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Another Studio Vault Opens!

by Leonard Maltin
October 13, 2010 4:00 AM
10 Comments
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Following Warner Bros.’ great success with warnerarchive.com, and Universal’s licensing of vintage titles to Movies Unlimited and Turner Classic Movies, Sony has stepped up to the plate to launch its own vintage movie line on DVD, drawing on its vast library of Columbia Pictures. The more the merrier, says I.

What’s more, the folks behind this initiative have done something their competitors haven’t: they’ve launched a website (www.columbia-classics.com) which has actual content, beyond descriptive copy for each release. Contributors include longtime film buff and distributor Michael Schlesinger and Sony archivist Rita Belda, and special features so far include an interview with Eddie Muller, author and creator of the Film Noir Foundation, and links to an audio interview with Columbia star—

Kim Novak. The site is promoting reader participation through a series of lighthearted polls (What’s your favorite Three Stooges line of dialogue?), and even offers an “ask the experts” feature.

As for the films themselves, Sony hopes to add a dozen titles to its repertoire every month. The initial offering of “100 titles” includes a number of movies that are already commercially available, but does include an eclectic array of new material, from such film noir titles as 711 Ocean Drive with Edmond O’Brien to Saddles and Sagebrush, a 1943 B western starring Russell Hayden and featuring Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. You can watch a musical excerpt by clicking HERE.

Other new-to-DVD titles include Lou Costello in The 30 Ft. Bride of Candy Rock, Victor Mature in the interesting British noir The Long Haul, Paul Lukas in Address Unknown, Jacques Demy’s The Model Shop, Frank Borzage’s remarkable Depression-era fable No Greater Glory, The Pumpkin Eater with Anne Bancroft and Peter Finch, I Never Sang for My Father with Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas, Louis Hayward in The Black Arrow, Frank Sinatra’s late-career TV movie Contract on Cherry Street, Buck Jones in Forbidden Trail, and several Jungle Jim outings with Johnny Weissmuller. Even The Spiritualist, with Turhan Bey, which has been released on DVD in an inferior copy using its alternate title, The Amazing Mr. X, has been digitally remastered from its original negative. You can watch sample clips from all of the featured titles.

Charley Chase and Peggy Stratford in The Wrong Miss Wright, one of the many two-reel comedies I’m hoping Sony will release on DVD as part of their new program.

The challenge for this program is to find worthwhile titles that haven’t already been made available on the commercial market. Sony has released a number of terrific, film-buff-oriented collections over the past few years devoted to Hammer Films, William Castle, film noir, and Kim Novak, to name a few. It begs the question, “How many first-rate films are still sitting on the shelf?” I’d say the answer lies in the offbeat, and in Columbia’s enormous backlog of B movies, detective series, westerns, unknown early talkies, serials, short-subjects, and cartoons.

How about a Charley Chase collection, or a selection of Screen Snapshots? The recent Noir City Festival unearthed an interesting Blake Edwards-Richard Quine collaboration called Drive a Crooked Mile with Mickey Rooney. There are little-seen 1930s goodies like Lady by Choice (a followup to Capra’s Lady for a Day, starring May Robson) and a cute musical called The Girl Friend starring Jack Haley and Ann Sothern. I’d love to revisit the tacky serial The Lost Planet. And there are the recently-restored Frank Capra silents.

Sony is inviting film buffs (and potential customers) to voice their opinions, so don’t be shy. If there are titles you want to see, and are willing to pay for, let them know. This is a historic time for movie buffs; we should all take advantage of the opportunity.

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10 Comments

  • Wayne Lackey | June 11, 2011 11:48 AMReply

    PLEASE Columbia/Sony release as man Charles Starrett westerns as possible. He still has a lot of fans.

  • Ken Henderson | February 8, 2011 8:15 AMReply

    The Columbia serials have appeared here and there but some have problems with what elements exist and this goes back to the Laserdisc days. Missing soundtracks on some reels, nitrate damage visual footage etc. I have seen serials where modern actors have dubbed in the dialog that is missing but it does not really match and I could class it as awful.

