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The Bootleg Files: Up in the Air

BOOTLEG FILES 668: “Up in the Air” (1940 Monogram feature starring Frankie Darro and 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: It would be great if this little film was digitally restored.

The 1940 Monogram Pictures feature “Up in the Air” may not be the best film of its era, but its surplus amount of ideas crammed into a compact 62-minute running time certainly makes it the busiest. Part-mystery and part-comedy, with musical numbers and a strange mix of egregious and progressive attitudes on race, this little B-level production has more pep than most A-grade flicks.
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The Bootleg Files: Confederate Honey

BOOTLEG FILES 667: “Confederate Honey” (1940 Warner Bros. animated short).

LAST SEEN: On DailyMotion.com

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On LaserDisc and in an edited DVD release.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Politically incorrect content.

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

During the past few years, there has been an uncommon degree of attention paid to the Confederate States of America, which died in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. On one side, a new wave of white racists is flying the Confederate flag at rallies where they spout their idiotic hatred. On the other side, left-wing revisionists are spending their time demanding the removal of statues of Confederate generals and the renaming of schools and streets named for the military leaders of that long-deceased secessionist nation.

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The Bootleg Files: The Norelco Santa Commercials

BOOTLEG FILES 666: “The Norelco Santa Commercials” (long-running television advertising campaign).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No perceived home entertainment market for old TV commercials.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Every Christmas season, certain programming is dusted off for an annual television broadcast. But for those of us who admit to being a certain age, there is one holiday favorite that always made the December television line-up worthwhile. No, it wasn’t a movie or a standalone special. Instead, it was a simple but effective 30-second commercial for a company specializing in electric razors.

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The Bootleg Files: The Man in the Barn

BOOTLEG FILES 665: “The Man in the Barn” (1937 short film directed by Jacques Tourneur).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No commercial home entertainment release.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

On the evening of January 13, 1903, an elderly house painter in Enid, Oklahoma, named David E. George laid dying in a hotel room from an attempted suicide. Before he passed away, George told the few people gathered at his bedside, “I killed the best man that ever lived.” The man who was killed, according to George, was Abraham Lincoln – and George insisted that he was John Wilkes Booth, the president’s assassin. Before he could explain how he could be someone who had been killed 38 years earlier, George slipped into a coma before dying.
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The Bootleg Files: The Passion Play of Oberammergau

BOOTLEG FILES 664: “The Passion Play of Oberammergau (1898 film at the center of a historic lawsuit).

LAST SEEN: The full film has not been seen since its original release.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASONFOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A landmark patent infringement case.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Too late.

Thisweek’s column is different because it does not involve a production that can only be seen in an unauthorized presentation. Instead, we are going to revisit a long-forgotten story about one of the first legal challenges of patent infringement connected to the film industry.

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The Bootleg Files: The Apple-Knockers and the Coke

BOOTLEG FILES 663: “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke” (1948 stag film).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Not believed to be included in any commercial release.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A naughty film that circulated underground for decades.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

For a number of years, rumors circulated that Marilyn Monroe appeared in pornographic movies. Much of the fuel for that belief came from her 1949 nude calendar art photo shoot, for which she only received $50. After all, if the great MM could disrobe for a still photographer during the period when she was a struggling actress, why wouldn’t she go one step further and go clothing-free for an adult film?
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The Bootleg Files: It’s the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown

BOOTLEG FILES 662: “It’s the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown” (1988 TV special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS video.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It is out of circulation for many years.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

Following the dismal reception of his 1988 made-for-television special “It’s the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown,” Charles M. Schulz lamented that “I wanted this to be my ‘Citizen Kane,’ but it’s not.” From an Orson Welles analogy perspective, the production might have been closer to those infamous drunken outtakes for the Paul Masson champagne – a weird, embarrassing blip in the late stages of a brilliant career.
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The Bootleg Files: Murder in the Blue Room

BOOTLEG FILES 661: “Murder in the Blue Room” (1944 mystery-musical flick).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It fell through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

During the 1940s, Universal Pictures arguably produced the most entertaining films playing in American theaters. This is not to say that Universal had the most artistically extravagant or intellectually provocative output. But for sheer pleasure viewing, this scrappy little studio was aces when it came to noir, Westerns, jukebox musicals, cheesy horror and lowbrow comedies. Back in the day, nobody ever left a Universal film feeling bored.
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