The Criterion Collection is a privately held company that distributes authoritative versions of "important classic and contemporary films" on DVD. It was established in 1984 as a joint venture between Janus Films and the Voyager Company.
Contributions to the Industry
Criterion is credited with establishing the practice of letterboxing their films. Letterboxing, or widescreen, is the presentation of films in their original aspect ratio from the large screen. Though some consumers dislike the "bars" that appear at the top and bottom of the typical letterboxed film, enthusiasts point out that the practice allows the director's entire shot to be seen.
Criterion is also notable for their special editions of particular films they release. Beginning with the releases of King Kong and Blade Runner, Criterion included what many today know as bonus features. These include commentaries by actors, directors and others involved with the project, and original material not presented in the film.
Another critical feature of the Criterion Collection is their intent to restore older films using original prints. Examples of this restoration can be seen on several of the discs including The Passion of Joan of Arc and Gimme Shelter.
Notable Films Released
Many films released in the Criterion Collection are available nowhere else and have been lost to history. Some of the more salient include:
- Häxan, Benjamin Christensen, Sweden, 1922
- The King of Kings, Cecil B. DeMille, USA, 1927
- Nanook of the North, Robert Flaherty, UK, 1922
- Alexander Nevsky, Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Union, 1938
- Young Mr. Lincoln, John Ford, USA, 1939
- Ikiru, Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1952
- Salò, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1975