Sad as it seems, the cinema devout must wait for fickle businessmen to acquire rights, manufacture copies, and release videos in order to get our sweaty mitts on the rare and/or invaluable movies we require—or must we? Picking up the copious slack somewhere outside the letter of the law, bootlegging is alive and well; below are only a prominent handful of toilers in a veritable Wild West of unlicensed giallos, ’70s gore, Asian freaks, and forgotten art-house oddities. We’re talking DVD-R and VHS copies made from old Japanese laser discs, out-of-print video, broadcast tapes, or sometimes even actual celluloid prints; quality, at an average of $15 a pop, is never guaranteed.
Amid the preponderance of post–2000 Maniacs gore that dominates the video fringe, these guys offer Val Lewton’s The Ghost Ship (1943), the uncut Soviet sci-fi epic Planet of Storms (1962), the original, six-episode BBC version of Quatermass and the Pit (1958), 1954’s The Rocket Man (written by Lenny Bruce), and Tsui Hark’s sophomore splatter-farce, We’re Going to Eat You (1980).
This massive and eccentric collection seems inexhaustible. Just for starters: Andrzej Zulawski’s semi-finished The Silver Globe (1978/87), Wojciech Has’s 1964 adaptation of Bruno Schulz’s The Hourglass Sanatorium, Louis Malle’s Jodorowski-like Black Moon (1975), Robert Frank’s long-suppressed Stones doc Cocksucker Blues (1972), Slovak master Juraj Jakubisko’s apocalyptic The Deserter and the Nomads (1968), the revolutionary Argentine polemic The Hour of the Furnaces (1968), Yoko Ono’s p.o.v.-ordeal Rape (1969), and the Yukio Mishima–directed short The Rite of Love and Death (1966).
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Brush aside the psychotronica, and you’ll find the 1920 Hollywood serial remake of Fantomas, Bob Clark’s ‘Nam-home-front creeper Deathdream (1972), the notorious 1994 made-for-the-shelf version of The Fantastic Four, and Otto Preminger’s hippie-dippie boondoggle Skidoo (1968), as well as collections of early shorts by Sam Raimi, Peter Greenaway, and—gasp—Stanley Kubrick (Flying Padre, Day of the Fight, and The Seafarers, along with Fear and Desire).
A broad selection of perfectly legal international cinema is spiced up with rare beauts not apparently available in orthodox editions: Bela Tarr’s Almanac of Fall (1984), Seijun Suzuki’s The Story of a Prostitute (1965), Glauber Rocha’s “cinema novo” triumph Black God, White Devil (1964), Jan Nemec’s Diamonds of the Night (1964), and Boris Barnet’s Okraina (1933).
A budding library, but they’ve got Walerian Borowczyk’s Goto, l’Île d’Amour (1968), the depraved Greek exploiter Singapore Sling (1990), the Pasolini–De Sica–Bolognini-Visconti-Rossi portmanteau splurge The Witches (1967), and the rare sci-fi musical Just Imagine (1930).
Another personal collection turned dupe factory, this site peddles Todd Haynes’s seminal Barbie-biopic Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), the two-hour-plus uncut pilot of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001?), several early William Klein features (including his scabrous radical farce from 1969, Mr. Freedom), and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster films.
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A mélange ranging from Borowczyk’s Théâtre de M. et Mme. Kabal (1967), Czech animator Karel Zeman’s The Jester’s Tale (1964), and Suzuki’s unforgettable hooker-clan potboiler Gate of Flesh (1964) to the Nazi propaganda nauseator The Eternal Jew (1940), Kazuo Hara’s scalding WW II cannibalism exposé The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), William Conrad’s noir-madness Brainstorm (1965), Peter Watkins’s The Gladiators (1969), the anonymous protest doc about returning ‘Nam vets Winter Soldier (1972), films by and about the Kuchars, and—drumroll please—a five-hour work print of Apocalypse Now.