The quality of the films are not in doubt and if you found your way here then there’s a fair chance you know Kubrick’s work so I won’t waste your time on a cursory summary of each, instead I’ll give you an idea of my struggle with the new collection which comprises the later films in the director’s career: A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, Lolita and Barry Lyndon.
It’s been an exhausting week and a half taking in the seven films and as many extras as I could manage; these are not films to have on in the background when other tasks are carried out. They demand (and reward) your complete attention. I’d seen the films before on TV, VHS tapes, the DVDs and now the Blus arrive and the question arises – do you upgrade your treasured set of Kubricks? The answer depends on how much new material you want, and your desire to have the high-definition experience.
What you need to know is that this boxset marks the Blu-ray debut of Lolita and Barry Lyndon, the other films have been previously released on Blu-ray and aren’t embellished with a whole host of new extras here. Indeed, the special features for the two new films are limited to a trailer yet the quality of the films and the transfer go some way to make up for the lack of adornments. If you were to buy the two new films at full price individually the cost would approach the total price of this boxset.
The chance to have any of Kubrick’s films in high-definition is too good an opportunity to pass up, though I’m glad I waited for this set to come out as it’s a decent price for the set, has a perfunctory but welcome hardbacked book with brief introductions to each film. It’s always a far more seductive option to hand over your hard earned cash for a collection of films rather than pick them up one by one and the two HD debuts complete the persuasive argument.
The black and white Americana of Lolita sizzles on-screen and the quality is the best it’s ever been while the colours and candlelight of Barry Lyndon look incredible. In the new HD transfer I saw details I had never seen before and there were moments when I simply could not look away. Barry Lyndon is not my favourite Kubrick but I was always able to appreciate its visual beauty and that consideration is redoubled with this Blu-ray edition, some shots of the landscape are breath taking. I’m certainly in a minority in liking Eyes Wide Shut, but I’ll happily defend it and the transfer here isn’t great but the sound, particularly in the ‘party’ scenes with the simple, haunting succession of piano keys being struck hits you in the gut.
There is awit and invention in every film; you only have to be swept up in the Steadicam shots as we follow Danny Lloyd trundling through the empty corridors of the Overlook hotel, or the brilliant first scene showdown between James Mason and Peter Sellers in Lolita to know that Kubrick was gracious, yet demanding with his films and the rewards are many. I’m grateful for this boxset’s arrival not only because I’ve never seen Kubrick’s work looking so good, but I had the chance to revisit the films and, in some cases more than others, see them anew.
It’s not too much of a leap to imagine Kubrick wanting his films to be seen in the best way possible and this boxset is certainly that. I still would have appreciated a few more new extras on the discs, not least with the 50th anniversary of Kubrick’s Lolita around the corner and if you’ve got the DVDs then you won’t see a vast difference in the line up of special features.
While I lament the film which didn’t make it into the set (the omission of Dr. Strangelove and Spartacus increasingly puzzles me) and I had seen virtually all of the extras before, including the fascinating Life in Pictures documentary, there is a thrill in having a well crafted set of Kubrick’s work on Blu-ray. As I watched the films one by one I was engrossed in the sheer force of the director’s strength and presence, the intelligence of his choices which showed a skill bordered on the intimidating.
At his best he elevated the art of filmmaking, dulling even the brightest of his competitors with his dazzling displays. When a filmmaker helps you realise the potential for the medium, and asks you questions rather than spinning a familiar yarn with misdirection and a lack of love for the process, you take notice and cinema is better for having Kubrick’s films, and I’d want everyone to see his films. This is a great place to start.
Stanley Kubrick: Visionary Filmmaker Collection on Blu-ray is out now.
A Clockwork Orange:
- Malcolm McDowell Looks Back: Malcolm McDowell reflects on his experience working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick on one of the seminal films of the 1970s
- Turning Like Clockwork considers the film’s ultra-violence and its cultural impact
- Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
- Documentary Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange
- Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange
- Theatrical Trailer
- Theatrical Trailer
2001: A Space Odyssey
- Commentary by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
- Documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth
- Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001
- Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001
- What Is Out There?
- 2001: A Space Odyssey Conceptual Artwork
- Look: Stanley Kubrick!
- Audio-only Bonus: 1966 Kubrick Interview Conducted by Jeremy Bernstein
- Theatrical Trailer
- Commentary by Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and historian John Baxter
- Vivian Kubrick’s Documentary The Making of the Shining with Optional Commentary
- View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining
- The Visions of Stanley Kubrick and Wendy Carlos, Composer
Full Metal Jacket
- Commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and critic Jay Cocks
- Documentary: Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil
Eyes Wide Shut
- Three-Part Documentary:
- The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut
- The Haven/Mission Control,
- Artificial Intelligence or The Writer Robot,
- Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick
- Interview Gallery Featuring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg
- Kubrick’s 1998 Directors Guild of America D.W. Griffith Award acceptance speech
- EWS: A Film by Stanley Kubrick