Sunday, July 28, 2019


MACBETH (Polanski, 1971)
Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, Release Date September 23, 2014
Review by Christopher S. Long

Roman Polanski's 1971 adaptation of Macbeth is long on action, but pointedly short on grandeur. Yes, this is a history of “great men” crossing swords for control of a kingdom, but what a shameful, shabby affair it all is. When the king (Duncan, before he gets MacSnuffed) and his courtiers gather in the throne room to celebrate victory in battle, they look like precisely what they are: a tiny group of poorly-groomed sycophants clustered in a filthy little room in order to curry favor and get drunk.

Macbeth (Jon Finch) only distinguishes himself from the pack by the extent of his ambition. Where Shakespeare's villain was at least courageous and valiant in his own way, this Macbeth is just a cruel opportunist. He's not particularly cunning or even charismatic, just an efficient and willing brute. Even his frequent expressions of guilt for his misdeeds fail to convince; this thug cannot feel remorse, only fear for his own well-being. Though he mounts an impressive final stand, by the time his head winds up on a pike the viewer is left with one main thought, “What a loser.”

The script, co-written by Polanski and famed British theater critic Kenneth Tynan, exhibits no admiration for its wretched subjects. Francesca Annis initially sparks interest as the scheming Lady Macbeth, her innocent appearance a stark contrast with her sadistic impulses, but her descent into madness plays out as good riddance to bad rubbish. She's gone and quickly forgotten, and soon the same will happen to her husband.

Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, a long-time Polanski collaborator, develops the visual equivalent of the script's jaundiced perspective, depicting 11th century Scotland (shooting on locations mostly in Wales and England) as a grimy, murk-shrouded patch of nothing hardly worth fighting for. There is intermittent beauty in some of the more distant wide-screen panoramas and the silhouetted hills and forests, but nothing the Scottish tourism board will be using in its brochures.

The release of “Macbeth” in America was overshadowed by the circumstances of its production. It was the first film produced by Hugh Hefner's Playboy Production which meant it was preceded by expectations that it would be tasteless (it's not) and graphic (it is). “Macbeth” was also the first film Polanski made after the murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate, and critics (both then and now) couldn't help but see echoes of the real-life tragedy in the movie, particularly when Macbeth's soldiers murder the wife and children of his foe Macduff (Terence Bayler).

Perhaps this explains why so much of the commentary lingered on the film's alleged extreme gore and violence. The film does shift the murder of Duncan from off-stage to on-screen with a nifty geyser of blood as punctuation, but there is nothing exploitive or gratuitous in the movie. Polanski needed a brutal film to highlight the brutishness of his characters. An early scene in which a soldier stands over a wounded man lying face-down in the mud and promptly bludgeons him to death is the first subtle hint that we're not in King Arthur's chivalrous court.

Essentially, Polanski's interpretation of Macbeth boils the story down to another round of the time-honored game of “crown goes on, head comes off.” And Macbeth doesn't matter one whit more than any of the other fools who played and lost. Few directors were better suited to portray the futility and absurdity of their schemes than Polanski.

The film may suffer a bit by comparison to some of its peers. As an adaptation of the Scottish play, it is no “Throne of Blood,” but then nothing is. As a cynical deflation of medieval heroism, it is certainly not the equal of Robert Bresson's “Lancelot du Lac,” released just a few years later. But then nothing is. And in Polanski's oeuvre, it surely slots behind “Chinatown,” “Rosemary's Baby,” and several other works. Good thing there's plenty of room beneath the highest of bars for quality cinema.

The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Criterion's 1080p transfer is typically excellent with a rather muted color palette throughout – of course it's hard to tell under all the cloudy skies. Image detail is sharp enough to enhance the grimy, run-down feeling of it all. From the Criterion booklet, “The picture was restored by the Criterion collection... (and) additional restoration work was performed by MTI in Los Angeles and Sony Colorworks in Culver City, California.”

