Houston, we have a problem with Criterion’s new Citizen Kane package, which includes a 4K UHD version as well as an alternate Bluray version.
The problem is not with the 4K disc, which reportedly looks quite fine and delightful. The problem is with the Bluray version, which looks fine until the 30-minute mark, at which point the image turns all gray and milky with the black levels and sharpness totally out the window.
This bizarre Criterion screw-up was first reported two or three days ago by DVD Beaver‘s Gary W. Tooze. Tooze’s screen captures were pointed out this morning by HE friendo Mark Smith. The problem was subsequently confirmed an hour or two later by a totally trusted technical authority on Bluray and 4K discs.
So this is real — not a rumor. Criterion has totally dropped the pitcher of milk and now it’s all over the floor. The 4K is cool, as noted, but the Bluray is a cock-up of epic proportions — perhaps the worst in Criterion’s history. And so Criterion will have to recall the package and fix the problem and send the corrected version out sometime in December or whenever.
Okay, I’m being presumptuous. It’s theoretically possible that Criterion might not recall the Kane package. They might just say to their customers “you guys don’t really care about the Bluray disc…right? This package is all about the lustrous 4K version so let’s just push the Bluray problem aside and forget about it. You don’t care, we don’t care…right? We fuck up every now and then and you’ve been cool with that. The DePalma thing…remember that one? You let us slide on those ridiculous teal-tinted Blurays of Midnight Cowboy and Bull Durham and Teorema. So why not just turn the other cheek on this thing as well?”
Tooze: “The 1080p looks quite strong, superior to Warner’s 2011 Blu-ray in varying degrees, often darker, showing more grain and richer contrast layering. It’s a dual-layered rendering with a max’ed out bitrate with nothing else sharing that first Blu-ray disc.
“Until we get almost exactly 30 minutes into the film — just prior to the scene in Bernstein’s office (with the contentious visibility of the rain on the windows) — [when] the Criterion Bluray alters and shows a very softer, paler, contrast [and] the brightness is diminished.
“I don’t have any explanation for this [grayish milky transition] on the Bluray…[but it is certainly] different from the first 1/2 hour of the film.”
The problem is made obvious in many of Tooze’s screen captures — here’s a sampling provided by Smith: