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February 20, 2006

The Missing


I don't know much about the financial side of marketing and manufacturing DVDs. There are people who, in theory, can explain why certain films are available and others are not. Even though the DVD market is dominated by consumers who want to own their own copies of films that played recently at the multiplex, there are also those niche customers who want to see something else. These customers are usually the ones who went to art and revival theaters back when they existed, to see a film with subtitles, or a film made before certain technical innovations became commonplace, like color or even sound. For some of us, there are films that exist as "holy grails" as it were, films that are unavailable on DVD or even tape that we would love to see.

Today's piece is in response to Girish who requested that readers list one movie they would love to see that is currently unavailable on DVD or tape. I know that I couldn't limit myself to one title, and I doubt most people who have both a wide and deep love of film could either. While it still coming out as a trickle, it appears that the major studios have begun to realize that there are people who want to see their older films. Maybe the studio bean counters noticed that Criterion and Anchor Bay were making money on the titles that the studios closed their books on. The problem is not just with Hollywood films, as there are older foreign films that are unavailable as well. Joyce Shen of NoShame, pictured above, is much appreciated for her work in broadening scholarship on Italian cinema, as well as putting me on the screener list when my site was in the planning stages. While it would be absurd to think that a list of ten films not currently available on DVD will change anytime soon, perhaps if fellow writers/critics/bloggers created lists, a tipping point may be created to get a few more films out of the vaults and onto our home screens. My list, while admittedly personal, is no more or less abitrary than the fact that there are more films on DVD by Jean Rollin than there are by Frank Borzage. My ten choices are below.

1. A Man's Castle (Frank Borzage - 1933). As gorgeous as she looks photographed by Edward Steichen, Loretta Young never looked hotter than when she was 19 years old, a waif protected by Spencer Tracy in this Depression era classic. For Borzage, even the poor and homeless had their dreams and dignity.

2. Le Diable au Corps (Claude Autant-Lara - 1946). The novel by Raymond Radiguet is considered a classic. NoShame reissued Marco Bellochio's film which was inspired by the novel. This film is not available in France in any format. A nice still of Gerard Philipe and Micheline Presle is available on a paperback version of the novel.

3. The Damned (Joseph Losey - 1963). Did Joe Losey and Anthony Burgess know each other? This film came out the same year as Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange. This very unusual Hammer production features Oliver Reed as the menacing biker of a not-to-distant future.

4. Omicron (Ugo Gregoretti - 1963). Ugo Gregoretti was the "G" from the anthology film RoGoPaG. I saw this science fiction comedy by chance one day at the New Yorker theater back in 1970. I keep hoping to find out if this film is as hilarious as I remember it.

5. Bachelor Flat (Frank Tashlin - 1962). What's it going to take for 20th-Century Fox to release their Frank Tashlin films? There is a British version of The Girl Can't Help It with commentary by John Waters. Tashlin takes a friendly poke at CinemaScope with Jessica Dachshund scampering across the wide screen.

6. Japanese War Bride (King Vidor - 1952). Donald Ritchie vetoed including this film as part of the Museum of Modern Art's King Vidor retrospective. Of course I want to see this!

7. Shanghai Zhi Ye/Shanghai Blues (Tsui Hark - 1984). Tsui is fairly well represented on DVD, but I would still love to be able to see this musical comedy with Kenny Bee and Sylvia Chang.

8. Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (Jean Renoir - 1959). Who doesn't want to see a horror movie by Jean Renoir?

9. Under the Red Robe (Victor Sjostrom - 1937). Sjostrom's last film as a director. Fun to watch and a reminder of who the old man in Wild Strawberries really was, Sweden's first great filmmaker.

10. It's Trad, Dad! (Richard Lester - 1962). Richard Lester and the British pop music scene, before they met The Beatles.

Posted by peter at February 20, 2006 03:17 PM


Good list, Peter. "Loretta Young never looked hotter than when she was 19 years old." I hope I'm not the only one other than yourself who can appreciate that.

"...perhaps if fellow writers/critics/bloggers created lists, a tipping point may be created to get a few more films out of the vaults and onto our home screens." It's certainly worth a try. Maybe this week I'll compose such a list.

As I mentioned to Girish, the one film that stands apart from all others for me is Rivette's "Out 1". All 12+ hours could fit on a couple of discs, preferably with the 4-hr "Out One: Specter" in with the bonus features. Rivette himself believed the film should be viewed in installments, so a DVD set would do nicely.

Posted by: Flickhead at February 20, 2006 08:30 PM

I saw Out One: Spectre at the New York Film Festival in 1974, but all I remember is Jean-Pierre Leaud annoying people with his harmonica.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at February 20, 2006 09:42 PM

I think you are onto something here, Peter. I will definitely make a list. Aux barricades, bloggers!

Posted by: Campaspe at February 22, 2006 08:04 PM

I made a list like this about a year and a half ago, and it's time for a new one. I am still dying for "A Foreign Affair" to be released on DVD in the US (there's a French DVD but it's pricey). Anyway, I enjoyed your list, which contains films I hadn't thought about for mine.

Posted by: Jette at February 24, 2006 12:19 PM