The Criterion Collection has announced four titles for Blu-ray release in November: On November 12th, the studio will release Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (2013) and Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931). On November 19th, the studio will release Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953). And on November 26th, the studio will release Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, a box-set containing 25 films featuring the legendary samurai warrior.
Greta Gerwig is radiant as a woman in her late twenties in contemporary New York, trying to sort out her ambitions, her finances, and, above all, her tight but changing bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Meticulously directed by Noah Baumbach with a free-and-easy vibe reminiscent of the French New Wave's most spirited films, and written by Baumbach and Gerwig with an effortless combination of sweetness and wit, Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next. This wry and sparkling city romance is a testament to the ongoing vitality of independent American cinema.
New high-definition digital master, with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio on the Blu-ray
New conversation between filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and the film's cowriter and director, Noah Baumbach
New conversation between actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley and the film's cowriter and star, Greta Gerwig
New conversation about the look of the film between Baumbach, director of photography Sam Levy, and creative director Pascal Dangin
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by playwright Annie Baker
The most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street (a magical Virginia Cherrill) and mistakes him for a millionaire. Though this Depression-era smash was made after the advent of sound, Chaplin remained steadfast in his love for the expressive beauty of the pre-talkie form. The result was the epitome of his art and the crowning achievement of silent comedy.
New, restored 4K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance
Chaplin Today: "City Lights," a 2003 documentary on the film's production, featuring Aardman Animations cofounder Peter Lord
Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design, a new interview program featuring visual effects expert Craig Barron
Archival footage from the production of City Lights, including film from the set, with audio commentary by Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran; a costume test; a rehearsal; and a complete scene not used in the film
Excerpt from Chaplin's short film The Champion (1915), along with footage of the director with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin
A profoundly stirring evocation of elemental humanity and universal heartbreak, Tokyo Story is the crowning achievement of the unparalleled Yasujiro Ozu. The film, which follows an aging couple as they leave their rural village to visit their two married children in bustling postwar Tokyo, surveys the rich and complex world of family life with the director's customary delicacy and incisive perspective on social mores. Featuring lovely performances from Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, Tokyo Story plumbs and deepens the director's recurring themes of generational conflict, creating what is without question one of cinema's mightiest masterpieces.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary featuring Yasujiro Ozu scholar David Desser, editor of Ozu's "Tokyo Story"
I Lived, But . . . , a two-hour documentary from 1953 about Ozu's life and career, featuring interviews with critics and former cast and crew members
Talking with Ozu, a forty-minute tribute to the director from 1993, featuring the reflections of filmmakers Lindsay Anderson, Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Aki Kaurismäki, Stanley Kwan, Paul Schrader, and Wim Wenders
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Bordwell
The colossally popular Zatoichi films make up the longest-running action series in Japanese history and created one of the screen's great heroes: an itinerant blind masseur who also happens to be a lightning-fast swordsman. As this iconic figure, the charismatic and earthy Shintaro Katsu became an instant superstar, lending a larger-than-life presence to the thrilling adventures of a man who lives staunchly by a code of honor and delivers justice in every town and village he enters. The films that feature him are variously pulse-pounding, hilarious, stirring, and completely off-the-wall. This deluxe set features the string of twenty-five Zatoichi films made between 1962 and 1973, collected in one package for the first time.
The Tale of Zatoichi, Directed by Kenji Misumi (1962)
The epic saga of Zatoichi begins. As tensions mount between rival yakuza clans, one boss hires a formidable but ailing ronin as his clan's muscle—while the other employs a humble, moral blind masseur named Ichi. With its lightning-fast swordplay, sleight-of-hand dice games, and codes of honor upheld and betrayed, this first chapter sets the stage for all the Zatoichi adventures to come. And Shintaro Katsu brings author Kan Shimozawa's blind swordsman to vivid life, making the character excitingly, indelibly his own.
