Most wanted DVDs

The New York Times ran an article today entitled Greatest DVD’s Never Made: A Most Wanted List that’s worth a peek to remind us how many films we’re still missing in prime video quality. But between the article’s type-o’s (the films of “Uzo”) and no mention of non-region 1 options (like the region 2 The African Queen), the article leaves a bit to be desired. On the other hand, it levels some good criticisms at the way commerical policies continue to restrict our viewing:

The confusion brought on by media mergers and acquisitions has been a common cause of DVD delays.

For example, MGM Home Entertainment, oddly, owns no MGM films made before 1986 (they were bought by Turner), but over the years it has bought the film vaults of United Artists, Orion, Embassy and Polygram. One year before it was purchased, Polygram acquired the holdings of Epic, which owned the films of several studios that had gone bankrupt.

“When we deal with a film that Polygram actually produced, like ‘Fargo,’ it’s fairly easy to make a DVD,” said Scott Grossman, MGM’s vice president for technical operations. “But if a film came from Epic, which Polygram’s people didn’t have time to sort through, we have to dig through 30 or 40 or 50 years of archives to figure out where everything ended up.”

In other words, in many cases, the company that owns the film doesn’t know where the film is.

As a side note, the article offers depressing news regarding one of my personally most-wanted DVDs, the long-delayed special edition of Blade Runner:

The avidly awaited, definitive version of Ridley Scott’s science-fiction classic, “Blade Runner,” won’t be out on DVD anytime soon for stranger reasons.

When “Blade Runner” was being shot in the early 1980’s, Bud Yorkin, a veteran television comedy producer, and Jerry Perenchio, now the C.E.O. of Univision, were the film’s bond-completion guarantors. When the film went over budget, by contract they assumed ownership of the film. Paul Sammon wrote in his book “Future Noir: The Making of `Blade Runner’ ” that they hated the film, had bitter disputes with Mr. Scott and tried to take it away from him altogether.

The studio release, in 1982, contained superfluous narration and a tacked-on rosy ending. Mr. Scott removed both when he was allowed to make a “director’s cut” in 1992, but it was, by his own account, a rush job.

Three years ago, Mr. Scott announced that he was working on a three-disc box set, which would offer all the versions of the film, including a new and polished director’s cut with previously unseen footage and scads of bonus features. Then, at the end of 2001, Warner Brothers, which was planning to distribute the discs, pulled the plug. It did so, according to a producer who worked on the project, because Mr. Perenchio gave no sign that he would let them be released.

Mr. Perenchio, speaking through an assistant, had no comment on the situation. (Warner Brothers still sells the 1992 “director’s cut,” though the picture quality is mediocre.)