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Geek Movies Not On DVD, L through Z
© Staff and Contributors
February 23, 2007

Inspired by Glenn Erickson's always interesting annual Movies Not on DVD list at the entertaining DVD Savant, we at RevolutionSF decided to put together our own list. We contacted writers, critics, artists, and even a game designer for their selections.

There were a few rules:

1) DVDs must NOT be available in the U.S. (Region 1). The exceptions would be movies that are on cheapie labels and deserve a much better edition.

2) The DVDs need to be geek-related and/or something of interest to SF Revolutionaries. All science fiction, horror, and mysteries with supernatural elements are copacetic. Most cult films make the grade. TV movies are fine but NOT TV series.

This list is by no means complete, but a mere sampling of what we thought. Let us hear your thoughts and suggestions at subspace@revolutionsf.com.

Without further preamble, the selections.

— Rick Klaw

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

The Last Dinosaur is another ABC telefilm from the same producers as The Bermuda Depths, with which it would make a great double bill. Richard Boone hilariously stars as wealthy sportsman-industrialist "Masten Thrust," and no, I am not making this up. With a similarly-conceived plot as At The Earth's Core (1976), explorers accidentally drill into a lost world and encounter, you guessed it, a tyrannosaur, aka the last dinosaur! (Never mind that at one point it must battle another giant creature, which must be the penultimate dinosaur.)

The phallus-shaped drilling machine even has "THRUST" stenciled along its side. Amazing. Boone is highly inebriated throughout, as must have been his female co-stars to ever agree to the love scenes. Made back when leading men could have ugly f***ed-up cauliflower noses. Those were the days.

Lee Sparks, producer-writer-actor for upcoming Austin Animation AOK feature Viva the Nam and screenwriter for the award-winning short film Fun With Clones (2003)

Message From Space (Uchu kara no messeji) (1978)

Directed by Kinji (Battle Royale) Fukusaku, this fast-paced if a bit confused Japanese Star Wars ripoff stars Sonny Chiba and a surprisingly effective Vic Morrow, really giving it everything he's got. Such blood and thunder in this man, you'd think he'd have saved some of that energy for a movie that people might want to go see. Message From Space has basically the same story as Star Wars only this time there are two Luke characters, no Chewies, and the Obi Wan character starts out as Vic Morrow but later Sonny Chiba shows up and kinda takes over the "wise old sage" responsibilities for the rest of the movie, leaving Vic to try and be Han. There's the obligatory anthropomorphic robot antics on board as well!

The score is worth noting, chiefly because it is so somber and mournful (and repetitive) for such a frivolous and upbeat movie. But the music has you thinking that inescapable tragedy lies around every corner. Hilariously, once the Star Wars narrative plays out, they pick up the Battlestar Galactica story in medias res and form a ragtag space caravan in search of Earth. I kid you not.

— Lee Sparks

Mothra (Mosura) (1961)

Ishiro Honda, the director of the original Godzilla (1954) and Rodan (1956) turned his hand to giant metamorphosing insects in Mothra (1961), and in the process created Toho's most popular and enduring monster outside of Godzilla himself. The plot is familiar to anyone familiar with Mothra's other film appearances: An expedition to Infant Island, the site of past atomic testing, discovers amid the mutant vegetation natives unaffected by radiation. More remarkable are two singing, fairy-sized women, who are promptly abducted and spirited away to Japan. A giant egg worshiped by the natives hatches and Mothra, in larval caterpillar form, emerges swims to Japan to rescue the kidnapped "Peanuts." Conventional weapons have no effect on the caterpillar, who proceeds to spin a cocoon amidst the wreckage of Tokyo Tower and emerge as a spectacular moth.

Notably, Mothra was the first of Tojo's kaiju films to take a step back from the horror genre and cast the monster as the hero, giving her something of a personality, a noble cause and, ultimately, success in her mission. The formula worked well enough for Mothra to appear in a record seven Godzilla films, plus a trilogy of her own in the 1990s.

— Jayme Lynn Blaschke, author of Voices of Vision and RevSF contributing editor

Night of the Creeps (1986)

Writer-director Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps boils down just about everything I love from 1950s monster movies, tosses some zombies into the mix, and makes for about as much fun as you can have in just under ninety minutes. Dekker starts things off on a spaceship populated with good ol' fashioned rubber-suited aliens, one of whom ejects a capsule of zombie-breeding parasites into space.

Said capsule burns through the atmosphere and infects a 1950s college town in a b&w segment that tips its hat to everything from The Blob (1958) to those urban legends about axe murderers escaped from the asylum.

