PlayList - the best film downloads


To introduce his new PlayList column about the best film downloads available on the Internet, Eddie Harrison waxes lyrical about the joys of the smaller screen.

'Intertainment’ isn’t something that requires you to be an über geek with a bit torrent jack plug in the back of your head. The streams on popular sites like You Tube, Google Video or Dailymotion don’t require complicated downloads, all you have to do is press play. As a consequence, a useful source for many film watchers has become the Internet, and this new monthly column aims to provide a guide to enjoying old and new films in the broadband era.

Where to begin? Tom Wolfe wrote of a generation stymied by the largest amount of entertainment choice ever available (and that was before the internet). But now that the mechanism for film distribution has been put into the hands of the masses, the first port of call for many users is to cannibalise or customise their favourite films. So check out The Vader Sessions (, pictured), in which one active fan has re-cut a selection of unlikely James Earl Jones’ audio-clips into the original Star Wars movie to recreate the dark lord as a slightly seedy pimp, wandering the corridors of the Death Star announcing to a stoic Peter Cushing: ‘In 1924, I posed for another sculpture. It was a nude. It depicted me singing “Deep River”’.

Such irreverence has won over a million viewers for one posting alone. Knock-off postings of streaming sites certainly offer a different bill of fare to terrestrial TV, DVD or video.

This freedom makes possible finds such as long lost masterpiece The Thief and The Cobbler ( The product of three-time Oscar winning animator Richard Williams, it’s a colourful reworking of various Sufi stories that’s very different from any Disney product in philosophy, wit and imagination. 26 years in the making The Thief and the Cobbler has never been issued in the UK in any format, and was previously only available on bootlegs.

Similarly, Rene Laloux’s 1973 animation Fantastic Planet ( isn’t likely to be showing anywhere near you, ever, unless you want to key it up. A deeply trippy story of a human girl who finds herself kept as a pet by a race of giant aliens, it’s been re-scored with experimental music soundtrack, although you might just as well contribute your own.

At a recent New York forum of film critics, who had gathered to discuss their top ten films of the year, it was agreed that material viewed on the net was just as eligible for consideration as those in cinemas. If even famously luddite critics can get the point, then the Internet has officially come of age as a legitimate medium for cinematic enjoyment.

So what do you want to watch today? How about the long difficult-to-get-hold-of 1978 TV film The Star Wars Holiday Special ( Truly, it needs to be seen to be believed. Press play to begin.

PlayList will begin in The List’s 15 March issue.

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