The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Tarkovsky's films on DVD — our recommendations

Understandably, people are getting increasingly confused over the myriad of different DVD versions that are currently available (most of which have serious defects). To help you wade through all the information and misinformation, here is our DVD round-up. This version is current as of JANUARY 2009 and will be updated as warranted. Corrections/additions are requested.

Whilst every care is taken in the compiling of the below list, is not responsible or to be made liable for any loss or damage of any kind howsoever arising as a result of any errors, inaccuracies or omissions in respect of any entry whatsoever.

There Will Be No Leave Today: Not yet released on DVD (currently only available on the VHS video tape Unknown Tarkovsky). Suspected DVD release some time in 2005 or 2006 — stay tuned.
We recommend: (No recommendation).

The Killers: Currently only released on DVD by Criterion (spine number 176, R0/NTSC). The two-disk set contains Siodmak's 1946 version, Tarkovsky/Gordon's 1956 version, and Siegel's 1964 version of the Hemingway short story of the same name. Very good image quality (no digital artifacts).
We recommend: Criterion DVD, spine number 176.

The Steamroller and the Violin: Currently only released on DVD by Facets Video, Chicago (R0/NTSC). See our review of this disk. Suspected release early summer 2005 by Artificial Eye in R2/PAL — stay tuned.
We recommend: The Facets DVD.

Ivan's Childhood: RusCiCo master released by Artificial Eye (AE) in R2, English subtitles only. Reissued in 2003 by RusCiCo themselves with 13 languages of subtitles (presumably the same transfer). Low contrast transfer (worse than VHS video tape); see comparison w/German TV broadcast. Suffers from PAL speedup. Also released in Italy, in a very noisy transfer. R1 should see a release by Criterion at some unspecified point in time using a different and better master (see mention here).
We recommend: Wait for the Criterion DVD (or buy a VHS video tape on eBay in the meantime). July 2005 UPDATE: RusCiCo has created a new master for this film, released by Mk2 in France in May 2005, and it appears to be everything we were hoping Criterion would do. See review/comparison over at DVDBeaver. See our string of News section updates from May 30, 2005 to July 12, 2005 for more information. Our updated recommendation: The Mk2 Ivan's Childhood. January 2009 UPDATE: Get the Criterion Edition. As demonstrated by the DVDBeaver review, it's a slight improvement over the Mk2 release.

Andrei Rublov: The Criterion disk (spine number 34, R0/NTSC) contains the original soundtrack, while the RusCiCo disk (R0, released in R2/PAL by Artificial Eye) has the 5.1 remixed soundtrack only. Direct comparison of RusCiCo vs. Criterion is impossible as they are different edits entirely: Criterion's is the 205 minute "Scorsese" version, RusCiCo's is the 185 min version. See however this comparison. PAL speedup on all DVDs except for Criterion's. The Aspect Ratio of the RusCiCo transfer is 2.21:1, horizontally squeezed down from the correct SovScope (2.35:1) aspect ratio. Anamorphic transfer. The Aspect Ratio of the Criterion transfer is 2.49:1, cropped on all sides. Non-anamorphic transfer. See also DVDBeaver's comparison, this extensive side-by-side comparison, and some more info adjacent to the Andrei Rublov entries on our DVD page.
We recommend: The Criterion DVD, spine number 34 — because they have stated (March 2003) that they currently have no plans to redo this title in an anamorphic transfer. Of course, no Tarkovsky collection is complete without the historically significant 185 minute version as well (incidentally, the version Tarkovsky preferred), but we suggest waiting until RusCiCo re-release the film in a version that includes the original mono soundtrack. We do not know when this will happen (2008 Update: The Czech RusCiCo release contains the original mono soundtrack). August 2004 Update: Mosfilm have digitally restored the 185 minute version, and has been released on DVD in Russia (not by RusCiCo), see our August 19 newsbrief, 3rd and 4th paragraph. We also have some possible reservations regarding Mosfilm's restoration work, see e.g., this page. This "restored" version is not yet available on DVD in the West.

Solaris: Criterion's version (spine number 164, R0/NTSC) contains the original soundtrack. The RusCiCo/AE disk contains a 5.1 remix only. RusCiCo/AE disk suffers from PAL speedup. Both RusCiCo and Criterion are anamorphic transfers. See DVDBeaver's comparison.
We recommend: The Criterion DVD, spine number 164. A fantastic disc.