The DTS-HD Master Audio offers a slightly unusual 3.0 surround track, staying true to the original source. The clanging of swords and thumping on castle gates ring loud and true in a mix that provides a real sense of depth and place. Music by The Third Ear Band (including a fantastic end credit track) is well-preserved. Optional English subtitles support the English audio.

Criterion offer a lengthy feature which intercuts new 2014 interviews with Polanski, producer Andrew Braunsberg, assistant executive producer Victor Lownes, and actors Francesca Annis and Martin Shaw (who played Banquo). I winced when Polanski dismissed “Throne of Blood” as not being a real adaptation (he's not criticizing the film, just making the bizarre claim that since it's in Japanese it's not really Shakespeare) but there's plenty of detailed information here, though the various commentaries lean heavily towards a defensive position, i.e. this amazing film was horribly treated by distributors and critics.

“Polanski Meets Macbth” (47 min.) is a 1971 making-of feature with lots of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage. It was directed by Frank Simon and is clearly promotional in nature but still of interest.

The disc also includes two television excerpts. “Two Macbeths” features Polanski and British theater director Peter Cole discussing their different adaptations of Macbeth. The footage (30 min.) is from the Jan 27, 1972 episode of British program “Aquarius.” Of much greater interest is an excerpt from the May 7, 1971 episode of the Dick Cavett Show with co-screenwriter Kenneth Tynan as guest. Only the last few minutes of this thirteen minute segment addressed “Macbeth” but Tynan is such a magnetic raconteur, and Cavett such a fine reviewer, you'll want to watch if only to pine for the days of substantive talk shows.

A Trailer (4 min.) played at the Playboy Theater and promised patrons both a major renovation and the world premiere of “Macbeth.”

The slim fold-out booklet features an essay by critic Terrence Rafferty.

Film Value:
I don't know that there's a clear winner in the contest for Roman Polanski's bleakest depiction of human nature. But “Macbeth” is indisputably in the running. This Criterion Blu-ray offers a strong transfer and a substantial collection of extras, making it the definitive North American release of the movie.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Throne of Blood

THRONE OF BLOOD (Kurosawa, 1957)
Criterion Collection, Blu-Ray/DVD, Release Date Jan 7, 2014
Review by Christopher S. Long

An ambitious general receives a prophecy that he will one day rule the land. Spurred on by his ambitious wife, he kills his master, moves to assume power, is plagued by guilt and paranoia, and winds up snuffing it before he ever takes the throne. So yes, Akira Kurosawa's “Throne of Blood” (1957) is an adaptation of Shakespeare's “Macbeth,” but one that cuts out almost all of the dialogue, transplants the action to feudal Japan, and replaces the conventions of Elizabethan theater with those of Japanese Noh. So “Throne of Blood” isn't exactly an adaptation of “Macbeth.” Rather, it is most distinctly a film by Akira Kurosawa.

The movie opens on a desolate, fog-enshrouded rocky landscape populated only by a forlorn wooden marker indicating that a great castle once stood here; a chorus underscores the Ozymandias-like quality by reminding viewers to “behold the ruins.” When the music stops (and we've jumped back in time a few centuries), there's nothing but fog and a howling wind until a tiny figure on horseback finally wavers into view. The film maintains this Spartan look throughout, a gallery of empty spaces, ruined landscapes, and lengthy silences.

Raging against the void comes Toshiro Mifune in high dudgeon as General Washizu who, along with his Banquo-like friend General Miki (Minoru Chiaki), wanders through a labyrinthine forest that insists on funneling them to a specific clearing where they encounter the spirit (the eerie and effective substitute for Shakespeare's three witches) who seals their fate simply by revealing it to them. From this point on, it's clear that even (and especially) these most powerful of men are just puppets or, more aptly, fools embracing the illusion that they are masters of a world that views them as little more than a punchline in the cosmic joke. And perhaps not even that.

