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The Bootleg Files: Ben Hur

BOOTLEG FILES 634: “Ben Hur” (1907 short film).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube and Internet Archive.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: It has been included in anthologies of early silent films.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A groundbreaking example of copyright infringement.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is out there, but why would you want to find it?

One of the most important films in the legal history of intellectual property is also one of the least interesting productions ever captured on camera. If anyone pays attention to this bad old movie today, it is strictly to appreciate its place in copyright protection and not to pay tribute to its artistry.
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The Bootleg Files: K-9000: A Space Oddity

BOOTLEG FILES 633: “K-9000: A Space Oddity” (1968 animated short).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It is uncertain what the problem is with this title.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Fifty years ago this week, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” had its theatrical premiere. It inspired controversy, debate and (for many moviegoers) a great excuse to get stoned in the cinema. It also inspired a cute animated short called “K-9000: A Space Oddity,” which was quickly produced and released within months of the Kubrick film.

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The Bootleg Files: The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians

BOOTLEG FILES 632: “The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians” (1970 Rankin/Bass animated television special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Most likely due to a rights clearance issue.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

During the 1960s, Rankin/Bass Productions enjoyed a skein of hit films and television specials, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Mad Monster Party?”, “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Frosty the Snowman.” In 1970, the studio put forth “The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians,” which turned out to be their highest rated television show.
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The Bootleg Files: Inki and the Lion

BOOTLEG FILES 631: “Inki and the Lion” (1941 animated short by Chuck Jones).

LAST SEEN: On DailyMotion.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: VHS and LaserDisc only.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It is not politically correct.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Everybody knows about the notorious Censored Eleven animated shorts produced by Warner Bros. that were taken out of circulation in 1968 and have never been made available for television broadcast and home entertainment release. However, the studio had other lesser-known shorts with politically incorrect content that have also been quietly removed from release. Among these withdrawn films are five shorts created by Chuck Jones featuring the unusual characters Inki and the Minah Bird.

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The Bootleg Files: An Inspector Calls

BOOTLEG FILES 630: “An Inspector Calls” (1954 British drama starring Alastair Sim).

LAST SEEN: On the Internet Archive.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It has been commercially unavailable for years in the United States.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There is a U.K. DVD version, but no U.S. version yet.

In the aftermath of World War II, British writer J.B. Priestley put forth the play “An Inspector Calls,” which offered an interesting mix of drawing room mystery and socialist agitation against his nation’s suffocating class system. The play was first performed in the Soviet Union in 1945 and later had its London premiere in 1946 starring Ralph Richardson as the eponymous investigator. The Broadway premiere occurred in 1947 with Thomas Mitchell as the inspector. “An Inspector Calls” also turned up on British television in 1948 and in radio adaptations in 1950 and 1953.
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The Bootleg Files: The Frito Bandito Commercials

BOOTLEG FILES 629: “The Frito Bandito Commercials” (1967-71 television advertising campaign).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No afterlife for politically incorrect commercials.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: We’ll see that border wall first.

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015, he flabbergasted many people with this impolite description of Mexicans: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

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The Bootleg Files: The Jungle

BOOTLEG FILES 628: “The Jungle” (1967 documentary made by a Philadelphia street gang).

LAST SEEN:
On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Murky rights issue.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It’s possible.

Movies about street gangs rarely resonate with any degree of honesty, if only because filmmakers have a tendency to sanitize or glamorize the gangs with the hope that something good can be found in their bad boy behavior. However, there was one strange little film that attempted to get a street level view of gang behavior, and what made it so unusual was having real gang members on both sides of the camera.
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The Bootleg Files: Laverne & Shirley in the Army

BOOTLEG FILES 627: “Laverne & Shirley in the Army” (1981-82 animated series).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Never re-released after its initial broadcast.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Oh, I hope not.

In concept, making an animated series based on “Laverne & Shirley” made perfect sense because the beloved sitcom was the most cartoonish program in the 1970s prime-time schedule. With its propensity for slapstick comedy and a line-up of over-the-top characters, “Laverne & Shirley” was a living cartoon.
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