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The Bootleg Files: The Search for Bridey Murphy

BOOTLEG FILES 643: “The Search for Bridey Murphy” (1956 drama starring Louis Hayward and Teresa Wright).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS video only.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A film that fell through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

The name Morey Bernstein may not resonate with most people today, but back in 1956 he created a global sensation as the author of a book called “The Search for Bridey Murphy.” Bernstein was not a professional writer – he was the manager of a plumbing and mining supply company in Pueblo, Colorado, but his interest in hypnotism led him on an adventure that changed how the Western world considered the concept of reincarnation.

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The Bootleg Files: Let’s Go Collegiate

BOOTLEG FILES 642: “Let’s Go Collegiate” (1941 comedy with Frankie Darro, Keye Luke and Mantan Moreland).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube and other video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright doomed this to public domain hell.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Wouldn’t it be nice if The Criterion Collection offered it as a digitally restored presentation?

During the 1940s, the low-rent Monogram Pictures reigned as the king of the second features. Back in the day, this studio churned out scores of B-movies that helped support the major studios’ prestige productions. (In that era, you didn’t just go to the theater and see a single flick, but you got a main feature plus a second feature and an assortment of newsreels, cartoons and short subjects.)

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The Sin of Jesus (1961)

Up until the 1960s, the cinema depiction of Jesus followed a consistent standard in terms of how He was depicted – the long-haired, bearded, white-robed Jesus of Renaissance paintings – as well as in the manner of how He conducted himself. The big screen Jesus was a symbol of piety and respect, with filmmakers and actors working with a clearly defined parameter.
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The Bootleg Files: Golgotha

BOOTLEG FILES 641: “Golgotha” (1935 French film by Julien Duvivier).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: The English-dubbed version is available from a public domain label.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Subsequent controversies prevented a commercial U.S. re-release.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: A proper restored version of the French-language original does not seem likely at this time.

Last week’s column focused on “The Lawton Story,” the first American sound film to present Jesus Christ as a full-frontal character. But it was not the first sound film about His life. That distinction goes to a long-forgotten French film from 1935 called “Golgotha,” directed by Julien Duvivier, who is best known for the 1937 classic “Pépé le Moko,” the 1942 all-star Hollywood film “Tales of Manhattan” and the 1948 version of “Anna Karenina” starring Vivien Leigh.

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The Bootleg Files: The Lawton Story

BOOTLEG FILES 640: “The Lawton Story” (1949 Christian film).

LAST SEEN: In a March screening at the Vaska Theater in Lawton, Oklahoma.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: VHS copies were briefly available in a single Oklahoma store.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It’s complicated.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There are too many issues to address.

The first American production of the sound film era that depicted Jesus Christ as a full-frontal walking, talking central character was not made in Hollywood. Instead, it was shot in an Oklahoma site called Holy City of the Wichitas, located outside of the city of Lawton. In many ways, the back story on the film’s creation is more fascinating than the on-screen presentation, although the film is not without its value.
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The Bootleg Files: Minstrel Days

BOOTLEG FILES 639: “Minstrel Days” (1941 musical short film starring Bud Jamison and Willie Best).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: This is one film that Warner Bros. is not eager to re-release.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Really?

Earlier this week, Starbucks closed down its U.S. cafés for an afternoon and gave its workforce a training session in racial tolerance. Several short films were shown to the Starbucks team that highlighted the insensitive treatment that many African-Americans experience in public spaces and retail settings.
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