Oddly enough, the vain, ambitious Washizu appears sensitive to this aura of inevitability too. Mifune rants and raves as he hacks his way closer, but never close enough, to power, yet he is plagued by doubt and shame even before he crosses the line into cowardly treason. It's as if he's already read the script, even the parts the spirit hasn't related to him, and prepares himself for the inevitable, perhaps buoyed by the thought that, at the very least, he will be granted one of the greatest death scenes in movie history.

Dialogue is pared down massively with dramatic emphasis given over to music (piercing flute and percussion) and the tightly controlled physical performances typical of Noh theater that Kurosawa loved so much. Even the volcanic Mifune moves with a choreographed deliberation distinct from his more feral performances, and his scheming wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada) sometimes looks like a statue with her rigid posture and chalky mask.

The stark black-and-white photography by Asakazu Nakai is never less than breathtaking, as are the blighted sets built, with great difficulty, on the slope of Mt. Fuji. It's a world of mud and crumbling rock and rolling fog banks, a nature that rejects its most misguided creations and has no patience for their silly game of thrones.

Kurosawa never created a more seductive atmosphere, and “Throne of Blood” goes down as one of the greatest “lost cause” movies ever made. Just enjoy the ride along with the doomed protagonists. It's OK, they deserve it.

The film is presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Like most new Criterions, this is a dual-format release, meaning that you get two separate discs, one with a SD-DVD copy, the other with a high def Blu-ray transfer. Only the Blu-ray is reviewed here.

A film constantly enveloped by fog might present problems for a digital transfer of any kind, but this high-def treatment captures the grimy black-and-white images with vivid sharpness. A rich grainy structure has been well preserved, lending to the stark look of the film. A few instances of damage are evident from time to time, not a surprise considering that the film's original negative no longer survives. From the Criterion booklet: “This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35 mm fine-grain master positive.”

Damage, however, is fairly modest and doesn't detract from the impressive look of this 1080p image. The original Criterion SD, released ten years ago, was just fine. This is several steps above fine.

The LPCM Mono track really sounds great. It's not very dynamic, but isn't meant to be. The sharper musical cues come through very clearly and the slightly hollow sound enhances the mood of the film.

Viewers are given the option to select between two different English subtitle options. The first (default) option is subtitled by scholar Linda Hoaglund, the second option is subtitled by the late, great scholar Donald Richie. There are significant differences between the two options, an indication of the latitude translators always take, and the particular challenges represented by the highly stylized, idiosyncratic dialogue in “Throne of Blood” that isn't necessarily best translated in a the most literal fashion.

Criterion has added one Extra not included on its 2003 SD release of “Throne of Blood.” We get yet another installment of the apparently sprawling Toho Masterworks series, “Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create” that has appeared on so many of Criterion's Kurosawa releases. This 23-minute excerpt from this massive series addresses “Throne of Blood” and heavily relies on an interview with the director.

Repeated from the 2003 SD is the commentary track (recorded in 2002) by Japanese-film scholar Michael Jeck who offers a wealth of information in a style that finds a happy medium between the conversational and the academic and should appeal to most listeners.

The only other extra, also repeated from 2003, is the four-minute theatrical trailer.

The 24-page insert booklet includes an essay by writer and film professor Stephen Prince as well as essays by Linda Hoaglund and Donald Richie explaining their respective approaches to subtitling “Throne of Blood.”

Final Thoughts:
I'm always surprised when “Throne of Blood” is described as being second-tier Kurosawa. It's never meant as an insult since his second-tier is above most first-tiers, but only to suggest that it isn't one of his very best films. I disagree vehemently. It's top three Kurosawa for me, though perhaps I am biased since this was my introduction both to Kurosawa and to Japanese cinema. Criterion's new high-def transfer is a real thing of beauty. Extras are somewhat sparse, but it's still a must-own for any fan of the director.

For another adaptation of the Scottish play, see Roman Polanski's groovy, grimy take.

