The Value of Criterion

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jeff B., Jul 6, 2004.

  1. Jeff B.

    Jeff B. Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2003
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Being pretty new to HT and dvd shopping (just really started building my collection in the last 6 months) I was wondering how much better Criterion really is. I see the Criterion releases praised here all the time, but I don't own one, and I've never seen one.

    I was a little shocked to say the least when I first started looking at the prices of Criterion discs. The main movies I'm interested in are Traffic, Fear and Loathing, and Seven Samurai. Just these 3 movies alone would cost me over 100 bucks from amazon.com. Take Traffic for instance. I could buy the regular disc for under 13 bucks, or the Criterion for 35. I can appreciate good picture quality and extras, but is the price really justifiable?

    I know a lot of you live for the Criterion discs, but keep in mind I'm a college student, so I don't want to be wasting my hard earned money.

    Jeff
     
  2. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2001
    Messages:
    1,849
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    You'd be wasting your money to NOT buy the Criterion versions of these films. Quite simply, there are no better versions of these movies. Criterion takes the time and resources to give you the best possible film quality, as well as informative extras.

    I don't buy Criterions often, but when I do, they never dissapoint.
     
  3. Terry St

    Terry St Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2002
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    You really have to treat it on a case by case basis. Criterion disks are usually of very good to excellent quality. They typically do good transfers. They often, although not always, dig up some nice extras. (Many of their releases are absolute bare bones...) Their packaging is typically very attractive and their menu's are often wonderful. Other companies can and do produce DVD's of the same quality however, but typically not as consistently as Criterion does.

    The big thing that Criterion does is release obscure titles that might not otherwise make it to DVD, in R1 at least. For example, Ozu's "Tokyo Story" is a fantastic film, but no Ozu film is ever going to sell like Spiderman or even the latest Meg Ryan flick. (Sad, but true.) This is why Criterion disks are typically more expensive. They have to charge higher prices in order to support a catalogue containing many unpopular titles without sacrificing quality. Occasionally you'll see *popular* films released by Criterion, such as Traffic or Armageddon, but those are basically cash cows. Criterion isn't above slumming a bit to keep in the black.

    In most cases, if you want a film that Criterion has released then Criterion is your only choice but, for some titles, there are other options. That's when it gets tough. Most of Criterion's transfers are far better than those of their counterparts, but a select few of their older discs actually have transfers that are worse than newer releases from other studios. However, in the case of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Traffic it would appear the transfers are actually quite close, although in both cases Criterion seems to have a slight edge. Note that F&L comes with a 5.1 track on the Criterion disc, for what that's worth. I can't say anything about the extras on Traffic, but F&L has a dizzying array of extras, many of which are simply fantastic. If you're a fan of the film and like extras then the Criterion disc is worthwhile. The Criterion version of Traffic might be out of print now so it could be hard to find.

    As for Seven Samurai... In region 1 the Criterion disk is your best bet. I've heard rumours that Criterion might be rereleasing Seven Samurai with a new transfer, but I haven't really kept up to date on them so you'd do well to do a search on the forum for more info. If you're an absolute videophile then the Toho disk from region 2 is much sharper and less cropped than the Criterion version, but it doesn't come with English subtitles, so you'd have to rip the disk to your computer and write a new IFO to incorporate subtitles from another version or fansubs. (Not an ideal solution!) The extras on the Criterion disk are pretty sparse. It has trailers and a commentary only if I recall. Still, it's a damned fine film! There is a box set containing Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and The Hidden Fortress that would allow you to save a little cash. Odds are that after you watch Seven Samurai you'll wind up hopelessly addicted to Kurosawa, so you might as well bite the bullet, so to speak.

    Do note that Amazon's prices typically aren't that great. You can usually find better prices online with a little searching.

    I hope this helps!
     
  4. Mark_vdH

    Mark_vdH Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 9, 2001
    Messages:
    1,035
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well, it's all personal preference. Some guys will say Criterions are worth their weight in gold, while others will chime in and tell you their discs are way overpriced.

    That said, with Seven Samurai there's not much choice, as the Criterion is the only one available in America. However, there are better transfers around worldwide (R2 - Japan and R4) and it's been widely rumoured that Criterion will re-release it in a much better edition (using the better master) pretty soon.

    Regarding the other titles, I guess the regular editions will do, but the Criterions are very much worth it if you can afford them. I would recommend the Criterion version of Traffic if I had to choose between the two.

    I wouldn't buy Criterions at Amazon.com BTW. They have good prices on pre-orders, but there are enough e-tailers that will sell Criterions cheaper than that (up to 35% off MSRP), and not only on pre-orders.
     
  5. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12
    Trophy Points:
    0
    If you think the Criterions in the stores are expensive, try picking up an OOP title on ebay ...

    I am in two minds about Criterion:

    (1) PRO They have access to a huge catalogue of arthouse movies (particularly Bergman, Kurosawa, Ozu) and release these at a steady trickle into the market place.
    ANTI But other companies do the same in other regions (e.g. Tartan in the UK has done an excellent Bergman series), but without the premium prices.

