The Remaining Bergmans, Now With More Face To Face

Okay, so you've bought Criterion's big Ingmar Bergman's Cinema box, The BFI's Ingmar Bergman's Cinema and even Artificial Eye's Classic Bergman set.  But you're still hungry.  Ingmar Bergman's an unparalleled master and you know he's made plenty more films than those, so what else can you get your hands on and add to the collection?  Well, unfortunately, not a whole lot, despite the large number of films he's written and/ or directed that remain unavailable on home video.  There's Best Intentions and Faithless, which I've already covered, and then just three more.  And two of those are DVD-only.

Update 10/3/22 - 2/25/24: Well, thanks to Imprint's new Face To Face blu-ray edition, now only one of these are DVD-only.  Can we make it zero?  And release all of Bergman's remaining films?  Hopefully, but today let's just be happy about Face To Face.
In 1970, Bergman wrote an original feature length film for Swedish television called The Lie, directed by Jan Molander, and starring one of Bergman's greatest actors, Erland Josephson, about a middle class couple hopelessly trapped in a mass of deception.  If the made-for-TV aspect makes it sound less interesting, remember some of Bergman's most acclaimed and beloved works were made for Swedish television, like Fanny & Alexander and Scenes From a Marriage (both also with Josephson, by the way).  Sounds like something you'd like to see now, huh?  Well, tough noogies; you can't.  It's another on the very long list of Bergman films never released in an English-friendly capacity, or even really as a Swedish-only release, apart from its televised broadcast.
However in America, Bergman's same script was adapted into an English-language television film starring George Segal, Shirley Knight and Robert Culp.  Ah, but no, you can't get that one anywhere either.  BUT, also during that time the BBC adapted the very same screenplay for British television, starring Gemma Jones (Sense & Sensibility, The Devils) and Frank Finlay (Lifeforce, Dennis Potter's Casanova).  The performances are powerful and nuanced, the director seems to be making deliberate nods to Bergman as a director (like all those mirror shots), and the writing is some of Bergman's strongest.  Only the music seems out of place, like BBC library stock stuff; but even that's not bad, just incongruous. And this version of The Lie actually IS available.  And this version won a BAFTA, so we shouldn't feel too short-changed.  It's on blu-ray as part of the BFI's first volume of its Play for Today box sets from 2020.
2020 UK BFI BD.
According to the included booklet, the episodes in this box are broken into two categories: those shot on video and "sourced from the best existing tape materials preserved by the BBC" and those shot on film, which are "newly scanned at 2k resolution from the original 17mm A/B roll camera negatives."  Fortunately, The Lie is one of the latter, and looks fantastic.  It's presented in its original 1.33:1 and looks very grainy, something that never would've come through during its original airings.  But it's very clearly encoded and looks quite impressive.  There is no interlacing despite it being a vintage 70s British television program, because they went back to the original film elements.  The original mono track is presented in a strong, lossless LPCM track with optional English subtitles.

