Just to set the record straight…
I think it would be a good idea if I clarify a few issues regarding my coverage of Severin Films’ DVD release of Perversion Story, as one or two people seem to have misinterpreted my comments (or I didn’t make my comments clear enough, or a combination of the two).
First things first, my in-depth comparison of the two cuts is in no way intended as a means to tar and feather Severin or encourage people to boycott their DVD. Rather, it’s there so people can not only make an informed decision about their purchase, but also learn about the differences between the two versions if such matters interest them. I have no intent to persuade people not to buy the DVD: everyone is free to make up their own minds, so I am simply presenting the facts about this release in what I hope is a clear and unambiguous manner. For what it’s worth, I would actually encourage people to buy it, but simply to be aware that it will be missing some key scenes that they may be expecting to see.
According to Marc Morris over at the Anchor Bay UK forum, the French cut was the only version Severin had access to, as it was what was supplied to them by the licensor (who apparently didn’t know that any alternative versions existed). As such, they could either release the version we now have, or not release it at all. Given the choice, I think we all know which is the preferable option. As such, Severin’s only “crime” (so to speak) was not making it clear which version they were releasing (except on their web site). Now, you may say “But they never said they were going to release a full-length version, so what have they done wrong?” Well, as a point of comparison, what if Anchor Bay decided to release George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead on DVD, but only put out the Italian Argento cut, and didn’t indicate anywhere on the packaging that this was the version being included. Technically, they would have done nothing wrong. It’s a legitimate alternate cut of the film, just like the French Perversion Story cut. I suspect some people would be a bit put out, though. The simple fact is that most people, not unreasonably, assume they’ll be getting the complete package, just as, when I order a pizza, I don’t expect it to be delivered with a slice missing (“Well, we never said you’d get the whole pizza…”). Of course, when multiple alternate cuts exist, it becomes a lot more complicated, but I’m a big believer in clear advertising: I think that if you’re going to put out a DVD that features a cut of a film that’s missing material that most people are likely to be used to, you have a duty to state this.
It’s sometimes difficult to reconcile the differences between two distinct crowds of Euro-cult fandom. The way I see it, there are two extremes, with most people being somewhere in the middle. At one end of the spectrum, there are the people who expect every release to be absolutely perfect, cry blue murder if there’s the slightest flaw, and organise mass boycotts to teach those nasty distributors a lesson. I certainly am not going to go this far: I expect a certain level of transparency from distributors (i.e. be honest about what you’re releasing - if there are multiple versions of a title available, make it clear which one you’re putting out, and get the running time correct on the back cover!), and I expect high standards, but within reason.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the “put up and shut up” crowd that, for some reason, thinks we should be grateful for anything that gets put out, no matter how expensive and no matter how poor the quality. In my experience, these are quite often people who collected grimy bootlegs in the 80s and 90s and believe that this somehow makes them more “legitimate” fans than those who only came along with the advent of DVD. Of course, they too are only seeing these films second-hand, having not been around for their original 70s releases, although this is something that they conveniently choose to forget. There’s a certain level of masochism here: “I had to put up with a worse copy than you!”
Generalising much? Maybe, but, in the four and a half (or thereabouts) years that I’ve been actively into these films, I’ve come across fans from both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. Obviously most people are a bit more realistic, but you do get the odd lone nutter who thinks that a couple of seconds of accidentally misplaced footage is grounds for fire-bombing the distributor’s headquarters, or who thinks that anything better than a VHS dupe is good enough. Both extremes do damage to the Euro-cult scene: the former because, if everyone were to boycott every release with the slightest problem, the companies responsible would soon go out of business; the latter because, if everyone took the “it’ll do” attitude, the overall standard of DVDs would be much lower. Does anyone seriously believe we would have received the excellent new release of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin without a whole lot of complaining about the previous version?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should expect high standards, but within reason. And Severin’s DVD of Perversion Story is of a high standard. No, it’s not definitive, and I’m personally disappointed that Severin only had access to the French cut (the English version is a better film, frankly), but it looks as if they’ve made the best of a problematic situation. As such, while I can’t pretend that I don’t hope a more all-inclusive version comes along at a later date, I don’t think that should put you off buying their DVD. At the end of the day, though, the choice is yours.