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February 10, 2000 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-02-10

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14B The Michigan Daily - ekend, etc. Magazine - Th sday; February 10, 200000
tF Collector's Corner
Don't ignore bootleg ty o novelty value and profit

w a




Festival brings documentarian's oe

By Ted Watts
Daily Arts Writer

In "Jingle All the Way," Arnold
Schwarzenegger gets duped with an
imitation "hot" toy, completely
unacceptable for gift-giving. This
was a powerful fable, the moral
being never trust James Belushi in a
Santa suit.
But in the real world, bootleg toys
l are neither as obviously located -
in a warehouse full of violent elves

and Santa Clauses - nor as devoid
of value.
Sure, the new fake Pokemon toys
might not be what some little kid
wants. The miscolored and poorly
cast "Pina Colada Misty" figure
might not be what the 5-year old
rugrats had their hearts set on. Who
could blame them? This isn't a coun-
terfeit toy that can be easily passed
off as the real thing, to the irritation
of the Pokemon Corporate
No, these are toys of the caliber Rof
production of generic army men
found in dollar stores, only now with
an insidious slap of brand recogni-
tion on them. A toy that would, if
genuine, have moveable arms may
now be a single piece of plastic. A
toy normally having a half dozen
bright colors may now have three
faded shades of what could be con-
sidered paint - except that on clos-
er inspection, one of those colors
turns out to be the native hue of the
plastic itself.
Furthermore, these toys are also
usually empty shells, since the plas-
tic that would normally fill them
would cost more money - money
the robber barons of Taiwanese or
Hong Kong production vectors
would rather keep for themselves to
buy solid gold toilet paper. Any kid
who got these toys from their par-
ents could hardly be blamed for
sending them to the rest home as
soon as possible.

But as much as they suck for kids,
bootleg toys are a gold mine for col-
lectors. 20 years ago, action figure
bootlegging found a major original
source of material: Star Wars. At
once an extremely collectible variety
of bootlegged Star Wars toys started
popping up in the Eastern Bloc.
Hungary and Poland were the prime
markets, and from these nations a
wealth of low-quality bootlegs found
their way into collectors' hands in
the U.S.
From straight-ahead bootlegs of
major characters to inexplicably
redecorated toys (especially the
chrome plated version of the
Imperial Guard named Head Man),
the Star Wars franchise spawned
enough bootlegs to constitute a large
independent toy line.
And that's not to mention a col-
lectible toy line, too. Bizarre, cheap
reproductions from beyond the Iron
Curtain now command hundreds of
dollars. That isn't as true for more
recent bootlegs, as they have not
acquired quite the mystique of Star
Wars. Sure, a Pikachu with no red on
its cheeks may be harder to find than
a real one (maybe not), but for now
they just seem like damaged goods.
Even more freakishly mispainted
knock offs are at least that much
more fun - a green Jigglypuff has
an interestingly random look to it if
nothing else.
And you don't need to travel to
Budapest to find current bootlegs,
either. Sure, U.S. Customs may keep
them out of Walmart's or even
Everything's a Dollar's shelves, but
they do get through, largely to flea
markets or small stores with ties to
the far East. At the same time, these
toys are produced with the intention

This Dragoonball Goku figure looks amazingly similar to the official toy.

Courtesy of Miramax Films
The Pokemon phenomenon is by no
means limited to genuine toys.

of reaching these shores.
They are often packaged with the
standard indicia: Choking hazard
warnings, the obligatory and virtual-
ly redundant "Made in China"
emblazoned on them, a recycling
symbol. Nevertheless, the toys are
clearly fakes.
One Dragonball GT knock-off
package goes by the name GT
Dragoonball. Perhaps there's a juris-
diction somewhere where a name
change by transposition and an extra
"o" might carry some weight, but it
seems doubtful. The name shouldn't

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even fool a customs official on a
cursory lookout for Dragonball
bootlegs. But maybe Blonde Dragon
Super Fight wouldn't sell as well.
The producers of this bootleg
weren't too thoughtful, however. The
included characters are not the obvi-
ous hot sellers. Sure, the star of the
program Goku is there (although his
toy size is abnormally large com-
pared to the average Dragonball fig-
But then you get Brolly (who
showed up a couple of times in the
movies), three kids from the show
and a fused version of Goku and
Vegeta. One actual good idea is the
inclusion of seven Dragonballs, the
things that need to be collected in
the show to make wishes. But on the
whole, the package seems a bit ran-
do m.
Even the art on the packaging is
strangely altered from the art of the
show; some characters are blue
instead of pink, but others are the
same as if they were official. It is as
if the bootleggers can't decide
whether how to try to avoid looking
like a rip-off - by looking like real
toys or by looking completely unre-
Well, whether these current
bootlegs will have the staying power
of Head Man, only time will tell.
Until then, use some common
decency and don't buy your kids
fake toys. Buy yourself fake toys.

