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The Bootleg Files: The Compleat Beatles

BOOTLEG FILES 606: “The Complete Beatles” (1982 documentary).

LAST SEEN: It can be found via online video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS and LaserDisc.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The cute Beatle kiboshed it.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Yeah, yeah, yeah…not!

In the aftermath of the December 1980 murder of John Lennon, there was a huge outpouring of nostalgia for all things Beatles. Record sales of the classic albums spiked, and a wave of news coverage recalled the legendary band’s impact on music and popular culture.

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The Bootleg Files: The Orson Welles Show

BOOTLEG FILES 605: “The Orson Welles Show” (1979 unsold television pilot).

LAST SEEN:
A copy is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: A few minutes were included in the 1995 documentary “Orson Welles: One Man Band” that appeared on the DVD for “F for Fake.”

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lack of perceived commercial value.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is possible.

During the 1970s, Orson Welles became a ubiquitous figure on the television talk show circuit. His appearances on the programs hosted by Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett, Dinah Shore, David Frost and Tom Snyder were always entertaining, with Welles charming audiences via amusing lo-fi magic tricks and richly spun displays of his raconteur talents.

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The Bootleg Files: Petroushka

BOOTLEG FILES 604: “Petroushka” (1956 animated short based on the Stravinsky ballet).

LAST SEEN: A copy is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: As part of a VHS anthology of John David Wilson’s animated films.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It seems to have fallen through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is possible.

At least two generations of television-weaned cartoon lovers identify some of the greatest works of operatic and symphonic music by linking the landmark melodies to the knockabout mayhem of Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Heckle and Jeckle, Woody Woodpecker and Tex Avery’s menagerie. Of course, not every animation studio believed that the only way to approach classical musical was by having cartoon characters dancing on pianos or flooding an opera house. Disney did include comic highlights in his groundbreaking feature “Fantasia,” but he also mixed in segments of compelling artistic wonder – including an interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” tied to the rise and fall of the dinosaurs.

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The Bootleg Files: The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon

BOOTLEG FILES 603: “The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon” (a 1966-2010 annual televised fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association).

LAST SEEN: Bits and pieces can be found on YouTube and other video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No attempt was made to release the entire telethon broadcasts in their entirety for home entertainment viewing.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: None.

For many people, this week’s passing of Jerry Lewis was followed by commentary and articles on his classic films. But for my generation – those who grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s – the emotional connection to Lewis was less about his movies and more about the bizarre, elephantine mayhem that he unleashed annually on the American public over the Labor Day weekend that became known as the “Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.” Never in the history of fundraising has a greater display of slapstick, vulgarity and pathos been slapped together around the personality of someone who was certainly the most brilliant egomaniac in show business.

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The Bootleg Files: A Free Ride

BOOTLEG FILES 602: “A Free Ride” (the oldest surviving extant pornographic film made in the United States).

LAST SEEN: It can be found on Wikipedia.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: It was included in at least once porn anthology and a documentary on erotic cinema.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The difficulties in releasing this type of film back in the day.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Eh, you can watch it online for free.

One of the most historically significant films in the development of the American cinema is also one of the most mysterious and obscure. And if you never heard of the silent short film called “A Free Ride,” do not consider yourself ignorant – this is not the kind of film that you will see in a college film appreciation class or in a TCM showcase.

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The Bootleg Files: Jack Benny’s First Farewell Special

BOOTLEG FILES 601: “Jack Benny’s First Farewell Special” (1973 television production featuring Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Dean Martin).

LAST SEEN: It can be found on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No one wants to put it out on commercial DVD.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There is no great push to get this released.

I don’t know who came up with the term “special” to define the one-shot variety productions that pockmarked television broadcasting from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. For the most part, these offerings were anything but special – most were forgettable, some were dreadful, but only a handful possessed the emotional or artistic quality that truly deserved to be called special.

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The Bootleg Files: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour

BOOTLEG FILES 600: “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” (1968-70 television series).

LAST SEEN: Bits and pieces can be found on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It is a bit complicated.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not in its original form.

Contemporary children’s television is a fairly boring scene that offers little in the way of genuine fun for the young viewers. Indeed, some shows are so lacking in energy and personality that you can’t help but wonder if the programming is designed to narcotize the kiddie audience into a state of numbness.

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The Bootleg Files: Fantasia – The Censored Centaurs

BOOTLEG FILES 599: “Fantasia – The Censored Centaurs” (deleted characters from Disney’s 1940 masterwork).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Racially motivated humor that the Mouse Factory does not want you to see.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Oh, Lawdy!

In many ways, Walt Disney was an artist who was way ahead of his times: his pioneering work in sound and color animation set new standards for filmmaking, and his genius for merchandising laid the foundation for contemporary Hollywood’s marketing machinery.

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