Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Friday, February 05, 2010

My 15 "Most Wanted" DVDs!

Back around 2006, I wrote up one of these lists, and since then, around half of the titles I wanted at the time have shown up on legal DVDs - FROM BEYOND, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, LAND UNKNOWN, THE MONSTER SQUAD, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, the CHARLIE CHAN series, etc. Some of them - DOC SAVAGE and the Gordon Scott TARZAN titles, specifically - only on Manufacture-On-Demand DVD-Rs from Warner Archive, but at least they're available. And still others (A STUDY IN TERROR, STARCRASH) have been announced as coming to disc soon.

Some still haven't appeared on commercial Region 1 DVD, though, and they're at the top of this list:

1. I, THE JURY (1982). This Larry Cohen-scripted take on Mickey Spillane's first and best-known novel's got nothing whatsoever to do with the book. Armand Assante bears no resemblance to the Mike Hammer described by Spillane. Yet, there's a surging current of trashy, exploitation flick electricity that catches me up every time I put in my old, beat-up VHS copy. Good cast, too: Lauren Landon, Geoffrey Lewis, Paul Sorvino, and a frequently naked Barbara Carrera. Why isn't this on DVD?

2. CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991). This made-for-HBO, Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE)-directed fantasy starred the vastly underrated Fred Ward (TREMORS) as Phil Lovecraft, a down on his luck private eye in an alternate 1940's Los Angeles where everybody uses magic and the supernatural is natural. A great pastiche of Forties noir and pulp horror, with outstanding performances by Ward, David Warner, Clancy Brown and Julianne Moore... with hardboiled dialogue to die for. There was also a sequel, WITCH HUNT, which wasn't quite as good (despite being directed by Paul Schrader), and which recast/miscast Dennis Hopper in the Lovecraft role. Neither is available on DVD.

3. THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977). Richard Boone is a millionaire big game hunter with an awful toupee who discovers a prehistoric lost world hidden among the snow fields of Antarctica. Trapped there, he becomes obsessed, Ahab-style, with killing a T-Rex. The dinosaurs are men in suits (made by Toho FX guys!) and the film was made by Rankin-Bass Productions. Hell, I can still remember the theme song... This ridiculous Seventies TV movie is a treasured childhood memory, and I really want a good copy of it.

4. THEY BITE (1996). An early feature by B-movie director/FX artist Brett Piper (SHOCK-O-RAMA) that was only ever available on VHS, THEY BITE is an ambitious spoof of Fifties sea-monster flicks, with tons of cool low-tech special effects, rubber monster suits, naked women, insanely bad acting, and porn "god" Ron "Hedgehog" Jeremy in a featured role. I love this movie!

5. GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), and, while we're at it, 6. GODZILLA 1985 (1984) and 7. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989). These three titles are the only films in the series not legally available on Region 1 DVDs. Because a TV-edited version of GODZILLA VS. MEGALON was incorrectly assumed to be in public domain and heavily circulated by multiple "budget" VHS labels during the 80s/90s, I believe Toho is holding back the title from a legit U.S. release. And yes, I know it's the worst of the series, but I want it anyway. GODZILLA (Known as GODZILLA 1985 in the U.S.) was released theatrically by New World Pictures in a heavily-edited and re-scored version with Raymond Burr and lots of Dr. Pepper product placement. Anchor Bay picked it up with the rest of the New World library and announced that they planned on issuing it on DVD, but Toho is apparently blocking its release in any form. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE was released by Miramax on VHS (in widescreen), and as far as I can tell, they still have the U.S. rights, but seem to have no interest in releasing it on DVD (Now I'm really wishing I'd bought the laserdisc when I had the chance).

8. FORCE: FIVE (1981). Handsome and charismatic World kickboxing champ Joe Lewis only starred in two films (the other was 1979's JAGUAR LIVES!), and that's a shame, because I thought he had the makings of a real exploitation action star. He couldn't act, of course, but he looked great kicking ass! This low-budget rip-off of ENTER THE DRAGON (written & directed by that film's director, Robert Clouse) teamed him with a handful of other skilled martial artists (among them, Richard Norton and Benny Urquidez) for a fun, fast-paced, chop-socky camp classic that I remember fondly.

9. BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME (1991). Not a great movie, but I remember it being kinda fun, with Marc Singer reprising his role as the Doctor Doolittle of sword-slinging barbarian heroes and amusing turns by Wings Hauser and Sarah Douglas as the villains. Dar the Barbarian finds himself running around 1990 Los Angeles looking for an evil wizard, accompanied by his black tiger and kleptomaniac ferrets. How can that not be entertaining?

10. YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1984). This Italian-made caveman/sci-fi cheesefest starring beefy Reb Brown is one of the most entertaining drive-in adventures of the 80s, and a VHS and pay cable perennial. Unfortunately, it's nowhere to be found (legally) on DVD.

11. THE SOLDIER (1982). James Glickenhaus' (THE EXTERMINATOR, SHAKEDOWN) low-budget espionage epic, starring a pre-WISEGUY Ken Wahl and sporting a Tangerine Dream score was one of biggest drive-in and grindhouse hits of the early 80s. But, as far as I can tell, it's not on DVD.

12 & 13. Also missing in action even now are the Cannon films ninja epics ENTER THE NINJA with Franco Nero (DJANGO) and Susan George (CRAZY MARY DIRTY LARRY) and the nigh-legendary NINJA III - THE DOMINATION. The second of their "ninja trilogy," REVENGE OF THE NINJA, has been available on disc for years, but with control of the MGM library (which controls the Cannon library) being passed from company to company over the past decade, these Sho Kosugi vehicles seem to have been lost in the shuffle. Both have recently shown up for online viewing, so maybe DVDs are on the way.

14. LASSITER (1984). This Word War II caper features Tom Selleck (RUNAWAY) as an American cat burglar living in London with a dance hall girl (Jane Seymour at her loveliest) who is pressed into service by American Intelligence and Scotland Yard to steal some diamonds from the German embassy. With a top-notch cast (including Bob Hoskins and Lauren Hutton), good jazz music and a light touch, it's really amazing that it's in limbo.

15. THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966). One of the few truly great Spaghetti Westerns that nobody - big studio or boutique label - has yet released on DVD. I caught it on the Starz Western Channel in pan & scan about a decade ago, and have been longing to see it in widescreen ever since. Great performances by the legendary Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian, excellently directed by Sergio Sollima. Long overdue.

In any case, that's my ten most wanted b-movies on DVD (at least at the moment). Feel free to post the titles you're most wanting in the comments.


Caine said...

This is a great list. While I may not agree about Beastmaster 2, Lassiter should definitely be on DVD, awesome movie.

Martin Powell said...

Other than ISLAND OF LOST SOULS and INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, I can't think of anything else not already available that I want. There's still plenty out there I don't have yet, such as EARTH VS. THE SPIDER and THE SHE CREATURE. Oh...I'd like Jane Seymour's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, too.

Christopher Mills said...

INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN - I didn't realize that wasn't available. Wow.

Oh, there's a lot of others I want, like THE GREEN SLIME, MESSAGE FROM SPACE, MASTER OF THE WORLD, TWINS OF EVIL, VAMPIRE CIRCUS, OCTAMAN, WITHOUT WARNING, ZONE TROOPERS, ARENA, DARKER THAN AMBER, METALSTORM, DARKER THAN AMBER, THE BOOGENS(!), THE X FROM OUTER SPACE, SUGAR HILL... but the ones above are the ones I've thought about the most over the last few years. I make no claim to them being "good" - but being good is no prerequisite for my collection. :)

Martin Powell said...

VAMPIRE CIRCUS and SUGAR HILL are a couple more that I'd really like to have. Last time I talked to Dave Prowse he said that VAMPIRE CIRCUS was being released "soon", but that was quite a while ago.

Rip Jagger said...

Ah The Soldier! I first ran across this movie on an Alaskan fish-factory ship in the 80's. We did very little but gut fish for hours and hours, but in our all-too-brief spare time (mostly when cruising to a new location)we watched the two movies they had on VHS--Motel Hell and The Soldier! I got the latter on my own VHS copy and now I need to dig it out. It can be pretty cheesy, but there's no denying the sincerity of the effort. They wanted to make a tough-as-nails movie and in many ways they succeeded.

Christopher Mills said...

Martin, I'm pretty sure that I read that DVD remasterings and restorations have been done for a bunch of AIP-owned films, such as VAMPIRE CIRCUS, TWINS OF EVIL, MASTER OF THE WORLD, the second DR. GOLDFOOT, etc., but with all the changes in management that the MGM Home Video group has gone through (holders of the AIP, Orion, and Cannon libraries), there are no *current* plans to put any of those out on DVD.

