19. CATCH MY SOUL (1973) ^ During the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock operas were in vogue on stage and on screen. “Catch My Soul” was Jack Good’s rock opera version of “Othello” (switching the locale from 16th century Venice to 1970s Santa Fe) and the show enjoyed Broadway and West End productions (the London version featured Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago). For the film version, Richie Havens was cast as Othello and British TV actor Patrick McGoohan was brought in to direct. Unfortunately, “Catch My Soul” had the double misfortune of opening the same year as two other film versions of much more successful rock operas (“Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell”) and of being distributed by the financially troubled Cinerama Releasing, which went out of business shortly after the film closed. ^ WHY IS THE FILM NOT ON VIDEO? “Catch My Soul” has been stuck in a long-running legal problem concerning the music rights. Nearly three decades after its brief release, the film is still entangled in a complication which is nowhere near being resolved. “Catch My Soul” is completely unavailable in any format, and even a search of the well-stocked bootleg channels has yet turn up a copy.
20. THE OPTIMISTS (1973) ^ Peter Sellers’ most unusual performance was arguably in this small British drama, in which he played an emotionally-adrift street busker who befriends two poor children by giving them the power to hope for a better and happier life. This rarely-seen film is touching without being sentimental, and in “The Optimists” offered Sellers a splendid opportunity to show off his musical gifts (performing songs by Lionel Bart in full-force gusto) while shading his character’s haunted past with an intense internalized focus that would later be employed in his bravura “Being There” performance. Unfortunately for “The Optimists,” the film was incorrectly marketed as a jolly, carefree comedy adventure, and audiences expecting to see a Peter Sellers farce of the Inspector Clouseau manner were clearly disappointed. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? “The Optimists” was a box-office failure. Paramount released the film in the U.S., but currently the film’s rights are in a legal limbo.
BONUS! 21ST FILM NEVER ON VIDEO FROM ED WOOD! ^ 21. I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED (1999) ^ An unproduced, dialogue-free screenplay by Edward D. Wood Jr. was the springboard for this surreal all-star comedy about an escaped mental patient (Billy Zane at his hammiest) who robs a bank, hides his loot but is unable to relocate it. A too-die-for cast (including Christina Ricci, Tippi Hedren, Eartha Kitt, John Ritter, Tara Reid, Karen Black, Rick Schroeder, plus Wood regulars Vampira and Conrad Brooks) added to the insanity. The film premiered in New York in September 1999 to severely divided reviews (it was either loved or loathed, no middle ground) but zero box office. The following year, it was screened at the B-Movie Film Festival and earned the Best Picture Award at the event. It has not been publicly seen since. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? The film’s production company/distributor, Cinequanon Pictures, fell into acute financial difficulties immediately after the disastrous New York opening and never recovered. The film is now the property of a California bank pending the settlement of Cinequanon’s financial woes.
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