Recently a Jamie Lee Curtis fan called, perplexed that he'd been "hoodwinked" by Hollywood.
On the shelf of a local retail store he spotted a movie titled "Passion Play." On the cover of the box was a photo of Curtis, clad in a striped leotard with a come-hither look as her hair falls into her face.The caller said he thought he knew most of Curtis' films, but this was an unfamiliar title. Also listed on the cover were the names of fellow cast-members Amy Madigan (with "Field of Dreams" in parentheses beneath her name), James Keach, Sally Kirkland, Bud Cort, Matt Clark and Bonnie Bartlett.
He didn't recognize any of those names, but he liked "Field of Dreams." So he took a chance and forked over $10 for the video, figuring that "if it stars Jamie Lee, how bad can it be?"
So, he took it home, popped it into the VCR and promptly discovered it was a movie he already owned - a 1983 picture called "Love Letters." To add insult to injury, the tape had been duplicated at the SLP tape speed - the slowest speed available, which dramatically reduces the visual and sound quality.
The upside to this story is that the caller was able to return the video to the store; the clerk let him select another video to replace it. Still, he'd spent $10 he would otherwise still have in his pocket and felt a bit foolish for having been taken in.
Changing a film's title is a fairly common practice, most often when a movie is shown on television after a theatrical run. But with the advent of video, and so many title changes being used for movies pitched at sell-through prices (usually $10 to $20), it seems particularly deceptive.
If a movie's title is changed for a television run and you start watching it, then realize you've already seen it, you can switch it off and all you've lost is a little time.
But if you pay cash for a movie, take it home and realize you've already seen it - or worse, already have it - that's a different story.
Here are some other movies that carry new titles on video, with cover art that is substantially different from the film's original ad campaign, being sold on a slower-speed tape that reduces visual and sound quality:
- "The Rescue," a thriller with Robert Duvall and Gary Busey attempting to rescue Mark Harmon. Harmon's face graces the video box, but his role is actually relatively small. Original title: "Let's Get Harry" (1986).
- "Line of Fire," not the thriller the box looks like, a drama about a film editor spending the weekend on Long Island. Early Robert De Niro picture called "Sam's Song" (1974), later reissued as "The Swap."
- "Hard Stick," a made-for-TV movie based on the real-life Southern sheriff Buford Pusser, whose exploits were fictionalized in three theatrical "Walking Tall" films. This one was originally "A Real American Hero" (1978).
- "Call the Cops!" a Canadian police comedy starring John Candy originally titled "Find the Lady" (1976).
- "Ride to Glory," a Western about cavalry Indian-fighters in Mexico, with John Huston, Richard Crenna and Ricardo Montalban, originally "The Deserter" (1971).
- "Hard Frame," Burt Reynolds is a paroled ex-con who returns home to his tyrannical father (Melvyn Douglas) and the girl he left behind (Suzanne Pleshette) in this made-for-TV drama, "Hunters Are for Killing" (1970).
- "The Arab Conspiracy," a romantic thriller with Sean Connery as a Saudi Arabian ambassador, first titled "The Next Man" (1976) and later reissued as "Double Hit."
- "Break In," a caper thriller that gives Martin Sheen top billing, with Susannah York next, then Albert Finney - but Finney had his name listed first on this British film when it was released as "Loophole" (1980).
- "The Legend," which is a made-for-TV biography of James Dean, starring Stephen McHattie. He isn't even listed on the video box, which plays up Amy Irving, who has a minor role, as well as Brooke Adams, Meg Foster, Robert Foxworth and Jayne Meadows. It was originally titled "James Dean" (1976).
- "Chrome Hearts," a biker flick starring Joe Namath (honest!) and Ann-Margret, first released as "C.C. and Company" (1970).
- "Operation Overthrow," an international espionage thriller with Peter O'Toole, David Hemmings and Donald Pleasence, originally titled "Power Play" (1978).
- "Beyond Obsession," an Italian melodrama about jailed convict Marcello Mastroianni's relationship with his daughter, complicated by American Tom Berenger, first called "Beyond the Door" (1982).
It's an old story, of course: Let the buyer beware.
But if you feel bamboozled by a video with deceptive advertising or simply a bad tape, don't just accept it. Take the video back and complain to the store.
- LAST WEEK'S LIST OF the top 10 moneymakers of all time got some people asking about the biggest movies with dollar figures adjusted for inflation. Wouldn't "Gone With the Wind" be No. 1 in that case?
I would have thought so, but according to a recent Premiere magazine story, "Star Wars" is No. 1, followed by "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "Jaws," "The Sound of Music," "The Godfather" and - at No. 6 - "Gone With the Wind."