The trend towards streaming media continues to be an unfortunate reality, but that hasn’t stopped tech companies from moving forward on physical media designed to outshine Blu-ray – Ultra HD 4k Blu-ray is just around the corner. Unlike DVDs and standard Blu-rays though there’s zero chance it’ll ever enjoy a truly widespread consumer reach. Meaning even though physical disc sales have been in decline Blu-rays and DVDs will continue to dominate the market.
That’s good news as there are still many, many great films that have yet to receive an HD disc release. The advent of specialty labels like Twilight Time, KL Studio Classics, Olive Films and more (not to mention the numerous genre-focused ones) has seen several of those titles finding new life, and even the big studios continue to dig deep and reward patient film fans on occasion. Peter Weir’s 1985 classic, Witness, is finally hitting Blu-ray next month from Warner Bros., and while that’s phenomenal news it’s just one decades-old gem out of many – which got me thinking about what other fantastic films are missing from Blu-ray.
When the topic comes up the three big ones everyone mentions are James Cameron’s The Abyss and True Lies along with the theatrical versions of the original Star Wars trilogy. It will be an exciting day when 20th Century Fox announces one of those, but no one’s holding their breath. Some films absent from HD in the US are available overseas including The ‘Burbs, Midnight Run and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. You’ll need an all-region Blu-ray player, but it’s worth the effort. Seriously, it’s a minimal effort, so get on it.
In the meantime here are ten more fantastic to flat-out classic pre-millennium titles that I would do very bad things to finally see released on Blu-ray here in the States.
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Foul Play (1978)
Chevy Chase is little more than a cantankerous footnote now, but the late ’70s and early ’80s saw him headlining more than a few highly memorable comedies. Foul Play casts him as a San Francisco detective trying to protect a witness (Goldie Hawn, also at the top of her game) from a trio of killers (a nurse, a little person, and an albino) planning to assassinate the Pope. Fun dialogue and action combine with a brilliantly spunky turn from Burgess Meredith for a highly entertaining romp. Chase’s other pairing with Hawn, Seems Like Old Times (1980), is also fantastic and also still absent from Blu-ray.
Few people have heard of this crackerjack British thriller, let alone seen it, and that’s a damn shame. Roger Moore plays a kick-ass commando who leads a highly trained team on a mission to stop a madman (Anthony Perkins) threatening to blow up an oil rig in the North Sea. Moore leaves the campiness of James Bond behind to deliver a more grounded and capable performance, and while levity seeps in on occasion the film is mainly a deadly serious, tightly wound action picture.
Time After Time (1979)
Is this the best film featuring Jack the Ripper? That’s a rhetorical question as the answer is yes. Malcolm McDowell plays writer/inventor HG Wells who discovers that his time machine has been used by the Ripper (David Warner) to escape the police. Wells is forced to follow the killer to present day San Francisco where he meets the love of his life (Mary Steenburgen) who may just be the Ripper’s next victim. This is an incredibly thrilling and suspenseful film – I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t been remade yet – that still finds time for character and charm.
The Plague Dogs (1982)
Author Richard Adams found his biggest success with Watership Down, a tale of life and death in the rabbit warren, but for me his most affecting work is The Plague Dogs. Both novels were adapted into animated films, and as Watership Down recently received a Criterion release I’d love to see this one follow suit. It’s about a pair of dogs who escape from a research laboratory in rural England and attempt to find a better life, and while it’s guaranteed to rip your heart out it’s also a beautifully told (and animated) tale of friendship, resilience and freedom.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Ray Bradbury was one of my favorite authors as a kid, and while my preference was always for his short stories the one novel of his that caught my imagination and never let go was this terrifically dark tale of two friends and a traveling carnival. Disney’s adaptation, like the book itself, paints a vivid picture of small town life and big time dreams that turn to ash when the devil comes calling. The effects are dated by today’s standards, but the magic and the heart remain as powerful now as they ever were.
After Hours (1985)
This will be blasphemy to some, but After Hours is my favorite Martin Scorsese film. The man’s made other great movies, obviously, but this is the one I return to more frequently than any other. Griffin Dunne leads a fantastically eclectic cast in a dark, fast-moving and extremely funny tale about one man’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night. It’s black comedy perfection.
Real Genius (1985)
I know plenty of people who love this movie, but I still feel like it doesn’t quite get the respect it deserves for its laughs, sheer energy, and highly quotable script. Val Kilmer is on fire here with a casual comedic brilliance that had debuted just a year prior with Top Secret, and it’s a joy to behold. Speaking of Kilmer, someone should also fast-track Blu-rays of two of his under-appreciated thrillers from the ’90s – Thunderheart (1992) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996).
The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Speaking of under-appreciated films, Peter Weir’s drama about an anti-social inventor’s efforts to protect his family from what he believes are the sins of the western world is a beautifully-shot adventure dealing with the limits of love. Harrison Ford steps outside his comfort zone to play a truly unlikable character – a big part of the reason why audiences rejected it most likely – and delivers one of his best performances in the process.
The Hitcher (1986)
Forget Platinum Dunes’ terrible remake. Robert Harmon’s original is a darkly twisted road movie about an obsession with a body count, and Rutger Hauer’s hitchhiker remains one of the decade’s most brilliantly menacing onscreen psychos. There are some uncomfortably dark bits of humor throughout, but for the most part it’s a fierce thriller with deadly momentum.
No Way Out (1987)
I’m unapologetic in my love and appreciation of Kevin Costner’s filmography, and this twisty and exciting movie sits near the top of the list. It’s a genuinely suspenseful, sharply written and sexy thriller with a fantastic foot chase, a knock-out ending, and a powerfully nutty performance by Will Patton in its arsenal. And while we’re at it, where the hell is Open Range (2003)? A tremendous and beautifully-shot western – one of the best of the past two decades – and it’s not yet on Blu-ray? Madness!
What movies are you still waiting to see in HD on Blu-ray?