The MOD Squad, or Freshly-Cut DVD
The traditional DVD business model goes something like this: Generate and package thousands of copies of a DVD title, ship it to stores (and merchant websites) all over the country, and hope that it sells. And if you’re putting out the hot movie that was in theaters four months ago, that’s still a viable option.
But for studios wanting to make lesser-known titles available to fans without breaking the bank on a big release, MOD (or Movies on Demand) is becoming a popular option. These aren’t movies that are going to fly off the shelf of a big-box store, but they’ll reach their audience without a big initial outlay by the studio. MOD follows the premise of the fast-food restaurant that claims, “We don’t make it until you order it.” So rather than burn a thousand copies of, say, the 1939 Cary Grant-Carole Lombard romance In Name Only — and risk taking a bath on it because it’s not one of Grant’s better-known titles — Warner Archive makes it available on the company website, and when somebody orders a copy, Warner Archive burns a disc, packages it, and sends it to the buyer, thus cutting down on overhead and expenses.
There are some downsides involved to MOD — if you like trailers and deleted scenes and extras in general, you’re out of luck — but it’s proving to be a real boon to studios who want to make their movies available in a shrinking DVD marketplace.
Twentieth Century Fox and MGM have teamed up for their MOD program, with dozens of titles from the 1930s to the 1990s becoming available each month. Their recent grab-bag of offerings included everything from Haunted Summer (Laura Dern, Eric Stoltz, and Alex Winter in the story of the hi-jinks at Lord Byron’s place that lead to the writing of Frankenstein) to Phaedra (Anthony Perkins and Melina Mercouri put a sexy ’60s spin on an ancient Greek tale) to Riot on the Sunset Strip (untamed hippies out for kicks, man).
Sony has also gotten into the MOD game, but they’ve tooted their horn rather silently in this regard, even though they’ve made several fun old Columbia titles available to the marketplace. It’s no surprise, then, the studio has set up a deal with Warner Archive — currently the BMOC of the MOD scene — to handle titles ranging from 1990s arthouse hit Love and Human Remains (about sex, serial killers, and polymorphous perversity) to the camp-classic Tori Spelling telefilm Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?
Recovering from Michael Bay
If you caught Transformers: Dark of the Moon in theaters — and box-office figures suggest you did — you’re either hungry for more or looking for something that’s the complete opposite. And lucky you, both are newly available on video.
If you just can’t get enough robot battling, there’s Transformers: The Japanese Collection — Headmasters (now available from Shout! Factory), which is being made available for the first time in North America. It’s the first part of a rare Japanese trilogy set following the “Generation 1” animated series, and this new set features the original Japanese-language soundtrack as well as other goodies for hard-core Optimus Prime fans.
Viewers still nursing a post–Dark of the Moon headache might want to check out Kino’s gorgeous new Blu-Ray of Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (now available), a haunting tale of a Swedish family facing the nightmare of global annihilation. This two-disc set features not only the acclaimed final film of legendary director Tarkovsky but also the documentary Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. And if you’re in the mood for another powerful and contemplative piece of international art cinema, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives — the Palme d’Or winner at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival — comes out July 12 from Strand Releasing.
Credits Where Credit Is Due
If one of your favorite parts of movie-watching is the opening sequence that lists the stars, the writer, and the director, then you don’t want to miss the two-disc set Forget the Film, Watch the Titles! Now available from Submarine Channel, this DVD collects visually groundbreaking and fascinating titles sequences from 38 movies (mostly European ones, although Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps made the cut). On the second disc, you’ll find mini-documentaries about nine different title designers around the world, and how they do what they do. It’s a very specific focus, granted, but if you dig this sort of thing, it’s a collection you won’t want to miss.
And speaking of red meat for movie nerds, Trailers from Hell! Volume 2 is currently out from Shout! Factory, and it features the likes of Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Roger Corman, John Landis, and many more presenting their favorite coming attractions.