By Aaron Rich
D)aily :Arts Wrter
Freaks, geniuses, maniacs. These three
words would be one way of generalizing
the range of characters and subjects docu-
mentarian Errol Morris has shown us in
his six major works, spanning more than
20 years.
Then again, that terse description
would not cut to the quick of his oeuvre.
What underlies these six masterpieces -
yes, masterpieces- is how hard they are
to qualify in simple terms. Each of them
comes across effectively on several levels
of humor, philosophy and anthropology.
In honor of all this, and the release of
his new film "Mr. Death: The Rise and
Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.," the Detroit
Film Theater at the Detroit Institute of
Arts will begin a small festival of these
seminal Morris works, once a week on
Monday nights. In the middle of the line-
up will be the new "Mr. Death."
"We're trying to get people to see,
the films of Errol Morris - not see an
Errol Morris film about a specific per-
son," said Elliot Wilhelm, curator of
films at the DIA.
On top of this, the museum was
recently able to get clean 35mm prints
of all the films through Lions Gate
Films, the company that produced and
is releasing "Mr. Death."
"Morris is a perfectionist when it
comes to visual quality," Wilhelm said.
This quality is apparent in each of Moris'
sets and shots.
The first film in the festival, showing
this coming Monday, is "Gates of
Heaven" (1978). In the late '70s, Morms
began filming this documentary about
two different pet animal cemeteries in
Northern California.
One is in the process of shutting its
gates for good, the other is relatively
prosperous. In an effort to better
understand the pet cemetery world.
Morris begins interviewing some of
the animal lovers who patronize and
run these establishments.
Morris' style rests in the interview.
He lets people speak (and speak and
speak) without interrupting the flow of
their ideas. His genius lies in his ability
to hold the shot forever until his inter-
viewee has said everything they could
possibly have in their head. This is espe-
cially apparent in this early work as the
film is made up almost entirely of inter-
views - very funny, challenging and
entertaining interviews.
"Gates of Heaven' is one of the films
that we've probably shown more than any
other," Wilhelm said in reference to the
timeless popularity of the documentary.
The following week the DFT will show
1980's "Vernon, Florida," perhaps the
EuoL Momus F m FEsVAL
Feb.14:"Gates of Heaven" (1978), 88min.
* Feb. 21: "vernon, Florida"(1980), 65 min.
Feb. 25 -27: "Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of
Fred A. Leuchter, Jr" (1999), 90 min.
Feb. 28: "TheThin Blue Line" (1988), 106min.
Mar. 6: 'A Brief History of Time" (1992),
80 min.
Mar. 13: "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control"
(1997), 110 min.
U Mar. 13: "Stairway to Heaven" (1998), 26 mnm.
For oiV inf/ all the DLFT at (313) 833-4005.

least-known of Morris' major works. This
expose of a small town in Northern
Florida began as a look at some of the
unorthodox citizens who chopped off
body parts for insurance money. As
Morris spent more time in the title town,
he realized that these individuals werejust
the tip of this hamlet's bizarro iceberg.
Other friendly inhabitants of Vernon
include a couple who traveled to the
site of the Trinity nuclear tests and
brought back "special" sand, a man
who claims his tortoise is a gopher and
a turkey hunter who can imitate all the
different turkey gobbles. This screen-
ing is especially important as the film
is only rarely found on video.
The weekend in between "Vernon" and
"The Thin Blue Line" will be the short

premiere run of "Mr. Death." This film
studies the life work of Fred Leuchter,
arguable the nation's, if not the world's,
foremost expert on execution devices.
As Leuchter's popularity grows, he is
employed by revisionist historians to go
to the Nazi concentration camp
Auschwitz-Birkenau to investigate the
gas chambers. Leuchter, using suspi-
cious science, decides that the gas
chambers are a "myth," though his
claim is later refuted by chemists. This
chilling story leaves one wondering
about the depths of evil and culpability.
"The Thin Blue Line," made in 1988,
is considered one of Morris' biggest
achievements, both cinematically and
even morally. It also marks a turning
point in the overall look of the director's

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ar.," ",'s in fr i3':=ta b a,. ;y.' ffe-, one=of r-s v cesfwh l_ rha ""S'ra rols.

works. This documentary
"facts" of a cop murder <
Through extensive intervi
actments of the situations
ally proves a convicted r
and implicates the real m
"The Thin Blue Line
first experiment with r
based filmmaking. Ther
a great variety of "talkir
the director adds other
special effects as we
artistic "dramatic reena
the actual events.
"A Brief History of Tir
the film on the slate for

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