Thursday, April 12, 2012

On Dust and Disks

There is a problem with DVDs – with view-on-demand, too, but more especially with DVDs. Perhaps you’ve noticed it. Typically, we buy a particular DVD (or, at least, I do) only when we expect to view it more than once. At anywhere between 2 and 6 times the price of a typical pay-per-view cable movie (depending on the film’s age, popularity, format, and copyright status), a DVD is just a little too pricey for view-once-and-discard. Yet, once we put it on a shelf, the DVD tends to stay there. Why? Precisely because it is readily available.

There was a time when if, say, The Philadelphia Story (1940) or Midnight (1939) appeared on TCM or some other channel, I’d be sure to tune in. Now I don’t bother because both are in my collection and can be viewed anytime. Yet, it’s been more than a year since I’ve watched either. Toward the end of March, I at last decided either to put them all on eBay or play them. So, for the past couple weeks (skipping only a few days) I’ve been working methodically through them, starting at the bottom shelf, and have watched one per night before bed. Oh, I’ve cheated a little: some of the DVDs are multipacks containing mostly dreadful fare along with a few gems. I watch only one movie from each multipack. If I really can’t force myself to watch a DVD (or at least one from a pack), I figured, it shouldn’t be taking up space in my house at all. So far, even though I often wasn’t quite “in the mood” at the start of a film, I soon got into the mood and haven’t regretted a single one. It turns out that there was a reason I bought the DVDs after all. These are the forced views to date.

Murder, My Sweet (1944) – Simply marvelous. The character Ann Grayle, after saying she hates men, adds, “I hate their women, too - especially the ‘big league blondes.’ Beautiful, expensive babes who know what they've got... all bubble bath, and dewy morning, and moonlight. And inside: blue steel, cold - cold like that... only not that clean.” Come on, what’s not to love about dialogue like that?

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) – Fun in the old monster-meets-girl tradition. Regrettably, my version is not 3D. The original theatrical release was.

Assault of the Killer Bimbos (1988) – OK, I regretted this one a little, but just a little.

The Big Sleep (1946) – Bogie and Bacall in one of the best noirs ever made. It’s easy to lose track of the plot the first time you see it (it makes sense the second time), but it doesn’t matter. It’s fun to watch regardless.

Girl Shy (1924) – Harold Lloyd at his best. This is the silent movie I recommend to people who think they don’t like silent movies. Harold, terrified of women, writes a book on how to seduce them. Very very funny.

Mr. Moto’s Last Warning (1939) – Interesting film simply because of the time frame. Released on the eve of World War 2, the movie sports an Imperial Japanese secret agent as hero. He thwarts a plot against the Suez Canal and a world war. (If only.)

Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (1965) – Sublime trash. I blogged about this last year when actress Tura Satana died.

World Without End (1956) – Surprisingly good post-apocalyptic science fiction. An accident with velocity and time dilation lands astronauts in the distant future where they find effete humans hiding underground while the surface is dominated by dangerous mutants.

It (1927) – The other silent film I recommend to people who think they don’t like silents. Clara Bow at her most charming.

The Palm Beach Story (1942) – Sophisticated comedy in which a woman (Claudette Colbert) unapologetically leaves her husband (Joel McCrea) to find someone wealthier, which she does. The ending is contrived, though it makes sense out of the very beginning which, until then, is baffling. But this is 1942. I detect sour irony: a nod to the audience in that dark year that contrived happy endings are the only kind of happy endings there are. (The last words on the screen are “And they lived happily ever after…or did they?”)

Last night, though, I gave myself a break. What with? A DVD, but a new one which proved to be at least as good as the average of the ones above. Dirty Girl, with Milla Jovavich and Juno Temple, flew almost completely under the radar in theaters last year. Critics noticed it though, and with good reason. Juno’s character, raised by a single mom, thinks the father she never met might save her from her unhappy life, not wanting to ask why he hadn’t been in her life previously; her gay friend meanwhile needs to escape from his dad altogether. The trailer to this film is misleading; it creates the expectation that this is just another low-brow high school movie, though set for some strange reason in 1987 Oklahoma. The opening scenes reinforce that expectation. The film, however, takes a very different and very sentimental turn. Sentiment in teen movies doesn’t always work well, but this time it does.

So, my recommendation: skip the reality TV shows. Dust off those DVDs on your shelf and play them; let them earn their keep.

Second recommendation: skip the DVDs some nights, too, for the real world. Tomorrow is a meet and greet of Morristown’s newest roller derby team (New Jersey Roller Derby) and Saturday is an intra-league bout of the two established teams. I’m going to both.

Trailer (double-click for full screen)


  1. I haven't even watched most of the DVDs in my collection, Richard...but last night I watched "Soylent Green" which I have not seen in many years. I had forgotten how good it was and how relevant it has become. The story takes place in 2022...could something like that really happen? I'm afraid that we might be right on track for such an occurence, so I'm wondering what sort of dip would be best for that little green wafer. Seriously though, have you had any luck selling on eBay? I am in the decluttering process at home and have a ton of stuff to unload.

  2. It's a good film indeed. I referenced it in a blog last August when news reports noted that the earth's population had reached 7 billion: . As it happens, 7 billion is the population of the earth mentioned in "Make Room! Make Room!" which is the Harry Harrison novel on which "Soylent Green" is based.

    I'm told that people taste like pork (I can't confirm that personally), so I'd say skip the dip and go with red eye gravy.

    I haven't really tried eBay for my own stuff yet, but several of my friends swear by it, selling everything from old sweaters to Citroen parts on it.

  3. Well as my movie blog shows, I've been having fun with Netflix download, but my recent dive into John Carpenter's films gave me an excuse to revisit a few I had in my collection but hadn't watched in a few years. "In the Mouth of Madness" was actually better than I remembered it being on my last viewing back in the mid 2000s. I remembered why I picked it up on sale. And "Big Trouble in Little China" just makes me smile.

    Keep me posted on your Ebay adventure as well. I've got quite a few DVDs from Verdict that I have no desire to revisit and wouldn't mind getting rid of.

    1. I haven't seen Big Trouble in Little China in years, but I do remember enjoying it. Probably Carpenter's worst received film was the Village of the Damned remake. I'll wait to get your take on it, but I know several folks who saw only the remake and so had no affection for the original to overcome. (I prefer the original, too, but then I also prefer the original King Kong and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.) All of them liked it.

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