THE DVD SHELF: Miniseries "Tales of the City," Peter Brook's Film Version of "Lord of the Flies" and Oscar-Winning "Babette's Feast"

By Steven Suskin
28 Jul 2013

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The Criterion Collection continues to bring us upgraded Blu-rays of their most popular titles. This month features two unique, exceptional, and highly unusual films. Peter Brook's Lord of the Flies was made back in 1963. At this point Brook was thoroughly established—thanks to his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden—but hardly the renowned genius that he would become with such productions as Marat/Sade (1964) and the legendary 1970 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. William Golding's astonishing 1954 novel was difficult to adapt into a film, and took quite a bit of doing (including several screenplays, including two from Peter Shaffer).

Brook wound up following the novel closely, and the results speak for themselves. The Blu-ray features a new, restored digital transfer supervised by Gerald Feil (co-editor, co-cameraman and associate producer); audio commentary by Brook, producer Lewis Allen, and others; a deleted scene; a 2008 interview with Brook; a 1980 interview with Golding; and "Living Lord of the Flies," a new piece composed of footage shot by the actors during production.

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Criterion also gives us a Blu-ray of Gabriel Axel's unforgettable Babette's Feast, the 1987 film which enjoyed international acclaim and managed to become the first Danish movie to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The tale of two pious sisters and their housekeeper in a small village in late 19th century Denmark, this is a film to be watched repeatedly and—like the feast cooked by the housekeeper—savored. The new digital restoration only enhances it. Bonus features include new interviews with director/writer Axel and Stéphane Audran, who played Babette; a 1995 documentary on Karen Blixen (AKA Isak Dinesen)—who wrote the original story—which was published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1950 and is reprinted in the booklet; and a new set of English subtitles.

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes", "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at