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John Cassavetes: Five Films (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1976)

Anthony Ray , Lelia Goldoni , John Cassavetes  |  Unrated |  Blu-ray
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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John Cassavetes: Five Films (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + La Notte (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + The Uninvited (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Anthony Ray, Lelia Goldoni, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, Hugh Hurd
  • Directors: John Cassavetes
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: October 22, 2013
  • Run Time: 746 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00DZP1C2M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,148 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

  • High-definition digital restorations of all five films
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtracks
  • High-def restoration of the 1978 version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
  • A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes (2000)
  • Interviews with actor Lelia Goldoni and Seymour Cassel about Shadows
  • Silent footage from the Cassavetes-Lane Drama Workshop
  • Restoration demonstration for Shadows
  • Alternate eighteen-minute opening sequence for Faces
  • Episode of the French television series Cineastes de notre temps
  • Making "Faces," a 2004 documentary
  • Al Ruban on Lighting and Shooting "Faces," a new program
  • Audio commentary for A Woman Under the Influence
  • Conversation between Rowlands and actor Peter Falk
  • Interviews with actor Ben Gazzara and Ruban
  • Conversation between Rowlands and Gazzara about Opening Night
  • Interview with Ruban from 2004 about Opening Night
  • Audio interviews with Cassavetes from the 1970s
  • Trailers
  • Stills and poster galleries
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Gary Giddins, Kent Jones, and more!

  • Editorial Reviews

    John Cassavetes was a genius, a visionary, and the progenitor of American independent film, but that doesn’t begin to get at the generosity of his art. A former theater actor fascinated by the power of improvisation, Cassavetes brought his search for truth in performance to the screen. The five films in this collection—all of which the director maintained total control over by financing them himself and making them outside the studio system—are electrifying and compassionate creations, populated by all manner of humanity: beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, children. Cassavetes has often been called an actor’s director, but this body of work—even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts—shows him to be an audience’s director.

    SHADOWS (1959)

  • 82 minutes
  • Black & White
  • Monaural
  • 1.33:1 aspect ratio John Cassavetes’s directorial debut revolves around a romance in New York City between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship is put in jeopardy when Tony meets Lelia’s darker-skinned jazz singer brother, Hugh (Hugh Hurd), and discovers that her racial heritage is not what he thought it was. Shot on location in Manhattan with a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, Shadows is a penetrating work that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement.

    FACES (1968)

  • 130 minutes
  • Black & White
  • Monaural
  • 1.66:1 aspect ratio John Cassavetes puts a disintegrating marriage under the microscope in the searing Faces. Shot in high-contrast 16 mm black and white, the film follows the futile attempts of the captain of industry Richard (The Godfather’s John Marley) and his wife, Maria (Taking Off’s Lynn Carlin), to escape the anguish of their empty relationship in the arms of others. Featuring astonishingly nervy performances from Marley, Carlin, and Cassavetes regulars Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence) and Seymour Cassel (Rushmore), Faces confronts modern alienation and the battle of the sexes with a brutal honesty and compassion rarely matched in cinema.


  • 147 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio) This uncompromising portrait of domestic turmoil details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. Gena Rowlands (Faces) and Peter Falk (Wings of Desire) give unforgettably harrowing performances as a married couple deeply in love but unable to express their ardor in terms the other can understand. This landmark American film is perhaps the most beloved work from the extraordinary John Cassavetes.


  • 135 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 1978 version
  • 108 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio) John Cassavetes engages with film noir in his own inimitable style with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara (Anatomy of a Murder) brilliantly portrays a gentleman’s club owner, Cosmo Vitelli, desperately committed to maintaining a facade of suave gentility despite the seediness of his environment and his own unhealthy appetites. When he runs afoul of loan sharks, Cosmo must carry out a terrible crime or lose his way of life. Mesmerizing and idiosyncratic, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a provocative examination of masculine identity. It is presented here in two versions: Cassavetes’s original 1976 edit and his 1978 one, nearly thirty minutes shorter.

    OPENING NIGHT (1977)

  • 144 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio. While in the midst of rehearsals for her latest play, Broadway actor Myrtle Gordon (A Woman Under the Influence’s Gena Rowlands) witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, after which she begins to confront the chaos of her own life. Headlined by a virtuoso performance by Rowlands, John Cassavetes’s Opening Night lays bare the drama of a performer who, at great personal cost, makes a part her own, and it functions as a metaphor for the director’s singular, wrenched-from-the-heart creative method.

  • Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars The Father of American Indie Cinema! October 11, 2004
    By Cubist
    John Cassavetes was an artist who believed that filmmaking's salvation lay in "individual expression" and applied this belief to his own movies. He is often credited as the father of American independent cinema and to be sure without him there would be no Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch or John Sayles. For years, fans of Cassavetes' movies have had to suffer with grainy copies and substandard transfers on DVD (or, quite often no availability at all). The folks at Criterion have answered their prayers with a fantastic box set with five of the man's movies and Charles Kiselyak's epic documentary.

    The Shadows disc features an interview with one of the film's stars, Lelia Goldini, who talks about how she met Cassavetes and her impressions of the man. She also covers the improv exercises that he would stage and how they developed into the movie. There is also an interview with Seymour Cassel who reminisces about how he met Cassavetes and how he got a job on the crew making Shadows. A real find is never-before-seen silent footage of rehearsals for the film in Cassavetes' acting workshop. Also included is featurette examining the painstaking restoration process that transformed the original print into this new glorious version. Finally, there is an excellent behind-the-scenes still gallery and a trailer.

