Criterion, you are the Pixar of DVD distributors. Every film you release is guaranteed to be of a significant quality (or, in the rare case of films like Equinox or The Rock, at least a significant cultural impact), presented with the finest picture quality possible, and usually with special features that actually deserve to be called special. But since you’re not a production company, and you don’t actually own any of the films you release, occasionally the companies that do own them ask for the rights back. In the past, Criterion editions of The Silence of the Lambs or Robocop actually constituted status symbols amongst DVD collectors: You either had them and were revered as Gods, or you didn’t and were justifiably pitied. Now, alas, hot on the heels of The Third Man going out of print (pick up their gorgeous Blu-Ray edition while you still can), Criterion has announced some more DVDs – and in one case a Blu-Ray – that will no longer be released by their company, and returned to the care of Studio Canal.
OUT OF PRINT. ALREADY.
Actually, a LOT more, and Criterion is selling each of them at a $5 discount until they have all been sold. Here’s the list, from Criterion’s Web Site:
Carlo Saura’s Flamenco Trilogy
Coup de Torchon
Diary of a Country Priest
The Fallen Idol
Grand Illusion (the first Criterion DVD release, with a “1” right on the spine)
Le Jour se Lève
Last Holiday (no, not the one with Queen Latifah)
The Orphic Trilogy
Pierrot le fou (DVD and Blu-Ray editions)
Port of Shadows
Quai des Orf èvres
The Small Black Room
The Tales of Hoffman
The White Sheik
Obviously, losing all of these films as distributed from Criterion is a tragedy, and although many of them are likely to be re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the future, there’s no telling how soon, in what quality, and with how much respect. A film fan would be proud to have any of these discs in their collection, but if I may be so bold I’m particularly saddened by the departure of Grand Illusion, Jean Renoir’s unique look at World War I as the last “civil” war, one of the first prison escape movies and the first foreign language film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and Le Corbeau, Jean Cocteau’s masterful and Hitchcockian film about a French community torn apart by a mysterious series of letters exposing the dark secrets beneath their town’s benign exterior, made during the Nazi occupation and condemned on all sides for its daring subject matter (it also has one of the snazziest of Criterion’s famously snazzy covers).
These are dark times, my friends. Dark, dark times… of darkness.