Unstreamable is a column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.*
Jas Keimig is out this week, so Jamie from Scarecrow Video is jumping in to help out. Thanks, Jamie!
USA | South Africa | India, 2006, 117 minutes, Dir. Tarsem Singh
I forgot about this movie until I watched Lady Gaga's "short film" for "911" off her Chromatica album. "Feels like The Fall," I thought, realizing months later that its director, Tarsem, was the same director behind The Cell, Immortals, and yes, The Fall. "911" was his first music video in 25 years.
Both "911" and The Fall have Tarsem's signatures—surreal, white-hot landscapes; dreamy logic; mishmashed references; a commercial sensibility. Tarsem has spent most of his career making commercials (Levi's, Nike, Pepsi) but has produced a collection of films that have earned him a cult following. While commercial-cum-film directors often create fantastical films that veer off their tracks (I'm thinking of other movies I love like Mary Lambert's Siesta and Macoto Tezuka's Legend of the Stardust Brothers), The Fall actually has a pretty simple plot.
It's the early 1900s. An LA stuntman (Lee Pace) is injured and possibly paralyzed. Stuck in a hospital, he becomes friends with a Romanian-born child (Catinca Untaru) who has a broken arm. The stuntman tells the girl epic stories to pass the time, and they come to life as he tells them. We see a mystic who appears out of a tree stump. An Italian explosive expert named Luigi. Masked bandits. Cryptic castles. Etc. Etc. It plays out like a Lady Gaga music video, but Tarsem's madcap dreaming feels justified by the end. CHASE BURNS
Japan | USA, 1978, 98 minutes, Dir. Tsugunobu Kotani
A Rankin-Bass (live-action!) Japanese-American co-production that aired on ABC in 1977, this fantastic tale dares to expose the dangers of carving anything into a turtle's shell—and also the dangers of falling asleep on the beach. (So many people fall asleep in this movie, so many times.) Mostly, those dangers are that you'll be recognized by a mysterious girl who lives IN the sea apparently, with whom you once, as children, shared the discovery of what looks suspiciously like a really large turtle egg on the beach.
It stars a triple threat of late-'70s beautiful people in the leads: Connie Sellecca, Leigh McCloskey, and OMG what is Carl Weathers wearing?? If Carl only added roller-skates to his fishing vessel uniform, he would steal the crown from Steve Guttenberg in Can't Stop The Music for best actor in a half-shirt, skates, and booty shorts. Seeing him and fake "Quint" Burl Ives side by side is a treat, due to the fact that Carl Weathers may just be the "Ultimate Male"… sorry Hulksters.
Kotani (billed here as "Tom Kotani") directs the hell out of this, from his fantastic day for night beach shots, to what amounts to be one of the best "just past magic hour" camera shots I've seen in a long time. The fact that it features Burl Ives getting on a helicopter is even more amazing. Steven something or other supposedly once said that "filming at sea is hard," so "Tom" does great work on the water here. JAMIE HAN
PS: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I bury the lede? Special effects are handled by Tsuburaya Productions, the studio behind the Japanese Kaiju classic Ultraman TV series, so maybe you can guess that the aforementioned turtle comes into play in a "big" way. None of it makes even a tiny amount of sense, but it's filled with some very solid attempts at greatness and the weird fantasy-fairy tale vibe is strong.
Brazil | USA, 1985, 124 minutes, Dir. Hector Babenco
Like The Fall, Kiss of the Spider Woman finds itself in a contained location (here, a prison cell in Brazil) with two characters dreaming.
It stars William Hurt (Altered States, The Big Chill) and Raúl Juliá (The Addams Family, The Panic in Needle Park) in a melodramatic but affecting story about a homosexual (Hurt) and leftist revolutionary (Juliá) who become cellmates. Hurt plays his character as tragically gay. Like a lisp out of a Tennessee Williams play. Round vowels and long draping fabrics. Juliá's character is terse and eruptive, simultaneously intrigued and hateful of his cellmate. The script, based on a novel by Manuel Puig, is full of wicked lines. ("God help me." "You atheists never stop talking about God..." "And you gays never face facts. Fantasies are no escape.")
Hurt won an Oscar for Best Actor for this role, edging out Jack Nicholson (Prizzi's Honor) and Harrison Ford (Witness) while planting himself in the long tradition of straight actors rewarded for slumming it up as gay characters. The irony is it's been riskier for gay actors to play gay characters, especially before the 2010s, out of fear that once the industry sees them in gay roles, they'll never get cast in straight ones. On the other hand, straight actors get trophies for bending their wrists. But my main gripe is it's clear when you watch Kiss of the Spider Woman that Juliá is the one who holds down the film. I'm so sad he died in '94 at 54.
Still, great movie! CHASE BURNS
USA, 1988, 92 minutes, Dir. Dick Lowry
This nerve-racking TV movie is based on the true story of what is possibly the most consequential gunfight in the FBI's modern-day history. A prime example of a ticking clock policier, the Bureau actually used this movie for training purposes for many years. If you pay attention to dates, this was broadcast only two years after the "Miami Bureau Bloodbath."
Incredibly well cast for a television movie in the late-'80s, the actors portraying the Feds chasing a two-asshole crew robbing and murdering their way around Miami-Dade County are all outstanding. Still, the real standouts are TV favorites David Soul & Michael Gross. Soul, known in the '70s for Starsky & Hutch, and Gross, who was currently playing Tucker P. Carlson's hippie father on Family Ties, are cast entirely against type as the pair of trigger-happy losers. Both excel thanks to a really sketchy type of sweaty Florida charisma as their crimes get concurrently stupider and bloodier. Equally important is a cracking script from Tracy Keenan Wynn that never takes its foot off the gas, inexorably driving toward the brutal titular shootout.
The gun battle itself is amazingly well directed by TV vet Dick Lowry—and even more impressive when you realize how accurate the depiction is. Filmmakers took great pains to get everything as factual as possible, not only for the climax, but for as many of the case details as possible. Straight up, one of the best police procedurals of the '80s. Please tune out the very minimal, yet screechingly maudlin '80s score. JAMIE HAN
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, 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. 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.