by Allan Fish
We all have our own ideas of what releases Criterion need to bring out in the upcoming months/years. Requests ranging from the mad (Showgirls) to the unlikely (The Magnificent Ambersons). As the chances of full blown Blu Ray releases of films is always going to be small, unless it’s an upgrade of an earlier DVD release, let us instead turn our attention to the strand of Criterion that is commonly seen as their burying tool, Eclipse.
Essentially, this was begun with the intention of getting releases out of films that they’d never otherwise get round to. What it has turned into is a way to bury films that that should have been given full on releases. So Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living gets a full on Blu Ray, while his musicals (The Smiling Lieutenant et al) languish in Eclipse. (And where’s the upgrade of Trouble in Paradise, while we’re on the subject). Nice to have them, yes, but any one of that boxset beats the 1933 film. Most recently, we have Daisies, a film that deserves a full on release every bit as much as say Kalatozov’s Letter Never Sent, but gets buried in an Eclipse set, along with Capricious Summer, which anyone who’s anyone will tell you is a better film than Menzel’s Closely Observed Trains that got a full Criterion release.
We live in an age where Redemption are giving us Blu Rays of Jean Rollin vampire movies, of Arrow giving us Blu Rays of Italian giallo and Caligula, and of Synpase upgrading Metzger’s erotic masterpiece The Image to Blu Ray. If all these can get Blu Rays, why not so many other worthy choices. At least, let us take time out to offer up our own Get out of Jail Free cards to Criterion. We’ve all emailed Criterion with requests and never had replies, but let’s at least give them some ideas to release on that escape hatch of Eclipse and stick to masters and masterpieces that need the recognition. We have a top 60 in reverse order.
60 The Comedies of Pierre Etaix (Happy Anniversary, Yo Yo, The Thief, etc)
These may well be actually coming, but let’s include them here just incase.
59 Hasse Ekman / Eva Henning (The Banquet, The Girl from the Third Row, The Girl with Hyacinths)
A triptych from director and wife actress. Henning was greatly admired by Bergman, but only appeared for him in Three Strange Loves.
58 The Erotic Dreams of Walerian Borowczyk (Goto Island of Love, Blanche, The Story of Sin)
Though several of Borowczyk’s masterpieces are available on DVD, this is really an excuse for criterion to bury away the greatest of them all, Blanche. To join it, though Goto is out from Cult Epics, it makes sense to include it and The Story of Sin is only available on Region 2 from Arrow. What we’d like more is just a full Blu Ray of Blanche as the others we have, but it won’t happen.
57 Jacques Becker Formative Works (It Happened at the Inn, Rendezvous de Juillet, Edouard et Caroline)
Though Becker’s later masterpieces are largely present and correct on Criterion, these earlier works are only available in France and are not English friendly. They should be better known. Rendezvous in particular having a mood all of its own and featuring an early appearance from Brigitte Auber from To Catch a Thief.
56 British Costume Cycle (The Man in Grey, Fanny by Gaslight, The Wicked Lady, Saraband for Dead Lovers, The Bad Lord Byron)
One could call it the Gainsborough cycle but for the fact that Saraband is actually an Ealing release, but while all bar Byron are on DVD in the UK, none are available in the US. A niche market, but would do quite well.
55 Jean Epstein Collection (La Belle Nivernaise, Mauprat, La Glace à Trois Faces, The Fall of the House of Usher, Finis Terrae)
While Coeur Fidèle is available in a stonking MoC Blu Ray there’s no need for that’s inclusion, but Usher is long out of print and Glace only as part of Kino’s Avant Garde set. They’re actually being restored by Gaumont/Pathé as we speak and if the French set is English friendly, there will be no need for this inclusion, but with so many US film lovers still not taking the jump to multi region – unforgivably isolationist – it will probably need a US release to get Epstein the attention he merits.
