Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Drunk on Foolish Pleasures: A Return to the Land of Packaging!

Two years ago I wrote about the bane of home video collectors: irregular disc packaging that does not line up on the shelf with standard keep cases. Well kids, I now have several possible solutions…

My original packaging column was meant as a friendly warning that if one intends to give that videophile on one’s Christmas list DVD’s or Blu-ray discs, the package may matter more than one thinks. In other words, before buying someone a collector’s edition of A Christmas Story in a box shaped like a gingerbread man Flick with his marzipan tongue stuck to a real metal pole, make sure that that is something Mr. Collector actually wants on his shelf.

I’m guessing he doesn’t.

The majority of the feedback I received on that column indicated that I was not alone: most collectors prize uniformity on their shelf of choice. I bemoaned the existence of outsized packaging, those damn digibooks, and the Criterion Collection’s often-arbitrary decision to go with all-cardboard packaging for some of its discs, instead of its already non-standard clear, slightly wider keep cases.

For those of you who crave uniformity, I offer the following suggestions:

1. Shop around: I have discovered that some retailers have alternate, better packaging than those damn digibooks (what one reader derisively called “Little Golden Books”). Walmart had an exclusive edition of the digibook Exorcist from a few years back IN A REGULAR BLUE CASE. (That kind of thing might actually get me to shop at Walmart.) Recently, I found a regular-cased edition of the Halloween 35th Anniversary Blu-Ray at Best Buy! I gave it to Patrick because he coveted the new edition but hates digibooks. Also, because I make dreams come true.

2. Wait around: Sometimes after only a few months, a regular keepcased edition will replace the dreaded digibook. That happened with All The President’s Men. It also happened with All About Eve. Be patient; wait the bastards out.
3. Turn to England: I have discovered Amazon.com UK and their tremendous selection of REGION FREE Blu-ray discs that come in alternative packaging. Though the discs are usually cheaper, the shipping costs a little more, so it evens out. Check out these Brit “Alternate Universe” cases for Taxi Driver, Dr. Strangelove, Apocalypse Now, and The Walking Dead:
4. Go to custommaniacs.org: These fine folks are really into it; if they don’t like the packaging or even the disc labels, they design their own. NOTE: It is free to browse, but it does cost a few sheckels to download their custom-designed disc inserts. The fee is a dime per cover, and it’s well worth it. I download them, save them to a flash drive, and take them to Kinko’s to print them on a big, fancy, expensive laser printer (though you could print them at home if you HATE QUALITY.) Look at these cool alternate covers I made for some of my “cardboard” Criterions:
5. Go to criterioncollection.com: The fine folks at Criterion have started selling their clear, wider Blu-ray cases on their website (so you will have a case for your custommaniacs insert that actually still looks like a Criterion release.) You can also order a clear keepcase PLUS insert for that cardboard 400 Blows that has always bothered you. Here’s hoping that Criterion starts offering this alternative for all of its goddamn cardboard releases.
6. Marry well: My wife is a wiz at Photoshop, and she recently began the process of scanning my remaining irregular Blu-ray packages – the ones that do not fall into any of the categories above – and designing new keepcase inserts that will match the rest of the collection. Here are the original King Kong and the Beatles’ Help!, previously only available as digibooks:
In summary: Here is what my “worst” shelf looked like two years ago:
And now?
Oh, you’re welcome.


  1. Great articles.
    I missed the first one when it was published. I never thought that I had a problem; (Total recall DVD shaped like Mars? Why not!) until I received season 7 of the Simpsons, housed in a giant plastic Marge Simpson Head as a gift.
    So, there it sat, surrounded in my perfectly aligned rainbow of Simpsons boxes, I tried to lie to myself and say that it didn't really matter. Until in a moment of weakness I was forced to replace it, to satisfy my new found simpsons OCD.

  2. J.B., fantastic article!

    I remember for my birthday a few years back a friend got me The Dark Knight in the Batman mask case from Target. I then went to the store quietly and traded it for the regular case. I rarely get any dvd/blu ray in a collectable packaging for the reasons you state above. The box set for Lost and the James Bond 50 set are a couple that I actually broke down on though.

    However, looking at your marvelously organized shelf, I noticed that you don't have Godfather 3 in your collection. Even with its flaws, I still find many things in it to enjoy.

    Would love to hear your thoughts...

    1. No, I agree with you. Part III is certainly half a good movie. When the Coppola restoration box came out, it irked me that I was being forced to buy it to get the other two, so I abstained... Plus, didn't

    2. ... that originally come out in a cardboard box? Another strike against!

    3. Not the blu ray release of the trilogy... but yes, you would have to get all three in that package. Part 3 is not restored like the other two though. It's just transferred.

  3. I don’t know, JB. I’m looking at your “before” photo and I’m totally drooling over that Eraserhead box. In the “after” photo, I see that you can now fit more movies on the shelf, but nothing's that drool-tastic. (Well, except for the Robby the Robot figure. That thing is TOPS!)

    The digibooks can look nice when they’re all grouped together on the shelf.

    The only weird packaging that REALLY annoys me is those Anchor Bay “six-pack” collections from a few years back. They’re wide open on one side, so whenever you pick the box up, there’s nothing to stop the discs from falling out all over the floor.

    1. Those six packs were the worst. Arrrrrgggggghhhhhhh

  4. Hi J.B,

    This is my first time reading one of your articles and it was pretty good.
    One thing, why is the title, "A Return to the Land of Packaging," when you're emphasizing the point that people should switch to blu-ray or a more O.C.D. suiting case that makes everything nice and not unorganized like past movie cases. With that title, wouldn't it be implying that the article is about how we should go back to how packaging was, and not how past packaging is awful. Seriously, who wants a blue shelf over collective and vintage cases? Actually, just have both. If you're going to be a collector, try to collect everything you can. This is sort of a tangent but come on, "A Return to the Land of Packaging," reminds me of the movie "Land Before Time." You guys should do a review on that. One more thing, are you mentally drained and not drunk? Since there is an unopened bottle of a type of alcohol right by you...just wondering. Nice article though.

    P.S. Take no offense to this. Constructive, not destructive.


    EG Grenadier Person

  5. Fun article JB - packaging variations definitely niggle at my OCD tendencies but I'm not sure I'm ready to take the plunge into custom covers - they look great though, as do your shelves! Looks like you basically just sort alphabetically? My collection is in complete disarray and I was thinking about trying to sort by genre though I fear the potential grey-area conundrums!

  6. I guess I'm in the minority because I LIKE my Criterion cardboard cases. They're the same size as a DVD case for all the ones I've bought and look quite nice.