Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)

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

criterion logo“We accept you, one of us.  Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.” This is the chant of Freaks, director Tod Browning’s bizarre morality play of betrayal and retribution in a circus sideshow.  In this Pre-Code masterpiece, an evil trapeze artist seduces and marries a small-statured performer in hopes of murdering him and inheriting his secret fortune.  Her plot raises the ire of the other sideshow members and the “Code of the Freaks” demands a harsh and terrible punishment for this “peacock of the air.”  Browning, a former circus contortionist, shocked audiences and his studio by bringing true circus freaks to the silver screen (including a legless boy, a human torso, Siamese twins, a human skeleton, a pair of armless women, and microcephalics – called “pinheads” in the film), and in doing so Browning created a film that effectively ended his career but became a cult classic decades later.

Disc Features:

  • High definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by Browning biographer David J. Skal
  • Freaks: Sideshow Spectacle, a documentary on sideshow performers appearing in the film
  • 3 alternate endings
  • Special Message prologue added for the film’s theatrical re-issue
  • Kim Newman on the banning of Freaks in the UK for 31 years
  • Photo gallery of production and publicity stills
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by scholar David Church and director Rona Mark, the original short story “Spurs” that inspired the film, and a script synopsis from the MGM archives

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HealtH (Robert Altman, 1980)

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

criterion logoAfter the success of Nashville, Robert Altman once again tried his hand at political satire, predicting and spoofing the upcoming presidential race between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan by depicting the heated rivalry between candidates for the presidency of a health-food organization.  In a sun-drenched Florida hotel hosting the association’s annual convention, the battle between supporters spreads through Altman’s usually large cast of characters, an all-star ensemble including Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Carol Burnett, Glenda Jackson, Paul Dooley, Henry Gibson, Donald Moffat, Alfre Woodard, and Dick Cavett playing himself.  Mired in two years of delayed releases that effectively ensured that HealtH arrived in limited release to theaters dead on arrival, this wild and wacky parody of the political process exemplifies Altman’s exuberance, his extravagance, and his eccentricity.

Disc Features:

  • New high definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary with co-writer Paul Dooley
  • New interviews with stars Carol Burnett, Dick Cavett, Glenda Jackson, and Alfre Woodard
  • Galleries of rare production and publicity stills
  • PLUS: A new essay by film critic Robert Kolker, an excerpt of David Thompson’s interview with Robert Altman, and Vincent Canby’s review from HealtH‘s limited release in New York

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Love Sublime (Raj Kapoor, 1978)

A BOLLYWOOD FABLE OF LOVE, LUST AND OBSESSION

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddThere is nothing quite like Raj Kapoor’s Love Sublime – a meditation on love and beauty that lavishly mixes fantasy, psychedelia, and voluptuous sexuality against the background of 1970s India’s rural electrification program.  A playboy engineer from the city (Shashi Kapoor) is sent to a small village to oversee a new hydroelectric dam, and falls in love with a nubile temple girl (Zeenat Aman) who hides her severely scarred face from him.  He discovers her disfigurement on their wedding night and goes mad, insisting that she is an impostor and bringing her to a strange masquerade designed to restore his love.  Raj Kapoor presents a fairy tale vision that mixes the hardscrabble realism of rural life with baroque dream sequences and a scandalous degree of sexuality by his female star’s barely there wardrobe.  While representing a stunning accomplishment in visual style by cinematographer Radhu Karmakar and boasting an accomplished soundtrack by composers by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Love Sublime‘s unusual story and rampant eroticism has nevertheless defined it as the most controversial movie of Bollywood’s greatest filmmaker.

Love Sublime resembles the Hindi lovechild of Samuel Fuller and Russ Meyer, merging daring pulp perversity with a rural, Gothic, T&A melodrama and creating an irresistible social drama that may or may not teach that beauty is more than skin deep.  As Elliott Stein observes, “Although it was made for Indian audiences, I have never met an Indian who will admit to liking it and I have never met anyone from the West who didn’t like it.”

Special Features:

  • New High Definition Digital Transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Raj Kapoor in the ’70sRachel Dwyer on Raj Kapoor and his late career interest in female protagonists
  • New interviews with stars Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman
  • Sex, Saris, and Censorship – a visual essay by Monika Mehta exploring the reception and controversy of Love Sublime
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Wendy Doniger, a review by Elliott Stein, and illustrated with original stills and posters

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The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

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

criterion logoBanned, censored, and suppressed for years, the director’s cut of Ken Russell’s infamous masterpiece depicts the rise and fall of 17th century French priest Urbain Grandier, tried and executed for a series of possessions in Loudon, France.  Masterful performances by Oliver Reed as Grandier and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne, Urbain’s hunchbacked nemesis, are matched by Russell’s audacious direction and contributions by Derek Jarman, David Watkin, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.  Mixing political and religious commentary with transgressive, cinematic spectacle, The Devils is proudly presented here, for the first time for home viewing, as Russell originally intended, restored with previously cut footage and uncompromised by past controversies.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary featuring filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and film critic Richard Crouse
  • New audio commentary featuring film critic Mark Kermode and editor Mike Bradsell
  • Hell on Earth: The Desecration and Resurrection of The Devils, Paul Joyce’s hour-long, 2002 documentary made for TV and presented by Mark Kermode
  • New interviews with actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Gemma Jones and actors Murray Melvin and Dudley Sutton on the filming of The Devils
  • New interview with composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies on the music of The Devils
  • Video appreciations by David Cronenberg, Alex Cox, Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, John Landis, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, and Mitch Davis
  • Excerpts from Saskia Baron’s 1995 made-for-TV documentary, Empire of the Censors
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring selected reviews from The Devils‘ release and a new essay by Russell biographer Joseph Lanza

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