The only extras are an image gallery and an 80-page full-color booklet, and of course the other seven Play for Today episodes, which range from good to great.  There's one on the troubles in Ireland that struck me as much more compelling than Branagh's Belfast which came out around the same time as this set, and a creepy horror story called A Photograph.  So I can understand a Bergman fan being frustrated they can't just buy The Lie by itself, but the whole set is worth having in your collection.
Next up is a proper theatrical film (although there was an extended television version released afterwards) written and directed by Bergman: 1975's Face To Face.  Bergman and star Liv Ullmann were both nominated for Oscars for this picture, so again, it's not like it's all lesser work that's been neglected on blu.  This one's a pretty harrowing tale of mental illness, with Ullmann as a psychiatrist whose problems run as deep as her patients'.  She takes on a lover, Erland Josephson again, who proves to be a far more loving companion than her own husband, and Gunnar Bjornstrand appears as her aging grandfather.  This one's pretty dark, and relatable despite risking going over the top at more than one point.  And it includes some of the most believable and heart-wrenching dream sequences committed to cinema, making those famous Wild Strawberries bits feel like trivialities.
Face To Face had only been available (English-friendly at any rate) as a 2011 barebones DVD from Olive Films, though at least it's anamorphic widescreen.  I remember some controversy when it was released, because people felt Olive acquiring the rights cut off Criterion from giving this a proper restoration, and possibly both cuts.  But of course it's pure speculation that they would've done that, and certainly getting this disc was better than the other possible alternative: nothing.  But now we don't have to choose between a DVD or nothing; we have a brand new blu-ray edition (also of the theatrical version; the extended TV cut is still unavailable anywhere) from Via Vision's Imprint, due out this Wednesday.
2011 US Olive Films DVD top; 2024 AUS Imprint BD bottom.
Olive presents Face To Face in a rather fuzzy 1.78:1.  It's standard def, so the hints we get of film grain are about the most we could ask for, but it sure seems like this image could be sharper, even on DVD.  But the real problem is the sound.  It's a static-y mess that sounds like it's been Noise Gate'd, so it's silent between words, but whenever anybody speaks, it's a metallic mess, as if you're hearing them through a bad telephone connection; and when people make small, innocuous movements, it sometimes sounds like they're sitting on their lavaliers.

Imprint presents the film in a sharper 1.67:1, giving us more vertically, though shaving a sliver off the sides.  And though the film is still on the soft side (almost looking like 16mm, though I understand it was shot on 35, so I'm guessing this was taken from a later generation element, rather than the original negatives), the film grain tell us this is a much clearer look at the film source.  It certainly brings detail and edges into focus.  And thank goodness, they've improved the sound.  It's still not perfect... it's still excessively loud when people sit on the sofa or rustle their coats, and there's slight background hiss.  But it's nothing like the static-y DVD.  It's also lossless now.  The whole thing's a big improvement.  Oh, and in both cases, the subtitles are removable.
Olive has no extras, not even the trailer.  Imprint doesn't have the trailer either, but comes in a stylish slipcase; and more importantly, they've got some impressive goodies.  First up is an expert commentary by Michael Brooke, and it's damn good.  A lot of "expert" commentaries and featurettes I've watched lately have been eye rollingly indulgent if not outright wastes of our time.  But this guy's pretty great, very well informed, leaves no dead air, cites lots of sources and is consistently interesting.  I wish other commentators would aim for this standard, even if they can't reach it every time.  Also on here is a visual essay by Kat Ellinger, and similarly, I've been a little let down by some of her recent output... maybe she's just agreeing to too many projects and unable to devote enough time to them all?  Or maybe she just takes a deeper interest in some films and their special features more than others?  I don't know, but she nails it here.  Starting off very informative and citing interesting sources, then easing into her excellently made thesis that this is an under-appreciated (including by Bergman himself) feminist work.

My only nitpick, and this is admittedly a petty one, is that she uses fake film damage, jitter and projector noise... you know, that fake "old timey" video filter that comes packaged in every free video editor.  And it's like, why spoil the rare photos she's sharing in her video for a silly gimmick?  There's never a good reason to degrade good footage with those cheesy filters.  But again, I acknowledge that's pure nitpickery; just a little pet peeve of mine.  Honestly, I might've skipped over both of these extras if I didn't feel obligated to watch them for this review, but I'm glad I gave them the chance and recommend all you readers do the same.
Finally, we end with the most underrated of the three, 2000's The Image Makers.  This is another made-for-Swedish-television project, and in this case really looks it.  It's all set in one room like a stage-play, which in fact it originally was, although the camera is certainly moving and cutting around.  This one's directed by Bergman (and he also directed the original theatrical production) but written by Per Olov Enquist (Pelle the Conqueror), although it really, really feels like a Bergman script, to the point where I suspect he at least had a hand in rewriting it for the screen, and perhaps rather liberally.  It's certainly an interesting coincidence that both this and Face To Face have an older person tell a middle-aged woman that "old age is Hell."
Anyway, it's the story of the making of the classic Swedish ghost movie, 1921's The Phantom Carriage.  The author of the original film arrives at the studio to see clips of the film Victor Sjöström and his cinematographer Julius Jaenzon have made of her work.  However, to complicate matters, Tora Teje, the actress having an affair with the director and who feels the leading part should have been hers, shows up at the same time and makes a scene.  It's on one hand a fascinating mediation on the ownership/ creation of art - how can the author, director, actor and photographer each feel the art projected on screen is their singular vision?  But it's also a powerful human drama where the making of The Phantom Carriage is really just the backdrop to a forceful study of love, heartbreak, infidelity and cruel fathers.  There's a cheap shot-on-video look to the film, amplified by the staginess of the setting, that signals The Image Makers as a forgettable lesser work.  But when you really settle into it, it's as moving and thoughtful a work as Bergman's greatest films.

