This is just plain odd, and it makes me very happy.
I got a press release this morning from SPHE, and I had to read it twice because I didn’t believe it the first time. I’ve been hearing for the past decade how “Ishtar” was never going to come out on DVD because of all the delicate negotiating it would require between the various principal players like Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, and Elaine May.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog since it launched, or who was reading my work on Ain’t It Cool, probably knows by now that I’m a fan of “Ishtar,” and not in some winky ironic way, either. I think it’s a genuinely funny film that got unjustly slammed when it was released in 1987, and it’s deserved a major rediscovery for some time now. Last year, Mr. Beaks and I hosted an evening at the New Beverly where we double-featured this film with “Joe Vs. The Volcano,” and seeing it with a crowd was great.
It’s been hard to defend the film when it’s been largely unavailable to the viewing public, and it’s been hard to explain to people that there are reasons other than the quality of the film that have kept it off of DVD entirely. How many high-profile film can you honestly say have never had a DVD release in the American market? How many Warren Beatty films or Dustin Hoffman films have been completely shelved and sat out this format entirely?
One of the reasons I love the Warner Archive program is because it’s finally making available films that might otherwise not justify the marketing and manufacturing money it would take to put them out. Something like “Doc Savage” or “Freebie and the Bean” or “Pretty Maids All In A Row” might not sell 10 million copies, but the way Warner handles those particular titles, the films don’t have to. I assumed that if we ever saw “Ishtar,” it would be some sort of similar strategy by SPHE.
Instead, they’re just skipping DVD entirely and putting the movie on Blu-ray, and here’s what the press release had to say:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings the highly-anticipated, hilarious1987 spy misadventure Ishtar to Blu-ray Disc for the first time on January 4, 2011. This outrageous satirical comedy directed by Elaine May (Oscar® Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay for Heaven Can Wait, 1978) and starring Warren Beatty (Oscar Winner for Best Director, Reds, 1981) and Dustin Hoffman (Oscar Winner for Best Actor, Rain Man, 1988 and Oscar Winner for Best Actor, Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979) was never released on DVD and now leap-frogs onto the high definition format for the suggested retail price of $24.95.
Beatty and Hoffman star as down-and-out, past-their-prime singer-songwriters Lyle Rogers and Chuck Clarke, who refuse to believe they are anything but undiscovered musical geniuses. With no job prospects on the horizon in New York, they travel to the Far East to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel, but end up amidst an international crossfire during a layover in the fictional Middle Eastern state of Ishtar between the country”s government, the CIA, and left-wing revolutionary rebels.
With a song in their hearts, the CIA on their backs, a gorgeous revolutionary in their arms and two nations after their heads, Lyle Rogers (Warren Beatty) and Chuck Clarke (Dustin Hoffman) find adventure, romance and comedy on the road to Ishtar.
Ishtar has a running time of 107 minutes and is Rated PG-13.
I’m curious to see if their entire campaign is built around the idea of calling the film “controversial” and selling the idea that this has never been released before. I’m also curious why they’re not even bothering with a DVD release, but I’m not complaining. If I’m going straight to a HD transfer of the film, I guess I’ll cope.
It’s not going to be often that the mere announcement of a title makes it into this particular column, but for a movie that’s taken this long to come out, and for it to come out in such a great format is pretty much just the icing on the cake.
Didn’t see this one coming, and I can’t wait to see it again.