twenty DVD gaps: part two

Twenty Gaps in the Region 1 DVD Market (continued from here)
11. Swimming to Cambodia (1987)—”It was the first day off in a long time …” A Region 1 DVD is available in Canada but not in the US. I bet a lot of people would like to watch this movie again following Spalding Gray’s death earlier this year, to remember what a wonderful storyteller he was.

12. Top Hat Flying Down to Rio in Swing Time with the Gay Divorcee. Would you believe me if I told you that no, none, not a single Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie is available on DVD? I still can’t believe it, and I figured this out almost accidentally when I was looking up Stage Door. My guess is that the RKO movies might need serious restoration work. (Sadly, neither actor is represented very well on DVD, even apart from the movies they made together.) Boxed set available in Region 2 (UK). Completely unverifiable Web rumors say a boxed set will be released in the US in 2005.
13. Flower Belle Lee and Mahatma Kane Jeeves. Otherwise known as Mae West and W.C. Fields, both of whom are shockingly underrepresented on DVD. These are just a few of their movies not available.

  • My Little Chickadee (1940)—West and Fields cowrote and costar. Perhaps not their best film, but seeing them together? Priceless.
  • She Done Him Wrong (1933)—Supposedly even better than I’m No Angel, which was a hoot (both movies also include a very young Cary Grant). Also pre-Code.
  • Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)—I saw this for a class years ago. It’s so rare you see a film class entirely broken up into hysterical laughter. Beautifully surreal.

14. Liquid Sky (1982)—Briefly released on DVD, now out of print, and used copies sell for a lot of money. This is a very weird cult movie that probably isn’t as good as I remember it (and I don’t remember it being that good) but it’s certainly original and I’d like to see it again. Aliens appear on the balcony of a Manhattan apartment and feed off people’s orgasmic highs, causing Our Heroine to believe that she can kill people by having sex with them. Fascinatingly dated. (Shares notoriety with John Waters’ movie Female Trouble as one of the few films where a dual-role actor has sex with him/herself.)
15. Delicatessen (1991)—Speaking of weird cult movies, why isn’t this one on DVD in the US? Jean-Pierre Jeunet did very well for himself with Amelie and you’d think there would be some demand for his earlier movies. Available in Region 2 (UK).
16. “Tired of being admired …” Another actress scarce on DVD is Marlene Dietrich. None of her silent German films are available in any format (except perhaps in Germany)—the earliest film you can see is The Blue Angel (1930). Most of her early Hollywood films with Josef Von Sternberg are also unavailable.

  • Morocco (1930)
  • Shanghai Express (1932)
  • Blonde Venus (1932)—Melodramatic, but Marlene kicks ass. Also, she sings “Hot Voodoo” in a gorilla suit! And more young Cary Grant.

17. Matilda (1996)—This makes me very angry. It’s a good thing I don’t develop scary powers like Matilda when I get angry or you all would be sorry. There are so few good children’s movies out there, and even fewer that both children and adults can enjoy. And Matilda, one of my favorites, is not available on DVD for no reason I personally can discern. (It is currently out of print in the US and Canada.) You can get stupid damn Barbie pseudo-movies on DVD, but not this wonderful adaptatation of a Roald Dahl book. Amazon says the release date is TBD and you can pre-order it, but I’ve seen things languish for years that way. Currently available in Region 2 (UK). (Okay. In calming down and running a Web search, the Scholastic Web site says the DVD will be released August 3. We’ll just see about that.)
18. Dinner at Eight (1933)—Warner has scheduled this movie for release in 2005. A bit heavy-handed, but a great chance to see John and Lionel Barrymore, Billie Burke when she’s not a Good Witch, Jean Harlow, and Marie Dressler. (Why are society women in Thirties movies always named “Vance”? Oh, never mind.)
19. Mitchell Leisen. Leisen was a director who worked with some of the best screenwriters of the 1930s, including Preston Sturges and the Billy Wilder/Charles Brackett team. Writers hated him but he had a lovely, distinctive visual sense (he had previously been an architect and a costume designer). His 1930s films are delightful frothy romantic comedies (and a few dramas) that I am sure you would enjoy if you ever got to see them. Which I hope you will. (Death Takes a Holiday is available on DVD, but only as part of a Meet Joe Black boxed set.)

  • Hands Across the Table (1935)—Early Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray. I haven’t seen it yet.
  • Easy Living (1937)—Scripted by Sturges. A fur coat mysterious drops on working-girl Jean Arthur’s head. Very cute.
  • Midnight (1939)—Scripted by Wilder/Brackett. Claudette Colbert, John Barrymore, Don Ameche. One of my favorite films. But you probably knew that already.
  • Remember the Night (1940)—Scripted by Sturges. Odd but compelling Christmas drama with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.
  • Arise, My Love (1940)—Scripted by Wilder/Brackett. Claudette Colbert/Ray Milland movie isn’t available on VHS either, so I haven’t seen it.
  • Take a Letter, Darling (1942)—Rosalind Russell hires Fred MacMurray as her secretary. I have the feeling this movie might annoy me, but I’d like to find out.

