Unstreamable is a column that recommends movies and TV shows you can’t watch on major streaming services in the United States. We publish every Wednesday.
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It’s finally here! Unstreamable swings through Northwest Film Forum THIS WEEKEND with a rare screening of All That Jazz: Save your seat! Let’s hang out! This week, we have a very loosely-themed column to celebrate the screening–two Fosse films and one film starring Roy Scheider:
USA, 1979, 123 min, Dir. Bob Fosse
Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz is about a man who struggles to balance the demands of his ego, work, lust, and family—in that order. If that man sounds like Fosse, then bingo! This movie musical is a not-so-thinly veiled, fantastical almost-autobiography of director and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse. It follows a Fosse-type character, Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), as he zips between editing a film and staging a play, all while cheating on partners and apologizing for diddly-squat.
Joe Gideon’s misogyny is on full display offstage, but onstage—just like Fosse—his gender-neutral choreography is revelatory. Throughout the film, he stages numbers, like the horny “Take Off with Us (Airotica),” with men and women dancing the same way, their sweaty, sinewy bodies stretching and pirouetting. Even though Joe is a cad, the women in his life are stars: specifically the wonderful Leland Palmer as his ex-wife Audrey (based on Fosse’s real ex and muse, Gwen Verdon) and Ann Reinking, who plays a version of herself in the film.
All That Jazz took home the Palme d’Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and made over three times its budget at the box office. The film’s closing number, “Bye Bye Life,” is a musical theater masterpiece and makes death seem like a grand adventure.
*We should note that All That Jazz is newly available on sites like Philo, Crackle, and Tubi. All those services require you to watch commercials or have a cable-like set-up, which isn’t exactly streamable. To enjoy the pinnacle of Fosse filmography, you’ve gotta watch this on the big screen sans commercial break or ensnaring seven-day trial period. Come this weekend at Northwest Film Forum. JAS KEIMIG & CHASE BURNS
In the Directors section under Fosse, Bob. And—*cough*—Tubi, Crackle, and Philo.
USA, 1973, 103 min, Dir. Philip D’Antoni
Car chases are so American. The complete disregard for others on the road, the singular focus on either stopping or getting away from the bad guy. That red, white, and blue flavor is probably due to the fact that U.S. cities have by-and-large always privileged the metal machines, giving them dominion over streets and, by extension, our lives. For me, watching a car chase unfold in a crowded city or congested highway in films fulfills some weirdly American desire to dominate the road in the most selfish of ways. And The Seven-Ups scratches that itch for me!
The 10-minute car chase is smack in the middle of the film. This time around, morally-questionable dirty cop Buddy (Roy Scheider) is hot on the tail of two dudes responsible for killing his fellow officer. The cars screech through Manhattan, nearly squashing children or threatening to crash into oncoming traffic before the villains manage to escape the city in dramatic fashion. Director Philip D’Antoni wasn’t new to this car chasing game. He produced Bullitt and The French Connection (also starring Scheider and stunt driver Bill Hickman), which are arguably the granddaddies of the modern car chase sequence. The Seven-Ups is part of that lineage. The rest of the film? Just fine. JAS KEIMIG
Find it in the Bang! (Action) section under VROOM (Chases and Races!).
USA, 1976-1977, half-hour drama (or comedy? Hard to tell), Created by Norman Lear, Jerry Adelman, Daniel Gregory Browne, Ann Marcus, and Gail Parent
In the mid-1970s, Norman Lear attempted a strange experiment: He created a soap opera parody, designed to run five nights a week, with an ongoing storyline about a woman slowly being psychologically poisoned by capitalism. She panics over the “waxy yellow buildup” that cleaning-product commercials tell her she needs; meanwhile, everyone’s life spirals out of control around her. The plots were bizarre (one man drowns in a bowl of chicken soup) and sometimes groundbreaking (it featured what is probably the first recurring same-sex couple on American scripted television).
Adding to the show’s strangeness was the fact that the star, Louise Lasser, seemed to experience a real-life unraveling during the filming of the grueling first season (130 episodes!). She was arrested for drug possession after refusing to leave a thrift store without an antique dollhouse; the incident was later dramatized on the show. Her character eventually experiences a nervous breakdown and is institutionalized at the end of the first season.
Lasser herself quickly burned out and left Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and who can blame her? The production schedule was murderous. After she departed, the program continued in various strange forms, spinning off into short-lived programs like Fernwood 2 Nite, a fake talk show set in the same town as the original program.
Today, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman survives as an artifact of a time almost as tumultuous and unhinged as our current moment. In fact, TBS green-lit a reboot last year, before canceling the project along with all other scripted programming – a fittingly chaotic handling of one of the television’s most chaotic shows. MATT BAUME
Find it in the Comedy section under Comedy Television.
Every week, we feature one formerly Unstreamable title that’s now available to watch online.
USA, 1969, 149 min | 154 min (TCM print), Dir. Bob Fosse
Not enough is said about Ms. Edith Head.
We also don’t talk enough about Sweet Charity, Bob Fosse’s first feature film starring Shirley MacLaine, featuring Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly, and Sammy Davis Jr, and costume designed by Head. That’s probably because Sweet Charity is too long—over two-and-a-half hours, feels like three. A great Achilles heel of Fosse is his inability to pace a straight scene like he paces a musical number.
But onto Ms. Head. The record-setting Academy Award-winning costume designer, born in 1897 and dead in 1981, designed costumes for nearly 400 films, many of them with astoundingly large casts. Best known for her work in Hitchcock’s movies and movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and White Christmas, Head gets to really let her immaculate sensibility loose on a Fosse musical. The costumes here are the late ’60s at its absolute vivid best. She makes even the party hats look couture.
While the film can drag, the musical numbers are still so sweet and bold and genre-defining that I found myself tearing up during this rewatch. “Rhythm of Life,” starring Sammy Davis Jr., is one of the best things made last century. Watch a clip of it below, then watch it on DVD so the colors pop like they’re motherfucking supposed to pop. CHASE BURNS
Find it in the Directors section under Fosse, Bob. It’s also streaming on BroadwayHD via Prime Video.
Looking for more? Browse our big list of 350+ hard-to-find movies over on The Stranger.
The fine print: Unstreamable means we couldn’t find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, Disney+, or any of the other hundreds of streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn’t find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don’t consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.