But to date, this film has only been released on DVD in the UK by Tartan in 2008.
You may've also noticed that Tartan's release is a 2-disc double feature, and in fact the lead film isn't The Image Makers, but the original Phantom Carriage.  It works as a nice supplement to The Image Makers, but as a stand-alone disc, it's not too impressive.  It's somewhat window-boxed 1.32:1, interlaced, and barebones.  So in an age where Criterion has released an impressive special edition blu-ray, this really isn't a go-to disc for Phantom Carriage.  The reason to buy this set is The Image Makers.  But it's a damn good reason.
2008 UK Tartan DVD.
Thankfully, even though disc 1 is interlaced, The Image Makers' DVD is not.  It's 1.32:1 just like the The Phantom Carriage, and apart from a handful of clips from the 1921 film, looks like it was shot on video.  If it was shot on film, then this was definitely taken from a video master.  Either way, it looks bold and clear, and about as good as you could hope for from a master like this.  It would be interesting to see if an HD restoration from the original elements - whatever those may be - could do for this film; but I wouldn't expect much.  The sound is a clean mono track, the subtitles are removable, and the only extra is a fold-out insert with notes by David Thompson, director of Encountering Bergman.

Needless to say, all three of the releases covered above are must-haves for Bergman fans.  And yes, it's very much worthy double-dipping from Olive's DVD to Imprint's BD of Face To Face.  Now hopefully some label or other will see fit to continue to plumb the depths of Bergman's incredible catalog.

Eric Rohmer's Troubled Tales Of the Four Seasons

Boy, I can remember Janus announcing their new 2k restorations (yes, newer than the French blu-rays') of these films like three years ago.  Last year, I started to worry that they didn't actually plan to put them out on disc.  But now, finally, they're here: all four of Eric Rohmer's Tales Of the Four Seasons, scanned from their original negatives, in an attractive, if a little troubled, blu-ray boxed set from Criterion.

"Troubled?"  Yes.  The subtitles stop working about two-thirds of the way through the documentary The Making Of a Tale Of Summer, and they don't come back: a serious problem if you're not fluent in French.  Watch this space for news of a replacement program, but so far: mum from Criterion.

Update 2/26/24: Just got an email from Criterion confirming they've investigated the issue and will be issuing a replacement program for the Summer disc.  Details are still pending; I'll update again!
The Tales Of the Four Seasons are four films Rohmer made from 1990-1998 (with a couple other films mixed in between).  One for each season, naturally, starting with A Tale Of Springtime.  As you'd expect, and as with the three subsequent films, Springtime is set during its titular season.  A philosophy professor who has two apartments but finds herself unable to stay in either one meets a student at a party who invites her to stay at her place.  She soon discovers this student has designs to set her up with her father, because she doesn't approve of his current, younger girlfriend.  You could take it as a pretty straight-forward romantic comedy or a Kantian exploration of how our imagination drives us.  But the intellectualizing never gets in the way of its endearing, polite and gently composed aesthetic.  And there's a mystery!  Can you solve the case of the missing necklace?
1) 2006 UK Artificial Eye DVD; 2) 2024 US Criterion BD.
Well, the jump from what Artificial Eye released on DVD in 2006 to today is vast.  The aspect ratio shift to 1.67:1 is presumably a welcome correction, as 1.52:1 was surely never correct.  It slightly crops the image vertically, but reveals more on the sides.  It's also quite yellow, which is a more controversial change you're going to see across this set.  According to the booklet, these new transfers were supervised by the DP and Rohmer's son, so we're presumably being asked to accept this as correct.  The DVD's whites are overblown, but it's certainly more naturally white-balanced.  But it's not a given that the most natural color-timing is always the director's preferred colored timing.  And admittedly, just watching the BD outside of a direct comparison, the film doesn't scream yellow as much as it does here.  I mean, I'm not suggesting it differs from the screenshots, but it hue is more subtle when it's not buttressed right up against a cooler, whiter variant.

