Rita Ignites a Mighty Firestorm Down Below in 3D!

August 27, 2016 | By

MissSadieThompson1953_posterJust posted is a pair of Rita Hayworth classics / hybrid oddities from two of her fifties comeback clusters.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray of Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) sports both the flat and recently restored 3D editions of the fourth and reportedly most faithful (in tone) version of Somerset Maugham’s saucy tale, shot in the south seas.

Her second comeback wave began with Fire Down Below, adapted from Max Catto’s novel, and although Hayworth gets top billing, it’s really Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon who dominate the screen for the picture’s nearly 2 hour length.

Weird factoid: perhaps inspired by the Caribbean locales, Mitchum crooned a calypso LP, which, as he says, ‘is like so…’




I wonder if the album goes down smooth with a tumbler of fine rum.

And now a change of narrative.

Universal’s 3D classic It Came from Outer Space! (1953) is slated for a Blu-ray release in early October, but it’ll be another of those annoying Best Buy exclusives which isn’t great news to Canadians wanting to grab the disc for their pleasure. (There was an early announcement of Britain’s Panamint putting out a Region B Blu, but that seems to have been put on hold, as the title is not longer in their Coming Soon section.)

On the subject of exclusives, Sony recently announced the launch of their in-house Blu-ray MOD series, branded Choice Collection. A few of the announced titles include The Next Karate Kid, and The Karate Kid Part III, and Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984), which was released by Twilight Time and is also available as a non-limited release in Australia.

Postings at Criterion’s site on Sony’s licensed catalogue also cite a new U.K. label called Indicator, via Powerhouse Films, whose inaugural offerings include some titles previously released by Twilight Time, many sporting isolated music tracks. The price point is 15 British pounds, and like Twilight Time, each copy’s run appears to be limited to 3000 copies.

If you weed through collector ire at high prices, limited runs, and biases towards labels in those posts, what’s emerging here is arguably Sony jumping into the physical media realm again, but following Warner’s Warner Archive MOD line by bringing ‘selections’ from the Sony catalogue. What’s different is the selection of titles are a mix of popular franchises or franchise entries tied to successful back catalogue titles that continue to hold their own in sales, and titles with proven sales potential beyond the 3000 copy realm.

Let’s take Body Double  as a sample case. Sony licensed the title to Australia’s Umbrella for a Region B release that’s non-limited and contains extras from Sony’s now OOP DVD. They also licensed the title to Twilight Time for a limited run with the same DVD extras, plus TT’s own exclusive extras. TT’s release is now OOP, because they managed to sell the full run that paid for its cost, and pays forward costs of releases in the pipeline.

Sony’s release of a Region A MOD BR of Body Double could be read as the studio realizing there’s a bigger interest in De Palma’s work than believed, and since TT’s disc is now OOP and sells for a premium in collector venues, it means there’s more than 3000 people in North America who want to own that film.

The MOD format is generally limited to some undisclosed batch that could end or be restarted in smaller amounts than the old tens of thousands of mass-produced DVDs; basically, as long as demand remains potent, one can foresee De Palma’s film being on Blu on this continent for a while.

Powerhouse may have followed Arrow’s suit in releasing a (presumably) exclusive Region B edition, but they’ve apparently chosen to limit their inaugural runs to 3000 because TT’s model has shown it’s a workable volume; if demand exceeds 3000 and Europeans are still grabbing the Aussie or Sony’s MOD discs, they could bring out their own encore edition; and if demand for a collector-styled edition is sated for the time being, their job is done. Those who missed out can still import the Aussie or Sony MOD editions while they’re in print. Nothing new in the latter option.

My guess is Sony’s MOD will be the same HD master plus extras from their DVD, and that’s it – which is still a decent special edition.

If we look at the differences between the Shapiro-Glickenhaus titles licensed by Synapse and Arrow for their own respective Region A and B editions, it’s clear some labels choose to create their own unique editions; limited if it’s felt the fan base is tight; unlimited if the goal is to keep the title in print long-term and be the main label that represents a particular filmmaker, producer, or indie studio.