54 The Epics of Alessandro Blasetti (The Spirit and the Flesh, The Iron Crown, La Cena delle beffe, Fabiola Parts I & II)
With the inclusion of the Matarazzo melodramas, all gloves are off for Italian gems and what better than these gleefully o.t.t. historical pieces of the fascist and postwar era. Flashes of nudity, sadistic violence, Gino Cervi, Clara Calamai, Michéle Morgan, Michel Simon, what more do you want? Criminally, none have English friendly releases as yet.
53 The Forgotten Neo-Realist – Giuseppe de Santis (Caccia Tragica, Riso Amaro, No Peace Among the Olives, Rome 11 O’Clock)
Riso Amaro had long been expected as a Criterion but hasn’t been forthcoming, and while it’s already available with English subs in Italy it may seem unnecessary to include here, but Criterion probably want to boost sales. Those who have Riso would quite happily double dip to get the other three, all of which deserve to be better known.
52 Hungarians in Silent Austria (Sodom und Gomorrha, Samson und Delila, Die Sklavenkönigin)
While the names of Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz would later become synonymous with romantic and historical pieces, they both started out in the Austrian silent film industry. These are their three most famous silent epics. All exist in decent prints but as yet not English friendly.
51 Will Hay at Gainsborough (Good Morning Boys, Oh Mr Porter, Ask a Policeman, Where’s That Fire?)
While his films are nearly all available in the UK, Hay remains unknown in the US. This set would more than introduce the great master comedian and leave potential for a second set dealing with his Ealing work (The Ghost of St Michael’s, The Black Sheep of Whitehall, The Goose Steps Out, My Learned Friend).
50 Yves Allégret From the Shadows (Dédée d’Anvers, Une si Jolie Petite Plage, Manèges, Les Orgeuilleux)
In the late forties despair of postwar France, one director shone brightest through his own gloom with a series of bleak noir melodramas and he was the former Mr Simone Signoret, Yves Allégret. With two films starring his then wife (Dédée & Manèges) and two others, this is a long overdue recognition in the English speaking world for a forgotten master.
49 Pre Code Classics (Call Her Savage, Man’s Castle, The Story of Temple Drake, Zoo in Budapest)
While many masterworks of the pre-code are now available, if only in some cases via the backdoor of the Warner Archive or TCM Vault, these four remain unreleased and showcase not just the era but their stars.
48 Nyrki Tapiovaara The Finnish Revolutionary (Juha, Stolen Death, One Man’s Fate)
Tapiovaara is unknown in the west, but in Finland he’s a demigod of pre-war film who, like Yamanaka, was taken ahead of his time in war. These three films showcase him at his best, with Stolen Death one of the great uncovered masterpieces of the era.
47 The Delirious World of Teuvo Tulio (Song of the Red Blood Flower, The Way You Wanted Me, Cross of Love, Restless Blood)
Staying in Helsinki, while these films are all available in English friendly remasters from Finland, again this is for the benefit of those fools yet to jump into the multi region waters. Like Douglas Sirk meets early Bergman.
46 Jean Delannoy (Macao l’Enfer du Jeu, L’Eternal Retour, La Symphonie Pastorale, Les Jeux Sont Faits)
Four films from a director long derided but capable of excellent craftsmanship when he put his mind to it, also giving the goddess likes of Mireille Balin, Michèle Morgan and Micheline Prèsle fantastic opportunities.
45 The British Music Hall Collection (Goodnight Vienna, Sing as We Go, Bulldog Jack, Hoots Mon, Let George Do It)
Essentially a collection of films starring the cream of Britush musical hall and musical talent of the early 1930s. Jack Buchanan, Anna Neagle, Gracie Fields, Jack Hulbert, Claude Hulbert, Max Miller and George Formby. Two are available in the UK but all are pretty much unknown in the US. If it survives, the 1930 Raise the Roof with Betty Balfour can also be added.
