won't be buying it-- the truth is I probably won't be buying it. There is no falsity resident in the premise.

* * *

This opens up an interesting line of conversation, and this set's thread is, I believe, a perfectly suitable place to have it: the Criterion Collection is primarily a Region One enterprise, and in this region there is not a huge number of providers of premium transfers of foreign/arthouse classics with professorial extras-- that is Golden Age French classics, Japanese masterworks by Kobayashi, Ozu, Mizo, Kuro, post Renoir/Duviv French i e Clouzot, plus Dreyer, Italian, British masterworks etc. When one gets lost classics resident in terrible transfers recovered by CC by relentless globetrotting through vaults for superior elements, paintstaking resto, and REGLE DE JEU type miracles occur, this is the "stereotypical" CC labor of love where folks gladly shell out premium bucks for such masterpieces that were impossible to see on home vid 8 years ago, let alone own with such amazing treatment. There is not, nor has there ever been "a midline average price point" for a product like their RULES OF THE GAME, or their UGETSU, or so many of the above products, in our region.

Now, when CC puts out films that are already out in R1 in good transfers, have back through the vhs age been out in good transfers-- or, when they put out films/sets of a type or genre (say, sci-fi/horror boxes) that have an established price point in our region, and they release them with an unspectacular number of extras, with simply "nice" transfers--

my question is, "what are we paying for?". What justifies in the consumer's mind the approx 25 dollars extra being paid? Is it the criterion name? Is it a covetous craving to own everything released by the label-- does the fact of the label on the box automatically justify anything that could possibly be put inside the box?

This is not a balls against the wall inquisition here, nor an attack on fans or "total collectors" or those who justify everything the label does. It's just that occasionally I look at a couple of their releases each year with a little bit of a chuckle, and I wonder what would happen if they secretly did an experiment and secretly conducted a nonsense b&w shoot of some dudes shitting in a box or something and boxed it up with commentary spoken in high elegant tones with a booklet and extras disc and called it an important film from a critical period of Italian experimentation, how many folks would rush out and buy it immediately, and subsequently come on about the "experience" of watching this important film.

I'm simply looking to open a conversation on something: the CC label is a powerful persuader for folks of every stripe, and can by proxy put a stamp of approval on any film, it seems, prior to it's being seen by many blind buying consumers. I can think of ver few product lines that have this kind of influence with their consumers-- and needless to say this has been a wonderful thing as it's created, along with a few other very brave American labels of somewhat smaller wealth, a whole new generation of cineastes devoted to the genuine art of the craft... and I do see it as a salutary thing that Janus is trying to groom this generation to not be snobs, to see the value in the low as well as the high, with releases like this and BLOB & FIEND WITHOUT A FACE.

My question is, with WB, & Paramount & Universal & Image etc etc releasing films of this type with beaucoup extras, gorgeous transfers, etc, for around 4-8 bucks a film, what are you paying for with the extra cash laid out for this set? If you're a cineaste with a large collection of this kind of stuff, and you see it as an average yet costly addition to the films/transfers/extras (in those terms) in the discs in your library, how do quantify that substantial price hike?

Btw, in terms of Gordon films, I'd most love to see DEVIL DOLL from 63 get the "treatment". But Image/Gordonfilms already have a pretty decent disc of this (as did the most others in the M&M set).

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Scharphedin2
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#116 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jan 14, 2007 4:25 am

One answer to this question may be that the Criterion Collection is a kind of "film school" to many people, or, at least a trusted company through which people will pick up films based on an expectation that the film, whatever its nationality, genre or age will be of a high quality in terms of presentation and extras, and will be somehow emblematic of the genre, age, director, star, nationality it represents. I take it that many people will push their own boundaries of film taste through Criterion's releases. I think there is strong evidence for this being the case here in this very forum.

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HerrSchreck
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#117 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:42 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:One answer to this question may be that the Criterion Collection is a kind of "film school" to many people, or, at least a trusted company through which people will pick up films based on an expectation that the film...
Already acknowledged with
I wrote:a wonderful thing as it's created, along with a few other very brave American labels of somewhat smaller wealth, a whole new generation of cineastes devoted to the genuine art of the craft... and I do see it as a salutary thing that Janus is trying to groom this generation to not be snobs, to see the value in the low as well as the high,
but I don't think that even Janus would suggest that this "schooling" should begin and end with, even in the case of young/wet-behind-ears cineastes, the Criterion Collection. Without question in sum this label has set the standard for excellence in disc production, but en toto I do not find it to be, in terms of the films/filmmakers, to be the greatest catalog in existence-- that's just me (though I know others here feel the same).

