Universal Opens Its Vault for New DVD Exclusives


Between its own film library and the pre-1950 titles it distributes from Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has one of the largest collections of classic motion pictures yet to be released on home video. Well, get ready, movie buffs, because this week Universal swung open the vault doors and released 12 much-requested titles–from the 1930s up to the 1970s–as DVD singles, and Movies Unlimited is proud to be your exclusive source for these vintage gems. From comedy to romance, fantasy to drama, there’s something sure to please fans of all ages and types. Here’s what you can find:

40 POUNDS BOX40 Pounds Of Trouble (1963) – Winning comedy, based on Damon Runyon’s “Little Miss Marker,” stars Tony Curtis as a gruff Lake Tahoe nightclub manager saddled with an alimony-seeking ex-wife, a singer in search of a husband, and an indebted friend’s mischievous daughter. Highlighted by a whirlwind chase through Disneyland, the film co-stars Suzanne Pleshette, Claire Wilcox, Larry Storch; Norman Jewison’s directorial debut.

BACK STREET BOXBack Street (1941) – Skillful adaptation of the tearjerking Fannie Hurst novel features Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan as star-crossed lovers Walter Saxel and Ray Smith. Years after their marriage plans are sabotaged, the pair are reunited in New York City. When Ray discovers that Walter is now married to another, she agrees to become her mistress in order to remain a part of his life. With Richard Carlson, Frank McHugh, Tim Holt.

BLACK CAT BOXThe Black Cat (1934) – Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi teamed up for the first time in director Edgar G. Ulmer’s macabre chiller that borrows the title (and little else) from Poe. A Balkan castle, built over a WWI graveyard, is the site for a bizarre battle of wills between psychiatrist Lugosi and devil-worshipping cult leader Karloff. With David Manners, Jacqueline Wells.

BLUE COLLAR BOXBlue Collar (1978) –  Tired of just getting by, a trio of Detroit assembly line workers (Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto) decide to loot the office of their union local. They find little cash, but lots of evidence of corruption amongst their leadership. Their decision to run a blackmail with their findings, though, might have them paying more than dues. Paul Schrader’s exciting, underrated debut as writer/director co-stars Ed Begley, Jr., Cliff De Young.

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY BOXDeath Takes A Holiday (1934) – In this offbeat fantasy-romance, the basis for 1998’s “Meet Joe Black,” the Grim Reaper grows tired of his “job” and comes down to Earth, taking the form of a handsome prince, to learn why humans fear him. Complications arise when “Prince Sirki” falls in love with one of his fellow guests at an Italian villa. Fredric March is mesmerizing in the title role; with Evelyn Venable, Guy Standing.

FIVE GRAVES BOXFive Graves To Cairo (1943) –  In a remote oasis hotel in the Sahara Desert, British soldier Corporal John Bramble (Franchot Tone) impersonates a servant in order to get information from the inn’s newest “guests”: invading Afrika Korps tank troops and their commander, Gen. Irwin Rommel (Erich von Stroheim). Things get tricky when Bramble learns the servant was really a German spy, in this WWII espionage tale from director/co-writer Billy Wilder. With Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff.

FOREIGN AFFAIRA Foreign Affair (1948) – Caustic comedy from Billy Wilder set in post-WWII Berlin, where dignified congresswoman Phoebe Frost’s (Jean Arthur) investigation into black-market influence on occupying GIs brings her in close contact with handsome Captain John Pringle (John Lund). The problem is that Pringle is involved with nightclub singer Erika von Schlutow (Marlene Dietrich), whom Phoebe learns has ties to former Nazi officials.

GAMES BOXGames (1967) -Diabolical thriller starring Simone Signoret as an immigrant saleswoman with psychic powers who is asked to devise strange games for kinky Manhattan socialites James Caan and Katharine Ross to play. One of the capers, involving a delivery boy, turns deadly and leads to a series of frightening events. Don Stroud, Estelle Winwood co-star; Curtis Harrington directs.

IT AINT HAY BOXIt Ain’t Hay (1943) – When cab driver Lou Costello accidentally kills an old man’s horse by feeding it candy, he and pal Bud Abbott try to find a replacement steed. The animal they “pick up” at a racetrack, however, is a champion racer named Tea Biscuit, in this riotous comedy based on a Damon Runyon story. With Cecil Kellaway, Eugene Pallette, Shemp Howard.

NO TIME FOR LOVE BOXNo Time For Love (1943) – When elegant newspaper photographer Claudette Colbert gets sent to cover a tunneling project below the Hudson, her presence causes an on-site dust-up that costs average-Joe laborer Fred MacMurray his job. Feeling responsible, she offers him a position as her assistant, with conflict and romance sure to develop. Ilka Chase, June Havoc, Richard Haydn co-star; Mitchell Leisen directs.

SASKATCHEWAN BOXSaskatchewan (1954) – Impressively filmed adventure from director Raoul Walsh featuring Alan Ladd as Thomas O’Rourke, Canadian Mountie raised by Indians who tracks down Sioux Indians trying to persuade other Northwestern tribes to fight the white man following Little Big Horn. Shelley Winters is O’Rourke’s romantic interest, saloon gal Grace Markey; with Robert Douglas, J. Carrol Naish, and Jay Silverheels.

