Check out the June 26 post on Dave Kehr’s blog for an important piece of news and a staggering statistic.
The important piece of news is the launch of the Turner Classic Movies database, TCMDB, a potential alternative to the often less-than-reliable Internet Movie Database. (Sitting on a panel in Austin with Monte Hellman several years ago, I heard him recount writing to the IMDB to inform them that some of his film credits on the site were incorrect, only to be informed by them that because he wasn’t a qualified film scholar they couldn’t make the required corrections.)
As Dave points out, the TCMDB “has as its core the unsurpassable AFI Catalog of American Feature Films, previously accessible only with a $50 AFI membership (or through certain libraries). For those who don’t know it, the AFI Catalog is a towering work of scholarship that covers the period 1893 to 1971 in exquisite detail, with full credits, reliable plot summaries and significant side notes.” I can only concur with Dave. Indeed, there are times when I think that the only two irrefutably towering achievements of the American Film Institute are David Lynch’s Eraserhead, produced on its west-coast premises, and this reference work.
The staggering statistic, gleaned from TCMDB’s home page, is this: “Of the 144,366 titles listed in the database, only 5,257 are available on home video. That’s 3.64 percent.”
To attempt to contextualize the meaning of this, consider Sturgeon’s Law, credited to the great science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, that “90 percent of everything is crud.” If this applies to movies, and it surely does, then that leaves us 6.36 percent of unavailable movies that aren’t crud. So we still have a ways to go.