The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, Directed by Kazuo Mori (1962)
The Tale of Zatoichi proved so popular that a follow-up went into production the same year. Here, Zatoichi is hired to give a massage to a powerful political official who, he discovers, is mentally ill—a secret that the nobleman's retinue is determined to keep at any cost. This second Zatoichi film picks up the pace, featuring bigger action sequences, tighter plotting, and a mysterious one-armed swordsman played by star Shintaro Katsu's brother Tomisaburo Wakayama (Lone Wolf and Cub).
New Tale of Zatoichi, Directed by Tokuzô Tanaka (1963)
Zatoichi is back—and in color! Hoping to leave violence behind, the blind masseur wanders to a village, where he meets an old friend fallen on hard times. With a corrupt clan leader squeezing citizens dry and the brother of a past nemesis out for payback, Zatoichi finds that he cannot abandon his true calling.
Zatoichi the Fugitive, Directed by Tokuzô Tanaka (1963)
Zatoichi triumphs at a village wrestling match, much to the chagrin of his yakuza opponents. The defeated gang members pay a hotheaded ronin to take out the masseur; unbeknownst to them, the hired assassin is married to a former flame of Zatoichi's, further complicating matters.
Zatoichi on the Road, Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1963)
The itinerant Zatoichi comes across a dying man, who begs the masseur to escort a young woman back to her family in Edo. The honorable swordsman agrees, but in so doing, he catapults himself between two warring yakuza clans, each with its own interest in kidnapping the girl.
Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro (1964)
After arriving in a small village, Zatoichi finds himself accused of stealing the citizens' hefty tax payments. To clear his name, he must face off against a corrupt official, a succession of hired blades, and a bullwhip-wielding titan, played by star Shintaro Katsu's brother Tomisaburo Wakayama. This sixth installment of the increasingly popular and prestigious Zatoichi series features ravishing visuals by Rashomon cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa.
Zatoichi's Flashing Sword, Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro (1964)
The blind swordsman is shot and nursed back to health by kind strangers. He soon discovers that his saviors are caught between sparring crime lords; bound by honor, Zatoichi stays to ensure their safety. Along the way, we learn more about the origins of Zatoichi's amazing abilities, and get to see them in action in a stunning underwater duel and a nighttime clash set against fireworks.
Fight, Zatoichi, Fight, Directed by Kenji Misumi (1964)
While on the road, Zatoichi befriends a young mother right before she is savagely murdered. Promising her that he will hand over her baby to its father, the blind masseur embarks on an adventure both sentimental and beset by perilous action. This eighth Zatoichi feature is an excellent showcase for star Shintaro Katsu, who evinces an extraordinary physical and emotional range as the blind swordsman, here father, mother, husband, and reluctant killer all at once.
Adventures of Zatoichi, Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1964)
The blind swordsman wanders into a town to celebrate the New Year. There, he befriends a young woman whose father has gone missing; as he tries to help her find him, he becomes entangled in a web of corruption and a series of tragic twists of fate. Returning director Kimiyoshi Yasuda and screenwriter Shozaburo Asai masterfully weave together a variety of narrative threads and tonal registers, all while playfully tweaking the conventions and motifs of the series.
Zatoichi's Revenge, Directed by Akira Inoue (1965)
Nearing the village of his sensei, Zatoichi decides to pay the teacher a visit, only to learn that he has been murdered and his daughter forced into prostitution. Ichi's investigation into these injustices uncovers a corrupt alliance between government officials and criminals, putting the blind swordsman on a bloody path of retribution in one of the series' darkest entries.
Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, Directed by Kazuo Mori (1965)
An elderly prisoner accused of murder begs Zatoichi to find evidence of his innocence. The blind swordsman, for the first time, chooses not to help, but fate has other plans for him. Director Issei Mori, who played a significant role in getting Shintaro Katsu cast as Zatoichi in the first place, shows his filmmaking flair, delivering bloody battles and raucous humor while mischievously upending narrative expectations.
Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, Directed by Kenji Misumi (1965)
Kenji Misumi, who directed the first installment of the Zatoichi series, returns with this tale in which the blind swordsman once again finds himself the protector of a child: a little girl pursued by both devious family members and bloodthirsty ruffians. Further complicating his journey is a new acquaintance—a tremendously skilled chess player (the charismatic Mikio Narita) who has mysterious motivations and a dark past.
