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

Features
by Peter Labuza
November 13, 2012 11:04 AM
12 Comments
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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 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."

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.
 

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12 Comments

  • Jef Leeson | November 19, 2012 5:21 PMReply

    Ishtar was released on DVD in 2004... just not in North America. Great to read this review, nonetheless.

  • Richard Schitz | November 15, 2012 11:43 AMReply

    I actually own a copy of Ishtar on blu-ray. It was briefly available in Canada a couple years back and I was able to get a copy before it was pulled. Great film.

  • Joseph Millett | November 14, 2012 8:28 AMReply

    And of course, if you're a retro geek like me, you still have your laserdisc player and your Japanese import disc of "Song of the South" (in English! And you can even suppress the Japanese sub-titles for everything except the songs)

  • Criterion10 | November 13, 2012 1:50 PMReply

    This is a good list indeed and I quite like this new column. I'd love to be able to see Greed and The Last Movie, but I'm currently holding off, hoping someone releases them.

    Similar to Song of the South, another controversial film I'd love to see released is Ken Russell's The Devils, which has been denied a release by WB for the past decade due to its depiction of sex, violence, and religion. It was recently released in the UK by the BFI who convinced WB to license the film to them. Maybe Criterion can work out something similar.

  • WRT | November 13, 2012 1:37 PMReply

    Wild River is available on Region 1 DVD, as part of the Elia Kazan box set.

  • drew | November 13, 2012 12:33 PMReply

    Ishtar was an all-time favourite of my friends and I.
    Hoffman and Beatty are at their best! I'm glad to read
    a nice review of it for once. Elaine May is brilliant. I
    would add her film with Walter Matthau "A New Leaf"
    to this list of under-appreciated disc-less movies.

  • Fred | November 14, 2012 3:16 PM

    Drew, A New Leaf is recently available on DVD and BluRay from Olive Films.

  • Archer Slyce | November 13, 2012 12:18 PMReply

    And to think that Cimino "won" a Razzie award for Heaven's gate !

  • KW | November 13, 2012 12:18 PMReply

    I heard of a really obscure movie that has yet to be released titled 'The Farmer'. I heard nothing but praise for this revenge flick. I have never heard anything of it. Another great movie that has never been given an official and proper home video release is Tsui Hark's Blade. One of Tsui Hark's last great films before he really floundered. Not too crazy about his new works. Blade stands as one of his best.

  • Archer Slyce | November 13, 2012 1:28 PM

    There has been one great collector edition of The Blade on DVD but sadly that was in France (by Christophe Gans' HK Video) and years ago ...

  • carter | November 13, 2012 11:53 AMReply

    Thanks for list. I caught "Wild River" on TMC last year, looking forward to seeing it again.

  • Allen | November 13, 2012 11:49 AMReply

    "Wild River" Blu-ray is available for pre-order as a part of the "Kazan at Fox, Vol. 2" box over at foxconnect.com.
    Individual Blu-ray release will be available for pre-order on January 15th.

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