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The Bottom Shelf by Adam Jahnke

Adam's 12 and America's Most Wanted:
An Open Letter to DVD Studios and Producers

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Are you there, studios? It's me, Adam.

First of all, thanks for fulfilling a few of the requests on my last wish list. Sure, you didn't get around to releasing all of them but that's OK. I know how busy you must be. Especially now that you're gearing up to confuse and frustrate us with a new high-definition format that most of us don't really want or need... but that's a letter for another time.

But before you start releasing the umpteenth version of Movie X on whatever version of the next generation of disc you've chosen to endorse, you ought to know that some of us are still quite happy with the good old DVD. And most of us would rather buy movies that haven't been released on any format than re-buy movies that we've already purchased once, twice or even thrice before. I know, I know... call us old fashioned.

Now I know you're thinking, "But Adam! We've already released our entire library on DVD! We have no choice but to start revisiting them on HD!" I understand your concerns, I really do. That's why I've decided to help you out once again with another wish list of movies that none of you have released yet but should. Plus, I asked some friends of mine to come up with some suggestions for titles that you have released but frankly, need to do again. We'll get to those in a little bit.

Before I give you my new list, I understand that there are probably some very valid reasons why you haven't released these movies yet. Maybe some require a lot of expensive restoration. Maybe there's legal issues tying them up. Heck, maybe even the rights to these films have passed through so many hands, none of you even know who's responsible for them anymore. Those are all perfectly sound excuses but you know what? I don't care. Those are not my problems. I want these released and it's up to you guys to figure out how to do it.

Big Time - Back in my video store managing days, we had a handful of concert films that we played in the store all the time. These included The Last Waltz, Rust Never Sleeps, Pink Floyd at Pompeii, Stop Making Sense and Tom Waits' Big Time. Notice that all of these have been issued on disc except for one. Back when Big Time was released in 1988, the movie was the next best thing to seeing Waits live. Now that concert performances by Tom Waits have become slightly less frequent than sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, Big Time is an invaluable document. Given a 5.1 remix and a new anamorphic transfer, this could be one of the most amazing live music DVDs on the market.<

Bullet in the Head - Like some of the entries on last year's wish list (including Delicatessen and The Kingdom), John Woo's Bullet in the Head has already been released to DVD in other regions. But here in Region 1, no such luck. Too bad because for my money, as much as I love The Killer and Hard-Boiled, this is Woo's best, most intense film. Now I can understand the whole dividing the world into different regions thing. You want to protect copyrights and theatrical release dates differ the world over. That's all fine and dandy. But when you drag your feet on releasing a movie like this, which is about fifteen years old at this point, you're only encouraging folks to pick up a spiffy all-region DVD player and go around breaking your precious copyrights. Given a choice, most people probably wouldn't pick up pricy imported discs. But when you don't give us a choice... you're only asking for trouble.

Cold Turkey - OK, I might actually be alone on this one. I've never met anybody else who's even heard of this movie, much less enjoyed it as much as I did. This was a rare foray into feature films by TV mastermind Norman Lear. Bob Newhart stars as an ad exec for a tobacco company who offers a huge prize to a small town if they can quit smoking for a month. Dick Van Dyke is the minister who tries to keep the town smoke-free, despite Newhart's best efforts to get them to light up again. I think this movie's hysterical and more timely today than it was back when it was released in 1971. I'd love to see it rediscovered on DVD.

The Earrings of Madame De... - I used to work in the public library system and one of the best things about it was checking out every movie that crossed my desk, whether I knew anything about it or not. This was one of my favorite discoveries because, quite honestly, even today I probably wouldn't rush to watch a French movie called The Earrings of Madame De.... Directed by Max Ophuls, the film charts the course of a pair of earrings as they're pawned by their original owner, re-bought, given away, sold, and eventually traced back to the woman who pawned them in the first place. This is a beautifully made film with lush photography and outstanding performances. If any movie I've asked for deserves to be a part of The Criterion Collection, it's this one.

