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 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.”
If you love Rad, you should totally check out Kevin’s site. You can even grab a sweet Helltrack or Cru Jones shirt while you’re there!
UPDATE: Vinegar Syndrome had this for sale and sold out near instantly. They have said that it will be streaming soon. You can also get it from Mill Creek.
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.
UPDATE: Australian label Via Vision is supposedly re-releasing this on blu ray! Grab your all region players!
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. We love this movie so much, we reviewed it twice — Eyes of Fire.
You can now get this from Severin.
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. T his one is, without argument, the best of the post-apoc era that we rounded up with our September 2019, month-long tribute. Watch this movie.
You can get this now from Severin!
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.
UPDATE: The folks at Vinegar Syndrome heard my dark prayers and this movie was released as part of their Black Friday sale this year. Buy it here!
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!
UPDATE: Cauldron Films is 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.
UPDATE: You can get this now from Shout! Factory.
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.
UPDATE: You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.
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. C’mon, Vinegar Syndrome! You’ve already released Angel and Vice Squad sets this year! Put this one out!
UPDATE: This is getting released by Dark Force Entertainment.
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 (now it’s 20 films!) as there are so many more films, like Looking for Mr. Goodbar, The Kindred (released by Synapse), I Was a Teenage Werewolf, the Joan Jett and Ray Sharkey starring film deBeat-e-o, A Matter of Degrees starring John Doe of X, 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. Then there are the obscure rock favorites of R.D Francis: the infamous Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel (that was never even released on VHS), It’s a Complex World (outside of the director’s 2010 vanity press that since gone out of print), and the Ricky Kasso-inspired bioflick, Ricky 6 by the writer behind The Craft.
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, R. D Francis, Shaun Casper, Jennifer Upton, Jennifer Contino, Craig Edwards (who suggested Get Crazy (which is now being released by Kino Lorber), Paul Andolina and Dustin Fallon for their help with this article.
Finally. Thought you’d never finish this. Reading now.
Hope you enjoy!
They might not be available on DVD, but about half of these can be watched in HD from when they’ve been recorded from HDTV.
I believe RareLust has most of these, maybe even all if not close.
I have the Keep on dvd
In honor of the passing of Dan Haggarty aka Grizzly Adam’s I DEMAND Hollywood release Elves on Bluray
Dude, some people love foreign films or art. I love some fucking Elves.
You forgot ‘Death Vengeance’ aka ‘Fighting Back’ (1982) which was made by Dino De Laurentiis and released on video in the UK by Thorn EMI. However, it has never had a DVD or Blu release. I have tried to find the rights holder. I spoke to lead actor Tom Skerritt but despite remembering the film and speaking highly of it, he couldn’t remember who financed it. I’m guessing when Dino De Laurentiis’ company went bankrupt in the late 80’s it was sold as part of the catalogue. It is now down to an indie company to find out who this is with. My guess is Paramount as Intrada records licensed the soundtrack from them. Although I have been told by Nucleus films that it is with Studio Canal, so who knows?!?!?!
Great article, I would add to the list the terrible dubs of Fellinis Casonova and the creepy music changes to one of my one of my childhood favorites French Postcards.
Doing my best to break down further why these movies aren’t on DVD beyond your initial hypothesies.
Rad: This was financed by the Schwartzman family, who also did NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, HYPERSAPIEN, and LIONHEART with Eric Stoltz. MGM obviously bought out NEVER to consolidate their Bond holdings, and the latter two ultimately went to WB after token Tri-Star releases as RAD received. Last I checked, the surviving Schwartzmans (yes, Jason and Robert) seemed to indicate they had claim on this; I suspect that there are also outstanding music clearances that must be settled for a DVD release.
The Keep: While there has been speculation that Mann would like to reedit this for video, since he reedits darn near all his movies, the big issue is that the Tangerine Dream tracks used in the film are not original to the film, but repurposed from older albums, therefore they must be recleared for DVD and the label wants too much money. Since most streaming is classified as “broadcast,” the old contract that covered TV rights is what allows THE KEEP to be available to watch online while still absent on disc.
Nothing Lasts Forever: WB inherited this from getting the pre-’86 MGM library from Turner Broadcasting. It would appear the holdup is not just music, but also relicensing some of the outside footage (historical stock, clips from old movies) that Schiller used to create his world, which had probably not been taken care of because MGM had already wanted to deep-six this movie upon completion.
