We live in a golden age of streaming media, but many of us also realized that we’re living in an era when every movie, no matter how lost, is released to great fanfare on in collector friendly packaging, with limited edition slipcase and tons of extras. But there are still films that are lost in the cracks. I’m not talking about stuff like The Day the Clown Cried, a movie that will never see the light of day and has never — and may never — be released in any format. Instead, I’m talking about movies that were VHS era favorites and just never made the jump to blu ray (or even DVD in some cases).
I’m certain that I’ll miss a few films on this list — there are thousands of films that people love that I’ve definitely missed — so please educate me and let me know your favorites!
1. Rad (1986): Hal Needham may have been behind the stunts for Burt Reynolds movies and directed Megaforce, but his true success may be this film. Cru Jones is a young BMX racer who lives in a small town with Talia Shire and his sister, determined to win the heart of Lori Laughlin and conquer Helltrack. Throw in Ray Walston, Hard Boiled Haggerty and some of the best riders of the era — as well as a teenage Robin Bougie from Cinema Sewer fame — and you have a movie that was never available to rent in the video stores of my teenage years. That’s how popular it was. It’s never been released on DVD, perhaps because no one knows who has the rights.
Kevin Stecko, who owns 80sTees.com, said of the film, “I had fond memories of Rad as a kid because one of my best friends was obsessed with the movie and rented it out constantly. I bet I saw it 5 times just at his house. We had requests over the years and it’s really hard to figure out who owns the rights. That’s fairly common with movies that weren’t made by the big studios. Even though TriStar Pictures released it, the folks at Sony that I spoke to weren’t even familiar with the movie. It seems to have been forgotten by time.”
2. The Keep (1983): Between Thief and Manhunter, Michael Mann was a troubled production, including a director’s cut that’s 90 minutes over the two hours that Mann was allotted. This tale of Nazis battling a spectral entity named Radu Molasar has never been officially released on DVD or blue in any country, yet it is available for purchase on YouTube, as well as streaming on Amazon Video and Netflix in the UK and Ireland.
One of the many issues of the film was that visual effects supervisor Wally Veevers (2001: A Space Odyssey) died two weeks into post-production. No one knew how he planned to finish the visual effects, including the original ending that was planned. Michael Mann had to finish 260 special effects shots himself, which led to several new endings being filmed long after the movie had wrapped. Thanks to the film going well over budget, Paramount wouldn’t pay for much more, so Mann had to compromise and create the ending that’s in the film.
3. Nothing Lasts Forever (1984): Tom Schiller directed many of the short films on the early Saturday Night Live, including “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” in which John Belushi is the only member of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players left alive to dance on the graves of his fellow castmates. This film has never been released in any format and Schiller went into commercials afterward.
It’s all about a dystopian New York controlled by the Port Authority, an underground network of hoboes who run the world, a mission to the moon on a bus with Bill Murray and more. Dan Aykroyd also appears and John Belushi would have been in it as well, but he died a few weeks before shooting began.
Warner Brothers pulled this movie from being released and never showed it anywhere. It was finally shown on TCM, where several of the online bootlegs come from, but to date, it’s never been released on any digital format.
4. Eyes of Fire (1983): A preacher is exiled, so he and his followers make their way to an isolated forest where they are tormented by the spirits of the dead. If this movie sounds a lot like The Witch (or The VVitch) to you, you aren’t alone. This was released on the Vestron Video label and poorly made DVDs were issued in Thailand and Brazil, but it’s never made the jump to the modern era. That’s surprising in the wake of Robert Eggar’s film’s success.
5. Elves (1989): I’ve made it one of my missions in life to get more people to see this completely bonkers film. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie where an alcoholic ex-cop becomes a mall Santa before being drawn into a conspiracy of the Third Reich being reborn via incest and elves? Every holiday season, I hold out hope that this is the Christmas that I get what I really want — Elves on a blu ray or DVD packed with extras. I’ll even sit in on a commentary track, if need be.
