The Criterion Collection rebooted two of their early releases these past two weeks, re-releasing Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout on DVD and Blu-ray…and bringing us another amazing restoration of Fritz Lang’s M on Blu-ray. One of these films, I had never seen before. The other film, I have seen…but I have never seen it look or sound so good.
I never paid attention to Walkabout early in my Criterion obsession. I never really noticed that the film was one of the earliest entries into the collection, with spine number 10. Early Criterion films are usually the types of films that deserve a certain type of attention, and deserve this special distinction. Walkabout is no different. It’s not at all unlike some of the other early entries like Seven Samurai and The 400 Blows in that it features the themes of growth and transformation, and also the necessity to do so. The film, without doubt, is a great coming of age tale that challenges convention. I’m sure some of the attractions for the film in 1971 were centered around the fact that director Nicolas Roeg took audiences to a place seen by very few Americans, both literally and figuratively. With Australia as the backdrop, the film takes a chance at showing the developing attraction between a British girl and an Aboriginal boy. Roeg composes a touching story that is beautifully shot. I was able to see this one for the first time recently, and I hope you do too.
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, made from a newly minted 35 mm interpositive and approved by director Nicolas Roeg (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary featuring Roeg and actress Jenny Agutter
- Video interviews with Agutter and actor Luc Roeg
- Gulpilil—One Red Blood (2002), an hour-long documentary on the life and career of actor David Gulpilil
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Paul Ryan
Some would argue that a film like Fritz Lang’s M has been unnecessarily added to Criterion’s new Blu-ray collection. Not that the film is undeserving, as it is one of the finest films to have ever been made. It’s just that the film is in Black and White, and it is Lang’s and Germany’s first film with sound. Now these aren’t my arguments, but simply arguments that people can make. Firstly, Lang’s ability to play with light for visual and expressionistic purposes plays a large part in the film and creates a larger impact. The grain from early film tends to be within darker settings, and Bluray was a means for Criterion to clean some of this masterpiece up. Secondly, while the film wasn’t filled with explosions or a robust orchestral score, M featured some sounds that were haunting and startling. Just the whistled tune alone still creeps me out beyond belief. So even if you have seen it, M looks and sounds beautiful with this new Bluray release from Criterion.
SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET:
- Restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary by German film scholars Anton Kaes, author of the BFI Film Classics volume on M, and Eric Rentschler, author of The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife
- The long-lost English-language version of M, from a nitrate print preserved by the British Film Institute (on the Blu-ray edition)
- Conversation with Fritz Lang, a 50-minute film by William Friedkin
- Claude Chabrol’s M le maudit, a short film inspired by M, plus a video interview with Chabrol about Lang’s filmmaking techniques
- Video interview with Harold Nebenzal, son of M producer Seymour Nebenzal
- Classroom audiotapes of editor Paul Falkenberg discussing the film and its history, set to clips from the film
- Documentary on the physical history of M, from production to distribution to digital restoration
- Galleries of behind-the-scenes photographs and production sketches
- Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Stanley Kauffmann, the script for a missing scene, three contemporaneous newspaper articles, and a 1963 interview with Lang