    Faces features an alternate opening sequence that was originally screened in Toronto and rearranges the chronology of scenes. "Cineastes de Notre Temps" is a French TV program that interviewed Cassavetes in '65 while he was making Faces and then again in '68 after it had been screened. The first interview finds him in a playful mood as he jokes about making a musical of Crime and Punishment.
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    25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion's most amazing collection to date June 4, 2006
    John Cassavetes - Five Films is, perhaps, Criterion's most ambitious project to date. The box set is absolutely amazing. Other reviews have done a good job of explaining the extras, so I won't repeat that information. The topic of Ray Carney has been the focus of much anger and frustration amongst Cassavetes fans and deserves some explanation. It is my understanding that Carney, the foremost Cassavetes scholar and author of "Cassavetes on Cassavetes", was almost solely responsible for the creation of this collection. He had a hand in everything and the set is the result of much hard work. His name was left off of the set at the last minute because of a dispute with Cassavetes' wife, Gena Rowlands. Ray Carney felt, as any scholar should, that the truth was important and did not make any attempt to hide any of the negative aspects of Cassavetes's life. This was completely unacceptable to Rowlands who threatened to kill the project unless Carney's name was removed completely. This also included the omission of several audio commentaries provided by Carney. What a shame! Contrary to the highly specious "documentary", A Constant Forge, Cassavetes was no saint. Who cares? Well, Gena Rowlands does.

    Everything about this set is quite impressive. The book contains many thoughtful essays and insights into these complex and sometimes difficult films. The only weakness is the worthless "documentary". Don't be fooled - Charles Kiselyak is no Cassavetes scholar. Supposedly, he had never even heard of Cassavetes before he began filming. Again, Ray Carney provided all the factual information, which Kiselyak decided to discard in favor of crafting an "inspirational" narrative. A Constant Forge frequently feels more like a bizarre attempted beatification than an objective study of a real person.
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    12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Fitting tribute September 22, 2004
    Thank you, Criterion-- you've done it again. An incredible contrast to the awful Pioneer "special editions" still on the market. Get this set now. What emerges is not just Cassavetes' incredible body of work, but in the 3-hour-plus documentary and the numerous vintage pieces, audio interviews, etc., we get a sense of the greatness of this flawed human being. His life and personality (as it comes through in the supplements) are inspiring enough to stand on their own, but placed in context, this set is both a bargain and a spiritual necessity for anyone who loves movies.
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    8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion's largest release yet ! February 27, 2005
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    This 8 disc box set contains five films by renowned independent film director John Cassavetes and a documentary about him.

    "Shadows" is about a biracial woman and her two half brothers. One is black and the other is white. She has a strong friendship with both of them but when they meet each other for the first time, tragedy occurs.

    "Faces" is about a woman and the disintegration of her marriage.

    "A Woman Under the Influence" is about a woman with mental health problems which affect her and put a burden on her husband (Peter Falk, best known for Columbo) and three children.

    "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" is about a strip club owner who is having financial problems. When his gambling debts threaten to bankrupt him, he kills his bookie.

    "Opening Night" is about a woman who is a stage actor and having problems with her health which threaten to cancel the first performance of a new play.

    "A Constant Forge" is a documentary about the life of the filmmaker John Cassavetes.

    Each film is quite good and I liked "Woman Under the Influence" the best. Cassavetes was the one who put independent films on the map and often worked on shoestring budgets. His wife, Gena Rowlands was often cast in lead roles of his films and he rejected claims of nepotism frequently.

    "Faces" and "Killing of a Chinese Bookie" are in two disc sets. Each film includes special features or supplements.

    "Shadows" contains interviews with a few cast members, behind the scenes photos, a theatrical trailer, and an extensive restoration demonstration.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Published 7 days ago by Verner
    5.0 out of 5 stars A most worthy consideration.
    This being my first foray into Mr Cassavetes' work (Dirty Dozen notwithstanding!), I was led to this set after considering the previous Criterion dvd set, and pending blu. Read more
    Published 9 months ago by Jrum C.
    5.0 out of 5 stars Extensive Box Set of Gems from One of America's Most Important...
    One could easily say that John Cassavettes defined American Realism, and this box set released by The Criterion Collection has the balls to back it up. Read more
    Published 12 months ago by macdougallgreen6
    5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Genius Artist
    John Cassavetes is brilliant. Gena Rowlands is the greatest actress of all time. Peter Falk is ridiculous. If you don't know Cassavetes, you need to know Cassavetes. Kwim?
    Published 17 months ago by Cuppa Goo
    4.0 out of 5 stars High-Caliber Cassavetes Film Collection
    I think all serious film fans with any sense of the history of independent cinema will regard this as a standout addition to their collections. Read more
    Published 20 months ago by Maximo
    5.0 out of 5 stars Too much trouble!!
    I simply have no patience with those who deprecate self-interest. They show a
    complete distain for one of the most fundamental aspect of our existence on this
    earth. Read more
    Published 20 months ago by Paul D. Gilbert
    Without the genius of Cassavettes, these films and this boxset will have been impossible. Work of art! These are DVD masterpieces of film-making masterpieces. Read more
    Published on October 29, 2010 by HAN XIAO
    5.0 out of 5 stars FABULOUS
    Published on January 25, 2009 by Frank C. Taglieri
    5.0 out of 5 stars good price, fast shipping, thanks!
    the price was good and the product was shipped in a timely manner. My only complaint is that the booklet fell apart when first opened.
    Published on January 19, 2008 by Ashley B. Macon
    5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and beautiful and raw depictions of how vulnerable we can be
    The theme that all of the indispensable films in this set return to is how vulnerable we can be. At bottom what each of us wants is to be respected, to be acknowledged and to be... Read more
    Published on October 16, 2007 by Nathan Andersen
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