Last Call for Nearly 30 Criterion DVDs (and one Blu-ray)

Just in this week on the Criterion website: Criterion is losing the rights a number of titles in their collection in March. (See the original post on Criterion Currents here.)

The curtain is soon to fall on the lavish DVD of Powell and Pressberger's "The Tales of Hoffman"

The home video rights to a number of films from the StudioCanal library will go to Lionsgate at the end of March. The Criterion editions will go out of print (or on moratorium, as they say in the video industry) and will be unavailable commercially on the U.S. until Lionsgate puts out their own editions. These aren’t the first Criterion DVDs to go out of print (from John Woo’s The Killer to Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs to Carol Reed’s The Third Man, and too many titles in between) and or even the first StudioCanal titles they’ve lost at the end of the contract, but it’s the biggest batch to go in a single swoop that I’ve seen and I appreciate Criterion giving us a heads up. Sure, it’s in their interest to do so, but in this their best interests intersect quite nicely with our interests.

As you may know, Criterion has direct access to the Janus film library, a tremendous collection of international classics that makes up the majority of its releases, but they also license many films from other studios and collections. Those contracts last for a period of time and then are up for renewal, and in this case StudioCanal did not renew with Criterion. It’s likely nothing personal, just business, as they say, and perhaps not even something they have a choice over. Lionsgate has been releasing a lot of StudioCanal films (coming up later this month are Blu-ray editions of Kurosawa’s Ran and Godard’s Contempt, both once available from Criterion in excellent DVD editions, and the Ealing Studios classic The Ladykillers) and this just may be a contractual part of their relationship. (This is, mind you, merely supposition on my part and not based on any inside information.)

Regardless, a number of Criterion titles (including a couple of box sets) will be unavailable by the end of March (see list below) so Criterion is offering a deal through their website: an extra $5 off each of these titles while supplies last. You can also continue to purchase them through Amazon and other traditional merchants until the end of March (or until the current stocks are depleted, whichever comes first).

Criterion earned its reputation as the gold standard for classic cinema on home video with beautifully mastered editions of films that didn’t always get such painstaking attention on home video. That’s not to say that Lionsgate will not offer their own fine presentations if and when they eventually release their own editions, but their track record has not been, shall we say, as consistent as Criterion. Also, many of the supplements (notably those commentary tracks, interviews and  original featurettes produced by Criterion itself) will not make the transition with films. That’s a major consideration when it comes to releases like Pierrot le Fou and Peeping Tom and Tales of Hoffman which (along with other titles) received generous collections of supplements.

Here’s  the list of titles that will, as of the end of March, no longer be available from Criterion (I’ve also included the spine numbers and noted which were available only via the no-frills Essential Art House series) with links to their respective Amazon page (or you can just go directly to Criterion and buy direct from them):

Alphaville (25)
Carlos Saura’s Flamenco Trilogy (Blood Wedding / Carmen / El Amor Brujo) (Eclipse Series 6)
Le Corbeau (227)
Coup de Torchon (106)
Diary of a Country Priest (222)
The Fallen Idol (357)
Forbidden Games (318)
Gervaise (Essential Art House edition)
Grand Illusion (1)
Le Jour se Lève (Essential Art House)
Last Holiday (Essential Art House)
Mayerling (Essential Art House)
Orphic Trilogy (66)
Peeping Tom (58)
Pierrot le Fou (421, DVD)
Pierrot le fou (421, Blu-ray)
Port of Shadows (245)
Quai des Orfevres (193)
The Small Back Room (441)
The Tales of Hoffmann (317)
Trafic (439)
Le Trou (129)
Variety Lights (81)
The White Sheik (189)

(thanks to Kathy Fennessy for calling my attention to this; you can visit her blog on movies and music AndMoreAgain here)

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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