Editor’s Note: Welcome to Film Obsessive’s newest feature series, “Off the Shelf.” Each Saturday our writers share the joys of physical media, from reviews of new 4K and Blu-ray releases to reflections on the treasured media they’ve come to collect and cherish over the years.
If you have checked out any of my past articles, you know I have a strong affinity for physical media. Every person has a vice or hobby that can strain their wallets. There’s something about discovering a film that skipped my radar or a release that can be a “film-school-in-a-box” package. Every release is different, and that scratches my itch.
As I’ve grown older, life has taken precedent regarding my spending. Gone are the days of carelessly spending on multiple movies at a time just because the cover looked cool. That can’t happen anymore, so I have become more thrifty and choosy when adding to my collection. Believe it or not, there was a time when I had multiple releases of one film; the only reason for the double-dip was a new commentary track (hello, Terminator 2: Judgment Day). That was silly. I knew it then, and I know it now; only the older me hesitates nowadays before making an outlandish purchase like that. That’s not to say my spending habits are in check; far from it if you’ve checked out my Feature Presentations column.
Now that I’m not so silly, all of my decisions are logical, correct? I wish I could say yes, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Instead of carelessly spending twenty dollars on one new release, I seek out bargains and deals. As I mentioned before, I have replaced careless spending with thrifty spending. Maybe I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul, but twenty bucks can last much longer if you know where to look, which brings me to today’s topic: physical media finds at thrift stores.
In the past, I had previously talked about my recent finds at the local Goodwill. That article came out over a year ago. Since then, I have found multiple deals on discs worth discussing. Instead of recapping a year of finds that no one wants to read, there are a couple of pieces of physical media I accumulated over the past week that I feel warrant discussion. Don’t be scared, as there were only two pickups this week.
I Clowns (DVD)
I consider myself a cinephile, but I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about every movie. Heck, for every movie I’ve heard of, there is one that is new to me. It’s ok to be honest with yourself and acknowledge what one doesn’t know. It helps when you stumble across a film you didn’t know existed before that moment, as with the first film I picked up: I Clowns.
As I mentioned earlier, this will not be a review, just a summation of my findings, but stumbling across a Federico Fellini film is a cause for celebration! I’m going to be honest: I’m not well-versed in Fellini. I have seen his more famous works: 8 1/2, Amaracord, and La Dolce Vita, but the deeper you dig into his filmography, the less familiar I am. I know that blasphemy, but it’s also honesty.
So, finding a Fellini film at the Goodwill for a two-dollar asking price was a no-brainer. The version of I Clowns that I snagged was a DVD edition released by Raro Video. I know some people may turn their noses up at purchasing a DVD in this day and age, but I don’t. I’m not a video or audio snob, I care about having access to film, and if the package is brimming with extras, that’s a bonus. Bit rates and resolution are not something I’m an expert and, if the DVD looks halfway decent, I’m ok with that.
The package itself was the icing on the cake. The one-disc set comes in a cardboard sleeve with a side-loading slipcase. The slipcase had some minor wear on the edges but nothing drastic. The disc includes Fellini‘s 1953 35mm short film, Un Agenzia Matrimoniale, and a visual essay about Fellini’s fascination with clowns. Along with that, you get a 50-page booklet entitled “A Journey into the Shadow,” featuring reflections and original drawings on the making of I Clowns by Federico Fellini. The book alone made the purchase justified. Throw the movie and the features on top of that, and you got yourself a bargain!
I Know Where I’m Going! (DVD)
There are a few rules I apply when shopping at the Goodwill. When it comes to physical media releases—if I spot a Criterion release, I’m snagging it. For anyone unfamiliar with Criterion, they present classic and contemporary films with a robust set of extras. They are what you might consider the gold standard of physical media releases. Now, that doesn’t mean every movie is a winner, but Criterion discs are not cheap either. Combine important works in cinema with a two-dollar Goodwill price, and you have an automatic purchase for me.
Understanding that leads me to my second Goodwill pickup of the week: I Know Where I’m Going!. As with I Clowns, this was another film I was unaware of until recently. Seeing the Criterion stamp, I took hold and checked the discs for wear. All looked good, and I knew I was bringing another Criterion release home to add to my collection. The only issue came from writing on the top of the case to identify who owned this disc previously. Outside of that, the disc was in pristine shape, and the booklet was left intact.
Every Criterion release gives, at bare minimum, a handful of bonus features, and this release is no exception. Here is another release that I found on DVD, but in the case of this film, Criterion has yet to re-release I Know Where I’m Going! on Blu-ray or 4K. So, in this case, the DVD release is the best Criterion version out there.
The funny thing about Criterion is they released a box set titled Essential Fellini, compiling 14 movies from his filmography. I Clowns is not one of Fellini’s films within that box set. Am I drawing any parallels? No, I just found it interesting how my two pickups slightly interwove together.
And that about does it. My weekly haul from the Goodwill didn’t produce a substantial amount of discs to add to my collection, but the quality is top-notch. When you can walk out with a Criterion release and a Fellini film for four dollars, you had yourself a good shopping experience.