In a not very timely post, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the films that I wish were available on DVD here in Australia but aren’t, and express the (belated) Christmas wish that we might see these before next year.
Generally I think that we’re actually pretty well off in this country, even given the lesser release schedules we get compared to the US. There are a couple of animation collections that I’m pretty much resigned to never seeing (further waves of Disney Treasures, for example), but generally it seems most of the things we want we eventually get. This is particularly the case with smaller distributors (notably Madman) getting up more steam and increasingly filling the niche that outfits like Criterion do in the US. (In fact, I watched their version of Rififi the other day, and my hunch is it is a port of the Criterion version).
It’s got to the point where studios are even releasing DVD’s of films that never even existed, like the Richard Donner version of Superman II. And yet… there remain a few stubborn films that just refuse to come out. Here are the top few on my wishlist, in no particular order:
Chungking Express (Wong Kar Wei, 1994)
Wong’s back catalogue is reasonably well represented, but there’s still no sign of probably his best known film (except maybe In the Mood for Love and 2046, both of which are on DVD). One of the best films of the nineties, Chungking Express is a hypnotic trilogy of stories of missed connections and unrequited love in Hong Kong. It’s particularly notable for its very influential cinematography (by Christopher Doyle) and memorable use of music.
The Court Jester (Norman Panama & Melvin Frank, 1956)
This old Danny Kaye standard is about as much pure fun as you could ever hope for from a movie. It’s built around a bravura comedy performance by Kaye, but is also full of great supporting players. There are many now-classic bits: The “pellet with the poison and flagon with the dragon” discussion, Kaye’s magnetised suit of armour, the long hypnotism bit, and so on.
Sleeper (Woody Allen, 1973)
We know the disks exist, because MGM put them in a box set years ago, bundled with about eight of his other films. But where’s the individual release? This is one of my favourite Allen films, one of the “early, funny ones,” and about as good as comedy sci-fi gets. Perhaps most interestingly, it sees Allen doing some long bits of physical comedy, and doing them very well.
Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
Madman have done a pretty good job of releasing Buster Keaton disks with their excellent ports of the mk2 editions from overseas. But this is the one I really want: the best and most sophisticated of Keaton’s films. Perhaps they’re shy about the running time (a mere 44 minutes) but surely more would buy this than College. The perfect edition would have the score by the Blue Grassy Knoll that appeared in live showings a few years ago.
Touch of Evil (Original Version, Orson Welles, 1958)
The only version of this we have in this country (as elsewhere) is the re-edited version from a few years ago. But I want the original version, if only to have Henry Mancini’s great opening score across the opening titles. And even if Welles had issues with it, it’s still the version that was prepared in his lifetime. (We know what he didn’t like about the release version, but we don’t know what he didn’t like about the re-edit). To quote Jonathan Rosenbaum (here), the critic who was amongst those who put together the new cut:
I was a consultant on the third version–a re-edit by Walter Murch based on a memo written by Welles to Universal in the 50s–and it was never the intention of Murch, me, or our producer Rick Schmidlin to replace the film’s original release version or the longer preview version that supplanted it in the 70s. We were hoping that all three could be released in a DVD box set. Universal, are you listening?
Police Story 3 (Stanley Tong, 1992)
This is the most important of Jackie Chan’s films still not released, and caught him at what I think is his peak (as opposed to most fans, who prefer his stuff from a few years earlier). I usually don’t like the Chan films where his fighting takes back seat to his big stunts and vehicle chases, but this is the exception. The final chase in this (which includes portions on foot, bike, train, car and helicopter) is just stunning, one of my favourite action sequences ever.
So, fingers crossed… even just two or three of these would make my year.