    My immediate personal wants from Columbia would be PEPE(1960) complete version; One Night of Love(1935, Grace Moore); Let's Make Love(1934, Ann Sothern); Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid; The Fuller Brush films(c1950). Screen Snapshots would be nice if they have them all or most of them. Of course, the Columbia shorts other than The Three Stooges. I m sure there was one that included Gus Schilling but I can't find it & if it was released, I missed it and no one seems to answer my various forum/blog posts around the net about this material. I would have seen most of those shorts on early Australian TV where they grouped them under the generic title of Hilarious 100s with the Columbia Screen Gems TV logo. The Three Stooges were programmed separately on the station where they jammed two into a 30mins spot with ads, meaning one was actually snipped right down to fit. I know because a boy in my class had a father in that TV department and bought snips to school(he wanted to and became a TV cameraman on the road for news reports in 40 years ago).

    Fortunately Sony have restored much of their asset films before this series came about beating Warner whose prints often leave a lot to be desired in the MOD series they started. They are changing but i would have thought they would have already done this for their TCM classic slots.

  • jim cheesman | October 31, 2010 2:02 AMReply

    Please release the Columbia serials and the Charles Starrett westerns.
    Still many fans looking for these titles.
    Thank you
    Jim Cheesman

  • J. Kane | October 20, 2010 10:20 AMReply

    I don't know if Columbia made them but I long for DVDs of the series of comedies made around products, i.e Jack Carson in the Good Humour Man, Red Skeleton in The Fuller Brush Man and, if memory serves me right, Lucille Ball in the Fuller Brush Woman. Come to think of it what happened to all those Red Skeleton movies that I used to love on Saturday Morning pictures? Surely a Red Skeleton box set of comedies would sell. Well at least it would have one buyer.

  • buddy bryant | October 18, 2010 12:03 PMReply

    would like to see the bill elliott-tex ritter series offered in good quality. and the starrett pre durango would be great.

  • DBenson | October 18, 2010 9:07 AMReply

    While we're wishing, I think Columbia still holds most of UPA's animation. Dare we hope for the theatrical Mr. Magoos (including the Arabian Nights movie), or such non-kiddy items as Rooty-Toot-Toot and Unicorn in the Garden?

  • Roy Atkinson | October 18, 2010 8:14 AMReply

    Reader Elizabeth Drake McDonald's mention of Bob Nolan and The Sons of The Pioneers prompts me to add that two of Nolan's songs ,"Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water"are timeless classics worthy of frequent revival. i believe Nolan, Tim Spencer and Leonard Slye (later known as Roy Rogers) founded The Sons Of The Pioneers in the early 1930s. I've got a full 4.26 minutes recorded version of Tumbleweeds from about 1991 with Roy Rogers, K.T. Oslin and Restless Heart that sounds pretty great today.It is on a BMG "Roy Rogers Tribute" CD that I found in a store's bargain barrel.

  • Elizabeth Drake McDonald | October 18, 2010 7:14 AMReply

    It would be great to have the Columbia Charles Starrett movies which included the Sons of the Pioneers. These movies (1937-1941) are the best showcase of all for the classic Sons of the Pioneers and their leader, Bob Nolan, in particular. Bob Nolan had some very good roles in these - far better than in the later Republic movies. PLUS all the songs in these movies were written by Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer.

  • mike schlesinger | October 15, 2010 11:36 AMReply

    SAHARA has in fact been released on DVD, and is available at most online stores.

  • J.Robert | October 14, 2010 8:45 AMReply

    WANTED--: Those unreleased Columbia movie serials, and seris westerns from the 1930's to 1950's, such as Charles(Durango Kid) Starrett. Some have been on TCM..but not available on dvd. Also I believe Bogart starred in a pretty good Columbia b/w ww2 film,not seen much.."Sahara" of a tank crew lost in the desert fighting off Nazi planes,etc. There ar many that the studios could make some great $$ by just offering them now to the public on home video. One of my all-time classic Spencer Tracy,Robert Young, is "Northwest Passage"..and "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn",etc.etc...

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