Warner Brothers has come out with what I believe to be a wonderful new program to enhance their home video release catalog. Let’s face it. We all have a favorite film or television show that was never really a popular release with the general population. But that doesn’t matter to us, because we love it anyway. We wait forever in the hopes that the title will one day be available. Unfortunately, like anything else, video releases have to make money. If the studio does not believe that it will have broad enough appeal, the release will never see the light of day, nor your local favorite video store. The reality is very easy to understand. Millions of copies of a release have to be cut in order to make all of the preparation and processing viable. If that number isn’t a realistic projection, there isn’t going to be a release. But, now Warner Brothers has actually found a compromise and at last hope for your obscure “gotta have” title, if it is owned by Warner Brothers, of course.
The Warner Archive Collection offers up hundreds of obscure titles that the studio has evaluated and found not viable as a commercial release. The catalog is growing almost by the day. For a nominal fee, not more than a standard DVD release, you can order a copy of these hard to find titles. Warner will then cut a DVD-R of that title and ship it to you direct. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. This is going to look like that bootleg copy your cousin makes in his basement. Wrong. The DVD-R comes in a solid case with a printed insert, just like in the stores. The disc is silk-screened and in color. The video quality varies somewhat. I’m not going to tell you that the audio and video are wonderful, but they are in better shape than cousin Hector’s bootleg, that I promise you. The discs do not contain extras, and the films are not restored or processed much as transfers. Still, it’s an incredibly grand idea, one I hope that all of the other studios adopt soon.
I will be bringing you reviews on several of these titles over the next couple of weeks. You can look at what there is to offer yourself at Warner Archive Collection
The first film that I received from the Warner Archive was one I had never even heard of. Wrestling Ernest Hemingway was released to under 50 theaters back in 1993 and made only about $250,000. You can understand why Warner Brothers does not consider this a viable release. But because of this new system, I got to see a wonderful film I didn’t even know existed.
The film tells the story of Frank (Harris). He’s an old man living in a very small apartment in a Florida retirement community. His son appears to have abandoned him, reneging on a promise to take him out for his birthday, instead sending a silly two-billed cap. But Frank takes the high road and brags to anyone who will listen about how grand that cap is. After all, it shades your eyes and the back of your neck. He flirts with the widowed landlady (MacLaine). One day he meets an old Cuban man in the park doing a crossword puzzle and eating a bacon sandwich. Walter (Duvall) just wants to be left to his lunch and puzzles. Frank is determined to engage the man in conversation until he finally breaks and invites him to his favorite diner, where he gets his sandwiches. There Walter introduces Frank to Elaine (Bullock) whom he has a bit of a crush on. The men become uneasy friends. Walter is a quiet conservative kind of man, while Frank is boisterous and uses foul language. Still, they become friends. The relationship becomes the focus of the remainder of the film.
The story is almost nonexistent, but this is a pleasure of a character study. Richard Harris and Robert Duvall have been two of the best actors of their generation. The performances will suck you in so completely that the story, or lack thereof, will be forgotten. When it’s over you’ll have enjoyed watching these two perform and interact. The title is merely a reference to one of Frank’s boasts. He claims to be a retired sea captain who once accepted a challenge from Ernest Hemingway to a wrestling match. I say claim, because Frank has a propensity to boast, and much of what he says can be considered dubious. Sandra Bullock does a great job in a supporting role that is pivotal for Walter.
This was a great way to get introduced to the Archive Collection. I used to have this problem. I have some odd tastes and find myself often loving something most people either hated or ignored. I’m always on the look out for some limited or unreleased title. If you’re like me, now “You don’t have that problem, pal.”