Movie studios love to re-release older films on their anniversaries. Any excuse to squeeze a few extra bucks from fans of a fondly remembered title, especially now that upgrading them from DVD to Blu-ray offers an additional incentive.
Some of the more popular pictures, from "Citizen Kane" to "Star Wars," have been released in so many VHS/DVD/Blu-ray sets that completists — those really obsessive fans that have to own every new edition — could conceivably have as many as 10 different versions of the same title on their shelves.
So far this year we've had Paramount's "To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition" (its Blu-ray debut) and a massive box set from Warner Bros., "Casablanca: 70th Anniversary Edition," marking the umpteenth reissue for both. Even 20th Century Fox's "Wizards: 35th Anniversary Edition" marks that film's fourth or fifth home video release.
And if a studio doesn't have enough "classic" titles whose dates work out, there are other celebratory excuses. How about the fact that the studio itself has managed to endure for a century? That's what one of the major movie studios is doing this year with a string of titles under this banner: "Universal 100th Anniversary Collector's Series."
Universal's 100th has so far given us Blu-ray book-packaged re-releases of a number of off-year vintage favorites, including "All Quiet On the Western Front," "Out of Africa," "Buck Privates" and "Pillow Talk," along with regular Blu-ray reissues of "The Deer Hunter," "Charade," "My Man Godfrey" and "Sullivan's Travels." And it's only May.
There are many others that could conceivably celebrate even-numbered anniversaries in 2012, some of them yearned-for titles, so here are some that I'd like to see:
It's the 90th anniversary of Harold Lloyd's 1922 silent feature "Grandma's Boy," in which he's inspired by his grandmother's stories of their ancestors. This very funny picture has historical significance as well. Along with Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" the year before, "Grandma's Boy" is a pioneer of the long-form comedy, proving that audiences would respond to character development and story depth in a feature-length farce.
An 80th anniversary worth noting is the jungle melodrama "Red Dust," starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. One of 1932's biggest moneymakers, this one still has a large fan base and in 2006 was cited as worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. Yet, believe it or not, "Red Dust" has never been on DVD! (Where's Warner Archive when you need them?)
In addition to "Casablanca," it's also the 70th anniversary of a pair of 1942 Veronica Lake vehicles, neither of which has seen the light of DVD: "The Glass Key," a terrific film noir thriller co-starring Alan Ladd, and "I Married a Witch," a witty supernatural comedy with Frederic March. (Maybe we need a Veronica Lake box set!)
It's the 60th anniversary of "The Quiet Man." If ever a movie screamed out for a Blu-ray upgrade, it's this boisterous 1952 romantic comedy-drama starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and directed by the great John Ford. This is a lovely ode to Ford's beloved Ireland, and he won an Oscar for it, as did his cinematographers for their gorgeous, eye-popping location filming on the Emerald Isle.
Similar sentiments can be expressed for "Lawrence of Arabia," another winner of multiple Oscars, including best picture, best director (David Lean) and best cinematography. This one came out in 1962 and shares its 50th anniversary year with "To Kill a Mockingbird," and while it's nice to have that one in high definition now, I'm not sure there's any movie that has more fans clamoring for a Blu-ray upgrade than "Lawrence of Arabia."
From 1972, it's the 40th anniversary of "Jeremiah Johnson," and the good news is that Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack's outdoor adventure, which has loads of gorgeous Utah scenery, has been released on Blu-ray for the first time this week.
And 30th anniversary films from 1982 that have not yet found their way to Blu-ray include the top three moneymakers of that year: "E.T.. The Extra-Terrestrial" (really, "Poltergeist" from the same year is on Blu-ray but not "E.T"?), "Tootsie" and "An Officer and a Gentleman."
Earlier this year, Disney reissued "Good Morning, Vietnam" for its Blu-ray debut but did not make note of its 25th anniversary this year. Hey, 1987 also brought three of my personal favorites: "84 Charing Cross Road," "La Bamba" and "Radio Days," none yet in hi-def.
And, realistically, those three are not likely to go there. In fact, there's a much higher probability of getting a 10th anniversary reissue of 2002's "27 Dresses" or "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," even though they're already on Blu-ray.
Of course, the major studios don't always wait for celebratory excuses. "Chinatown," for example, received its Blu-ray debut in 2012, just last month, even though it's only two years away from its 40th anniversary.
There could be a practical reason, I suppose. Maybe Paramount isn't sure Blu-rays will still be a go-to technology two years from now.