Punishment Park

Punishment Park

Blu-Ray Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Punishment Park

The film itself has been newly restored and received a brand new high-definition transfer (see 2012 note), with optional (English) subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

There is a fascinating introduction by writer/director Peter Watkins (27min), opening with a scrolling text that offers a political and historical background to the film's inception, after which he discusses the low-budget production, his use of amateur yet committed actors, the continuing marginalisation of the film by the American media, the myth that television news is not a constructed fiction, like any other film, and the relevance of Punishment Park in the post-9/11 context.

Dr Joseph A Gomez, a film academic and author of the book Peter Watkins (1979), gives a full audio commentary, arguing that Watkins is "probably the most marginalised major film artist of the second half of the 20th century" and relating how, in the scene where Watkins is heard shouting "Oh my God, cut!", the filmmaker really believed that two members of the cast had accidentally been shot.

There is also a 32-page accompanying booklet, including: the film's complete credits, extracts from the original 1971 Punishment Park press kit, a 20-page extract from Dr Gomez's chapter on the film from his book, with a two-page postscript written by the author in 2005 and a four-page essay (presented in interview form) by Watkins on the creative and political meaning of the film and its relationship with Watkins' theories on the media as a "Monoform" that precludes the expression of any countercultural ideas.

2012 update: Punishment Park has been re-released in a dual-format edition (EKA70061). The extras and booklet remain essentially the same, but this is a newly restored high-definition transfer, remastered from a new 35mm print struck from the restored 35mm blow-up negative (held in Paris) of the original 16mm film. It comes in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, and has never looked better. Eureka!'s The Masters of Cinema Series is again to be congratulated for making so important – and overlooked – a title available in both DVD and Blu-ray formats.

Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2012
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Punishment Park packshot
Psuedo documentary in which a film crew follow a group of US draft dodgers and rebels as they are given the choice between jail and a three-day endurance test in the park of the title.
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Product Code: EKA70061

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.37:1

Sound: Lossless Mono

Extras: Video introduction by Peter Watkins; audio commentary by Dr Joseph A Gomez; 32-page booklet

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