Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States. This week: Drew Barrymore plays a wet seductress in Poison Ivy, a white dog is trained to attack Black people in White Dog, a psychedelic and gentle masterpiece in The Taste of Tea, and sweaty (and potentially unsimulated) sex in Wild Orchid.
Paid for by Committee to Reelect Judge North, P.O. Box 27113, Seattle, WA 98165
USA, 1992, 93 minutes, Dir. Katt Shea
This culty erotic thriller received enough negative criticism from ignorant men when New Line Cinema released it in 1992, so I won't waste time confronting its apparent problems. I'll just write from my wicked little heart: I love Poison Ivy—but of course I love Poison Ivy, because I love the color red, and I love lots of rain in a movie, and I love horny melodrama. Director Katt Shea stuffs Poison Ivy with all three.
A teenaged Drew Barrymore plays Ivy, a poisonous teen and powerful slut. She befriends a weird girl named Sylvie (played by Sara Gilbert), and they begin a lesbianesque relationship. Not quite lesbian. But almost. Ivy quickly moves in with Sylvie (why? just because) and her parents, who own a pink castle. Sylvie's father is a Danny Westneat-like editorialist, and Sylvie's mom is bedridden and hot. Ivy turns on the entire family, eventually murders one of them, fucks another, and spends the rest of the film tormenting the third.
Singer SZA named a song after Barrymore, and specifically Barrymore's performance in Poison Ivy. Let's close this blurb with SZA's take on the movie: “She was fucking up families and being weird, but she really just wanted to be loved. She was lashing out because she was lonely and pissed that her life was like this. I felt that.” I felt that, too. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1982, 90 minutes, Dir. Samuel Fuller
A young white actress Julie (Kristy McNichol), who adopted the unnamed dog, has a hard time wrapping her brain around how dangerous the pup is: he doesn't want to hurt me, so how bad could he be? Keys, perhaps foolishly, believes he can change the dog's nature. The film centers Black heroism and doesn't rush to rosy conclusions about white people and racism—instead, you leave the story feeling more cynical.
White Dog was mostly unseen in the United States—except for some screenings in Seattle, Detroit, and New York—until 2008, when the Criterion Collection gave it an official home video release. Paramount Pictures suppressed its original release, believing the film's plot to be too controversial after receiving early negative press that called the film racist. Fuller, who dedicated a lot of his career to racial issues work, was furious and hurt at Paramount for shelving White Dog and moved to Europe, never to direct another American movie again. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 2004, 143 minutes, Dir. Katsuhito Ishii
Director Katsuhito Ishii has said his Cannes-opening film The Taste of Tea "isn't too deep." But if you watch the film's gorgeous and trippy and gentle trailer, you'll probably have a lot of questions. Like, why is a big girl haunting that little girl? And why is a train coming out of that teen's forehead? "It could be something or nothing," Ishii says. "Refreshing is what I'd call it." That framing is the best way to watch this psychedelic opus: It "could be something or nothing." Take it as it comes. Let the big moments hit you and then leave you.
Jasmyne and I have talked a lot about how it's much easier to write short blurbs for things we kind of like or don't really like than things we really like, because a 200-word limit makes it hard to capture a big thought. I really, really like this film; it's something I want to carry around with me and replay in my head. Fortunately, my favorite distribution company, Third Window Films, releases the film on Blu-ray next month, which gives me an excuse to write something longer. Someone email me a reminder so I don't forget. In the meantime, let the trailer fill your head with trains and sunsets. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1989, 111 minutes (unrated), Dir. Zalman King
But that's no matter—you're here for the sex. Specifically, you're here for the climactic sex scene between Emily and James, a scene cut out of the film's original release. When you watch, it's clear why. Seemingly, Otis puts her full WAP on Rourke—they were dating IRL—in the film's final few moments. Both of the actors deny the sex was unsimulated. Still, director Zalman King—of Blue Sunshine fame—left it mischievously unclear, probably for notoriety reasons. Watch to judge for yourself. JASMYNE KEIMIG
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ 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. We don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.