What is so absolutely fantastic and unmatched about the Criterion Collection is, simply put, the work they do. They give movie lovers the highest quality of viewing for some of the most important films in cinematic history or films that have a large following and are influential in one way or another. Granted there may be an exception to that rule or another, but, generally speaking, the films that do get this honor of being in the Criterion Collection certainly deserve to be there. With one of their newest releases, spine 1191, comes Orson Welles’s The Trial, in a format that is arguably the greatest this film has and will ever look, starring Anthony Perkins (Psycho) merely two years after he worked with another iconic director, Alfred Hitchcock (Rope).
The film itself is an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial (1962), and, if you’re unaware of who Kafka is, Welles’s The Trial is certainly going to take you for a wild ride. The film focuses on Josef (Anthony Perkins) who gets arrested for an unknown crime and faces a litany of emotions and turmoil because of his current standing. Considering the time period, this is absolutely a ploy for communism, but the way the film plays it out doesn’t hide the fact that it is what it is doing but it also certainly doesn’t confirm it either.
Now when we get to this new Criterion disk, it is important to note that there is a 4K UHD combo pack that comes with the Blu-ray (where the special features reside) and just a standard Blu-ray edition as well. I was fortunate enough to get the singular disked Blu-ray and am gobsmacked at how good this 1080p presentation looks. But before we dive into that, I want to address the packaging. Unsure how the 4K combo pack looks as some of the Criterion 4Ks have been presented in a booklet of sorts that have been a hybrid media book type, the Blu-ray is in the standard amray that Criterion has used for literal decades.
Now, without having seen the 4K and only having seen the Blu-ray, but having dabbled in a few of the Criterion releases, specifically the 4Ks, this is arguably the best looking and most magnificent restoration they have done yet. This restoration was done from the 35 mm original camera and sound negatives as there is a title card at the beginning of the film that explains that and how it was done and in partnership with whom. It is so vibrant and clean while keeping authentic to the time period, making it truly appear like one is watching a pristine print from the comfort of their own home. It is such a rarity to see earlier films from master craftsman like this that transcend in quality to this point. There should be nothing less expected from Criterion themselves, but, regardless, seeing a presentation this magnificent is always a treat, and if the Blu-ray is that impressive, one can only imagine how absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful a 4K of this same scan is going to appear.
Again, without wanting to mince words, this is one of the best-looking Criterion disks I have personally ever seen. However, I have started to notice the lack of features (new or old) on some releases, and that is a bit concerning. Criterion disks are typically meant for the diehard fans who either have an unmatched passion for the film itself, the director, etc., and want the best possible quality with the best most uncompromised disk. While there is certainly no doubt that The Trial boasts that best disk quality, the fact that it seems there is only one singular new feature on this Criterion is concerning. Granted, the quality upgrade is going to be the decision-maker for most people for this purchase, but a sole new feature that is an audio commentary from a film historian almost feels like it’s just a second essay.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray combo pack and Blu-Ray from The Criterion Collection September 19th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Criterion Collection The Trial webpage.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.