Mirror: AE has released the RusCiCo DVD both with and without the original mono track. See our January 4, 2003, newsbrief on how to spot the difference. Mono version also contains the 5.1 upmix, selectable via menu. Both versions currently ship from online retailers, and they do not distinguish between the versions. RusCiCo's own version does not yet contain the mono track. See our review of this disk here. See the letter from RusCiCo. PAL speedup on all DVD versions except the US Kino on Video (R1, NTSC) disk. Audio/video quality of Kino release is much inferior to that of AE/RusCiCo. See also this comparison at DVDBeaver. Update May 1 2003: RusCiCo has re-released their own version of the disk, with mono soundtrack (the 5.1 upmix can still be selected via menu, for those who are so inclined). There is thus no longer any reason to recommend the AE re-issue.
We recommend (updated May 1 2003): Avoid the AE release at all cost, as you never really know what version you get and the mail-in exchange process adds significant expense and hassle. Instead, get RusCiCo's own release (directly from RusCiCo, or from their re-sellers — Important: always specify explicitly that you want the MONO version. RusCiCo is trying to get rid of their old stock, and will send you the butchered version unless you specify otherwise. Several of our readers have been victims of this). Try to get their PAL version [ why? ].

Stalker: The latest RusCiCo version (carried by AE in R2, Image Entertainment in R1) features the mono soundtrack (in addition to the 5.1 upmix), but does unfortunately have missing gunshots in the scene where the three men are just about to depart on the railcar. See our RusCiCo thread. The disc is suffering from at times distracting compression artifacts (a "jitter/float" in the image). PAL speedup on all DVD versions. See Totaro's review.
We recommend: The AE/RusCiCo release. It's the best available to date, unfortunately — with no superior product on the horizon. [ Why buy PAL? ]

Nostalghia: Released in R1/NTSC by Fox Lorber (now Wellspring Films — but who knows what they'll call themselves next year) using a good, original aspect ratio 1.66:1 (unfortunately non-anamorphic) transfer, dual-layer, decent bitrate; identical master to that used by Criterion on their Laserdisc. Released in an anamorphic transfer by Pioneer in Japan (R2/NTSC), with ingrained Japanese subtitles. Released by Artificial Eye in R2/PAL (2-disk set) in an atrocious transfer: cropped, squeezed, low bitrate single-layer disk with a soundtrack erroneously encoded as mp2 instead of Dolby Digital. Avoid this disk at all cost. Hopefully to be re-issued in better condition — stay tuned.
We recommend (Updated January 2004): Wait. A new master is currently being produced by a yet-to-be-announced entity. See January 7, 2004 news update.

Tempo di viaggio: Available on Disk 2 of the above mentioned Artificial Eye Nostalgia two-disk set (R2/PAL); acceptable transfer but subtitles have numerous flaws. As of October 2004, also available in R1/NTSC from Facets Video under the title Voyage in Time; unacceptable transfer, and subtitles have flaws identical to those of the AE release (see our October 24, 2004 news update for full details).
We recommend: (Updated March 2005) Wait. To be re-released early summer 2005 by Artificial Eye in R2/PAL, on their Andrei Tarkovsky Companion DVD (see March 10, 2005 newsbrief).

The Sacrifice: Released in R2/PAL by AE. Also released in R1/NTSC by Kino on Video in a similar, unacceptable transfer. A different, better transfer was used for the recent Japan R2/NTSC release, which has no English subtitles and suffers from PAL speedup. See our detailed analysis and the DVDBeaver review. Update March 4 2004: See February 6, 2004 news update: A new master has been produced by the Swedish Film Institute. The quality of the resulting Region 2/PAL disc is very good. See DVDBeaver's comparison. Most problem areas have been dealt with. The only drawbacks: non-anamorphic transfer, slight horizontal cropping, and disappointingly low on bonus materials considering the wealth of material available in SFI archives.
We recommend (updated March 4 2004): The January 2004 release from the SFI (Region 2/PAL).

Relevant Links, for further study

A note on DVD players: For those who reside in R1/NTSC-land and wish to view R2/PAL DVDs, an inexpensive (less than USD 80.00) region-free player with very good PAL-to-NTSC capability, the CyberHome CH-DVD 500, may be purchased in most cities (Best Buy, [ info I | info II | info III ]. More expensive, not necessarily better, alternatives are the Oppo, Malata and the JVC. Disclaimer: We do not work for any of these manufactureres/dealers; do your own research and proceed at your own risk.

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