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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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The Bootleg Files: The Westminster Passion Play – Behold the Man

BOOTLEG FILES 660: “The Westminster Passion Play – Behold the Man” (1951 British feature film).

LAST SEEN: It is on Amazon Prime, albeit for the wrong reason.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Yes, but for the wrong reason.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It is complicated.

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

In 2011, a DVD label called Synergy Entertainment made one of the most spectacular blunders in the history of the home entertainment industry. This label, which specializes in public domain titles, brought forth a release of the rarely-seen 1921 French silent film “Behold the Man,” which told the story of Jesus’ last days. But there was a problem: the print used for the Synergy Entertainment was not from the French silent film, but instead belonged to a 1951 British production originally titled “The Westminster Passion Play – Behold the Man.”
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The Bootleg Files: The Hangman

BOOTLEG FILES 659: “The Hangman” (1964 animated short).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: No release to date.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It fell through the cracks.

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

With Halloween a few days away, I was wondering if it would be too corny to stick a horror movie into this week’s column. But rather than go the traditional route of horror movies featuring ghouls, ghosts and God-knows-what the FX people conjure up, I am opting for an intellectual horror story where the real evil does not require the presence of the supernatural or the paranormal – but, instead, comes from the quotidian.
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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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