My "Most Wanted" DVDs

Back around 2006, I wrote up one of these lists, and since then, around half of the titles I wanted at the time have shown up on legal DVDs - FROM BEYOND, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, LAND UNKNOWN, THE MONSTER SQUAD, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, the CHARLIE CHAN series, etc. Some of them - DOC SAVAGE and the Gordon Scott TARZAN titles, specifically - only on Manufacture-On-Demand DVD-Rs from Warner Archive, but at least they're available. And still others (A STUDY IN TERROR, STARCRASH) have been announced as coming to disc soon.

Some still haven't appeared on commercial Region 1 DVD, though, and they're at the top of this list:

1. I, THE JURY (1982). This Larry Cohen-scripted take on Mickey Spillane's first and best-known novel's got nothing whatsoever to do with the book. Armand Assante bears no resemblance to the Mike Hammer described by Spillane. Yet, there's a surging current of trashy, exploitation flick electricity that catches me up every time I put in my old, beat-up VHS copy. Good cast, too: Lauren Landon, Geoffrey Lewis, Paul Sorvino, and a frequently naked Barbara Carrera. Why isn't this on DVD?

2. CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991). This made-for-HBO, Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE)-directed fantasy starred the vastly underrated Fred Ward (TREMORS) as Phil Lovecraft, a down on his luck private eye in an alternate 1940's Los Angeles where everybody uses magic and the supernatural is natural. A great pastiche of Forties noir and pulp horror, with outstanding performances by Ward, David Warner, Clancy Brown and Julianne Moore... with hardboiled dialogue to die for. There was also a sequel, WITCH HUNT, which wasn't quite as good (despite being directed by Paul Schrader), and which recast/miscast Dennis Hopper in the Lovecraft role. Neither is available on DVD.

3. THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977). Richard Boone is a millionaire big game hunter with an awful toupee who discovers a prehistoric lost world hidden among the snow fields of Antarctica. Trapped there, he becomes obsessed, Ahab-style, with killing a T-Rex. The dinosaurs are men in suits (made by Toho FX guys!) and the film was made by Rankin-Bass Productions. Hell, I can still remember the theme song... This ridiculous Seventies TV movie is a treasured childhood memory, and I really want a good copy of it.

4. THEY BITE (1996). An early feature by B-movie director/FX artist Brett Piper (SHOCK-O-RAMA) that was only ever available on VHS, THEY BITE is an ambitious spoof of Fifties sea-monster flicks, with tons of cool low-tech special effects, rubber monster suits, naked women, insanely bad acting, and porn "god" Ron "Hedgehog" Jeremy in a featured role. I love this movie!

5. GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), and, while we're at it, 6. GODZILLA 1985 (1984) and 7. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989). These three titles are the only films in the series not legally available on Region 1 DVDs. Because a TV-edited version of GODZILLA VS. MEGALON was incorrectly assumed to be in public domain and heavily circulated by multiple "budget" VHS labels during the 80s/90s, I believe Toho is holding back the title from a legit U.S. release. And yes, I know it's the worst of the series, but I want it anyway. GODZILLA (Known as GODZILLA 1985 in the U.S.) was released theatrically by New World Pictures in a heavily-edited and re-scored version with Raymond Burr and lots of Dr. Pepper product placement. Anchor Bay picked it up with the rest of the New World library and announced that they planned on issuing it on DVD, but Toho is apparently blocking its release in any form. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE was released by Miramax on VHS (in widescreen), and as far as I can tell, they still have the U.S. rights, but seem to have no interest in releasing it on DVD (Now I'm really wishing I'd bought the laserdisc when I had the chance).

8. FORCE: FIVE (1981). Handsome and charismatic World kickboxing champ Joe Lewis only starred in two films (the other was 1979's JAGUAR LIVES!), and that's a shame, because I thought he had the makings of a real exploitation action star. He couldn't act, of course, but he looked great kicking ass! This low-budget rip-off of ENTER THE DRAGON (written & directed by that film's director, Robert Clouse) teamed him with a handful of other skilled martial artists (among them, Richard Norton and Benny Urquidez) for a fun, fast-paced, chop-socky camp classic that I remember fondly.

9. BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME (1991). Not a great movie, but I remember it being kinda fun, with Marc Singer reprising his role as the Doctor Doolittle of sword-slinging barbarian heroes and amusing turns by Wings Hauser and Sarah Douglas as the villains. Dar the Barbarian finds himself running around 1990 Los Angeles looking for an evil wizard, accompanied by his black tiger and kleptomaniac ferrets. How can that not be entertaining?

10. YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1984). This Italian-made caveman/sci-fi cheesefest starring beefy Reb Brown is one of the most entertaining drive-in adventures of the 80s, and a VHS and pay cable perennial. Unfortunately, it's nowhere to be found (legally) on DVD.

11. THE SOLDIER (1982). James Glickenhaus' (THE EXTERMINATOR, SHAKEDOWN) low-budget espionage epic, starring a pre-WISEGUY Ken Wahl and sporting a Tangerine Dream score was one of biggest drive-in and grindhouse hits of the early 80s. But, as far as I can tell, it's not on DVD.

12 & 13. Also missing in action even now are the Cannon films ninja epics ENTER THE NINJA with Franco Nero (DJANGO) and Susan George (CRAZY MARY DIRTY LARRY) and the nigh-legendary NINJA III - THE DOMINATION. The second of their "ninja trilogy," REVENGE OF THE NINJA, has been available on disc for years, but with control of the MGM library (which controls the Cannon library) being passed from company to company over the past decade, these Sho Kosugi vehicles seem to have been lost in the shuffle. Both have recently shown up for online viewing, so maybe DVDs are on the way.

14. LASSITER (1984). This Word War II caper features Tom Selleck (RUNAWAY) as an American cat burglar living in London with a dance hall girl (Jane Seymour at her loveliest) who is pressed into service by American Intelligence and Scotland Yard to steal some diamonds from the German embassy. With a top-notch cast (including Bob Hoskins and Lauren Hutton), good jazz music and a light touch, it's really amazing that it's in limbo.

15. THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966). One of the few truly great Spaghetti Westerns that nobody - big studio or boutique label - has yet released on DVD. I caught it on the Starz Western Channel in pan & scan about a decade ago, and have been longing to see it in widescreen ever since. Great performances by the legendary Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian, excellently directed by Sergio Sollima. Long overdue.

In any case, that's my ten most wanted b-movies on DVD (at least at the moment).