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The Disc-Less: 5 Re-Evaluated Classics Not Available On DVD, Including 'Greed,' 'Song Of The South' & 'Ishtar'

The Playlist By Peter Labuza | The Playlist November 13, 2012 at 11:04AM

On November 19th, Criterion will be putting out the infamous maudit film, Michael Cimino’s "Heaven’s Gate." The film is a masterwork, a tragedy that is both extremely intimate and expansive in scope, rich in both its visual feast and its emotional narrative. Studio clashes and misguided reviews made it one of Hollywood’s most notorious flops, essentially killing United Artists. However, reevaluation and this new restoration has finally shed light on this great work of cinema. This week, we highlight five more American epics that were dismissed at their release, and hope DVD releases will lead to their reconsideration.
12

Wild River
The Movie: "Wild River" (Elia Kazan, 1960)
What’s Going On: Montgomery Clift plays a Tennessee Valley Authority administrator who clashes with an aging matriarch (Jo Van Fleet) and her gorgeous daughter (Lee Remick), who refuses to sell their land to create a new dam in the 1930s.
Why You Need To See It: Though his personal life is certainly controversial, there’s no doubt that Elia Kazan is truly one of the greatest American directors. So why did "Wild River" pass into obscurity? Certainly its topic didn’t appeal to audiences, especially given how much Kazan treats the political subtleties of the situation. But "Wild River" is a curious work in which Kazan allows his camerawork to take precedence over the style of his more theatrical films. With Ford-inspired compositional framing and a lyrical vision of a dying era of American landscape, this is truly one of his mid-career masterpieces.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: There’s no stated reason why 20th Century Fox hasn’t put out a proper disc, but it seems like a ripe candidate for their Archive collection. Considering Kazan’s centenary passed in 2009 with a major touring retrospective, perhaps something is in the works to release all his work? Considering Kazan jumped from studio to studio, this is sadly unlikely.
How You Can See It: Thankfully, Amazon Video has the film streaming on it’s website, and the film is currently available on R2 DVD.

The Last Movie
The Movie: "The Last Movie" (Dennis Hopper, 1971)
What’s Going On: A Hollywood stuntman who gives up on the business discovers a native tribe in Peru filming their own Western, except they aren’t faking the stunts.
Why You Need To See It: If you watched "Easy Rider" and thought, “this movie could use more drugs,” then look no further than Dennis Hopper’s hugely anticipated follow-up, which proved to be a pretty huge flop. Hopper was given free reign by the studio and a million dollar blank check, and was greeted with some poisonous reviews. But rewatched decades on, "The Last Movie" is truly a fascinating text about Hollywood, not only in its narrative but also its jarring story structure, which employs jump cuts, “scene missing” cards, and more.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: Hopper went and actually bought the rights to the film, as he told Playboy in 2006, and was planning to put together a DVD release. However, the actor/director’s passing in 2010 has stalled the project, and nothing has been announced since.
How You Can See It: Some illegally produced DVDs are out there, and there is a VHS tape. Otherwise the torrent market is your best option. However, if you live in New York City, the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn will be showing it twice in November along with another underseen Hopper classic, "The American Dreamer."

Song Of The South
The Movie: "Song of the South" (Harve Foster and Wilfred Jackson, 1946)
What’s Going On: Seven-year-old Johnny, on a vacation to the Reconstruction-era South, hears delightful animated tales from the character of Uncle Remus.
Why You Need To See It: As everyone knows, "Song of the South" is that oh-dear-how-did-that-happen movie of Disney lore that bore one of its most famous songs: “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” "Song of the South" isn’t as bad in its racism as, say, "Birth of the Nation," but it’s also not as cinematically thrilling as Griffith’s epic. Still, 'South' is a unique film for the historically curious, especially given the long history of the Uncle Remus character in American culture.
Why You Can’t Get A Disc: It’s no secret that Disney doesn’t want you to get your hands on the film, probably ever. A proper release for the film will most likely only be sanctioned if Mickey’s empire were to collapse.
How You Can See It: Because of interest in the film, it is one of the more popular torrents out there, many clips are on YouTube, and quite a few illegally produced DVDs can be found online.
 

This article is related to: Features, The Disc-Less


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