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Spirits in the Sky

Entry 1575 posted in: 7. Star Trek - The Original Sucker

$pace Every kid has this period in his life when he’s genuinely interested in UFO’s and all that conspiracy theories mumbo jumbo. I wasn’t an exception either and in my bold and beautiful days I devoured, next to the obligatory Clarke and Asimov SF stuff, the serious scientific works of Erich Von Däniken.

Erich Von Däniken was the man, or better said the early seventies phenomenon, and promoter of the theory that aliens had visited Earth in the past and had left proof of that, dispersed all over the world. Kids who go to the beach for a midnight swim will leave empty Cola cans, Nacho cheese wrappings, not to mention the odd contraceptive, to be found the next day by amateur beachcombers and these extraterrestrials had just been the same, leaving some valuable artefacts behind when they hurried out of the grotto when Mr. Neanderthal came home after his mammoth hunt and wasn’t too pleased finding out that Mrs. Caveman had been frolicking with Artoo-Detoo, Artoo-Dethree and Artoo-Defour.

God is an astronaut

Chariots of the Gods (1968) was a bestseller and it made Erich Von Däniken an instant superstar. Of course these were the Sixties and crazy ideas were more or less the rule, rather than the exception. Even Carl Sagan (with Iosif Shklovsky in 1966) had been uttering the idea that it was not entirely impossible for aliens to have visited earth but, so they added, that it was very improbable to have ever happened. Von Däniken promptly ignored the final part of that particular quote and Carl Sagan later regretted that he may have been an indirect inspiration for the tsunami of pseudo-scientific paleocontact articles, books and movies... Although Von Däniken’s theories weren’t that stupid to begin with (and weren’t original either, Wikipedia lists 13 other authors promoting the same theory before him) he couldn’t resist misinterpreting and even falsifying proof in his many books that sold over 60 million copies.

Cultra Rare

In the early seventies I watched the immense popular Chariots of the Gods documentary at a local movie theatre (thus were the times that it even got nominated for an Oscar) and when, a couple of months ago, I wanted to trace it back I stumbled upon the Cultra Rare Videos website that contained not only one, but 3 different alien astronauts documentaries, downloadable for free, and one narrated by the übermeister of extraterrestrial encounters himself: Mr. William Shatner.

Cultra Rare Videos (CRV) was a website that had specialised in so-called public domain movies, but not those public domain movies that can be found on other places on the web…

A wonderful site specializing in offering free (and legal) downloads of B-movies, low-budget splatter films, public domain horror movies, and movies that the motion picture industry simply forgot and doesn't care about. (Taken from High Weirdness Project)

Let's get geeky first. A public domain movie is a film…
a: released to the public domain by its author;
b: whose copyright has expired; or
c: that is hibernating in the grey area of copyright land because the owners or their companies can’t be traced anymore (a bit like abandonware games)…

The 3 different space god documentaries fell in that last category as they were distributed by a company called (Schick) Sunn Classic that closed down three decades ago. Although a movie company with the same name still exists today it appears to have lost the copyrights for the pseudo-science and paranormal documentaries its predecessor was famous for in the Seventies.

I made a mental note to return to CRV later on, but in April of this year it became a pay-site that had become, in its own words, a victim of its success.

As of Tuesday April 14th, this website regrets to inform those who have made it a success that it will no longer offer free downloads of rare motion pictures not found in the United States, and for most of the world for that matter.

But now I write this the site (and its spin-off) seems to have disappeared altogether. One can only hope that its huge movie database has been saved somewhere because it contained a huge collection of bad to very bad flicks.

Public Domain

I had to look for an alternative place to download these documentaries. There are plenty of websites that offer public domain movies, but CRV had a collection that was quite unique (and I fear that some of them weren’t really public domain).

Wikipedia contains an alphabetical list of free movies and the most impressive public domain collection is without doubt the Internet Archive although its search system is a bit of a hassle.

Other sites, that are more manageable, are The Entertainment Magazine Online and Public Domain Flicks. If one browses these websites by the year one will notice that most movies date from before the Sixties, starting (obviously) with the classic Nosferatu from 1922; Movies Found Online even has A Trip To The Moon from 1902.

But alas, I did not find what I was really looking for.

Several blogs exist that offer free movies as well: Free Public Domain Movies or Filmschatten; as a torrent aficionado I also tried Public Domain Torrents and Legit Torrents.

La Vallee Subterranean Space

So did I finally find these Von Däniken documentaries, I hear you ask, and as a matter of fact I did.

The très très bizarre Subterranean Cinema happens to stream several Sunn documentaries including:
¤ Chariots of the Gods (1970, 92 minutes, imdb),
¤ In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973, 55 minutes, imdb) and hip-hip-hurray...
¤ William Shatner’s Mysteries of the Gods (1976, 87 minutes, imdb).

The site is a mess (really!) and StumbleUpon gives the following review:

A smorgasboard of all films subversive, campfare, cult, and kitsch. All free, submitted for your perusal and fangush. This site is chock-full of critical texts, unearthed images found and scanned, lost footages on streaming video, and various indelible links.
Buried treasures that await you include:
1. A lost Rospo Pallenberg screenplay adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand, which George Romero was supposed to direct.
2. Recovered and compiled footages on MPEG and the screenplay (final draft and rough draft) of Jerry Lewis' lost film The Day the Clown Cried, a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hammelin set in a Nazi concentration camp. It was never released to the public.
3. The entire text and imagery from "El Topo: A Book of the Film" which features a commentary and play-by-play scenario of the cult classic El Topo by director Alejandro Jodorowsky himself.
4. The tie-in novelization of Bernardo Bertolucci's hard-to-find film La Luna.
6. The Titicut Follies, circa 1969 --- the documentary that shocked the whole world on streaming video.
7. Syberberg's Hitler on streaming video.
8. Images and critical texts on The Rolling Stones' Cocksucker Blues.
9. A feature on the arthouse collective carnage of The Vienna Aktionists.

and last but not least Pink Floyd lovers might find some interesting stuff as well...

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Popular science books are fun