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:
- Masters of CinemaInvaluable listings of upcoming DVD releases, particularly for obscure films.
- Internet Movie Database
- Amazon listings, including their branches in other countries.
- “Greatest Movies Never Made: A Most Wanted List.” New York Times, Dec. 14, 2003.
- “Missing in action (and mystery and drama).” The Boston Globe, April 6, 2004.
- The DVD “Missing in Action” list
So what can we do about this? Read the next part.