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Top movies missing from the shelves

Errol Flynn's immortal The Adventures of Robin Hood finally made it. So did the collected exploits of Indiana Jones. As for the original Star Wars trilogy, they continue to reside in the recesses of George Lucas' mind, in a galaxy far, far away.

With the explosive advent of the DVD home entertainment format -- this year, both sales and rentals have finally overtaken those of the video cassette market -- it's not unreasonable to assume that most of cinema's big titles have long been available for consumers to enjoy. But that's hardly been the case, as several highly requested titles took years to finally debut -- or, in some cases, have yet to debut.

Fans had been loudly clamoring for the Back to the Future trilogy, and they were finally blessed with a nice DVD package last December. Even more in demand were Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones titles, which finally hit shelves this past October in another spiffy box set. As for Lucas' space opera, easily the most requested movies for DVD integration, Lucas had previously annoyed the faithful by announcing that he won't release the three original flicks until after the final installment of the new trilogy hits DVD following its Summer 2005 theatrical run. Current internet rumors say Lucas is now leaning toward releasing the films next year, but nobody from his camp has officially confirmed this.

In the meantime, other great films are waiting to be released on DVD. Here are 20 of them. Keep in mind, though, that their status might change in a heartbeat: The Grapes of Wrath, Ed Wood and The Accidental Tourist were originally going to be included in this article, yet all three were announced for 2004 release between this story's initial conception and its creation.

(Note: Some of the following titles might be available on foreign issues of DVDs, usually from the UK or Japan; this article refers only to films not released stateside on disc.)

The Freshman (1925). Safety Last may include his most famous scene (hanging from the clock), but this comedy about a college nerd who triumphs on the football field has endured as silent comedian Harold Lloyd's most popular picture.

Suggested Extra Features: None of this comic genius' silent gems are available on DVD (his daughter claims she's still searching for a suitable company to handle his works; has she not heard of Criterion?), but if the go-ahead is ever given, look for some nifty box sets. The 1962 compilation film Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy would be a nice introduction for newcomers, and it's almost a given that Turner Classic Movies' recent documentary on Lloyd would be included.

Wings (1927). The very first Oscar winner for Best Picture, a drama about World War I pilots, has never been released on DVD, yet it's hardly alone among early Oscar flicks: Of the first 10 Best Picture victors, eight are presently not available in this format (although two of them, Mutiny On the Bounty and The Great Ziegfeld, have recently been announced for 2004 release).

Suggested Extra Features: The alternate, restored version (with color tintings and additional sound effects) that was unveiled two years ago. A documentary on the creation of the Academy Awards, revealing how the first ceremony was basically a private dinner party during which all awards were handed out in a five-minute(!) span.

Public Enemy (1931). Just as Warner Bros.'s 1930 Little Caesar made an instant star of Edward G. Robinson, this equally popular film did likewise for James Cagney -- and between the pair, the gangster flick was off and running.

Suggested Extra Features: The film clocks in at 84 minutes, yet upon its original release, it ran 96 minutes; if Warner Bros. still has the missing footage in its vaults, now would be the time to set it free. Hey, come to think of it, Little Caesar isn't available on DVD, either; how about a nifty double feature in one package?

King Kong (1933). Of all the titles on this list, this landmark motion picture about an agitated great ape is the movie I'm most anxious to see on DVD -- even its crummy 1976 remake is already available.

Suggested Extra Features: Audio commentary by film scholar Danny Peary, who offers an excellent analysis of the movie in his books Cult Movies and Alternate Oscars. The inclusion of Turner's 1990 making-of documentary King Kong: Beauty and the Beast. And how about a nice featurette on star Fay Wray, whose presence in several 30s horror flicks earned her the title "scream queen" and who, incidentally, is still alive at the age of 96?

Top Hat (1935). Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made 10 musicals together, yet oddly, not one of them is available on DVD. Half their fans cite Swing Time as their pinnacle of perfection, but for the other half (including me), nothing matches this exquisite gem, with its fabulous Art Deco design and a superb Irving Berlin score.

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