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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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The Bootleg Files: The Donna Summer Special

BOOTLEG FILES 638: “The Donna Summer Special” (1980 television special starring The Queen of Disco).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO:
None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
Clearing music rights have prevented its reissue.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Slim to non-existent.

By January 1980, Donna Summer was at the peak of her career. Dubbed “The Queen of Disco” by the entertainment media, her songs were in constant play on the radio and the music industry had showered her with awards. Her performance in the 1978 film “Thank God It’s Friday” elevated that forgettable B-movie to pop culture immortality with her rendition of the song “Last Dance,” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
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The Bootleg Files: Tall, Tan and Terrific

BOOTLEG FILES 637: “Tall, Tan and Terrific” (1946 film starring Mantan Moreland).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE:
The original film materials are believed to be lost and the copyright expired, which limits the opportunity to properly restore this old flick.

The 1946 film “Tall, Tan and Terrific” is among the most peculiar films within the genre known as “race films”: all-black productions created exclusively for distribution to racially segregated cinemas during the Jim Crow era. The film itself is a forgettable mediocrity, but it is notable for bringing together a number of talented individuals who rarely received a proper chance to display their considerable talents.
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The Bootleg Files: A Special Tiny Tim

BOOTLEG FILES 636: “A Special Tiny Tim” (1970 television special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The program was never released in the U.S. for either broadcast or home entertainment audiences.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.

On January 22, 1968, American television viewers got their first view of Herbert Buckingham Khaury, an entertainer who appeared in the New York club scene for years under a variety of stage names before settling on Tiny Tim. The performer was featured on the premiere episode of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” and with his long and flowing hair, large beaked nose and fluttery movements he made quite an impression. Tiny Tim came on stage, pulled a soprano ukulele from a shopping bag and began singing “A Tisket, A Tasket” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in an astonishing falsetto while funnyman Dick Martin looked on in astonishment. Although the response from the viewers’ mail was decidedly mixed, Tiny Tim was invited back two weeks later, performing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in the same eccentric style as his first appearance.

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The Bootleg Files: The Honeymooners – The REALLY Lost Debut Episodes

BOOTLEG FILES 635: “The Honeymooners – The REALLY Lost Debut Episodes” (1993 television special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
The program was never re-released to home entertainment channels.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.

In 1993, fans of “The Honeymooners” were shocked to learn that some of the earliest episodes of the classic comedy were rediscovered after being presumed lost for more than 40 years. These episodes, which consisted of eight- to twelve-minute sketches performed on the “Cavalcade of Stars” variety program broadcast on the DuMont network, were presented during the spring at special screenings at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. On October 30, 1993, six of the sketches were gathered into a Disney Channel special called “The Honeymooners – The REALLY Lost Debut Episodes.”

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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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