Read A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies by Dennis Bartok Jeff Joseph Online


A Thousand Cuts is a candid exploration of one of America's strangest and most quickly vanishing subcultures. It is about the death of physical film in the digital era and about a paranoid, secretive, eccentric, and sometimes obsessive group of film-mad collectors who made movies and their projection a private religion in the time before DVDs and Blu-rays.The book includesA Thousand Cuts is a candid exploration of one of America's strangest and most quickly vanishing subcultures. It is about the death of physical film in the digital era and about a paranoid, secretive, eccentric, and sometimes obsessive group of film-mad collectors who made movies and their projection a private religion in the time before DVDs and Blu-rays.The book includes the stories of film historian/critic Leonard Maltin, TCM host Robert Osborne discussing Rock Hudson's secret 1970s film vault, RoboCop producer Jon Davison dropping acid and screening King Kong with Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East, and Academy Award-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow recounting his decades-long quest to restore the 1927 Napoleon. Other lesser-known but equally fascinating subjects include one-legged former Broadway dancer Tony Turano, who lives in a Norma Desmond-like world of decaying movie memories, and notorious film pirate Al Beardsley, one of the men responsible for putting O. J. Simpson behind bars.Authors Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph examine one of the least-known episodes in modern legal history: the FBI's and Justice Department's campaign to harass, intimidate, and arrest film dealers and collectors in the early 1970s. Many of those persecuted were gay men. Victims included Planet of the Apes star Roddy McDowall, who was arrested in 1974 for film collecting and forced to name names of fellow collectors, including Rock Hudson and Mel Torm'.A Thousand Cuts explores the obsessions of the colorful individuals who created their own screening rooms, spent vast sums, negotiated underground networks, and even risked legal jeopardy to pursue their passion for real, physical film....

Title : A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies
Author :
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ISBN : 9781496807731
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 241 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies Reviews

  • Timothy Mayer
    2019-05-21 13:27

    A Thousand Cuts is a painful book to read. It’s painful to me because I remember the vanished world of 16mm film collectors who used to populate the cinema landscape. Once upon a time, in another life, I ran a film society. Through my thankless efforts to show movies and publish a journal devoted to film, I became acquainted with the collectors where I lived. They were a different breed, dedicated to the silver shadow on the screen. I worry they may all be gone.As the authors say:“Is film collecting truly dying? As of the writing of this book, the major Hollywood studios have almost completely phased out striking 35mm prints of new feature films for commercial distribution, and the major theater chains are likewise completing their conversion of cinemas to digital projection. So, in short order, there will be almost no new supply of 35mm prints to feed the collectors market—and very few places to show them even if there were, outside of cinematheques and museums.”In some ways, A Thousand Cuts is a sequel to another book about film collectors, Land of a Thousand Balconies by Jack Stevenson, published in 2003. The other book came out when DVD’s were supplanting film collecting and there were still plenty of video stores you could rent movies from every day. Now, the video stores have gone the way of the Drive-In. I count myself fortunate to have seen two forms of entertainment medium rise and fall. Everything can be found on the Internet these days and you can always order the special edition Blu-ray if you’re really dedicated. Gone are the days when I had to see Animal House a third time to hear what Dean Wormer and Carmine were discussing because the laughter of the audience drowned out their conversation.The authors were involved with film preservation over the years, so they were able to meet many of the people in this book before deciding to do the interviews. Because that is what this book really is a beloved rogue’s gallery of renegades who made it possible to show Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter in your living room to a group of friends (so long as you didn’t tell the wrong people). These were the completest, those who had to have every copy of film they could find to show every other week. They survive today in the form of The Secret Cinema in Philadelphia.The book talks a lot about the fragility of movie film. The best prints are those made with the dye transfer method, I. B. Technicolor. In film collector circles I used to hear the words “I. B. Tech” mentioned with holy reverence. One friend of mine bemoaned most of his collection would someday fade to red because it wasn’t blessed with the I. B. Tech transfer method. At least the modern film isn’t explosive, although is prone to vinegar syndrome, i. e. breaking down from the release of acetic acid in the film (if not stored properly).“…It’s not only lack of access to new prints that’s suffocating film collecting: the existing prints all carry the seeds of their own destruction inside them. The basic composition and processing of film slowly, inexorably eat away at the stock itself, producing a gripping odor and physical decay known as “vinegar syndrome,” or film rot. As my writing partner Jeff (a former film dealer himself) explains it, “acetate plastic decomposes on its own over time; that produces the odor (acetic acid) that smells like vinegar. Things like unwashed chemicals, scratch-removal chemicals, and mostly heat and humidity all exacerbate a natural process.” Properly stored, current film stocks should last for well over a century—but for older prints, the best guess is usually a smell test to see if there’s a whiff of vinegar syndrome, which can hop from print to print like an airborne virus. (Some collectors put their vinegared prints in the freezer to try to slow the process, a habit that probably sits well with the non-film-collector partner.)….”But it’s the portraits of the people who worked so hard to out-maneuver the big studios and sell prints of films that make this book shine. It’s hard to remember the day before VHS tape was everywhere. In the pre-Empire Dark Days, you had to own a physical copy of the film if you wanted to watch it. This also meant owning a 16mm film projector to show the film. There sprung forth on the horizon a clandestine industry of men who had access to movie labs. They could make you a “dupe” of just about anything.This led to a crackdown as the FBI went after people who trafficked in bootleg film in the 1970’s. It’s not well known, but a certain adult film was duped so many times it’s doubtful if anyone ever saw an original. Several famous movie actors came home from their daily calls to greet a man with a badge. Roddy McDowell had his film collection seized. Rock Hudson built a secret film vault behind a fireplace in his mansion. Some people ended up doing time.But there is also the moment of discovery in this book. The dedicated collectors who found their own personal Holy Grails:‘’’…For Philadelphia-area collector Wes Shank, it was realizing in a blinding flash that he’d laid his hands on four minutes of missing footage from the original 1933 production of King Kong, including censored images of Kong the ape toying erotically with Fay Wray’s dress and stomping/munching on a handful of doomed natives. As Shank remembers the moment of the discovery, “I started unwinding the film and letting it go onto the floor. ‘That’s interesting … wait a minute. I don’t remember any such scene in the film.’ Then it hit me: ‘invaluable’ … ‘Kong.’ Could it be? I went down and put it on a pair of rewinds. Oh my god. This is the lost footage.”'I can’t give this book a high enough recommendation. I read it through it in several sittings. Time became still as I flipped through each page. And all I could hear in the background was the whirring of a projector.

