Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mathews' call to action finally nets 'African Queen'

Call it "The Mathews Effect." Way back in the carefree days of 2007, my dear colleague wrote a now-legendary column (with background assistance from yours truly) about movies that had remained, until that time, conspicuously and unfortunately absent on DVD. The column has been stealthily removed from the In Utah This Week web site - shocking, since the site is usually so reliable and convenient - but rest assured, it was very real. The column has been shrouded in myth in the months since then, mainly because right after its publication, Hollywood immediately took notice and began firing out the titles that had been missing in action.

Among Mathews' calls that were finally heard in the months following were "Hearts of Darkness," "She's Gotta Have It," "The Earrings of Madame De..." (and all those other Max Ophuls films that hadn't been released), "Zabriskie Point," the Patrice Lectone trifecta of "Girl on the Bridge," "The Hairdresser's Husband" (though the transfer is subpar) and "Monsieur Hire," and the two greatest of the bunch, Luis Bunuel's "The Exterminating Angel" and Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad." Even

There was even an announcement about a pending release of "Johnny Guitar," but so far it hasn't happened. What HAS happened - and this appears to be official - is at long last a DVD (and Blu-ray!) version of John Huston's 1950 classic, "The African Queen." Which means you no longer have to go back and forth about whether or not to snag that weird Chinese import version from the Amazon marketplace. My heart began a-fluttering a month or so ago, when I got a long-awaited e-mail from Amazon telling me that the film had been finally announced for release. Then it disappeared again. And now it finally has a street date, and will be arriving in stores, in my mailbox and hopefully in yours on February 23, according to And since it took so long to finally get this fucking movie out, it'll be on Blu-ray, too! (The same thing happened with "Kiss of the Spider Woman" last year.)

This comes on the heels of the disastrous DVD of another Huston classic, his final film, "The Dead." It was finally released a few months back, 22 years after its release, but with 10 minutes - or about 11 percent of the film - just gone. According to this DVD review, Lionsgate issued an apology and re-released a corrected version on November 23. So all appears to be in order.

The only thing more exciting would be a wandering archaeologist-cum-good samaritan traversing some exotic locale and unearthing both the original cut of "The Magnificent Ambersons" and the full 8-hour version of "Greed."

(Hey, a guy can dream, right?)

I'll also still be holding out hope for "Celine and Julie Go Boating," John Sayles' "City of Hope" and Soderbergh's two post-"sex, lies and videotape" films that have all but disappeared, "Kafka" and "King of the Hill" (NOT an animated television program about rednecks, fyi) - because DVD releases of those four will finally give me a chance to see them.

Only then will The Mathews Effect be (nearly) complete.

Then again, I've only mentioned movies in this post - don't even get me started on one of the greatest television shows of all-time, "The Wonder Years," still not being fucking available on fucking DVD because of fucking music rights. I promise, Fox Home Video, if I had a couple million to help you cover all the costs, I'd give it to you. Do you take a check?