Three Vendors: Hiding in Plain Sight
by Peter Sauer, Director of Video Purchasing, Baker & Taylor
(View selected DVD and VHS releases of these three vendors from the last 12 months, click here)
While many librarians may be familiar with the types of film offered by vendors such as AIMS or Films For Humanities, we thought we'd take this opportunity to focus on three vendors who, when you dig beneath the surface, provide a treasure trove of fascinating material which may be just what you've been looking for to expand the depth of your video inventory. While their names may be familiar, you may not be aware of the variety of products they have available. The vendors are Acorn Media Publishing, Kino International, and Kultur Video, and they provide a rich variety of films.
Acorn Media Publishing
Acorn Media has long been known as the home of some of the best of the British TV imports, such as the terrific Poirot series, with David Suchet as Agatha Christie's daunting detective, the Lord Peter Wimsey series featuring Dorothy L. Sayers famed peer-and-part-time-amateur sleuth, and the Brother Cadfael series with Derek Jacobi as the mystery-solving medieval monk. But there's more to Acorn than mystery. Here you can also find the dazzling multi-part 1981 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, or the 1978 Mayor of Casterbridge starring Alan Bates, as well as the recent TV adaptations of Doctor Zhivago and The Forsyte Saga, which aired this year on A&E and PBS respectively. They have ventured out of the period drama with such modern fare as the gripping BBC miniseries Traffik, which was the basis of the award-winning Hollywood film, and the rollicking multi-part adaptation of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Acorn is also home to the video collection of episodes from Red Green's PBS show and the BBC's P.G. Woodhouse Playhouse, as well as perhaps the most delightful find of their entire catalog, the Reduced Shakespeare Company's riotous outing, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), with a gifted cast of three acting out abbreviated versions of all of Shakespearean plays. If you don't have it on your shelves, you should give it serious consideration.
As their name implies, Kino earned their reputation as distributors of top-flight foreign films. But in recent years, they have branched out to include a very comprehensive collection of silent films, which documents the very beginning of the medium. Their definitive, multiple-disc Buster Keaton collection led off the charge. It was followed by a four-disc collection of classic German Horror films, including The Golem and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which laid the groundwork for an entire genre. They've collected the works of such seminal directors as D.W. Griffith, with a seven-DVD set which includes such groundbreaking films as Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, and F.W. Murnau, whose stylistically inventive work is captured in a five-disc set, which includes The Last Laugh and the still potent Nosferatu. Perhaps their most intriguing releases in recent months was the rescue from oblivion of Ely Landau's grand experiment from the 1970s, The American Film Theatre, an attempt to capture some unique theatrical properties on film. They are available in three multi-disc sets. The first includes Butley, with Alan Bates re-creating his stage triumph, Lee Marvin as Hickey in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, and Rhinoceros with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in Eugene Ionesco's absurdist tale. Set two includes A Delicate Balance with Katherine Hepburn, and an adaptation of Chekov's Three Sisters directed by Laurence Olivier. The third is a set with some unusual but intriguing fare including two musicals, Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars and the international hit Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. The films may have mixed reviews in terms of successful translations from stage to screen, but, as a chronicle of great actors tackling innovative theatrical pieces, all are fascinating to experience.
Kultur has become the touchstone within the industry for great works of opera and ballet. In fact, they have done such a good job at delivering them into the marketplace, that many are unaware of the vast assortment of other lines they carry, both in the arts and in history. The have a wide assortment of videos focusing on art and great artists, including a multi-disc sets on The Impressionists, one on the Dutch Masters, and a well-executed four DVD set entitled Art of the Western World, along with individual titles which focus on particular artists. Their very comprehensive line features a wide and eclectic assortment of artists, from Van Gogh and CÚzanne to Klimt and Mondrian to Georgia O'Keefe. They even have a title focusing on James Avati, an artist who gained recognition for the work he did illustrating book jackets. They have features on the theater, including Lord Laurence Olivier in King Lear and Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight, along with a series featuring all of Shakespeare's plays. Other authors are featured in individual profiles in two series, Famous Authors and Great Writers. The divergent list of profiled authors is veritable who's who of great literature, with everyone from Voltaire to Austen to Steinbeck, from Yeats to Poe to Faulkner, from Proust to Swift to Solzhenitsyn, from Zola to Cocteau to Capote. On the historical side, they offer series which track the entire timeline of human existence, from The Secrets of Ancient Empires through the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt through Medieval Warfare. And just to make sure that nothing is missed, they also have a six-tape set The Story of Civilization. Fantasy heroes are chronicled in The Legend of King Arthur and Inside Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, while real life heroes get their turn in the spotlight with two notable collections Genius, which details the great thinkers, inventors and innovators of the world, and Great Adventures, which focuses on explorers such as Columbus and Shackleton. And these are just a fraction of the great titles beyond the world of arias and pas de deux available from Kultur.