Zatoichi's Vengeance, Directed by Tokuzô Tanaka (1966)
Zatoichi encounters a dying man, who asks the itinerant masseur to deliver a bag of money to his young son; he agrees to fulfill the request, finding the boy in a village terrorized by criminals. This is the first entry to scrutinize the swordsman's methods, as a blind monk confronts Zatoichi about his violent approach to problem solving and Zatoichi finds the child turning to the same bloodstained path.
Zatoichi's Pilgrimage, Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro (1966)
Troubled by his violent past, Zatoichi begins a journey to a series of shrines for a dose of cleansing spirituality. But as always, trouble isn't far behind, and the blind swordsman soon finds himself defending a widow from the self-interest of ruthless thugs and despicable townsfolk. Written by Kaneto Shindo (Onibaba), this fourteenth Zatoichi is a scathing attack on the upper classes and those who wield power, both in the criminal underworld and everyday society.
Zatoichi's Cane Sword, Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1967)
Wearying of his wandering lifestyle, Zatoichi yearns to settle down; unfortunately, when he does so it's in a town overrun by yakuza. He has an eye-opening encounter with the town's blacksmith, who reveals himself to be the apprentice of the man who forged Zatoichi's legendary cane sword, and informs Zatoichi that it's a hairline crack away from snapping. The news prompts Zatoichi to hang up his sword, yet leaving the fighting life and his code of honor behind proves not to be so simple.
Zatoichi the Outlaw, Directed by Satsuo Yamamoto (1967)
Zatoichi arrives in a town where a gambling house is kidnapping its poor, debt-ridden patrons. A rival establishment moves to pay those debts and free the peasants, but this second house's seemingly altruistic boss is actually laying the groundwork for a ruthless money-grabbing scheme. The sixteenth Zatoichi film is the first effort from its star's own Katsu Productions, and it is one of the series' most daring, with its complex characters, subversive social themes, and moral outrage.
Zatoichi Challenged, Directed by Kenji Misumi (1967)
A dying woman begs Zatoichi to reunite her son with the father he has never met, but when the blind masseur searches for the man, he discovers that he has been forced by a local yakuza boss to pay off his gambling debts in an unusual way: by painting illegal erotica. Determined to bring father and son together, Zatoichi pits his skills against the gangsters and a ronin who is not entirely what he seems.
Zatoichi and the Fugitives, Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1968)
The wandering swordsman finds himself in a small village that serves as hideout for a band of fugitives who control the town officials and enforce brutal slave labor in the local silk mill. This lean and mean entry is packed with coldhearted villainy and rough justice, but it finds its heart in the great Takashi Shimura (Ikiru), who plays a kindly country doctor caught up in a violent world.
Samaritan Zatoichi, Directed by Kenji Misumi (1968)
Hired by a yakuza boss to eliminate an accused debtor, Zatoichi fulfills his task, only to witness the victim's sister paying the owed amount minutes later. When the crime lord tries to possess the woman along with the cash, the blind swordsman wrestles with the injustice he has caused, and vows to protect the young lady at all costs.
Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, Directed by Kihachi Okamoto (1970)
After a two-year absence from screens, the blind swordsman returns in one of his best adventures. Zatoichi treks to a village that has always been a favorite spot of his, only to discover that it's become a living hell, plagued by feuding father and son yakuza as well as the younger crime boss's bodyguard—Toshiro Mifune's scruffy, smart-mouthed, cash-hungry Yojimbo of legend. This is the sole Zatoichi effort from celebrated director Kihachi Okamoto, who supplies satirical vision and stylistic panache worthy of the two iconic characters at the film's center.
Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival, Directed by Kenji Misumi (1970)
Cowritten by star Shintaro Katsu, this adventure pits Zatoichi against one of his most diabolical foes: a blind yakuza boss whose reign of terror and exploitation has made him nearly mythic. Guest starring the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai as a ronin haunted by a traumatic past, and featuring an unforgettable nude swordfight in a bathhouse, this twenty-first entry in the series is a fan favorite.
Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordman, Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1971)
It's East meets East when one of Japan's action idols crosses paths with an iconic kung-fu hero from Hong Kong. While traveling the countryside, Zatoichi comes across Wang Kang (Jimmy Wang Yu), a Chinese swordsman protecting a brutally orphaned young child. Despite the language barrier, the men forge a friendship, until nefarious enemies plant seeds of distrust to pit the two master martial artists against each other.
Zatoichi at Large, Directed by Kazuo Mori (1972)
Zatoichi comes across a pregnant woman dying from sword wounds and helps deliver her baby. Her final request to him: take the boy to see his father. From here, the film evolves into one of the wilder rides in the Zatochi series, including such quirky touches as a mysterious child who follows Ichi and pelts him with rocks, monkey performances, and an unexpectedly hilarious take on the ronin challenger.
Zatoichi in Desperation, Directed by Shintaro Katsu (1972)
Star Shintaro Katsu sits in the director's chair for this psychedelic and unremittingly bleak entry in the Zatoichi series, which is unlike any other in its grind-house grimness. A tale of innocence corrupted by sadistic, sleazy criminality, the film is propelled by Easy Rider–esque editing and a trippy seventies funk score by Kunihiko Murai.
Zatoichi's Conspiracy, Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1973)
Everything comes full circle when Zatoichi returns to his hometown. Unfortunately, he finds that a childhood friend has become a feared crime lord, keeping the locals in debt and bilking them of their rice. Capping off Zatoichi's feature film era before he made the transition to television in 1974, this chapter is suffused with melancholy, closing the series on a note of seriousness and emotional heft that it has well earned.
New digital restorations of all twenty-five films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
The Blind Swordsman, a 1978 documentary about Zatoichi portrayer and filmmaker Shintaro Katsu, along with a new interview with its director, John Nathan
New interview with Asian-film critic Tony Rayns
Trailers for all twenty-five films
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: A book featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien; synopses of the films by critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.; "The Tale of Zatoichi," the original short story by Kan Shimozawa; and twenty-five new illustrations inspired by the films, by twenty-five different artists
I love the dual-format idea. For Criterion's I loved before, I always had to buy both the blu-ray and DVD versions for flexibility (watching on my laptop, friend's houses, etc). Now I won't have to for these. Is they doing this for everything from now on?
I understand the practicality of dual format releases, but to me, it's always been a waste, and never moreso than with Criterion. For me personally, I spend the extra money on a Criterion release because I know I'm getting the highest possible quality. Honestly, I figured anyone who's a fan of Criterion would have upgraded to Blu-ray already, seeing as the uptick in the audiovisual presentation is one of the main reasons they have a following in the first place. I could understand them continuing to release DVD counterparts during their first few years on the Blu-ray format, but now? I don't even see the point of Criterion on DVD anymore, let alone wasting space on one in a dual format set. What's even the point of watching these amazing new restorations if you're watching them in plain old 480p?
None of these are for me, but I'm happy for those who are fans! It's a great feeling when Criterion finally releases what you've been waiting for. I still want Grey Gardens. Especially now that I've seen how amazing "Shoah" looks.
I knew that Tokyo Story would come eventually, but am glad that it is here. Not sure about whether I'll get City Lights (I've seen it several times); Buster and even Harold Lloyd are above Chaplin in my book. Also, I'm not interested in Frances Ha at all, but Zatoichi sounds interesting.
As far as the Dual Format goes, it looks like that will be their only format (i.e., no sole DVD release). On the Criterion website, it only shows City Lights only available as the $40 dual format. This is in contrast to To Be or Not to Be, which can be ordered for $40 for Blu or $30 for DVD.
This is only a guess, but they may have done this to streamline their process (and cut out costs). Perhaps the sale of new Criterion DVDs were dwindling, but they wouldn't want to eliminate DVDs altogether. I would guess that most customers of a foreign Criterion film or more artsy film would likely have a Blu-ray player. I recently got, watched, and enjoyed Letter Never Sent. It would seem that not too many buyers of that movie would go for the DVD instead of the Blu.
