It looks like Universal Pictures has decided to follow Warner Brother’s lead and release some of their older films on demand (in DVD-R format) in association with Amazon.com. Some of the current films available in Universal’s new “Vault Series” that will be of special interest to’ 60s & ’70s film fans include (listed in alphabetical order) 40 Pounds of Trouble (Norman Jewison; 1963), Blue Collar (Paul Schrader; 1978), The Brass Bottle (Harry Keller; 1964), The Chalk Garden (Ronald Neame; 1964), Gambit (Ronald Neame; 1966), Kitten With a Whip (Douglas Heyes; 1964), The Last Remake of Beau Geste (Marty Feldman; 1977), The List of Adrian Messenger (John Huston; 1963) and Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (Abraham Polonsky; 1969).
I wish I could get more excited about this news but I can’t. The lackluster quality of the Warner’s DVDs that I’ve purchased has soured me a little on the concept and at almost $20 per film I think buyers deserve more. I haven’t purchased any of the Universal DVD-R films but I’m sure the quality isn’t much better. To make matters worse, Netflix isn’t carrying these DVDs so unless you’re willing and able to purchase them you won’t be able to see these movies.
Obviously the studios are not all that interested in releasing quality DVD additions of the classic films in their vaults anymore. Considering the apparent success of companies like Criterion I can’t understand why big studios like Universal and Warner won’t invest in producing more quality products. I wouldn’t mind if these films were released as part of a collection or in sets similar to Criterion’s Eclipse series or Universal’s “Screen Legend Collections.” For example, 40 Pounds of Trouble and The List of Adrian Messenger both feature Tony Curtis and director’s Norman Jewison and John Huston deserve better than having their films stuck on DVD-R and subject to such limited availability. Why couldn’t Universal just release these films as part of a Tony Curtis DVD box set? Kitten With a Whip and The Last Remake of Beau Geste both feature Ann-Margret and I can’t be the only person who would like to see Universal release a DVD collection of Ann-Margret’s films? I’m not expecting any worthwhile bonus materials. I’d just like to have easier access to decent copies of these movies.
But I digress… In a few years studios will probably stop producing DVDs altogether and we’ll all be forced to stream films online or download them if we want to watch them. I’m not looking forward to that but hopefully the technology will improve by the time watching movies via our computers becomes mandatory.