According to some knowledgeable people, A History of Violence is the last movie a major studio pressed onto the VHS format. The reason is simple: VHS is a mostly dead format and most people prefer DVDs nowadays. Seeing a demand for them, many major studios have been pushing out as much of their catalog onto DVD, with new movies making it onto the medium every week. But, as of 2012, a full 50 percent of movies put on VHS have not made it onto DVD.
A lot of these movies that were unreleased were pretty good, some were classics and others were not really as bad as people claim they were. Here are ten of the better ones:
10. Let it Be
Let it Be is a Beatles documentary that has footage of their final public appearance, the famous rooftop concert on top of Apple Corps studios. That alone would make it worthwhile for any Beatles fan, but the movie also shows a lot of the band’s inner turmoil with choosing the music for that album. This movie was filmed at a time when none of the Beatles got along, and it shows all of that and more. It is a brutally honest and rare glimpse into the last time all of the Beatles recorded an album together.
This documentary is not on DVD because the current Apple Corps president is actively preventing the release of it. He claims that it would tarnish the image of the Beatles if this documentary were ever shown again.
An exercise in directorial hubris, Ishtar was filmed on location in Morocco when it was not really needed. Ishtar stars Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as lounge singers who dream of becoming a Simon and Garfunkel style duet. Their manager/agent finds them a gig in Morocco so they can entertain service men and women stationed there. Somehow, they get themselves involved in a plot to take over the neighboring country of Ishtar.
This movie is not on DVD in the United States because it is considered an embarrassment to the actors, the filmmakers, and the studio. Another example of a situation where the studio would rather forget a movie exists. The cited reason is because of the flop nature of the movie, even though other monumental flops were released on DVD. If you want, you can get an import copy of the movie from Europe, but do not look for a domestic version of this movie.
8. A Man Called Sarge
A Man Called Sarge is a self-aware genre parody of war movies, in the same vein as Naked Gun, Airplane, and Blazing Saddles. The main plot of the movie involves Sarge, a man cut from the same mold as John Wayne. He and his band of French Foreign Legion deserters start traveling East from Morocco because that’s where the fighting is. Along the way, they meet an unhinged French spy, a school teacher that has a thing for Sarge, and a British infantry unit. While they did not single handedly stop the war, the group certainly helped in this movie.
What is holding this one back is the rights issues. In order to get this one made, the producers sold the rights of this movie to a lot of companies, and each one has a legitimate claim to it. For an official DVD release to happen, the rights holders will need to agree or someone needs to buy out anyone that has a claim to it.
7. Matters of the Heart
A made for TV movie from 1990, Matters of the Heart is a story of following one’s dream over family responsibility. Steven Harper is an accomplished piano player and wants to pursue a career in music. His father, on the other hand, wants him to work in the paint shop. Steve discovers that a reclusive musician and composer named Hadley Norman lives in his town. Through his kindness, he convinces her to mentor him in music.
The reason for this movie not getting a DVD release is simply that it’s been forgotten by a lot of people. It is kind of odd considering that other, less deserving TV movies have gotten DVD releases. To say this movie does not deserve a DVD release because it was a TV movie is to overlook all of the other made for TV movies that did.
6 Meet the Applegates
A pro-environmental dark comedy, Meet the Applegates is about a group of hyper intelligent bugs sent to suburban America to destroy a nuclear power plant. The four members of the family are supposed to learn how to adapt to the American way of life, but they are quickly corrupted by it and become parodies of American stereotypes.
The reason for this being not released is that the company that originally made it, media home entertainment, went out of business soon after it was released in 1991 and the rights for it are up in the air. There was a VHS release in 1997 and that was the last time this movie made it onto home formats. It does get played from time to time on the pay movie channels like Cinemax and HBO.
5. Song of the South
Based on a series of stories by Joel Chandler Harris, Song of the South is the black eye of the Disney Studios, even though Walt Disney himself had nothing but the best of intentions for this movie. The story is about a young man named Johnny going to live on his grandmother’s plantation for a time. While he’s there, he meets Uncle Remus and listens to his stories about Brer Rabbit and his animal friends.
