If you've wondered whatever happened to Mark Robson's 1971 film version of the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. play, "Happy Birthday, Wanda June," starring Rod Steiger, Susannah York, Don Murray and George Grizzard, you'll be happy to know that it still exits - sort of. No thanks to Sony, which now owns the old Columbia film library. But more about that later...
This is yet another studio film that has never been released on DVD, Laser, VHS or Beta.
Steiger does his inimitable Hemingway thing as Harold, an adventurer who seemingly got lost in the Amazon and possibly died, leaving a wife (York) and son (Steven Paul) behind.
His wife has moved on in many ways when Harold suddenly materializes with an oddball sidekick (William Hickey, who else?). Much to his chagrin, Harold discovers that things have changed during his absence. Pamelyn Ferdin plays the titular Wanda June, a deceased child who plays shuffleboard with Jesus while commenting on the action.
An odd film, not great but definitely worth seeing.
The only known existing 35mm print (a new one) of the film was screened at San Francisco's invaluable Castro Theater three years ago - in August of 2007 - a rare showing that gave me hope that perhaps, just perhaps, Sony was preping the title for an upcoming DVD release. But it never happened.
Sony has been doing great work of late. It's really come through in many areas. Let's hope that this eccentric, eclectic work makes its to-do list.
Finally, a word about Mark Robson: He is an unsung filmmaker I shall forever honor for such contributions as "The Seventh Victim" (1943), "Home of the Brave" (1949), "Phffft!" (1954), "The Bridges of Toko-Ri" (1954), "Trial" (155), "The Harder They Fall" (1956), "Peyton Place" (1957), "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" (1958), "The Prize" (1963), yes, "Valley of the Dolls" (1968) and "Limbo" (1972).