You're almost saying they are not to be seen as regular "sci-horror discs for purchase", but something A Little More... somewhat greater. And my only question is (rhetorical one, of course), what constitutes this "something more" in this box? Is it neccessary to see the whole collection in sum (i e as a course) to justify the cost of the individual MONSTERS & MADMEN box?

What is that certain something the box has that makes up the difference for you, sight (and films) unseen? Are those new to the medium looking to "take a film course/seeking guidance" the only ones who will "see" the value of that price doubling in the case of this release?

Compare this to the LEWTON box-- 10 films from a master in superlative transfers with commentaries & doc for just over fifty bucks. Rights acquisition for these American B films are peanuts-- these guys are thrilled they're even being circulated, let alone by Criterion. Thus some wonderful status quo bargains in your sci fi & horror aisle from Image, VCI, et al.

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Scharphedin2
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#118 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jan 14, 2007 6:14 am

But Schreck, you are hardly exemplary of Criterion's main audience. I do not think Janus/Criterion sees themselves as the beginning and end of quality cinema on DVD, however, I do think that on top of their genuine joy in all of the medium's different forms and shapes -- be it Bresson, Bay or B-mania, the people at Criterion also have enough business savy to see the value of the brand that they have established.

I do not think Criterion has cut any corners with this box set. It has more or less the whole nine yards in terms of booklet, commentaries, exclusive interviews, and (presumably) top notch presentation of the four films in the set. They have set a retail price of $80 (which will become about $60 to the hard core internet purchasers). We all would like prices to be as low as possible, but I belong to the minority who thinks that basically all DVDs are very low priced (blame it on my past of paying 3-5 times higher prices for films on laserdisc).

I don't think I am saying anything new here. Criterion offers premium discs of a variety of different types of films with contextual materials that are rarely rivalled by any other company. They have a strong brand, and I think that brand has become recognised outside the comparatively small circle of die-hard cineastes, where ordinary people with a weekend interest in the art of cinema will pick up the new discs offered by Criterion in the knowledge that their eyes will be opened to something new.

We can both agree that a number of the sets offered by the major studios in this genre (The Lewton set, the Horror Classics set, the Lon Chaney set, etc., etc.), not to mention those produced by Criterion's peers -- Kino, MoC, BFI, etc, stand squarely alongside Criterion's releases, but interestingly, I think these sets are fairly invisible to the more pedestrian DVD consumer. The Lewton set is awesome, but positioned on the shelf next to all of Warner Brothers' other releases, it disappears. You have to know Lewton to pick it up. With Criterion (to many people, I think), there needs to be no prior knowledge of the flicks, the Criterion brand is what sells the discs.

Schreck, I think you should just get the cotton-pickin' set, because you know that you will have fun with it, and it will be beautifully presented, and you will be supporting the world of film you love -- by my reasoning, the inclusion of these titles in the Collection, will generate a series of new fans of the genre. Fans, who will be shelling out their dough to purchase many more titles from VCI, Alpha, Kino, Image, et.al.

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Tommaso
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#119 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jan 14, 2007 6:21 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:I take it that many people will push their own boundaries of film taste through Criterion's releases. I think there is strong evidence for this being the case here in this very forum.
Quite true, although I'm basically with Schreck in this discussion. Including a sci-fi B-movie (and in this case, C-movie is probably more appropriate) in the collection might simply open up a general interest in the whole genre for someone who has never regarded that particular genre as valuable at all. Perhaps there IS a value in documentaries about animals, and that's why they put out "Koko"? Releasing "Pandora" might generate an equal interest in German silents for people who have always abstained from them (fingers crossed on that one!)
But then, it should be a first class example that would highlight the potential of that genre, i.e. something by Jack Arnold rather than the films included here (I'm assuming an ideal world here where CC can get the rights to any film they want, of course).. Also, the half-mythical standard of Criterion's releases is basically exactly that, i.e. a myth in many,many cases. We all know how often they got colours and occasionally even aspect ratio wrong in many of their earlier releases (and we're still not sure about the colours on recent releases like "Ran" and "Tales of Hoffmann"), but still people would buy their versions of "Autumn Sonata" or "Gertrud" rather than checking out the better and sometimes even cheaper alternatives available. It's this fetish aspect that I don't like about Criterion (or rather their die-hard fans). I have much more trust in MoC in these respects, even in newer releases.
And I don't believe in that 'film school' thing, either. It would be a delusion to think that you just need to buy the complete Criterion collection to have a comprehensive overview over everything that was/is important for film history/studies. You get some good glimpses of course, but Criterion as any other label has its likes and preferences, and one shouldn't have this or any other label guide oneself when it comes to setting up a private collection of 'important' titles. Reading two or three different books from different times about film history will give you much more inspiration on what to watch than just skimming through CC's catalogue.

