Anyone who is even moderately familiar with DVD (and VHS) releases has come across the dreaded ever-present selection of public domain titles, which are movies that were never copyrighted, or somehow slid out of copyright. I’ve noticed several enterprising souls uploading them to YouTube, but one individual in particular has actually got car commercials preceding his public domain offerings — which include Paul Naschy’s Vengeance of the Zombies (see my other post today for a tribute to the “Spanish Lon Chaney”). Interestingly, the stash uploaded by this person, who cares to be known only as “Drelb” (yes, we got it, Laugh-In reference; as in “Morgul the Friendly…”), raises two interesting issues.
The first is the fact that Drelb’s collection includes a bunch of the TV episodes that are p.d. It isn’t clear at all how these network shows, which have appeared in better copies on legally licensed discs, fell into p.d. status, but Drelb has Jack Benny episodes, You Bet Your Life, The Beverly Hillbillies, One Step Beyond, and numerous 1970s TV movies (all, I believe, from ABC) from the infamous (The Boy in the Plastic Bubble) to the actually quite good (Hustling and the very evocative Sixties character study Katherine). These items are available in every p.d. collection in video stores and junk shops, but I’ve often wondered how the hell network fare fell between the cracks as far as copyright. If anyone would like to elaborate, I’m always interested in comments from readers.
And even more interesting, considering YouTube’s stringent rules on the unveiling of the human body, Drelb has a number of the p.d. titles that have nudity and “adult content” of one kind or another. Thus, he offers movies like Mandinga and Savage Man, Savage Beast, but if you, a member of the public, try to upload a video you’ve made that has an undraped human form, or some garish insanity (a la the very “mondo” Savage Man), it will be pulled down within a few hours. As I noted when I I wrote about Taxi Driver being offered in its entirety on YouTube, you are allowed to have adult content if you offer YouTube “commercial potential.” If not, screw ya!
As a closer here, let me note that several of the p.d. films are actually surprisingly good. Definitely worth your time is Ivan Passer’s Born To Win starring George Segal. The film is a terrific representation of that strange time in the early Seventies when actually adult fare (meaning intelligent and mature “adult,” not pornographic) was made on a regular basis by Hollywood studios. Sadly, the film came out in theaters at 88 minutes, but has come down to us in all of its p.d. releases at 83 minutes. I have no idea what is missing, as this is the version I’ve always seen, but it still is a powerful and memorable character study. You can find it at archive.org or you can watch Drelb’s version (after a fucking car commercial!) here.