Going for the gold right out of the gate, the inaugural release from Criterion’s Eclipse label—a new line dedicated to filling in the gaps of important filmmakers’ oeuvres—offers up a quintet of baby steps from Sweden’s best-known importer of cinematic angst. The knee-jerk reaction is to say that these early works telegraph the shape of things to come, though that’s not exactly the case. Sure, the initial farcical tone of Ingmar Bergman’s directorial debut, Crisis (1946), indicates that the later Smiles of a Summer Night was no fluke, but you’d have to be a hearty panhandler to find the future auteur in Bergman’s screenplay for Alf Sjberg’s boarding-school drama, Torment (1944), or his own parable of girl-gone-wild fallout, Port of Call (1948). The best of the bunch is, naturally, the most Bergmanesque: 1949’s Thirst, a stark story of spouses on the psychological warpath, complete with flashbacks, sapphic encounters and dark nights of the soul.
You certainly can’t complain about the film prints, all of which look monochromatically gorgeous and crisp. But though Criterion has stressed that Eclipse is designed as a no-frills addendum for completists and armchair cine-historians, the lack of extras is a major bummer when you consider its bells-and-whistles box-set price. — David Fear