The DVD Report #24

There are lots of things we can do with our time other than watch movies, but the best place to watch them when we want to watch them is on a widescreen LCD or plasma TV screen via a state-of-the-art DVD player. The trouble is we are at the mercy of the big DVD companies to provide the kind of entertainment we want to see, or are we? There is no reason we should rent or buy the latest Hollywood releases like 28 Days Later or Evan Almighty just to keep up with the water cooler talk at the office. Nor is it necessary to limit ourselves to product available at the local Blockbuster or Best Buy., which Oscar Guy links to, is a great source for current and previously released DVDs, even difficult-to-find discontinued releases, but it’s just the starting point for the treasure trove of films available on DVD. Finding old favorites for rent can be difficult, but finding them to purchase becomes easier all the time.

Amazon has a number of specialized dealers that sell through them, just like on E-Bay, where you can find DVDs that were never officially released in the U.S. Some are Region 1 or all-region playable, meaning they will play on U.S. players. Others are made for region 2 or other regions and require special players for play within the U.S. Currently, for example, you can find the restored uncut version of Ken Russell’s The Devils on sale for $21.99 and the long out-of-print Criterion edition of Passolini’s Salo – 120 Days of Sodom for under $39.99.

You can also find such wholesome entertainment as the 1936 version of Show Boat, the 1954 version of The Student Prince and all the films ever made by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy at prices compatible with the latest releases on sale at Best Buy.

Still not satisfied? Well, if you have a modified player that will play DVDs of any region, you can order from overseas sources or import retailers within the U.S.

My favorite overseas source is Movie Mail U.K., which features a wide selection of classic films officially released in Region 2. They ship everything to the U.S. via air mail, so you can expect to receive your order of in-stock DVDs within three days. New releases are sent out on Thursday the week before their street date so you can even have a hot new Region 2 release like Becoming Jane or Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz in your hands the day of their official release in the U.K.

Movie Mail also has an extensive collection of films long-in-release in Region 2 that were never made available to Region 1 including such titles as Sons and Lovers, Wild River, The L-Shaped Room, Two Rode Together, The Family Way and The Go-Between.

If you’re not in a hurry, you can wait for one of the U.S. DVD importers to stock the film you want. Xploited Cinema is easily the best of these with a great website indicating whether an item is in stock or not (it usually is) and information on whether subtitles are removable or not. Generally speaking, a foreign film release of an English language film by a major distributer (Warner Bros., Universal, Fox) will have removable subtitles whereas a DVD produced by some local company may not. Removable subtitles, however, may not be the only criteria by which to select one version over another. For example, the Spanish DVD of The Dark Mirror sold by Xploited Cinema has removable subtitles but the French DVD of The Dark Mirror sold by DaaVeeDee has imbedded French subtitles, though the pristine transfer on the French version is far superior to the Spanish version which looks no better than an old VHS copy of the film.

British-made Special Edition DVDs you can find at Xploited Cinema include Bigger Than Life, Tiger Bay, The League of Gentlemen and The Nanny.

DaaVeeDee, which is also an seller is a close second to Xploited Cinema, though their selection is not quite as extensive. Both companies ship orders immediately. Xploited Cinema gives you your choice of carriers, including overnight carriers, whereas DaaVeeDee will only ship domestically through the U.S. post office. Orders of six or fewer DVDs are sent priority mail. Larger orders are sent regular mail.

DaaVeeDee carries numerous titles from Region 4 (Australia), but few titles from France. Xploited Cinema, on the other hand, has lots of titles from France including an extensive film noir collection.

A great source for out-of-print Region 1 and region-free titles that were never officially released in the U.S. is eFilmic in Taiwan. Prices are reasonable if not downright cheap, with numerous titles on sale for under $10. Orders are shipped immediately via first class mail, arriving in just a few days. They carry titles as diverse as Desiree, The Egyptian, Ruggles of Red Gap and Tea and Sympathy. Order ten or more and they’ll throw in Song of the South for free.

You can also find privately produced versions of DVDs, most often downloaded from TV broadcasts or copied from out-of-print VHS or laserdisc versions of old films.

The best reproductions can be found at Rare Classic DVDs, where the fee is $15 per DVD with free shipping on ten or more DVDs. Their DVDs are usually of better quality than the competition with regular size DVD slipcases and full cover art provided. Among the titles they carry are Stars in My Crown, Rachel, Rachel, Love With the Proper Stranger, By Love Possessed and Bhowani Junction, all of which feature the best available prints of those films.

