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  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Video interviews with actress Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel
  • Rare silent 16mm footage of John Cassavetes and Burt Lane's acting workshop
  • Restoration demonstration
  • Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
  • Trailer


Individual Release
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: John Cassavetes
Starring: Ben Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni, Hugh Hurd, Anthony Ray, Dennis Sallas, Tom Allen, David Pokitillow, Rupert Crosse, Seymour Cassel
1959 | 81 Minutes | Licensor: Castle Hill Productions

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #251
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: February 6, 2009

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John Cassavetes' directorial debut revolves around an interracial romance between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman living in New York City with her two brothers, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship crumbles when Tony meets Lelia's brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd), a talented dark-skinned jazz singer struggling to find work, and discovers the truth about Lelia's racial heritage. Shot on location in Manhattan with a cast and crew made up primarily of amateurs, Cassavetes' Shadows is a visionary work that is widely considered the forerunner of the independent film movement.

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Shadows is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The film had previously been released on DVD by Criterion exclusively in their John Cassavetes: Five Films box set. They are now releasing the film on its own.

The transfer is exactly the same as the one found in the box set. In fact it’s the exact same disc with the same menus and features, the only thing differing being the packaging. The film shows its age and indie roots, presenting a very grainy image with its fair share of debris but it looks far better than one may suspect. The image is quite sharp, for a majority of its running time, and contrast looks to be spot on. Any of the real issues present either have to do with the quality of the print (still with some slight damage) or how the film was shot (hairs on the lens, the image slightly out of focus at times.) A restoration demonstration included with this release gives an idea at the amount of work that went into this and in the end it was definitely worth it.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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You get a simple Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track and it is also limited by its source, and again its exactly the same as the previous release found in the Cassavetes box set. The fairly obvious looping and the limitations that were present during the shoot are obvious. The can come off a little distorted, can come off fairly weak and even too strong. Voices are still, for the most part, articulate, and music is decent, though the jazzy score can reach some unpleasant highs, which are further enhanced by the so-so condition of the audio source. Still, considering what they probably had to work with



The disc includes a nice handful of supplements.

Two interviews are found here, one with actress Lelia Goldoni and another with actor Seymour Cassel. Both are presented in widescreen and have been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Goldoni’s is the longer one, running about 11-minutes. She talks about moving to New York (for a gig that never happened) and how she came across Cassavetes acting workshop through an old high school friend. She would participate in the workshop and then suddenly found herself thrown into the film Shadows, which seems to have been realized during one class. She remembers the shooting fondly, and reminisces about the classes with Cassavetes. Cassel’s is unfortunately the shorter interview, lasting only 4 and a half minutes. Cassel simply talks about first meeting Cassavetes and getting sucked into helping with the making of the film, even during various tasks as a member of the crew. Both are rather wonderful and worth viewing.

Workshop Footage presents over 4-minutes worth of silent footage from Cassavetes’ acting workshop and work on Shadows. It’s a shame its silent but after hearing about the work shop through various supplements on here and other DVDs in the Cassavetes box set it was nice to get some actual footage, even if it is short.

We then get a restoration demonstration, possibly my favourite supplement on here, which runs about 11-minutes. It’s incredibly informative as we go through the process of restoring this film and everything that has to be considered, such as what debris should be left and what should be cleaned up. As well, we get a great flow chart on the process of restoring. Criterion’s restoration demonstrations are usually a collection of “before” and “after” shots, but this one turns into a real educational experience about all that has to be considered when restoring a film.

The disc then closes with a couple of standards, including a stills gallery with photos from the workshop and from the filming of Shadows and a 3-minute theatrical trailer. There’s also a booklet included, which includes a couple of essays taken from the larger booklet found in the Cassavetes box set: One is called “Eternal Times Square” by Gary Giddens, which analyzes the film and even brings up the first version of the film which Cassavetes considered too “intellectual” and not what he was aiming for. The other essay is from 1961 and written by John Cassavetes, entitles “…and the Pursuit of Happiness” where the director discusses making the film, and again brings up the other version of the film. These essays are a small sample from the larger booklet found in the box set, and were selected because they have more to do with Shadows. The larger box set booklet has some excellent essays in it and I hope they all find their way into the individual releases.

Unfortunately the alternate version mentioned in the essays is nowhere to be found. Long considered lost the alternate version of the film was found and fell into the hands of Cassavetes scholar Ray Carney. To my understanding he wanted to include this version on the release but Cassavetes’ widow, actress Gena Rowlands, objected to this and it then exploded into a mess where Carney was removed from the project after helping Criterion with it for months, and apparently even participating in a commentary for a few films in the set, including this one, only to have them pulled as well (find more info here and here.) It would have been an interesting feature and it’s a bit of a shame that it was decided not to include it.

So in the end it’s not the release it could have been but at least the few features here are worthwhile and interesting.



This individual release of Shadows is the exact same disc found in the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set, containing the same transfer, same audio, same supplements, and even the same menus (only the packaging differs) so for those that already own the box set there is no reason to purchase it. For those that wanted the film but didn’t want to fork over the money for the entire set (though I personally think its worth it,) this disc is worth picking up. The transfer looks very good considering the film’s age and indie roots, plus the supplements, though short, are interesting and informative.

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