Personally, I have yet to buy myself a Blu-Ray player, mainly because I have yet to by myself an HD TV, and a Blu-Ray player without an HD TV is like buying a gallon of gas without a car to put it in. Don’t think I haven’t been extremely tempted a time or two to put a massive dent in my savings by buying myself the latest and greatest in home entertainment technology, because I most certainly have. But I just can’t.
Aside from the fact that I can’t afford it, I also have a bit of an issue on the sheer principle of the matter. I’m speaking of course about the fact that DVD simply has not yet run its full course! How can we, the good citizens of North America (or any other place, mind you) be expected to switch our lives over to a brand new format of home entertainment, when the current format still isn’t done conquering the world of film?
Right here, I’ve compiled a list of five movies that I would really like to see get a Region 1 DVD release. And I’ve left off a few of the obvious ones like the theatrical cut of Grindhouse and Orson Welles’s 1942 classic The Magnificient Ambersons. Most of these are movies that most people probably haven’t heard of, and that’s exactly why they could use a push from the digital age.
Some of them aren’t on DVD anywhere, while a few are only available on Region 2 or 3 or 666 or whatever. Sure, you can try and find a region-free player, and in some instances I’ve heard of a way that you can turn your own player into a region-free deal.
But aside from the fact that I’m just not savvy enough to pull off either one of those things, I’m also kind of insulted by the fact that Americans are apparently just not cool enough to get a proper release of some of these films. (That, and I also thought that this would be an interesting thing to write about regardless. So there’s that bit of honesty. I hope you enjoy!)
The title alone should be enough to incite curiosity in anyone! Why is America letting this movie drift off into obscurity? This film is not only a very amusing dark comedy and starring vehicle for the popular gory-tricks-and-comedy duo Penn & Teller, but it was the final film of Bonnie & Clyde and Night Moves director Arthur Penn. Penn Jillette and his silent partner Teller, playing themselves, make an appearance on a national TV talk show where Penn wishes aloud that someone was trying to kill him, so that his life would be more exciting. His wish is granted. It’s no masterpiece—some of it’s kinda meandering, some of it’s a little annoying, and some of it just falls flat—but all in all it’s a pretty entertaining 90 minutes that culminates in a brutally hilarious final five minutes that make the whole movie 100% worthwhile. This one doesn’t need some big fancy Criterion Collection release or anything (although I wouldn’t put up a fight); it would do fine with nothing more than a bare-bones DVD with a decent-enough widescreen transfer. Is that really so much to ask?
2. I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK
I’ve probably made it clear a time or two before that I love Park Chan-wook. I’ve been frantically waiting for his new vampire film, Thirst, to open in my city, and his Oldboy is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen in my life. Luckily, that movie is available on DVD in America, and it’s a damn fine edition, to boot. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his 2006 dramedy I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, which has yet to see any official North American release as of yet. I really wish I could say why, because I don’t think it would have any trouble finding a devoted (and possibly cult) audience. This movie, amid its outright strangeness and a couple of fantasy sequences involving robotic machine-gun shootouts, is such an endearing and sweet little film. It tells the story of a girl in a mental institution who thinks she is a cyborg, and refuses to eat so that it doesn’t gum up her works. A fellow patient, who has a proclivity for stealing people’s personality traits, uses his newfound sympathy (which he stole from her at her own request) to try and help her eat again. It’s a wonderful, strange, and oddly heart-warming story that greatly deserves some more exposure.
3. Brewster McCloud
Here’s an early Robert Altman gem that he made in 1970, right after his success with M*A*S*H. It’s got several M*A*S*H actors in it, like Rene Auberjonois and Sally Kellerman, as well as Altman regulars like Shellie Duvall and Michael Murphy. The story concerns the titular Brewster (played by Harold and Maude star Bud Cort) who lives in a fallout shelter inside the Huston Astrodome and is working on building a giant pair of wings so that he can fly. He has a guardian angel (Kellerman) who kills anyone who gives him shit. Auberjonois is a stereotypical college professor and the Greek chorus of the film, seen intermittently throughout, talking directly to the audience about birds. Throughout the course of the film, he himself starts turning into a bird. Suffice it to say, it’s an extremely strange movie that wrote the book on “offbeat.” I feel like this movie would have a huge following with Wes Anderson fans, and anyone else who enjoys some good old fashioned indie weirdness. A DVD release would open this movie up to cult of fans who don’t even know it exists.
If you’ve never seen an Alejandro Jodorowsky movie, then this one might seem like a pretty deranged little film. If, however, you’ve happened across El Topo or The Holy Mountain before, then this might seem fairly straightforward. If nothing else, it’s a visually arresting movie, and, at the end of the day, it’s something of a surreal revisionist take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. And everyone loves Psycho!! After being released from a mental institution, a former circus performer uses his own arms to act as the arms for his armless mother. And momma’s got a taste for blood… It’s a pretty fun watch, but it’s never been released on Region 1 DVD. As far as I know, there’s only a Region 2 disc, but it appears to be a pretty souped-up little package. Why not throw a little bit of that love this way? Maybe, if Jodorowsky’s King Shot ever gets off the ground (and God, I hope it does!!), we might be seeing a North American rerelease of this film. To be honest, though, I don’t know why someone didn’t do it a couple of years ago when Anchor Bay released its Jodorowsky boxed set. Probably a legal dispute, I imagine. It always is.
5. Until the End of the World
German director Wim Wenders’s future-set globe-hopping 1991 sci-fi movie was released in America to very few screens and an all-around underwhelming reception. Nevertheless, it really is a pretty cool movie in its heavily-cut 158-minute theatrical version. This, however, is the version that Wenders hates and refers to as the “Reader’s Digest” version. There’s another cut, a “European cut,” that runs 179 minutes, which is–oddly enough–available mainly in Japan. The real treasure, however, is the Wenders-approved 280-minute (or 4-hour-and-40-minute) “trilogy version,” which I would absolutely love to see, and hope to hunt down a copy of sooner or later. I’ve also heard rumors of an 8-hour cut and a 20-hour (yes, I said twenty-hour!) cut, but I’m not sure how much truth there is to that. The 280-minute director’s cut, however, is available on Region 2 DVD in Italy and Germany, but no such luck in America. It’s been screened a time or two by Wenders, with plans at one point to be released by Anchor Bay. But those plans fell through the cracks and now, with the original U.S. theatrical cut only available on an out-of-print VHS (which I at least have a copy of), we don’t have any DVD version of this film in America to be discovered by an audience who might appreciate it. And this isn’t the only Wenders film to be ignored by the digital age, either. Two parts of his “Road Movie Trilogy,” Alice in the Cities and Kings of the Road, are also not available on DVD. Long, sad sigh.