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Pulp Culture
Some great movies
are still MIA on DVD


July 25, 2002
By Franklin Harris

The major movie studios are releasing more of their catalog titles on DVD, but some notable films are still missing in action.

I'm not talking only about the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" trilogies. We'll get those on DVD whenever George Lucas gets around to it. Of course, Lucas probably won't re-release the original and far superior versions of the first three "Star Wars" movies. He'll probably opt instead for giving us only the "special edition" versions. But that is another gripe for another day.

With "Road to Perdition" currently the No. 1 movie at the box office, it is a shame that an even better Irish-American gangster movie isn't available on DVD.

Forget "Raising Arizona." Forget "Fargo." Joel and Ethan Coen's best film is "Miller's Crossing."

Released in 1990, "Miller's Crossing" stars Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Albert Finney and John Turturro, in one of his first major roles.

It has all the usual mobster-movie elements: divided loyalties, betrayals, honor among thieves (or lack thereof). But the plot is too complex to summarize in a few sentences.

It's a solid movie throughout, highlighted by the performances of Turturro and Jon Potlio, who plays slimy mob underboss Johnny Caspar.

While Simon Wells' lackluster remake of "The Time Machine" comes to DVD this week, one of the best time-travel movies ever made languishes in the world of late-night cable television, where only insomniacs can see it.

"The Final Countdown" (1980) features an impressive cast, including Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katherine Ross and James Farintino. So, it is somewhat surprising that it is a virtually forgotten film.

The story follows an aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, through a freak time warp that deposits it in the Pacific Ocean just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

So, with the might of a fully armed, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at your disposal, what do you do? Do you intercept the Japanese task force, prevent the attack and change history? And what happens if you do?

"The Final Countdown" eventually takes the easy way out of this classic time-travel dilemma, but the complications that arise along the way keep things interesting. And the filmmakers pull off a decent twist ending by making good use of a classic time-travel paradox.

A company called Pacific Family Entertainment has released "The Final Countdown" on DVD, but the PFE version is nearly impossible to find and, in terms of quality, is no better than a VHS tape. Someone else needs to get the rights to "The Final Countdown" and release a proper DVD version.

Lastly, I cannot believe the original, 1933 version of "King Kong" still isn't available on DVD. This is a crime against humanity, especially considering that the goofy 1976 remake is available.

Turner Home Entertainment released a decent VHS version of "King Kong" a few years ago, restoring "lost" footage that the censors removed from the original theatrical release. But a film as important and influential as "King Kong" deserves a DVD release, preferably as a 2-disc collector's edition, complete with all the extras.

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