Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

The Disc-Less: 5 British Films Not Available On DVD Including Movies By Alfred Hitchcock, Mike Leigh, Terence Davies & More

Features
by Peter Labuza
November 27, 2012 10:07 AM
7 Comments
  • |

The Disc-less is a column exploring films not available on DVD in North America. While physical media is becoming less and less relevant with the advent of online streaming, the best quality for films outside of a theater are still DVDs and Blu-Rays. The release of major and minor cinematic works on physical media has lead to reevaluation of cinematic history. The Disc-less hopes to point cinephiles to films still not available, as well as possible ways one can see them.

With "Hitchcock" now in theaters giving us a (not very accurate) portrait of the Master of Suspense, one of history's greatest directors is once again in the conversation. Additionally, the National Film Preservation is currently streaming a partial copy of "The White Shadow," a 1924 silent by Graham Cutts, one of Hitchcock’s early mentors and collaborators. In honor of Cutts and Hitchcock, this week’s column highlights our neighbors across the Atlantic, with five great classics of British cinema that have yet to grace us with discs of their own here.

The Movie: "Distant Voices, Still Lives" (Terrence Davies, 1988)
What’s Going On: Based on Terrence Davies' own life, a tone poem focusing on the births, deaths, and marriages of a family led by a stern patriarch (Pete Postlethwaite) in 1940s Liverpool.
Why You Need To See It: Davies’ films have been few and far between during the last two decades, though he gave us a hauntingly emotional work with "The Deep Blue Sea" this year. But his debut feature remains his best—flowing through memory between its two halves with provocative beauty but never romantic nostalgia. The repeated gestures of pub visits, familial celebrations, and occasional violence marks a distant era of a post-war Manchester that speaks volumes about the world we can and can’t live without.
Why You Can’t Get a Disc: It’s unclear who exactly owns the rights to 'Distant Voices.' IFC seems to own the TV rights, as it played earlier this year at the not-so-convenient time of 6 AM. The Film Desk owns the rights to Davies’ second feature, "The Long Day Closes," which is also in need of a proper DVD release. Perhaps they can work something out?
How You Can See It: Thankfully, Davies is a national treasure in his home country, and the BFI has a decent R2 DVD release. It is also available on VHS.

The Movie: "Life is Sweet" (Mike Leigh, 1991)
What’s Going On: Another portrait of a dysfunctional family, this one made up of a quirky dad (Jim Broadbent), a sentimental mother (Alison Steadman), and their twin 22-year-old daughters, one an over achiever (Claire Skinner) and the other a social pariah (Jane Horrocks).
Why You Need To See It: What is happiness? This is probably the overarching question of Mike Leigh’s career. "Life is Sweet" is of course an ironic title for a film that is certainly a comedy, but has a lot of emotion buried underneath as these four characters struggle through the hardships of life, notably Horrocks’s character and her attempts to define herself in a family she can’t exactly fit into. This is certainly one of Leigh’s funniest films in many ways, and the dialogue is certainly catchy, but Leigh leaves you in a state of melancholy hope as each character slowly reveals their desperate interiors.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: Technically you can order a disc from the Film4 Library, but the transfer is questionable at best (almost a sub-standard VHS transfer). A film that is so essential in Leigh’s career—especially because of its mix of broad comedy and pathos—deserves a release of Criterion standards.
How You Can See It: Film4 has a sub-standard DVD release, but they have a wonderful UK Blu-Ray worth checking out if you can.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

7 Comments

  • P. | December 5, 2012 11:58 PMReply

    Liverpool is not the same place as Manchester.

  • Son of agun | November 28, 2012 10:31 PMReply

    Nice piece.

  • Jim | November 27, 2012 4:16 PMReply

    Distant Voices is totally available on DVD in the UK. What's more, it's also available in a box set with his other recent films too. You should be able to Amazon.co.uk both.

  • Will | November 27, 2012 11:54 AMReply

    Distant Voices Still Lives is also, weirdly enough, available on Amazon VOD

  • Criterion10 | November 27, 2012 11:37 AMReply

    Along with A Clockwork Orange, The Devils may very well be my favorite film ever made. WB has no intentions of releasing the film due to its controversial nature, but I hope that maybe Criterion can work out a similar deal akin to the BFI and license the film out. It truly is a masterpiece, and to all those who have a region free DVD player, import the BFI release as soon as you possibly can.

  • Dave Pattern | November 27, 2012 11:32 AMReply

    "The Pleasure Garden" is still under copyright, as are all of Hitchcock's British films from 1925-39. It was in the Public Domain for a while, but retrospective changes to UK and US copyright legislation in the 1990s mean that it's back under copyright until at least 2050 (being 70 years after Hitchcock's death).

  • Casey | November 28, 2012 11:35 AM

    Thank you David, you beat me to it. Copyright laws...sheesh...

Email Updates