The A.V. Club posted a terrific list on the more egregious of the many, many, many films still missing from Region 1 DVD. I’m not here to complain about any of the choices; they’re all well-chosen and such a list could go on ad inf., even supplying a blog with fuel for ages. With that said, here’s some more, off the top of my head:
Dishonored (1931, Josef von Sternberg)
The pair by which all director-star units are to be judged, the films of von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich are fully represented on DVD — save the two best, that is. Shanghai Express (1932) is luminous and lovely, but my heart still belongs to this delirious spy romance, often wrongly written off as the lesser outing. Who knows why - the party scene is von Sternberg at his most outrageous, and Dietrich gets the best pre-execution act I can think of.
Hellzapoppin’ (1941, H.C. Potter)
“[A]lmost makes the Marx Brothers look sober,” says Jonny Rosenbaum of this furiously nutty, semi-all-star comedy featuring the likes of Elisha Cook Jr. and Shemp Howard. Not that anyone without TCM would know…
Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948, Max Ophüls)
A regular on best-ever lists, this Joan Fontaine sudster won’t rank high much longer if it can’t gets its ass digitized. In fact, none of Ophüls’ American work - not The Exile, not The Reckless Moment, not Caught - is represented on American DVD. Here’s hoping Criterion’s recent Rolls Royce treatment of his late-period French output gets the ball rolling.
Jour de fête (1949, Jacques Tati)
Criterion can do Trafic - undervalued as it turns out, so, thanks, guys! - but not Tati’s debut feature? Starring the director but not as Monsieur Hulot, Jour de fête was also filmed in an experimental color process that was mostly B&W but with sections of the film in color. But when that didn’t work out quite the way he planned he okayed a simple but just-as-lovely all-B&W version. Just imagine when Criterion finally gets around to it. (Or someone else. Why must our dreams be made true only by Criterion?)
Westbound (1959, Budd Boetticher)
First Paramount releases Seven Men From Now two years back, now Sony does a five-film box set of more of the Ranown pictures, the pet name for Budd Boetticher’s cycle of films with star Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Yea! Except where is Westbound, now the only Ranown picture still languishing exclusively on the Western Channel? Where, indeed.
Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)
Though it was in print, in a fairly crappy transfer, during the early days of DVD, Resnais’ not-at-all-disappointing collaboration with Alain Robbe-Grillet has fallen out of print - inconceivable for such a unique, important work. And the wildly inferior Hiroshima, Mon Amour gets the deluxe Criterion treatment? Yuck. (Resnais’ more obscure 1967 time traveller Je t’aime, je t’aime is also seriously missing from DVD, both Stateside and, sadly, globally. Come on, people.)
Repulsion (1965, Roman Polanski)
Yes, you can find several public domain discs of Polanski’s exercise in hothouse claustrophobia starring an unravelling Catherine Deneueve. But, well, you know.
Chimes at Midnight (1965, Orson Welles)
No Magnificent Ambersons on DVD, you say? But what about his muscular adaptation of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2? Impenetrable copyright issues have kept it from even an official release, all the sadder because it’s almost, if not quite, up there with his greats.
Violence at Noon (1966, Nagisa Oshima)
I picked this fragmented look at a sex murderer, his schoolteacher wife and one of his surviving victims from all of the many unavailable films from Nagisa Oshima — somewhat misleadingly considered the Godard of the Japanese New Wave — because it’s my favorite. But I could have easily chosen Night and Fog in Japan, The Sun’s Burial, Naked Youth, Pleasures of the Flesh, Death By Hanging, The Man Who Left His Will on Film, The Ceremony and on and on and on. (The first four, by the way, are available in severely shitty transfers from the UK.) The dude made almost twenty films in the ‘60s (though the remaining decades are quite sparse — and most of those are on R1 DVD). Time to make the donuts.
Part Two, which picks things up chronologically, tomorrow! Probably! (Update: Okay, more like this weekend or early next week. I way underestimated the lazy-making power of New Year’s.)