Laurel and Hardy and horror-Mickey-fursuit perform "Babes in Toyland"

The 1934 adaptation of Babes in Toyland with Laurel and Hardy featured a horrific, off-model, unauthorized Mickey fursuit that had to be seen to be believed. It's still in copyright, but you can get a cheap DVD on Amazon, under the alternate title "March of the Wooden Soldiers."

March of the Wooden Soldiers

Sony pirates itself with "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" disc


The official design for the disc-art on the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo DVD makes the disc appear to be a pirate copy, designed to mimic a blank, home-burned disc with the movie's title handwritten in black marker on it.

Dragon Tattoo Has Unique DVD Design (via Hack the Planet)

Talking Heads Chronology: live performances 1976-1983

Talking Heads Chronology is a $21 DVD that chronicles footage of the band from every stage of its life to 1983, including rare footage of their performances at CBGBs in the early days of their act. Talking Heads is, of course, the band that put out the greatest concert movie of all time, along with one of the great concert albums of the 20th century, which is to say, they are the kind of band that you want to see concert footage from.

David Byrne writes,

This was very much a live band—at least until the late 80s. The initial recordings emerged out of what we played live, what worked in that context and how we refined our skills playing together. For a lot of musicians in the digital era this is not always the case. These days, the record often comes first and then how it is staged comes later. The Lester Bangs essay is also very much part of this time. Other than some very specific references, it holds up amazingly well as a passionate and idiosyncratic piece of writing. There’s a reason a lot of writers continue to hold him up as a role model (though I hope they bypass some of the substance abuse). Though his piece is in the form of a record review, it is in truth a beautiful existential rant—and I am proud to be in some way associated with it. Come to think of it, maybe many of these songs are partly something else in disguise as well?

With each iteration of Chronology, you can pretty plainly see what came before as well as a hint of what was to come—all easy to spot in retrospect, of course. There are some fashion don’ts as well as some prescient looks—but what you really get is a sense of how tight this band was. Of course, there is more footage to be found from these sources but I thought to myself, “How many versions of the same songs can one view?” I think the sampler approach gives the viewer a sense of the musical and performative changes we were going through, but without the possibly tedious repetition.

Talking Heads Chronology

Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour: exploring magic's roots in China, India and Egypt

We just watched Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour, their 2003 documentary on traditional magic in China, India and Egypt, and really enjoyed it. Penn and Teller resolve to track down performers who are still doing the street magic that inspired western magicians in years gone by -- the Indian Rope Trick, the Egyptian Gali Gali men with their cups and balls, and Chinese classics like the mask trick and the glass bowls trick.

Each segment is very self-contained, and full of the brash Penn humor and Harpo Marx Teller mischief that they're known for. There's a bit of general history and cultural overview in each nation, but the emphasis is always on magic and its odd history in each nation -- Mao's purge of street magicians, the hieroglyphs that (may) depict an ancient cup-and-balls routine, the colonial soldier who faked evidence of the Indian rope trick.

But where the video shines is in the intimate views of the lives of the magicians and their families in the countries that P&T visit -- a village filled with traditional magicians in China, a slum known for magicians in Calcutta, the descendant of Luxor Gali-Gali, an Egyptian magician who played the Ed Sullivan show and attained fame in Vegas.

The documentary left me with a sense of the overall oddity of devoting your life to magic, and the strange ways that magicians all over the world, and all through time, are bound together by this craft of trickery and illusion. Teller has a moment where he addresses the camera at some length on the nature of the linking rings and the cultural differences in the way that it's transformed that is one of the most interesting bits of video I've ever seen.

Oh, and the Crosby and Hope-style title animation and themesong are a hoot.

Infringing anime downloads increase DVD sales


A thoroughgoing report from the Japanese Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry on the effect of piracy on anime DVD sales concludes that while some channels (rentals) are harmed by infringing downloads, others (sales) are helped. Which is to say: copyright infringement doesn't mean your business is doomed, it just means a small shift in emphasis and strategy:
"Estimated equations of 105 anime episodes show that (1) YouTube viewing does not negatively affect DVD rentals, and it appears to help raise DVD sales; and (2) although Winny file sharing negatively affects DVD rentals, it does not affect DVD sales," the researchers conclude.

"YouTube's effect of boosting DVD sales can be seen after the TV's broadcasting of the series has concluded, which suggests that not just a few people learned about the program via a YouTube viewing. In other words YouTube can be interpreted as a promotion tool for DVD sales," it adds.

The results of the Japanese research confirm that piracy does not always have to be associated with a decrease in sales. Similar effects have been observed for music piracy and book piracy as well.

Internet Piracy Boosts Anime Sales, Study Concludes

(Image: DVD collection, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from fabokun's photostream)

IT Crowd Box Set has no region, can be viewed anywhere


(Click above to enbiggen)

Here's a sneaky fact that's fun to know: the UK-only special edition boxed set of the IT Crowd (which comes complete with its own awesome tabletop RPG) is set to Region Zero, which means that it will play on any DVD player, even those outside the UK. What's more, Amazon UK will ship it to anywhere in the world -- so Americans and other exotic foreign types can get a usable copy no matter where in the world you reside. (The IT Crowd DVD extras are wicked fun -- things like leet subtitles and 8-bit RPG extras!)

The IT Crowd - Series 1-4 Special Edition Box Set [DVD] (Thanks, anonymous source!)

IT Crowd DVD boxed set, complete with fantasy RPG!


