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The Bootleg Files: The Great Commandment

BOOTLEG FILES 658: “The Great Commandment” (1939 feature film inspired by the ministry of Jesus).

LAST SEEN: On several online video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright opens it up to endless duping.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is stuck in public domain hell.

In 1939, an Episcopal priest from Red Wing, Minnesota, named James K. Friedrich brought forth “The Great Commandment,” a $130,000 feature-length production as the first offering of his start-up company Cathedral Films. The film created a bidding war among the major Hollywood studios, with 20th Century Fox paying $200,000 for the rights to this production. However, the studio was not interested in releasing “The Great Commandment.” Instead, it planned to shoot a big-budget remake that would star Tyrone Power, its top box office attraction.
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The Bootleg Files: Alice the Fire Fighter

BOOTLEG FILES 657: “Alice the Fire Fighter” (1926 animated short by Walt Disney).

LAST SEEN: On several online video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright opens it up to endless duping.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Although it has been restored, it is stuck in public domain hell.

In 1924, an aspiring animator from Kansas City named Walt Disney caught his first big break when he signed with the independent Winkler Pictures to create a series of short films that combined animation with live action. Disney came up with the concept of a having a then-contemporary riff on “Alice in Wonderland,” with a live action little girl interacting with comic cartoon characters. This series became known as the Alice Comedies, and 57 one-reelers were created over the next three years.
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The Bootleg Files: Hare-Breadth Hurry

BOOTLEG FILES 656: “Hare-Breadth Hurry” (1963 animated short with Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote).

LAST SEEN: On DailyMotion.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

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

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It’s not a priority.

I wasn’t expecting to do another Bugs Bunny-related column after covering “Rabbit Every Monday” a few weeks ago, but I stumbled over the 1963 “Hare-Breadth Hurry” by accident and felt that this deserves a second look.
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The Bootleg Files: The Fighting Kentuckian – The 8mm Version

BOOTLEG FILES 655: “The Fighting Kentuckian – The 8mm Version” (severely truncated 8mm version of the 1949 John Wayne film).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Severely edited version of a feature film in a long-defunct home entertainment format.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Prior to the proliferation of video cassette recorders in the late 1970s and early 1980s, movie lovers who wanted to screen their favorite classic films at home made use of portable projectors that screened the 35mm or 70mm Hollywood theatrical fare in the much smaller 16mm, 9.5mm, 8mm and Super 8 formats.
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The Bootleg Files: Anderson’s Own Gang Comedy

BOOTLEG FILES 654: “Anderson’s Own Gang Comedy” (1926 fan film inspired on the Our Gang series).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO:
None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Partially-lost film with no perceived commercial value.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

For every Hollywood franchise that gets screen time at the multiplex, it seems there are an endless number of fan films created by overenthusiastic movie lovers who want to be part of cinematic fun. But fans films are not a recent phenomenon. Indeed, the earliest known fan film was made back in 1926, and it was also part of a strange trend that brought a mix of filmmaking and hucksterism to small town America.
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The Bootleg Files: Heil Honey I’m Home!

BOOTLEG FILES 653: “Heil Honey I’m Home!” (1990 British sitcom that ran for one episode before being cancelled).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: One of the most notoriously bad productions in British television history.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Nein.

Imagine “I Love Lucy” with Adolf Hitler as Ricky Ricardo, Eva Braun as Lucy and an obnoxious Jewish couple as the Mertzes. Welcome to the production that makes “The Day the Clown Cried” seem like the pinnacle of fine art: the 1990 British sitcom “Heil Honey I’m Home!”
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The Bootleg Files: In Search of Historic Jesus

BOOTLEG FILES 652: “In Search of Historic Jesus” (1979 feature from Sunn Classic Pictures).

LAST SEEN: On DailyMotion.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS and LaserDisc.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It was never released on DVD or Blu-ray.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It could happen.

During the 1970s, movie audiences were bombarded with a parade of weird documentaries and docudramas from a Utah-based company that went by the names Sun International Pictures, Schick Sunn Classic Pictures and Sunn Classic Pictures. This company tapped into the growing public interest in the paranormal and historical revisionism by offering films aimed at challenging scientific and scholarly traditions.
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The Bootleg Files: Rabbit Every Monday

BOOTLEG FILES 651: “Rabbit Every Monday” (1951 animated short with Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam).

LAST SEEN: On DailyMotion.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS and LaserDisc only.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It was never released on DVD or Blu-ray.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It could happen.

Believe it or not, a surprisingly substantial number of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons were never released on DVD or Blu-ray. We’re not talking about the politically incorrect shorts that have been kept of circulation for very obvious reasons, but the knockabout cartoons that were a staple of kiddie television for decades and were part of the initial VHS and LaserDisc release of the old-time Warner Bros. output.

One of Bugs Bunny works not on DVD or Blu-ray is the 1951 “Rabbit Every Monday.” It may not be a classic of the genre, but it has enough goofy charm to generate smiles and light chuckles.

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