44 G.W.Pabst – early sound milestones (Westfront 1918, Kameradschaft)
Only two entries but unlikely either would get a full blown Criterion release so it’s either this or Janus Film releases. Up to them.
43 Keisuke Kinoshita (A Japanese Tragedy, Drifting Clouds, She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum, Times of Joy and Sorrow)
A collection of fifties Japanese melodramas from a master of the form. While 24 Eyes did get a full blown Criterion, its unlikely for others to follow. This will suffice.
42 Dennis Potter TV Plays (Alice, Son of Man, Blue Remembered Hills, Blackeyes)
While Hills is on DVD in the UK, the others are conspicuous by their absence. One can dream of a full Criterion of The Singing Detective, but that won’t happen.
41 Mexican Melodramas (Doña Barbara, Maria Candelaria, Enamorada, Maclovia)
While one could have restricted it to the work of Maria Felix, Emilio Fernandez or Fernando de Fuentes, this selection of the best of all three fills a criminally neglected gap in Mexican cinema in the English speaking world.
40 Mad World of Marco Ferreri (El Cochecito, L’Ape Regina, The Seed of Man, La Dernière Femme)
While the first and third are in a Ferreri set on Region 1 already, the other two are in absentia and frankly if they were included, we’d take anything dumped in with them.
39 Kira Muratova (Short Encounters, Long Farewells, The Asthenic Syndrome)
Three important works from one of the greatest unknown women directors in the world.
38 The Maxim Gorky Trilogy (The Childhood of Maxim Gorky, My Apprenticeships, My Univerities)
Mark Donskoi’s famous trilogy. Part one was released by Image, so Criterion can obtain the rights and get the full story out there.
37 Maxim Trilogy (The Youth of Maxim, The Return of Maxim, The Vyborg Side)
Not to be confused with the above, Kozintsev and Trauberg’s popular triptych of Soviet life.
36 Marta Meszaros’ Diary Trilogy (Diary for My Children, Diary for My Loves, Diary for My Father and Mother)
The first and best is on Second Run in the UK, but the others aren’t available anywhere.
35 The Wellesian World of Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson (The House of the Angel, The Fall, The Hand in the Trap)
The Argentinian maestro’s three formative classics with crop haired Elsa Daniel.
34 The mayhem of Russ Meyer (Lorna, Mudhoney, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill)
Meyer on Criterion? You bet your sweet bouncing breasts. Mudhoney in particular remains a masterpiece of underground film-making.
33 Postwar J’Accuse (Somewhere in Europe, The Last Stage, Border Street, The Long Journey, The Silent Barricade)
Five Eastern European films dealing with the aftermath of the war and the Holocaust. All are available from either Facets or Polart and need rescuing from oblivion.
32 Marcel Pagnol (Angèle, Harvest, La Femme du Boulanger, La Fille du Puisatier)
While Boulanger deserves a stand alone release they seem in no hurry to provide it. Release as part of a broader set would soften the blow.
31 Guru Dutt (Pyaasa, Paper Flowers, Sahib bibi aur Ghulam)
As star, producer and director Dutt stood at the top of Mt Bollywood for about a decade. Directing the first two, producing the third and starring in all three, this trio stand out as his best work. Important Paper gets a full widescreen release as well as a scrub up.
30 The Blunderful World of George Kuchar (Hold Me While I’m Naked, A Reason to Live, I an Actress)
Three signature works from an underground pioneer. All short enough to be on one disc actually, the set could be padded out with other works to two.
29 The Rhapsodies of Miklós Jancsó (Red Psalm, Agnus dei, Elektreia)
While his sixties works are available on Second Run, and Red Psalm is come to that, his colour work of the seventies had a visual flair of its own and Agnus Dei is unavailable anywhere.
28 The Kino Fist of Alan Clarke (Penda’s Fen, Contact, Road, Christine, The Firm)
Five TV plays showcasing the unique talent of British TV’s angriest director.
