Criterion Triple-Play: Badlands, Monsieur Verdoux, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Criterion knocked it out of the park this March with these three films, each with its own devoted following, each wonderfully supplemented but best of all, each one the recipient of an outstanding restoration, two of them in forward-thinking 4K resolution.

Badlands (The Criterion Collection)

Badlands was released in 1973, a fictional tale but one not-so-obscurely based upon the real life Starkweather homicides of the 1950s. (The movie was reportedly an inspiration for Bruce Springsteen's 1978 song of the same name, and the events later found their way into Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire.") This first feature film from Terrence Malick boasts memorable performances from its two baby-faced stars, Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, cast as young paramours Kit and Holly who have a knack for amassing dead bodies as they follow the path of true love. But the killings take a backseat to this unique romance, with Malick (who also wrote the screenplay) never seeming to judge the particularly complicated Kit.

This Blu-ray boasts a spectacular new 4K digital restoration of the 1.85:1 original, as photographed by Tak Fujimoto, Stevan Larner and Brian Probyn, plus a surprisingly good uncompressed monaural soundtrack. We're fortunate to still have stars Sheen and Spacek with us new to participate in 40th-anniversary interviews, along with production designer Jack Fisk, all part of a new retrospective documentary. These are in addition to recent sit-downs with film editor Billy Weber and producer Edward Pressman. The terrific disc is director-approved, but Mr. Malick remains otherwise as enigmatic (and camera-shy) as ever.

Monsieur Verdoux (The Criterion Collection)

Well into the talkie phase of Charlie Chaplin's long career, he played the title character in his extremely dark "comedy," Monsieur Verdoux. Memories of the affable little tramp are shattered by Verdoux, a strange fellow who marries rich widows and murders them for their money. The auteur's comedic gifts are still in evidence and he even manages to conjure a bit of sympathy, but the film grows increasingly heavy and preachy as it plods along, and it was ultimately seen as a major turning point for Chaplin, and not in the good kind. Still, like most of Charlie's movies, this one is fascinating to watch through modern eyes.

The new 2K digital restoration yields a crisp 4:3 black-and-white master, surely the best this movie has ever look on home video, earning its rightful place alongside other Chaplin special editions from The Criterion Collection over the past few years. Extras include a 2003 behind-the-scenes program ported from DVD, plus a new documentary and a new video essay.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (The Criterion Collection)

One of the most revered British films of all time, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was co-directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a glorious Technicolor production that brilliantly explores the changing social climate within England from the pre-World War I era through to World War II. Its bold dramatic structure tells the story of an unlikely friendship between erstwhile enemies Clive (Roger Livesey) and Theo (Anton Walbrook), a devoutly patriotic Brit and German, respectively. We can only imagine the uproar it must have caused upon its release, two years before the liberation of Europe.

Last year The Film Foundation undertook a restoration which led to the creation of a 4K digital master, the results of which are clean and sumptuously rich. Super-fan Martin Scorsese's audio commentary with the late Powell may be archival, but his on-camera introduction and restoration demo are both new. Two recently produced featurettes are also presented here.

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