Ten minutes of that and we're into the '80s, with an Animal House of blow-dried frat boys who end up as zombies in the making, and a run-down suicidal cop (Tom Atkins) who's trying to settle some old scores and bury the dead before he clocks into oblivion. Dekker's finest hour, and Atkins', too.

It's a perfect monster movie that holds up wonderfully. Just last year I popped my aging ex-video store VHS into a deck one night and showed it to a bunch of college students who work for me. Not only did they eat it up, they learned how to answer a phone Tom Atkins style, i. e. cold-blooded, half-pissed, and ready to face anything from dead frat boys to decaying axe-murders with a couple of words: "Thrill me."

Norman Partridge, Stoker award-winning author of Dark Harvest

Phase IV (1974)

Trippy directing effort from graphic artist Saul Bass, Phase IV concerns intelligent ants from space that torment imperiled scientists. Gorgeous macro photography and the best acting performance by an ant or other insect ever captured on film.

Lee Sparks

Rebirth of Mothra III (Mosura 3: Kingu Gidora raishu) (1998)

After the tremendous box-office success of Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1993) Toho revived long-stalled plans for a stand-alone Mothra film, the first since the 1961 original. The result was Rebirth of Mothra (1996), Rebirth of Mothra II (1997) and Rebirth of Mothra III (1998). While the first two of the trilogy have long been available on a convenient double-sided DVD offering from Columbia/TriStar, that company declined to release the final installment of the trilogy in North America (available on DVD only in Region 2 format).

Considered in some quarters to be the best of the three Rebirth films, the epic directed by Okihiro Yoneda pits Mothra once again against uber-baddie King Gidorah, who pretty much beats the tar out of the insect hero. Humbled yet determined, Mothra travels back to the time of the dinosaurs (in a very Terminator-esque plot twist) to kill a weaker ancestor of King Gidorah. Unfortunately, Jurassic Gidorah proves to be stronger than anticipated, and both Gidorah and Mothra die in the battle. Except Gidorah's tail survives to regenerate into a more powerful King Gidorah that will threaten the future. Mothra's primitive ancestors, however, have a plan, and spin a cocoon about their descendant who emerges 65 million years later, give or take, as the new and improved "Armored Mothra" to destroy King Gidorah once and for all. A flashy, fitting end to this trilogy. It's just unfortunate that very few people have seen it outside of late night airings on the Sci Fi Channel.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Santa Sangre (Holy Blood) (1989)

Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre is one nasty, blood-sticky piece of work. This is one of those movies that truly divide the watchers into love/hate camps, and never the twain shall meet.

What do you want from a movie? Circus freaks? Check. An elephant funeral? Yep. Crazed knife throwers, armless saints, rampant symbology? You got it, kiddoes. Cover it all up with heaping helpings of blood, blood, blood, and maybe a touch or two of Fellini, and you've got Santa Sangre in all its crimson glory.

Now that's geek moviemaking at its finest.

Mikal Trimm, short-story writer

Search for the Gods (1975)

Made at the height of the Chariots of the Gods craze, Search for the Gods, a telefilm starring Kurt Russell, concerned the notion that alien astronauts had visited Earth in the distant past and "seeded" modern civilization (if not outright genetically engineered us humans). I remember seeing it several times as a kid and finding it compelling yet simultaneously befuddling.

— Lee Sparks

Song of the South (1946)

There's a good reason that Walt Disney's Song of the South isn't officially available on DVD in the United States: Lots of people believe it's a horribly racist movie. They might even be right. I wouldn't know, not having seen it since its original release in 1946. I shouldn't have been allowed to see it even then, because quite possibly the racist attitudes it depicted sank into my unconscious, where they've resided all these years. I don't like to think they did, but then I wouldn't really know, would I?

One thing I do remember about the movie is a couple of the songs. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the Oscar for best song, and I can still sing most of it sixty years after having seen the movie. In context it's probably another example of the movie's racism, but I don't remember it that way at all. Mainly because I don't remember the context. Another song is "The Laughing Place," a great number that my mother liked to refer to for years after we saw the movie. "Everybody's got a laughing place," she'd say, or sing, when she detected that I was feeling grumpy or sad. It seldom failed to cheer me up.

It's one of the first Disney films to combine live action with animation. For most of the movie, the two are separate. The live-action characters have an existence apart from that of the animated ones. In the concluding scene, though, the live actors and the animated characters are on-screen together. I recall that part clearly.

Little references to it appear in other films, like geek favorite Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). There's also a parody scene with Chevy Chase in Fletch Lives (1989). These in-jokes become more obscure every year as there are more and more people who haven't seen the original movie.

That's not to say Song of the South isn't available at all. Note that I said it wasn't officially available. Type the title into your search engine and you'll probably be greeted by at least a couple of places that will be happy to sell you a bootleg version. Even Disney stockholders are very uneasy about his movie, and when Disney turns down the opportunity to make a few million bucks, you know there must be something to the claims of racism.