  • Terri
    2019-06-09 13:21

    It only took about a century for the world to go from moving images printed on some pretty dangerous nitrate stock to having full access to digital copies of movies, television shows and other types of programs at their fingertips. But what about all of those original film prints that were made over decades by studios? Do they just exist in some expertly preserved archive? Sadly, this is not the case as explained inA Thousand Cuts by Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph. Reading this book gave me an immediate visceral reaction: I wanted to jump out of my chair and go save neglected film prints that could vanish at any moment due to someone's ignorance of what they have, due to poor storage or any other factor that may put it at risk. But I know nothing of collecting prints, preserving them or even the basics of running a projector, so I sat back down (I'll stick with collecting vinyl). The stories in the book from a wide range of collectors from the seventies and eighties were fascinating, especially when they were being targeted by the FBI for collecting, but it's the idea of the unknown that made me want to read more. I love old movies, and thanks to things like TCM I can see a lot of things that I wouldn't have access if the channel hadn't been created. However, it was on a particular day when TCM was showing Metropolis that I first got interested in seeing everything that was once labeled lost—there's still plenty of lost footage to that silent film, even though a lot of it has been restored. The parts of this book that fascinated me the most was the discussions about lost films, or films thought to be lost. I was also deeply interested in the stories of film collectors that didn't want to collect the obvious—they wanted to collect the prints they knew wouldn't be saved otherwise. It is a vital role in the preservation of film. In other areas of collecting, you don't have the same amount of urgency to get anything original into a state of preservation. Printed books will never go out of style. Listening to music on vinyl is having a huge resurgence. But film is going the way of the dinosaur. The world could lose a lot more one-of-a-kind movies, trailers and other images that no one sees the value in until it's too late. This book not only tells the story of these collectors that saved some fascinating material, but it also provides a call to those who have a desire to continue the preservation work. *Received a copy of this book through NetGalley

  • Michael Ritchie
    2019-06-09 05:44

    I know it's fruitless to criticize a book for not being what you wanted it to be, but this book seems especially like a missed opportunity. The authors, film collectors in one way or another themselves, have essentially put together a collection of short magazine-article length interviews with a number of colorful collectors. Some individual chapters are fairly interesting, but what's missing is a chronological, overarching narrative that explains the whole phenomenon: How did the private collecting of film prints get started in the first place? Where do most of them come from--pilfered from studio archives? Duped from theatrical prints? Why were studios, for a time, so hot to crack down on the collectors? Unless I missed something, I didn't get comprehensive answers to any of these questions. I did spend some time in the company of some interesting (most aren't really "bizarre" as the subtitle indicates) characters, but I wish there had been more ambition to the tell a fuller story.

