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‘Annie’ will get her gun soon — on home video

SHARE ‘Annie’ will get her gun soon — on home video

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first-time video release of several older movies — films that had long been on the top of the most-requested list but which had never before seen the light of home video . . . for a variety of reasons.

Primarily because the studios that own these movies are incredibly short-sighted.

It never ceases to amaze me that all kinds of lousy straight-to-video films are released each week — usually starring Charlie Sheen, Shannon Tweed or Michael Madsen — just because they are new.

Meanwhile, dozens, if not hundreds, of older films that audiences constantly request continue to languish in Hollywood dungeons.

The two movies that headed that list were "The Slipper and the Rose," a 1976 musical version of "Cinderella," starring Richard Chamberlain, and William Castle's gimmicky teen thriller from 1965, "I Saw What You Did," with Joan Crawford in a whacked-out supporting role. Someone woke up, and they both finally found their way to video.

And while some might question the quality of those films — so what? There's a huge audience out there clamoring for them. (Besides, they've got to be better than "Free Money," "Dead By Dawn" or "Supreme Sanction," starring Sheen, Tweed and Madsen, respectively.)

Anyway, that earlier column prompted some e-mail and telephone queries from people asking about some of their other faves that have never been on video. And some things never change — the one most people asked about was the 1950 MGM version of Irving Berlin's musical "Annie Get Your Gun."

I responded that it might be years before that one hits video . . . but I'm happy to say I was wrong.

"Annie Get Your Gun," staring Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley, makes its video debut in November . . . just in time for the Christmas rush.

Historically, critics feel this is Hutton's best performance onscreen, a perfect match of a wild, rough-hewn character with an actress who had boundless energy. Howard Keel is a solid match for her, and the film holds up remarkably well. (And in light of the play's recent Broadway revival, the video is bound to be a best seller.)

What took so long? MGM couldn't come to terms with the Berlin estate. Until now.

So make your reservation; it hits tape and DVD on Nov. 14.

Probably the second most-requested in my experience is another musical, George and Ira Gershwin's beloved and still oft-performed "Porgy and Bess." The film was originally released in 1959 and stars Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey and, as Sportin' Life, Sammy Davis Jr. Talk about your all-star casts! Even the minor roles are filled with great names — Diahann Carroll, Ivan Dixon, Brock Peters . . . .

This is another estate issue; Samuel Goldwyn Pictures can't work things out with the Gershwin family. If they could, everyone would make money — big money.

Next would have to be the 1954 air-disaster flick "The High and the Mighty," starring John Wayne and Laraine Day, which foreshadowed the '70s "Airport" melodramas. It did make a brief bootleg-video appearance a few years ago — until the Wayne estate put a stop to it. John Wayne's son, Michael, has long promised the film would get a proper high-quality video release (along with another locked-up Wayne picture, the 1953 survival thriller "Island in the Sky"), but that promise remains unfulfilled.

There are plenty more, of course — the 1973 musical version of "Lost Horizon" (which had a brief laser-disc release but never went to tape), a number of Danny Kaye comedies ("Knock on Wood," "On the Riviera," "Merry Andrew," "On the Double," etc.), the Civil War comedy "Advance to the Rear" (1964), the 1978 TV version of "Dracula" with Louis Jourdan (although some 50 different other "Dracula" titles are on video), the all-star anthology "O. Henry's Full House" (1952), Luis Bunuel's version of "Robinson Crusoe" starring Dan O'Herlihy (1952) and many more.

You get the idea.

Mind you, none of these latter films are tied up in estates . . . they're just gathering dust in Hollywood vaults.

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com