27 Teinosuke Kinugasa (A Page of Madness, Crossways, Gate of Hell)
All three merit full Criterions but neither will get them. This will soften the pain.
26 The Comedies of Luis Garcia Berlanga (Bienvenido Mr Marshall, Placido, El Verdugo)
Three masterpieces from one of the greatest comic directors of all time. Worthy of ranking alongside Saura, Erice and Almodóvar in the pantheon of stay at home Spanish directors.
25 Karel Kachyna Rebel (Long Live the Republic, Coach to Vienna, The Ear, Laska)
While The Ear deserves a stand alone with it already on Second Run, here’s an opportunity for them to bury it and also showcase the work of its director, in particular Laska, which also features the unique qualities of star Jaroslava Schallerova (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders)
24 Early Sound Renoir (La Chienne, On purge Bébé, La Nuit de Carrefour, Madame Bovary)
While ideally Carrefour should be a stand alone on Blu Ray with Bébé as an extra, it won’t happen if La Chienne still languishes. As they are in no hurry to release that, stick that in to boost sales.
23 Kon Ichikawa (Punishment Room, The Hole, The Crowded Streetcar, Enjo, Goodbye Hello)
Five films that would be worthy of full releases (if The Makioka Sisters is), but which would make a fine Eclipse set while they’re making their mind up.
22 Joan of Arc on Celluloid (La Merveilleuse Vie de Jeanne d’Arc, Das Madchen Johanna, Saint Joan, La Procès de Jeanne d’Arc, The Debut)
An interesting set of depictions of the Maid of Orleans, starting with de Gastyne’s silent epic alternative to Dreyer, throwing in Ucicky’s intriguing German variation from 1935, the Seberg starring Shavian play, the Bresson (most likely to get a stand alone but not really one of his major works) and, as piece de resistance, Panfilov’s tale of an actress playing the role The Debut.
21 Talkie Naruse (Wife Be Like a Rose, Learn from Experience I & II, A Woman’s Sorrows, The Whole Family Works)
A selection of important 1930s Naruse talkies, with the first as the centrepiece.
20 Jacques Rivette Iconoclast Years (Noroit, Duelle, Le Pont du Nord, Merry Go Round)
While Out 1 and Céline need full on release and are unlikely to be so buried, the others listed above are unlikely to get such treatment and would make an excellent entry into Rivette at his most idosyncratic.
19 Jacques Rivette Early Works (Paris nous appartient, La Religieuse, L’Amour Fou)
Three 1960s masterpieces from Rivette, only the first of which is previously available in an English friendly release (from BFI Region 2). L’Amour Fou in two parts will be on two discs.
18 Carol Reed Early Years (Bank Holiday, A Girl Must Live, The Stars Look Down, Kipps)
The first three also star Margaret Lockwood but all four make an excellent selection of Reed’s work prior to his later 40s noir masterpieces. If Night Train to Munich (also with Lockwood) hadn’t already been given Criterion treatment, it could have been included.
17 Julien Duvivier in the 193os (Poil de Carotte, La Bandera, Golgotha, La Belle Équipe, Un Carnet de Bal, La Fin du Jour)
Though Bandera is/was availabe in the US, the sextet make up a fantastic intro to Duvivier or continuation for those aware of Pepe le Moko. It could be expanded to include later works such as Panique and Deadlier Than the Male.
16 Carl T.Dreyer Silents (The Parson’s Widow, Love’s Crucible, The Bride of Glomdal, Master of the House)
Though Master could get a full blown release, we’ll include that and leave aside the MoC released Mikael for this series of works from one of cinema’s acknolwedged masters.
15 The Bleak World of Henri-Georges Clouzot (L’Assassin Habite au 21, Manon, Les Espions, La Vérité, La Prisonnière)
While unlikely with four of his works as full blown releases, these four are unlikely to follow them and the presence of Bardot in La Vérité alone guarantees sales (it’s also her best performance).