And that aside, the jump to HD is a huge boost in clarity.  The DVD has a dupey, edge enhanced look, which is replaced with a far more nuanced and lifelike image.  Hell, the DVD is non-anamorphic, so this is a major upgrade if you're coming from that release.  Criterion's grain is a little spotty at points - this is a 2k scan on BD, not a 4k scan on UHD, but the DVD doesn't even suggest that film grain was ever part of the original image.  English subtitles are removable are all four discs in both sets, but of course only Criterion's original mono audio is lossless.
A Tale Of Winter is next.  A young woman and her lover are separated by a silly mistake, and years later she drifts between relationships, driving everyone around her crazy by refusing to fully commit to anyone new.  Will her faith carry her through her malaise or ruin her life?  This one takes some inspiration from Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, and as you can see, even produces a scene from it at one point.  But this isn't one of those loose remakes set in modern times, deal.  It's a distinctly different, and distinctly Rohmer, experience.
1) 2006 UK Artificial Eye DVD; 2) 2024 US Criterion BD.
The aspect ratios are closer this time: 1.61:1 vs 1.67:1, though Criterion's new scan pulls back to reveal a little more along all four sides.  The DVD is also non-anamorphic again, so you had to upgrade from it.  And yes, we have a yellow push again, though it's not as overt on this one.  All of the other season films were shot on 35mm, but this one's on 16mm, so it has a softer, less detail look to it.  But that's nothing compared to how the old DVD had it looking.  Except for the flecks and popping print damage (no longer present on the BD); you'd almost think it was shot on tape.  Criterion's grain is patchy in points, but their blu makes it feel like film again.  And of course, their audio is lossless PCM again.
For A Summer's Tale, Melvil Poupaud (currently appearing in Woody Allen's Coup de Chance), we have a song writer who gets stood up by his girlfriend on his shore vacation.  He befriends Amanda Langlet (Pauline of Pauline At the Beach), a waitress/ ethnographer who decides to set him up with one of her friends, leaving Melvil wracked with indecision, torn between the fleeting possibilities of a relationship with any of these three women.  Who will he choose... and will it matter anyway?  Transcendentalism, sea shanties and disco dancing all play crucial parts in our friend's fate.
1) 2006 UK Artificial Eye DVD; 2) 2024 US Criterion BD.
2024 US Criterion BD.
Well, at least Artificial Eye's DVD doesn't have a non-anamorphic issue this time, because this one's full-screen.  Criterion tweaks the AR from 1.33:1 to 1.37:1, though they actually reveal slivers along all four sides.  AE's video is noisy and low-fi, which the new blu greatly improves upon.  But, while you don't notice it in some dark scenes (though it's still there if you look carefully), we're leaning heavily into the yellow once again.  Is the sky blue or yellow?  Depends what disc you look at.  Just for fun, I took a shot from the Making Of a Tale Of Summer documentary[left], and the skies are blue there, too.  I've heard some studios are pushing transfers a little towards yellow because that replicates how film looks projected.  Or maybe these films were always supposed to have a warmer, gentler look and older transfers got it wrong in assuming a more traditional white balance?  I don't know.  But it is what it is.  I'm honestly not that mad at it, but it's hard not to talk about it when you're directly comparing these to how they used to look on home video.
Finally, in Autumn Tale, Rohmer regular Marie Riviere stars as a book seller who decides to meddle in her best friend (another Rohmer regular, Beatrice Romand)'s love life by finding her a man through personal ads.  But she doesn't know Beatrice's daughter is also trying to set her up with someone, her philosophy professor.  With dueling schemes coming to a head at a big wedding party, Autumn comes off as more of a straight-up comedy than the others.  And it doesn't hurt that these more mature characters wind up being more likeable, if no more relatable, than the capricious youth we've been getting accustomed to.  It's a nice way to send off this series.
1) 2006 UK Artificial Eye DVD; 2) 2024 US Criterion BD.
Both of these are fullscreen again, just shifting from 1.32:1 to 1.37:1, though interestingly, this time Criterion zooms in cropping information from all four sides compared to the DVD.  It's another rewarding boost from SD to HD; we can even read the names of all those authors on the poster in the first set of shots.  Yes, we also have the yellow push again and yes, the grain would definitely be captured better on a 4k disc... or even an Arrow BD.  But it's hard to complain about these discs in motion.  They're gorgeous films well preserved.
The Kreutzer Sonata
So let's talk extras!  Artificial Eye's boxed set, which consists of four amary cases inside a slipbox, included trailers for each film and radio interviews with Rohmer edited into four featurettes including narration and clips from the films.  Curiously, Criterion's set - a digipack in a slipbox of its own - doesn't have that stuff, not even the trailers.  They just have one (new?) trailer that advertises all four films.  And while they don't have AE's featurettes, they do include the Rohmer interviews isolated from the rest, just playing over a still image of tape reels.

