You can find part 1 of this post here
, and part 2 is here
In this third post, I'm going to talk a little about the pirate and bootleg "industries".
When I was in my mid-teens, so we're talking 1985/86, I loved bootleg audio tapes. I would buy concert and demo tapes of bands I liked (Adam & The Ants, Bauhaus, The Cure, Sex Pistols) and discover songs that were almost legendary among fans but that had never been officially released.
Before long, I found that a similar market existed for film, and I began looking into it. It's funny... I said in a previous post that The Wicker Man
being aired on BBC2 in late 1986, I think, was the film that sparked my interest in cinema, but I have just realized, now that I put my mind to it, that I must have already been interested in "video nasties" and the like, since I was still at school when I ordered my bootleg video tape of A Clockwork Orange
This Kubrick classic was not officially available in the UK, for either cinema or home video, for some 30 years. Kubrick himself withdrew it from circulation shortly after its original release in the early '70s due to bad press blaming it for some street violence of the time. It was not until after his death that the self-imposed "ban" was lifted. So getting a copy on tape was a hugely significant moment in my film collecting. It was probably the most bootlegged movie in the UK at the time, I'd guess.
I paid £12 for this tape out of the classified ads in the back pages of the NME
. It would have been a tenner, but for an extra £2 I could have a second film on the four-hour tape, too, so I chose another banned classic: Wes Craven's Last House on the Left
. I hadn't seen either movie when I ordered the tape. I watched A Clockwork Orange
many times, though, once it arrived. I don't think I watched LHOTL
more than once. Bit grim, I thought.
I wish I still had that tape. Not least because the recently released-for-the-first-time-in-the-UK DVD of LHOTL
is still missing footage that was probably on my tape version. And those old habits -- of wanting unreleased goodies -- die hard. Even though it's not a film I've returned to since, I still bought it cheap on DVD. Y'know, for the collection.
You see, for years, we in the UK have been treated like babies when it comes to the cinematic arts. Violent films and pornography have long been subject to cuts or outright bans. Ostensibly these bans are to protect the young, into whose hands they might fall. No thought was ever given to the possibility that an adult might not let his or her kids have sight of them. Or that a couple might not have kids, so why shouldn't they be able to watch what they want. No; the kids come first, even at the cost of the rest of the nation's civil liberties. Grrr. (By the way, Melon Farmers
is a great source of information regarding cuts made to UK film releases.)
But it's not just "extreme cinema" that suffers. The UK releases of the Indiana Jones and Rambo trilogies are both cut, for example. I never knowingly purchase a cut copy of a film or TV show,* unless it's at a bargain price. As such, websites like Rewind
are totally invaluable.
At this point, I'd like to make a distinction between bootlegs and pirates. Some people argue that they are one and the same. Those who are interested in collecting bootlegs feel otherwise. A bootleg offers something to the collector that is not available officially (or legally, if you want), while a pirate is a straight rip-off of an official release.
If something I want is available officially and legally, I will buy it. If it is not, then I resort to bootlegs. Simple as.
So, with that in mind, there is something I just don't understand. Back in the '80s and most of the '90s, we had video tape. It was a bit shit and it wore out before too long, but it was better than nothing, right? The advent, though, of the DVD in the late 90s (via the clunky and inconvenient LaserDisc format), coupled with the Internet's global marketplace, has led to a wealth of films being available to us all in pristine quality.
If I want to buy Ichi The Killer
, I don't have to buy the UK version, which is cut by more than 3 minutes; I can import an uncut copy from the US, Australia, or Holland. And yet, with all that is available to us, and with release dates of discs getting closer and closer to the cinema release dates (indeed, we can often buy US discs of films before they hit UK cinemas), why do people still buy pirate copies of films from car-boot sales or Islington street corners?
The quality is shite. Someone I know -- in fact, a couple of different people -- constantly say to me that they have this film or that on DVD and do I want to borrow it. It is always a film that has yet to come out at the cinema, and it is always a pirate copy.
Do these people not realize that the point of DVD is the great picture and sound quality. That is the reason we have switched to DVD from tape. So to get a DVD with a shit picture on it and crappy sound -- not to mention no extra features or subtitles -- and to pay £10 for it is ridiculous! If I wait four months I can pick up a legit copy with fuckloads of extras for the same money.
If we wanted bollocks quality, we'd've stuck to the old ways, you buffoons! * On the subject of cuts, but of a different kind, the US releases of the second, third, and fourth seasons of Quantum Leap, one of my all-time fave TV shows, have all had their music altered. Y'know, the period music that helped set the scene. It's been replaced with generic music cues. We in the UK were spared this abortion ... up until season four, and now the cunts have done it to us too.
Labels: adam ant, bootlegs, cinema, films, movies, sex pistols