YOU NEVER CAN TELL BOXYou Never Can Tell (1951) – An eccentric millionaire leaves his fortune to his beloved German shepherd…and after the dog is poisoned, the estate trustee (Peggy Dow) is blamed. In pup purgatory, the pooch’s wish to clear her and track down his real killer is granted when when he’s reincarnated as a human private eye named Rex Shepherd (Dick Powell)! Entertaining fantasy-comedy co-stars Joyce Holden, Charles Drake.




  • OZ ROB

    Great news ! ..in my cart, Death Takes A Holiday , a great fan of Mitchell Leisen & Frederic March.

  • Ron

    GREAT…………………..now if they release some wonderful Ladd films like SALTY O’ROURKE and CALCUTTA and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES.

    • Gary Cahall

      No word on the Alan Ladd titles you asked about yet, Ron, but stay tuned to MovieFanFare over the coming weeks for some classic Ladd films coming out, courtesy of the Warner Archive collection.

  • Evrrdy1

    How about the Marlon Brando, David Niven, Shirley Jones comedy, ‘Bedtime Story’ upon which Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was based? When will Universal release that gem?

  • Dayna Ward

    I also would like to see Bedtime Story released. In fact I would like to see all the other Universal movies Shirley Jones did with many great leading men: Never Steal Anything Small with James Cagney, Dark Purpose with Rossano Brazzi, Fluffy with Tony Randall and even a terrific TV movie Silent Night, Lonely Night with Lloyd Bridges in which Shirley was nominated for an Emmy Award.

    • Gary Cahall

      Sadly, no word on Bedtime Story (which was out on VHS ages ago) yet, Dayna, The same goes for the Shirley Jones titles you mention (All are possibilities for future release save for Dark Purpose, which may be trickier because it was a U.S./Italian co-production). As for myself, the Tony Randall comedy I want to see is 1964’s The Brass Bottle, with Burl Ives as Tony’s genie and Barbara Eden (a year before I Dream of Jeannie) as his girlfriend.

  • moviepas

    A lot of those titles have already been available in that Vault series thru Amazon. Death Takes a Holiday has had several DVD releases including as an extra, for a time, of a Universal film remake of the story. It Ain’t Hay was in the “gray area”(pirate release) for years because some rights problem prevented Universal issuing this Abbott & Costello film for many years but it then got onto their box set of all the A&C titles they produced.

    • Greg

      I agree. I also have several of these already. Why don’t they ever really release some of the thousands of never seen movies they have?

  • Joseph23006

    Why not release all three ‘Back Street’ films as a set, the one with Susan Hayward and John Gavin is readily available but she isn’t really a back street woman; I would like to see the version with Irene Dunn and John Boles. It was done with ‘Imitation of Life’, and the Turner didn’t move me as much as the Colbert one, Kohner was no match for Washington.

    • Gary Cahall

      The 1941 and ’61 versions of Back Street are out as a double feature, Joseph, and available from Movies Unlimited at http://www.moviesunlimited.com/musite/product.asp?sku=D31293 . As to the 1932 Irene Dunne film, I can only guess that the folks at Universal thought it was too obscure to include or couldn’t find an adequate print. It would be nice to compare all three.

      • Joseph23006

        I do know about the double feature, it’s the Irene Dunn version which intrigues me because I only saw it once, I think on the old AMC before commercials etc. Then again, it was probably an MGM film, where Dunn was the reigning queen until Greer Garson came along.

  • Frank

    How about “Six Bridges to Cross,” an early Tony Curtis (and Sal Mineo) picture from Universal, with fine Boston locations (c. 1954/55, when Boston was a completely different city)? Directed by Joseph Pevney.

    Would it ever be possible to see this one again?

  • moviepas

    By holding on to the Paramount holdings(not always found in the best of shape in their vaults but that is what MCA got at the time of acquistion) that allowed the pirates to ride the High Seas in all sorts of quality releases, some taken straight off cable. The Paramount package was sold to a network in my country when released by MCA with their great fanfare/trademark, leaving the Paramount logos intact. What was interesting is that the prints often had a common black line about 25% on one side down the prints. Any that were censored for reissue after the Pre-Code era passed, whether actually reissued or not, were missing their censored parts which Paramount must have scrapped at the time of censorship. I recall two such titles, Marx Bros’ Horsefeathers & Jeanette and Maurice’s Love Me Tonight(1932). I think the Love Me Tonight reissue did not go ahead at the time. The earliest talkies in this package and that of some other companies did not appear to screen on our TV stations. Now 65 and seeing what they screened in my Grade School days, I still have good memories of many I saw. I have had better luck owning MGM films and even rarer Fox films(much burnt in a 1937 Fox vault fire in NJ) than Paramounts from this period although outside of the Horror Library Universal films are also thin on the ground way into the light fare of the 1940s. Those prints or whatever elements are not getting any younger although Universal say they have digitilised everything in their archives and stored outside Pennsylvania in special vaults. But have they? They never did tell what was lost in that Universal fire of recent years and certainly master recordings in hired space for companies they spun off in the music business were lost.

    Hopefully this is not a continuing lost cause but with so many changes of ownership over the years it makes things a lot harder to happen as we would like.

  • Vincent Spiteri

    How about Universal releasing their old b musicals starring Donald O’Conner and Peggy Ryan