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Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers

The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer
(1984)      This Unnameable Little Broom (1985)
Street of Crocodiles
(1986)        Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987)
Stille Nacht I - Dramolet
(1988)        The Comb (1990)     Anamorphosis (1991)
Stille Nacht II - Are We Still Married?
(1992)      Stille Nacht III - Tales From Vienna Woods (1993)
Stille Nacht IV - Can't Go Wrong Without You
(1994)        In Absentia (2000)
The Phantom Museum
(2003)        Nocturna Artificialia (1979)        The Calligrapher (1991)
The Summit
(1995)        Archive Interview (2000)       The Falls (1980)   







This two-disc set, in deluxe packaging, collects 13 of the Quay Brothers' short films, spanning 24 years, in brand new restored and re-mastered editions (six of them with new Quay commentaries), plus a collection of 'footnotes' including interviews, alternative versions, unrealized pilot projects and more. An accompanying illustrated color booklet features an encyclopedic guide to the Quays' universe, plus the original illustrated treatment for their best-known film Street of Crocodiles.

Born in Philadelphia and based in London, but with a creative sensibility derived from the remoter corners of Eastern Europe, identical twin animators the Quay Brothers have produced a unique body of work, and have also made a major contribution towards establishing the puppet film as a serious adult art form.

Filtering a huge range of literary, musical, cinematic and philosophical influences through their own utterly distinctive sensibility, each Quay film is a dialogue-free and usually non-narrative experience, riveting the attention through hypnotic control of décor, music and movement. With a grasp of the uncanny that rivals Luis Buñuel and Lewis Carroll, their films evoke half-remembered dreams and long-suppressed childhood memories, fascinating and deeply unsettling by turns.

The collection ranges from their very first puppet film Nocturna Artificialia (1979) to the recent The Phantom Museum (2003). In between there are all the classics: The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984), a tribute to their great Czech counterpart; This Unnameable Little Broom (1985), a reduction of the Epic of Gilgamesh into a ten-minute frenzy; their acknowledged masterpiece Street of Crocodiles (1986), a visualization of the labyrinthine world of Polish author Bruno Schulz; the tantalisingly suggestive Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987) and The Comb (1990); the playful documentary Anamorphosis (1991), uncovering hidden meanings in outwardly conventional paintings; the Stille Nacht quartet (1988-94) of twisted music videos, and In Absentia (2000), their acclaimed collaboration with composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The second disc, 'Footnotes', contains numerous extras including a newly commissioned filmed interview, distinctive idents for the Zeitgeist Films and BBC2, the satirical short The Summit (1995) and a rare 'acting' appearance (albeit in stills) in a clip from Peter Greenaway's The Falls.


Releases: 1979- 2003

 DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Zeitgeist Films (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover


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Distribution Zeitgeist Films Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Video Original Aspect Ratio(s)
Average Bitrate: 6.17 - 5.98 mb/s
NTSC  720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bit: Disc 1
Bit: Disc 2
Audio (original) 
Subtitles Optional English for Anamorphosis
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist Films

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio(s)

where widescreen

Edition Details:

Disc 1 - The Films
• The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer (1984)
• *This Unnameable Little Broom (1985)
• *Street of Crocodiles (1986)
• Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987)
• *Stille Nacht I - Dramolet (1988)
• The Comb (1990)
• Anamorphosis (1991)
• *Stille Nacht II - Are We Still Married? (1992)
• *Stille Nacht III - Tales From Vienna Woods (1993)
• Stille Nacht IV - Can't Go Wrong Without You (1994)
• *In Absentia (2000)
• The Phantom Museum (2003)

Disc 2 - Footnotes
• Filmed introduction by the Quays
• Nocturna Artificialia (1979)
• The Calligrapher (1991)
• The Summit (1995)
• Archive Interview (2000)
• The Falls (1980)
• Zeitgeist Films ident
• Alternative versions

*With commentary by the Quay Brothers.

DVD Release Date: April 24th, 2007

Package - custom

Chapters: various





Disc 1:
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer
This Unnameable Little Broom (Epic of Gilgamesh)
Street of Crocodiles
Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies
Stille Nacht I (Dramolet)
The Comb
Stille Nacht II (Are We Still Married?)
Stille Nacht III (Tales From Vienna Woods)
Stille Nacht IV (Can’t Go Wrong Without You)
In Absentia
The Phantom Museum

The shorts come in a variety of aspect ratios, mostly 1.33:1 or 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. However, Disc 2 also has 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen versions of Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies and In Absentia. The shorts were transferred from the best-possible tape/film/digital copies that the Quays have, though as you can see, quality varies wildly depending on age and condition. The better-preserved black-and-white programs are at times stunningly beautiful. Most of the shorts, even the ones from the 1970s-1980s, look better than the recent shot-on-HD-video The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. (The shorts were probably transferred from PAL sources courtesy of the Quays and the British Film Institute.)

The shorts have Dolby Digital 2.0 mono or 2.0 stereo English sound. Understandably, some tracks have a bit of hiss due to the use of analog audio recording technologies, though digital restoration has minimized distortion and other problems. However, I was surprised by how robust much of the music sounds. The Quays have a wonderful ear when it comes to choosing musical accompaniment, and the DVDs reproduce the music very well.

--Disc 1--
The Quay Brothers provided audio commentaries for This Unnameable Little Broom, Street of Crocodiles, Stille Nacht I, Stille Nacht II, Stille Nacht III, and In Absentia. (Unlike the R2 BFI release, the R1 Zeitgeist does not have commentary subtitles.)

--Disc 2--
Disc 2 is divided into four categories.

“Additional Films” offers three other shorts (Nocturna Artificiala, The Calligrapher, The Summit) directed by the Quays. With “In’Scope”, you can watch Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies and In Absentia in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Under “Interviews”, you get two extended featurettes (“Quay Brothers Introduction” and “Archive Interview”) with the Quays talking about their careers.

In “Etcetera”, you’ll find an excerpt from Peter Greenaway’s The Falls. This excerpt features the Quays’ “acting” in a series of still photos. There’s also a “BFI Ident” clip, a brief station identification bumper that the Quays produced for the British Film Institute. Finally, there are trailers for Institute Benjamata and The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. Given how comprehensive Zeitgeist has been with this set and the Piano Tuner DVD, it’s possible that the company might release Institute Benjamata sometime in 2007 or 2008.

Zeitgeist has created a custom cardboard DigiPak case for this two-disc set. This release uses artwork that is different from the British R2 release with primarily brown hues rather than black for the color scheme. The package includes a very informative booklet containing program listings, information about the Quays and other moviemakers/artists, an essay by Michael Atkinson, and DVD credits.

David McCoy

DVD Menus


Zeitgeist TOP, BFI BOTTOM (BFI edition review HERE)




Screen Captures








Top - Scope ratio - Bottom - anamorphic



DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution Zeitgeist Films Video - Region 1 - NTSC



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