I am in favor of the dual format to help (hopefully) raise Criterion's profits (so they can release more good films). However, I would not want the dual format if it meant paying more for a title. All of the single film releases are still $40 and that's good.
I wonder what the packaging design will be. I have the Trip to the Moon non-steelbook and it comes in a two disc Scanavo (same case brand that Criterion uses). Both discs are on the right side of the case. However, Tokyo Story is a 3 disc set. I don't know how that will work. Hopefully, the case aesthetics will match with previous issues.
I'm disappointed with the Dual Disc format announcement as well. When I purchase a blu-ray I have no use for a DVD taking up space in the packaging. This will be most problematic in a set like Zatoichi where I assume 9 discs are blu-ray and the other 18 discs will be unwanted DVDs inflating the packaging size and taking up precious shelf space.
Dual formar? what a waste for me....Criterions fans always wanna the best AV quality, since the early years of DVD, so now don't fit to me that go back to DVD as Blu on hands with cheap and good players.By the way, just my humble opinion
@AmazingRando: It's probably 9 blu-ray discs + an additional 18 DVD discs you don't even want. All 27 discs come in the same package. It would have been better if it was just a 9-disc blu-ray set in slimmer packaging.
An extraordinarily strong month (which is really saying something, since it's Criterion).
I plan to pick up all of them eventually. That Zatoichi set looks phenomenal. (Just when I thought Criterion was done releasing samurai genre films, lol.) Frances Ha is one of Noah Baumbach's best films and both City Lights and Tokyo Story are classics I've been wanting to see.
Hey Criterion, are you going to include these on VHS too, maybe video cd, or LD? Afterall, there are still more households with vcrs than BD players and probably more vcrs than dvd still. Guess I'll have to make my own case and artwork for Zatoichi - assuming it's not too price prohibitive to get the set. No way am I clearing out shelf space for a box of 18 redundantly useless dvds. Definitely won't be in a hurry to buy because of it either. But, I'll give you credit, at least they aren't BD/dvd flippers.
@ danmovie: I have a feeling the new dual-format Criterion packages for single films will be blu-ray sized and house two discs, half-overlapping, on the right panel when opened, rather like The Samurai Trilogy (dir. Hiroshi Inagaki) from last year. In the case of Tokyo Story, maybe there will also be a single disc on the left panel, behind the booklet — or a specially-designed digipack.
Re: the Zatoichi films, I'm in the same boat you are. Netflix DVD seems to have all (or nearly all the films) available. I don't know about Netflix Streaming. I plan to check out the first two or three before I buy the set, just to make sure they're my cup of tea. I like samurai films generally, though, so I'm not really too worried.
I support the dual-format decision. I'm already used to the dual-format editions from the Masters of Cinema, BFI and some of the larger mainstream US studios. So, actually I'm surprised Criterion didn't start doing so earlier, as studios have come to realize that it is simply more cost effective to have both the blu-ray and DVD in one package than create two entirely separate packages for each format.
The cost to the consumer will be no different than before. Go to the Criterion site and compare the prices of a blu-ray only package with that of a dual-format package for a single film. And the quality of the package design the on-disc supplements and the films themselves will remain top-notch.
@ penguin - how is dual format a waste of shelf space? They'll probably just use the same sized blu-ray cases they've always used except with two hubs instead of one, or one of those little hinged flaps inside that other studios use. If you can't give the DVDs away, put them on E-bay. I'm sure there will be someone who will pay at least a couple of bucks for a Criterion DVD even without a case and artwork.
Obviously sales for DVDs must be way down for Criterion so they've decided to combine the formats. I anticipate by this time next year, they'll stop DVD production all together.
Anyone in the know about when Nashville will be coming out? There was a cartoon recently hinting at its release so I thought it would be soon, maybe December?
