Another Argument for Physical Media
Every so often I highlight a DVD/Blu-ray distributor because they’re putting in overtime to preserve movies on physical media. You’ll be happy to know that time has come again. Kino Lorber has been churning out films under their Studio Classics label for a few years now. These are films that the major studios have pushed aside, shoved into the spidery corners of their warehouses, deemed unworthy. Oftentimes I get the impression that some of these studios *cough* *cough* Paramount *cough* *cough* would rather burn their catalog titles to roast marshmallows than release them to the loyal film fans devoutly pursuing and purchasing physical media.
Whenever I highlight one of these distributors I must also weigh in on the value of physical media and the supposed omnipresent availability of films via streaming services. The “everything available all the time” myth touted by those forward-thinking pioneers of digital streaming is a farce. Movies dip and dive and disappear faster than you can say “queue it up,” so let’s look at some recent developments.
Take for example the recent news that Amazon had started censoring and restricting certain titles on Amazon Prime. It should be noted that this will only affect older, independent and cult titles and not the big budget Hollywood releases which are already subject to the de facto censorship regime known as the MPAA.
Amazon has apparently decided to step into the void of Blockbuster, which famously refused to stock any unrated or NC-17 film because they were a “family friendly” establishment. Pure drivel. By this arbitrary benchmark they’d be perfectly pleased with stocking Snuff 102 (2008) but Ang Lee’s beautiful Lust, Caution (2007) bears the shame of demon-food disgrace. But I digress. I can’t get all hot and bothered (again) about the hypocrisy of the MPAA and NC-17 rating, especially as it pertains to its views on violence versus sexuality.
The Netflix Smokescreen
Netflix Streaming (as of today, March 7th, 2017) only featured 117 films released before 1980 (stats culled from instantwatcher.com). I chose 1980 as an arbitrary cut-off date for “classic” film. This 117 number includes individual TV episodes such as the Dick Van Dyke Show and Star Trek the Animated Series. Removing TV episodes knocks that number down dramatically to 91. Yet the Netflix is the most common service cited in the movies available anytime, anywhere claim.
Word of mouth among classic film fans also suggests that Amazon has been pulling free streaming titles based on current events. Say a movie star or director dies — their films seem to disappear from Amazon Prime immediately after their death when demand would be highest. Sure, you can pay to watch these films, but that’s certainly not the same as omnipresent availability. Yes, it’s a business. Amazon has a right to charge what they want for their services — just as long as people remain mostly satisfied with the overall product. And the sad fact is that most people just don’t care or don’t hold these streaming services to any sort of standards regarding classic film.
The Great FilmStruck Hope
TCM and Criterion’s joint effort called FilmStruck has been a godsend, but it’s still not available across all streaming devices and platforms. Roku owners like myself stew idly and wait for that vague “Spring 2017” compatibility window.
Maybe you can predict where I’m going with this. The only service that isn’t subject to the whims of the marketplace is your own personal media library. Streaming has proven to be an essential supplement, but we’re no closer to an individual service or services providing acceptable sustenance for the classic film fan than we were five years ago. Of all the online venues for viewing rare and classic films, YouTube has proven to be the most useful. I’m not going to tout the quality of the viewing experience. That these films are available at all is our primary concern. The fact remains that many older films have no hope of a proper release on physical media or streaming.
But let’s rewind and get back to Kino Lorber.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics Sale @ Amazon
The Kino Lorber Studio Classics line rescues forgotten films from obscurity or the major studio vault. As movie bloggers, part of our job is making sure that worthy titles find their audience so that that audience can then purchase and support the releases from Kino, Twilight Time, Olive Films, Flicker Alley, Warner Archive and more niche genre distributors like Code Red and Mondo Macabro. These purchases fuel future releases. Without our support, physical media ceases to be. We’ll all be rerouted to streaming services that probably don’t feature the movie we want in the first place.
Purchasing films via online services such as Amazon, Vudu and iTunes is of course an option, however, these services generally provide a more modern selection of films. If you dive into their classic-era catalog, you’ll never know what you’ll find, but you’ll also never know what kind of state the film is in. These services have no skin in the game. They won’t take a damaged print, restore it using best available sources, provide color correction, etc.
Even physical media distributors remain subject to the quality of the print sourced by the owning studio and the cost of revitalization. But without Kino, Flicker Alley, Twilight Time, Olive, etc., I doubt restoration ever takes place. This might be the most vital component to this chain of film sales and consumption.
Kino and Amazon have again partnered to bring you heavily discounted titles from the Kino Lorber Studio Classics library. Many of these titles are as cheap as they’ve ever been. I’ll suggest a few of my favorites from the sale and leave you to explore the rest of the catalog. (This link to the KL Studio Classics page on Blu-ray.com details every single release.) I’ll paste a complete list of discounted titles below.
I’m not suggesting you need to go out and pickup the entire catalog from every niche distributor. Realistically, that’s not within any of our means. Pick up a favorite title or two. Risk a blind-buy on something recommended here or on my favorite go-to website for sleeper picks, Brian Saur’s Rupert Pupkin Speaks. If we, as film fans, all do a little to support these distributors that act speaks volumes about the continued importance of physical media.
My Kino Lorber Sale Suggestions:
The complete list of titles on sale:
23 Paces to Baker Street – $15.99
52 Pickup – $12.49
99 River Street – $11.41
American Dreamer – $12.64
Astro Zombies – $12.80
Back Roads – $14.99
Biggles: Adventures in Time – $11.41
Big House U.S.A. – $14.65
Black Sabbath (AIP cut) – $11.18
Blown Away – $12.49
Burnt Offerings – $11.08
Canadian Pacific – $13.05
Cariboo Trail, The – $11.41
Chandu The Magician – $13.48
Compulsion – $14.99
Cop – $11.41
Cops and Robbers – $12.92
Crimson Cult, The – $12.26
Daddy Long Legs – $12.94
David and Bathsheba – $14.99
Deranged – $12.25
Finders Keepers – $14.33
F.I.S.T. – $12.92
Framed – $15.99
FX2 – $14.99
Galliant Hours, The – $11.41
Gator – $12.49
Grandview U.S.A. – $12.79
Haunted Honeymoon – $13.34
He Ran All The Way – $14.75
Hidden Fear – $11.41
Highway to Hell – $12.65
Hornet’s Nest – $14.13
Hurricane, The – $14.67
Invitation to a Gunfighter – $12.80
I, The Jury – $12.06
I Wake Up Screaming – $12.97
Internecine Project, The – $11.41
Journey to the Seventh Planet – $11.41
Juggernaut – $12.16
Long Goodbye, The – $12.49
Madhouse – $15.99
Malice – $15.99
Man on Fire – $12.51
Man with the Gun – $14.14
My Bodyguard – $12.86
Modesty Blaise – $13.63
Neptune Factor, The – $13.08
No Retreat, No Surrender – $15.99
On the Beach – $14.99
Oblong Box, The – $11.80
Panic in the Year Zero – $11.41
Porky’s II / Porky’s Revenge – $14.59
Prime Cut – $15.99
Quatermass Xperiment, The – $12.88
Reivers, The – $14.70
Shield for Murder – $11.41
Siege of Firebase Gloria, The – $11.99
Stryker – $11.41
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming – $14.99
Trouble Man – $12.99
Ulee’s Gold – $11.41
Unholy Four, The – $14.15
Welcome to L.A.- $11.41
White Lightning – $13.78
Who? – $11.41
Wonderful Country, The – $14.80