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HerrSchreck
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#120 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 14, 2007 6:34 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:Schreck, I think you should just get the cotton-pickin' set, because you know that you will have fun with it, and it will be beautifully presented, and you will be supporting the world of film you love -- by my reasoning, the inclusion of these titles in the Collection, will generate a series of new fans of the genre. Fans, who will be shelling out their dough to purchase many more titles from VCI, Alpha, Kino, Image, et.al.
All this is a rhetorical excercise, you understand. I'm not trying to be a sonofabitch-- rare's the time I could be such a pain inna ass with this co.

I don't think, incidentally, there is a typical cc consumer. I think it's a vertical slice through all rings of the market.

But you're still selling me Criterion the company-- I wanted you to sell me on the box. Talk about the box and what's in it without leaning on the label... because my hunch is this is not possible with the rest of the market in consideration: there is virtually no difference between this box and it's competitors in terms of transfer, extras, the film itself, etc-- the only difference is price. And that is drastic. If you took the wacky C offa the box and slapped Universal or Sony on there (with the precise same content) people would suggest therapy for the marketing heads there who came up with the 80 buck srp.

I'm just musing on it a little longer than usual because in terms of the films themselves-- remember them? not the label, the films-- I suspect it's nearly impossible to justify without the CC mystique.

Just a temporary liberation excercise from pleasurable (& usually beneficial) bias.

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Scharphedin2
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#121 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jan 14, 2007 7:02 am

HerrSchreck wrote:All this is a rhetorical excercise, you understand. I'm not trying to be a sonofabitch-- rare's the time I could be such a pain inna ass with this co.

I don't think, incidentally, there is a typical cc consumer. I think it's a vertical slice through all rings of the market.

But you're still selling me Criterion the company-- I wanted you to sell me on the box. Talk about the box and what's in it without leaning on the label... because my hunch is this is not possible with the rest of the market in consideration: there is virtually no difference between this box and it's competitors in terms of transfer, extras, the film itself, etc-- the only difference is price.
I agree, if you were to isolate the box, there is no justification.

If you want a justification, you have to look at the company and the audience (as I perceive it -- but, then we do not totally agree on that either).

I am with you on your purpose in starting the discussion Schreck, and I know, that you know, that I am just kiddin' you above. I also think it is an interesting discussion.

I remember becoming aware of Criterion back in the late '80s through their releases of Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, Magnificent Ambersons, 2001, Seven Samurai, etc. on laserdisc. It was synchronicity for me at the time, as these films were at the top of my personal list of things I would like to see (from reading about the films in books and just becoming aware of the greater world of cinema). These laserdiscs were lavish CAV affairs (which meant that each frame was individually encoded, so you cold do picture postcard freeze frames and have still step text screens) with commentaries, featurettes, text and image galleries, etc. Criterion at the time was also basically alone in championing letterboxing. The prices were in a way extortionate -- often 2 or 3 times higher than the competition, but then the company was offering a product that no other company in the world was offering, and defining the future of home video.

The times have changed a lot, and the rest of the world has to a certain extent caught up to Criterion's standards. Yet, I think Criterion has been singular in building their brand image, and if the pricing is to a certain extent justified by the brand, then I am also happy paying these prices, for the reason that i see myself investing in a certain ethic that I value and believe in. And, as also said before, I do think that Criterion helps generate consumers for a lot of other labels' products indirectly.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
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#122 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:29 pm

Scharphedin2 wrote:And, as also said before, I do think that Criterion helps generate consumers for a lot of other labels' products indirectly.
I think something to add to both HerrSchreck's and Scharphedin2's arguments (though I'm glad these films are being released, even if they do cost more than consumers have been used to paying for other non-Criterion sets), would be to wonder how many Criterion collectors might have bought this box set, and Fiend Without a Face, but who might not have bought the film Synapse released, Bizarre. This had another Tom Weaver/Richard Gordon commentary, as well as two short films also directed by Antony Balch - The Cut Ups and Towers Open Fire, which Criterion fans would want to get for their connection to William Burroughs (also Balch did the Witchcraft Through The Ages-edit of Haxan - another connection).
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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arsonfilms
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#123 Post by arsonfilms » Sun Jan 14, 2007 8:01 pm

I have to say, I'm really enjoying the thoughtful and honest discussion presented in this thread, vexing though it may be to wrap one's head around this particular (or any particular) release. HerrShreck and Scharphedin2 in particular should be applauded for their contributions.

