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The Bootleg Files: Arsenic and Old Lace

BOOTLEG FILES 598: “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1969 television production starring Bob Crane, Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The reason may be a little complicated.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Remaking a beloved classic film is always a tricky endeavor – the new offering is inevitably judged against its predecessor, and it is rare for the second effort to be found superior to the work that came first.

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The Bootleg Files: The Skin of Our Teeth

BOOTLEG FILES 597: “The Skin of Our Teeth” (1959 British television production starring Vivien Leigh).

LAST SEEN: The first two acts of this three-act play are on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Considered lost for many years, but now only available in a truncated version.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Vivien Leigh was one of the most extraordinary talents of the 20th century cinema, and also one of the most elusive. After the British actress conquered Hollywood in “Gone with the Wind,” she would only star in eight films made between 1940 and 1965. Instead, Leigh focused most of her post-Scarlett O’Hara acting in the theater, although she made one detour into live television with a 1959 production of Thorton Wilder’s satire “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

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The Bootleg Files: Raintree County

BOOTLEG FILES 596: “Raintree County” (1957 epic with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor).

LAST SEEN: We cannot confirm the last exhibition of this film.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO:
A VHS video and LaserDisc release only.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Out of circulation in the home entertainment channels for too many years.

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

There are some films that seem to be doomed from the first minutes of their inception through the last seconds of their release, and the 1957 epic “Raintree County” is one of the more notable examples. The story of its creation is far more complex and tragic than anything on that appeared on the screen.

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The Bootleg Files: Malice in the Palace

BOOTLEG FILES 595: “Malice in the Palace” (1949 Three Stooges short).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On too many public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There was one, but it was lost amid the cheapo duped versions.

In some ways, bad comedies are more interesting than good comedies. Because when a comedy fails, it is can be a fascinating exercise to pinpoint just where things began to go wrong and to wonder whether the wreckage could have been prevented with tweaks here and there.

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The Bootleg Files: The Juggler of Our Lady

BOOTLEG FILES 594: “The Juggler of Our Lady” (1957 Terrytoons animated short).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It’s just one of those things that slipped through the proverbial cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It would be lovely.

Among the major animators of the post-World War II period, Gene Deitch had one of the most erratic careers, with output that ranged from memorable (the Oscar-winning “Munro”) to excruciating (the near-unwatchable feature “Alice of Wonderland in Paris”) to mind-boggling (those disturbing Tom and Jerry cartoons from the early 1960s). Deitch first gained prominence in the early 1950s at the United Productions of America (UPA) studio before moving to Terrytoons, where he became creative director. At the time, Terrytoons turned out a series of noisy and frenetic works that lacked the artistic polish of Disney or the subversive wit of the Warner Bros. output. Indeed, even Deitch would ruefully admit that his studio “made the most gross and grotesque cartoons in the galaxy.”

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The Bootleg Files: Orson Welles’ Frozen Peas

BOOTLEG FILES 593: “Orson Welles’ Frozen Peas” (1970 audio outtakes of Orson Welles’ tumultuous recording of a series of British TV advertisements).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Various tributes to the recordings are on a several home entertainment releases.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: These were never supposed to be publicly released.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Maybe as a special feature.

Orson Welles is revered today as one of the most innovative and daring artists to work in the cinematic arts. During his lifetime, however, Welles often struggled to gain the respect of his peers whenever he sought funding for his film projects. Having been burned on several occasions by dubious financial backers and business partners, Welles often sought to self-fund his projects. As a result, he appeared in too many film and television projects that were far beneath his talents just for the sake of getting extra money to keep his dreams alive.

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The Bootleg Files: Something Special – Eartha Kitt

BOOTLEG FILES 592: “Something Special: Eartha Kitt” (1967 TV special starring Eartha Kitt with Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66).

LAST SEEN: It is on HistoricFilms.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Several problems with rights clearances.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It can be done if someone was willing to take the effort.

During the mid-1960s, a syndicated television series called “Something Special” turned up on independent stations across the United States. The program consisted of a one-hour showcase featuring a major headliner and, in some episodes, a supporting guest act. Among the stars who turned up on “Something Special” were Peggy Lee, Julie London paired with then-husband Bobby Troup, the New Christie Minstrels paired with the Righteous Brothers, Barbara McNair paired with Duke Ellington, and Buddy Greco paired with Frankie Avalon and Sammy Davis Jr. Sadly, most of these shows are not easily accessible for viewing today due to rights clearance issues.

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The Bootleg Files: Afrique 50

BOOTLEG FILES 591: “Afrique 50” (1950 French documentary short by René Vautier).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
Never officially released in the U.S.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE:
It would be welcomed.

In 1949, a newly-minted film school graduate named René Vautier received his first big break when the Ligue de l’enseignement commissioned him to create a nonfiction film highlighting its educational mission in France’s West African colonies. Upon arriving in the French African colonies, the 21-year-old Vautier did not find evidence of French benevolence in Africa. Instead, he witnessed a degree of economic exploitation and repressive rule over people who were slowly simmering in their resentment of colonial occupation. As a decorated member of the French Resistance during World War II and a Communist Party member, he was not about to sit back and just tsk-tsk this situation.

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