Disney has no plans on releasing the movie in the United States for one simple reason: it does not need the controversy. Being one of the biggest companies in the world, Disney is one giant controversy magnet. While it could weather the criticism rather easily, it chooses not to. Instead, while not denying this movie exists, it chooses to let it remain unreleased for the time being. If you want to see this movie legally, you can order a Japanese import DVD. Song of the South is in the public domain over there and import copies are released from time to time.
4. Terror in the Aisles
Seen as something of a rebuttal to the famous Women in Danger Siskel and Ebert special, Terror in the Aisles is a retrospective of Horror movies from the golden age to 1983. Set in a movie house and narrated and hosted by Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen, Terror is one long clipshow of the more successful and well made horror movies up to 1983. It even shows an uncut interview with Alfred Hitchcock on creating suspense.
Unlike other movies on this list, you can see this movie on DVD, just not in any official capacity. It exists as an extra on the Halloween II Blu-Ray edition. There isn’t an official DVD release because it would be too expensive. While the film and VHS versions are legally clear, and that is highly debatable, Universal would have to negotiate a new contract with all of the studios to get new DVD rights to use it. It was more cost effective to make it an extra on another product and worry about being sued later.
3. No Holds Barred
By all accounts, this movie is a failure. The script is a blatant Rocky 2 ripoff at parts, and an incomprehensible mess in other parts. It barely made its money back. The wrestling is laughable and barely there. But for some reason, it is impossible to be mad at this movie. There is an honest sincerity about the movie that deflects the anger leveled at it. The actors are trying to give a good performance. The director is doing his best with a limited script.
In this movie, Hulk Hogan plays Rip, a wrestler known for being a thug in the ring, but deep down he has a soft side. Thanks to some shady dealings with a rival wrestling promoter, he is forced into a match against Zeus, the champion of some underground fighting sensation called No Holds Barred, by the promoter of the other organization.
The current rights owner, World Wrestling Entertainment, would rather pretend that this movie does not exist. The owner of the company sees it as something of an embarrassment because it was not the mega hit that was promised. The movie barely doubled its money and that was only because of some sketchy business practices to do that.
2. Johnny Guitar
Johnny Guitar is an iconic western that has been placed on the national registry of films for being culturally significant. The character Johnny Guitar is a reformed gunslinger that returns to his home town after giving up the outlaw life. He rekindles a relationship with his childhood sweetheart Vienna and things are happy for them until the bank is robbed. A rival of Vienna, Emma Small, immediately accuses Johnny of the robbery. The climax of the movie has Vienna and Emma square off in a showdown, something that is almost nonexistent in westerns.
There is absolutely no reason for his movie not to be on DVD in the United States. There are no copyright issues holding up the release of it. There is not a rights issue with the titular song as well, which is just as famous as the movie itself. It probably deserves to be on DVD more than any other movie because of its historic and cultural significance.
1. Looking For Mr. Goodbar
The first significant movie for Richard Gere, Tom Berenger, and Diane Keaton, Looking for Mr Goodbar is often overshadowed by Annie Hall, which was released that same year. This movie is the polar opposite of Annie Hall. Annie is uplifting, while Goodbar is depressing. Diane Keaton plays Theresa Dunn, a former college student who is left adrift when her college professor ends their long standing affair. Like many young people going through a crisis, she hits the club scene real hard, and gets herself into one disastrous relationship after another. The movie ends with the death of Theresa and it offers no closure beyond that.
The reason for this movie not being on DVD, it seems, is that it is mostly forgotten by everyone. This is a shame because the movie was a mega hit, making over 4 times its budget. It is also a critically acclaimed, winning numerous awards, including a few Golden Globes. Maybe it is not on DVD because of the downer ending, but more likely the studio has not gotten to it yet.
YouTube Playlist Top 10 Movies Not On DVD
For more footage (and sometimes, the whole movie), check out our YouTube playlist. Let us know in the comments if there’s a movie you think we should add to our playlist:
by Joseph Furguson