I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Brooke, a writer, editor, and Blu-ray/DVD producer who has done some great work with Arrow Films and the BFI. Alongside Daniel Bird, he was instrumental in putting together Arrow's fantastic recent Borowczyk set, Camera Obscura, and was kind enough to talk about Arrow's ongoing Borowczyk releases (including some future hopefuls.
Satanic Pandemonium: How did Arrow settle on the titles included in the Camera Obscura set?
Michael Brooke: The original plan was just to release the titles owned outright by Ligia Borowczyk (his widow aka the star of Goto, Island of Love and Blanche). In other words, the shorts from Le Concert (1962) to The Phonograph (1969) and the features Theatre of Mr. & Mrs. Kabal and Blanche. But then we discovered that the UK rights had expired on the three Argos features, and Immoral Tales and The Beast were clearly the most attractive titles in the entire collection, so we added those -- and having licensed the features, it made sense to get the shorts too. Handily, the bulk of the first half of Borowczyk's career is represented by just two rights holders, so it all slotted very neatly into place.
SP: I'm particularly interested in the shorts. It's fantastic to have so many of them together, but what prevented the collection from being complete?
MB: The major omissions are the Polish shorts from 1957-8. We originally planned to include them, but as of 2013-14 they were only available in standard definition masters, and had been earmarked for restoration by the Filmoteka Narodowa in Warsaw -- so it made sense to wait. In a completely ideal world, a future Arrow project would be an all-Polish disc with those shorts and his only Polish feature Story of Sin (which is also being restored), but that hasn't been formally green-lit yet.
There are other titles listed in his filmography as "short films", but they're mostly things like Holy Smoke and The Museum -- TV commercials and similar sponsored films made as rent-paying jobs. It's the six Polish films that are the most important omissions as far as "films de Borowczyk" go.
SP: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is an absolutely amazing release. How did Arrow settle on this title and why wasn't it included in the set?
MB: Dr. Jekyll had to be released separately because the project was so expensive to develop in its own right -- we had to go back to the original negative by necessity, since there wasn't a suitable video master. And the only way of justifying the cost was to make it a dual UK/US release, which wasn't true of the box set (Arrow doesn't have the US rights to those titles). I'm also very glad we waited on that title because it meant that we could pull all the stops out in a way that we simply wouldn't have had time to do if it had been part of the box. Even as recently as February, I doubted that we'd be able to bring it off with absolutely no compromises, but we managed it!
SP: Can we expect any more Borowczyk releases in the future?
MB: I hope so, but nothing has been formally green-lit as yet. I'd say the most likely followup would be The Story of Sin and the Polish shorts. We'd love to do The Margin (aka The Streetwalker) but the rights are a nightmare. But in all honesty the only title we've absolutely ruled out is Emmanuelle 5 because it's crap (and Borowczyk didn't even direct most of it).
SP: And last, but not least, do you have a favorite Borowczyk film?
MB: I think his most perfectly achieved film is Blanche, but my favourite will always be Dr. Jekyll -- and not just because it was my first.
Thanks Michael! I hope winter 2015 and 2016 will bring plenty more Borowczyk releases from Arrow. If you haven't you should pick up the existing Blu-rays as soon as possible (or as soon as your wallet allows). For more, read Michael's articles about Borowczyk's five best films and 10 great Polish films (plus find more on his Arrow page, linked above) -- he is a fount of knowledge.