    (2) PRO Criterion make an effort to ensure a good movie transfer, the print is cleaned up, etc
    ANTI A lot of other companies do this without making a song and dance about it.

    (3) PRO Criterion offer some great movies that people are persuaded to buy because they are released by Criterion
    ANTI Yes, but other companies do the same (e.g. the BFI or Tartan in R2).

    (4) PRO Criterion often offer some great extras.
    ANTI Yes, but you pay for them, and extras-free titles with precious little sign of restoration command high prices.

    (5) PRO Criterion need to charge high prices because it's small volume output, etc
    ANTI How come some of the same titles in other regions are offered at normal prices?

    The danger with any examination of Criterion is that you instantly attract the wrath of HTF members who have an almost fanatical devotion to Criterion, and who point out that Criterion was there when all else was trash, they were pioneers, etc. Yes, this may be true, but emotion and sentiment should not blur judgement. I think that at times Criterion have produced overpriced discs. BUT some of my most treasured discs are Criterions and I would not be without the company, high prices or not.
     
  6. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2003
    Messages:
    1,344
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    There's nothing more to really add about how great Criterion releases are. I will say though that it is unfortunate they haven't found a way to lower the MSRP on their discs. There are easily 50 Criterion releases that I would like to own, but I simply can’t afford them at $28 a pop.
     
  7. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 1998
    Messages:
    21,763
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
  8. Michael K Hill

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0


    So you can imagine what it was like back in the days of laserdisc when Criterion CAV editions of Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and 2001, cost $99.00 each!

    Just to put things in perspective...
    Thank God for DVD.
     
  9. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2002
    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    A local video store rents Criterion releases. Why don't you find a store that rents them and deside for yourself?
     
  10. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 1999
    Messages:
    4,380
    Likes Received:
    268
    Trophy Points:
    4,110
    Compared to their laserdisc prices, Criterion is giving away their DVDs!
     
  11. WillKTaylor

    WillKTaylor Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Also, don't be set back by the pricing without a little research .. DVDPricesearch. That research may also include other distributors as some have mentioned.

    I've also done some searching around at local B&M stores for used Criterion and have had some decent luck. Just paid $23 for a mint condition "In the Mood for Love". New would have set me back 35 - 40 minimum at most B&Ms. DVDPlanet can get you a some great deals for Criterion if that is the direction your heading. My advice would be to not limit yourself to Amazon ...
     
  12. Glenn D

    Glenn D Agent

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Criterion usually does a great job on their releases but their discs are always way overpriced.
     
  13. Terry St

    Terry St Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2002
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0

    A title that's marginal here might be a big seller in other regions. For example, an Ozu film might sell in much higher volumes in Japan. Still, I agree to a certain extent that Criterion's prices are, in many cases, higher than they could be. It certainly would be nice if region codes were scrapped so that Tartan, etc. could place a little competitive pressure on Criterion in R1. I don't see that happening any time soon unfortunately.
     
  14. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2002
    Messages:
    4,042
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'd say Criterion is frequently way overpriced, but they have some rather reasonably priced discs as well. Mostly Buena Vista co-productions.
     
  15. JulianK

    JulianK Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2000
    Messages:
    843
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
  16. Zachary Cohen

    Zachary Cohen Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2004
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    If you are on a budget, you should buy the non-Criterion versions. While remdining yourself that laser-discs cost $90 dolalrs in their day is nice, it doesn't put the money back in your wallet and is ridiculous considering there is a much cheaper alternative.

    That being said, I got my Criterion Traffic version off Amazon.com used for $18. I understand, though, that there are many Criterion bootlegs out there (mine wasn't), so shop at your own risk.
     
  17. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 1999
    Messages:
    2,601
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0


    As usual, that comparison is an apples and oranges comparison. You can only fairly compare Criterion prices with other studios prices.

    Some of their DVDs are overpriced, others aren't.

    However, you haven't experienced overpriced DVDs until you've purchased Criterions in Canada. Now THAT is what I call overpriced.
     
  18. Julian Lalor

    Julian Lalor Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 1999
    Messages:
    975
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0


    Given Criterion release few recent release Studio films and the fact that Criterion doesn't actually own the films in its collection, I think any comparison to other studios DVD is entirely specious.

    As stated in a previous post, the reason Criterion's DVDs are so expensive relative to other studios DVDs is that their catalogue is made up almost entirely of older and/or foreign films which simply do not have a customer base that can support low prices. Criterion has to pay licence fees to the copyright owners to licence its films, pay for extras, pay for pressing and releasing and marketing its DVDs, most of which would struggle to sell in the low thousands.
     
  19. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Messages:
    992
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0


    I'll second this one big time. Especially in Ontario, where 15% tax has made many Criterion's extremely unappealing to me. I remember paying $54.99 PLUS TAX (that's over $63 CDN) for the 2-disc set of CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Beautiful treatment, mind you, but now the EXACT SAME PRINT has turned up in one of the Brentwood 10 Pack bargain movie sets, with the whole set costing around $13. Unreal.
     
  20. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2002
    Messages:
    2,950
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Criterion discs usually cost more than discs from major studios, but the are worth every penny.
     

Share This Page