It will not, I think, come as a shock to long-time readers that my politics, such as they are, tend toward the Left of the dial; in fact, I think I once famously said that no large corporation will ever do anything in the public interest unless required to by the government, although it's quite possible that I was drunk at the time. In any case, given the current global economic malaise I was planning on standing by the statement, but now news has reached me of something sneakily subversive going on over at the capitalistic monolith known as Warner Brothers that may force me to reevaluate.
From Saturday's Boston Globe:
Bless you, George Feltenstein. His title may be on the dull side -- senior vice president of theatrical catalog marketing for Warner Home Video --but any classic movie freak who has followed the home-video business over the past couple of decades has much to thank him for. For one thing, Feltenstein's a fellow traveler; loves old movies, always has. He spent a decade at MGM/UA Home Video putting the studios' crown jewels onto VHS and laserdisc, then came over to WB and has been pouring the legendary vault -- which includes not just Warner Bros. classics but the RKO and pre-1986 MGM library as well -- onto DVD.
That's great, but the Warner Archive Collection (www.wbshop.com), which Feltenstein launched this week, is a technical breakthrough that may turn out to be revolutionary. What's the Warner Archive Collection? Essentially, a website that enables point-to-point DVD manufacture -- micro-releasing, if you will. Until now, Warner Home Video has given a proper DVD release to about 1,200 titles from its library but no more because: A) with DVD sales declining, there's not a whole lot of demand for, say, the 1938 James Stewart/Margaret Sullavan romantic drama The Shopworn Angel; and B) there isn't enough room on retail or library shelves to hold an entire archive.
You can read the rest of it here, but the short version is that Warners has figured out a way to eventually make everything in their vault -- movies and tv -- available to the public and still turn a profit; it's a film lover or historian's dream come true, and I hate to say it, a testament to the adaptability and genius of capitalism.
Okay, let's not go nuts about it. But I must say I'm excited -- some of the initial stuff WB plans to make available via the Archive this year includes the way cool 1923 version of Scaramouche with Ramon Navarro ...
... and the prospect of finally being able to own that bizarre no-dialogue episode of
77 Sunset Strip I've been pining for since the early 60s has definitely improved my mood.
Coming tomorrow: Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox Home Video announces that they're giving away their entire back catalog, and the ghost of Karl Marx has an aneurism!