Monday, July 22, 2019


THIEF (Mann, 1981)
Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, Release Date Jan 14, 2014
Review by Christopher S. Long

Let us hark back to an ancient time, a mystical era known as the '80s, when master criminals were manly men with giant tools, the kind of tools that forced their users to grunt and sweat, great hulking tools that spewed giant arcs of flame. Real fire, not firewalls built to be hacked by myopic ectomorphs slouched over increasingly tiny keyboards. You needed hair on your chest, not Red Bull on your desk, if you wanted to move some serious capital back in the golden age.

For director Michael Mann, it was also a time of blue filters and tangerine dreams. “Thief” (1981) was Mann's theatrical debut after an apprenticeship in television that included an episode of “Police Woman” and the rock-solid TV prison movie “The Jericho Mile” (1979), and he intended to flex every stylistic muscle he had toned up. Mann portrays his hometown of Chicago as a sparsely-populated island enveloped by a darkness gashed only by flashing neon lights and slow-burning streetlamps, hemmed in on one side by a sprawling stretch of water that both promises and denies escape. Soft blues, muted reds, and orange sparks reflect off metallic surfaces; the hoods of cars can look like traveling kaleidoscopes, shimmering as they speed through the night. 

It's the perfect milieu for Frank (James Caan), a safecracker and diamond thief who operates as the consummate professional along with his equally efficient team. No need for attention or pizazz; just grab the goods and go. In the opening scene, Frank and partner Barry (James Belushi in his feature debut) pull off a nearly wordless heist that climaxes with Frank boring a gigantic drill through the cold thick steel of a safe door. The nearly ten-minute sequence is prominently accompanied by a pulsing electronic score from Tangerine Dream, a love-'em or detest-'em creative element that defines the movie's cool industrial attitude toward crime and the city.

After business it's time for pleasure, at least to the limited degree that Frank is capable of experiencing such an emotion. Frank is a state lifer, raised in an orphanage and handed over to the prison system where a short sentence for petty burglary morphed into a longer stint after the young man was forced to defend himself from jailhouse predators (or at least that's how Frank tells the story). More than a decade in the joint has chiseled a heart of stone; Frank proudly admits to Jessie (Tuesday Weld), a diner waitress who catches his eye, that he survived in jail only by getting to the point “where nothin' means nothin'.”

If you're looking for chinks in Frank's nihilistic armor, witness the way he eagerly flocks to the aid of his imprisoned mentor Okla (Willie Nelson), but this appears to be the exception. Even Frank's campaign to win Jessie's heart is strictly a business matter; he decided in prison that he wanted to settle down with a nice woman and have a child, and he's the sort of man who always follows through on his plans and by his own rules. When local gang boss Leo (Robert Prosky) tries to enlist the lone wolf in his ranks, Frank (who never uses contractions) means it when he replies, “I am Joe the boss of my own body.” Frank will soon remember what he learned in jail and ever so briefly forgets in the real world; you can only be in charge when you have no other responsibilities.

“Thief” is nominally based on Frank Hohimer's book “The Home Invaders,” though Mann claims he discarded everything but the basic idea. Mann's script is built mostly out of genre cliches: the hardened career criminal looking to make one last big score, the world-weary but loving woman who accepts his shady past, honor among thieves, the corrupt cops and two-bit gangsters who want a piece of the action. “Thief” distinguishes itself in terms of style and also by James Caan's lived-in performance; his hairy swagger and willingness to let actions speak louder than words make Frank entirely believable, even if unsympathetic. He is a bully and a narcissist whose tunnel vision and methodical calculation leave no room for the feelings of others. Knowing the tough upbringing that shaped him adds depth to the character, but still offers little to be fond of. He uses and abuses whenever he has the power to do so: “To hell with me, with you, with everything.” At least he's honest.

Mann's ultra-cool formalism has made him the favorite of many auteurist critics for reasons I've never fully understood. As a result, “Thief” is now often hailed as the precursor of a style-drenched decade, a game-changer, or something similar; as an auteur's first theatrical film, it simply must be historically important in some way. Better to set aside any alleged landmark status, and accept “Thief” as a crisply filmed, well-acted crime move that benefits immensely from the verisimilitude of its heist sequences. Real safes, real tools, real pillars of flame; these jobs are labor intensive, man. Pure sweat equity. It beats the hell out of the gravity-free zone of CGI action. Heck, there are even real pay phones here, and phone calls that can be missed if you're not there to take them. That's when men were men, and Mann was the Mann.