14 Roger Leenhardt (Les Dernières Vacances, Le Rendezvous de Minuit)
Two masterpieces that even I haven’t been able to track down with English subs from the theorist and occasional film-maker. Seriously need a release.
13 Alexandre Astruc (The Crimson Curtain, Les Mauvaises Rencontres, Une Vie)
Three works from another theorist turned film-maker. Unique and wholly absorbing, neither are available to the English speaking world.
12 Jean Grémillon (Gueule d’Amour, Lumière d’Été, Le ciel est a vous)
A trio of masterworks from the legendary master. At one time this seemed on the cards, but talk seems to have cooled.
11 Marcel l’Herbier, the avant garde romantic (El Dorado, L’Inhumaine, Le Diable au Coeur)
While L’Argent has a superlative MoC release, these three remain unseen in the English speaking world and showcase l’Herbier at his very best, with Diable one of the great unknown masterpieces of world cinema.
10 The Exploitations of Yasuzo Masumura (Love of an Idiot, Blind Beast, Play it Cool, Hot Little Girl, Ongaku)
Five sexploitation melodramas from masumura from his later period, delirious but masterful. Blind Beast, like Red Angel, deserves its own release, but it won’t happen.
9 Yasuzo Masumura / Ayako Wakao (The Most Valuable Wife, A False Student, A Wife Confesses, Seisaku’s Wife, The Wife of Seishu Hanaokai)
Leaving aside Red Angel, Manji and Irezumi which, while not with marvellous transfers, are at least all available, five more classics of the classic director and actress partnership.
8 Victor Saville / Jessie Matthews (The Good Companions, Friday the Thirteenth, Evergreen, First a Girl)
Four classics starring the Dancing Divinity from Victor Saville, her best and his best work. Evergreen is on R2 DVD, but the others sadly not.
7 Nagisa Oshima Revolutionary (Death by Hanging, Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, Boy, The Ceremony)
All, especially the latter, deserve stand-alones, but it’s unlikely to happen. Please, please, please.
6 Yuzo Kawashima (Suzaki Paradise Red Light District, The Sun Legend of the End of the Tokugawa Era, The Graceful Brute)
OK, I can dream, can’t I? Criterion have rights to many Nikkatsus and probably these, too, but we’re dreaming if we think this will happen.
5 Ruan Lingyu – Goddess (Love and Duty, The Peach Girl, Little Toys, The Goddess, Actress)
A selection of four of the great Ruan’s masterpieces (two of which are available from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival) and the great Stanley Kwan biopic/treatse Actress thrown in. Heaven.
4 The Travels of Max Ophuls (The Bartered Bride, Liebelei, Laughing Heirs, La Signora di Tutti, Divine, Sans Lendemain)
A sslection of films Ophuls made in the thirties, in Austria, France, Netherlands and Italy. Signora is available from MoC, but all six deserve knowing better.
3 Claude Autant-Lara (Douce, Le Diable au Corps, Occupe toi d’Amélie, L’Auberge Rouge, En Cas de Malheur)
Though Diable is available in France with English subs and Malheur in France and Russia, despite the merits of Le Rouge et le Noir (which though less than these five is more likely to get a full on release being an adaptation of Stendahl) these five are all classics of their type, and the presence of Gérard Philipe, Danielle Darrieux, Fernandel, Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot will boost coffers.
2 Yoshishige Yoshida Sixties (Bitter End to a Sweet Night, Akitsu Springs, A Story Written Without Water, The Affair, Affair in the Snow)
Five exceptional formative works from the greatest unknown director in the world.
1 Yoshishie Yoshida Later Years (Heroic Purgatory, Confessions Among Actresses, Coup d’Etat, A Promise, Wuthering Heights)
Five later masterpiece from the same. I refuse to include Eros + Massacre as I refuse to see the greatest Japanese movie ever made only get an Eclipse when the likes of Pale Flower and Jigoku get the full blown treatment.