Holiday Specials


By • Dec 20th, 2001 • Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

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From Criterion: ‘The Carl Theodor Dreyer Box’, containing four discs and the films Day of Wrath, Ordet, Gertrud and Carl Th. Dreyer – My Metier.

Day of Wrath (1943), 97 mins, full frame. Stills gallery. New digital transfer supervised by cinematographer Henning Bendtsen. Deleted footage of interviews from the documentary Carl Th. Dreyer-My Metier.

Ordet (1955), 125 minutes. Full frame. Stills gallery, new digital transfer supervised by Bendtsen, and more deleted footage from the aforementioned documentary.

Gertrud (1964), 116 mins. 1.66:1 aspect ratio. New digital transfer suprevised by Bendtsen, and enhanced for 16X9 Tvs. Archival footage from the time of Gertrud’s production. Stills gallery. Deleted interview footage from the documentary.

Carl Th. Dreyer – My Metier (1995), 94 mins. Stereo. Interviews in Danish and French. Narrated in English. 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Digital transfer supervised by director Torben Jensen. Rare interviw footage and archival material. A 22-page booklet, including a reprint of Dreyer’s essay “Thoughts on My Metier”.

Dreyer is formal, sombre and heavy. It’s an odd Christmas gift but, you know the people in your life, and if any of them gravitate toward meaningful classics, this is a boxful of them. Criterion also has released, as a separate DVD, Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, a great and experimental work with a passionate modern score by Richard Einhorn. And somewhere in Image’s repertoire is yet another Dreyer disaster (commercially, that is), 1932’s Vampyr. Because of his perfectionism and lack of box office, Dreyer did a film per decade during the last forty years of his life, and here are the last three. They deal with, amongst other things, themes of religious intolerance and strained familial relations.

As an aside, in the 1970’s, FIR still considered Day of Wrath to be the best film ever made, surpassing Citizen Kane and the works of Chaplin, Griffith and Ford. The collection might be an acquired taste, but it’s one you should submit yourself to sooner or later.

From Anchor Bay: The Wicker Man 2-version elongated, numbered Boxes (out of 5000). Contained therein, the theatrical (R rated) version running 88 minutes, and the Extended (unrated) version weighing in at 99 minutes. Dolby Digital. 1.85:1, enhanced for 16X9 Tvs. ‘The Wicker Man Enigma’, a retrospective documentary. Various ad spots and trailers. Talent Bios.

Big announcement here: this is the best DVD packaging of the year. The box is made of real wood (smell it and feel like you’re at one with nature. Perhaps not up to a human sacrifice, but still…), with the title and logo art burnt into the surface. It’s an inspired presentation and a great-looking gift.

That said, it’s kind of lonely inside. A whole compartment with nothing in it except a plastic case containing the two discs. Even a little wicker twig would have made it appear complete. Remember the Gettysberg Laserdisc box? Every copy had a real Civil War bullet in a cloth pouch. That’ll be among the last to leave my collection.

Second big announcement: Playwrite/Screenwriter Anthony Shaffer died earlier this year, but they got him on the DVDoc first. I remember how thankful I was when Criterion got John Sturges for their The Great Escape and Bad Day at Black Rock laser discs just before he died. This is one of the great things laserdiscs and DVDs have done for film history. But parenthetically, how come all the supplementary materials of this nature aren’t being passed from every laserdisc to their counterpart DVD? Point in fact: The Big Country. That was a grand laserdisc presentation, if I must say so myself, since I contributed to it portions of an interview I did with Burl Ives, as well as one of Saul Bass’s final interviews, about his title sequence. In addition, Image had rounded up Charlton Heston and others. Yet none of this appeared on the DVD. Pourquoi?

The Wicker Man is a mystery in which a devout Christian cop visits a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a girl, only to encounter the lying reticence of the populace, and their fanciful leader, Lord Summerisle, who appears to espouse Druid principals.

There are two versions of the film. I prefer the shorter. Sacrilege? You decide. Britt Ekland’s legendary nude dance is in both versions, so the cuts weren’t for censorship reasons, but the dance comes forty minutes earlier in the shorter version, followed by a scene not in the exended version which effectively allows a few questionable minutes to be lost from the beginning of the extended cut by providing the info we needed from that portion. The box tells us there are ’11 minutes of additional rarely seen footage’, but doesn’t mention that scenes, shots, and the order of sequences is different between the two versions.

The FIR screening committee got wrapped up in the mystery and thoroughly enjoyed the film. However there were some criticisms voiced afterwards. A few seemingly gay characters felt out of place, and some of the music in the first half hour struck us as inappropriately placid, or poorly chosen. (Later the score was far more effective.) Edward Woodward was a bit stiff and unsympathetic for a protagonist. Christopher Lee has a damn foolish hairdo, and gets to sing and prance about in ways that amuse more than they fit.

In the 35 minutes reminiscence doc, Lee performs his usual egotistical pronouncements: he is truly the Johnny Maestro of the horror genre. Others present in addition to the now-deceased Shaffer are director Robin Hardy, Producer Peter Snell, a seriously aged Edward Woodward, Distributor John Simon, and the film’s surprize saviour, Roger Corman. It’s an enlightening little piece, though it never touches on the rumor circulated closer to the film’s disappearance and recovery – that Rod Stewart, who had, after the film was shot, wed Britt Ekland, bought and destroyed the negative and as many prints as he could lay his hands on.

By the way, in the midwest, we have our own mock yearly sacrificial ceremony on the parched desert floor – ‘The Burning Man’. Growing larger each year, it is apparently an art director’s dream. And The Sweet Life’s Art Director Denise La Belle was several times a participant.

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