The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Criterion's 1080p transfer is virtually flawless, and I can only assume the vibrant chromatic palette is true to the original. It's easy to get lost in the precisely sculpted, moody imagery and the high-def treatment really brings it to life. There are plenty of nighttime scenes and the detail brought out in the darker shots is often remarkable; I'm sure fans who have only caught it on DVD will see things they've missed before. I can't think of anything to complain about.

The DTS-HAD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is equally impeccable. Whether you love them or not, you get Tangerine Dream's score vividly presented in all its abstracted glory. The industrial sounds of men at work and the ambient sounds of the city all come through on this evocative surround track. Optional English subtitles support the English audio.

The film is accompanied by a commentary track by Michael Mann and James Caan. It was recorded in 1995, and was included on the long-ago released SD by MGM/UA.

The rest of the extras are all newly recorded interviews. Critic Scott Foundas interviews Mann (2013, 24 min.) who discusses growing up in Chicago and his reliance on real-life thieves as consultants and actors (safecracker James Santucci plays a crooked cop in the film). We also get a new interview with James Caan (2013, 10 min.) who lists “Thief” as one of his proudest accomplishment and a new interview with Johannes Schmoelling, formerly of Tangerine Dream (2013, 16 min.) The disc also includes a Theatrical Trailer (2 min.)

The slim insert book includes an essay by “Sight & Sound” editor Nick James.

Final Thoughts:
I haven't liked a Michael Mann film in quite a while, but his career got off to a fine start with this stylistic crime movie and later peaked with the only true Hannibal Lecter (or Lecktor) movie, “Manhunter” (1986). Criterion's high-def transfer is superb; fans might have hoped for more extras, but the new interviews are certainly worthwhile.

Do The Right Thing

Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, Release Date July 23, 2019
Review by Christopher S. Long

As “McCabe and Mr. Miller” is to snowy backwoods isolation, so “Do The Right Thing” (1989) is to the scorching summer day in the city. No film has ever evoked heat more vividly. Window fans churn their blades in futility. Newspaper headlines blare temperature warnings: Helter Swelter! Neighborhood kids jockey for the chance to get drenched by the blast of an open fire hydrant. Characters plunge their faces gratefully in ice-cold water or steal a few minutes to shower down in the middle of the day. It is, most undeniably, as local radio DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy (Sam Jackson) says: “Hotttssssss!”

Writer/director/producer Spike Lee turns the broiler up so high that when the film's famous riot scene finally breaks out, viewers are less likely to ask why, then to ask, “What the hell took so long?” When it's hotttsssssser than hell, something's gonna burn.

Lee's decision to set the entire film in one day and largely on one block in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn ratchets up the pressure even more. We get to know an array of neighborhood characters all prowling the same cramped space, careening against each other. Most get along well, old friends just checking in. Some have minor dustups, such as Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), the block's wise overseer, constantly harping on the hapless but kindhearted Da Mayor (Ossie Davis). Da Mayor: “You been talkin' about me for 18 years. What I ever done to you?” Mother: “You a drunk fool.” Mayor: “Besides that.”

Other more serious tensions are evident, even if they haven't erupted yet. Sal (Danny Aiello) and his sons, the openly racist Pino (John Turturro) and the amiable Vito (Richard Edson), own and operate Sal's Famous Pizzeria (pronounced “Pitz-uh-ree-uh” by Sal), a neighborhood fixture for years. Sal's clientele is almost exclusively black, yet his Wall of Fame features nothing but “American Italians” (as Sal puts it). This prompts quarrelsome customer Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) to ask why there aren't any black people on the wall. After an argument, Sal kicks him out, prompting Buggin Out to launch a boycott campaign that's ignored by everyone else, at least at first. “Shit, I was raised on Sal's pizza” is the opinion on the street and, besides, it's too damn hot for any damn boycott.

