Chris Hicks: A golden age for collectors of movies

Published: Thursday, May 5 2011 5:36 p.m. MDT

"Fate is the hunter," a 1964 movie I've been asked about constantly over the past couple of decades, will finally make its way to DVD next week, via the new Twilight Time specialty label from 20th Century Fox.

Along with it are the frequently asked-for "The Kremlin Letter," "Violent Saturday," "Woman Obsessed," "The Egyptian" and "April Love."

If that's not enough to make movie collectors giddy, Sony, MGM and Universal have all decided to capitalize on the tremendous success of the Warner Bros. MOD (manufacture-on-demand) website Warner Archive, setting up similar online side businesses within their own home-video operations. Each is reaching deep into its archives for vintage movies that have long been unavailable (though some were on VHS, Beta or laser disc years ago).

The Fox line is a little different, however. Rather than use the MOD model, Twilight Time's DVDs are more akin to the Criterion Collection. The films are restored transfers and the discs include bonus features. Plus, each will have a collectible booklet (with photos, poster art and an essay).

Unlike Criterion, however, the prices are in the MOD $19.95 range and are available exclusively at the Screen Archives website, which has long specialized in Fox movie-music audio discs. Each DVD will be issued in a limited-edition 3,000-disc run.

Younger readers may find it difficult to comprehend, but there is an insatiable appetite out there for old movies, especially those that have not been seen in decades. It's taken a long time for the studios to tip to how much money there is to be made by releasing these titles, as they more often tend to recycle the same pictures over and over with special editions and Blu-ray upgrades.

Take "Fate Is the Hunter," which boasts an all-star cast of the period — Glenn Ford, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jane Russell, Nancy Kwan, Wally Cox, Mary Wickes and an unbilled cameo by Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone. It's a fascinating black-and-white CinemaScope puzzler that begins with a plane crash and follows the crash investigation until it reaches an unexpected twist at the end.

"Fate" is a wonderful example of a movie that is not particularly respected by critics, but which spoke to an awful lot of people when they saw it in the 1960s. And when home video came around, they started looking for it and have been frustrated ever since. To my knowledge, this one hasn't been on television in many years and it's never been on home video, save for inferior bootlegs. Check out Twilight Time titles at www.screenarchives.com.

Warner Archives continues to post MOD titles every other week — there are more than a thousand now — the latest being a trio of James Garner gems, "Marlowe," "The Wheeler Dealers" and "Mister Buddwing," along with the musicals "The Boy Friend," "Get Yourself a College Girl" and two starring Herman's Hermits, "Hold On!" and "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" (www.wbshop.com, click on "Warner Archive").

The Sony titles, under the Columbia Pictures Classics label — which include "10 Rillington Place," "The Pumpkin Eater," "The Interns," "Doctors' Wives," "A Study in Terror," "The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock" and the TV movie "Contract on Cherry Street," along with many more — can also be found on the Warner Archive website, as well as at Amazon (www.amazon.com) and on Sony's website (www.sonypictures.com).

The MGM Limited Edition label has released a bevy of titles in several waves, including "The Gallant Hours," "Cold Turkey," "The Best Man," "Still of the Night," "Rolling Thunder," "The Group," "The Hawaiians" and "The Witches."

This label also has three Utah-made movies locals often ask about: the shot-in-Salt Lake City "Harry in Your Pocket" (1973), a grifter comedy-drama starring James Coburn; the western "Ghost Town" (1956), filmed in southern Utah; and the murder mystery "The Girl in Black Stockings" (1957), shot in and around a southern Utah resort and starring Mamie Van Doren, Anne Bancroft and Utah native Marie Windsor.

The MGM titles can be located at www.classicmoviesnow.com and an Amazon specialty store (search for MGM Limited Edition Collection) or by title at Amazon. These are also at www.screenarchives.com.

The Universal label includes "Death Takes a Holiday," "Sometimes a Great Notion," "The List of Adrian Messenger," "Gambit," "Forty Pounds of Trouble" and many more, which can be located at Amazon by searching for Universal Vault Series.

And Paramount has licensed some of its older titles to Olive Films, such as "On the Double," "Knock on Wood," "My Favorite Spy," "Hannie Caulder," "The Mountain," "Rope of Sand" and the upcoming "Skidoo" and "Hurry Sundown." All of these and more can be found at the company website (www.olivefilms.com) or by searching Amazon.

It's a golden age for collectors of vintage movies, and more titles just keep coming every month.

Simply browsing these sites can give you lots of suggestions for Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays and other gift-giving occasions for the movie fan in your circle. (Are you paying attention, kids?)

Email: hicks@desnews.com

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