Sunday, January 10, 2010

Coming your way and not coming your way

Ed here: Fred Blosser brings us up to date on what is and isn't available on various types of home video selections. Thanks, Fred for all the work. BTW The Outfit--This is the real Parker here and I think Don Westlake felt that way, too. Duvall is sensational and true to Parker's real nature. Westlake also liked all the B-movie icons who appear in it.

From Fred Blosser:

Ed, this may be of interest to the blog gang ... In the NY Times last week, Dave Kehr offered his thoughts specifically about the impact of Blu-Ray on the home-video market, and more generally about the fate of older movies as-yet unreleased by the major studios on either Blu-Ray or DVD. On the latter issue, Kehr sounded an initially pessimistic note: "After 10 years of DVD the studios seem to have concluded that all the films that will make money in home video have already been released; that number is a very small percentage of their output. Turner Classic Movies online says that of the 162,984 films listed in its database (based on the authoritative AFI Catalog), only 5,980 (3.67 percent) are available on home video."

Kehr argues persuasively that at least two of the big studios -- Paramount and Fox -- apparently no longer think it's worth the time and cost to mine their archives to add further titles to DVD or (for any but the most popular titles) to digitally upgrade the prints of older movies for high-def Blu-Ray. The prospects aren't completely bleak -- Kehr notes that Warners and Universal have instituted print-on-demand DVD-R lines for some of their catalog titles, an active gray market for non-studio DVD-R exists on the Internet, and more avenues may open in the coming decade -- but the article prompted me to think about older crime movies that haven't transitioned to mass-market DVD or Blu-Ray release in the U.S. Some that come to mind offhand:

----THE OUTFIT and THE SPLIT, two flawed but nevertheless interesting takes on Richard Stark's Parker.
----THE SICILIAN CLAN and THE BURGLARS, two glossy heist movies by Henri Verneuil.
----THE GLASS KEY -- both versions.
----Various films based on Mickey Spillane novels -- I THE JURY (both versions), MY GUN IS QUICK, THE LONG WAIT, and THE DELTA FACTOR.
----The '30s Perry Mason and Philo Vance series.

Same with Western movies missing in DVD action. My list begins with an uncut, widescreen print of Sergio Corbucci's THE MERCENARY. Unlike Corbucci's DJANGO and THE GREAT SILENCE, THE MERCENARY had major-studio (United Artists) theatrical release in the U.S., yet a good print remains unreleased on major-label DVD.

Not to say that any or all of these titles are completely unobtainable. I've seen THE GLASS KEY (the George Raft version) advertised on the gray market, but I don't know how good the visual quality is. Verneuil's THE BURGLARS is available from niche company Alfa Digital -- not a pristine restored copy of the quality that a major studio would produce, but it's suitably letterboxed and better than nothing.
Others titles in the top-of-my-head list have run on cable movie channels and will probably continue to appear at intervals. THE OUTFIT, THE SPLIT, MARLOWE, the Alan Ladd version of THE GLASS KEY, and the old Perry Mason and Philo Vance films have played on TCM. I THE JURY -- the 1983 Armand Assante version -- ran on Fox Movie Channel. I suppose if one has cable and wants a copy badly enough, one could DVR the TCM or Fox broadcasts and burn them at home on DVD-R.

Fox released THE SICILIAN CLAN on DVD abroad in 2007 in Region 2 format but not domestically in a Region 1 U.S. format. Koch Media in Germany has announced an official release of THE MERCENARY in Europe for later this month, with an English audio track. As far as I know, no U.S. studio has planned a comparably high-quality release of the Corbucci film here, even though a nice print of the movie plays infrequently on TCM.

As I learned several years ago, it's worth the modest investment in an all-region, all-format DVD player to access titles not available in the domestic Region 1 NTSC format. There are caveats, though. Not all French, German, Chinese, etc releases have English audio tracks or subtitles, and shipping/handling charges for DVDs from abroad are steep.

My own elusive and idiosyncratic grail on DVD is 1959's DU RIFIFI CHEZ LES FEMMES, with an English audio track or subtitles. A dubbed print titled RIFF RAFF GIRLS played in U.S. theaters in the early '60s and on local TV in the early '70s, so presumably it's not an impossible quest, but so far not very productive. The only home-video version of the film that I've been able to locate on the Internet is a used videocassette copy in France via for 65 Euros. Given the price, the fact that it's a non-U.S. PAL print in the obsolete VHS format, and the probability that it doesn't have English subtitles, I'm better off continuing my search.

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Matt said...

Ed, after your very first sentence, I was thinking, "Yeah! What about The Seventh and The Outfit?!"


Just needed to wait a couple paragraphs. Fred's getting there...

Both Parker-inspired movies are highly recommended and easily found on the gray market.

The Outfit? Amazing. A perfect witness to John Flynn's bleak 1970s America. As compelling as Rolling Thunder. (Which, should be noted, is also not on DVD...)

And The Seventh (aka The Split)? Not fantastic but solid. Reputed to the "first-ever R-rated movie." Noteworthy if only because of its stars. Like Jim Brown (as a kick-ass African American "Parker") plus Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, Jack Klugman, Donald Sutherland, and no less than Mr. M*therf*cking Warren Oates.

Seems to me, the studios ought to make all their films available. Ultimately, I'd rather pay for a copy where my money goes in part to the artist. But then I don't know the legal costs of getting rights and access.

So in the absence of legal copies, folks like me patronize file trading and gray markets until they're available.

Or maybe the studios don't feel that most digitized films are worth the DVD expense because they'll just be pirated anyway. And that brings is back to the e-book situation.

Anyway. Made in U.S.A. is also recommended. Pretty faithful run at the Jugger.

Trent said...

There's another Parker movie that's unavailable (in fact, it seems to have vanished from the face of the earth)--Mise à Sac, based on The Score. I heard that it used to air on French TV and that it was once available on VHS in that country. I've been trying to track it down for over a decade now.

I've heard that it's pretty good. It's got to be better than The Split...

Bruce said...

It's funny cause a few of those titles I've seen on various sites in very nice versions. Marlowe, The Mercernary, The Split, and The Outfit all come to my mind.

Duval was the perfect Parker to bad the film does not equal his performance.