Coming in at a close second is Free Classic Movies on DVD. The cost there is $9.25 per DVD for shipping, handling and materials. Order ten and you can order an eleventh for free. Orders are sent priority mail the same day or the next. The only downside is you take your chances on the quality of the film. The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker, for example, is available in a gorgeous letterboxed transfer, whereas the 1957 version of My Man Godfrey is pan-and-scan and grainy. They’re best at producing copies of old black-and-white movies, and have an extensive list that ranges from Alive and Kicking to Claudia to Skippy but they also provide decent transfers of hard to find more recent films like John Huston’s Wise Blood.

Also boasting an extensive list of available titles is Video Rarities, which is a bit pricey at $24.95 per title unless the title is a really poor transfer, in which case they charge $17.95. Why, however, would you want to pay $17.95 for a crappy copy of the rare Rosalind Russell comedy, Rosie!,when you can get a better one from Free Movies on DVD for about half the price?

Video Rarities does, however, have some titles that you can’t find anywhere else. A case in point is The Blue Veil. This is a horrible transfer that appears to be recorded from a VHS copy of a Los Angeles TV station broadcast of the film from an early 1980s Late Show complete with Syncopated Clock introduction. The transfer is grainy as you would expect, and it is missing a few minutes of a crucial scene about a third of the way into the film. Still, this is the only version available anywhere. Jane Wyman’s best scenes and all of Charles Laughton’s, Joan Blondell’s and Natalie Wood’s scenes are included so if you’ve never seen it or have fond memories of it from long ago, this is your only chance until Warner Bros. gets its head out of you-know-where and gives it a proper release.

Buy ten DVDs from this company and they will throw in a free title of their choosing. This is a great way of discovering a film you’ve probably never heard of, and wouldn’t dream of ordering, such as Teenage Millionaire or an early Clara Bow talkie.

Both Free Classic Movies on DVD and Video Rarities use CD-size slipcases. Free Classic Movies on DVD provides cover art for all titles. Video Rarities titles come in blank cases.

A great little company is Only Classic Movies, which started out as one of those companies that finds films and converts them on request, but now sells copies of films previously requested. While some of their titles are available elsewhere, this is the only place where you can find All the Fine Young Cannibals, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and A Stranger in My Arms and one of the very few where you can find Make Way for Tomorrow. The latter is in as pristine a condition as you’re likely to find. It’s much better than the washed out, jumpy version previously available from 5 Minutes to Live. All films come in thin DVD-size slipcases with full color art.

Only Classic Movies ships all in-stock items overnight free of charge. Items shipped on Friday are sent via Fed Ex’s special Saturday delivery.

Another little company with fast turn-around is A Cinema Apart, which specializes in films about African-Americans made prior to 1960. Among the available titles are Intruder in the Dust, Take a Giant Step and the best-available transfer of Porgy and Bess taken from the original 35mm film. Full DVD-size slipcases with cover art, either black-and-white or color, are provided.

Oddly enough, DVDs shipped first class from the United Kingdom and the Philippines arrive in three days, but packages sent first class from Canada can take two weeks or more. Still, if you don’t mind waiting, Learmedia Rare and Classic Movies has a wide selection of films available on region-free DVDs culled from out-of-print titles including those previously released only in Region 2. Among the titles they carry are Bridge to the Sun, The Chalk Garden, Greengage Summer, The Notorious Landlady and The Victors.All come in full-size DVD slipcases, some with full color art.

Until we get to the point where we can download everything via a personal computer or telephone, these retailers provide the best means of amassing the perfect film library so what are you waiting for? Let your fingers do the walking, start collecting, and then try and find the time to watch the films!

Peter J. Patrick (October 16, 2007)

Buy on DVD!
Use Each Title’s Link

Top 10 Rentals of the Week

(September 30)

  1. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
              $9.46 M ($9.46 M)
  2. Knocked Up
              $8.36 M ($18.5 M)
  3. 1408
              $6.22 M ($6.22 M)
  4. Next
              $5.68 M ($12.6 M)
  5. We Are Marshall
              $3.42 M ($12.0 M)
  6. The Condemned
              $3.36 M ($11.1 M)
  7. Blades of Glory
              $2.24 M ($30.9 M)
  8. Bug
              $2.16 M ($4.81 M)
  9. Death Proof
              $1.96 M ($7.11 M)
  10. Georgia Rule
              $1.62 M ($12.7 M)
  11. Delta Farce
              $1.62 M ($12.5 M)

Top 10 Sales of the Week

(September 30)

  1. Knocked Up
    2. Next
    3. We Are Marshall
  2. Barbie as the Island Princess
  3. Family Guy: Volume 5
  4. Death Proof
  5. Bug
    8. Superman: Doomsday
  6. The Condemned
  7. 300

    New Releases
    (October 16)

    Coming Soon

    (October 23)

    (October 30)

    (November 6)

    (November 13)

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