The once-in-a-generation inferno that conveniently cleared Universal's backlot on Sunday wasn't without its share of withering casualties; as noted here this morning, the New York street exterior, Back to the Future courthouse and the studio tour's King Kong exhibit were among the most lamentable (and well-insured) studio features to burn to the ground. Potentially worse yet was Universal's "video vault," which was responsible for no small part of the billowing black plumes welcoming movie-loving tourists to Hollywood, and which got us hoping — or praying, rather, on our knees, crying and everything — that maybe The Sting II or Ghost Dad might be lost to the happiest high flames of Hell we'd ever seen.
Alas! "Firefighters managed to remove some of the videotapes," reported today's LA Times. " 'Nothing is lost forever,' Universal President Ron Meyer said of the videos." Which got us thinking: If we hadn't drunkenly slept through the fire bell at Defamer HQ yesterday morning, but instead had dutifully raced to battle the flames, what would we have saved? And what would we have ceremonially thrown atop the pyre? Play along with our moral quandary after the jump.
We know, we know: "How dare we play God with art?" It's actually pretty easy when you think about chucking the negative of Patch Adams into the conflagration, or sprinting through the stacks and smoke in a quest to save Slap Shot. What if we only had time for one of each, though? Do you run straight for Vertigo, which MCA-Universal bought from Paramount in the 60s along with Psycho and Rear Window? The Last Movie, which has yet to be suitably released on DVD? Imitation of Life? E.T.? The Deer Hunter? Frankenstein? Jaws? Melvin and Howard? The volunteer firefighter in us has to bypass them all and head directly for Orson Welles's Touch of Evil; no opening sequence or Charlton-Heston-as-Mexican performance so towering or bold could conceivably go by way of flame. If it all but killed Welles, the least you could do is risk your life to save it.
But despite a back catalog of such wretched fare as Jaws: The Revenge, W.C. Fields and Me, Flash Gordon (soundtrack notwithstanding) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, all of whose disappearances would assuage our conscience beyond measure, we'd most actively seek out the ritual sacrifice of Howard the Duck. Yes, it features the historical interest of Lea Thompson getting frisky with a billed, feathered dwarf and Tim Robbins's early starring role as a spastic scientist, but still: We wouldn't be surprised if we'd have to move on to our second choice — the Damon Wayans vehicle Major Payne — because Thompson and/or Robbins actually got to burning Howard before us.
That leaves a lot of classics to lament on both sides, but also a lifetime of decent sleep knowing we did the cosmos this cinematic solid. Your results may vary; tell us about it below, if so.