A big downside of DVDs is that anal-retentive distributors can now force viewers to sit through stuff they could previously fast-forward past on VHS. Try fast-forwarding past the FBI Warning or ego-inflated producer’s logo, and you’ll get that Stop sign in the corner of your TV screen, robbing a bit of your time (something no studio suit would tolerate).
But Carlita’s Secret take this obnoxious practice to new depths. Released by Maverick Entertainment, this film begins with the usual non-fast-forwardable FBI Warning and production logos, but then follows what looks like a five and a half minute promotional short film!
I can’t comment on the short film, because I didn’t pay attention to it. I spent the first minute of it trying the fast-forward and hit Menu buttons, figuring at some point rationality would resume (which I define as a company serving me, the consumer). When that didn’t work, I switched channels, coming back only after the short had ended. I refuse to be part of a captive audience.
The feature film itself, Carlita’s Secret, was okay. A low-budget, shot-on-video crime drama. No worse, quality wise, than many low-budget horror films.
But then things worsened. After the film ended, I fast-forwarded past the end credits, planning to return to the menu to see if there were any special features. I should have paid attention to the menu the first time, because there was no menu at film’s end. Instead, the same short film began playing once again, refusing to be fast-fowarded through. Apparently, I must sit through this promo piece every time I try to get to the menu.
I wish manufacturers would release a DVD player giving consumers the power to crack these codes, so that we control what we watch, when we choose to watch it. I’m not suggesting anything to allow us to make illegal copies; just the right to use the copies we already paid for in whatever manner we choose. A right we already have under the Copyright Statute’s First Sale Doctrine.
Of course, the studios will scream that even this would violate their copyrights (when really, it’s the studios that are violating our rights as guaranteed by the First Sale Doctrine). Really, fast-forwarding is no different than flipping past pages in a book. Imagine the public outrage if publishers could force readers to read every page, in order. (Not an idle danger, what with e-books here and on the horizon).
On a final note, Maverick Entertainment engages in other sleazy marketing tactics.
Their DVD cover for Senorita Justice falsely implies that Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria stars in this shot-on-video, low-budget crime drama. Actually, Longoria only occupies about 5 minutes of screen time, and even that is mostly just reaction shots; she has very little dialogue.
However, in fairness, Maverick is doing nothing unusually obnoxious here. It’s long been common practice among distributors that when a bit player in a film rises to stardom, that film is re-released with the bit player now given star billing, so as to delude the public as to the size of that big player’s actual role.