I believe the November Barnes & Noble Criterion 50% off sale will still be going at the time the Zatoichi big-box is released. That should take a lot of the sting out of the price. The sale price would be $112.48. If you're a B&N member and bought it from a physical store, the price would be $89.98. That doesn't include discounts from the inevitable coupons. Not bad for a box that lists at $224.95.
Criterion's really pumping out those exciting box sets:
—Roberto Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman
and they're still adding to the Eclipse Series, which I quite like.
I don't understand the complaints about dual-format. If you're buying the blu-rays it's a bonus at no extra cost. I like being able to take screenshots on my laptop (which doesn't play blu-ray) or bring them to friends houses who don't have blu-ray players. Actually I may be without my blu-ray player the next few months at least cause I'm going away to college so it's perfect timing for me.
At worst you get an extra disc you're never gonna use; how is that worth complaining about? It's a bit of a burn for people who bought the cheaper DVD versions since they're all blu-ray priced now, but I don't think that's anyone on this site. And those people could use the incentive to join the dark side, besides. ;P
I wouldn't have voted for a bonus DVD with every Blu-ray, but it's supposed to help somebody, and as people have pointed out, it doesn't cost us Blu-ray buyers extra. If it makes it better for Criterion or someone else, I don't care.
At the B&N 50% off, I believe the Zatoichi set works out to about $4.50 a movie, before tax. Hard to argue with that.
@baheidstu: It's a waste of shelf space because Zatoichi will probably include approximately 18 unwanted DVDs which will increase the packaging size significantly. If it were blu-ray only it probably would have been only 9 discs instead of 27. On 3-disc sets like Tokyo Story where it will be 1 blu-ray + 2 DVDs it remains to be seen if that will increase packaging size but I suspect it will.
I Think is funny so many complaining about dual format. Why not as Criterion has Never released the Zatoichi on DVD. And the "shelf space" your losing on useless dvds, wtf a dvd is like 1 mm in thickness, so that 25mm in shelf space wont be able to fit that extra copy of War and peace?? My buddy has at least 15 or 20 Zatoichi dvds in full dvd cases and i doubt the box will take up half the space as those dvds. And you know either way the transfers on these are going to be brilliant
What an exciting month! But does anyone else find the quality of the cover art less than stellar? Really not crazy about the typography for Frances Ha or Tokyo Story...Frances Ha looks like somebody spent 10 seconds in photoshop with a default font. I know it's similar to the film's poster, but still...
If they were increasing the price on these I would not be happy about the dual format, but they are still listed as having an SRP of $40 so it does not bother me, and lets me watch the movies with some friends who have not upgraded to blu yet.
Personally I prefer Duyal-Format as a collector of Criterion releases (currently got every DVD release) I couldn't bring myself to buy both DVD AND Bluray for any new releases so these Dual Format means I can carry on the collection but then see the better quality Blu-Ray. Win win.
let's see: i'm thinking november will be a low sales month for criterion. "frances ha"? HA, i say! has even 50% of what was alluded to on the criterion 2013 new year's postcard materialized? i guess criterion believes its die-hard fan base will buy just about anything they put out there.... definitely a disappointing month for me. that said, the "zatoichi" box set looks beautiful.... like a work of art! if i had the bucks, i'd buy it for my film library simply for aesthetic purposes...! (i'm still waiting patiently for "mishima" and "dead ringers"....)
About the dual format thing for the Zatoichi box set...
Zatoichi is not James Bond. A retailer that would reserve two or three copies for the shop will have to pay a quite hefty sum of money, and they still have no clue about the ratio between DVD and the Blu-ray in the actual sales for this particular title.
And for all the titles, there's also the issue of physical space on the shelves in the shops. Not every copy is bought from Amazon or B&N. For niche titles such as most of the Criterion Collection output, the fight is with dwindling space for physical media in stores, that leads to a few blockbusters getting the lion's share and fringe titles being relegated to "only by order" status. If the retailer gets one reference instead of two, there's more chance that the title will stay in store for a while.
The same switch already occurred two years ago for Eureka!/Masters of Cinema in the UK, and the new dual format editions weren't more expensive or prefigured a slowdown with the release schedule.
