Well, It Finally Happened!

I’ve long feared the hazard of imagining a Criterion release of a given film only to have the Collection announce it mid-month as a forthcoming title, thereby leaving my research and writing wasted. Alas, that day has finally arrived with the Criterion Collection announcing Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley as a May 2021 release, leaving my work over the past couple of weeks sunk. Nightmare Alley may be MMC!’s favourite film noir of all time and it’s a timely choice with Guillermo del Toro’s remake scheduled to arrive later this year. Criterion’s other announcements for May 2021 are equally superb – a stand-alone edition of Ahmed El Maanouni’s Trances, the iconic and star-studded Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the tantalizingly salacious Merrily We Go to Hell, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai featuring an absolutely gorgeous cover treatment!

MMC!’s intended discussion of Nightmare Alley attended to the film’s fascinating production history, its horror noir adjacency, and to the distinctive manner by which the film explicitly dealt with film noir’s organizing force: fate. For the curious, I’ve provided below a glimpse of what an MMC! package of Nightmare Alley might have looked like (minus that partially drafted discussion of the film).

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Nightmare Alley.

Once a passion project for its star Tyrone Power, a box-office flop for 20th Century Fox, and a cult obsession for film fans years later, Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley has become one of the grimmest and most celebrated of Hollywood’s film noirs. Power plays against type as Stanton Carlisle, a carnival worker who learns the secret code for a mind-reading act from fellow sideshow promoter Mademoiselle Zeena (Joan Blondell) and then sets off with his new carny wife Molly (Colleen Grey) to hit the big time with a successful nightclub act. Carlisle partners with a devious psychoanalyst (Helen Walker) to milk Chicago’s elites but as his shameless ambition and his guilty conscience build, Stanton’s world eventually falls in around him. Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s popular book and loaded with film noir’s heavy shadows and claustrophobic scenes, Nightmare Alley pulls back the curtain on carnival life and then reveals how little it differs from polite society.


  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary from 2005 by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver
  • New interview with Guillermo del Toro
  • Excerpt from Screen Snapshots Series 23, No. 1: Hollywood in Uniform featuring Tyrone Power as a Marine drill instructor
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Mark Osteen, as well as a new printing of the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham on which the film is based

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