The movie questions that most often come my way these days are whether particular titles are available on video.
For a long time the No. 1 most-requested title that remained unreleased was "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial." Then Steven Spielberg finally relented and home copies became available.After that, the most sought-after title seemed to be the Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr romance "An Affair to Remember," which someone would ask about almost every week. That film also belatedly made it to video.
Others that were oft-requested and eventually received video releases were "Carousel" and "State Fair," two Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals; "The Party," a Peter Sellers comedy; "Random Harvest," an amnesia yarn with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson; "How to Murder Your Wife," a comedy with Jack Lemmon; and "Sorcerer," William Friedkin's version of "The Wages of Fear," which just came out Oct. 4.
Another that was on the hot request list was the cult rock-horror-comedy "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," now scheduled for Oct. 25 video release.
Disney animated classics have also been frequently asked about, although many of them have since been given the video treatment - "Dumbo," "Alice in Wonderland," "Pinocchio," "The Sword in the Stone," "Robin Hood," "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Lady and the Tramp," "Bambi," "The Little Mermaid" and now "Peter Pan."
But the folks at Disney release these animated classics on a temporary basis, putting them on moratorium after a few years. "Pinocchio," for example, is now out of release (though video stores that purchased it may still have rental copies) and will return to theater screens in 1992, then come out on video again.
Some Disney animated features have still not been released on tape, however, including "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Fantasia," which the studio says are the only two that will never see the light of video. Others that have not yet been videoized are "One Hundred and One Dalmations," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," "The Rescuers," "The Fox and the Hound," "The Black Cauldron," "The Great Mouse Detective" and "Oliver & Company."
The Disney folks have their own plan for releasing a couple of animated features on video annually, but there are many other, older movies that haven't yet made their way to the market simply because the studios don't give "golden oldies" the same priority as more recent productions, regardless of quality.
Two major movie studios that have made a conscious effort to release a number of old movies on a regular basis are MGM-UA and Universal Pictures. For example, Universal is releasing two Preston Sturges classics, "Hail the Conquering Hero" and "The Great Moment," on Nov. 15, and MGM has issued a spate of video releases over the past year, including "Boys Town," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)," "Blackboard Jungle," "Lust for Life," "A Patch of Blue," "The Scalphunters," etc.
Because the majority of weekly teen renters would rather have a new, color movie than anything more than a decade old or in black and white, we see "Strapless," "Blood Salvage," "Blood Screams," "In the Spirit," "Ghosts Can't Do It," "Satan's Princess" and other generically titled clunkers that never made it into general theatrical release coming to video every month.
Yet, there are many older movies - some of them bona fide classics - that have a rabid following but are overlooked when decisions are being made by the powers that be.
So here is an unscientific list of movies that are not on video at the moment, but which local movie fans would most like to rent or buy; those most frequently asked about lead the list:
McLintock! The High and the Mighty, Hondo and Island in the Sky - These four John Wayne movies are in the custody of the star's son, Michael Wayne. "Hondo" is scheduled for a 1991 television release, but the others are in limbo. ("McLintock!" is unquestionably the No. 1 most-requested title of the moment.)
The Hallelujah Trail and Lawman - Two Burt Lancaster Westerns, the first a zany comedy and the second a more traditional shoot-'em-up.
Brigham Young - Frontiersman - The 1940 film about Mormon pioneers, with Dean Jagger in the title role and Vincent Price as Joseph Smith, though the real stars are Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell.
Lost Horizon - The 1973 musical version starring Liv Ullmann and Peter Finch, with songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
O. Henry's Full House - Calls for this one come mostly around the holidays as folks remember this anthology of twist-ending O. Henry stories, with Charles Laughton, Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Allen, etc.
Hellzapoppin - Hilarious Ole Olsen & Chic Johnson madcap comedy, based on their stage hit.
The Brave Little Toaster - An independent animated film that showed up on the Disney Channel a couple of years ago but has never had a theatrical or video release.
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe - Luis Bunuel's classic film version of the Defoe tale, with Daniel O'Herlihy in the title role.
Dracula - The made-for-TV version starring Louis Jourdan.
The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers - Two of Bob Hope's best films (the former established him as a movie star), a pair of memorable horror-comedies.
Abbott & Costello - Of the 36 movies Bud & Lou made, only 12 are on video, along with Costello's only solo film. Invariably someone will call about a title not yet available.
Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula - Though five of the Universal "Frankenstein" movies (including "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein") are on tape, these three are not.
Rome Adventure - Suzanne Pleshette in Rome is romanced by both Rossano Brazzi and Troy Donahue, the latter with a mistress (Angie Dickinson).
Ma and Pa Kettle - None of the nine films in this Universal series are on video yet, though you can get the movie that introduced Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride as these characters, "The Egg and I," starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray.
Union Pacific - Cecil B. DeMille's railroad epic with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrae and Robert Preston.
Without Love and The Sea of Grass - The only two Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy films not yet on video.
The Miniver Story - The sequel to "Mrs. Miniver," with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon reprising their roles.
The Hope & Crosby "Road" Movies - Only three of the seven "Road" comedies are available at the moment - "Road to Utopia," "Road to Rio" and "Road to Bali."
Francis the Talking Mule - Of Universal's seven "Francis" films, only "Francis in the Navy" is available, with Donald O'Connor and a very young Clint Eastwood.
The Art of Love - Carl Reiner's comedy about an American artist (Dick Van Dyke) in Paris who plays dead so his buddy (James Garner) can "find" his newly valuable paintings.
The Bramble Bush - Soap opera about a New England doctor (Richard Burton) in love with his dying friend's wife (Barbara Rush) and pursued by a sexy nurse (Angie Dickinson).