How Big Pharma Is Holding Classic Movies Hostage
Slap-O-Rama 94 (AKA The Academy Awards) happened last weekend and, frustratingly, one of the segments cut from the broadcast – presumably in order to free up time for macabre dance routines and clips of The Flash entering the Speed Force – was a recap of the Governors Awards presentation, in which this year’s honorary Oscars were handed out. Among the recipients (which also included Samuel L. Jackson and Liv Ullman) was comedy legend Elaine May, who directed classic films like A New Leaf, Mikey and Nicky, and the unfairly-maligned Ishtar.
This award also serves as a good reminder that one of May’s very best movies, and one of the best comedies of all time, is unavailable to stream, or even to buy on physical media; 1972’s The Heartbreak Kid, which tells the story of a dissatisfied newlywed who relentlessly pursues a college student while on his honeymoon.
Why is this hilariously cringey exploration of toxic male selfishness so difficult to track down? Back in the ‘70s, the film was partly funded by a pharmaceutical company (it was the ‘70s after all). Now Bristol-Myers Squibb owns the rights to a handful of films including The Heartbreak Kid, The Stepford Wives, and the classic mystery movie Sleuth. And bizarrely, they won’t release any of them on Blu-Ray – probably because withholding in-demand products is just how big pharma operates. The same company was just sued for more than $6 billion for allegedly delaying a cancer drug in order to “avoid payments to shareholders.” Which, admittedly, sounds like a way more important issue than the availability of a Charles Grodin movie.
What makes this all extra-infuriating is that the crappy remakes of all these movies are readily available to rent or buy, including the Farrelly Brothers’ version of The Heartbreak Kid starring Ben Stiller –
– which completely negates the point of the original by making the protagonist’s bride a maniacal coke-fiend who, understandably, drives him into the arms of a beautiful stranger. Until this drug magnate comes to their senses, at least there’s a semi-decent copy of the original up on YouTube.
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Top Image: Palomar Pictures