Emperor of the North - Here's another great movie that's ridiculously hard to find for no real reason. Ernest Borgnine plays a train conductor who vows to kill any hobo who tries to ride his train. Lee Marvin is the tramp who says he'll be the first. Directed by Robert Aldrich, Emperor of the North is as tough and brutal an action movie I've seen, but it's also got a lot more going on than just fistfights and chases. I don't believe this has ever been a legitimate release on any home video format of any kind. Why, I don't know. If you like Lee Marvin (and really, who doesn't), you need to see Emperor of the North.

The Johnny Cash Show - My TV choice this time around is the early 70's variety show hosted by the Man in Black. Cash was given the freedom to invite on whatever musicians he wanted and this resulted in some of the best music heard on TV then or now. Guests included Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Merle Haggard, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. I'm sure this is probably a music rights nightmare but if anybody can straighten it out, I'll bet it would be Rhino. If they can release Sonny and Cher, surely than can figure out how to release The Johnny Cash Show.

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek - To be blunt, we simply need more Preston Sturges movies on DVD, period. I went back and forth between asking for this or Hail the Conquering Hero, so if you want to release it instead, fine by me. It's just as good. But for the sake of argument, let's focus on the side-splittingly, devastatingly funny The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Betty Hutton stars as a small-town girl named Trudy Kockenlocker (see, it's funny already) who spends a night partying with a bunch of soldiers heading off to war. She winds up pregnant with absolutely no memory of who the father is, so smitten nerd Eddie Bracken comes up with a scheme to save her good name. Preston Sturges made some of the smartest, funniest satires ever committed to film and Morgan's Creek is one of his best. The fact that so few of his movies have been released on DVD means that an important chapter of film history is grossly un-represented.

Petulia - One of the best movies of the 1960's and one of the best movies directed by the often-brilliant Richard Lester. George C. Scott stars as a recently divorced San Francisco surgeon who attempts an affair with swinging, recently married Julie Christie. More than any other movie I've seen, Petulia captures what I imagine life in America at the end of the sixties was like. It's a funny, touching, endlessly fascinating character study and my VHS copy is just about worn out. Let's get Petulia on DVD ASAP.

The Reflecting Skin - A deeply disturbing fevre dream of a movie, Philip Ridley's 1990 mood piece could glow on DVD. Jeremy Cooper plays a young boy growing up in rural Idaho in the fifties who believes the local widow is in fact a vampire. His concerns are worsened when his brother (a pre-Aragorn Viggo Mortensen) has a love affair with her. In the early 90's, I thought this and The Vanishing were two of the creepiest, most frightening movies I'd seen. Criterion has preserved The Vanishing but The Reflecting Skin has fallen through the cracks. Someone needs to pick it up, dust it off, and bring it back to life.

Street Trash - I'm risking getting kicked out of the Troma Team just by mentioning this movie by name. It's a risk I'm willing to take because for all the stolen gags and ideas, Jim Muro's Street Trash still has enough going for it to stand on its own. Plus, James Lorinz is a comic genius and if all this movie had going for it were his scenes as the doorman, it would be worth preserving on DVD. Why Anchor Bay or Blue Underground haven't released this yet is a mystery.

Twice Upon a Time - Not counting the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, George Lucas' track record as a producer is... well, spotty at best. This animated 1983 delight is one of the highlights of his curriculum vitae. Synonymous Botch, evil overlord of the Murkworks, sets out to cover the world in nightmares. Only Ralph, the all-purpose animal, Flora Fauna and Rod Rescueman can save us! Twice Upon a Time is a very funny movie with a one-of-a-kind look that has been seen by hardly anyone. I would love to see it given some belated respect on DVD with special features examining the animation technique known as "Lumage".

Twilight Zone: The Movie - Of all the movies on this list, this is the one I like least. But it has been very conspicuous in its absence on DVD. Perhaps because any special features would have to deal head-on with the on-set accident that claimed the lives of Vic Morrow and two young children. More likely it's because the rights to the Twilight Zone name have gone through many hands since Warner released this movie back in 1983. Flawed though it is, I'd still love to revisit it on disc. George Miller's "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" and Joe Dante's "It's A Good Life" remain vivid in my memory all this year's later. And who can forget John Landis' prologue with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks? You wanna see something really scary? Yes. Yes, I would.

On to Part Two

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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