Saturday, August 12, 2006

“Well, there’s Technicolor and Cinemascope /
A cast out of Hollywood”, part 3

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.

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Blogger Deep Stoat said...

like the new banner.

I have been catching "quantum leap". It is a minor classic.

12 August, 2006 13:39  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

"Minor classic", DS?! I think you mistyped the word major, no?

Thanks re the new banner. The old one was always intended as an experiment, and I had hoped to find time to do a better one. I got sick of looking at it, knowing it wasn't what I wanted it to be, so I went for something simpler instead.

12 August, 2006 14:11  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Yes, new banner very cool sort of like a street at night.

i am deeply shocked by this action of censorship. I had NO IDEA!!!!

I am stunned in fact. this is such a sort point for me. I know in North America many films are edited or changed and there might be different versions, but usually they are labeled.

for instance, one of my favourite movies is Dead Alive. yep, Peter Jackson of all people had a movie that came out in two versions. the original is awesome chop em up zombie movie. the edited version is missing something liek ten minutes and makes no sense while you're watching the ned it just goes weird and nonsensical.

But, you can buy the original too.

Now there is a big chain here called Blockbuster, i hate em...maybe Aaron spelling owns(oops owned rip) it...but the rumour was they edited films all the time and took out any violence or sex. i just won't walk in the door. Plus, I tend to try to rent and buy movies a t small sops. Especially for alternative and horror films, you pretty much have to go to a counter culture video store.

I also heard that newer versions of fight Club have a censored ending since 9/11. Fans will recall one of theopening lines in the film is "this is ground zero" I have my dvd that I got pre-9/11 and I won't even lend it to anyone ha ha.

Then there is a real event of the movie Brazil being shown on tv. some channels choose to edit the ending to a "happy" ending. I've seen this.

I have also seen The Wizard of Oz cut CUT!!! for adding commercial time, I think this might be the most offensive to me ever. How can you edit the Wizard of Oz. It's like editing It's A Wonderful Life.

I had no idea tha t Clockwork was banned in UK. that is wild. I just don't know what to say. Doesn't that draw more kids to it?

Reminds me thouigh of the outrage for Natural Born didn't get banned but it got restricted rating which is almost the same thing, can kill a movie in North America.

12 August, 2006 14:15  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy, it's EXACTLY a street at night! You can see it in my Flickr account if you want to.

We in the UK don't have an "unrated" option like you do over there. If a film has been cut, it is illegal, technically, to sell a different version.

Things have improved enormously, though, in recent years. Penetration was illegal in porn movies until just five or six years ago. Reservoir Dogs was delayed in coming to home video and it was debated whether it should even be released. Natural Born Killers was also very controversial. Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer has only recently been released fully uncut; ditto The Driller Killer. The Evil Dead was banned for years (because of the tree rape scene); Evil Dead 2 was only available in a cut form for years.

There are shitloads that still are unavailable uncut: Ms 45; I Spit On Your Grave; The New York Ripper...

Arguably some of this stuff is not that good anyway, but sometimes they are the early works of people who have become true artists of the medium -- Craven, Raimi, Jackson, et al -- and that adds to their importance.

We have Blockbuster here too. But it's rare that I want to see the type of movie they specialize in: mainstream Hollywood fare.

I didn't know about the changes allegedly being made to Fight Club. But the UK version is already cut by 4 seconds, with an additonal 3 seconds of substituted shots, mainly concerning the brutal beating of Wife's belove Jared Leto. Obviously I bought the original US version instead of this edited one!

But I had heard about The Wizard of Oz being cut for ads. I read about it in Leonard Maltin a few years ago. Ridiculous!

And of course the "banning" of A Clockwork Orange made it all the more appealing. At one time, all you had to do was take a ferry to Paris, where one cinema showed it every day in original language with French subtitles, knowing that English kids wanted to see it!

