Photo by Ted Soqui

The best local resources for catching up with cinematic obscurities
remain the city’s outstanding revival and repertory cinema venues — the New
Beverly Cinema, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the American Cinematheque
(with its recently added second home at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica) and,
most of all, the UCLA Film and Television Archive, which rarely fails to impress
with the depth and breadth of its programming. However, for those unwilling
to wait patiently for the next local screenings of Billy Wilder’s Ace in
the Hole
or Nicholas Ray’s brilliant Bigger Than Life (with James
Mason as a cortisone-addicted schoolteacher), or who want to sink their teeth
into the early films of Taiwanese director Edward Yang (Yi Yi) or who
may merely wish to catch up with recent international film festival favorites
months (or sometimes even years) before a U.S. distributor finally comes aboard,
there do exist means to such ends. Henceforth, and in the strictest of confidences,
a user’s guide to seeing the movies you can’t see.


Showing at a Theater Near You:
A Cinefile goes looking for the films
that got away.

Secret Lives of Cheetahs:
Carroll Ballard's Duma may
go quietly.

of Things Passed:
What if a movie is easy to see, yet something
we once saw in it is no longer there?


Turner Classic Movies
With its wholesale access to the MGM, RKO and pre-1948 Warner Bros. libraries
(plus lots of other assorted goodies), TCM remains television’s best resource
for otherwise unavailable movies presented uncut, commercial-free and in their
original aspect ratios. A recent birthday tribute to director Anthony Mann brought
with it three of the director’s early RKO productions (Sing Your Way Home,
The Bamboo Blonde and Two O’Clock Courage) plus two later MGM
masterpieces (Side Street and Border Incident), none of which
have ever been commercially released on video or DVD. Silent two-reelers, vitaphone
shorts and early talkies also abound, while a handy online schedule (published
two months in advance) makes advance planning a breeze, even for the TiVo-less.

Fox Movie Channel
One thing you won’t find at TCM are movies from the 20th Century Fox vault
— hence the role filled by this lesser-known broadcaster, which also strives,
whenever possible, to present properly letterboxed versions of films. Such long
video-absent titles as Fritz Lang’s American Guerrilla in the Philippines,
Otto Preminger’s Daisy Kenyon, Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-nominated A
Hatful of Rain
and Michael Sarne’s notorious Myra Breckenridge appear
regularly, as does Ray’s Bigger Than Life, in all its CinemaScope grandeur
— which alone should be enough to justify the entire network’s existence.

At the Video Store

Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee
The video store equivalent of that eccentric uncle who saved all his old
newspapers, this family-run operation (with the eccentric operating hours to
prove it) is as invaluable for its 50,000-plus VHS titles (and another 10,000
or so on DVD) as for its 7,000-plus behind-the-counter “loaners” (a.k.a. bootlegs),
one of which you can take home for free with each regular paid rental. Chances
are that if any unseeable movie has ever popped up on cable or commercial television
through the years, a copy resides here, along with hundreds of episodes of vintage
TV series and a huge photographic archive. There is even — and I hope you’re
sitting down for this — a recently launched Web site, complete with searchable
catalogue, though inquiries into the loaner collection must still be made by
phone, fax or in person. 5006 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood; Tues.-Fri.,
1-6 p.m.; Sat., 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Sun. and Mon. (818) 506-4242 or

Cinefile Video
Any Angeleno movieholic probably already knows about this Westside treasure
trove, but what the heck, why not mention it again? What Eddie Brandt’s is to
the Golden Age of Hollywood, Cinefile is to the world of classic and contemporary
foreign and independent cinema — and all manner of unclassifiable oddities,
from the musical workprint of James L. Brooks’ I’ll Do Anything to The
Star Wars Holiday Special
. The jewel in this crown, though, is a peerless
selection of import DVDs for rent, and several-thousand more for sale. Not infrequently,
high-end international fare (like Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 and Park Chanwook’s
OldBoy) has its local “premiere” here well before making its way
to the neighboring Nuart theater. And it’s surely the only video store where
the staff is not only conversant in the films of avant-garde pioneers Jean-Marie
Straub and Daniele Huillet, they’ve got an entire section devoted to them —
all the more remarkable in that not one of the Straubs’ films officially
exists on video. 11280 Santa Monica Blvd.; Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-mid.; Sun.,
noon-mid. (310) 312-8836 or

Special Delivery

Facets Multimedia
After 30 years of continuous operation, this Chicago-based video retailer (and
the originator of rental-by-mail back when Netflix wasn’t a thought in its parents’
heads) is still the planet’s greatest. Bootlegs aren’t its specialty, but in
an age when so many DVD-happy rental stores have thrown their former VHS collections
out with the bath water, the value of Facets’ astonishing archive of more or
less every movie that has ever been commercially available on video cannot be
overestimated. Trying to track down that favorite flick that was once on tape,
but hasn’t yet been issued on DVD? Try here first; you’ll be glad that you did.
A new, Netflix-style membership option even allows for unlimited monthly rentals,
from both the VHS and DVD libraries. Facets also has its own distribution label,
which has recently given the films of the great Hungarian director Bela Tarr
their belated American video debut.

Film Movement
Having resolved, following the demise of his Shooting Gallery Film Series,
that theatrical distribution was no longer an economically viable option for
most foreign and independent films, Larry Meistrich conceived of this maverick
venture — a cinematic book-of-the-month club that acquires acclaimed undistributed
films and delivers them on DVD to its subscribers. The darkly comic Australian
thriller Alexandra's Project and the award-winning Israeli drama Campfire
are among recent offerings. You too can become a member at

5 Minutes to Live
The five-and-a-half-hour workprint of Apocalypse Now, Chantal Akerman’s
Jeanne Dielman, Don Siegel’s The Lineup and the Turkish remake
of Young Frankenstein — all burned onto DVD-R at reasonable prices —
are just the tip of a mammoth iceberg of movies you thought (and in some cases,
hoped) you’d never see. Given the copyright issues involved here, the Web site’s
title may also be prophetic of its lifespan, so order early and often.

Robert’s Hard to Find Videos
From the wilds of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, comes this cryptic mail-order
operation, which forewarns that “the regular delivery time for items is usually
around six weeks, but many items that are not in stock can take longer than
this.” Still, there are finds here that would be well worth a transarctic journey,
Joseph Losey’s remake of Fritz Lang’s M among them. It’s also where an
exhaustive search recently turned up a couple of the Monogram Pictures films
of the German émigré director John Reinhardt — I’m just still waiting
for them to arrive.

Super Happy Fun
The Rosetta Stone of online bootleggers, the shadow army behind Super Happy
Fun has even taken to burning its own Engligh-language subtitles into previously
unsubtitled copies of foreign-language films. (An open call for interested translators
can be found on the home page.) Wim Wenders’ first film, Summer in the City;
Quentin Tarantino’s hourlong, pre-Reservoir Dogs feature, My Best
Friend’s Birthday
; Michael Haneke’s Benny’s Video; Jerry Schatzberg’s
Puzzle of a Downfall Child; and Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day
one of the greatest films of the 1990s — are some of the highlights. And trust
me, that’s just for starters.

In Cyberspace

Masters of Cinema
They don’t actually sell or rent anything here, but the comprehensive schedule
of upcoming DVD releases — legitimate ones — both foreign and domestic merits
a bookmark in any film lover’s Web browser. Me, I’ve already got my calendar
marked for the release of the Region 2 DVD of Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance
is Mine
in October.

LA Weekly