By Craig Phillips
For various - or sometimes no - reasons, there are still a distressing number of films not yet out on DVD here in the States. Fortunately, each month a few more titles move from MIA to available, but some surprising films are not yet in anyone's plans. What follows is our picks for the 10 films most crying out for a DVD release. To narrow this down, we've eliminated titles that were on DVD but have since gone out of print -- those films deserve a re-release, of course (John Woo's The Killer anyone? The Ipcress File?) -- and titles that have DVDs in other regions (outside of R1). We'll update this when possible.
She's Gotta Have It: Spike Lee's first feature is also, oddly, his one title not on DVD. Another one with rights issues - Spike was waiting to retain rights after presumably giving some aspect of them up in a rookie mistake. Rumors are rampant there'll be a 2007 release, maybe even Criterion, but no sure bet yet. The film may be awkward in some respects, as first films often are, but it was energetic, funny, and fresh. Was also one of the most successful low-budget indie films of the 1980s and spawned Lee's Nike Air Jordan commercials, too. "Pleasebabybabyplease," can we have this one on DVD?
Update! 12/07: This one was announced as coming out soon, January 15 2008, to be precise. Funny how it just sort of appeared on DVD release lists with no fanfare at all. But at any rate, cause for celebration.
The Magnificent Ambersons: Orson Welles' second masterpiece after Citizen Kane, this handsome adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel was re-edited in Welles' absence - about 50 minutes cut, new material filmed. Just another chaper in Welles' long, sad story, or as critic J. Hoberman put it, "the movie became the sacred relic of Welles's martyrdom." As it is, cut or now, The Magnificent Ambersons "is a pretty sensational movie," continued Hoberman. "The film language is more fluid and adept than Kane's, the expressionist lighting is more rigorously modulated. The astonishingly choreographed Christmas ball that serves to introduce the major characters is arguably the greatest set piece of Welles's career."
Two Lane Blacktop: (Actually this one was released once, in a crummy DVD, but we'll cheat here.) Monte Hellman's odd, brilliant, car chase/race movie is seminal late sixties/early seventies cinema, oft-cited, and rarely seen. That singers James Taylor and Dennis Wilson co-star in the film as The Driver and The Mechanic, and are given barely any dialogue, adds to the film's mystique, as does Warren Oates' brilliant performance. But it's the road that is the central character here. [More on the film on Bright Lights Film Journal.]
Update! Two Lane is coming out in December - and in a Criterion DVD no less. Fantastic news. We can't wait to see it this way.
Hearts of Darkness: Many reasons have been given as to why this stellar doc on the making of Apocalypse Now, shot by FF Coppola's wife Eleanor who put it together with director George Hicklenlooper, hasn't seen the light of day on DVD, but some point to Coppola himself not wanting anyone to see evidence of all the film's on-set disasters. Well, I've seen it, and it's one of the best behind the scenes docs ever, a perfect companion piece to the brilliant film.
Update, 10/18! This one has been announced for DVD release on Nov 20! GreenCine has already added to the catalog. Includes commentary tracks with both Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola, and as an added extra you get the follow-up documentary “CODA: THIRTY YEARS LATER”.
The Grey Fox: Richard Farnsworth's heartbreaking portrayal of an stagecoach robber in the early 20th century who shifts to robbing trains after he's released from prison is the best reason to have this one available, along with the lovely photography and Sam Elliot's supporting role.
Kiss of the Spider Woman: Constantly delayed DVD release for this one; was rumored for years now that producer David Weisman was holed up in his basement working on a disc, but there were rights problems, issues with editors and lord knows what else, so don't hold your breath. Hector Babenco's film was a showcase for terrific acting (Raul Julia, William Hurt) and was nominated for a bushel of Oscars. Easily one of the most anticipated titles. Update! Now out on DVD.
Greed: Not a huge surprise that Erich Von Stroheim's masterpiece, based on the novel McTeague, is not out on DVD, even if it is considered one of the great films of the silent era: It is four hours long and has existed in several incarnations/edits. However, a recent restoration of the film by its copyright owner, Ted Turner, using lost footage from the director's original cut (which shortened the running time down to 2 hours in 1924) and subsequent showings on Turner Classic Movies gave us hope a few years back. No word yet on a DVD, though. [See addendum to this in comments below]
Futureworld: Sequel to the cult favorite Westworld is both dated and still pretty darned cool, in a 70's sci-fi kind of way. Still retains some high creep factor. Not sure why this one's never made it to disc.
Cannery Row: Very underrated Steinbeck adaptation starring Nick Nolte as Doc, a marine biologist and former baseball star, alongside Debra Winger as the sexy, abrasive drifter he connects with. A charming supporting cast, the period flavor and the Monterey scenery add to the film's charm. Writer-director David S. Ward went on to do the more popular Major League (and the script for Sleepless in Seattle) so it's odd this one's never seen the light of day on DVD. Update: This one is now out on DVD, as of late January 2009!
Night on Earth: Jim Jarmusch's fourth feature was a mixed bag, multiple taxi-driven stories set around the world that both worked and didn't (did anyone buy Winona Ryder as a taxi driver?), but there's much to behold here - particularly for fans of the director's work or of American independent cinema in general. Beautifully filmed, too, it practically cries out for a DVD. (Rumors abound that Criterion may have this one in the works, too. Stay tuned.) UPDATE! Criterion is definitely releasing this one on Sept. 18.
More to come...
Bookmark/Search this post with: