‘ITS THE STUFF VIDEO STREAMS ARE MADE OF”: An Opinion on acquiring


Months back I wrote a piece for a different site on streaming services for Horror film lovers.    It is not hard to figure out that this delivery system is the new way to get entertainment delivered to your phone, tablet, and television if you have the necessary tech available such as uninterrupted and robust bandwidth.

It occurred to me recently that I had been buying films again; a practice I stopped years ago due to space considerations and accumulating on a whim for viewing later.  I recently got myself copies on some of my favorite pictures in the Criterion Edition Blur ray format: IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) along with BLOW UP (1966), QUADROPHENIA (1979), MASCULIN/FEMININ (1966), NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and ALL THAT JAZZ (1979).  Why or how did I go streaming like a mad fool to doing this again?    I am not suffering from the going on the net and pushing order buttons because I can get delivery of most items within two days. The answer for me is permanence and the loving care of the included extras that a good number of these editions have, courtesy of the folks at the Criterion collection.  I should clarify I am not being paid by Criterion or given free stuff to sing their praises.

I have purchased film to see before the streaming became more accessible and was always let down by many of the so called supplemental materials that were included.  Many of these contained simple five or ten minute features done by entertainment television networks with a few minor exceptions, such as the UNIVERSAL MONSTERS box set.  However, even Universal would simply reissue the same extras time after time.  If I am going to acquire a few titles why not go for what is the most substantial? Enter the Criterion Collection?

Every title is restored to the best possible technical standards in terms of film quality. I am not one of these people who notice pixel rate and edge damage to the point of a fanatic.  I do notice image clarity or and sound drop outs. The UNIVERSAL MONSTERS first edition of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN DVD had the blacks in the frame crushed and the whites in heavy contrast, effecting the clarity of the image, while the Legacy edition was a better mix, with the Blur-ray edition being the best.

 

Film preservation is limited by budget availability of materials for lost films and sometimes complicated copyright negotiations.  One is also limited by the condition of the source material such as the negative condition, water damage, sound drop outs and general decay of original material.  Criterion disks do their best with what is available, often with wonderful results.  The images on Noir classic DETOUR (1945) and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) have never been clearer.

The extras included in many of the Criterion group disk are substantial and tend to be produced specifically for the edition.  I   viewed a wonderfully informative chat with dancer Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi who played her daughter Michelle in IN ALL THAT JAZZ (1979). The  two talked of  the filming  process,  the  creative  power of Bob Fosse, the  art and structure of the  shoot  and the  brutal rehearsals.

Substantial reading materials and listening materials such as the original short story that BLOW UP (1966) is based on show up, too.  You get critical essays and studies to read, materials that list the full cast and credits, similar to an event program.  IN A LONELY PLACE (1950), for instance, the full radio adaption is included so you can listen to what was aired on SUSPENSE.

Film preservation is important to understand to determine where we have been in the Art of storytelling. One of the best known organizations doing this work is the FILM NOIR FOUNDATION, curated by TCM HOST and Noir Czar Eddie Muller.   The foundation is funded by donations to preserve lost film treasures in the Noir genre, to be made available later for sale and screening (often for the first time).  The new Academy Museum of Motion picture Art and Sciences is due to open soon in Hollywood. What better time is there to hold and reverse the impermanence of the past?

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