Mystery collection: Twenty cents a movie

A few months ago, I wrote a post updating the situation with Mill Creek, the company whose mining of the public domain has been keeping me on the treadmill for some years now with its well-priced “50 movie pack” collections. Part of that post mentioned Mill Creek’s larger bundles–first, a fair number of 100-movie packs and then, the ultimate (so far!):

250-movie packs

There were then (and still are) four of them. I don’t believe any movies appear in these monster boxes for the first time; they’re bigger sets of movies also in other smaller sets. They’re also, according to what I read, in fancier packaging: foil “collector’s boxes.”

And Amazon sells them for $50 (or $49.95). That’s twenty cents a movie.

So, late last week, I bit. I ordered a set that appears to be called:

Mystery Collection 250 Movies

It arrived yesterday. Here’s what you get.

  • The box is indeed a colorful foil-printed box, about 7.7 inches wide, 7.7 inches tall, and 5.5 inches deep. Mostly pictures of some of the more important stars with names of a few (Basil Rathbone, James Cagney…) and, on the back, in very small type, an alphabetical listing of all 250 movies with one star from each–from Affair in Monte Carlo (Richard Todd) and Algiers (Charles Boyer) to Woman on the Run (Ann Sheridan) and The Wrong Road (Helen Mack). Oh, and under “250 movies” on five sides of the cover is “On 60 Double Sided DVDs!” Here’s a link to the product site, with the front cover and total length (324 hours 59 minutes)–and, for each movie, a link to a title page that includes production details and, usually, a picture and a synopsis.
  • But that box seemed bigger than it should be. So it is–unfortunately. It really is a “collector’s box”–with some cardboard spacers for the real box. That one’s a black near-cube (mine slightly marred, but who cares?),  5.5 inches square by 5.7 inches high, with a hinged top to reveal the contents.
  • Those contents being, to be sure, 60 coated-cardboard sleeves, each with the synopses of the movies on the sleeve’s disc–Side A movies on one side of the cardboard, Side B on the others. (Just like the 50-movie packs, although those seem to have different colors for each sleeve; this one has 60 identically-colored sleeves.)
  • The order? Certainly not alphabetical by title (as on the box). Initially, at least, it seems to be by detective or series where that makes sense. Disc 1–oh, and Mill Creek now correctly spells “Disc” with a “c” both on the discs and the sleeves (they used to use a “k” on the sleeves and a “c” on the discs)–has six relatively short Bulldog Drummond movies. Disc 2 three Dick Tracy and one The Shadow. Disc 3 another The Shadow, one Mr. Moto, and two Mr. Wong. Discs 4 and 5, eight Sherlock Holmes (not all Basil Rathbone). After that, it’s mostly singles…and lots of them.

Well, that’s at least two years on the treadmill…even though there are a few repeats from other sets I’ve watched (14 out of the 250, I think–including some first-rate films).

I won’t repeat the suggestion–that a library could start a “leave one, take one” casual-circulation DVD collection with two or three of these–and it may or may not make sense. If it did, I think three of the four 250-movie packs would make great starters and offer 180 circulating items. (The Horror pack may need a little thought: It tends toward the R level at times, I think.)

Good stuff–and effective use of the public domain.

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<b>Clarification:</b> While “effective use of the public domain” correctly characterizes much (most?) of what’s on Mill Creek Entertainment sets, MCE itself never claims that its sets are entirely public domain, and in some cases certain items <b>could not</b> be public domain, and must be licensed, presumably at very low cost.

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