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Movies you can't just rent

March 21, 2004|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Staff members at the American Cinematheque didn't have to rack their brains to come up with films for its "Movies Not Available on Video" festival that opens Friday. In fact, programmers Dennis Bartok and Chris D had an embarrassment of riches from which to choose.

Sometimes problems with various rights prevent a film from coming out on DVD or VHS, especially with older titles from the '40s, '50s and '60s, Chris D says. "The major studios just feel they are marginal titles in terms of bringing them out. Is there enough of a profit margin to make it worth the expense of doing all of the work [to releasea title]? It all depends on the individual studios." Bartok visited local video stores to solicit managers, employees and customers for names of films they would like to see in the festival. Chris D says there were so many titles requested that the Cinematheque probably will do more of these festivals.

"We wanted a mixture of some that were fairly old and some that were from the '50s and '60s and a couple from the '70s," Chris D says. "It was kind of a mixture of what seemed to appear on all the lists and a couple of films that both Dennis and I felt strongly about."

The 1972 Hollywood drama "Play It as It Lays," based on the novel by Joan Didion, was one such film. Starring Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins and directed by Frank Perry, the film received good notices for Weld's performance but tanked at the box office.

"We have been trying to book 'Play It as It Lays' for quite a while," Chris D says. "But Universal didn't think they had a print. Because of its marginal status, there was no impetus for them to go out and get a new one."

When he called about a print for this festival, Universal had found one. "Play It as It Lays" will screen March 28 at 5 p.m. with the 1968 cult classic "Pretty Poison," also with Weld and Perkins.

Top of the list

The festival kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre with the film at the top of everyone's wish list: Billy Wilder's 1951 drama "Ace in the Hole" (a.k.a. "The Big Carnival"). Like "Play It as It Lays," the film was not a box office success, but it was one of Wilder's best -- an unrelenting bleak character study starring Kirk Douglas as a reporter on the skids who exploits the story of a man trapped in a cave-in.

Following at 9:30 Friday are two 1932 Howard Hawks films: "The Crowd Roars," with James Cagney as a hard-living race-car driver, and "Tiger Shark," with Edward G. Robinson as a fisherman who lost his hand to a shark. "These were all on the lists and Hawks is somebody, of course, we love." A superb film noir from 1947, "Nightmare Alley," screens Saturday at 5 p.m. The cynical drama stars Tyrone Power in his best performance as a charming yet cutthroat carnival roustabout who becomes a famous mentalist.

Following at 7:30 is Otto Preminger's offbeat mystery from 1965, "Bunny Lake Is Missing," with Laurence Olivier, and "Too Late Blues," John Cassavetes' 1961 drama about a self-destructive jazz musician (Bobby Darin).


'Movies Not Available on Video'

When: Friday through March 28.

Where: The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

Price: General admission $9; $8 for students and seniors; $6 for members.

Contact: (323) 466-FILM or go to

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