This is a major month of new changes and old classics. City Lights and Tokyo Story are seminal masterpieces and the new independent film Frances Ha is a contemporary classic. The Zatoichi box set is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The new Dual Format release that Criterion has begun is a good idea in terms of streamlining, but this is just another sign that DVD is slowly on its way out. This is Criterion's way of migrating their DVD consumers to going to Blu-ray. I think it is going to work.
For those complaining about the switch to dual format I can understand your reason.
However with Eureka who do the Masters of Cinema releases in the UK they have in the last year reversed their decision and gone back to separate DVD and BD releases. Their customer base is similar to Criterion I expect as they also release many non English language classics with extensive restorations and extras.
They did customer research which I took part in a year or so ago, asking about what format releases should be DVD only, BD only or dual format and price points you would buy. They had a very strong minority of customers who only want DVD, and see no quality uptick with BD whilst the lower price of the DVDs was important. You should also note the Eureka price differential is only a few $ between DVD and BD whilst for Criterion it is $10, so a big cost rise for DVD buyers.
The BFI in the UK have luckily kept going with dual format even though they again have a similar customer base. However what they did was set their dual format price as between the DVD and BD prices but closer to BD. in Criterions case it would be moving the price point from $40 to $38. This factors in the savings to the company of not having two versions in inventory, sales etc whilst the cost of manufacturing the DVD is only a few cents and extra packaging unless big boxset is minimal making a case 1 v 2 disks.
I don't understand your point on full frame vs widescreen, i don't see why Criterion should give priority to widescreen films, if anything they don't give enough priority to even older films like silents, but i understand they can't please everyone.
Also don't think it is a wasted release when they put out something that another label could have released since we usually get more extras this way and a lower probability that they screw up the video.
Anyway it's hard to get disappointed when they announced some of the greatest films of all time (Tokyo Story and City Lights) i mean, maybe more people would be happy if they announced the Cronenberg titles but are they better than those 2 films? don't think so.
Criterion may be going "dual-format" so they can go single inventory. This does have some advantages even though I'd never use the DVD myself, not even to watch a computer, etc. If someone buys the package for use on a DVD player and sees all these Blu-ray discs, they may finally wake-up and buy a BD player. But having said that, I agree that it seems insane for anyone who invests in a Criterion release still having only a DVD player. But I guess Criterion must still be selling DVDs because they still release in that format.
With the availability of very low priced BD players, I'm surprised the major CE manufacturers are still making DVD-only players. Seems absurd.
An advantage of the old DVD player is that it will mostly either be already region free at point of sale or can be very easily hacked. It is very rare to find a DVD player that cannot be made region free. BD players are not as flexible and whilst there is a trend to making the DVD component region free or easily hackable it is by no means widespread yet. It is irritating to find you can play the Criterion region A BD but not their zone 1 DVDs. Criterion are shipped all over the world and it is time they considered making any DVDs all region like so many of their competitors. Not everyone can afford an Oppo! The industry rightly complains about piracy but fail to recognise that outdated region restrictions often force an owner to make a PC copy in order to play what they have bought!
My god! The Zatoichi box will be mine for sure, but I expect a huge pricetag! I will probably wait for B&N's Criterion sale to purchase that one. Amazing though! Frances Ha will also be part of my collection, for sure!
According to Criterion, the extra expense in producing the DVDs was the packaging and not the DVDs themselves, so why not just make all titles, DVD or Blu-ray, in Blu-ray packaging? They could put a DVD or Blu-ray sticker on the shrink wrap to differentiate. That would mean no dual-format and no unwanted disks to produce.
Hows about giving us Brits a region B release of Quadrophenia seeing as though the thing was made here and is a well loved cult movie by millions of us Mr Criterion? It's ludicrous that the only version we get is the weak ass Universal one!!!
BTW: I noted on Criterion's iTunes link that there was several films for download, boasting the Criterion label/artwork, that are not yet available in either DVD or Blu-ray. The ones that stuck out were: "Eraserhead," "The Brood," "Persona," "Scanners," and "Breaker Morant." Is this a sign of things to come...???