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Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 10, 2015 by  



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“Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida” are two films that will surely satisfy fans of Morris’ work.  While those who want to know more about Errol Morris will want to check out “The Thin Blue Line” and his other well-known documentaries, “Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752” are still noticeable, earlier works that are still worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752

YEAR OF FILM: Gates of Heaven (1978), Vernon, Florida (1981)

DURATION: Gates of Heaven (83 Minutes), Vernon, Florida (56 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio and 1:66:1 aspect ratio, Color, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: IFC Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 24, 2015


Directed by Errol Morris

Produced by Errol Moris

Music by Dan Harberts

Cinematography by Ned Burgess

Edited by Errol Morris


With his trademark mixture of empathy and scrutiny, Errol Morris has changed the face of documentary filmmaking in the United States, and his career began with two remarkable tales of American eccentricity: Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida. The first uses two Northern California pet cemeteries as the basis for a profound and funny rumination on love, loss, and industry; the second travels to a languorous southern backwater and discovers a handful of fascinating folks there—a determined turkey hunter, a curious minister, a laconic policeman—engaged in individualistic, sometimes absurd pursuits. Morris consistently creates humane portraits of true candor, and these early works remain two of his greatest and most provocative films.

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Academy Award winning film director Errol Morris has received a lot of praise for his 2003 film “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara”.

Morris who won the Academy Award for “Best Documentary Feature” is no stranger to receiving awards and honors.  He is known for his writing but it’s his documentary style that has won over many viewers, but also for his willingness to take on subject matters that many would not think about trying to make a documentary.

Morris’ first two films are “Gates of Heaven” and “Vernon, Florida” which was released by the Criterion Collection in March 2015.

The first film “Gates of Heaven” was created in 1978 and was inspired by Morris reading a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle about 450 dead pets being relocated to another location.  The film was loved by film critic Roger Ebert, who included it in his all-time top ten best film lists.

The documentary focuses on people who created a pet cemetery business.  The film follows Floyd “Mac” McClure who wants to give pets a graceful burial and his business partners who join him in the endeavor.  Also, showing his competitor, a manager of a rendering plant (a plant that converts wasted animal tissue to make lard or tallow).

The film shows the passion that went into creating the cemetery business but also what transpired after the business was founded.

“The second film, “Vernon, Florida” was actually researched before “Gates of Heaven” as the city was known as “Nub City” about the town residents.


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VIDEO:

“Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio for “Gates of Heaven” and 1:66:1 aspect ration for “Vernon, Florida).

According to the Criterion Collection, “the film’s restoration was supervised by director Errol Morris, these new digital transfers were created in 2K resolution on a Lasgraphics film scanner from 35 mm color reversal internegatives.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital vision’s Phoenix was used for a small dirt, grain and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtracks were remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks.  clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752″ comes with the following special features:

  • Herzog Eats His Shoe – (20:00) A short film directed by Les Blank about German filmmaker Werner Herzog fulfilling a bet to eat a shoe if Morris completed his first feature.
  • Errol Morris – (19:19) Interview with director Errol Morris discusses “Gates of Heaven” conducted in October 2014.
  • Errol Morris – (12:09) Interview with director Errol Morris discusses “Vernon, Florida” conducted in October 2014.

EXTRAS:

“Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752” comes with a six-page insert with the essay “Bulshitting & Bullshitter” by Eric Hynes.


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Sure, many people may be familiar with filmmaker Errol Morris courtesy of his Apple “Switch” or even his Miller High Life commercials.  But there are those who know the filmmakers for his documentaries.

Some may call it ballsy but one who seeks the truth through his documentary work, there are various reasons why Morris is well-appreciated by film critics and documentary lovers.

From his critically-acclaimed documentary “The Thin Blue Line” which led to the release of a man falsely accused out of prison, his Academy Award winning documentary “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara”, “Tabloid”, “The Unknown Know” to name a few.

He employs natural filmmaking, no voice overs, just straightforward, direct filmmaking in which the people featured tell the story of how they feel without interruption by him, but at the same time, anything goes.

And the style of Errol Morris is quite evident in his first two films “Gates of Heaven” and “Vernon, Florida”.

With “Gates of Heaven” focusing on those who created a pet cemetery, to citizens talking about missing animals and another who runs a rendering plant using animals to make products.

What is interesting about this film is the actual people featured. May it be their thoughts about their deceased animals, the missing animals in town or the feelings of having a rendering company in the area.  To the point that others may find these individuals crazy or logical, depending on the viewer.  But it becomes almost a film about mocking the people he is showcasing, not by his doing, but by the individual’s words.

With “Vernon, Florida”, what was meant to be a documentary about “nub city” and those who injure themselves to get insurance money, ended up turning into another type of film about those in the area, once again, showcasing individuals that many will find interesting, crazy or normal.

There is no condemnation on the subjects, it’s just what each has to say, it gives another side of America or what many people would now call it on social media as “Murica!” that is quite interesting and fascinating.

While picture quality is very good for both 1978 and 1981 films, considering their age and you get a few special features featuring Errol Morris discussing his two films or popular filmmaker Werner Herzog trying to eat his shoe, the enjoyment of this Blu-ray release is to see the initial starting point of Errol Morris, the documentarian at work and how his earlier interview subjects and the style he employed at the time.  This is vintage Errol Morris and is a blast for those wanting a release from the critically-acclaimed filmmaker.

Overall, “Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida” are two films that will surely satisfy fans of Morris’ work.  While those who want to know more about Errol Morris will want to check out “The Thin Blue Line” and his other well-known documentaries, “Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida – The Criterion Collection #751-752” are still noticeable, earlier works that are still worth watching!

 

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