“Danny!” you may or may not be exclaiming at your screen right now. “I’m bored and want to watch a Pre-Code film. However, in being fairly new at this, how do I find certain Pre-Code movies? Is there, like a trick or something?”
Well, it’s not easy knowing how to find Pre-Code Hollywood movies if you haven’t had some time navigating the net, so I decided to put together a nice post about this to help guide you on your way… and hopefully make me some of that sweet Amazon associates money so I can cover this month’s many ill advised DVD purchases, but we’ll see!
Pre-Code Hollywood DVDs and Blu-Rays
If you’re looking for a listing of Pre-Code Hollywood films on DVD and Blu-ray, I’ve put together this page that lists out all of the various, high profile releases I’ve come across. It’s still in its infancy, but will serve as a good resource for finding what you’re looking for.
- Independent video stores — Yes, there are supposedly a few of these still around. If they’ve weathered the storm this long, odds are they’ve got a good enough selection to justify it.
- Netflix — Netflix will carry most widely commercially released DVDs for rental. This is fine if you’re looking for something like Gold Diggers of 1933 (as long as no one has broken their copy), but if you want something that’s been printed on demand (a la Warner Archive), you’ll have to look elsewhere.
- Classicflix — An online disc rental service identical to Netflix only without the streaming and a bit pricier. However, they also have all of the MOD (movies on demand) discs that Netflix doesn’t carry– Warner Archive and the like. I use this service to get a lot of the videos I review here, and while I do get some broken discs, they always get me replacements quickly and painlessly.
- Your local library — I’ve had surprising success perusing the stacks of my local library chain. They’ll even occasionally have Warner Archive titles, as well as entire Forbidden Hollywood collections that are available as a single item. Long rental periods and no cost to rent are added bonuses here, too.
Pre-Code Video On Streaming Services
There are two major players in the streaming video movement right now, as well as a bright young upstart that probably isn’t a bad place to start.
- Netflix Streaming ($7.99/month) — They have, to be honest, a truly abysmal selection of pre-Code cinema. It’s either extremely popular stuff– the Universal monster movies notably– or just a bunch of badly sourced public domain prints.
- Amazon Prime Streaming ($80/year) — While you’re not going to have the best of luck finding popular Pre-Code films streaming on their site, Amazon has a great deal of older, public domain versions, as well as copies of more popular pre-Code films for rent or purchase.
- Warner Archive Instant ($9.99/month) — Last and certainly not least is the recently uncovered Warner Archive Instant system. They even have a section devoted solely to Pre-Code flicks! The only downside is that it’s slightly more expensive than the other services, and it’s available on fewer devices. Hopefully this will change in the future.
Grey Market DVD Sellers
Grey market sellers are a big boon for Pre-Code aficionados who want to track down something obscure but don’t want to risk some of the shadier back alleys of the internet to try and track them down.
I’ve, personally, never gone this route, but Cliff Aliperti has put together FindOldMovies.Com, which allows you to search for a film and find dealers online.
Pre-Code on Internet Video
And by internet video, I’m of course referring to YouTube. Luckily, since they increased time limits, it’s a lot easier to find movies on the service. I went ahead and put together a playlist of full length Pre-Code films I’ve found on YouTube (and there’s probably more I’m missing).
You may also want to try out Rarefilmm, which posts a lot of harder-to-find stuff that’s usually trapped in legal issues.
Yes, you can torrent pre-Code movies, which is handy if they’re not available via any of the other markets (or, if you’re a bastard, even if they are available another way). You get no recommendations from me on any of this, but as a last ditch effort it may be your only bet.
Of course, talking about movies of the 1930’s, we have to note that there are simply some movies that are difficult to find because no copy is currently in circulation. Studios sit on them, film stock is too delicate to dupe, and some have simply vanished.
Wikipedia has a list of film from the 1930’s that are considered lost, if you want to cross reference it with whatever you’re looking for.