My Journey to British Blu-Ray
Even though I love my Criterions, I have looked longingly quite often across the pond. The one limitation with US releases is that Criterion is basically the go-to label for prestigious classic films. Sure, others have their moment in the sun, but it isn’t much of a comparison. What’s more is that Criterion and Janus have the rights to so many movies that may never see a release (hence the Eclipse sets and Hulu channel). British labels for instance (Arrow, Artificial Eye, BFI, Masters of Cinema, among others) have a wide array of arthouse films available.
The label that intrigues me the most is Masters of Cinema, which could be called the UK version of Criterion. They coincidentally started me on this journey. We were tweeting about a title that was available through Masters of Cinema, and I tagged them, thinking nothing of it. I casually mentioned that down the road I might get a region-free player, but I wasn’t in a major hurry. Frankly, the idea of a region-free player doesn’t excite me. Fooling with firmware and getting a mediocre player is not something I want to do. Masters of Cinema surprised me by tweeting just to buy a British Blu-Ray player and an adapter. How simple! Why didn’t I think of that?
This was on May 20th.
There were a few obstacles. It was difficult to find an Amazon player that would ship to the United States. I finally settled on this player. It was reasonably priced, had good reviews, and looked to be eligible for US shipping. I put it on my wish list and planned to come back when I was ready, probably sometime over the summer.
I also asked Brian and Ryan from Criterion Cast’s Off the Shelf podcast for their suggestions about the best Region-B releases to try. I told them my plans about buying a British player rather than going Region free, and Ryan stopped me right there. He said that even if a player says it will ship, it might not ship. He (or people he knew) had tried to order players, and they simply would sit there and never ship. He contacted service and nothing happened, so he eventually canceled the order.
When I heard this, I placed the order immediately. It was May 27th and it had an estimated ship time of a couple weeks. Fine by me. A little bit of time passed. I checked, and no movement. It had not been “dispatched” as they say in the UK, whereas most Amazon UK orders dispatch within a day or two, sometimes on the same day. I checked again later, and still nothing. Maybe Ryan was right?
I contacted Amazon customer service and asked them the status. They were quite helpful and apologetic, but they explained that the shipment delay was because it had to ship from a distribution center in another country. It would ship around mid-July. Huh? When I heard this news, I had practically given up. I doubted I would ever see the player. I went on with my life and forgot about it, but I did not cancel the order just in case.
Within a week or so, I received a surprising email. The player had been dispatched and was on the way. It even had a tracking number. Now I got excited. I watched as the player bounced around the UK until it stopped in Surrey. I checked periodically, and again, no movement. I was beginning to think that my expectations were getting the best of me again, and that it would never leave Surrey.
On June 20th, a Sunday of all days, I noticed a suspicious package on my doorstep. It looked big and bulky. What did I order? It was an Amazon box, but it wasn’t the pristine looking boxes that you get from Amazon US. It looked like it had been around the world. Well, it had. The Blu-Ray player had arrived!
That was a major step, but that was not the final step. You cannot plug and play a British piece of equipment. We have different plugs. I needed an adapter of some sort. It also had to be the right voltage because our plugs and their plugs generate different amounts. As I investigated the player, I found that it required 250V. That could be a problem as most standard adapters only support up to roughly 150V.
I was back on the detective trail. At first I searched Amazon and found a number of low cost adapters, but in the questions section, most of them said they would not play laptops or other electronics. The others simply did not have the wattage levels. I tried Amazon UK thinking that there has to be something available there for British travelers visiting the states or elsewhere. Oh, there were plenty there, but the only problem is I could not find a single one that shipped to the United States. Sigh.
Back to the drawing board, I tried Amazon.com again. I aimed at a little higher price point and found some more viable options. I settled on this one because it was advertised as “100% Compatible with US, UK, EU, & AU plug/socket standards!” It said it handled up to 250V.
Knowing that Amazon has a good return policy, I took the plunge. There was no shipping drama. It arrived within two days. I was wary of burning the house down, so I found the largest surge protector in the house, unplugged everything from it, and gave this little baby a try. A white light came on. Success!
I tried it with the TV. We have two, one of which is a little older. That one did not work. It said that it did not have the proper resolution to support the player. Sigh. It seemed that every time something good happened, something bad would follow.
I tried the other TV and was prepared for disappointment. The light turned on; the TV was thinking. All of a sudden the language options showed up. VICTORY! The first disc I tried looked gorgeous.
