Monday, August 13, 2012

Slave Trade in the World Today - Intermedia/Woodhaven vs Mediaset

In 2004, Intermedia Video/Woodhaven Entertainment released a DVD* of Slave Trade in the World Today (aka Le schiave esistono ancora) (1975). The backside of the DVD sleeve curiously stated that the film had not only been "Digitally Remastered", but also "Re-edited & Color Enhanced", though unfortunately no additional information was provided. We thus decided to do a comparison of the Intermedia/Woodhaven DVD version (IWDV) of the film with an Italian TV broadcast version (IMTV), which aired on the Mediaset Italia 1 channel, so as to see if we could deduce precisely what had been re-edited and enhanced on the aforementioned DVD release.

*Woodhaven Entertainment also released the film on VHS in 2000, but alas we do not have a copy of said VHS to see whether or not it is identical to the later DVD release.


In viewing IWDV alongside IMTV, Woodhaven's claims of their print being "Digitally Remastered" and "Color Enhanced" are immediately rendered laughable, as IWDV is so excessively desaturated as to appear to be borderline black and white at times, while IMTV presents a noticeably brighter, full-colored print of the film.

With regard to frame size and cropping, although both versions are presented in the 4:3 full screen aspect ratio, they are erratic to say the least, with each version overcropping various segments of the frame throughout the entire film.

For instance, at the start of the film, IWDV is heavily overcropped on all four sides of the frame.

However, for the bulk of the film, IWDV is slightly overcropped on the left-hand side of the frame as well as on the top, while IMTV is overcropped on the right-hand side and the bottom.

IWDV's blatant overcropping is particularly noticeable during the end-credit sequence, as portions of the words are clearly cut off.

Finally, there are also times where IWDV isn't overcropped (with relation to IMTV, at least), but IMTV is indeed missing picture on the right-hand side and bottom of the frame.

Although both versions are thus variously overcropped, IMTV nonetheless comes out ahead--even despite its ever-present TV station watermark--due to it using a much more color-rich print than the anemic IWDV.

In now turning our attention from image quality to actual film content, we find that both versions feature scenes, and segments of scenes, not in the other version. For instance, while IMTV includes a sequence about public executions which is not found in IWDV, it is also missing several shots of a public whipping which are present in IWDV. IMTV also includes a portion of the film set in India which is entirely missing from IWDV. Meanwhile, IWDV includes a scene spliced in from Mondo Cane 2 (aka Mondo Pazzo) (1963) which is not in IMTV. Also present in each version are a handful of more minor edits, missing a few shots of a scene here and there (which are outlined in Appendix 1). The viewing of both versions will thus provide a more comprehensive experience of the overall film.

Appendix 1. Scene Comparison Between the Intermedia/Woodhaven DVD (IWDV) and the Italian Mediaset TV (IMTV) Versions of Slave Trade in the World Today.

Format: (Time in IWDV) [Time in IMTV] - Description

Nota bene: As always, timings may not be precise (assume a +/- two-second deviation at best), and are in the format: Start Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds)-End Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds).

  1. (00:00:00-00:00:41) [00:00:00] - IMTV lacks the opening scroll that's present in IWDV. However, towards the end of IMTV [01:22:33], it does sound like the narrator is relaying a similar message verbally, and IMTV does have its own shorter, varying text message at [00:00:12] (see 2. below).

    Note the striking parallel with the similarly moralistic intonation found in the opening scroll in Stelvio Massi's shockumentary Drugs: A River of No Return (aka Droga sterco di Dio) (1986) - "if it succeeds further in helping to free one human being from slavery, it will have served its purpose and justified the risks"; "If this film saves even one human life from the scourge of drugs, we will have achieved our objective".

  2. (00:00:41-00:01:59) [00:00:00-00:01:12] - IWDV has English opening credits; IMTV has Italian ones. Both also have an excerpt from the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their respective languages.

    IMTV further has a caption screen after the initial title screen, which appears to be a shorter version of the aforementioned IWDV opening scroll, reading "Un viaggio attraverso l'Africa, l'Arabia, il Medio Oriente e l'India per svelare l'esistenza di una vergognosa piaga del mondo civile: il traffico degli schiavi." ("A journey through Africa, Arabia, the Middle East and India to reveal the existence of a shameful wound of the civilized world: the slave trade.")

    Note that while IMTV credits Roberto Malenotti with filming both the Middle East and India segments, IWDV only makes mention of the Middle East sequences. Perhaps not coincidentally, the scenes shot in India are entirely missing from IWDV, though present in IMTV (see 13. below).

    IWDV further has two additional credits not found in IMTV: "Narration written by ELIHU WINER" and "Narrator ALLEN SWIFT". Alas, IWDV credits do not however provide us with the name of the guilty party responsible for hacking together this version of the film; in order to discern this little factoid we thus turn to The American Film Institute Catalog, which dutifully lists one Stephen Billings as the "U.S. Vers Ed", though it is of course possible that there is more than one U.S. version of the film.

