VHS Gems

Here’s another great list idea courtesy of @bobfreelander. Whenever contributing to a popular list I believe that once must always include their slant on it so you understand the selector’s criteria, perspective and so forth.

I do have a horror story of foolishly trusting a VHS-DVD dubber and then tossing the back-ups only to find the DVDs incompatible with any other players, save the one that broke from overuse; despite that VHS is not my favorite format. I’m fine with progress in that regard.

What I’m not fond of is losing access to titles and that’s what format changes have done. Granted, with streaming, DVD, Blu-Ray and movie on demand distribution we’re getting closer, eventually to having most of what is still extant available, completism is all that will satisfy me. Therefore, here are some of my top choices of films I saw on VHS but have not had an official region 1 DVD version (BTW, going multi-region will change your life, and blow your face off your head).

I did pick some titles to try and make them representative of a niche that is likely replete with missing titles and you may see some of these titles pop-up on another similar list soon.

Ghost Town (1988)

This is a film I actually heard of thanks to Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Then, as luck would have it, I found it on sale at the library where all VHS tapes that get donated cost $0.50. Quite a bargain. If you see enough Charles Band movies, and get a taste for them, you’ll find that as a director/producer he’s somewhat in the Roger Corman mold inasmuch as if you sift through enough of his refuse, there’s some good movies to be found, and this is one of them! Western-horror and ghost towns in general have always interested me, and while what’s delivered is not something quite like the box promises it is strong enough to withstand a late second act bout of sloth.

Song of the South (1946)

I’ll save my Song of the South rant for another post. In fact, this selection isn’t really about Song of the South but Disney in general. There are rumors abound that Disney will create its own streaming service. They’ve already put their toes in the water on an international line, and recently into an MOD line. Both of those are very small and release titles infrequently. It’s bad enough the animated classics get vaulted, but for certifiable Disney nuts like myself (and I’m more tame than most) Disney’s squatting on its titles is terribly bothersome and this is at the top of the list.

The Son of the Shark (1993) and Jacqout de Nantes (1991)

I combine these two selections to further illustrate a point, and that’s about foreign-language films in the US. Far too often when formats change, some new home video distributors emerge, others fall by the wayside; and to capitalize on new technology some older titles get overlooked. These two French films couldn’t be more different: the first is a hard, gritty, disturbing look look at juvenile deliquency the second is a delightful, charming warm-hearted portrait of Jacques Demy by his wife Agnes Varda. It is a film she made in memory of him, that features many clips of his films, as well as ho his childhood shaped them and his life.

These films have not made it to DVD or blu-ray in the US.

American Gothic (1988)

I have to be honest and confess that I really can’t recall that much about American Gothic, other than I can differentiate it from the excellent short-lived TV show of the same name. However, I do recall seeing it as a Blockbuster rental and enjoying it a great deal – it’d be perfect to revisit but I cannot.

The Cellar (1989)

The Cellar represents another interesting aspect of distribution inasmuch I first saw it on cable, I believe at some point during the DVD era, but it has not moved past VHS into further means of being viewed.

Blake of Scotland Yard (1937)


I needed an older film here but I also needed one representative of serials, which I do like but don’t get to see enough of. As for Blake of Scotland Yard it’s as good a choice as any. In fact, one of my first posts on this new blog was my consumer outrage at discovering that such a thing as a composite serial, or as I like to call it “Studio Sanctioned Nonsense,” exists. I’ve probably seen it three times through in one for or other and it should be in print.

So those are just 7 films that are on VHS alone as of this writing. If I sat down I could find many more I am sure, but these were the ones that came quickest to my mind and also highlight gaps in distribution patterns that hopefully get picked up.

