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The Bootleg Files: Gabe Kaplan as Groucho

BOOTLEG FILES 729: “Gabe Kaplan as Groucho” (1982 television special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS and LaserDisc.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Out of circulation for many years.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

In 1976, the producers of the popular sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” planned to have Groucho Marx make a cameo appearance in an episode called “Sadie Hawkins Day.” The script called for Gabe Kaplan to do an impression of Groucho, only to have the real Groucho come in and react to the unreasonable facsimile. Unfortunately, the 86-year-old comedy icon was in extremely frail health and it was decided that he would not go on camera. Instead, Groucho posed for publicity photographs with the show’s cast – but these were not released to the media and only surfaced many years later.
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Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High AKA Volume 2 (2017): 2 Disc [Blu-ray]

It’s too bad when you go in to a Troma movie and know that this isn’t them at their best. While you can kind of blame it on lack of funding, “Volume 2” of the “Nuke Em High” movie series leaves a lot to be desired and never quite sticks the landing in regards to its slew of sub-plots and sidebars. Director Kaufman spends a lot of the first twenty minutes of the movie catching us up to what went down in volume 1 (with the help of narration by the late Stan Lee) and this gives the movie a chaotic pacing that’s tough to focus on.

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Hot Dog… The Movie (1984): Unrated Producer’s Cut [Blu-Ray]

“Hot Dog… The Movie” is that film right at the end of the “Animal House” spectrum and the beginning of the “Police Academy” phenom, where every single work place or setting had its own wacky, madcap plot and array of cartoon characters. Most of the eighties were all about taking what worked and truing to copy its success. In the decade the followed, “Animal House” gave way to a large library of comedies (often teen based) that borrowed from its formula. Some of the titles were pure dreck and some of them were humongous gems. “Hot Dog… The Movie” is the absolute former.

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Scoob! (2020)

I’d be lying if I said that I’m the biggest Scooby Doo fan around. Hell, I’m still stunned that Hanna Barbera has placed so much stock in the franchise for so many decades, but I digress. I had high hopes going in to “Scoob!” as every generation is introduced to Scooby Doo once again in some new form, and “Scoob!” seemed like the right avenue. Not only does it give us a new vision of Scooby Doo, but it makes tweaks to the mythos that I liked, while also establishing a shared Hanna Barbera universe. And yet, at the end of it all, I’d still rather have seen “Scooby Doo on Zombie Island” or “Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost,” again.

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The Bootleg Files: Down Memory Lane

BOOTLEG FILES 727: “Down Memory Lane” (1949 compilation film of Mack Sennett comedy shorts).

LAST SEEN: In a truncated form on YouTube and Internet Archive.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It fell through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

By the late 1940s, silent movies had mostly disappeared from public viewing. Some Charlie Chaplin shorts occasionally turned up in kiddie matinees and museums and film societies would sometimes dust off an old print for one-time screenings. But for the most part, the films created prior to rise of “The Jazz Singer” were rarely on the big screen.
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Alastair Sim’s School for Laughter: 4 Classic Comedies [Blu-Ray]

Like many movie lovers, you mainly associate Alastair Sim with his iconic portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 masterpiece “A Christmas Carol.” His take on Scrooge remains one of the most celebrated and imitated to this day. But Alastair Sim also had a very seasoned career in various film roles that challenged the performer, and the cinema curators at Film Movement have made his other under seen, otherwise under appreciated performances from the period of 1947 and 1960 available for purchase.

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Carnival Magic (1981) [Blu-Ray/DVD]

I was never aware of what “Carnival Magic” was until “Mystery Science Theater 3000” covered it years ago. I’d never seen an alleged kids’ film that was so adamantly uncomfortable, and droning, and inappropriate before. Al Adamson, who was known mainly for adult exploitation films, took his hand at making a children’s adventure film, ends up making in inadvertent cult item that promises to confuse and dumbfound movie lovers for years in the same ilk as “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” and “Troll 2.” I don’t know if I’d call it a cult gem, but it certainly is a cinematic oddity.

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