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Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films

4.0 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

50 Years, 50 Films

One Spectacular DVD Box Set Janus Films opened American viewers’ eyes to the pleasures of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut at the height of their artistic powers. Celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this world-renowned distribution company with Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films, an expansive collectors’ box set featuring fifty classic films on DVD and a lavishly illustrated hardcover book that tells the story of Janus Films through an essay by film historian Peter Cowie, a tribute from Martin Scorsese, and notes on each of the fifty films.

• Eight Academy Awards

• Twenty-eight Academy Award nominations

• Two Palme d’or awards

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Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films is a 50-disc celebration of international films collected under the auspices of the groundbreaking theatrical distributor. Packaged in a heavy slipcase set (remember, lift with your legs, not your back), one volume contains the DVDs in sturdy cardboard pages; the other volume is a hardback book with introductory essays and essays about each of the films. Janus Films is the precursor to the Criterion Collection, and this set is far and away the most beautiful art object the company has ever created. The substantial and subdued packaging is meant to stand the test of time, as are the films immortalized within. From The Seventh Seal to Jules and Jim to M and Pygmalion and The 39 Steps, this exquisite set is the art house DVD release of 2006, if not the decade.

The 200-page book provides context for the films and is worth reading in its own right. Martin Scorcese offers a brief and celebratory introduction, reminiscing about the thrill of seeing the antiquated Janus Films logo when attending a movie in one of New York City's art house theaters. Film historian Peter Cowie's essay about the history of art house cinema in America casts light on how films by directors like Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman first found American audiences. These days it's easy to take for granted our access to films from around the globe, but in the early 20th century it was only due to the efforts of a passionate few that these great films found theatrical life in the United States. Many of these films, particularly those from Europe, boasted more liberal attitudes about such things as sex and war, facing the threat of censorship and hostility from Hollywood-fed audiences who weren't accustomed to considering films as works of art. Janus Films evolved as a way to bridge these cultural gaps, introducing Americans to foreign sensibilities and big-screen stories that transcended language.

What DVDs Are Included?
The DVDs presented represent the cream of the crop of the Janus Films catalog, and the best of the Criterion Collection's bar-setting technical sophistication. Six of the films are being debuted on DVD on the occasion of the set's release, though they may be released separately later. These include Fires on the Plain, The Fallen Idol, Pandora's Box, Le Jour Se Leve, Miss Julie, and Three Documentaries by Saul J. Turell. Fans of copious extra features should take note--the discs contain only the films themselves. Those wishing to dig into the two bonus discs of material offered with Criterion's latest release of Seven Samurai, say, won't find that opportunity here. As for the selection of films, cinephiles may get into arguments about what's included and what's not, but any film school student would be far ahead of the game by devouring these fifty films. The treasures are listed below. --Ryan Boudinot

ALEXANDER NEVSKY (1938)
ASHES AND DIAMONDS (1958)
L'AVVENTURA (1960)
BALLAD OF A SOLDIER (1959)
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1946)
BLACK ORPHEUS (1959)
BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945)
THE FALLEN IDOL (1948)
FIRES ON THE PLAIN (1959)
FISTS IN THE POCKET (1965)
FLOATING WEEDS (1959)
FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952)
THE 400 BLOWS (1959)
GRAND ILLUSION (1937)
HÄXAN (1922)
IKIRU (1952)
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (1952)
IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PART II (1958)
LE JOUR SE LÈVE (1939)
JULES AND JIM (1962)
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949)
KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962)
THE LADY VANISHES (1938)
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)
LOVES OF A BLONDE (1965)
M (1931)
M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY (1953)
MISS JULIE (1951)
PANDORA'S BOX (1929)
PÉPÉ LE MOKO (1937)
IL POSTO (1961)
PYGMALION (1938)
RASHOMON (1950) RICHARD III (1955)
THE RULES OF THE GAME (1939)
SEVEN SAMURAI (1954)
THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957)
THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (1973)
LA STRADA (1954)
SUMMERTIME (1955)
THE THIRD MAN (1949)
THE 39 STEPS (1935)
UGETSU (1953)
UMBERTO D. (1952)
THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960)
VIRIDIANA (1961)
THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953)
THE WHITE SHEIK (1952)
WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957)
THREE DOCUMENTARIES BY SAUL J. TURELL


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveira
  • Directors: Benjamin Christensen, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Andrzej Wajda, Anthony Asquith
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English, French, Russian
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 50
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 24, 2006
  • Run Time: 5347 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000I5YUE4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,952 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is certainly the most remarkable collection of films to come out in one DVD package. And I would really like to thank Criterion for overpricing their DVDs so much that I had very little overlap with my existing library, having passed on most of their editions of these films. Here are a few observations that might be of use to potential buyers:

1) the widescreen movies are anamorphic

2) Haxen is 104 min, substantially longer than the 77 min version that has shown on premium cable.