Eyes of Fire: I’ve heard conflicting accounts that Lionsgate may still control this title, since Vestron was notorious for paying huge advances for video rights that could feasibly never be paid back, or that their option has lapsed and that other labels are working quietly to get this out.
Elves: No info available AFAIK
Blackout: No info available AFAIK
Thunder: No info available AFAIK
The Astrologer: Heard conflicting tales that, since its an anomalous 70s-era “Republic Pictures” credited production, Paramount may have a claim on this as owners of the Republic library (though by then the company was dormant and someone could have just been horking the name), but yeah, the big issue is the Moody Blues songs and the ridiculous money Universal Music would want to reclear them for all media.
Endgame: Owned by MGM. Possibly a music rights issue.
Spookies: Indies have been working on this; rights ownership may be proving thorny.
Meet the Applegates: Rights ownership in limbo for now.
Son of Dracula: Likely an expensive divide between the movie being owned by the Apple Records trust, but the Nilsson songs being owned by Sony Music, and no company thinking they can recoup after paying each of those parties what they’d want for their rights.
American Tiger: Probably a combination of Italian licensors wanting too much money and, since it’s 80s, some expensive pop songs needing clearance.
The Haunting of Julia: I know the determined fellow trying to set this movie free. Big problem is its combination status as a Canadian tax shelter project and the demise of its British production organization; His updates are deep and staggering in the depths of their corporate thorniness.
The Paperboy: No info available AFAIK
Voyage of the Rock Aliens: Seems to be almost all films involving Mike Curb either as a music licensor or producer or both are all in limbo.
Blue Monkey: Indie label reportedly has acquired this, so this may be forthcoming
Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby: As a TV movie produced by Paramount, may now be considered an asset of CBS since they got all of the Paramount TV material during the previous Viacom split. Since there’s also rock music involved, maybe music rights issues too.
Song of the South: Oh we all know this is NEVER coming back.
Little Darlings: You nailed it; music rights.
LikeLiked by 2 people
The Farmer (1977) with Gary Conway as a farmer/WW2 vet who goes after the bad guys who push him too far. Never been on DVD.
What about Pass The Ammo, with Tim Curry as a sleazy televangelist who gets taken hostage on-air by Bill Paxton?
Seeing this article jogged my memory and I believe I have the soundtrack album to Son of Dracula. That is a movie I’ve always wanted to see.
Pingback: FM (1978) – B&S About Movies
Pingback: Baker County, U.S.A (1982) – B&S About Movies
Blue Monkey is getting released on bluray in Region A in Summer 2020 .. acttual date is TBD
Just saw that. Thanks for letting us know and we’ll update!
There’s been and I’ve had an Amazon exclusive DVD of Look What’s Happened to Roasemary’s Baby for some time. It may be a gussied-up bootleg but it’s not too bad.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Agreed Mike. Grey markets are a hit-and-miss. Some will have a greater care in the end product that others, but you do loose on the gamble more times than not. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on our little slice of the web.
The Berry Gordy-produced ALMOST SUMMER, an underrrated teen flick from 1978 has NEVER been on VHS or DVD. I wonder why?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes! I love this movie. Didi Conn as “Donna DeVito” is a heartbreak. It’s on our list, but we keep tossing to the review back burners.
We’re guessing it’s the Mike Love soundtrack that’s holding it up?
Il Mare…a movie from 1962 directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffin. A classic Italian movie way ahead of its time beautifully shot in black and white….never been released in any format to my knowledge. And Raintree County…with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift…poor quality Korean release but otherwise nothing…and this was a major movie at the time.
Add the biographical Ricky 6 to the list. It’s a film about Ricky Kasso; his life also inspired Rivers’ Edge. You can search for that review on B&S.
What about LAST SUMMER? It’s still floating in limbo though sometimes shows up on TCM. FRAULEIN DOKTOR (Dino de Laurentiis-produced, Ennio Morricone-scored Suzy-Kendall-starring saga of WW1 German lesbian junky spy intrigue? Release this now! Luckily it’s on Youtube (and streamed on Netflix 20 years ago or so)