As DVD sales have dipped, and those numbers have been further crunched by the weakening economy, classic films on DVD, already a stepchild for studio's home video divisions, have pretty much been left to wither or, in the case of Warner Bros., go to master tape dumped, overpriced, burn-on-demand releases that leave you forking over $20 for a DVD-R. In many cases, few films released on VHS are available on DVD, and even more films never released on any format float in the ether. So consider our day made that DVD distributor Olive Films have stepped up and made a bid for a number of films gathering dust in the Paramount vaults, with a release plan scheduled to begin in June. No dates have been set, but the studio wants to put out about three titles per month from their total of 27 new acquisitions.
If you're looking for star turns, look no further than "Tropic of Cancer," which cast a young Rip Torn as a boozing, womanizing Henry Miller and Ellen Burstyn co-stars. Oh, a world where Rip Torn was a womanizer did exist, young folks. Historians might want to note this was the first movie to ever feature the word "cunt," and we can't think of anyone better suited to break that barrier than Mr. Torn.
Most notable are a few works from the great Austro–Hungarian director Otto Preminger ("Anatomy of a Murder," "Bunny Lake Is Missing," "Laura") hitting the format, most specifically the long-unavailable, spectacularly wrongheaded "Skidoo." Yesteryear's "Southland Tales," "Skidoo" features Jackie Gleason as a mild-mannered husband who finds himself knee deep in a crime plot and is fueled mostly by its creators' misguided interpretations of the effects of LSD, and stands as a monument to completely inaccurate, awful representations of drugs onscreen. With an entire raft of "Batman" villains in its cast (Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin and Burgess Meredith, though Preminger himself was also once a Bat-baddie), "Skidoo" also finds screen time for Carol Channing singing in her underoos, Frankie Avalon and John Philip Law looking lost and confused, and a slumming, depressed-looking Groucho Marx in one of his final roles. The final credits, in what had to be a first, were actually sung entirely by Harry Nilsson. We've included them below, because to be honest, sometimes we feel like we're just making shit up when we talk about this movie.
Other films included in this treasure trove include Preminger's 1967 drama "Hurry Sundown" starring Michael Caine and Loring Smith, the 1971 dramedy "Such Good Friends" starring Dyan Cannon, plus Ingmar Bergman's 1976 film "Face to Face" about a psychiatrist who is suffering from a mental illness, starring (naturally) Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. Plus many more (Criterion watch out!).
The entire list of Olive Films acquisitions can be found here.
Here's part one of "The Savage Innocents." The entire thing is on YouTube if you can't wait.