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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USA, 1940, 87 min, Dir. Tay Garnett
I’m trying to see John Wayne through Marlene Dietrich’s eyes. Legend says Dietrich spotted Wayne and said, “Mommy wants that for Christmas,” to her producer. That apparently sealed the deal. Wayne would star opposite Dietrich in Seven Sinners, the first of three films the two appeared in together. (The other two: Pittsburgh and The Spoilers.) Wayne is obviously a top-shelf famous person, but Dietrich holds my attention. She’s almost otherworldly, especially in this movie about a nightclub singer who keeps getting kicked off islands in the Pacific. Why the evictions? Because she is, as she says in this platinum line reading, “a bad influence.”
A little note on the costuming: Pay attention to how the costume jewelry catches light in the movie. I have a weakness for color and over-styling, so I used to overlook black and white films, but what opened my eyes was jewelry master Eugene Joseff’s costume jewelry in Gilda. It’s impossible to tell in still photography, but the way his jewelry reflects on film rivals technicolor’s brilliance. Joseff is the king of this era’s movie jewelry (check out his IMdB), and his work is also on full display in Seven Sinners. It sparkles like a TikTok filter. CHASE BURNS
Find it in the Drama section, under Classic Drama.
USA, 1996 , 103 min, Dir. Mary Harron
1968 was a wild year. MLK and RFK were both assassinated. 5,000 university students and police rioted in Paris. Fucking “Hey Jude” was released. And among it all, Andy Warhol got shot by radical feminist Valerie Solanas for allegedly losing the script of a play she hoped he would produce (titled Up Your Ass). Solanas was a lesbian and a sex worker who believed ardently in the inferiority of men and that women could reproduce without them. She famously wrote The S.C.U.M. Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men), an anarchic, radfem text that argued men corrupted the world and only women could fix it.
Directed by Mary Harron (of American Psycho fame), I Shot Andy Warhol tells Solanas’ story, incorporating some of her original text into the narration. Lili Taylor transforms into Solanas in a performance that’s both spirited and totally unhinged, almost convincing the audience that Warhol really needed to be shot. Also of note is Jared Harris as Andy Warhol, Stephen Dorff as Candy Darling, and Martha Plimpton as Solanas’s friend and sometimes lover, Stevie. Warhol never fully recovered from his encounter with Solanas, a traumatic event that haunted him for the rest of his life.
The movie has gotten some new attention as part of Missing Movies, a preservation group composed of filmmakers, distributors, historians, and journalists (including me and Chase!) that clear rights for films that aren’t accessible to the general public. Incredibly, I Shot Andy Warhol is one of those movies whose distribution rights have gotten tangled up, making it unavailable for streaming or DVD re-release. Harron herself is serving on Missing Movies’ board of directors, so hopefully this film will find its way to you soon… JAS KEIMIG
Find it in the Drama section.
USA, 1982, half-hour comedy, Created by David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams
The 1982 Police Squad! only lasted six episodes, but they’re six of the funniest episodes of television ever made, and the only thing more laughable is the reason ABC executives came up with to cancel it.
The weirdos behind this series were David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, whose work you probably know from Airplane! The three got their start in a Milwaukee comedy troupe, and adapted their skits into a film called Kentucky Fried Movie, which, if you were a 13-year-old with a subscription to Mad Magazine in 1977, you would have considered the greatest film ever made (until Monty Python’s Life of Brian came out two years later). Following that, the trio landed an even bigger hit with Airplane! in 1980 and then startled everyone by creating a TV series – an unusual move, since at a time artists typically wanted to “graduate” the other way, from television to film.
Police Squad! is, I think, the team’s best work. It’s a police procedural, and the jokes fly a mile a minute, even faster than those in Airplane! – and as in their prior projects, the comedy is delivered by “serious” actors who never crack a smile or mug or telegraph to the audience that something funny has just happened. It’s the anti-Mike Meyers school of comedy.
Some of the Police Squad! gags are goofy, like how every episode starts by introducing a guest star who is immediately killed in the opening credits; others are blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, like a boxer who’s shadow-boxing and knocks out his own shadow. And then there’s the delightful wordplay, and running gags like someone offering, “cigarette?” while holding one out, to which the other party inevitably replies, “yes, I know.” The comedy in every episode is as meticulously crafted as the best episodes of The Simpsons.
So why did it only last six episodes? Because, ABC executives said, there were too many jokes in this comedy show. They believed that the show asked too much of viewers, and didn’t believe audiences would be willing to pay close enough attention to pick up all the gags.
The team went on to adapt the show into the Naked Gun movies, which are … you know, just okay. The steam seems to have run out of the cop-jokes by the time they landed on the big screen, but at least we’ll always have these perfect six gems from 1982 to cherish. MATT BAUME
Find it in the Directors section, under Dante, Joe.
Every week, we feature one formerly unstreamable title that’s now available to watch online. This week it’s….
USA, 1995, 95 min, Dir. Bryan Spicer
My boyfriend has begged me to watch the original Power Rangers movie with him for years, and I gave in recently. He confessed he’s seen the movie about 386 times (!!!), although nearly all of those watches happened when he was nine. I bring this up because Power Rangers obviously has an extreme effect on people, especially men of a certain age (36).
I’m also in the middle of digging through the Showa-era Godzilla movies, and it’s funny how much these two tokusatsu franchises have in common. It’s easy to disregard how strange and loud the suit acting is here because tokusatsu tropes have worked their way into popular American films. (The Spy Kids franchise uses a lot of tokusatsu-style suit acting, especially with its villains.)
Anyhow, I think the original Power Rangers holds up??? I also think the bad guys look like mascots on poppers at a Mardi Gras rave. I particularly love how much goop and ooze is in this movie. And of note: The soundtrack is stacked, with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Devo, and Van Halen. Who’s your favorite Power Ranger? CHASE BURNS
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.