3) I compared the Janus versions of two films, Wages of Fear and Seven Samurai, with the Criterion versions I had. I expected them to be identical (figuring that Criterion probably did the work for Janus) but they were considerably different. In both cases, the Janus copies were amazingly superior: much better (and louder)sound, crisper images with fewer defects, much better definition in shadowy areas, and a much more stable image. I never realized how poor the Criterion prints were until I saw the comparison. It's amazing the psychological effect of all that. In both cases, I was strongly tempted to continue watching the whole film with Janus, and found the Criterion copy 'tiring'. The translations also differed, with Janus having fewer errors (e.g. Samurai's "the rice we're eating now" v.s. "the rice we're eating, how"). I cannot wait to watch the rest of these films.

3. I could detect no difference between Anchor Bay's and Janus's Kind Hearts and Coronets.

4. The print of Lady Vanishes is the clearest I've seen. The el cheapo Brentwood print, in their Hitchcock collection, is unwatchable.

5. The one really bad aspect of the collection is that the DVDs are wedged tightly into paper slots.
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Re: The previous reviewer's points: The product info is somewhat vague on this, but this set is put out by Criterion. As the comment on that review says, any differences vs. earlier Criterion releases are attributable to upgrades made in later editions. Seven Samurai and M have been upgraded since their original Criterion release, and there may be other cases among the films collected here. On another point, it's true that individual Criterion releases are expensive, but they usually include many extras of interest to cinephiles. If price is your main consideration, this package is a great way to get Criterion quality at a lower price per disc (although without the extras). I will be ordering one at some point, even though I already have about a dozen of the films, just because it looks to be a gorgeous package. FYI, there is a review in the NY Times today (11/7/2006) that provides some historical background on Janus and Criterion.
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I would like to notify everyone who got scared about this set when they heard the dvds came in outrageoulsy tight slots that either this has been changed, it never was true, or i have an exeptionally awsome set because mine is not that way at all. In my set every page of the DVD book has 4 dvds that are in slots that are not too tight or loose. You do not have to induvidually unwrap the dvds or anything, just open up the book, and pull a dvd out. I have been pulling these discs out and putting back in and have seen absolutely no damage done. Not one of the movies has skipped yet. I have seen no "flecks of paper" and none of my DVDs "felt like they were glued to the page" like -a movie fan's-. I strongly suggest everyone with a film appretiation to buy this set, even if you already have a few from the set. It is definatally worth it. And about the special features, I would like to inform anyone turned off by the fact that there are none that there is a 200 page book that comes with the set. That book has rare posters, photographs, the history of revolutionary JANUS and a page description of every film - the context of time and place the film came out, a little about the director and actors, the impact the film had, the meaning behind the film, etc. If that is not enough for you, then...sorry. I personally dont mind, considering the internet exists for any other information about the film I want to know.
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There is good propaganda, and bad. Alexander Nevsky obviously falls into the former category. So much about this film seems prophetic. Done in 1938, the former Soviet Union stood on the brink of war, as did the rest of the world at that time. This is a film that celebrates the heroic Slavic spirit of yore. There were also many useful similarities for comparison. Like 13th Century Rus, Russia in 1938 faced enemies both to the East and West. A recent victory over the Japanese in 1938 helped to erase memories of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and it seems no coincidence that Eisenstein was allowed to make this film at that time. Make no mistake about it, this is a film born out of

Soviet-Stalinist propaganda of the period. No viewer can truly understand this film without understanding that reality.

In its scope and production value one is reminded of a simlier film done in Facist Italy around this time celebrating the exploits of Ancient Rome - "Scipio Africanus." Both films draw on inspirational leaders of the past to serve up useful propaganda for the present.

In this film Rus is besiged on all sides by enemies. The Mongols had conquiered much of the land by this time. To the West there are the Crusading Teutonic Knights seeking to exercise a Lebenstraum of their own in the 13th Century. Nevsky, a local prince seems the natural leader that the great city of Novgorod needs. Again, we see nationalistic ideas expressed here that were surely beyond the outlook of the time. Few could have had any notion of a greater Rus in such Feudal times. For Eisenstein's propaganda we must have a strong and inspirational Alexander Nevsky. The actor who plays him is certainly impressive looking, but hardly any great thespian!
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