post

The Bootleg Files: I.N.R.I.

BOOTLEG FILES 695: “I.N.R.I.” (1923 silent German epic directed by Robert Wiene).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It was considered lost for years.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not for the U.S. market.

Last week, this column considered a groundbreaking silent French attempt at creating a Biblical epic. This week, we take a look across the border to see the German approach to the sacred subject.
Continue reading

post

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.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
It is now a public domain work, but it wasn’t always.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE:
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

post

The Bootleg Files: Capital Punishment

BOOTLEG FILES 693: “Capital Punishment” (1925 silent drama featuring Clara Bow).

LAST SEEN: On Internet Archive.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: In a crummy public domain dupe.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is unlikely that this will be digitally restored.

Unless you are a character in a Joshua Ryan story, it is safe to assume that you would probably not voluntarily submit yourself to prison incarceration. But in this obscure 1925 silent feature, the central character agrees to forsake his liberty and go behind bars as part of an elaborate ruse to call attention to the failings of the criminal justice system. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the system fails him with extraordinary brutality.
Continue reading

post

Winsor McCay: The Artist as a Young Man

Winsor McCay was one of the most important pioneers in the development of animated films, and his creations Gertie the Dinosaur and Little Nemo are still celebrated for their wit and artistry. In this episode, we learn about McCay’s formative years and the influences that helped to shape his creative genius. Our guest on this episode of “The Online Movie Show” is Kevin Scott Collier, author of “Winsor McCay: Boyhood Dreams: Growing Up In Spring Lake, Michigan 1867-1885.”

The episode can be heard here.

post

The Last Days of the Silent Films, Part 1

In the first of a two-part episode, Lon Davis, author of the critically acclaimed “Silent Lives,” offers a fascinating insight on the tumult and career disruptions brought about when the microphone entered the movie studio and the silent film stars were expected to talk on the screen.

The episode can be heard here.

“The Online Movie Show” is produced at the Platinum Wolfe Studios.

post

The Bootleg Files: Ben Hur

BOOTLEG FILES 634: “Ben Hur” (1907 short film).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube and Internet Archive.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: It has been included in anthologies of early silent films.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A groundbreaking example of copyright infringement.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is out there, but why would you want to find it?

One of the most important films in the legal history of intellectual property is also one of the least interesting productions ever captured on camera. If anyone pays attention to this bad old movie today, it is strictly to appreciate its place in copyright protection and not to pay tribute to its artistry.
Continue reading

post

Lon Chaney Speaks!

Lon Chaney was one of the most popular film stars of the 1920s, but he was also among the most mysterious due to his aversion to publicity. In this episode of “The Online Movie Show,” writer Kevin Scott Collier talks about his book “Lon Chaney: In His Own Words,” which collects all known interviews that Chaney did and pieces together the true personality of the Man of a Thousand Faces.

The episode can be heard here.

“The Online Movie Show” is produced at the Platinum Wolfe Studios.

post

The Bootleg Files: The Story of the Kelly Gang

BOOTLEG FILES 620: “The Story of the Kelly Gang” (1906 Australian production that is widely credited as the first feature-length narrative film).

LAST SEEN: A reconstruction using the surviving film fragments is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It is nearly unknown outside of Australia.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There is an Australian DVD of the reconstructed version, but it is not commercially available in the United States.

On December 26, 1906, film history was made in Melbourne, Australia, with the premiere of “The Story of the Kelly Gang,” a cinematic retelling of the rise and fall of that nation’s most colorful 19th century outlaws. At the time, however, no one realized they were witnessing history in the making. And even at this late date, many people are not aware of the film’s importance to the development of the motion picture industry.

Continue reading