Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Promise of Streaming … Betrayed?

One of the cool things about the 21st century is that it’s easy to watch just about any movie I want. Thanks to the amazing array of streaming services, I can impulsively find anything that strikes my fancy … except when it doesn’t work.

I’m not, in general, an impulse viewer: I have lots of DVDs of my own and from Neftlix to watch. But a couple of years back I read Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford, a look at the once legendary race to the South Pole. British legend portrayed Robert Scott as a plucky chap who died in a noble, doomed quest for the Pole. Huntford shows, in excruciating detail, that Scott and his team died because Scott was incompetent: bad at planning, bad in the field, bad as a leader.

This prompted me to see if the definitive film version of Scott’s legend, Scott of the Antarctic (1948) was available for viewing; Amazon had it streaming free (I also looked for, but couldn’t find, the complete Monty Python parody Scott of the Sahara, but as I’m now rewatching Monty Python on Netflix, I’ll get to it) though it’s currently unavailable. John Mills’ Scott is the stiff-upper-lipped Scott, ready to find the pole Because It’s There and because the Pole’s conqueror should be an Englishman. Tragically, he’s just too gentlemanly and decent to do it like Roald Amundsen, who used sled dogs, then killed them for food (while that freaks me out, Scott’s decision to have his people tow the sleds was not a smart alternative). Everyone dies with their upper lips both stiff and frozen.

Next up, 1955’s The Girl In the Red Velvet Swing which I found streaming on Amazon for $3.99. My prompt for this was reading Simon Baatz’ The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex Murder and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, dealing with what was once the crime of the century. Famous architect and sexual predator Stanford White raped teenage chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, then gaslighted her into becoming his mistress. After Evelyn learned White had other lovers, she broke it off and married unstable millionaire Harry Thaw. Upon learning about the rape, Thaw murdered White in public, claiming the “unwritten law” that a man can kill his wife’s rapist (or lover) — a radical move as the unwritten code usually related to catching the guy in the act, not to a six-year-old incident.

The film rewrites all this in a creepy way. White (Ray Milland) is a devoted family man; even though he falls in passionate love with Evelyn (Joan Collins) the moment he meets her, he resists until the minx seduces her. When he refuses to divorce Mrs. White, Evelyn marries Thaw (Farley Grainger) and makes up the rape to explain why she’s not a virgin. Oh, and it’s Thaw’s mother’s fault Harry’s so unstable: she doted on him so much “the womb in which he grew was a chamber of horrors!”

Now for a failure. While I was on vacation this month I read James Goodman’s Blackout, a look at the 1977 New York City power blackout (I liked it, though some people find Goodman’s style off-putting). I liked it, and figured a logical companion would be1967’s Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? in which Doris Day and Robert Morse are among the individuals caught in the 1965 power blackout. Nobody claims it’s a good movie, but so what? And the friends I was staying with enjoy light comedies, even mediocre ones.

Oops. Not available on Amazon Prime. Or Hulu. Or Netflix. Or even YouTube. Only a Russian streaming site (not on a bet). It’s not even on DVD, only VHS, for about $35; I do have a VHS machine I could hook up, but I’m not willing to pay the price. Practically speaking, it’s a lost film, at least for now.

Then a mix of failure and success. I recently rewatched 1981’s The Howling and learned from the commentary track that Howling IV is supposed to be the closest to the original novel. And it was playing on Amazon, so even though I knew it was crap, I rewatched it (quite aside from its other flaws, “closest” is doing a lot of work in that description). Then I streamed VI, mistakenly thinking I hadn’t seen it before. It’s better than IV but not by much, and the werewolf looks like — well, see for yourself.

Then to top it off I turned to VII, which I haven’t seen before … and it’s not available. I’m sure I’m not missing anything (the creators used the old Z-movie trick of recycling footage from previous films) but it was a little disappointing (why yes, I am that kind of obsessive completist). I did manage to Netflix the DVD of VIII, AKA Howling Reborn though.

Does the inability to find the movie matter? Not in the grand scheme of things — first world problems and all that. And not to anyone who doesn’t want to watch specific stuff streaming, they just want to watch something. But I’m almost always looking to watch something specific. So when I can’t find it, it’s really annoying.

Has anyone else had a similar experience of seeking and not finding?




  1. Le Messor

    I think we’ve all had that experience. Even I have, and I’m not even subscribed to a streaming service!

    Oddly enough, the most recent I can remember was with Inhumans. It’s already unavailable! (Though apparently it’s coming to Disney’s service.)

  2. On the plus side I discovered the German film Nasty Girl is streaming on Amazon and End of the Game (with Martin Ritt, John Voight, Robert Shaw and Donald Sutherland as a corpse) is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, which it wasn’t last time I checked. And both are excellent.

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