In a move that says “if you can’t bring yourself to actually police people uploading copyrighted movies, you might as well encourage copyright holders to upload their own,” YouTube has recently invited movie studios to upload copies of their own movies.
I’m personally against watching full-length movies on YouTube (or any computer service), at least with current technology. The quality of the video is typically so bad that it’s often an insult to the film, and even the most expensive monitor usually provides an inferior viewing experience to an inexpensive television. You also have to deal with clumsy navigation, occasional network outages, and of course, ads. Ads inserted into the YouTube videos are unskippable and occur about once every twenty minutes. But, the service is offered for free, and you get what you pay for.
As might be expected, the initial selection of films is motley. Currently offered are a few moderately popular older movies (like DePalma’s Carrie adaptation and Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger) mixed in with public domain features, some forgotten B-movies that (given their limited audience) might as well have lapsed into the public domain, PBS documentaries, a few Bollywood movies, and some independent productions of varying quality. There are also a few gems on offer. I’ve tried to list some of the titles that may be of interest to our readers (keep in mind that I haven’t viewed any of these all the way through and make no guarantees as to quality or editing).
Animal Farm (1954): The animated version of George Orwell’s classic cautionary fable about the Russian Revolution. Watch.
Casino Royale (1967): With five directors and an all-star cast (David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles and Woody Allen, among others) in an out-of-control nonsense plot, this non-canonical Ian Fleming spy spoof is the weirdest Bond film ever made. Watch.
Do You Like Hitchcock? [Ti Pace Hitchcock?] (2005): Recent Dario Argento thriller/giallo. Watch.
Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Blue Sunshine (1976/1983): This movie about some bad LSD that turns hippies into serial killers years later is viewed as both atmospheric and ridiculous; voluptuous 1980s horror hostess Elvira comments on the latter aspects between commercial breaks. Watch. Also available for Elvira fans: Monstroid (watch).
Even Dwarfs Started Small [Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen] (1970): This early Werner Herzog movie about little people overrunning an institution is his most surreal effort. Watch. There is actually a wealth of Herzog of youtube courtesy of Anchor Bay: you can also find the classic Aguirre, the Wrath of God (watch), Fitzcarraldo (watch), Woyzeck (watch), and the documentary My Best Fiend about the director’s stormy relationship with intense actor Klaus Kinski (watch). NOTE: As of 5/23/04, the Herzog material has been removed, with the exception of My Best Fiend.
The Film Crew: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett’s post-MST3K direct-to-video
movie commentary project ran for four episodes, all of which are now available online thanks to Shout! Factory. Episodes are The Giant of Marathon (watch), Hollywood After Dark (watch), Killers from Space (watch) and Wild Women of Wongo (watch).
The Haunted World of Ed Wood, Jr. (1996): One of several competing documentaries on the legendary transvestite director. Watch.
Hercules in New York (1970): Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first movie is one he’d rather audiences forget, but the sight of the future Terminator (with an even thicker accent) acting woodenly through a ludicrous script has made this a camp classic in some quarters. Watch.
Killing Zoe (1994): Screenwriter Richard Avery’s directorial debut is a Tarantinoesque crime caper with some interesting heroin-fueled hallucinations. Watch.
Koyaanisqatsi (1982): A collection of images with an environmental theme, set to a Phillip Glass minimalist score and Hopi Indian chants; considered a mesmerizing classic by many, but the certainly sort of film it’s preferable to see in a high quality/high definition presentation. Watch.
Slacker (1991): Richard Linklater’s debut film took the plotless device from The Phantom of Liberty and used it to explore the 1991 Gen-X zeitgeist (and popularized the term “slacker” to describe the sort of young person who used to be called “apprentice bum”). Watch.
We Are the Strange (2007): Director M. dot Strange (sic) claims to have made this animated video game parody “for weirdos;” it played Sundance but has never had a DVD release. Watch.
If there’s anything of interest to you that I’ve missed, feel free to point it out in the “Comments” section.