The never dull Chris Stangle recently pointed out the odd similarities on the cover designs of Criterion's new release of Two Lane Blacktop and a recent Bergman set. I'm always up for any discussion about Criterion's cover designs, because they're pretty much the best in the business (in addition to the actual DVDs they contain) and almost never ordinary. I'm a self confessed cover art snob, and I'm continually fascinated about this cult that I belong to. What is it about cover art that turns normal people into cover art snobs?
I read about DVD technology long before the first discs were released, and couldn't believe all the features they would bring home for cinephiles, but I don't think anyone predicted that DVDs would usher in a golden age for cover design. In the same way that album cover design fell by the wayside when vinyl gave way to cassettes and CDs (with their tiny canvases), the enormous value of DVDs as a product to be purchased (and not just rented) means consumers now value how their movies look from the outside. It wasn't always this way for DVDs, I remember the first cover design that really intrigued me was the Boogie Nights New Line Platinum edition. It had radically original cover art, on a slip cover that housed even more of the garish 70s design on the digipack inside. The simple jewel case long ago gave up the stranglehold on DVDs, and now we have designs on cardboard, plastic and even metal.
The Criterion Collection has always presented top quality DVDs, but it has also striven to have high class cover art -- and it hasn't always succeeded. The look of Criterion has evolved over the years, culminating this year with a homologous spine and logo treatment (the crescent "C"). Here's my list of Criterion's best covers, followed by five of their worst:
10. Days of Heaven (No. 409)
I originally wasn't a fan of this cover, but after holding it and exploring all the fun stuff it contained -- I was hooked. The cover is brash and makes no apologies, plus it works like the vinyl cover of Led Zeppelin III, with those holes on the front making it possible for multiple cover possibilities.
No image (or words for that matter) can adequately represent Tati's masterpiece, but this comes pretty darn close. Like the movie, it's wild with many planes of existence, and presents itself with no explanation.
It doesn't get any better than this for me. This is just everything you would want in a DVD cover: it's bold but also understated, and plays off one of the movie's key plot points without really giving it away. It would have been easy to put Carey Grant along with Ingrid here, but the black space is very effective.
5. Eyes Without a Face (No. 260)