Their biggest extra is the Making of a Tale of Summer, a featurette length documentary compiling behind-the-scenes footage of the filming, often then comparing it to lengthy clips of the movie.  It gives some pretty great, candid insight into Rohmer's process from that time, though the film clips aren't too helpful if you've just watched the movie beforehand.  A big problem on this disc, though, as I've mentioned at the top, is that the subtitles give out about two thirds of the way through.  So unless you're fluent in French, you only get to watch the first hour of the doc.  Hopefully, Criterion does something about this!
A Farmer In Montfaucon
Criterion has cooked up a pretty excellent, roughly 45-minute featurette that intercuts between all new interviews with some of Rohmer's key collaborators, including his DP, editor, sound engineer and producer.  They each have a lot to share, and we also explore Rohmer's house, which they're filming in.  Finally, there are two of Rohmer's early short films.  First is 1956's The Kreutzer Sonata, a Tolstoy adaptation from back when Rohmer wasn't yet shooting with synced sound.  It's made up for by using Tolstoy's grim text as on-going narration.  Second is 1968's A Farmer In Montfaucon, which is a fairly matter-of-factual documentary the life of a farming woman, who gets a little more introspective at the end.

Also included is a colorful, 30-page booklet with notes by critic Imogen Sara Smith, which might help you find a deeper appreciation for these works.
Bottom line, these aren't cutting edge transfers, but they're pretty attractive and huge upgrades from the AE DVDs I've got.  The extras are quite good, but perhaps not as plentiful as one would expect.  If you've already got earlier BD versions, it may be a tougher decision whether to double-dip, especially since this is an expensive ($99) set... and unless Criterion does something about it, a defective one.  But they usually do, and often for less consequential issues, so I have hope!

The Strange Oeuvre of Coffin Joe, Part 4

The day I thought  nobody ever thought would arrive is here: the day Jose Mojica Marins classic films have been released in HD.  Well, most of 'em, anyway.  Arrow's new 6-disc boxed set 'Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe' features all-new restorations of nine of his most famous films from the 60s and 70s, as well as Embodiment of Evil from 2008, and packs in a whole ton of documentaries, shorts, special features and swag.  For Coffin Joe fans, this is a big deal.

