A lot of crap gets digitally enhanced and released on Blu-ray. Just look in a Walmart bargain bin brimming with $5 junk.

So it’s a shame that the 1942 movie version of Ayn Rand’s autobiographical novel We the Living is still only available for viewing in a slightly-better-than-OK 2009 DVD version. (You can also stream the slightly-better-than-OK version for free via Amazon Prime.) It deserves the high-resolution treatment.

Oh well. We’re really blessed to have this epic movie available at all. It barely survived a tortuous, half-century-long journey.

Here’s the deal…

Without Rand’s permission, We the Living was produced in Italy as a two-part film (Noi Vivi and Addio Kira) during World War II. It was directed by Goffredo Alessandrini and starred Alida Valli (well known later for The Third Man) as Kira, Fosco Giachetti as Andrei, and Rossano Brazzi as Leo.

Before its release, it only escaped censorship by the Mussolini government because it was set in, and critical of, Soviet Russia. But after a brief theatrical run, German authorities, allied with the Italian government, demanded We the Living be pulled from distribution because, hey, screening a movie about an independent young woman’s struggle against a police state was maybe not so cool in a Fascist country. So the film was suppressed and ordered destroyed.

Some two decades later, Erika and Henry Mark Holzer, legal representatives for Ayn Rand, heard about the movie. They vowed to track down a copy and eventually re-issue it.

As Henry Mark Holzer has explained, their challenges over the next 20 years included locating a print of the film, cutting a deal with its owners, copying the flammable nitrate negative onto safety stock, shipping the materials from Rome to New York under intense U.S. Customs scrutiny, and re-cutting the four-hour movie.

In addition, they had to write previously non-existent subtitles, make a deal with Ayn Rand’s estate, find a distributor, and promote the film.

“Other than that,” Holzer has said, “it was easy.”

We the Living was finally screened for the first time in more than 40 years at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado in 1986. Since then, it’s become an “art house” favorite.

It is a remarkable and powerful adaptation of Rand’s novel about the real-life dystopia in which she lived. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you make time to either stream it from Amazon or get your hands on a DVD copy.

But I ask again, where’s the Blu-ray?