I can't (and won't) speak to the quality of the films, or the validity of their inclusion in the collection, simply because the genre doesn't tend to match my preferences. As to some of the other issues, though...

It's important to keep in mind that Criterion is an independent company. The likes of Universal, WB and Paramount may be catching up... but doesn't it say something that multi-billion dollar conglomerates have to "catch up" to the standards of a New York label with 40 staffers? On top of that, there simply isn't ANYONE else doing the same level of work in Region 1 territories on some of the kinds of films Criterion so regularly champions. I still have yet to go region free because my bias against certain aspects of PAL-format product on non-professional grade monitors (developed during my stint as a disc producer for a medium sized indie label that released in both the US and UK). Given the inherent flaws in PAL as a format, my hesitation is immediately justified the moment you begin to compare last years three releases of something like The Double Life of Veronique. If someone might do a better version of something in NTSC Region 1, I'm more than happy to wait, and when it comes to licensing foreign made works, Criterion is the only game in town as far as I'm concerned. Licensing costs, restoration costs, production expenses, contributor's fees and design work can all be very high, particular when you have the top people in the world working for you, and that can be an awfully difficult endeavor if you don't have other divisions to relieve some of the financial pressure. This is not to say that a company like Warner Brothers has any divisions that regular operate at a loss because they have more profitable divisions to pay for it, but the more profitable divisions certainly make up for those that are less so.

That's all well and good, you may say, but what does that have to do with Monsters and Madmen specifically? Just take a look at the box and what went into it. The design work is stunning, the extras are comprehensive, and the transfers are as good as they'll ever get. Could another company have done the same box cheaper? Sure, but I guarantee you that the same care would not have gone into the final product. It could have been relatively comparable, and I'll give you that, but the sort of artist that designs the covers for something like the Val Lewton Collection does not cost the same kind of money that the artist who made those great designs for this box does, and the same goes for every other aspect of the production process. I know what it costs to make DVDs because I've done it, and the cost differential between even an ok release and a good release is vast. I'm sure my point will be proved when we start seeing what Eclipse has to offer. I'm sure that the quality will still be better than what a lot of people are doing, but it's that slight drop in resources expended that will bring the SRP down to where the rest of the market is. Obviously Criterion isn't the diffinitive standard of all things film, but they produce quality products that few compare to, and they sell them at a premium.

As far as I'm concerned, the issue comes down to whether or not it's worth it to have these films (or any film, really) in the sort of package that has this much care put into it. I think it's interesting that so many people are concerned about how much this box set costs, but that nobody seems to be saying anything about the similarly priced Yojimbo/Sanjuro box. With far fewer special features and two less discs, Yojimbo/Sanjuro has an SRP separated from Monsters and Madmen by a mere $10, with discounted prices closer to $6 dollars apart. For me, the staggering cost of the Yojimbo/Sanjuro box is worth it in every way, so how can I justify criticizing a box with two extra films and a slew of special features that would only have cost me a few dollars more? Even beyond that, many consumers (myself included, probably) would probably treat this box as an introduction to this particular brand of B-cinema, and I'd venture to guess that this set isn't even targeted at die-hard fans of the genre(although I'm sure Criterion is counting on a number of them contributing to their sales figures).

Buy the set, rent it or ignore it completely: its up to you. I will say though that it's pretty cool that someone would lavish so much attention on some cheesy popcorn flicks, and if I were just a little more interested in this part of cinematic history, I'm sure I'd buy this box in a heartbeat.

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HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#124 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Jan 15, 2007 5:35 am

Just wanted to chime in one more time on what I consider to be one of Gordon's best (at least as much as FIEND, which I genuinely love quite a lot):

THE DEVIL DOLL (no not the Tod Browning, this is from 1963 and completely different premise, a Brit production w "Jiggles" Romain and based on a short story) which is available for 9.99 in a fabulous double feature of the US & "Continental" versions (the european has more nudity), plus commentary with Gordon & Weaver, art & stills gallery/photos, trailer, and a color booklet with an interview with the author of the original UK short story that inspired the film, conducted by Weaver. Criterion like treatment on an Image Ent. DVD9 progressive encode for ten measly bucks. Beat that!

Buy them before they dry up-- this is one hell of a deal.

ahhh... Image

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Ashirg
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:10 am
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#125 Post by Ashirg » Mon Jan 15, 2007 7:19 am

Last edited by Ashirg on Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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