Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another tip for Palika-DVD hounds

Further to this post, here’s the synopsis on the cover of a just-obtained pirated DVD of John Ford’s Stagecoach:
The story took place in 80 ages 19 century,A stagecoach with passengers went across Arracksan’s plain,It went to Rotsbao,on the way,It experienced layer a lof of difficulty to cross,It finally got to destination,There wre impossible-looking senery,desolate mountain and enormous cactus in Mexico state,There was difficulty on stagecoach and Indian was tight and tight to chase.
(Sic) (sic) (sic) (sic)

Classy way to describe the film that Orson Welles called a cinematic textbook. Anyway, this Indian was tight to chase a stash of DVDs in Palika Bazaar yesterday afternoon – went to that shop for the first time in months, picked up a whole lot of “original copy” discs including long-sought-after DVDs of old favourites such as Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise, Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind, Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, the Fredric March Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels and two great silent films: Murnau’s Faust and Lang’s Dr Mabuse, der Spieler. Also the early Scorsese Boxcar Bertha, Bergman’s Summer Interlude, the controversial Swedish docudrama I am Curious – Yellow, Darren Aronofsky’s Pi and a few others.

Usually when I get a big haul of DVDs from the Electronic Zone I have to allow for the possibility that a couple of discs won't be in working condition and I’ll have to return to Connaught Place to exchange them for something else. Occasional hazard of getting high-quality prints of films not easily available elsewhere, at cheap rates. This time the discs all seem fine, but I encountered another facet of the carelessness inherent in the piracy process. Apparently the version of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch that I bought was originally spread over two discs (along with a lot of special features), but the pirates unthinkingly copied only Disc A and packaged it as the complete film. So I have half the movie with me now, along with a couple of Extras. Will have to go back.

Moral lesson #58: if you’re buying pirated DVDs from Palika, do take the time to study the back-jacket. If the literature says anything about a Disc A and a Disc B, and the version you’re holding contains a single disc, avoid it.

[Earlier posts on DVD-hoarding here, here and here]


  1. yes arjun it happened to me.. i only have half of the movie "Tora!Tora!Tora!".

  2. envy you the franju and murnau...and, of course, the I am Curious (did they not have I am Curious - Blue as well?). That film used to be screened at the Institute and the projectionists first used to fight among themselves about who should be on duty that day and then as a compromise, all of them would turn up.

  3. Don't go in for such obscure titles myself, but have you considered hunting these movies down on BitTorrent/Rapidshare? Broadband speeds are pretty good these days.

  4. i only have half of the movie "Tora!Tora!Tora!".

    ...alternatively known as "Tora!To" or "ra!Tora!", which doesn't have the same ring to it.

    Space Bar: should have mentioned that I got I am Curious - Blue as well. (Had picked out Yellow when the chap who handed me the seedies went "Iske saath ek blue film bhi aata hai". Impressively knowledgeable pirates.) Haven't seen either of the films, have wanted to for a while.

    Btw, on my last DVD-buying spree I got The Birth of a Nation, Sherlock Jr (with a couple of goodish documentaries on Keaton) and Metropolis - have never owned these films before, not even on videocassette.

    TTG: will consider it when I have a new laptop with lots of space on it, plus a super-fast Net connection.

  5. I agree with ttg -- if you aren't going to buy the original you might as well get them off the net. That way some shoddy DVD copier who doesn't even bother to do a proper rip doesn't get any money out of it (but there are obviously more risks involved).

    Mind you, extras and commentary tracks aren't very common on net releases, but it is a decent way to track down very obscure stuff, and to see HD video if you don't have a Blu-Ray drive, for now.

  6. Jai, lucky you. Electronic Zone lives and you can still source your fix of flicks there. My hunting ground here at National Market got raided and closed down. So now I've to put up with bewildered faces when I ask for "European films" elsewhere. Tridib

  7. And yes, belated good wishes on Jabberwock turning 4! Tridib

  8. BitTorrent speeds are pretty good. You don't exactly need a superfast connection. It typically takes around 10 hrs to download a 700 mb movie (256kbps connection).
    Currently downloading Sullivan's Travels :)

  9. Completely off the post, I wanted to read your thoughts on Sean Penn's Into the Wild? Have you watch it? If not, do watch!

