When I say “lost,” I’m not talking about all those early Hollywood silent films whose original prints and negatives have deteriorated so badly that they can no longer be viewed by anybody, or which were destroyed because nobody ever thought anybody would want to see them again. Those are tragic losses, to be sure; what I’m talking about here are films that you remember seeing at the theater or on TV but that you can no longer locate on video as official releases (other than high-priced collectibles). They’re O.O.P. (Out Of Print) and not widely available from any known sources.
They may not be lost forever, but you sure can’t find them, right? There are probably copies floating around that were taped from TV, but they still haven’t been released officially.
One of the most notorious of these was The High and the Mighty (1954), the John Wayne film that the Wayne family held onto for many years. However, it has now been released on DVD, and you can find it here! Island in the Sky (1953) is another long-sought-after Wayne film that was recently released on DVD.
If you’re looking for Song of the South, please be advised that it isn’t really lost. Disney hasn’t released it. If you’d like them to do so, visit their site and look in the upper left for a paragraph which gives you a way to be notified when and if it is released. (There used to be a way to request it, but that seems to have gone away.)
A discussion thread on this topic was started on the Classic Movies Forum and accumulated over 170 responses, mostly from people trying to find particular films. Some of them have been located, but most have not. Here’s a partial rundown of some of the films listed on that thread and others in the Classic Movies Forum, in chronological order. Many may be familiar to you from your own want lists. If you know how to find any of them, please email me.
Before you do anything else, be sure to visit my Classic Movies Video Store to make sure a film is not in print.
After this article was first written, a number of films we had listed were located. Thanks to those of you who’ve written to me about them. Those films now appear as hot links in the following list.
- The Kid Brother (1927)
- London After Midnight (1927)
- The Constant Nymph (1943)
- Night World (1932)
- L’Atalante (1934)
- Home On the Range (1934)
- The Last Roundup (1934)
- Diamond Jim (1935)
- The Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935)
- Wanderer of the Wasteland (1935)
- The Oregon Trail (1936)
- Adventures End (1937)
- Gangs of New York (1938)
- Torpedo of Doom (Feature version of Fighting Devil Dogs serial) (1938)
- Geronimo (1939)
- London Can Take It (1940)
- The Devil And Miss Jones (1941)
- Hellzapoppin’ (1941)
- Ladies In Retirement (1941)
- Target for Tonight (1941)
- Listen to Britain (1942)
- My Sister Eileen (1942)
- Spy Smasher Returns (Feature version of serial) (1942)
- Crazy House (1943)
- Ghost Catchers (1944)
- Roughly Speaking (1945)
- Way to the Stars (1945)
- Where Do We Go From Here? (1945)
- De Sicca’s Shoeshine (1946)
- Nightmare Alley (1947)
- Repeat Performance (1947)
- Countess Of Monte Cristo (1948)
- Johnny Appleseed (1948, 1955)
- The Sign of the Ram (1948)
- Gun Crazy (1949)
- Keep an Eye on Amelia (1949)
- Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
- Three Came Home (1950)
- Der Verlorene (The Lost One) (1951)
- The Blue Veil (1951)
- Call me Madam (1953)
- Bunuel’s The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)
- Black Tuesday (1954)
- New York Confidential (1955)
- The Shack Out On 101 (1955)
- Seven Men From Now (1956)
- Baby Face Nelson (1957)
- Blue Angel (1959)
- Porgy and Bess (1959)
- The Time Travellers (1964)
- Invasion (1965)
- Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)
- Latitude Zero (1969)
- Kes (1969)
- Three In The Cellar (1970)
- Universal Soldier (1971)
- Extreme Close-Up (1973)
- Lacombe Lucien (1974)
- The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) (This has been located on PAL as a collectible, but not on DVD.)
- Inchon (1982)
- Harry and the Hendersons (1987)
The following three-panel Cinerama features are also among the missing (and keep in mind that, since they are Cinerama, a home DVD version would not really work, so you’ll have to look for them at Cinerama revivals):
- Cinerama Holiday (1955)
- Seven Wonders of the World (1956)
- Search for Paradise (1957)
- South Seas Adventure (1958)
- Best of Cinerama (1963)
- The Cinemiracle film Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958) (There is a version of this available that has been copied to DVD, but the video quality is only fair at best, and of course it cannot be viewed in Cinerama format for home video.)
Finally, we come to a category I will call “Films That People Can’t Seem to Remember, Even Though They Remembered a Plot Point!” I get emails all the time from people who can describe part of a certain movie, but can’t for the life of them remember the title or any of the actors. Some I can’t identify, but there are others I’ve been able to come up with a title for and which I then get asked about by others months later. Many of them are TV-movies that were never released on video, and they tend to contain gimmicks like money trees and prison escapes with gliders! Here are some of those I hear about the most, most of them linked to places where they can be purchased. For the others, we’re still looking:
- It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) – A hobo and friends take up residence in a mansion while the family is away on Christmas holiday.
- It Grows on Trees (1952) – Irene Dunne plays a yard sale-addicted woman who stumbles upon two money trees, much to the chagrin of her befuddled husband, played by a typecast Dean Jagger. Irene Dunne’s final theatrical film, and one of Richard Crenna’s first.
- The Girls of Pleasure Island (1953) – In the spring of 1945, near the end of World War II, an Englishmen who lives on a South Sea atoll with his three daughters who have never seen another man is told that 1500 U.S. Marines will soon arrive to establish an air base.
- If a Man Answers (1962) – A rich socialite tries to train her husband using a book on dog training given to her by her mother.
- Sole Survivor (1970 – TV) – An American WWII bomber is found in the Libyan desert in 1960. The ghosts of the crew have been waiting with their crashed plane for the time when their bones will be recovered and given a decent burial.
- The Birdmen (1971 – TV) – An American soldier is sent to Norway to help a scientist defect, but they are captured and must try to escape from an alpine castle using a two-person glider.
- Death Race (1973 – TV) – In the North African desert in World War II, a crippled American fighter plane that is unable to take off tries to evade and destroy a pursuing Nazi tank.