It also has to be noted that a replacement program is currently in effect because the subtitles for Awakening Of the Beast are broken.  And unless you're fluent in Portuguese, you need 'em to watch the movie; it's no small detail.
Update 3/25/24: And now they're here! If you buy this set new, now, you should have the replacement disc already in the package. But to be sure, you might want to double-check against the above photo, which shows the code on the new version with the functioning subtitles (specifically, you want it to end in "V3").

So I've updated the pages where I already covered most of these films with the new blu-ray versions.  Everything else we'll be looking at right here.  So click the links below for the following films:
...But if you just want a lightning quick verdict, I'll spare you the trouble.  They're all solid upgrades.  Some are a little more subtle in their jumps in PQ than others, in large part because some were scanned from their original negatives, while others had to use other sources.  Comparing some of the later films in particular to their old DVDs will really make you say wow.  Yes, they've really made genuine HD upgrades for all of them, despite some suggestion in the past that it would be impossible.  Go see for yourselves.

Now, the biggest thing that leaves to cover here is easily 1972's never-before-released When the Gods Fall Asleep, a sequel to The End of Man.  Our man Fin escapes from the asylum once again, only to this time find himself in the middle of a gang war in the local slums.  After a while he gives a speech about man's ability to reason and breaks it all up.  This catches the attention of a Satanic cult, who decide that Finis must be some kind of representative of Lucifer.  But after a while, he shows up and gives another speech, convincing them to stop their sacrifice.  Then he breaks up a fight at a wedding and another at a brothel.  At this point, the movie's already almost over, and I won't spoil the "twist," but it ain't much of one.
Along the way, though, Marins recruits an impressive amount of extras and does show us some sights: a couple having sex in a barrel, a prostitute pooping in a broken toilet.  Look, I didn't say they were good or appealing sights.  The look is bright and colorful, though, except for a few scenes which inexplicably dip into black and white.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for the switching; it just happens.  Jaunty, needle drop music helps perk up the proceedings, but I don't think I'd recommend this movie to anyone but diehard completists.
2024 Arrow BD.
When the Gods Fall Asleep comes from a fresh 4k scan of the only existing 35mm print, and looks pretty good from such a limited source.  It's bright and clear, though I'm sure it could've been a bit sharper if the original negatives had been available.  But if I didn't know, I would have guessed this was from a closer source, like an interpositive, than just a print.  The colors are strong without being over-saturated, looking faded in only a few shots.  A few of the black and white shots look a little more worse for the wear, too, suggesting perhaps that Marins used lower quality film for a few shots.  The original 1.37:1 is perfectly preserved and damage appears occasionally, mostly in the form of vertical scratches, but it's fairly minor.  And the film grain is thorough and natural, suggesting about as good an encode as you could hope for without an actual UHD disc.

The original LPCM Portuguese audio is a little rough and echo-y, but I'm sure it's as good as the film has ever sounded.  And the English subtitles are removable, with just one or two little errors I spotted throughout (like "liveforms" in the opening monologue).
So let's get into the special features, not just for this film, but the whole set.  It's a long list.  I'm color-coding it to distinguish between those new to this set (red), and those carried over from previous Coffin Joe releases (black):
  • Audio commentaries by Marins, filmmaker Paulo Duarte & expert Carlos Primati on At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, The Strange World of Coffin Joe, Awakening Of the Beast, End of Man and Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind, and a commentary by producer Paulo Sacramento & co-screenwriter Dennison Ramalho on Embodiment of Evil
  • Video essay by expert Lindsay Hallam
  • Bloody Kingdom, his 1950 short film with Marin's commentary
  • Clips from his other early works The Adventurer's Fate and My Destiny In Your Hands
  • Strange World alternate ending (with optional commentary by Marins)
  • A 90 minute retrospective by expert Stephen Thrower
  • Video essay by expert Miranda Corcoran
  • Alternate Awakening Of the Beast opening credits 
  • Video essay by expert Guy Adams
  • Video essay by expert Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • Video essay by expert Virginie Sélavy
  • Video essay by expert Jack Sargeant
  • Interview with Dennison Ramalho
  • Archival 2001 Sundance footage
  • A Blind Date for Coffin Joe (short film)
  • Video essay by expert Andrew Leavold
  • Video essay by expert Kat Ellinger
  • A second part of that interview with Dennison Ramalho
  • Footage of Marins at the 2009 Fantasia Film Festival Premiere
  • A massive 90-minute Zoom chat with Dennison Ramalho
  • Official Embodiment Making Of
  • "Experimental" Embodiment Making Of
  • Embodiment deleted scenes with commentary by Marins
  • Brief visual effects featurette with commentary by Marins
  • Brief storyboards featurette with commentary by Marins
  • Ten original trailers for the films in this set
TL;DR, they carried over a few things, created a whole bunch of new extras with their own usual cadre of experts, and still left many of the interviews and other vintage materials from the Portuguese set behind, still frustratingly never translated into English.  The real coup are the commentaries, which technically aren't new, but have been subtitled from the Portuguese discs into English for the very first time, and that definitely counts!  It's too bad they didn't carry over and translate all that other great stuff, but finally getting to listen to most of Marins' commentaries is awesome.

Even stuff that Synapse saved from the Portuguese set, like interviews with Marins and his museum tour, or the crazy new scene he created for At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, have been left behind.  So we took our two forward, but also the step backwards there.  The Fantoma interviews and Mondo Macabro's Coffin Joe documentary have also been left out.  Demons and Wonders isn't here either, let alone all of the wild, untranslated extras on that disc.  So yeah, you'll have to hang on to pretty much all of your old DVDs.  I so much would have preferred just getting the cool, existing extras carried over and translated when needed than most of the new stuff by experts, but oh well.  There's no arguing that this is a pretty packed set, with at least some absolutely essential bonus features.
not the real Coffin Joe.
Of the expert stuff, it's interesting just to hear all the varying ways they pronounce "Jose."  Stephen Thrower's is less a visual essay and more a lecture towards camera with occasional cut-ins, but it's also the most informational and worth your time.  Some of the other ones are too breezy and feel like they're just giving a brief overview of what anyone who's buying a set like this would already know, or just pointing out what you'd clearly see on screen yourself once you've watched the films.  They tend to all use the same film clips, too.  So you're going to see the same signature shots over and over, which makes the temptation to skip some of these increasingly tempting.  Well, I've watched 'em all and yeah, just watch Thrower's.

The Blind Date for Coffin Joe is a genuinely funny short film that's been on Youtube, but I'm glad it made its way here, and it's cool that we got more Embodiment of Evil stuff than Synapse and Anchor Bay were able to provide, especially the deleted scenes.  The packaging and physical bonuses are impressive, too.  The whole thing comes in a solid box with a lift-off lid housing six amary cases with reversible artwork (though it's a little annoying that each film only gets printed on one side, including the spine, making it an unnecessarily irritating challenge to figure out which films are on which discs).  There's also a double-sided fold-out poster, a substantial, 90-page full-color book, an art card for every film, a bonus art card, an especially fun replication of Coffin Joe's business card as seen in the original film, and a card for another Arrow release (mine was the Spaghetti western Matalo).
And, of course, this still isn't a complete collection of Marin's films.  Between his more recent work and television stuff, there's at least enough material for a Volume 2, if Arrow feels up for it (and if the rights are feasible).  I certainly don't miss his porno stuff, but a few films, especially The Strange Exorcism of Coffin Joe, are conspicuous in their absence.  Stuff like The Hour of Fear, Trilogy of Terror, The Curse and The Plague would be great.  I fear, like with Criterion's massive Bergman box, fans will get it and think they have everything, leaving the remaining work to fade into obscurity.  But also like the Criterion box, I never thought we'd get a release half this fantastic.  I mean, I can remember Synapse explaining how we'd never get the original Coffin Joes in anything better than their DVDs because the film elements had dissolved into dust, and yet here we are - huzzah!