Both the Criterion DVD and Blu-ray come with the same small collection of supplements.
Thankfully making it over is the audio commentary by director Roman Polanski and actress Catherine Deneuve that was originally recorded in 1994 for Criterionís laserdisc release of the film, which I feared would never see the light of day again in region 1 (my understanding is that it appears on a region 2 Anchor Bay DVD.)
It is an excellent track and Iím glad to have finally heard it. Similar to most of Criterionís laserdisc commentaries the two participants are recorded separately and then edited together. This is unfortunate but this technique does tend to keep the track moving. As far as I can figure Polanski is actually viewing the film while recording the track (possibly Criterionís laserdisc transfer since he mentions how the film looks on television) and Deneuve isnít, where her comments come off as not scene-specific and almost as if they are snippets pulled from a longer audio interview. Polanski does have the bulk of the track with Deneuve popping up every so often. Polanski is absolutely wonderful and he gives one of the better director tracks Iíve come across (admittedly Iíve actually never listened to a track by him before.) He offers plenty of technical information and loves to explain how he managed to get certain effects and shots in the film, noting that they would probably have been easier to accomplish today, and even getting very elaborate on how he accomplished a shot through a peep hole. He of course also offers plenty on the getting the production off the ground having to go to a soft porn production company to get the financing, gets into casting the film and working with Deneuve, has nothing but praise for Gilbert Taylorís photography, and explains his use of sound in the film. He also explains some of his choices, such as the slow pacing at the beginning (solely so he could get a big jump when the first jolt occurs on screen) and also isnít afraid to admit heís unsure about certain things in the film (he doesnít have a real reason for the cracks that appear.) And he also offers up some things that appeared in the original script but were abandoned in the actual film such as another death. The best aspect, though, is when Polanski gets critical of the film even calling it his ďshoddiestĒ work. He isnít afraid to point out certain shots heís not happy with, and explains that there are some things he would do different today. He even complains about the filmís pacing which he does find a little on the slow side.
Deneuve as I mentioned doesnít get much time on the track but her comments are also valuable and interesting. She concentrates a lot on her character and what she is going through during the film, and also gets into the more physical aspects of her part. She has some amusing anecdotes and touches on some of the harder parts of the shoot, such as her one nude scene. She offers a few criticisms (she doesnít like how the ďCharlie ChaplinĒ sequence plays out but Criterion quickly edits in Polanski with an explanation for why the scene is the way it is) but overall seems very proud of the film and having worked with Polanski.
As a whole itís a wonderful track, one of the better ones Iíve come across lately and Iím glad Criterion chose to port it over from the laserdisc and not record a new one.
The next supplement is are a couple of trailers for the film. I suspect the first one is the American trailer while the second is the British trailer. Theyíre generally the same at heart, presenting a horror/thriller, but the first/American trailer throws in some critic blurbs at the tail end of it.
A British Horror Film is a 24-minute documentary produced by Blue Underground in 2003 and I believe was intended for the region 2 Anchor Bay DVD (though I could be wrong.) It feels a little rushed but is a great companion to the commentary track featuring interviews by Polanski, producer Gene Gutowski, Compton Films producer Tony Tenser, cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, and art designer Seamus Flannery. It does cover a lot of material that does appear in the commentary track (thereís more on that peep hole shot) but expands on certain aspects. Thereís more about the troubles getting financing and the film going over budget. Itís also nice to get some alternate views from other members of the production, which presents alternate takes on how it went (some found it smooth, others not.) Thereís also more detail on some of the effects that appear in the film and Taylor explains how the film was a real learning experience for him. But one of the more amusing parts in the documentary comes when the participants admitted they had no idea how single women would live, which in turn called for scouting trips to various apartments so they could recreate the same thing in the film. It does feel brief but paired with the commentary the two really do cover the production quite thoroughly.
The last feature is Grand ťcran, which is a 21-minute episode for the French television program of the same name, which first aired on October 24th of 1964. With minimal narration is works more as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, the camera just sitting there catching Polanski at work on Repulsion and getting interviews with Polanski and the filmís French stars Catherine Deneuve and Yvonne Furneaux. Thankfully itís not a fluff piece and is really a fascinating piece at its best when it just lingers there as Polanski directs. Thereís also a few moments between Deneuve and Polanski as they talk (in French) about scenes theyíre about to shoot and also cover Deneuveís character. Itís a great archival piece and am pleased Criterion managed to round it up.
The included booklet is a little flimsy but contains an excellent analytical essay on the film by Bill Horrigan.
It is a slim number of supplements but theyíre altogether quite satisfying with very little fat. 8/10