The Criterion Collection is the single most important film distribution company working today. They were instrumental in making sure letterbox was the default mode for all films and that every release had commentary tracks and supplementary material. In a time where simply having a lenticular cover qualified as a “special edition”, they were loading their releases with extra content. They went after collectors and film aficionados instead of the average consumer and their gamble paid off. They’ve been in business for over 30 years and have the highest pedigree of anyone working today. Being apart of the catalog is pretty much a seal of quality. Criterion Collection = Cock of the walk.
They have hundreds of amazing titles but their collection is still not perfect. There’s a handful of titles that desperately need to be part of the collection because I guarantee that if they don’t release them, no one will. Here’s 20 films that need to be in the collection immediately.
10. The Reflecting Skin
Philip Ridley is a very unique director. His films are all gorgeous to look at but will definitely not connect with the majority of screen goers. That’s probably the reason he’s only made three films in almost 30 years. The Reflecting Skin is his debut feature and it’s a masterpiece. It’s a about a boy living in some rural town in the 50’s who has to not only deal with an abusive home life and a chaotic circle of friends but the possibility of a vampire living next door. It may sound like the premise of Fright Night but they couldn’t be further apart stylistically or even narratively. It’s a horror film by way of Terrence Malick. Nothing but dream logic and nightmare images that stick with you long after the film ends.
Ralph Bakshi is a controversial figure. If your main criticism of Tarantino is his over reliance of the N word in every film, Bakshi may not be the director for you. Coonskin literally starts with a song called Ah’m a Nigger Man. It’s an extremely catchy song by Scatman Crothers but if even the word offends you, again, Coonskin may not be the one. But if you can look past the word and its characters (who all like offensive, over the top caricatures) and see the reasoning behind they’re usage, you’ll see that Coonskin is a brilliant satire of the old Uncle Remus stories. It’s a dark satire and an important film that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
8. 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s
If you ever thought the film The Warriors was great but too over the top, i’d like to introduce you to the “Savage Skulls” and the “Savage Nomads” from this amazingly under seen doc. Filmed in the summer of 1979 in the heart of New York City, the film depicts the day-to-day activities of two inner city gangs. Nowadays, there’s documentaries about harder gangs on TV. Hell, there’s probably at least three reality shows about some on right now but in 1979? Before HBO? Before MTV? Before VICE? It’s mind blowing this thing exists. A perfect time capsule of a long dead New York and the beginnings of Hip Hop.
7. Curse of the Demon
Apparently the producers of this film saw the original cut that had no monster and without the directors permission or knowledge added in scenes of a monster to make it more scary. I’m 100% against studio interference, I think if you hire a director, you’re hiring a vision and you should never alter that vision. Having said that, I think the studio made the right call. The demon is incredible and I guarantee was pants shittingly frightening for people back in 1957. The film is about a skeptical American psychologist moving to England to investigate the validity of the supernatural and eventually runs afoul of a cult. It’s a gorgeously shot black and white horror film that studios don’t make anymore. It’s a beautiful film that transcends the genre and definitely needs to be part of the collection.
6. The Beaver Trilogy
In 1979, Trent Harris documents “Groovin’ Gary”, a local celebrity impersonator and his attempts at putting on a talent show performance dressed as Olivia Newton-John. In 1981, Harris decides to re-enact the footage he shot, shot-for-shot with Sean Penn as “Groovin’ Gary.” In 1985, Harris decides, yet again, to re-enact the footage shot-for-shot but this time with Crispin Glover as Penn as “Groovin’ Gary.” It’s a truly remarkable experience that needs to be seen to be believed.
5. Napoleon (1927)
There’s a long, legal battle over who owns the rights to the film and the new music composed for the film. There was two scores made for the 1981 restoration, One for the American market and one for the UK market. They went with the UK version and apparently this problem has plagued this film for 40 years. Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to the film because his father composed the soundtrack to the American version. This was a problem that just got resolved finally. In 2016, the film had a big re-release and even got a 3 disc blu ray collectors edition but only in the UK. Americans can’t watch it unless they have a region free player and that’s a god damn travesty. I’m glad it’s finally on blu ray but this film needs to be seen by everyone. It’s easily one of the greatest films ever made and I don’t even think Kubrick’s infamous unmade version would’ve been better. And he worked on that for 30 years. That’s how good this film is.
4. Le Magnifique
Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Francois Merlin, an espionage book writer who adds people from his life into the books he writes. In the novel, Merlin is Bob Saint Clar and his next door neighbor Christine, played by the eye meltingly beautiful Jacqueline Bisset, is Tatiana and they’re super spies on an outrageous mission to defeat Colonel Karpoff.(Merlins editor) If you’re a James Bond fan or an Austin Powers fan or even a fan of those Jean Dujardin OSS 117 spoofs, you’ll definitely love this film. In fact, this film is so effortlessly charming and delightful, I bet it might end up being your favorite film regardless of your taste. It’s just a fun film.
3. Killer of Sheep
When you go on this films IMDB page under trivia, the first thing it says is: “The Library of Congress has declared “Killer of Sheep” as a national treasure and one of the first fifty on the National Film Registry. The National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of the “100 Essential Films” of all time.” This film is so monumentally important to the fabric of cinema, it was one of the first fifty to be inducted into the registry that preserves films for all time. For every generation to watch and enjoy. That’s how good this film is. That’s how impactful this film is. Killer of Sheep is about Stan, a slaughterhouse worker who every day has to go to a job he hates to provide for a family he’s starting to resent. It’s a powerful portrayal of poverty and race and the struggle most Americans face day after day. It’s an unforgettable snap shot at a moment in the life of a family just trying to get by.
2. The Devils
It’s 2017 at the time of writing this and there’s still no way to legally own the unrated version of this film in America. I can understand being shocked at the content of this film 40 years ago but there’s far worse things on South Park and that airs on cable television. I don’t believe a work of art should ever be punished or censored for being controversial. Every deleted scene adds weight to the film. They weren’t superfluous, they weren’t added for extra shock value. They were there to help tell the story. The story of church corruption, and mass hysteria and bitter jealousy and insanity and salvation. The film is many things and needs all the parts to effectively tell the story. It’s still a great film without them but Criterion needs to release this uncut so Russell’s vision can finally be seen the way it was intended. Famous critic Mark Kermode believes The Devils is one of the top ten achievements in cinema and i’m hard pressed to disagree.
1. Come and See
TimeOut magazine once listed Come and See number 76 in their top 100 scariest films of all time list. At first glance, that would seem ridiculous until you realize everything about this film is pure horror. Everything the main character witnesses and experiences is horror. Straight horror. It’s a horror film as much as it is a war film and that’s why it’s a masterpiece. It doesn’t depict war as an adventure or soldiers as heroes vs villains. It depicts monsters doing unspeakable acts of violence. The title of the film refers to the book of revelations and the witnessing of the end of days brought on by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s an invitation to witness the end of everything and every time the lead of the film looks into the camera the film wonders how much more will you be willing to accept. Come and See.