  10. The Wild Bunch DVD that I saw had only one disc but the movie was on both sides (Side A and B) so may be you should check if there is anything on the other side. There was a short documentary but it was quite pretentious and not terribly insightful. Lots of behind the scenes footage in B&W and a pretetious voice reading from the notes of Peckinpah and others. "the film that changed the face of cinema" it says at one place! I didn't like it that much but at least it was better than Stray Dog which I found repugnant and despised...can't handle such shallow and irresponsible misanthropy.

    Hope you find some time to review these films too...I know it may feel useless to you personally but only when people are film literate and there is enough demand, we can have original versions of these classics in India as well. Foreign Books have these special cheap indian editions, I don't understand why there are no distributors in India who can distribute DVDs as well.

    I recently saw I Am Curious - Yellow which I had wanted to do a for a long time too but was extremely disappointed. I think one can see it for historical value but even there it suffers from comparisons with Godard - specially those early 60s film with lots of radical politics. Still worthwhile I think. I haven't seen the Blue one yet. One non-Bergman Swedish film I will recommend is the adaptation of Strindberg play Miss Julie by Alf Sjoberg. It was quite impressive.

  11. oops that's Straw Dogs not Stray Dog.. Stray Dog I love very much. Does that make me a sucker for humanism?

  12. Hope you find some time to review these films too...I know it may feel useless to you personally...

    Alok: it doesn't feel useless to me - I love writing about films, it's usually quite satisfying at a personal level and helps me clarify my thoughts - but time really has been at a premium and most of the film writing I do on the blog these days is a version of something I've written professionally. Whereas my main beat continues to be books, which take up so much time as it is. I've actually watched/re-watched a lot of films in recent weeks, but haven't had the time or stamina to write about any of them exclusively for the blog.

    Actually, the number of distributors in India is on the rise and there is an increasing variety of films in the legit stores now, so things aren't so bleak.

    Anon: no, haven't seen Into the Wild - sounds very interesting though.

  13. Interesting?

    No, it is as Robert Ebert eloquently summarized spell Binding.

    It would be nice to read a review from you. Sooner the better!

  14. Ah - I used to love the Electronic Zone and even took the 200-a-pop hit in my stride. But then, I realised a) a lot of their movies weren't the best print any more b) a number of the movies they have (Criterion Edition, especially, were available at other shops for 60 bucks - for comparison, I rebought 400 Blows, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Band a Parte; there's not one pixel of difference, just 140 rupees) and c) the guys started getting ornery about taking non-working DVDs (and some that happened to be - inexplicably- blank) back. After spending over 10 grand there over a period of two years, I decided a boycott was my only option. Given the last raid, things have gotten tough, but I would still advise looking around a little more. Given the volume I buy, if I can get 30 movies (with commentary and extras, and 5.1 where required) instead of 9, there's really no question of choice.

  15. Oh - and about downloads - even a 100 MB file doesn't have nearly the same quality as a DVD rip. Especially if you like to view your movies on a projector, the compression really takes the joy out of it. I had a 200 MB copy of The Gold Rush and I couldn't get through it, it made me so sad...

  16. @Anon
    Most torrents on the net are infact DVDRips of excellent quality. Size is typically 700mb or 1.4gb.

  17. Shrikanth - that would be excellent . Unfortunately, I never seem to run across any of these type of files. Just regular file sharing programs, or do I need to in the know about certain ftp sites etc.?

  18. Ah Shri - I realised that a number of my downloads are actually 700 MB and the quality is not really what I would call DVD quality.

    They may be rips, but the compression from 2, 3, 4 (or higher) GB still seems to take it's toll. The larger the screen the more noticeable it is, but even the sound on the 700 MB files is not 5.1, just stereo. A single-disc--single-movie from Palika has about a 2 GB movie file, which while compressed, is far superior to a 700 MB DIVX etc. Completely worth Rs 60 for the clarity and sound for me.

    On a slightly related note, my copies of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and To Kill a Mockingbird are both double-disc editions with both discs included. So even though it is rare, Palika can still yield two discs where there are supposed to be two - same with PS2 games, if interested.

  19. You, and other readers of the blog, might find useful a guide that I wrote about, ahem, all aspects of film watching on one's computer: