LaserDisc pirates go America

Video monthly

You'd be forgiven for supposing that the LaserDisc had gone the way of Betamax. It always seemed like a somewhat adjunctive acquisition, after all. If you want spectacle and wonder, you see your movies in the cinema; if you don't, you wait for th e video. You always felt a certain obligation to look down at LaserDisc owners in the same way you would a driver of the C5.

Things haven't changed entirely. The release schedules are still anorexic compared with traditional video: only 1,000 LaserDisc titles available, with just 120 scheduled for release this year. And the price difference demands an altogether fatter wallet.Recent widescreen editions have retailed at £35. You can find a standard player for £400 to £500, but the most up-to-date machines, which will enable you to play the American NTSC disc, nudge £700.

What exactly do you get for your money? Quality is the quick answer. The LaserDisc soundtrack is prepared the same way as a conventional CD, so the sound will always be crisp and vibrant. The visuals, too, are recognised to be some 60 per cent clearer than video.

But the real bonus for buffs is the coveted "special edition". When Robert Altman's The Player was released late last year, it came with interviews, a guide to the film's cameos and previously unseen footage. Then there's the extended, annotated version of This Is Spinal Tap. It features the movie's original 25-minute "demo" version and many scenes cut before release (some because of their high sex and drugs quotient) as well as a running commentary. It hits the shelves this month. In America.

Therein lies the industry's major obstacle: piracy. It struck video in its infancy and has proved exceptionally tough to combat because NTSC / PAL (that is, American / English) compatible machines and imported discs are on sale in Britain, allowing bootleggers to acquire copies of Jurassic Park and True Lies way ahead of their UK video release.

A £20,000 fine faces anyone caught selling NTSC discs. But if a man with an open suitcase can still sell videos of Natural Born Killers on London's Tottenham Court Road, there seems little chance of quashing LaserDisc piracy.

But back to the real world: video. Electric is releasing Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould, which puts notions of documentary and biopic in a spin, and three Bunuels. Viridiana is a once-scandalous, now merely hot-to-the-touch fable about a nun shocked to find her charity abused in the real world. The Exterminating Angel, an abstract social satire, impresses more in theory, while Simon of the Desert, the least-seen of the batch, is a mischievous religious parable. It's also a fine example of how short film-making can be both succinct and leagues-deep. All retail at £15.99, except Simon (£12.99).

Tartan offers the Werner Herzog collection, the most memorable and enduring of which is The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, and Julio Medem's The Red Squirrel, which weaves many disturbing and hilarious digressions into the tale of an amnesiac who has a new life fabricated for her by a total stranger (both £15.99).

The Long Good Friday (CIC) feels as gritty as ever. Featuring peerless performances from Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, its hard-nosed portrayal of British gangsterdom was a big influence on Tarantino. In the wake of the latter's celebration of petty, small-time hoods, it looks like a horrifying snapshot from another age.

It's a bad month for rental. You don't need me to tell you about The Mask (Entertainment). Bold, brash but charming, this old-fashioned comedy furnished with modern SFX is the only blockbuster worth checking out. Little Buddha (Buena Vista) has stretchesof excellence, though Bertolucci's direction is a touch unsure.

The best straight-to-video release is Surviving the Game (Entertainment), Ernest Dickerson's follow-up to Juice: a thriller in the Deliverance mould with a bizarre mix'n'match cast (Ice-T, Rutger Hauer, F Murray Abraham). John Frankenheimer's Attica riotdrama Against the Wall (Medusa) has its crass theorising, but Kyle MacLachlan and Samuel L Jackson give poignant performances without tweaking heart or tear-duct.

Two newly paroled political prisoners: Menace II Society (First Independent) and Shopping (Polygram) are released from BBFVC captivity. The latter should probably have remained behind bars. But the former makes a mockery of our censorship system with a determinedly anti-violence message.

Ryan Gilbey

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?