5. MOBY DICK (1930) ^ Herman Melville would have probably started a class action lawsuit if he lived to see this early talkie adaptation of his landmark novel, but the film is actually a weirdly entertaining creation with surreal undercurrents. The familiar Melville story is jettisoned in favor of a wholly new love triangle featuring a virtuous Captain Ahab, his jealous brother Derek, and the comely lass who they both love. Ahab loses his leg and nearly loses the girl, but in the end he kills Moby Dick and wins the young cutie. John Barrymore, who played a somewhat more obsessive Ahab in the 1926 silent version “The Sea Beast,” offers a matinee idol Ahab here. Also of interest is the quirky casting of African-American actor Noble Johnson as the Polynesian harpoonist Queequeg. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? Many of the features from the early years of sound films do not hold up well due to the static and stiff production values created by the limited and primitive sound recording systems of that era, and thus they are not made available for home video release. “Moby Dick” also pales in comparison to the vigor of the earlier silent version and the artistry of John Huston’s 1956 remake, though its zany recasting of the Melville tale would seem to require it is deserving of another look.
6. MUSSOLINI SPEAKS (1933) ^ It may seem idiotic today, but back in the late 1920s and early 1930s there was worldwide admiration and awe for the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Columbia Pictures produced “Mussolini Speaks” to highlight the alleged socio-economic triumphs of Il Duce’s regime, spiced with newsreel footage of his trademark operatic speeches. The film grossed an astonishing $1 million during its theatrical run, making it one of the highest-grossing documentaries of its time. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler evaporated the respect which the dictator enjoyed in the U.S. and Europe. “Mussolini Speaks” quickly became an embarrassment for Columbia Pictures and it was permanently withdrawn, never to be shown again. Even at this late date, the film is unavailable for review.
7. THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (1947) ^ Hollywood fell in love with Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe in the 1940s and the character turned up in classic films of “Murder, My Sweet” (1944) starring Dick Powell, “The Big Sleep” (1945) starring Humphrey Bogart, and “The Lady in the Lake” (1947) starring Robert Montgomery. While all three films were A-level productions, 20th Century Fox produced an intriguing B-Movie based on Chandler’s “The High Window.” Retitled “The Brasher Doubloon,” the studio cast George Montgomery as Philip Marlowe and placed director John Brahm (best known for “The Lodger”) behind the camera. The result was a pleasantly entertaining drama which offered Montgomery (a light leading man) a rare chance to enjoy a meaty dramatic part. In comparison to the other Chandler films, “The Brasher Doubloon” is a pale also-ran. But on its own as an above average B-Movie film noir, it provides an entertaining way to spend 72 minutes. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? Very few B-Movies produced by the Hollywood studios have turned up on home video and “The Brasher Doubloon” never achieved the classic status that would warrant its re-release.
8. MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA (1947) ^ Eugene O’Neill’s trilogy, which transported the Greek tragedy of Electra to Civil War-era New England, was telescoped into a three-hour movie. The running time for this production was unprecedented and quite daring, considering the film was an intense chamber drama focusing on jealousy and betrayal and was not a grand epic with the proverbial cast of thousands. Despite its pedigree, many exhibitors balked at its length and postwar audiences were less than comfortable with its stinging dissection of the nastier aspects of human nature and family pride. Despite critical hosannas for its mature subject matter and Oscar-nominated performances by Rosalind Russell and Michæl Redgrave as the revenge-driven siblings, “Mourning Becomes Electra” failed to find an audience and the film was cut by roughly 90 minutes in the hope of increasing its commercial viability. But the acute editing only created a disjointed and confusing narrative and the film was considered an honorable commercial failure. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? Various attempts have been made to bring “Mourning Becomes Electra” to home video. Unfortunately, the party which currently controls the rights to the film has been unable to secure a distribution deal to its satisfaction and thus the film remains out of circulation.
Get more of the list in the next part of NEVER ON VIDEO: THE TOP 20 “MISSING” MOVIES>>>