Where on the Shelf Is...Health?
Welcome to "Where on the Shelf Is..." In this column, I look at great TV shows and movies that have never been on DVD and/or Blu-ray. For your pleasure and out of all of our frustrations, this column examines the Where, When and, of course, WHY?! of these non-releases.
Up this week is...HEALTH
What Is It?:
In his 50+-year career, Robert Altman amassed a list of credits unlike most other directors. There are the films that won at Cannes, like MASH (1970) and THE PLAYER (1992). There are those that bombed with critics and audiences, like QUINTET (1979) and DR. T & THE WOMEN (2000).
There are those that should have never been released to the public, like POPEYE (1980), and those that actually were never released to the public, like HEALTH (also 1980).
With a $6 million budget, Robert Altman gathered up Carol Burnett, Dick Cavett, James Garner, Dinah Shore, and a bunch of other people your parents like, and began production on HEALTH, about the goings-on at a health food convention, which we imagine would include a seminar titled 'Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?'
Where Is It?:
HEALTH was originally set for a December 1979 release, but was postponed by the studio after its head (and, more importantly, major Altman proponent) Alan Ladd, Jr. left Fox. Following a series of failed test screenings, Fox announced they would shelve the movie and fill its calendar slot with OH! HEAVENLY DOG, which starred Chevy Chase and Benji, and became only the 80th highest-grossing movie of its year.
According to Altman, then-head of distribution Norman Levy wouldn't return his phone calls regarding HEALTH. "This is a movie that got caught between regimes at the studio. The previous regime apparently didn't like it. The new regime has just let it sit there."
With that, the renegade director decided to show HEALTH with his own money, screening it at the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals and a handful of markets across the States. HEALTH, which Fox let "[languish] in the studio's vaults," would be Altman's last film for the studio. Ever since, Fox has refused to release it even on DVD or Blu-ray.
When Will We See It?:
Unless you were lucky enough to catch it on Fox's eponymous movie channel a few years back, you're likely going to be waiting a long time before you ever see HEALTH.
Whether this neglect is out of forgetfulness, stubbornness or both, it's hard to say. But seeing as none of Altman's Fox features (which also include A PERFECT COUPLE, A WEDDING and QUINTET) made money, it wouldn't be surprising to learn they are holding out on HEALTH based on a childish grudge.
Still, maybe Altman completists will get a fully loaded edition in 2016, should Fox decide to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the man's death.
Where Can We See It?:
The number one search result on Amazon for "Robert Altman HEALTH" isn't a VHS, but a textbook titled "Avian Medicine and Surgery," which will run you $286, just in case your beloved canary has a sore throat. Not even YouTube or eBay can help you, although the former has the next best thing: a 19-minute audio clip of a robot reading HEALTH's Wikipedia entry.
Is one of your favorite movies or TV shows not available on DVD or Blu-ray? Leave your suggestions below or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.