6. Blackout (1985): This made for HBO murder mystery had a VHS rental box that pretty much screamed at you, “Rent me!” Pretty much an American-made giallo film, it also inspired a real-life murder, when Ed Sherman killed his pregnant wife and used air conditioning to slow the decomposition of her body to aid his alibi. That doesn’t explain why this has never been released on DVD or blu ray. It seems custom made for a label like Shout! Factory.
7. The Thunder series (1983-1988): Perhaps I am the only person who cares about Mark Gregory this much, but if labels like Severin and Ronin Flix have taught us anything, it’s that more people than just me have a craving for Italian junk films. These Fabrizio De Angelis directed films might be inspired — let’s just say ripped off — from Rambo, but they achieve a zen-like magic of their own. We know the white man is going to screw over Thunder. But that’s just the set up to the carnage that we all want to see.
8. The Astrologer (1975): An auteur project by director, producer, psychic to the stars and actor Craig Denney, this is a movie about an astrologer who goes on an adventure to find jewels, then becomes a celebrity and makes a movie called The Astrologer that he watches within the film The Astrologer. The entire soundtrack was stolen from the Moody Blues, who get credited for the film, which may be why this was only released on VHS and has never been seen again. This is one of my dream movies to be released. AGFA has shown it in theaters, so here’s hoping for a legitimate blu ray soon!
9. Endgame (1983): This Joe D’Amato post-apocalyptic treat is pretty much the epicenter of my movie obsessions. Made in Italy, ripping off Mad Max and Escape from New York and starring Al Cliver, Laura Gemser and George Eastman, it’s a game show to the death with blind ninjas led by psychic children, fishman mutants who want Black Emanuelle all for themselves and more violence and bloodshed than thirty lesser films. This is on Amazon Prime now, but there’s no reason at all that a label isn’t releasing this right now. I’d offer to do the commentary track, but I have ten hours of things to say about it, which is like six times more than its running time.
10. Spookies (1986): This movie played on USA and video for years, but a legit American release has eluded this sewn together combination of a film being re-edited by people who had nothing to do with the original footage. Sure, I have a French blu ray of it, but that’s not good enough. I demand that Vinegar Syndrome goes crazy and releases this with twenty different slipcovers and an air freshener that smells like muck man farts.
You know — if you’ve read any of my lists — that I can’t stop at just ten movies.
11. Meet the Applegates (1990): Between Heathers and Hudson Hawk, Michael Lehmann directed this movie that was stuck in turnaround hell for a long time before finally coming out on VHS. Trust me — it’s bonkers. A tale of humanoid bugs being co-opted by capitalism and a transgender Dabney Coleman who tries to set them straight and blow up the world? Why wasn’t this a blockbuster?
12. Son of Dracula (1974): Freddie Francis directed a horror comedy with Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson — playing seven of his songs? If I didn’t see this inebriated at 4 AM at a drive-in, I wouldn’t believe it were true. I got my copy at a convention, so hopefully you’ll do the same. I love the idea that this movie even exists because it gives me ton of fodder to discuss and make people’s eyes glaze over in casual conversation.
13. American Tiger: This is another reason our site exists: for me to go on and on about this Sergio Martino directed blast of filmed in America ridiculousness. If you see one movie where Donald Pleasence plays a Southern preacher who is really a warthog with a son whose sex games turn into murder and people have sex in the shower with gymnasts who leave their jeans on, let this be it. This was released in Germany, but never in the US on DVD. I’m dreaming of Severin releasing this!
14. The Haunting of Julia (1977): You’d think Mia Farrow would realize not to have a kid by now. One part cautionary tale of watching your kids while they eat and another warning people of bad relationships with one side of the supernatural, this strange effort showed up on Shudder for a month before fading back into the eldritch fog of DVDs you can only buy at conventions. Also known as Full Circle.
15. The Paperboy (1994): Do you like The Bad Seed? Would you like to see a Canadian version where a young boy tries to set William Katt on fire and suffocates an old woman with a plastic bag? Bad news — this perennial VHS rental favorite is not available on DVD.
16. Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984): Have I ever told you how much I love Pia Zadora? Oh — only thirty times today, you answer. Here’s thirty one, dear reader, because this time Pia is a high school student (she was 31 years old at the time of filming) who falls for an alien rock star while avoiding a chainsaw-toting Michael Berryman, battling a sea monster and singing with Jermaine Jackson in a scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
17. Blue Monkey (1987): Sandy Howard directed the U.S. sequences of the Gamera films before producing The Devil’s Rain!, Meteor, Angel and Vice Squad amongst others. This was part of a three-picture deal with Howard and RCA-Columbia home video which also produced the Freddie Francis and Ken Wiederhorn co-directed film Dark Tower and Nightstick, a made for Canadian TV effort that have both not be released to DVD. Originally called Green Monkey as those creatures were thought to have been behind the AIDS virus, at least this movie has John Vernon in it.
18. Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976): This TV movie is completely insane. It takes a film that was a modern classic and presents a sequel that scrapes the bottom of the barrel and just shoves it in your face, which means that I love every single minute of it. Only Ruth Gordon returns, with Mia Farrow being replaced by Patty Duke. Honestly, there are so many made for TV movies that demand to be on DVD and blu ray!
19. Song of the South (1946): There are movies that should be released on DVD. And then there are some that shouldn’t. Let’s face it — the world is a much different place in 2019 than it was in 1946 (although even then, audiences reactions upset Walt Disney so much that he left the premiere and lead actor James Baskett was unable to attend that premiere because Atlanta was a racially segregated city). But this has never been released in any home video format in the United States, yet it has been released in the UK, Japan and Thailand.
20. Little Darlings (1980): Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol compete to see who can lose her virginity first. It sounds like it’s going to be a summer romp — and it is — but it’s also fraught with gravitas. It’s been on TV hundreds of times, but it’s never been released on DVD. That may be because of licensing issues with its soundtrack. While the original VHS release has all of the songs, the second release replaces John Lennon’s “Oh My Love,” Supertramp’s “School” and The Bellamy Brothers’ “Let Your Love Flow” with cover versions. Little Darlings sometimes shows up on iTunes and Amazon, but then goes down just as fast. Interestingly, Lionsgate announced that they would be releasing this and then canceled it.
I could go on and on, as there are so many more films, like Looking for Mr. Goodbar, The Kindred, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, the Joan Jett and Ray Sharkey starring film De-beat-e-o, A Matter of Degrees and Rocktober Blood, which is shocking to me, particularly when Vestron has been licensing out their name to make a new series of blu rays.
Did I miss anything? Of course I did. Please let me know your favorite movies that haven’t been released on DVD!
Thanks to Kevin Stecko, Bill Van Ryn, RD Francis, Shaun Casper, Jennifer Upton, Jennifer Contino, Craig Edwards (who suggested Get Crazy, a film I need to hunt down myself), Paul Andolina and Dustin Fallon for their help with this article.
If you’re looking to find copies of these movies, here are some links:
- Rad: VHSPS
- The Keep: VHSPS
- Nothing Lasts Forever: Classic Movie Reel
- Eyes of Fire: VHSPS
- Elves: VHSPS, Revok
- Blackout: VHSPS
- Thunder: Revok, Cult Action and VHSPS have all three films
- The Astrologer: This has played Alamo Drafthouse and festivals. Supposedly AGFA has the rights to it, but the soundtrack may be causing issues.
- Endgame: Revok and Cult Action
- Spookies: VHSPS
- Meet the Applegates: VHSPS
- Son of Dracula: Conventions are a good bet.
- American Tiger: Revok
- The Haunting of Julia: Again, conventions.
- The Paperboy: VHSPS
- Voyage of the Rock Aliens: VHSPS
- Blue Monkey: VHSPS
- Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby: Conventions.
- Song of the South: Conventions
- Little Darlings: VHSPS