Buzzing Thru the Pylon: Growling at Best Buy's Exclusivity...

Warner Home Video Sci-Fi Double Features
Disc #1
Moon Zero Two (1969)
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Cinema 4 Rating: 4

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
Director/Writer: Val Guest
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

Disc #2
Battle Beneath the Earth (1967)
DirectorMontgomery Tully
Cinema 4 Rating: 3

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
Director/Writer: Robert Clouse
Cinema 4 Rating: 5

Disc #3
World Without End (1956)
Director/Writer: Edward Bernds
Cinema 4 Rating: 5

Satellite in the Sky (1956)
Director: Paul Dickson
Cinema 4 Rating: 4

Quite regularly, I sift through a seemingly endless list of titles which I am hoping will get released onto DVD so I can replace old versions of these same films. Most of these films were taped off of cable television anytime in the past twenty to five years, though a certain number of them were prerecorded version officially released by their respective studios. No matter how I might have them in my collection, it is still my fervent hope that they shall be released onto disc form, and thus save space in our crammed little hovel (it's amazing the space saved when comparing discs versus tapes) and also, the hope remains that the print in which they are burned onto disc will far outweigh my previous versions in overall quality.

One of the films on this list, which I began compiling a full decade ago, was Hammer Films' special effects-heavy follow-up to One Million Years B.C., When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.

Every couple of months since I moved down here to Cali, I have gone through most of this list, and one of the first films I always look up is When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Not that it is any great shakes as a film per se, but it is highly sought by fans of stop-motion animation for its exquisite dinosaur footage by Jim Danforth and Roger Dicken. (While I am at it, I should mention that David Allen, amongst others, also worked on the effects as an assistant, though only Danforth and Dicken were actually nominated for an Oscar at the 1972 awards.) It is for this reason alone (OK, the cave girls play a part too) that I embraced the film as a teenager, and made sure to grab a copy on VHS when it came out in the '90s. And this is without knowing that the original story for the film was devised by none other than J.G. Ballard, writer of Crash (the wonderfully twisted and kinky Cronenberg one) and Empire of the Sun.

But I had always heard there was a slightly longer version of the film, one that took the cavegirl stuff even further than when Raquel Welch leaped about in a fur bikini in B.C. Supposedly, the film originally held a handful (more than a handful, as they say, is a waste) of topless shots, both innocent (swimming about in mucky, sea monster-infested waters) and randy (mild cavepeople whoopee, apparently), as well as a scene where lead Playboy bunny/"actress" Victoria Vetri gets stripped down in a cave (appropriately) by her would-be cave beau. Gee, I'm was actually only here for the dinosaurs, but I can you heap some of this, too, on my plate? All the more reason to remain impatient over an official special edition.

And yet, I could never find this one, even while the entire Harryhausen oeuvre and much of the Hammer library had been released already. I felt certain that it was bound to come out sooner or later, because if there is one diehard fanbase out there, it's the one for special effects epics -- dinosaurs, spaceships, aliens, or what have you. But, as I kept checking over the last few years to find news of its arrival on DVD, I found nothing. My searches came up empty, over and over again. And then, the other day, I found out why: I had been primarily looking on Amazon.

Cut to last week, as I decided to take a quick first look at the new neighborhood Best Buy store. There, sitting in plain sight on a shelf in the science-fiction DVD section, was a single copy of a Warner Home Video Sci-Fi Double Feature disc holding, of course, two movies. The first was of no real consequence to me, though I had seen it years earlier: Moon Zero Two, often described (self-described, really) as the "first space western." But who could care when the other film on the disc was When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth? After the usual shake of the head and pinch of the skin to clear things up for me in as cartoonish a way as possible, I grabbed the copy and refused to let go of it until I arrived home.

I didn't get a chance to watch the film until yesterday, but in the meantime, mostly out of consternation over how I discovered the disc, I went online to research it once more, knowing full well I had been on Amazon just a couple of months prior and had seen nothing on WDRTE. It turns out there is now an entry for it on the site, but it is for an outside party trying to make some cash selling "used/new" copies of the disc. And in the description? The words "Best Buy Exclusive."

This is not the first time I have come at odds with this "Best Buy Exclusive" scenario. I also did this for years looking for Ernest B. Schoedsack's sweet 1940 mad science thriller Dr. Cyclops (the absolute inspiration for The Krofft Supershow's Dr. Shrinker, a crappie but fun show from my youth). I had the Universal VHS release, but was hoping for it on DVD, to accompany the rest of my Cooper and Schoedsack DVD library. Then I found out that Best Buy had been selling it for months as an exclusive set with several other prime golden age horror and sci-fi flicks, including two more on my list, The Land Unknown and The Deadly Mantis. A rush to Best Buy found me a copy all right, but the fact that it said "Volume 2" on it meant that there was an entire first volume of five possible films that I didn't have, and I finally procured a copy off of someone on Amazon for about fifteen bucks over retail in new condition. Which is how I landed The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Mole People and Tarantula in my DVD collection, after years of frustration, and also how my ire was first raised over these exclusive deals with Best Buy.

This wouldn't be a problem with me if they would do a general release a few months later, but from what I can gather from some movie boards is that there is a group of people who rush out and buy up every copy of these exclusives just so they can sell them later to needy, hungry fans once the discs go out of print. It's ticket-scalping without the tickets, I guess -- if you really want to see the movie, you are going to have to pay the price. As proof of this, another "exclusive," a set of generally low-grade horror thrillers thrown into a box called the Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive, is already selling for far above what I would be willing to pay for it (example: click here). Even though the undiscerning horror fan in me (which is the same one that embraces even the truly terrible films on the discs discussed above) would love to add those films to my overall collection, I already own four of them on tape, and none of them are truly essential by any means.

None of the six films in the three discs I did discover at Best Buy as exclusives last week were really essential to me either... except for the Hammer cave girls and dinosaurs epic. Truthfully, I could have saved the money on the other two discs, though I really did love Yul Brynner's The Ultimate Warrior as a kid, and also watched Battle Beneath the Earth lo those many years ago on that beloved after school sci-fi matinee show on KTVA. The upside is that I will be replacing five different tapes in my collection with these three discs (Satellite in the Sky is the only one of the six I did not previously own), and the purchase does give me widescreen versions of all of these films, which is a great addition to the collection too.

And now I have the apparently uncut version of WDRTE. Yes, the disc does say it is rated "G" on the case and shows a running time of 96 minutes. Watching it, you get at least some PG nudity antics and 100 minutes of cave girls tumbling about the animated dinosaur attacks. I found a few entries online talking about Warner recalling this disc from the Best Buy stores, but also some entries offering up different versions of the confusion from various locations. Who knows why it was recalled? My disc works, Vetri doffs her clothes, I couldn't care less about film ratings anyway (I am an adult, can watch anything I damn well please, don't believe in censorship at all, and do not pay attention to ratings or the bluenoses who maintain them), and everything is peachy keen once again in my universe...

...until I remember to ask: Where the hell is Roogie's Bump? Or It Happens Every Spring? Damn it...

Comments

Holy sheeiitt! The Incredible Shrinking Man came out on one of those discs? How is the print? Are the other movies in the collections worthwhile? I mean, enough to make it 45 bucks for all 10 of them? I'm almost willing to pay that for Shrinking Man alone, but if the print is crap I might pass.

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