April 14, 2009


By Craig Phillips

taxingwomanYet another in my series of fully biased reports on movies that are frustratingly absent a current DVD release here in the United States (the other two lists are here, and here.) Here are ten more neglected films -- and this is one article I wouldn't mind seeing become dated, when/if these films finally do arrive on disc:

  • The List of Adrian Messenger: I'll confess that I haven't seen this one since I was a pre-teen (on television one night), but it was one of the first mystery films I both really loved and even understood, aside from the 70s all-star Agatha Christie films. Even if there's a chance it's now dated, the pedigree -- director John Huston, actors Kirk Douglas, George C. Scott, Robert Mitchum, et al -- should alone be enough to get this one its due on DVD. A real head-scratcher that it's not.
  • A Taxing Woman: Juzo Itami's wonderful film has long been OOP on DVD, which seems to occur to me every year on tax day. The titular tax agent is played by Itami's wife. Was followed by a sequel, also not on DVD in the States. Someone do an audit and find out why.
  • Barbarosa: Woefully underrated Western from woefully underrated director Fred Schepisi was mentioned again recently in Michael Sragow's review of Appaloosa, as both are throwback Westerns in the best possible sense. Barbarosa had a really crummy pan and scan DVD that came out ages ago that I refuse to acknowledge. Willie Nelson and Gary Busey in their prime (can't say the same these days).
  • Mickey One: Saw this in film school and begged the teacher to let me see it again, so much did it capture my curiosity and attention. Fascinating, if obtuse, Arthur Penn film with Warren Beatty as a guy who flees the mob, becomes a renowned stand-up comic, and then fears his own demise. The film works on several levels, and offers one of Beatty's best performances.
  • Humanoids from the Deep: Roger Corman presents...a truly perverse reworking of Creature from the Black Lagoon. It's cheap, it's gross, and entertaining, if nasty. With so much other schlock on DVD now why isn't this... schlock on DVD?
  • High Tide: Gillian Armstrong. Judy Davis -- in case anyone needed to be reminded what a terrific actress she is, here's one of her best, early roles.
  • Napoleon (1927) That Abel Gance's silent classic had been on DVD in Australia but not here has long been source of frustration for me and a ton of other American cinephiles to be sure. Much of this has apparently has to do with a battle over versions: Francis Coppola's Zoetrope has owned the rights to a "restored" version some years back (which actually ran quite a bit shorter than the original, and had a new soundtrack by Carmine Coppola) vs film restorer Kevin Brownlow's version, which is seemingly impossible to see outside of the UK. End our suffering!
  • brewster_mccloud.jpg

  • What Happened Was: Tom Noonan wrote, directed, and starred in this Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner about overlapping perspectives on an awkward first date. It's a terrific "little" film, in the best sense of the word.
  • Brewster McCloud: After Harold and Maude, of course, this (very) quirky Robert Altman sleeper is surely Bud Cort's finest hour (and 45 minutes). In H&M, he played a shy loner who lived with his mother and dreams up his own deaths; in Brewster he plays a shy loner who lives in the Astrodome(!) and dreams of flight. A surreal, even cartoonish satire that owes a bit to the French New Wave, it left people scratching their heads when it followed Altman's hit MASH, but has since developed a cult following. Needs to take flight on DVD.
  • 99 River Street: As far as I know, this tough, taut noir from 1953 has never even appeared on VHS, yet alone on DVD. I lucked into seeing a print shown at a film noir course in college and yet had forgotten about it until reading a piece online about underrated noir director Phil Karlson.
  • Honorable mentions (or, titles that will appear on future MIA DVD lists, if they don't arrive on DVD before then): A New Leaf; The Assault; FM and WUSA; Blues Harp (Takashi Miike).

    Happy note: I originally had Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel on this list, too, but then heard the news that Criterion was going to release it -- and lo! It's now out on DVD. Hurrah.

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    Posted by cphillips at April 14, 2009 3:15 PM


    This does seem sort of tax-y. Isn't "the cloud" going to solve all of these problems?

    Posted by: Erin D. at April 15, 2009 4:32 PM

    It's not the same as being able to hold in your hands on DVD, but just last week TCM played "Mickey One" in honor of Beatty's birthday. If one cares to venture into the world of the small screen, TCM is unearthing some great little treasures recently.

    Posted by: Joseph B. at April 15, 2009 5:32 PM


    Posted by: zach at April 15, 2009 7:12 PM

    Thanks Joseph -- yeah, a friend of mine told me that had been on, after the fact. I nearly wept. Will have to train my Tivo to look for the next rare screening. But it most certainly deserves the full DVD treatment.

    I truly adore Criterion, but sometimes I get a little irritated when I see Benjamin Button is getting the full treatment from them while Mickey One begs for it.

    Posted by: Craig P at April 15, 2009 10:29 PM

    I've been dying to see Stuart Rosenberg’s "WUSA" ever since I stumbled across this intriguing write-up in the Oxford American: http://tinyurl.com/ch8k5n

    Posted by: Kathy Fennessy at April 16, 2009 9:46 AM

    TCM aired Barbarosa this month as well. They've been on a roll lately. Normally this is when I'd pound the drum for a DVD of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, but Criterion's taken care of that already.

    Posted by: Vince at April 16, 2009 12:21 PM

    Indeed, Vince -- and *that* one (Barbarosa) I at least caught. Was a pleasure. God bless TCM. Still, I hate being a slave to a TV schedule (or even my Tivo) and the picture quality's not quite the same as a nice crisp DVD would be... Plus, think of the extras: I can only imagine a rambling, slightly drunken commentary track from Willie and Busey.


    Posted by: Craig P at April 16, 2009 12:26 PM

    And I'll chime in as well and say that Turner Classic Movies also played "Brewster McCloud", probably close to a year ago. I hope they play it again soon.

    Posted by: Jason at April 18, 2009 9:31 AM

    One off the list: "The List of Adrian Messenger" is on DVD in the UK.

    Posted by: giles edwards at April 20, 2009 4:06 AM

    Indeed, Giles. Alas, not in the US though. This list is just for films not available in America, where we're based. Otherwise, it would be much more complicated, with all the various regions. Certainly there are far fewer titles that aren't out on DVD somewhere in the world... Anyway, hopefully the UK DVD is a sign there'll be a US one, too! Thanks.


    Posted by: Craig P at April 20, 2009 9:24 AM

    'State of Siege' by Costa-Gavras. I saw it recently on an old VHS. Good stuff. I liked it better than Z.

    Posted by: MattL at April 22, 2009 8:50 PM
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