Gone and Not Forgotten: The PopMatters DVD Wish List

Director: Nagisa Oshima
Film: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
Studio: Universal Pictures
Cast: David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano
MPAA rating: R
First date: 1983
US Release Date: 1983-09-03 (Very limited release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/merry_christmas_mr_lawrence_poster.jpg

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Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Nagisa Oshima

It’s the weirdest war film ever made, a surreal collaboration between Japanese filmmakers (with their stilted, stylized approach) and Western actors. Set inside a prisoner of war camp, the story centers on the ritualistic traditions in Asian culture and their clash with British and other foreign ways. There are homoerotic undercurrents and uneven performances around. Yet the drama is so intense and the setting so real that we forget the frequent failures. Region 2 has long relished their ability to revisit this film. It’s Region 1’s time now.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Director: Bud Yorkin
Film: Never Too Late
Studio: Warner Brothers
Cast: Paul Ford, Connie Stevens, Maureen O’Sullivan, Jim Hutton, Jane Wyatt
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1965
US Release Date: 1965-11-04 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/n/never-too-late.jpg

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Never Too Late

Bud Yorkin

Smack dab in the middle of the so-called sexual revolution, Warner Brothers trotted out a Connie Stevens vehicle about a young bride trying to have a baby. To add a little counterculture fuel to the fire, 50-something mom and dad are expecting a child as well. Of course, there was nothing really revolutionary about this storyline. The surrounding themes were so conservative and pre-feminist that the movie might as well have featured Neanderthals. Still, the famed Bud Yorkin is always good for a laugh, and his direction saves everyone involved. Now all we need is a DVD to prove it.Never Too Late

Director: Elaine May
Film: A New Leaf
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Walter Matthau, Elaine May, Jack Weston, George Rose, James Coco
MPAA rating: PG
First date: 1971
US Release Date: 1971-03-11 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/n/new_leaf.jpg

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A New Leaf

Elaine May

Rumor has it that Elaine May’s amazing film debut will never see the light of digital day. Seems the famed writer/director has disowned the studio cut of her comedy of the classes, while Paramount loves the final version and wants her permission and participation. Such a stalemate has kept the sunny satire off DVD — even the VHS is out of print — and that’s really too bad. It contains one of Walter Matthau’s best performances, and a quirky script overloaded with remarkable characters and memorable lines.

A New Leaf

Director: Saul Bass
Film: Phase IV
Cast: Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, Lynne Frederick, Helen Horton
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1974
US Release Date: 1974 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/phase-iv.jpg

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Phase IV

Saul Bass

One of the original acid flashback freakout films of the ’60s/’70s, famed title designer Saul Bass helmed this future shock surrealism about a group of scientists studying highly intelligent ants. Seems the angry insects don’t like what man is doing to the planet, so they decide to rebel — and our researchers are right in the line of fire. While Mystery Science Theater 3000 made light of this movie during their pre-Comedy Central KTMA days, this is serious speculative fiction that deserves to be seen sans critique.

Phase IV

Director: Charles B. Pierce
Film: The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Studio: American International Pictures
Cast: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem
MPAA rating: R
First date: 1976
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/townsundown.jpg

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The Town that Dreaded Sundown

Charles Pierce

Charles Pierce is known for a lot of things, most of them dealing with a certain mythical skunk ape. The madman behind the undeniably effective The Legend of Boggy Creek and the uninspired sequel Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues thought the story of a 1940s serial killer would make good drive-in fodder. So he cooked up a campaign featuring a notorious movie poster and a brilliant tagline. It sure drove a lot of unsuspecting butts into local passion pits. As a prime example of ’70s exploitation, it deserves a release.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Director: David Byrne
Film: True Stories
Studio: Warner Brothers
Cast: David Byrne, John Goodman, Spalding Gray, Tito Larriva
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 1986
US Release Date: 1986-12-12 (Limited release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/thtruestories2.jpg

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True Stories

David Byrne

Okay, okay, so Warner Brothers has a DVD of this David Byrne directed farce available already. Sadly it’s a full screen fiasco without a single significant bonus feature. As the founder and leading light of Talking Heads, Byrne channeled his punk dada dreamscape onto the story of a Texas town celebrating its 150th anniversary. Featuring amazing turns by a far too young John Goodman (who sings up a storm) and the late great Spalding Gray, it’s a forgotten gem that deserves a heck of a lot better than such a pan and scan nightmare.

True Stories

Director: Robert Aldrich
Film: Twilight’s Last Gleaming
Studio: Lorimar Productions
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Charles Durning, Paul Winfield
MPAA rating: PG
First date: 1977
US Release Date: 1977-02-09 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/twilights_last_gleaming_movie_poster.jpg

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Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Robert Aldrich

Besting Michael Bay by about 15 years, this taut action thriller starred Burt Lancaster as a rogue Air Force General who escapes from prison and commandeers a nuclear silo. With the threat of World War III, he wants the sitting President to confess to the real reasons behind the Vietnam War. While a tad dated in subject matter, Robert Aldrich’s dynamite direction delivers on the suspense and shivers. There’s even a stellar supporting cast including Charles Durning, Joseph Cotton, and Melvyn Douglas. A DVD could make it all very topical again.Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Director: George Cukor
Film: Wild is the Wind
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Anna Magnani, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Franciosa, Joseph Calleia, Dolores Hart
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1957
US Release Date: 1957-12-11
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/wild-is-the-wind.jpg

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Wild is the Wind

George Cukor

In 1955, Italian diva Anna Magnani won an Academy Award for her work in The Rose Tattoo. She followed it up with two films, Suor Letizia and this classic George Cukor weeper. It costars Anthony Quinn (as her brother-in-law, now husband) and Anthony Franciosa (as the ranch hand she’s sexually obsessed with) and saw Oscar nods for both leads. Even with the weakest scripts, Magnani literally sizzled, and yet her work here is more or less forgotten. While some of her more obscure works have turned up on DVD, this Paramount owned entry has not.Wild is the Wind

Director: Daniel Mann
Film: Willard (1971)
Studio: Bing Crosby Productions
Cast: Bruce Davison, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Borgnine
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1971
US Release Date: 1071-06-18 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/willard_1971.jpg

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Willard

Daniel Mann

Not to be confused with the equally rewarding remake starring a perfectly cast Crispin Glover, the original renegade rat patrol was one of 1971’s biggest hits. It starred a young Bruce Davidson and featured Ernest Borgnine as the office boss heavy. Incredibly creepy and psychologically aware, rumor has it that Bing Crosby’s estate (who controls the rights) won’t let the movie be rereleased. Something about sullying the late crooner’s reputation. After the tabloid tell-alls written by his son, one imagines a killer rodent would be the least of the family’s worries.Willard (1971)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Film: Zabriskie Point
Studio: MGM
Cast: Mark Frechette, Daria Halprin
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1970
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/1/1zabriskiepoint.jpg

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Zabriskie Point

Michelangelo Antonioni

When Michelangelo Antonioni died last year, he left behind a brilliant canon of creative masterworks. Yet one of his best and most contentious still remains missing — the anti-Establishment (and some say, anti-American) Zabriskie Point. All militant politics and leftist leanings, this intriguing take on hippies and the counterculture had music by Pink Floyd and a sworn enemy in former MGM president Louis K. Polk. His incredibly negative reaction (including numerous cuts for content) is probably the reason why this title languishes in the company vaults (future regimes reinstated the axed footage).

Zabriskie Point

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