Mookie (Spike Lee) delivers pizza for Sal. Clad in his Jackie Robinson jersey (Brooklyn Dodgers, of course), he stalks confidently up and down the block, bothering the hell out of his little sister (Joie Lee), chatting with friends, and maybe getting a little love from his girlfriend Tina (Rosie Perez, in her film debut), preferably without getting hectored by her about his responsibilities, chiefly their baby boy. Mookie isn't shy about pushing back against Pino's racist bullshit, but he prefers to keep his head down and do just enough to earn a living.

As the mercury soars, it feels like we're building to an inevitable boiling point, but Lee often pauses the main action to focus on individuals in episodes largely unrelated to the propulsive demands of plot. On one delivery, Mookie encourages Vito to stand up against his bullying older brother. Da Mayor saves a young boy from being hit by a car, upgrading his status in Mother Sister's eyes. A chorus of three older men sit on the sidewalk, baking in the sun while they comment on the various injustices of the world – one of them answers to Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris) but he explains that's not actually what his mom named him. Senor Love Daddy keeps his eye on all that's happening while he continues to spin the platters that matter. Everyone's just hanging out, though not quite chilling.

The entire film was shot on the location where it was set (Stuyvesant Ave between Lexington and Quincy, now known also as Do The Right Thing Way) which presented a unique set of logistical problems for the crew who had to make a two-month shoot on a busy NYC block look like it happened on the same day. Continuity alone required a Herculean effort. Cinematographer Ernest Dickerson mastered every challenge, and took full advantage of the location shoot to photograph a film that showcases an authentic, naturalistic look laced with moments of heightened, poetic reality. The fiery red wall behind Sweet Dick Willie and his buddies bleeds right through the lens.

(Major spoilers follow, for those who don't think thirty years is enough time to close the spoiler 

Eventually, Buggin Out enlists an ally in his insurrection. Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) still nurses a grudge after Sal booted him for playing his boombox too loud – Public Enemy's “Fight the Power”, of course, the only song Radio Raheem ever plays, convenient since Spike Lee commissioned the track for the film. They return to Sal's to demand their rights. Radio Raheem cranks up his music as high as the temperature and old lovable Sal, screaming the n-word, bashes the boombox to pieces with a baseball bat. A fistfight ensues which then prompts the arrival of the police, who swiftly choke Radio Raheem to death. A riot erupts and Sal's Famous Pizzeria is burned to the ground.

You can understand why the film was considered controversial at the time, but as Spike Lee has pointed out many times, some of the most scandalized critics focused their indignation on the property damage, fearing it would prompt black audiences to imitate what they saw on the screen. The murder of Radio Raheem didn't appear to bother them much at all. Interesting priorities. Unsurprisingly, Roger Ebert delivered a more clear-eyed, empathetic take: “Some of the advance articles about this movie have suggested that it is an incitement to racial violence. Those articles say more about their authors than about the movie. I believe that any good-hearted person, white or black, will come out of this movie with sympathy for all of the characters.”

Who am I to argue with Mr. Ebert? Lee shows genuine interest in each of his characters, providing everyone with room to air their grievances, to portray them as people with sincere desires and views, some quite repugnant. That doesn't mean lee isn't judgmental, only that he listens. To not judge Pino's racism would be a cowardly dodge by any filmmaker.

Today, of course, Pino is now the President and about 40% of the country thinks that's a great thing, and totally not at all racist in any way. Hey, Pino doesn't hate all “azupeps” - he likes the good ones like Magic Johnson and Prince, so how can he be racist? I suppose that's explanation enough as to why “Do The Right Thing” feels every bit as timely and vital as it did thirty years ago. And why it will still feel just as relevant in another thirty years, in a world a whole hell of a lot hotttsssssser.

Criterion released “Do The Right Thing” on a multi-DVD set back in 2001. This Blu-ray release retains the original Spine Number 97.

