Quay Brothers - The Short Films 1979-2003

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)   






The BFI has collaborated with the inimitable Quay Brothers to release a truly comprehensive compilation of their short films on DVD; a world first. The Quays were extensively involved with the preparation of the DVD, personally supervising the transfers, recording commentaries on selected titles, and contributing an exclusive 20-minute illustrated video interview.

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 BFI 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.

The DVD has been produced by the BFI's Michael Brooke, Content Developer for Screenonline, the BFI's extensive online resource dedicated to the history of British film and television.

Releases: 1979- 2003

 DVD Reviews

DVD Review: BFI (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL

DVD Box Cover


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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Video Original Aspect Ratio(s)
Average Bitrate: 6.17 - 5.98 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 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 English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

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)
• BFI ident
• Alternative versions

*With new commentary by the Quay Brothers recorded for this DVD.

DVD Release Date: November 20th, 2006
Package - see image at top

Chapters: various




This is quite an encompassing package... and quite daunting to review. Honestly, I didn't expect to get much out of it, until I started and I found the viewings very pleasurable and the commentaries quite rewarding. As far as the quality goes, as the Quay brothers had such extensive input into the digital productions, I can't imagine there ever being a better DVD set with their, fairly clandestine, early shorts. The transfers are progressive in the PAL standard for Region 2. There are optional subtitles for the features (although dialogue is pretty much non-existent) and for the commentaries as well. 

I didn't watch these shorts consecutively but spaced it out with gaps to try to digest what I had seen - so it took a while as there is over 300 minutes of material (13+ shorts). Interesting extras include the aforementioned commentaries, an intro by the Quays and an archive interview. Moody, bizarre, Burtonesque stuff. Its not for everyone but I recommend!  

Gary W. Tooze


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DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL



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