  3. (00:01:59-00:02:27) [00:47:23-00:47:51] - The location of the slavery-related newspaper clippings is changed between the two versions, appearing at the start of the film in IWDV, and in the middle of the film in IMTV. The newspapers are also cropped and tilted in IWDV, perhaps so as to remove the Italian captioning as seen in IMTV.

  4. (00:12:28) [00:10:49-00:12:23] - IWDV is missing the grisliest scene in the film, presumably about the North Yemen Civil War that was flaring at the time of filming, including still shots of public executions (which are, incidentally, still carried out in Yemen in modern times). It's telling that in Killing for Culture, David Kerekes and David Slater describe the film as having "a decidedly unpleasant flogging sequence" (p. 86), but being "on the whole, rather tedious" (ibid.). The fact that they single out a decidedly tamer scene and yet make no reference to the more extreme sequence would thus seemingly signify that they viewed a version which likewise did not contain said scene. Considering that Killing for Culture was initially published in 1994, with an updated edition coming out the following year (and a still newer version slated for publication in late 2012), and considering that, as one will recall, the Woodhaven Entertainment VHS was not released until 2000, it is therefore likely that another earlier version of the film is floating around which also lacks the execution segment.

  5. (00:16:34-00:16:39) [00:16:20]; (00:17:12-00:17:15) [00:16:51]; (00:17:21-00:17:35) [00:16:56] - IMTV is missing several shots of the actual whipping during the flogging scene. The abridgement is particularly nonsensical not only in light of the fact that IMTV contains the aforementioned execution photos, but also because not all of the flogging is excised, only a few select snips of it; perhaps exceeding the acceptable flogging quota permissible on Italian television (see also 11. below)?

  6. (00:19:30-00:19:36) [00:18:48] - IMTV cuts a brief shot of the bride-whore's tits. As with the previous flogging cut, this exclusion is likewise inconsistent as there are other scenes in IMTV where breasts can be seen (for instance, [00:14:20; 00:21:17; 00:59:23]), thus there's presumably either a tit quota to go alongside the flogging one, or an inattentive censor at the chopping block.

  7. (00:28:44-00:29:02) [00:27:34-00:27:51] - As with the earlier newspaper sequence (see 3. above), the articles are cropped and tilted in IWDV.

  8. (00:34:36) [00:33:10-00:33:23] - IWDV is missing a few shots of the bar patrons in the pub scene.

  9. (00:45:23) [00:43:44-00:43:49] - IMTV has intermission cards in the middle of the film. It is customary for Italian films shown in the cinema to be split into two parts, affording the audience a break in the middle. Thus it would seem that the Italian TV broadcast used a theatrical print of the film as its originating source material (though perhaps subsequently mangling it for TV broadcast).

  10. (00:52:45-00:56:18) [00:51:21] - IWDV here splices in a scene of apprehended slave-traffickers and their cargo consisting of horrendously crippled and maimed slave children. The scene, while certainly fitting in with the film thematically not only with regard to the obvious overarching topic of slavery but by further mentioning the United Nations (which, one will recall, is also referenced at the very start of the film (see 2. above)), is nonetheless in fact taken from Jacopetti and Prosperi's Mondo Cane 2 (aka Mondo Pazzo) which had come out a year earlier in 1963. Notably, a couple decades later the mondo mash-up Shocking Africa (1989)--itself not to be confused with yet another mondo, namely the Castiglioni brothers' Africa Dolce E Selvaggia (aka Shocking Africa) (1982)--in turn featured pilfered scenes from The Slave Trade in the World Today (as well as from Mondo Cane 2) including, once again, this particular scene.

  11. (00:58:54-00:59:24) [00:53:55] - IMTV cuts out the mock-whipping portion of the striptease. Apparently the dago censors don't mind images of hung corpses, but deem--not even actual whipping, as in the earlier cut (see 5. above)--whipping noises themselves to be objectionable.

  12. (01:05:05-01:05:17) [00:59:22]; (01:05:41-01:05:45) [00:59:48] - IMTV cuts out a couple ass shots of Eve Kenneth and another member of the harem from her home video footage.

  13. (01:25:27) [01:18:44-01:22:45] - IWDV cuts out the entire portion of the film dealing with India, including naked kiddies sleeping on the street and a funeral pyre.

  14. (01:27:16-01:28:05) [01:24:28] - IMTV is missing the end credits, ending right after 'Fine' appears on the screen (though this may of course be due to our copy of a singular recording of the broadcast ending prematurely).

    Note that IWDV mentions Longanesi as the publisher of the book the film was inspired by, which is the Italian publisher of the Italian translation of the tome, published in English by Crown Publishers.

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