An acquaintance sent a letter to Criterion and received this response.
Thanks for writing!
I wanted to make sure we were communicating the most accurate information regarding our PINK FLAMINGOS release, so I went straight to the source. Please see her response below:
Thanks for your questions regarding our 50th Anniversary restoration of Pink Flamingos. Since we undertook the restoration from the original film elements, I can only speak to the work we did and not to any previous VHS home video releases. There are no defects on our edition.
As you know, the music in the film is mostly “needle drops” of records from John Waters’ personal collection. At the time the film was made in 1972, they were not considering music clearances needing to be made for home video. On the 25th Anniversary home video release, New Line had to replace some songs and also made all the music “stereo” (with much of it being “fake” or synthesized stereo) as part of their restoration.
While Criterion could also not go back and clear the original, original set of songs, we did take what we could from the original 16mm magnetic track and used it in combination with the cleared songs in the 25th Anniversary version. 90% of what you are hearing, including the dialogue, is from the most original recordings made for the film. I’m almost 100% sure neither the original Ektachrome picture positive or the original mono 16mm mag have ever been used for a home video presentation.
There are no more original elements than the ones we used, as these are the elements John has been holding on to in his attic in Baltimore for over 50 years. The 25th Anniversary restoration was made from a 35mm blow-up print of the original 16mm film, which had all of the graphics (opening credits) already composited. We had the textless opening shot from the camera positive and also the titles on their own that we were able to re-create.
The goal is to still make the film look and sound good and also to be faithful to the original theatrical presentation, so with John’s supervision, we restored the picture and sound and presented the film in its original mono format, as it was always intended to be.
I hope this information helps, and you can finally put that 40-year-old tape to rest.