Tuesday, March 2, 2010

MIA Classic DVDs

Before the economy went crashing to its knees, several exciting classic titles were announced for DVD. With disposable income cut however, DVD sales took a precipitous downturn, including catalog titles. Unfortunately, these previously announced titles are now MIA.

Rumor has it some of the Fox titles were fully restored, and even had audio commentaries recorded, so I can’t see Fox not releasing them. Surely they want some return on their investment? While Fox has currently all but abandoned its classic titles line, it’s my hope some of these previously announced titles from Fox and other companies will see the light of day.

A search through my increasingly faulty memory banks has come up with a few of these titles.

Several years ago we got a Betty Grable Vol. 1, but never a Vol. 2. Rumor has it poor sales for the first put the kibosh on the second. But I do recall reading that “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” (1947), a delightful film where Betty plays the first woman secretary in Boston at the turn of the century, was fully restored and had an audio commentary recorded. The Gershwin songs make this a natural for release.

I hope it makes its way soon, either as a stand alone title or the aforementioned Vol. 2. (Fox, put out a box set with “Shocking Miss Pilgrim” and include “Mother Wore Tights” (1947) and “Coney Island” (1943) and watch that set go flying off the shelf.)

Several years ago, Fox announced the DVD release of its Technicolor John Philip Sousa biography “Stars and Stripes Forever” (1952) starring Clifton Webb, Robert Wagner and Debra Paget. For several years I thought it would come out around July 4, but it has yet to happen. I think Fox would be surprised at how well this would sell. It would make a welcome holiday screening alternative to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942), as magnificent as that film is.

Fox also announced a Ritz Brothers set, and God help me, but yes, I would have bought it. I have fond memories of their hillbilly comedy “Kentucky Moonshine” (1938) and their ”Life Begins in College” (1937) gets pretty good reviews. I don’t think the excellent Alice Faye/Don Ameche musical “You Can’t Have Everything” (1937) was listed for that set, but maybe Fox was saving that for a third box set of Alice Faye titles. I can dream, can’t I?

Getting away from Fox, Warner Bros. had announced a fully restored version of their George Gershwin biography “Rhapsody in Blue” (1945), with added footage not seen since its original release. If memory serves, there was a longer, or a different version, prepared for U.S. servicemen, much like “The Big Sleep” (1946). The footage not seen stateside was to be included. I have not heard a peep about this title for several years, but if Steven Spielberg does get his proposed Gershwin biography off the ground, this would be a natural tie-in. That may be a bit down the road, but we’ve waited this long, what’s another few years?

Warner’s great version of “The Sea Wolf” (1941), with Edward G. Robinson unforgettable as Captain Wolf Larsen, has been rumored for years to be coming, also with missing footage not seen since its original release. With all the restoration going on with this title, I can’t see this going the WB Archive route. However it gets released, I can’t wait to see it. As far as I’m concerned, they can take all the time they need to do this one right.

I have vague memories of a special two-disc edition of “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975) being announced, but that was years ago and I haven’t heard anything since. Again this is a title fully deserving the two-disc treatment and I sincerely hope it will come true some day.

Readers, please let me know what titles I’ve missed or if you’re aware of the status of any of the above. Thanks.


Keith Buckley said...

How about "The Bowery Boys"?

Kevin Deany said...

You are correct. With TCM starting to run these on Saturday mornings, I think we can anticipate some DVD releases down the road.

Speaking of B movie series, I forgot to include a Best of Jungle Jim box set that was promised. Haven't heard a thing about it since, so I expect it's a no go. Too bad, I would have liked "Jungle Moon Men" in my collection.

I also vaguely recall Sony releasing a box set of all their Lone Wolf movies, scheduled for release sometime in 2010. So maybe that is still in the pipeline, but I havent' heard anything about it in a long time.

Laura said...

Exactly two years ago I had the opportunity to speak with Drew Casper at USC and ask about the Betty Grable set. As you are probably aware, Casper did commentaries on THE DOLLY SISTERS and MY BLUE HEAVEN for Set #1. He told me the release of Grable #2 was supposed to follow the releases of the Carmen Miranda and Alice Faye Vol. 2 sets.

I typed up notes of his lecture (my daughter was in his class) and our conversation at the time and just referred back to them. I asked if the set would have SONG OF THE ISLANDS (a personal Grable favorite) and he exclaimed "Oh, you like that one?" and then told me unfortunately it would not be in the set. The set was scheduled to have SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES and MOTHER WORE TIGHTS included.

He said he had really wanted THE SHOCKING MISS PILGRIM in the set -- he said it's one of his favorite Grable movies -- but there was a problem with the rights and it wasn't going to be included. I didn't write it down, but I do believe he said he'd recorded at least one commentary for the set. There were other people waiting to speak to him so that's as far as I inquired.

Hope this info is of interest!

Best wishes,

Kevin Deany said...

Laura: This is great, thanks so much. It's too bad about "Shocking Miss Pilgram" - that's a favorite of mine too. I thought it had an a commentary recorded, but obviously I had my titles mixed up.

I think "Springtime in the Rockies" is the only Carmen Miranda title not on DVD.

Don't tell anyone, but I like "Song of the Islands" too.

Laura said...

Glad to know someone else who likes SONG OF THE ISLANDS. :) Jack Oakie drives me crazy, but otherwise SONG OF THE ISLANDS is such colorful, goofy fun -- even the ocean back projections add to its charm. Watching Grable in an escapist movie like that must have been a great comfort for both soldiers and those back home during WWII.

Glad I could contribute a little information to an interesting topic. I sure hope some of these movies surface on DVD one day!

Best wishes,