So the whole thing set me back about a month and $80, not to mention all the extra discs I’ll be buying in the coming months and years. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
I’ve already bought some British Blu-Rays and more are on the way, so I’ll follow this up later with a post with the beginnings of the collection.
Posted on June 29, 2015, in Blog, Film and tagged amazon uk, film, masters of cinema, region b, region free. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.
Why region B instead of region free?
Good question and I tried to answer it in the post. Basically because I wanted a good player and the only discs I’m really interested in are Region B. The region free players I saw seemed substandard and more of a hassle. This was far easier than I expected.
I’ll give it a shot. I bought Region B “City Girl” from Masters of Cinema and it played fine on my Region A player. So I bought 3 more with higher serial numbers, thus more recent. Did they play? A resounding NO! Instead, I got a semi-apologetic screen saying I had the wrong player.
LOL. Just beware that this might not work for everyone. I may have gotten a tad lucky with my ordeal.
I’ll find out.
As a person who has recently taken the plunge in terms of collecting a lot of older movies, I had never heard of Masters of Cinema (MOC). I knew Criterion as every American does or should know them. The first time I heard about MOC was due to Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse series. I somehow saw that MOC was selling a beautiful box set. I had never ordered from the UK (in the end, I purchased it from Germany because I still didn’t know enough about the MOC and stupidly purchased the box set at a higher price through a vendor in Germany; lesson learned for sure!) and at the time did not have even a working DVD player.
My love for all things Lang convinced me to buy a working region free DVD player. Well, let’s just say that my journey did not end there. After a few weeks, I upgraded to a region free Blu-ray player thanks in part to the beautiful collection that MOC has. They do amazing work and I would highly recommend them. Since then, I have purchased from of course, Criterion, as I’m starting my own collection of their remarkable movies, but also MOC, Arrow, and BFI.
This journey has already cost me a pretty penny and I’m sure it won’t end soon or at least I hope it doesn’t.
I’m also a fan of Lang and have been eyeing that MoC set. Oh I have no doubt that this endeavor will be expensive, but since I’m almost done with my Criterion Blue collection, I need something new to collect. Masters of Cinema does great work, as does Arrow and a lot of the others. And I like variety.
Question: I would imagine that the once things are obtained, the biggest day-to-day hassle is constantly swapping the cables. As I’ve never seen (and doubt they’re even legal:-) an A/B switch for HDMI, every swap of players would seem to involve disconnecting one HDMI cable from your screen and connecting the other one. Now that you’ve had some experience with the setup: 1] does all the cable-swapping I imagine really have to happen (or is there some way to avoid it)?, and 2] how do you deal with the constant hassle, as well as the likelihood the HDMI connector on your screen will “wear out” at some future point?
Good question. As far as I know there is no A/B restriction for HDMI. I tried the same cable that I use for my regular player and it worked fine. I know there are switchers out there for HDMI, but it all depends on your TV. The TV that I’m using has 4 HDMI cables, so I’m using one for the Region A player, one for the Region B player, one for Apple TV and one for Roku. I’ll just switch inputs with the remote and never have to mess with the cables.
I don’t know if anyone has any interest in changing their player to a region free Blu-ray player, but I thought I would mention this website. I purchased it from that store and it has worked wonderfully. No need to wait for it to come from across the pond as well.
I’ve heard good things about them. If this experimented hadn’t worked, then this is probably the direction I would have headed — although this looks to be more expensive.
I want to commend you on your blog. I was directed to your blog from the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon. You write very well and it has been a pleasure to read some of your posts.
That is very kind of you to say. I enjoyed writing for the Classic History ‘thon, although a lot of work. Next year I’ll probably narrow down the topic.
I also ordered a region-free Sony Blu-Ray player from 220 last year. It works perfectly, normal USA plug (no need for adapters, transformers, etc) and it plays all the blu’s I’ve bought from Britain, France, and Spain… it also plays all my USA region A discs fine. I’ve bought almost 50 European discs now and couldn’t be happier!
I like to joke that the region-free Blu-Ray player will either be the death of me or my bank account. It’s been so much fun being able to collect movies from all over the world. A whole universe exists outside Region A and it is spectacular.
This is no lie. I’ve already bought about 20-30 Region B films, but I love the freedom. Just bought a film from France that will probably never see the light of day in the U.S.
And yeah, if I had to do it all over again and had all this info, I might have gone the 220 route, but it worked out because I love my player and it works like a charm. Lots of avenues to get region access, but man, it is so worth getting there.