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8 Out of Print Titles That Shouldn’t Be

These days it is very difficult to find anything which is out of print, which is a great thing, it is usually the diamonds in the rough which will inspire future generations. And the more of those which are readily available the more likely great art will be inspired in coming generations. More studios should be following suit with Warner Brothers and slowly rolling out their vaults and making almost anything and everything available to all. Below are films which good, bad and ugly are currently unavailable on either VHS or DVD, and that ought not be so. Many of them represent types and I’m sure you can find a handful of films similar to the titles I mention. Those suggestions are welcome and just as viable.

8. Serials (any serial)

The most idealistic choice, but seriously I don’t know how these can be expensive and someone should pick them up and distribute them on an On Demand basis because they’re like a cinematic drug; addictive. The serial is just classical storytelling at its best and it has inspired some of the best loved film series of the 20th centuries (think Star Wars and Indiana Jones). If you chop those down into 15 minute installments you get classic cliffhangers. Blake of Scotland Yard for the novice has absolutely everything you need, if you want the most inventive array of genres mixed together get The Phantom Empire.

7.Song of the South

Song of the South (Disney)


Here are facts regarding Song of the South: The controversy surrounding racism in this film is centered on two key points: first, the “happy slave” character. This, however, was cliché. The vitriol against the film really comes from the subplot of Bre’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. This was a direct adaptation of the original tale and literally about a baby made of tar. The film unintentionally put the term into the common vernacular as a racist slur. While I can’t defend many animators regarding many insensitive jokes in this era this one did seem rather innocuous. Due to one short scene an all around decent and wonderful film has been lost in time. Compounding it is that clips of the film have been used in Sing-A-Longs, characters from the film are at Disneyland and -World and everyone sings “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” It’s a bit hypocritical and a bit of a tease to let younger generations know this film exists and that they’re not allowed to see it. Disney should either bury it or put it out there, stop trying to have your cake and eat it too. Keep in mind that titles which are overtly racist like Birth of a Nation and Leni Reifenstahl’s propaganda films are readily available, so it’s not even as if the home video market is devoid of contentious subject matter so if one disagrees with this assessment of Song of the South rest assured it’s not readily available and if it were you needn’t buy it.

6. As Aventuras da Turma da Monica

As Aventuras da Turma da Mônica (Mauricio de Sousa)


This is the original animated feature which sews together vignettes starring Mauricio de Sousa’s seemingly endless cast of characters. It’s a wonder no studio has tried to introduce these characters to the States since his comics and cartoons are syndicated all over Latin America, Europe and Asia.

5.Ciske the Rat


Ciske the Rat (Concorde Films)

A staggering, realistic and disturbing portrayal of the birth of a juvenile delinquent in the most haunting and disturbing way possible where you can identify with it and almost want it to happen. A strong 1980s entry from the Netherlands.

4. Shark: Rosso nell’oceano

Shark: Rosso nell'oceano (Cinema Shares International Distribution)


This is a film I first and only saw on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and is one of the most memorable and hilarious episodes of that show. It truly is one of the grotesquely terrible films ever made. Case in point, it’s more like an octopus than a shark, not sure what the rationale behind the title was exactly. With or without any comic relief this film is painful.

3. Eu Sei Que Eu Vou Te Amar

Eu Sei Que Eu Vou Te Amar (Embrafilme)

Features Fernanda Torres in a role which won her Best Actress at Cannes in one of her first performances it is another compelling, complex and fascinating film by Arnaldo Jabor which takes place almost entirely within the confines of an apartment yet stays engagingly cinematic.

2. The Cellar


The Cellar (Hemdale Home Video)

Is a prime example of execution of a film and its plot heavily outweighing the importance of budget, production value and actor’s ability. The sum of the last three factors should not be enough to make a great horror movie but the cinematography, ingenious and practical effects work, score and editing make this movie happen.

1. They Shall Have Music


They Shall Have Music (United Artists)

I saw this during 31 Days of Oscar on TCM. It is a standard 1939 tear-jerker which makes it better than anything today in that regard. It’s a nice easy watch with a deservedly Academy-Award nominated score by Alfred Newman and great cinematography by Gregg Toland.