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
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The Movie: "Seven Days To Noon" (John and Roy Boulting, 1950)
What’s Going On: A nuclear scientist alarmed by the rising stockpile of atomic weapons plans to unleash a suitcase bomb in the middle of London in one week.
Why You Need To See It: Before "Kiss Me Deadly" made the nuclear suitcase a popular trope with its “great whatzit,” the British noir directing brothers John and Roy Boulting did it first with this crackerjack film. Quickly plotted and never too stringent on its moral lessons about atomic culture (which are quite self-apparent), "Seven Days to Noon" is a tightly-paced thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat as the days creep closer and closer to the big moment.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: Despite being one of the most prolific directing duos in the post-war UK, the Boulting Brothers have never really gotten their proper due in North America. Like many of these other releases, it’s difficult to say who owns the rights here, but it’d be wonderful if Criterion did an Eclipse set of some of their most popular films.
How You Can See It: There are a number of illegally made R1 DVDs flowing through the Internet, as well as a couple of decent UK releases.

The Movie: "The Devils" (Ken Russell, 1971)
What’s Going On: A sexually repressed nun (Vanessa Redgrave) accuses a priest (Oliver Reed) of witchcraft during 17th century France.
Why You Need To See It: Originally rated X for its explicit sexual content and not-so-friendly portrayal of the Catholic Church, Ken Russell’s psychedelic period piece is a scathing assault on authority. It was savaged when it opened, and was banned and edited down in many releases, but has remained a cult classic. But beyond its explicit imagery is a film quite similar to its American counterparts of the era, which were knee deep in the paranoia of modern politics in the 1970s.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: For years, people have attempted to put together a complete version of the film, which has been difficult because so many editions of the film cut certain elements here and there. Warner Bros. has often hinted at DVD releases, and at one point had the film available for rent on iTunes, but has never released the film properly.
How You Can See It: Earlier this year, the BFI put out a DVD of the original UK theatrical release, though it is missing some footage from the purported “near-complete” recreation made in 2004. That version can be found in many illegal DVD markets as well as on torrent sites.

The Movie: "The Pleasure Garden" (Alfred Hitchcock, 1926)
What’s Going On: A dancer comes to London and gets a job as a chorus girl, but has trouble staying faithful to her fiancé when he’s abroad.
Why You Need To See It: So much of the appreciation of Hitchcock is relegated to his classic American works, when he had a fascinating career in the UK, and especially in the silent era. While not his first film, "The Pleasure Garden" is the only one existent in archives today (though one hopes that like The White Shadow, they may eventually surface in the hollows of the archive). While not a thriller like other Hitchcock works such as "The Lodger," the film has plenty of moments that Hitchcock cinephiles will note will appear in many of his later films.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: Popularity for Hitchcock’s UK work, much less his silent work, has always been limited, so it seems that no company in the US has even searched out the rights for this essential early work.
How You Can See It: There are a pair of UK releases on DVD, and like most silent films, is also available on YouTube (since there are no longer copyrights).

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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...

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