Criterion Collection: Killing Of A Chinese Bookie
The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie has long had a difficult reputation amidst John Cassavetes' body of work; the film received hostile reviews when it was first released in 1976 and was ignored by audiences. Cassavetes himself was dissatisfied with the picture, and pulled it from release (he was distributing it himself) after only a few weeks. Cassavetes then re-edited the movie, shortening it from 135 minutes to 108, and re-released it in 1978, where it fared little better with audiences or the press. While a no-frills DVD edition of the re-release cut of Chinese Bookie was released by Pioneer in 1999 and both versions appeared in the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set issued by the Criterion Collection in 2004, Criterion's 2008 edition finally makes both edits of the picture available in a stand-alone edition. Both versions of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie have been transferred to disc in widescreen format, letterboxed at 1.85:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors. The image is similarly clean on both cuts of the film, capturing the deep colors of the nightclub scenes and more realistic hues of Los Angeles at night with sharpness and clarity. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono and retains the slightly chaotic tone of the original sound mix. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. In addition to both versions of Chinese Bookie, this set also features the original theatrical trailer, new interviews with leading man Ben Gazzara and producer and actor Al Ruban, excerpts from an audio-only interview with Cassavetes conducted in 1976, a gallery of production stills, and a booklet featuring an original essay by Phillip Lopate. The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie still has a checkered reputation among Cassavetes' admirers, but this set is the best way to study its merits, and Criterion are to be congratulated for going the extra mile on a controversial title.