The Bootleg Files: La vie et la passion de Jésus Christ

BOOTLEG FILES 694: “La vie et la passion de Jésus Christ” (1903 French Biblical epic).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On a 2012 commercial DVD release.

It is now a public domain work, but it wasn’t always.

It was included on a commercial DVD label, but its groundbreaking role in the fight against film bootlegging is why it is included here.

In the early years of the 20th century, the motion picture industry was plagued with incessant bootlegging of films. Shady characters who passed themselves off as producers and distributors would obtain copies of films and claim it as their own property, selling prints to unsuspecting exhibitors that were unaware of the original source material. This was particularly problematic with European filmmakers who did not have a U.S. sales presence and, thus, could not defend their property across the Atlantic.
Continue reading


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.

Continue reading