Bill Crider, award-winning author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mysteries

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

This TV movie actually did star Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and other major cast members, and the commercials implied space battles and adventure. There were no Star Wars cartoon series or tie-in novels at this point, and most of us didn't even have VCRs, so to adolescent Star Wars fans this sounded like the best thing ever, and it was feverishly anticipated.

The reality was harsh. The storyline with the movie cast was sidelined in favor of musical numbers by Bea Arthur and Diahann Carroll, the comedy stylings of Art Carney, and a truly horrible cartoon. Even as a twelve-year-old you knew it was wrong, wrong, wrong, but it's your fannish past, man, and you've got to own it, if only as a reminder of how good we have it now.

Martha Wells, author of Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement and the recently-revised The Element of Fire

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

In 1983, producer Steven Spielberg hired three young directors to join him in putting together an homage to The Twilight Zone TV series of the '50s and '60s. John Landis directed the prologue and first segment, loosely based on the episodes "A Quality of Mercy" and "Death's-Head Revisited." Spielberg directed the second segment, a remake of the episode "Kick the Can". Joe Dante updated the episode "It's a Good Life" for the third segment, and the final segment, a remake of the classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", went to George Miller. The film is chiefly remembered today for the tragic helicopter accident which resulted in the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chin.

Peggy Hailey, RevolutionSF books editor

United Productions of America (UPA) Cartoons

If I ran the circus, the Looney Tunes and Disney collections on my shelf would be joined by equally well-packaged and annotated sets from UPA, or United Productions of America.

UPA was the most influential animation house of the '50s, replacing the Disney "illusion of life" exemplified by "The Old Mill" (1937) and Bambi (1942), with a modernist style in which design drove the animation more than character and plot. UPA cartoons sport bold colors, non-representative backgrounds, stylized characters. Compared to the Oscar-winning "Gerald McBoing-Boing" (1950), "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1953), or the early Mr. Magoo shorts, other cartoons of the period look old and static. The other studios responded. When you see Maurice Noble's backgrounds in "What's Opera, Doc" (1957) or Disney's "Pigs is Pigs" (1953) and "Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom" (1953), you're looking at reactions to the UPA challenge.

In another sort of influence, Hanna-Barbera realized that if you emphasized design, you could use limited animation for television. Which led us inexorably to Jabberjaw.

So if we have cable networks devoted to cartoons influenced by UPA, is it too much to ask to be able to get nice pristine copies of the originators? Until that day, I'll have to hold onto my old VHS tapes.

— Paul O. Miles, short story writer and creator of The Red Poppy

The Wizard of Speed and Time (1989)

An autobiographical fantasy by "Director-Producer-Actor-Animator-Editor-Effector-Etcetera" Mike Jittlov, The Wizard of Speed and Time is a jaw-dropping stop-motion special effects extravaganza still unmatched to this day. Jittlov stars as himself, a Hollywood special-effects guru trying to make an independent feature (the one you're watching, naturally) despite maddening interference from clueless and malign producers. Jittlov promoted Wizard and his highly original short work on the SF convention circuit, and established both himself and the movie as cult favorites. But the film's producer, who also acted in the film, playing the role of "Evil Producer", in fact turned out, self-referentially, to be a real-life jerk. The film played in theaters for one week, bombed, and to all appearances ended Jittlov's career.

Today, fervent film geeks pass bootleg Wizard DVD images around the BitTorrent networks. It's the ideal format for watching frame-by-frame, to see the subliminal messages and in-jokes about the film industry that the Wizard depicted, alas!, all too accurately.

Allen Varney, writer and game designer

Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (Zatôichi umi o wataru) aka Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman's Pilgrimage (1966)

The 14th film in the long-running Japanese saga of the blind swordsman-masseur played by Shintaro Katsu, Zatoichi's Pilgrimage is the only one that hasn't been released on DVD. As a result, there is a hole in my DVD shelf as big as the Kamakura Buddha. The Zatoichi films are terrific samurai movies, loaded with violence and an occasional dose of sex. Eighteen have been released by Home Vision, seven by AnimEigo, and the final one by Tokyo Shock. In the name of all true Zatoichi fanboys, I beg Miramax, which has been sitting on Zatoichi's Pilgrimage for some time, to bring Zatoichi's DVD pilgrimage to a happy end by finally filling that gaping hole on my chambara shelf.

Chet Williamson, author of Noichi The Blind, Kaikon, and Figures In Rain

Don't miss letters A through K in our first batch of geek movies not on DVD. It has dinosaurs, aliens, and truckers!


 
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