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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interviews with Morris
  • Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980), a twenty-minute film by Les Blank featuring Herzog fulfilling a bet intended to inspire Morris to complete his first feature
  • Footage of Herzog professing his admiration for Gates of Heaven at the 1980 Telluride Film Festival

Vernon, Florida

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Errol Morris
1981 | 55 Minutes | Licensor: IFC Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #752
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: March 24, 2015
Review Date: March 13, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

Vernon is a town in the Florida panhandle surrounded by swamps. Here, Errol Morris found the quietly fascinating subjects for the follow-up to his galvanizing debut, Gates of Heaven. As ever humane yet sharply focused, Morris lets his camera subjects pontificate and perambulate the environs of this seemingly unremarkable little community. The result is a strangely philosophical work that cemented its director' standing as an important figure in American film.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Errol Morrisí second film, Vernon, Florida (which interestingly actually started out as his first according to the essay notes included with this edition), comes to Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection, who present it in the aspect ratio of about 1.66:1. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a 2K scan of the 35mm colour reversal internegative. The film accompanies Morrisí first film, Gates of Heaven, which it shares space with on this dual-layer disc.

Along with the other Morris films Criterion is releasing together (as mentioned previously this release also includes Gates of Heaven, reviewed separately, and Criterion has also released a separate edition for The Thin Blue Line) Vernon, Florida has the weakest looking presentation, though this mostly has to do with the actual elements. The transfer itself looks fine and I canít fault much with it: itís surprisingly sharp with fine details just leaping off of the screen, nicely rendering textures. Itís very stable in motion and film grain can be a bit heavy in places but it at least looks natural. Colours are also surprisingly good with mostly strong blacks, though in a couple of sequences that look to have been shot in possibly a lower light present some minor crushing.

The print is mostly clean with a few specs I noticed early on, but there are occasions, particularly at the beginning, where the sides of the frame present some heavy colour fluctuations which are very distracting and not easy to overlook, as are some stains that rain through during the final shame. Still, past these limitations, itís a solid looking image.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film features a lossless 1.0 mono PCM track. Itís limited mostly by shooting conditions, materials, and the subjects themselves. The track can sound a bit distorted when it reaches higher volume levels (and an early sequence where one subject scrapes his foot against the ground is particularly annoying, though Iím sure Morris was going for that) but through most of its run time itís just flat. Dialogue is mostly easy to hear but the drawl of some of the interviewees can be hard to understand. Past this the rest of the audio is fine: itís clean without any noticeable damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Only one supplement comes with the film. As mentioned before the film does share the disc with Gates of Heaven, which also comes with its own supplements. This portion of the review will only focus on the supplements for Vernon, Florida.

The film disappointingly only comes with one significant feature, a 12-minute interview with Errol Morris. Here he spends half the time talking about the original intentions of the film: a documentary on a huge insurance scam in the area. After running into roadblock after roadblock (and apparently being beaten up if I heard Morris correctly) he started filming in Vernon, where he found an assortment of odd characters. From this the film began to change in direction. He talks about the experience and his favourite moments though ultimately itís not as in-depth or as illuminating as Morrisí other interviews. Still worth a view, though.

Eric Hynes then provides an essay in the included insert on Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida, going over his two early films (and how they started out), his style of filmmaking, and the subjects that interest him.

I wish there was more for this film, even if I must admit Iím at a loss as to what else could be put on here. Maybeómaybeómore info about the insurance fraud mentioned in the insert and Morrisí interview or maybe more scholarly material but thatís about it.

2/10

CLOSING

Vernon, Florida is such an odd and unique little film that itís almost a shame more wasnít done for its release, though at the very least it does sport a nice looking transfer. As a whole, though, the release, which also includes Gates of Heaven and Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, is a strong one on the whole and well worth picking up.


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