(Click above to enbiggen)

SFBriarpatch sez, "Just out: The special edition 4-DVD box set of 'The IT Crowd' series 1-4 includes a two-sided board game. On one side, the board is laid out like the IT department office at Reynholm Industries. The other side transforms the layout of the IT department office into a fantasy world where Moss and Roy's office becomes the 'Great Hall of Heroes,' and Jen's office becomes the 'Lair of Aunt Irma.' Amazon's photos of the board game are huge and extremely detailed."

The IT Crowd - Series 1-4 Special Edition Box Set [DVD] (Thanks, SFBriarPatch, via Submitterator!)

Infographic: buying DVDs vs pirating them


This pithy and funny chart does a superb job of explaining how the insertion of a lot of "business model" (FBI warnings, unskippable trailers, THX vanity sequences) makes buying a DVD a lot worse than pirating the same disc online. I rip all my kid's DVDs (not least because she has a tendency to scratch them to hell), and the difference between firing up a movie on a laptop and it just starting versus trying to explain to a toddler why Daddy has to spend five minutes pressing next-next-next menu-menu-menu is enormous. I think it all comes down to the stuff in the DVD-CCA spec that allows DVD creators to flag sequences as unskippable: that's such an attractive nuisance, it's bound to attract every hard-sell marketer and power-tripping fool in any media company, who will eventually colonize it with so much crapola that it comes just short of destroying the possibility that anyone will voluntarily pay for the product. (Be sure to click below for the whole thing)

If you are a pirate, this is what you get (via Making Light)

Anvil! the Story of Anvil, a real-world Spinal Tap documentary that will have you laughing, crying and rocking out

The 2007 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil is one of the most wonderful movies I've seen in years. It tells the true story of heavy-metal semi-legends Anvil, a band formed by two Jewish kids from Toronto's suburbs when they were 14, and which they've kept going to this day, as both men edge up on 60.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil has a very weird relationship with This is Spinal Tap (for starters, Anvil's drummer is named Robb Reiner!): the movie is shot through with scenes that are almost line-for-line remakes of Tap, as when the boys sit around a deli recounting their early song "Thumbscrew," composed after a history class about the Spanish Inquisition. And the Anvil boys are very likeable heavy-metal doofuses: they play suburban Toronto venues for die-hard fans -- other middle-aged rockers who can drink a bottle of beer through one nostril while throwing devil-horns and chanting Satanic metal lyrics.

But there's lots of pathos and heart here too: Lips, the lead singer, is an artist who's given up everything to pursue his dreams. Instead of getting an education and a good job -- like his brother and sister, both middle-class, respectable types -- he drives a truck for a catering company that provides school lunches. He's a heavy metal god in a hairnet, pulling minimum wage delivering bananas and tuna casserole.

But Anvil was nearly great in their heyday. The movie opens with them playing the 1984 Super Rock in Japan, sharing a stage with The Scorpions, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi (the movie also features interviews with successful metalheads like Slash, Lars Ulrich and Lemmy, singing the praises of Anvil). These bands go on to greatness. Anvil -- plagued by bad management and crappy label support -- have been stuck in the snowy Toronto suburbs, the children of holocaust survivors, doing all that they can to reassure their doubtful (but loving) families that they aren't wasting their lives.

And Anvil's members aren't willing to give up on their dreams. They go on a European tour booked by an insane (but clearly dedicated) fan who appoints herself their manager. Their gigs are often disastrous, and they go home with nothing in their pockets and go back to work at their day-jobs.

But they persevere. They sacrifice everything, they risk their friendships and their families, they risk homelessness, and they never, ever stop. Lips spends a lot of the movie in tears, or feuding with Robb, and it's clear that he's half-mad with this boyhood dream that's grown to take over his life.

Somehow, the bathos and pathos add up to a moving tribute to the human spirit. For every scene in which Lips rocking out on stage with his flying-vee (he uses a dildo as a slide and wears a bondage harness), there's a matching scene, like the one in which his loving, bourgeois older sister fronts him the money to record the band's next album.

It's a wonderful movie, one that'll have you laughing with a tear in your eye. And you know what? Anvil's music is pretty badass. That thirteenth album they're recording in the second act is wicked (my wife texted me from bed, as I was watching it late last night: TOO LOUD. BED TIME NOW. THAT SONG'S QUITE GOOD).

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil

(Thanks, Danny!)

Dane who ripped his DVDs demands to be arrested under DRM law

In Denmark, it's legal to make copies of commercial videos for backup or other private purposes. It's also illegal to break the DRM that restricts copying of DVDs. Deciding to find out which law mattered, Henrik Anderson reported himself for 100 violations of the DRM-breaking law (he ripped his DVD collection to his computer) and demanded that the Danish anti-piracy Antipiratgruppen do something about. They promised him a response, then didn't respond. So now he's reporting himself to the police. He wants a trial, so that the legality of the DRM-breaking law can be tested in court.
However, in the period up to today, Henrik heard nothing from Antipiratgruppen, although their lawyer Thomas Schlüter did speak to the Danish press, saying that it was a political matter but had nevertheless reported the issue to the Association of Danish Videodistributors for consideration. In response, their chairman, Poul Dylov, said they would have a meeting to decide whether to report the matter to the police. Antipiratgruppen said it would reply to Henrik by they date he requested. It seems they have broken their promise and strangely are insisting that they never received the email that Henrik sent them on the issue...

Henrik told us: "But who should I follow? Those that determine the laws in this country? Or those who are lawyers for the companies that i'm committing a crime against?"

But Henrik has a solution to their inaction. "I decided to try to see if I can report myself directly to the police, for the case must be resolved," he told us.

Anti-Piracy Group Refuses Bait, DRM Breaker Goes To Police