  • GlenK
    2019-06-02 10:41

    This entertaining book looks at the now nearly defunct world of movie (as in physical film prints) collectors. Its interviews cover aspects of this movie love obsession (it is hardly a hobby) ranging from the glory of Technicolor prints, the once in a lifetime stumbling onto incredible treasures, the dumpster and abandoned warehouse diving, the FBI and MPAA attention. This is a good read and a good companion to “Do Not Sell At Any Price”, a look at another obsessive underground world, that of 78RPM jazz and blues record collecting.

  • Wyldrabbit
    2019-06-12 06:37

    I truly enjoyed this book and the history I was not aware existed with copywriter laws. A very interesting read. I believe everyone that has ever recorded anything, should take a look at this book. Your eyes will open. Bartok and Joseph did an incredible job interviewing and researching. The writing style will keep you up way past your bed time. *I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

  • Brian Trenchard-Smith
    2019-06-14 12:41

    Fascinating for film buffs.

  • Jonathan
    2019-06-06 11:43

    As someone who has shelves of DVDs and Blu-rays (and a few VHS tapes) of films and TV shows, I felt some sort of kinship with the people featured in this excellent book - I'm just thankful I never got into the collecting of 16mm or 35mm reels or I'd have even less money than I do right now.I enjoyed being taken on a tour of the homes of the collectors and reading their often tragic stories of being consumed by the collecting bug. Marriages ruined, savings spent, friendships broken - it's not a barrel of laughs.And yet there is a lot of humour in here, plus flashes of insight of what it is that makes them continue their quest to own the best prints of their favourite films. Highly recommended.

  • Raymond
    2019-05-20 07:35

    When I was a teenager, I used to see lists of 16mm films for sale in film magazines and dream of being a film collector. After reading this book, I've discovered most of the lot are destitute, paranoid, and working under the law or directly against the law. Viva la DVD!

  • David
    2019-06-18 11:26

    Very enjoyable read about a small, vanishing world. I found the artistic taste of the collectors to be revealing - animation, children's films, and genre films (the lower the genre the better) - seemed to be the predominant types of films that interested the collectors profiled.

  • Franc
    2019-05-26 10:45

    Netflix needs to pick this up and make it into a documentary series.

  • Daniel DeLappe
    2019-06-18 05:25

    Very interesting subject at least to me. The writing was a bit staid. Become almost dead at the end. If you have an interest and knowledge in this subject give it a look. Otherwise pass

  • Rodney Haydon
    2019-05-24 11:37

    Very enjoyable book, with me thinking "there but for the grace of God go I" as I think about my own collecting obsessions and my love for film. Yes, I will admit that I have some 35mm trailers from my own past as a projectionist, but nothing that compare to what the individuals have in this book.Very sad to read about the death knell of true film, and one wonders what treasures we will lose because of it.

  • Mhd
    2019-05-18 13:24

    A film-lovers book. I thoroughly enjoyed it! The film collectors underworld is extremely interesting and this book is almost an ethnography. There is absolutely a movie here!! Seriously, there has got to be a bidding war for the film rights for this story!!! The Hollywood gossip component is especially entertaining. I wish the endnotes had been done as page footnotes or incorporated in the text as there is a lot of info there, but going back and forth was very distracting. There's a lot of name-dropping and it's sometimes hard to keep track of the not-so-famous names. Photo insert pages were nice. Again, overall, this is a wonderful book.

  • Matt Springer
    2019-06-11 07:28

    A fun, misty travelogue through the lives and times of film print collectors.

  • Andy
    2019-05-30 05:32

    Super interesting look at film collectors, especially in light of all the digital things going on. Some fascinating stories, many of them bizarre.

  • Al
    2019-06-15 09:30

    The subtitle of this book, "The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies," might be more accurate if it ended "Who Saved Some Movies." The startling takeaway readers will have from "A Thousand Cuts" is the sheer volume of films that are now lost or will soon be lost forever. Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph have done an admirable job of interviewing a wide variety of aging collectors who got into collecting with an early love of film and have spent their lives (and money) trying to fill an insatiable desire to find the rarest of films. Most of those interviewed have watched their collections plummet in value as easy access (and viewing) to many films in digital form has become common. Bartok and Joseph have done movie lovers a real service by sharing these stories, often from men who have since passed away (including Robert Obsborne). Included are how a missing reel led Ross Hunter to instead show the original "Lost Horizon" for a private viewing (resulting in his disastrous musical version), how one dealer's side interest in celebrity memorabilia led to O.J. Simpson's imprisonment, and how Rock Hudson avoided the copyright police (who had arrested Roddy McDowell) by having his collection of films in a hidden vault. One collector compares the end of the era of film with the end of the cowboy era shown in the film "Monte Walsh," and that helpless sadness pervades most of the interviews here. Recommended.