Saturday, January 14, 2006

At Last On DVD From the Criteria Selection: The Compleat Bleak


Yes, it may seem too much like an uncontrollable sequence of muscular contractions to be true, but this is no evil dream! The Criteria Selection is restoring all of the classic Bleak films, from his early classic two-minute stereopticon peep-show seven-reelers of 1907 to his epic Western shoot-em-downs in 280-mm Monovision from the 1960s.

First up: Bleak's groundshattering musical breakout from 1933, Zigfeld Damsels of 1927. This naughty, expressionistic, and grimly naturalistic screwball tunefest was so controversial that its release was delayed six years by a skittish studio, then surreptitiously released for a few days on a double bill with Alfalfa in Love before being quickly withdrawn when shocked audiences refused to attend. All three copies were thought to have been thrown in the trash, then ruthlessly suppressed by the Hays Office in 1934.

The Criteria Selection has spared no little effort in bringing to you this legendary masterpiece, in the same pristine condition as when you saw it in a grainy 8 mm version in your neighbor's cellar in 1963. Working from several separate VHS editions in full EP mode, consulting with still extant actor-director Bleak, and filling in missing sequences with carefully selected clips from other public domain movies, we are now proud to present the original director's cut, never seen by the public in this form, and now available to cineastes and connoisseurs everywhere in a bulky three-disc set (payment plan available.)

Disc One contains the original version seized by Customs in 1927, along with on-screen commentary by Bleak, Weimar historian J. Alfred Prufrock, leading bimbo Doxie Dimple, and the irrepressible Anne Hedonia. Disc Two contains the fascinating 2005 documentary, "The Making and Restoration of the 2005 Commentary to Zigfield Damsels of 1927," with on-screen commentary by the commentators. Disc Three contains the unexpurgated and notorious German-subtitled version, whose translations will delight and perplex you, and whose infamous "You've been a bad girl, Lolly" scene is seamlessly edited into several places in the film where it may have originally appeared.

You can't afford not to fail to neglect to pass this one up if you're any kind of decent human being.

(Ships within 48 hours after full credit check.)