20. Preston Sturges. The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels are available on lovely Criterion DVDs, but apparently everyone forgot about the other witty, charming movies he wrote and directed.

  • The Great McGinty (1940)
  • Christmas in July (1940)
  • The Palm Beach Story (1935)—A very bizarre movie for its time. The opening credit sequence is a small movie unto itself. And then there’s the Wienie King. Easily the equal of the other Sturges movies on DVD.
  • The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
  • Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
  • Unfaithfully Yours (1948)—Recently released on Region 2 (UK), so perhaps there’s hope.

Lagniappe. Various movies (mostly 1930s comedies) that I’ve always wanted to see but can’t find easily if at all. Most of these movies are too obscure to ever see the light of a DVD release, I suspect, so I had better track down the VHS copies (if they exist at all) before they’re gone.

  • Holiday (1930)—Not the 1938 version but an earlier one adapted from the play soon after its Broadway debut. Allegedly the only remaining print of this movie is in the Library of Congress. I don’t suppose they’ll let me stop by and watch it, do you?
  • Ladies of Leisure (1930)—Directed by Frank Capra back when he made non-sappy movies with strong female characters.
  • The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)—Directed by John Ford; scripted by Robert Riskin (It Happened One Night). I’m told the jail scene from this movie inspired the one in Bringing Up Baby. VHS is out of print.
  • Soak the Rich (1936)—Directed by writing partners Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Love story involving campus radicals sounds possibly terrible, but I’m curious.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)—I read the book for the first time last year and I would like to see how it was adapted for the screen, especially in 1945, when I know the Production Code would have insisted on a certain amount of sanitizing.

Resources used in compiling this list:

So what can we do about this? Read the next part.

6 thoughts on “twenty DVD gaps: part two”

  1. I LOVE Arise my Love. Years ago when AMC showed movies without commercial interruption I managed to capture a copy on VHS, but it’s not a good one. Claudette Colbert is a little preachy at the end, but that’s just how some US movies were during WWII. Ray Milland is actually a funny and sympathetic character. I wish I had some way of copying the VHS tape —- I’d sent it to you. (Oops, pirate police, please disregard that).
    There’s a signup list for Laura on Amazon. Apparently someone is trying to get it out on DVD.
    Love these two entries, Jette.

  2. I always wanted to see “Liquid Sky” on a double bill with “Repo Man”. I suggested it a couple of times to one of the local revival theaters, but it never happened…

  3. Something to consider (if you’re hardcore) is to go retro and look into laserdiscs… since getting a player from my workplace that they were throwing out (and that worked just fine, BTW), I’ve been filling in gaps in my movie collection.
    Some of the out-of-print stuff can be pricey, like the Criterion discs, but it’s still a good price break compared to the original retail cost… and some of the extras on the Criterion sets never made it to DVD (like the Terry Gilliam films).
    Could be worth looking into.
    The advice to get a multi-region player is also good too, if you want to strictly stick with dvd’s.

  4. Have you ever seen “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?” It is SOOO bad that it is hysterically funny. And I don’t think they meant it to be funny.

  5. I’m soooo glad to find other people clamoring for great films to be released on DVD – and to finally hear at least some report of Bringing Up Baby being restored. Billy Wilder – I’m with you. There are some pretty great independent rental stores in my town (Bellingham, WA – and having lived in Austin for a few years, I feel like I know a good rental place when I see one) and yet I’ve had no luck finding movies like Ball of Fire. Also, for three years now, I’ve been checking periodically on the African Queen, which is my mom’s favorite movie (and not to far down on my list, either). At least she owns a decent VHS copy of Holiday – you’re so right that this movie is underrated! I’d even put it a notch above The Philadelphia story. Anyway, if I could just add my own personal bit of incredulity to this list of DVD gaps: where the freak is “Becket” (1964), with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton?? You’d think that perhaps it could have been packaged with “The Lion in Winter,” since Peter O’Toole plays the same character (and on a related note, wouldn’t it be just about the coolest Arthouse double feature ever to see these two back to back at the Alamo Drafthouse or the Old Paramount?). At least I can sleep at night knowing that Criterion has released “The Ruling Class.”

  6. Two comedies I am trying to track down, both romances – the brilliant Cagney-de Haviland flick by the outrageous Raoul Walsh – The Strawberry Blonde, with the recently remade Latina flamenco dancer Rita Hayworth as the eponymous heroine. Also Elaine May’s over-budget then hacked up New Leaf, with a daring casting choice of Walter Matthau as the murder minded blue blood. Are these available in any regions? I have trouble finding the Raoul Walsh films, as well as the works of Robert Donat.

Comments are closed.