HORROR MOVIES AND BOOTLEG VIDEOS PART 3: DVD-r’s, CREMASTER & AN UPDATED VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR LIST
How do we reconcile this with the MPAA sponsored promo spots you now see before movies featuring below-the-line technicians grousing about the evils of piracy? Or the many high-profile arrests that have already been made over the issue? To be sure, the practice of illegally downloading movies over the Internet is a serious threat to the industry; just look at what’s happened to the CD market as a result of unauthorized downloads. Hollywood thus far hasn’t been aversely affected by piracy, but their apprehension is justified.
For the record, I don’t support movie
downloading, nor have I ever engaged in the practice; the mail order dubs we
film fanatics collect are of films unavailable through normal distribution
channels. This unfortunately hasn’t stopped many otherwise sane folks from
confusing us with the schmucks who smuggle camcorders into theaters and sell the
results on ebay, or offer ‘em for downloading over the internet; the very
mention of the outfits profiled at the end of this article will get you kicked
off the popular Mobius Home Video Forum (Don’t believe me? Try it and see!).
See my previous articles on the subject for a more in-depth look at these issues, but keep in mind that the mail order bootleg market has undergone a number of changes since I wrote those pieces. Foremost among those changes is the DVD issue. Obviously, DVDs are preferable to VHS tapes (if you can’t figure out why then you probably shouldn’t be reading this article), and in the world of bootlegs a new development is becoming increasingly prevalent: DVD-Rs. That is to say, recordable DVDs in place of the standard VHS dubs collectors have had to make do with over the years. It seems that “Alternative Video” outfits like Video Search of Miami and SuperHappyFun must now offer DVD-R copies of their films in order to survive. I know I’ll no longer shell out for a non-DVD bootleg, and I’m certain most other patrons feel the same way.
Might it be possible that DVD bootlegs are actually preferable to legitimate factory releases? Increasingly, the answer is yes. These days, it’s common for major studios to release vastly substandard DVDs, with Universal being the worst offender. See the 9/6/03 “Smell The Coffee” article at www.dvdreview.com for an on-the-mark condemnation of that company’s none-too-special edition DVDs (particularly BACK TO THE FUTURE and MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE), and filmmaker Alex Cox’s rant on www.alexcox.com for a more wide-ranging look at Universal’s problems (which all stem, according to Cox, from the simple fact that “they are a company who hates filmmakers and doesn’t understand films”). MGM is another particularly grievous offender; I recently checked out their DVD transfer of SOUTHERN COMFORT (1982) and had to turn it off halfway through because of the hideousness of the picture. I’d rather watch my old VHS copy.
This isn’t to say that major studios are the only ones to blame in this area. Check out—or better yet, don’t—Hen’s Tooth Video’s unacceptable DVD transfer of CROSS OF IRON (1977) and you’ll see what I mean. Or Anchor Bay’s abominable DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS DVD (Blue Underground’s much better quality ’03 re-release of this title is the one to get, FYI). Of course, bad transfers aren’t the only grievances facing DVD collectors.
Perhaps you’re familiar with Matthew Barney’s five-film CREMASTER series...or maybe not. By turns fascinating and annoying, the CREMASTER films are visually stunning, surreal experiments that have been embraced by the art world and deserve wider exposure. The problem is that, outside major US cities, the films haven’t been screened. And home video? Forget it. Aside from the August ’03 DVD release of THE ORDER, a thirty minute outtake from the three-hour CREMASTER 3, the only sources for the films thus far have been limited edition videos the filmmaker sells to millionaire art collectors (read: suckers) for around $200 grand a pop. Yes, you read that right, a single VHS for two hundred thousand dollars. It’s how Barney finances his films, and why he’s never given them a commercial release on video or DVD—it might cut into his action and make his deep pocketed patrons realize they’re being swindled.
In this case it seems that, in the face of Barney’s near-hysterical anti-populism, bootleggers have the right idea. Yes, the CREMSTER films have made their inevitable way onto the bootleg circuit...and yes, Matthew Barney has been quite fastidious in prosecuting their purveyors. If only Barney would properly release his films on video or DVD he’d save himself and his attorneys a lot of trouble, but noooooooooooooooo!
For the record, I don’t own unauthorized DVD copies of the CREMASTER films or any boots of Universal or MGM titles (at least not those that are legitimately available), but, based on the above info, I’m almost sorry I don’t. In the face of such outright stupidity, bootlegging seems like a sane alternative. Or would you rather shell out $200 grand for a video? Or, for that matter, 20 bucks for a poorly mastered DVD? Bring on the bootleggers, I say!
With that in mind, I’d like to present my Updated Video Distributor List. Once again, quite a lot has changed since I compiled my original list a couple years ago, and the following was compiled to reflect those changes.
European Trash Cinema is another essential
resource for horror addicts—check it out at
www.eurotrashcinema.com. And don’t forget
www.witchinghourvideo.com, which blends an
excellent selection with reliable, professional service.
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