Pidde Andersson said...

ENTER THE NINJA is out on DVD in Sweden:
You can probably order it somewhere online.
Oh, and it's NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, not NINJA II. I know, since it was banned here when it came out. I desperately wanted to see it. It turned up on TV in the 90s.

Craig Zablo said...

Yes, "I, the Jury" should be on DVD. Wonder why it isn't?

Christopher Mills said...

Yep - I know it's "NINJA III" - just made a typo. :)

Chad Carter said...

LAST DINOSAUR! I'd love a loaded DVD for that. The great Richard Boone and one of the baddest T-Rexs in movie history.

Obviously I've been dying for the Gordon Scott Tarzans, and the Jock Mahoneys as well, particularly the one with Woody Strode and Jock fighting on a giant net over boiling cauldrons.

Sidney Lumet's THE OFFENCE is another movie that should be DVDized.

Martin Powell said...

Oh--! Thought of something I've wanted for a very long time on DVD--the BATMAN TV series from the 1960s. From what I last heard about this, looks like we're in for a long wait. Damn shame.

Pidde Andersson said...

Come to think of it, LASSITER is out on DVD in Sweden as well:

Oh, and what's even weirder than I, THE JURY not being out on DVD, is that Bill Conti's terrific score for that movie never was released.

Anonymous said...

I went to the Turner Classic Movies web site and voted for these movies to be released on DVD. And "Blood on Satan's Claw" and " Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" too. Hammer films are one of my guilty pleasures.

jason said...

Yes, LASSITER! I was just watching my old VHS copy of this the other night and wondering why the heck this one has vanished. Another Selleck movie that's MIA on DVD: HIGH ROAD TO CHINA. And there's a great early 80s Charlton Heston flick called MOTHER LODE that I'd love to have on DVD -- I think that one may have been Kim Basinger's first feature.

Chad Carter said...

MOTHER LODE is a great movie. Nick Mancuso does a good job as well. I'd forgotten Heston actually directed it.

El Vox said...

I'm not sure if all of these are still OOP, I'm not current on a lot of the titles, but:

Rolling Thunder
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Midnight Cowboy (was in print, and now oop?)
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
The Jericho Mile (Michael Mann TV movie)

some others:

some Fulci movies,
Wusa (1970)
Baby Blue Marine (1976)
The Town That Cried Terror (1977)
Doctors’ Wives (1971)
One on One (1977)
Hearts of the West (1975)
The Love Machine (1978)
The Outside Man (1973)
Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971)
Traveling Executioner (1970)
End of the Road (1970)
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
Red Sky at Morning (1971)
Buster and Billie (1974)
Sometimes a Great Notion (1970)
Harry in Your Pocket (1973)
Your Three Minutes are Up (1973)
Moonshine County Express (1977)
T.R. Baskin (1973)
Between the Lines (1977)
Welcome Home, Soldier Boys (1972)
Gumshoe (1972)
Midnight Man (1974)
Saint Jack (1979)
Going Home (1971)
Together Brothers (1971)
Dusty and Sweets Mcgee (1971)
Rage (1972)
The Last Run (1971)
The Todd Killings (1971)
Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976)
When You Comin' Back Red Ryder? (1979)
Chandler (1971) - this one's actually airing on TCM this coming Friday @ 4:30 am EST
The Outfit (1973)
Wedding in White (1972)
The Big Fix (1978)
The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)
Sudden Death (1977)
Sitting Target (1972)
Villian (1971)
Move (1970)
Slither (1973)
Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975)
Lolly Madonna XXX (1973)
Kid Blue (1973)
Freebie and the Bean (1974)
Deadhead Miles (1972)
Busting (1973)
The Choirboys (1977)
A Gunfight (1971)
Fear is the Key (1972)
Report to the Commissioner (1975)

Max Allan Collins said...

I have I, THE JURY on a foreign PAL discs. And ditto THE BIG GUNDOWN, which has been available a couple of ways. But not in the USA.

I would add the original Spillane movies to your excellent list: the first I, THE JURY; THE LONG WAIT; and MY GUN IS QUICK (the latter no great shakes, but...).

David said...

Yep, you can get I The Jury on Region 2 from Germany...but unfortunately they have slightly trimmed the naughty bits...the bits that as a fifteen year old boy I loved so much.