Outside of maybe Criterion, Warner Home Video has long been the movie buff's best friend, releasing scores of classic (and not-so-classic) old movies in inexpensive, lovingly produced sets packed with fun and scholarly archival material. Now Warner is making an effort to get even more of its back catalog to people who want it. Starting today, The Warner Archive is making available 150 titles too obscure to merit a full-blown DVD release, but too good to lock away forever. For $19.95, Warner will custom-manufacture a DVD of one of those titles—including artwork and a hard plastic case—and ship it to you within seven days. (Reportedly, the Archive will offer $14.95 digital downloads as well, though the site doesn't really make that option obvious.) After this initial offering, Warner will add 20 new titles a month, including some TV series. If this proves successful—and especially if Warner can push on-line viewing, or can partner with Hulu or Netflix—perhaps the cinephile's dream of total access will be within reach.
Addendum: Per request, here's a list of titles from the initial 150 that immediately grabbed my eye:
*The Actress (1953) — based on Ruth Gordon's play about coming of age in the theater
*All Fall Down (1962) — directed by John Frankenheimer, starring Warren Beatty, based on a novel by the guy who wrote the novel Midnight Cowboy
*Countdown (1968) — Robert Altman's impressionistic sci-fi thriller about an ill-planned moon mission
*The D.I. (1957) — directed by and starring Dragnet's Jack Webb, about a no-nonsense drill instructor
*The Rain People (1969) — early Francis Ford Coppola drama
*Westbound (1959) — the last Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher western not otherwise available on DVD
I can't vouch for the quality of all these because I've only seen about half of them, nor am I implying that the other titles aren't worth your time, but these are the ones that made me nod appreciatively.