If a label states 3000 is the hard limit unless there’s still overwhelming demand a year later; okay. If they remain mum after the initial order is sold out over a few days, and make it appear there will be no budget edition but 6-12 months later a less sexy edition materializes,  then it’s more than reasonable to be irked.

Collectors are savvy enough to trust instincts, and wait… because some of those titles in Arrow’s Region B and A and B boxed sets have materialized as individual editions. We know the pattern, we know the run of the limited packaging editions, and we know labels like to reissue titles when there’s pent-up demand. What’s disliked is when high price points don’t correlate with bare bones editions (trailers are akin to those once touted extras like ‘chapter indexes’ and ‘talent files’), and I can name some indie labels and cult labels that have pushed the boundaries of collector prices for really meh, if not bare bones releases.

Canadians have a particular bias – not an angry one, but a big hesitation – to delve into overpriced bare bones editions because our dollar is pegged to oil, and if crude dips, our dollar sinks further. If a title is $20 US, it might be $23-25 CAD at cost through an importer, plus a store’s mark-up that makes a title $30-35.

It also doesn’t help when indie labels decide to price a Blu $10 above their DVD. Fans and collectors have to be smart given the genuine wealth of catalogue titles coming out every month from indie labels, and I’ve seen customers grab the DVD because $10 for a Blu that has just a trailer and pushes the bare bones disc to $30-$35 isn’t worth it. It’s actually insulting, especially when it’s one of three 60-70 min. noir or B-westerns that would make a great double-bill special edition. $35 for 3 B-movies few have heard of by workmanlike directors? Okay! $28 for each? No way!

Labels shouldn’t stay mum when prices are steep; they should be forthcoming or pro-active and explain ‘Here’s why this 1953 film noir “Lick the Blood Off My Barrel” by Edgar van Hootenblach is priced at $30. And here’s why we simply couldn’t add any extras or do a double-bill or themed collection.’

Some labels explain and interact with their clients through active social media venues; some feel ‘Well, we’re X. We’re known for delivering classics, so we can’t cheapen our catalogue by being reasonable, let alone competitive.’ That stance might change if labels start accumulating returned goods and poor sellers and have to unload dead sellers on Amazon every Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Whoopee Wednesday for a song.

There’s also the sense that labels may engage in future-proofing expenses – maintaining a premium price point for their entire line because when the oft-foretold bottom of physical media finally goes kaboom, their losses for winding down and blowing off deadwood at deep discounts to mass merchants has already been costed.

No one knows what state the industry will be in 6, 12, or 18 months from now. Studios and TV manufacturers’ plans to mainstream 3D with mass consumers flopped, but the format maintains premium attraction for 3D connoisseurs, so organizations like the 3-D Film Archive keep going after lost films because there’s a more than tangible fan base – hence this Kickstarter campaign. The Archive is pretty open with fans in restating their devotion to restoring films for non-limited releases that for a while, ensure fans can eventually build up their collection of rare movies. Ergo, their price point is generally acceptable, and like other labels, physical media remains the most viable venue to reach fans.

Value for one’s money is a subjective thing, but everyone knows when someone’s being consistently unreasonable, and in the end, consumers show that displeasure by simply saying No.

One final, if not small aspect of consumerism labels may not have factored in their formula for future-proofing for the end that still hasn’t happened: instead of buying that new reissue of a former MGM, Fox, UA, or Sony title, consumers may well be able to pick up the prior DVD for a few bucks at the used shop. A lot of product packs the walls of used shops in urban centres like Toronto, and savvy consumers know that research is part of the prudent shopper’s arsenal. Check Amazon, check the local bricks & mortar shop, and if the film’s been out before as a mass-produced MGM DVD that used to fill Walmart bins, check the used shops, because that too may trump the $30 import of “Lick the Blood Off My Barrel.”

Rant over.

Coming next: Frank Henenlotter’s racy documentary That’s Sexploitation! (2013), released in an extras-packed Blu-ray by Severin.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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