12 August, 2006 14:45  
Blogger The_'Real'_Batman said...

But now it is the US that has cut versions - the Descent for example has cut the last, vital few minutes of its brutal ending and replaced it with a slushier one.

BTW Asterisk have you seen the adverts for the Wicker Man update. It looks rubbish, which is a shame becase the Wicker Man (1971 version) is one of my favourite films of all time

12 August, 2006 17:30  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Yes, Shamash, I knew they'd done that. It's actual quite common to prepare US versions of foreign movies, most especially Asian ones. They recut them and change the music and all sorts.

That Wicker Man trailer is so so so horrible. I can't believe it... I knew it was coming, but...

And apparently, because a grown-up virgin is too far-fetched, they've replaced the lead character's virginity with -- get this -- an allery to bees!?!?!?!?!

12 August, 2006 17:51  
Blogger a.c.t said...

I didn't realise Ichi The Killer was cut. I wonder why, is it for the violence?
Off topic, I've been wanting to change my banner for a while but haven't been able to get it in the box. Is there particular code you need?

12 August, 2006 20:04  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Well, there you go, I don't know...if there wasn't any penetration then was really porn? jees louise what do I know.

The beating scene is pretty bad in fight Club I have no idea if mine is cut or not it is gruesome but it's supposed to be tragic isn't it?

I give up, I dunno....I mean, I have short film, I entered it into an International festival once and granted it had some issues heh heh but I can't help but feel it was the blood shed, actually menstral bloood...okay okay, I was young and artsy okay!!!and it got totally rejected...but in many ways, its a really funky little film. I may try to put it onto dvd this fall once I figure out how to do that on my computer back home, oh don't worry I'll send yoiu and Red a copy. It's five minutes long and called The Slut's Bedroom. One time I showed it at The Bovine Sex Club, a trendy bar in Tornto a bunch of guys at the bar said:who it gives a whole new meaning to the term "maxi pad"....hey I TRY!!!

12 August, 2006 20:27  
Blogger the cappuccino kid said...

ah a clockwork orange. i have a copy myself. with german subtitles of course.
like you say, they treat us like kids. and then complain about pirate copies. what do they expect?

12 August, 2006 22:03  
Blogger _z. said...

very nice post!

I too am a big Quantum Leap fan. I used to whistle the tune all the time. It drove my parents nuts.

13 August, 2006 07:20  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

ACT: Apparently cut for scenes of sexualized violence. I've not seen any version of Ichi yet, but I believe the cuts mostly pertain to a violent rape scene. Re the banner: I found that the easiest way was to delete the box altogether and put your own image and title up separately.

Candy: Yes, when porn isn't porn. Basically all that was available was softcore. Your film sounds fun! That ol' menstrual blood will freak 'em out every time! I'd love to see a copy. Maybe we can do a swap, and I'll send you a copy of mine, too. It's 10 minutes long and is called The Girl In Blue.

Cappy: You've gotta have a copy, though, haven't you? I mean, it's like part of our heritage here in the UK! I replaced my old copy with an American videotape, and then later with the DVD. So I've bought it three times now!

_z: Thanks. That theme tune is great, isn't it?!

13 August, 2006 10:02  
Blogger a.c.t said...

Cheers * I'll give it a go.

13 August, 2006 10:53  
Blogger Adam said...

Wow, this was an awesome, informative post - I've been neck deep in film all weekend as i've been reviewing dvds for MovieWeb like a madman.

I had no idea the UK was more aggressive w/ cuts and whatnot than we were - I always thought our conservative republican crowd was the worst ha - what kind of cuts were done to Rambo and Indy?

14 August, 2006 00:26  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Thanks Adam.


Click here and scroll down for cuts made to the Indy box set: there's more than a minute of them in the last film.

And Rambo 3 was cut by 2 seconds in a scene of a horse falling. Scenes in which animals may be injured are always cut in the UK, even on the Butch & Sundance documentary.

14 August, 2006 08:38  

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