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Manufactured on Demand (MOD) discs are a cinephile’s dream. They offer a new way to satisfy movie buffs burning desires. There’re treasure chests of classic chestnuts and films of all manner: sound and silent, classic and cult, musicals/comedy/drama, made-for-TV movies, TV series, and documentaries. These are DVDs, many remastered, some in HD, and many debuting in Blu-ray that you’ll only find at studio archive sites. For the most part, these DVD-R discs burned to order are quite reasonably-priced. More often than not you can hit upon a sale. Items often ship within three days.
Library Journal estimates there are 2,000-plus M-O-D titles available, with new titles released weekly. There’s original package art, but don’t expect booklets or bonus material. There can be trailers and cartoons as bonus materials. Widescreen movies are shown in their proper aspect ratio and formatted for 16X9 TV screens. Closed-captions are rare except on films recently released.
Some resurfacing titles were thought to be “lost” forever. Initially, the offerings were outdated “off-the-shelf” items or titles studios didn’t deem economically sound for mass distribution.
Since Warner Bros. pioneered M-O-D eight years ago, more or less to do something with the huge hunk of the MGM library they purchased when that once invincible studio ceased to exist, their www.wbshop.com/warnerarchive claims Metro’s old boast of having more stars there are in the heavens. The WB archive covers a vast array of tastes. There’re lots of titles you may wonder “Why” about, but for every one of those there is film noir galore [such as The Big Sleep and Out of the Past], the film noir musical 42nd Street, and other musical gems [such as Kismet, Cole Porter’s Silk Stockings, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, starring Oscar nominee Debbie Reynolds in a rousing performance.
There’s animation, cult favs, and Metro’s extraordinarily popular singing lovers, who had a massive cult following [despite the fact that they despised each other and played revenge tricks during shooting], Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in a two volume/eight film collection [which includes Rose Marie and Naughty Marietta).
There’s a helpful Search option. In addition to the above, here are some finds that might be of interest:
Cinema Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood (2009; 90 minutes) – This Turner documentary spotlights the 1933 and 1939, over 800 Jewish members of the German film industry who fled the Nazis for the U.S. and Hollywood, from 1933-1939. Many had a massive impact on American cinema in comedy, drama, horror, and, especially, film noir. Told through film clips, interviews, photographs, and rare archival footage including home movies, it explores directors Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann, stars such as Garbo and Peter Lorre, and composers Rozsa, Steiner, Tiomkin, and Waxman. Once in Hollywood, they raised money so others could escape. Numerous clips. Actors recreate some voices, but those heard as themselves are Dietrich, Deanna Durbin, Charles Laughton, Heddy Lamarr, Lorre, Lubitsch, Ann Sheridan, and Wilder. Narrated by Sigourney Weaver.
Six by Sondheim (2013; 86 minutes) – This HBO documentary takes quite a candid look at Sondheim, as revealed through the performance of six of his songs, and by the man whose ground-breaking work redefined musical theater – one that leads to a deeper understanding of him. “Everybody has problems,” he says. “Nobody goes through life unscathed. If you write about those things, you’re going to touch people.” Directed by James Lapine, the film weaves Sondheim interviews with those of Yvonne de Carlo, Dean Jones, Larry Kert, Ethel Merman, Mandy Patinkin, and Bernadette Peters. Darren Criss, America Ferrera, and Audra McDonald sing classic tunes, including “Being Alive,” “I’m Still Here,” “Opening Doors,” “Send in the Clowns,” and “Something’s Coming.”
Bogie & Bacall Films: To Have and Have Not (1943; 100 minutes; remastered; Blu-ray debut) – Howard Hawks’ masterpiece, loosely adapted from Hemingway novel with an assist from Faulkner, captures the pair’s size in their first pairing. Bacall, still in her teens, as lounge singer and French resistance sympathizer, sets off sirens with famed “whistle” line; but Bogie matches bravado scene after scene as she wraps him around her little finger. He segues from pickpocket in WWII Vichy France to smuggler to hero as he transports a fugitive on the run from Nazis. Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, and Dolores Moran co-star. The uncredited score is by legendary Franz Waxman.
The Big Sleep (1946; 114 minutes) – Raymond Chandler gumshoe Philip Marlowe tackles blackmail, following a film noir trail of murderers, pornographers, rogues, spoiled rich, and other denizens. Director Howard Hawks serves it up in brisk, hard-boiled style – screenplay is co-written by Nobel Laureate William Faulkner. There’re snappy characters, none more so than Bogie and Bacall. The Blu-ray doubles your pleasure with two versions: the 1946 theatrical version, with additional scenes of incendiary Bogie/Bacall chemistry, and the 1945 pre-release version. Dorothy Malone, Martha Vickers, Regis Toomey, Western legend Bob Steele [in his tough guy period], and a standout Elisha Cook Jr. are featured. Great Max Steiner score.
Dark Passage (1947; 106 minutes; remastered in 1080p HD) – Sparks fly in the duo’s third pairing is a bold and surreal noir fable about a prison escapee trying to prove he was framed and the mysterious dame who aids him. Director Delmer Daves lends a surreal air by keeping the con‘s face unseen for film’s first half, only revealing it post plastic surgery. Agnes Moorehead, cheated out of an Oscar nod, nearly steals the show as a flighty femme fatale. Bonus material: making-of feature and cartoon, Slick Hare, starring Elmer Fudd and Bugs, which has Bogie ordering rabbit, but Fudd has a tough time getting Bugs in the pot.
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949; 103 minutes: 1080p HD Blu-ray Technicolor and sound remaster) –– Western master director John Ford captains the middle film of his acclaimed “Cavalry Trilogy,” based on stories by James Warner Bellah. John Wayne (40, playing 60) is a widowed captain , on final assignment before being mustered out, escorting commander’s wife and niece through hostile Indian territory (Monument Valley, Utah) as he makes a bid for peace between warring tribes. Joanne Dru, Mildred Natwick, Harry Carey Jr., John Agar, Ben Johnson, and Victor McLaglen (The Quiet Man) co-star. Duke was cheated out of an Oscar nod. Oscar-winning cinematography by Winton Hoch.
Stage to Screen:
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf(1966; 131 minutes; Blu-ray debut) – Albee’s bitter tale of an alcohol-fueled aging couple, on the rocks in more ways than one, who use a young couple to fuel emotional pain against each other. Not for the faint of heart. Directed by Oscar-nominated Mike Nichols. Stars Oscar-winner Elizabeth Taylor in a daring performance not-to-be missed; and the Oscar-nominated co-stars: Richard Burton, giving as good as he gets, George Segal, and Oscar-winner Sandy Dennis in her shining hour.
Astounding Animation: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993; 76 minutes; remastered, Blue-ray debut) – While celebrating the 25th anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, how about a nostalgic look back with this animated theatrical release? Superhero animation guru and executive producer Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, legendary Batman voice Kevin Conroy, co-screenwriter Alan Burnett, and Warner Archive Podcasts will offer a glimpse at the remastered footage and a making-of discussion. Other voices: Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach (Phantasm/Carl Beaumont), Abe Vigoda, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Arthur), and Mark Hamill (The Joker).
The Green Slime (1968; 90 minutes; remastered; wide-screen)– Even judged against low standards, it doesn’t get any cheesier than this romp from Japan, Italy, and the U.S. – but it’s so bad, it’s good. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who inspired Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s schlockiness, it’s a campy Sci-Fi story of astronauts disembarking from space station to nip a giant asteroid in the bud. They return with gooey green mess that has mind of its own. Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel headline.
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