Ken Russell, Alan Arkin & More

kenrdevilsQuestion: Fans of Ken Russell’s The Devils are well aware the film is not being released on DVD or Blu-ray. But what we do not know is the reason. Is it possible you can enlighten us Devils fans why the film is not being released on home video? Much lesser know films have been released by Warner Brothers so apparently it isn’t the profitability. Is it because of the original X rating or the new uncensored director’s cut (If so, why don’t they license the film to a different DVD label?) Is there a problem with the studio and director? Other Russell films are still not available, including the charming 1971 film The Boy Friend (which I was told wouldn’t sell enough copies – and which is probably true – but there is the Warner Archives for that). Devils fans are waiting for a real explanation.

Answer: You have hit on one of the $64,000 questions for fans of the film. As we are sure you are aware, Warner issued a statement two or three years ago about releasing it as part of a foreign film series, then quickly dropped it from the schedule. We actually received artwork from them, and we believe the stated 111 min. running time coincided with the uncut, restored European edition. We haven’t heard anything regarding Russell’s film on DVD for a long time. We just hope that is not destined for a no-frills Warner Archive edition, as there are some terrific documentaries about the film that have appeared overseas (on the BBC), and Russell supposedly has recorded a commentary and signed off on a transfer. So we can’t really add to the info pond, because Warner simply ain’t talking.   As for The Boyfriend, the Twiggy-starring musical hasn’t been scheduled for future release, nor have other Russells we’d have loved to see, including Valentino, Lisztomania and Savage Messiah.

Question: Do you have any information on a movie that aired over two nights in the late 1980s or early 1990s, focusing on a young girl who begs to ride in an airplane as an 8th birthday present and then ends up, years later, falling in love with her flight instructor?  I watched it and I would love to have it on either VHS or DVD. The airfield was little more than a shack with a windsock and a few planes.  It was a wonderful movie! Can you help me?  I can’t remember who starred in the film, but the little as an adult was svelte and dark haired.  She reminded me of Jaclyn Smith, but I don’t know if it was Smith.

Answer: We’re thinking this film is Pancho Barnes, the 1988 TV film with Valerie Bertinelli, as the real-life aerial daredevil with a masculine demeanor. The film tells of Barnes’ incredible skills in the air, her work on Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels, and her masculine demeanor. Unfortunately, Pancho Barnes is not out on DVD, but it was once on VHS many years ago.

Question:    I’m looking for Escape from 1980, It was the true story of Dwight Worker…Can you lead me in the right direction?

Answer: The made-for-TV Escape was based on the true story of Worker, an American imprisoned in Mexico for smuggling hashish. In many ways, the film plays like Midnight Express, and stars Timothy Bottoms as Worker, with Kay Lenz and Colleen Dewhurst in support. Sorry to report the film was never on video in any form, and we don’t expect it anytime soon.

Question: I have a large collection of movies.  I’ve been going to the movies since I was a very young girl and remember a film in which a star sang “Some Sunday Morning,” and I think the male was Joel McRea.  Is it possible that you could find this film?  Also, I’m looking for the title of a movie starring Debbie Reynolds and Ricardo Montalban in which she sang “Abba Daba Honeymoon” with Carleton Carpenter.  Do you have this film? Hope to hear from you soon.  Thanks!

Answer: We’re pretty sure the first movie you asked about was San Antonio with Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith. It is available on DVD, but solely as part of Errol Flynn: The Warner Brothers Western Collection, and is not available by itself. Other films in the set include Montana, Rocky Mountain and Virginia City. In San Antonio, Flynn plays a Texan who returns to his troubled home to make things right and meets singer Smith along the way. It looks great on DVD with fine Technicolor. As for “Abba Dabba Honeymoon,” it was featured in Two Weeks With Love, which is only available as part of the Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory, Vol. 3 set. You’re right: Ricardo Montalban co-starred along with Jane Powell and Louis Calhern. If you are just looking for the song, it is also featured in That’s Entertainment!


Question: Alan Arkin has been a favorite actor for a long time. I was thrilled when he won the Oscar a few years ago for Little Miss Sunshine. However, there are some films of his I have been looking for but have been unable to find. They are Fire Sale, Joshua Then And Now, Simon and Freebie And The Bean. Any chance of seeing them soon?

Answer: Well, the wild chase comedy Freebie And The Bean is currently available as a Warner Archive, with no extras, sad to say. Fire Sale is a much-requested film with a huge cult following, but Fox has no plans to let this dysfunctional family dark comedy with Arkin, Rob Reiner and Vincent Gardenia onto our shelves anytime soon. Simon, in which Arkin plays a professor hypnotized by members of a think tank to believe he’s an alien, is a strong possibility for a future Warner Archive release. Joshua Then And Now has its rights wrapped up in a Canadian rights dispute. By the way, the ever-reliable Arkin is about to turn 76 years old.

Question: My friends and I are big fans of the late star Steve McQueen. We have argued about what his last movie was? Can you tell us if it was An Enemy Of The People, Tom Horn or The Hunter?

Answer:  An Enemy Of The People, McQueen’s take on Ibsen, came out in 1978. Tom Horn was issued in March of 1980, and was shot in 1979, the last film he made before being diagnosed with cancer. The previously-filmed Hunter came out in August of 1980; he began to feel the signs of his asbestos-related illness while making this picture.  McQueen died on November 7, 1980, in Juarez, Mexico at the age of 50.


Question: I am a big Bette Davis fan. However, I noticed a lot of her later films or TV appearances are not on DVD. Can you tell me if there are any plans to release Ms. Davis’ latter efforts?

Answer: We never realized it, but you are correct! MIA are such latter-day Bette performances as Wicked Stepmother (her last), The Whales Of August, As Summers Die, and Right Of Way with James Stewart. On the plus side, we have such twilight Davis faves as The Watcher In The Woods, Death On The Nile and Return To Witch Mountain.  Also worth checking out is The Dick Cavett Show: Hollywood Greats, which showcases the loquacious actress at her finest.

Question: I recently read a book about actors and their early roles. It told about small parts they had to take in commercials, on TV shows and in movies when they were just starting out in the entertainment world. I had heard Bette Midler had some weird roles, but she was not in the book. Can you tell me what she was in early on?

Answer: Before her singing, nightclub and acting career took off, “The Divine Miss M” sang in gay bathhouses and had small roles in such films as Hawaii (playing a ship’s passenger), The Detective (as a partygoer), and Goodbye Columbus, as a guest at a wedding. Bette also loaned her singing voice to Scarecrow In The Garden Of Cucumbers, a wild, underground musical comedy starring Warhol Factory superstar Holly Woodlawn. She further appeared in The Thorn, in which she plays the Virgin Mary. This 1974 effort, originally titled The Divine Mr. J, was probably retitled after The Rose became a big hit.