This “new digital transfer was supervised by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson” and it really shines in 1080p. I don't have the old DVD as a comparison point, but this image is as sharp as can be and looks flawless in motion as well. Another top notch high-def transfer from Criterion.

The film is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix. Like the picture, the audio is robust and without any apparent flaws. The score by Bill Lee (Spike's father) and featuring Branford Marsalis sounds great as does the frequently repeated Public Enemy track. Optional English subtitles support the audio.

Criterion has absolutely packed this two-disc Blu-ray set with extras, with a mixture of old features from the 2001 DVD and some new ones made for this re-release.

Disc One features the film accompanied by the 1995 laserdisc commentary (also on the 2001 DVD) featuring Spike Lee, Joie Lee, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, and production designer Wynn Thomas.

Also imported from the DVD is a Behind-the-Scenes feature (58 min.) which includes looks at rehearsals (in one, actors introduce themselves, and young Sam Jackson says “I've been in a few things. Doing a play now”), on-set footage, and the block party for the film wrap.

Another import shows Spike Lee's storyboard for the riot sequence. In his intro, Lee notes that he rarely storyboards, but felt he needed to do so for such a complex scene on a larger scale than he and his collaborators were accustomed to.

The disc also includes Deleted/Extended Scenes (11 scenes, totaling 14 min.) and Trailers and TV Spots (3 min. total).

Disc Two is loaded, mostly with material previously released, but with a few new features.

New for this Blu-ray release is “The One and Only 'Do The Right Thing'” (2019, 32 min.), a mix of interviews with NYC Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., filmmaker Darnell Martin, and filmmaker Nelson George. Each of the interview subjects discusses the impact Lee's film had on them, the city, and culture in general – Martin worked as second assistant camera on the film, so she brings a first-hand perspective to the discussion.

Also new is a 2019 interview (16 min.) with costume designer Ruth E. Carter

The rest of the features were included on previous releases of “Do The Right Thing” though not all on the 2001 Criterion release.

The best of the lot by far is “Making 'Do The Right Thing'” (1989, 61 min), directed by St. Clair Bourne and produced by Spike Lee. Despite its generic name, this is one of the best “Making of” documentaries I've ever seen. It captures the intimate and intense production of the film, and the challenges both of shooting on location and making a film shot over more than two months look like it took place in one day (again, on location). Bourne brings a Wiseman-esque sensibility to the project, capturing as many perspectives as possible from construction crew to extras to the stars of the film. This is the rare “making of” project that's riveting in its own right, and brings new insight to the film it's documenting. It deserves attention as one of the great films about filmmaking in the modern era.

In “Back to Bed-Stuy” (2000, 5 min.) Spike Lee and producer Jon Kilik revisit the block where they filmed ten years before.

In “Twenty Years Later” (2009, 35 min.), Lee speaks with cast and crew on the occasion of the film's 20th anniversary screening in New York.

The disc also includes one of the music videos (7 min.) Spike Lee directed for Public Enemy's “Fight the Power” along with a short Spike Lee introduction.

We also get to see the Cannes Press Conference panel (42 min.) from when the film screened at the festival in 1989, the year the Palme D'or went to another American independent filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh for “sex, lies, and videotape.” Criterion has also included a 2000 interview with editor Barry Alexander Brown (10 min.)

Appropriately enough, the last extra on Disc Two is “Spike's Last Word” (2000, 6 min.) in which he reads some of the more clueless and offensive reviews of his film. He's clearly still angry about some of their claims, especially the paranoia raised about how black audiences might respond.

The thick square-bound booklet begins with a superb essay by critic Vinson Cunningham, and then includes a lengthy excerpt from Spike Lee's Director's Journal, with entries from Dec 1987 through Aug 1988.

Final Thoughts:
Great movie, great high-def transfer, great extras, just a great Criterion release all around. You need it.

As for what “Do The Right Thing” says about our current time, I'll just throw it back the golden tones of Mister Senor Love Daddy: “Waaaa-ake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Up you wake! Up you wake! Up you wake! Up you wake!”