Around the world, the VHS tape was a very popular format for film. As such, it was very common for bootleggers to make unauthorized VHS tapes of films. In the USA, it was more frequent in theater recordings recorded directly from the movie theater projection (telecine.) The bootleggers would be caught by the police and be fined for copyright infringement and unauthorized duplication as well as distribution if they were well known in the tape duplication circle.
Worldwide, the bootleg circle was much larger as many of these countries did not have official home media releases (sometimes for many years, if at all.)
This was the case in the USSR (and other countries under communism) as they could not get the home media distribution rights in proper. As a result, voiceover translations were created (this was the translation being read over the original soundtrack) They were usually done by unknown people (usually men) voicing all of the characters.
Some countries did it differently than others. For example, many of the Serbian voiceovers that exist include multiple voices voicing over the characters.
Examples of Bootleg VHS :
Polish VHS of Bambi :
This is a bootleg VHS of Bambi I have bought on eBay a few years ago. The tape is from 1993 (?). The cover art uses the 1989 "Classics" edition from the USA and the tape master included is the 1989 USA edition (with trailers and all.) This tape contains a Polish male voiceover speaking over the original English audio. Songs are not voiced over and are left in English.
Russia is very famous for their many voiceovers. This is due to the bootlegging of videotapes of films during communist Russia. The cover art would be completely different from the official VHS cover art. This tapes contained an amateur male voice that would voice all of the characters.
The Serbian VHSes are an interesting case as these were sold in stores and would have cover art that closely matched the originals. As mentioned earlier, the Serbian voiceovers would typically include multiple voices. In some cases, some of the films would have more than one voiceover version as the VHSes have been released several times.
Some of the voices are even known in some of these versions ! Snow White is an example of one that includes known voices.
These voices include :
Татјана Станковић / Tatjana Stanković
Виолета Пековић / Violeta Peković
Горан Пековић / Goran Peković
Небојша Буровић / Nebojša Burović
The covers tend to vary in quality (some are very close to the official cover art, while others take a different direction.)
In this example, Snow White, Pinocchio and Peter Pan include extra photos that are not included on official releases; while Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, Pocahontas, The Lion King II : Simba's Pride, and Tarzan use the original cover art.
Public Domain :
In some countries, some of the Disney animated films would fall into the public domain due to how the public domain laws are set up. In Japan and South Korea for example, films produced until 1960 are in the public domain. Which is why DVDs / Blu-Rays of Disney animated classics may have different cover art on Amazon or eBay (these are the public domain editions.) The dubbing included is often different from the normal dubbing circulated by Disney (they would be amateurish quality with the songs left in English.)
In Italy during the 1980s, there was a belief that some of the Disney animated films fell into the public domain and as such were released on VHS by unlicensed companies such as Eclecta Video. These VHS editions would vary in quality from very good (Snow White, which included the 1987 print in technicolor) to poor (Bambi.) Dumbo is an interesting case as it uses a print from a TV showing from the 1980s albeit washed out.
Some countries release their films on VHS in different versions. A dubbed version which has the film in the language of the country, a subtitled version with the original audio with hardcoded subtitles in a different language, or a bilingual version is which both the dubbed version and English versions are played simultaneously.
The bilingual editions are most common in Japan as an means of watching films on VHS. How these versions worked was that two audios would play at the same time; one audio stream would play on the mono channel and another audio stream would play on the other mono channel. The viewer could decide which version they wanted to watch by unhooking the left or right cable. Typically the left channel would be the Japanese dubbed version while on the right would be the original English version. If both cables are left in, both audio tracks will overlap.
To tell if the edition you have is the bilingual edition, There will be a yellow triangle on the top left corner of the box, yellow on the spine, and a message on the back saying it has two audio channels.
For reference, dubbed versions are marked with red with the letters 日本語吹き替え, subtitled versions are marked in green with the letters 日本語字幕, and bilingual versions are marked in yellow with the letters 二か国語版.
Why is this interesting ? It shows that the VHS format is capable of holding two audios on a single tape. The Laserdisc format was also capable of doing this as well. How it worked on LD was that there would be two separate audio tracks (one digital and the other in analog, or on older discs; two mono soundtracks) with the ability to switch between them. Unlike VHS, bilingual editions are more common on Laserdisc as it was easier to switch between the audio tracks on Laserdiscs unlike VHS. Like VHS, subtitled editions were released as well as dubbed versions (the dubbed versions are not as common as VHS.) The ability to hold more than one audio track and switch between them would be incorporated into the DVD format as well as the Blu-Ray format.
This blog is intended to document the many retro home media releases and current media releases that I have. Whether it's VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, or Blu-Ray. :)
The Author: willdubguru
willdubguru is a collector of many home media releases (specifically retro ones) and has the largest international VHS collection on the internet.
Coming Soon :
Comparison between three VHS releases of the Thai 1991 dub of The Little Mermaid
The History of the Original Star Wars Trilogy on Home Video
Retrospective of the Disney Gold Classic Collection line
I would like to thank Chris -K from YouTube for idea of the VHS blog.
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