Bootlegs Galore: The Great Alfred Hitchcock Rip-off

  • Contrary to popular belief, NONE of Hitchcock’s films are in the public domain – anywhere
  • Years of speculation and misinformation by cocksure commentators muddy the waters
  • The most pirated classic filmmaker ever, with far more counterfeit than official releases
  • His British films are hardest hit, causing much confusion for fans wanting quality copies
  • Bootleggers have ripped them off for years on VHS and DVD, but now Blu-ray and digital
  • Buyer beware: poor quality pirate Blu-rays mainly emanate from Spain, Italy and Germany
  • Every Hitchcock film or TV programme on YouTube et al not from an official studio is pirated

Note: this is one of 100-odd Hitchcock articles coming over the next few months. Any dead links are to those not yet published. Subscribe to the email list to be notified when new ones appear.

There’s something strange afoot regarding our Alfred’s films. Particularly those from the first half of his 50-plus-year career, covering his early British years and initial US movies. They’re often thought of as being in the public domain, but they’re not. None of them. Nada. This makes it difficult for collectors wanting good quality releases, because there’s a huge flock of viciously cheap ‘n’ nasty versions out there, blackening not the sky, but the technical excellence of the great man’s reputation. Join me for a terrifying tale of monstrous bootlegs, far more frightening than anything the Master of Suspense himself could dream up…


Will the real owners please stand up?

Ironically for the all-time Master of the crime thriller, Hitch’s films have been the victims of more crime than any other classic filmmaker. But who have they been stolen from? Let’s have a look at the historical copyright holders of his British films. Since they were first made they’ve passed through the hands of various corporate entities:

Pleasure, Eagle, Lodger, Downhill, Easy, Waltzes, Sabotage, Secret, Man, 39 Steps, Young and Lady:
Gainsborough Pictures, Gaumont-British, etc → Rank Film Distributors (from 1941) → Carlton International (1997) → Granada International (2003) → ITV Global Entertainment Ltd (2004)

In the UK, home video releases have been issued by the following, which are essentially different iterations of the same company:
Pickwick Video (1982–1995) → renamed Carlton Video (1995–2004) → Granada Ventures (2005–2006) → ITV DVD (2006–2009) → ITV Studios (2009–present)
ITV have also licensed exclusively to Network DVD (later Network Distributing) since 2006 in the UK.

Ring, Farmer, Champagne, Manxman, Blackmail, Juno, Elstree, Murder, Skin, Mary, Rich and Number:
British International Pictures → EMI (from 1970) → Thorn-EMI (1979) → Alan Bond (1986) → Cannon Group (1986) → Weintraub Entertainment (1987) → Movie Acquisitions Corporation (1991) → Lumiere Pictures (1993) → UGC UK (1996) → Canal+ Image UK (StudioCanal subsidiary, 1997) → StudioCanal Films (2012)

UK distribution: Optimum Releasing (1999) → StudioCanal UK (2006) – present, but home video releases didn’t carry the new owner’s logo until 2011.

Jamaica Inn:
Mayflower Productions → Raymond Rohauer (from 1975) → Douris Corporation (1995) → Cohen Film Collection (2011)

 Releases: see Alfred Hitchcock Collectors’ Guide entry.

Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache:
Crown Copyright → BFI (from 1993)

 Releases: see Alfred Hitchcock Collectors Guide entry.

Full details on each film can be found here. A condition of licensing common to all legitimate home media is that the name and/or logo of the licensor or copyright holder must be prominently displayed on the packaging. Usually their ident is inserted just prior to the start of the main programme too. So if any Hitchcock film, on whatever format, is lacking at least one of these company names, it’s almost certainly a bogus copy. Which brings us to…

A wolf in sheep’s clothing: beware the femme fatale

 Isn't she lovely? Don't be fooled – she'll only rip you off. The Pleasure Garden (1925, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) German bootleg DVD.

Isn’t she lovely? Don’t be fooled: she’s more gold digger than Gold Collection and will only leave you broke and miserable. This German bootleg is from SJ Entertainment, DA Music and/or Aberle Media. Take your pick: like many shifty thieves, they seem to be suffering an identity crisis.

Curious to see the rest of her immediate kin? Just look at these beauties. Very tastefully designed, with absolutely gorgeous faux-embossed sleeves featuring immaculate tinted images. Don’t they just ooze quality? Unfortunately not: beauty is only skin deep and theirs merely serves to conceal the ugliness lying beneath. Yup: because they’re all bona fide bootlegs. Their actual transfers look bloody awful – like they’ve been VHS-recorded directly off a 1960s TV screen. Also, these DVDs, like other unrestored Hitch silents bootlegs, are untinted B&W, cropped, edited, transferred at the wrong speed and the images bob and weave so much that watching them will make you seasick. As if all that wasn’t enough, they’re topped off with ancient muffled, generic canned music, as their many annoyed Amazon reviewers will attest. Naturally, most of the aforementioned applies to Hitch’s ripped-off talkies too. Elsewhere in this Hitch series, I’ve uncovered the provenance of many of his bootlegs’ atrocious transfers; the one for this particular specimen is described in graphic detail here. But be warned: it’s not a pretty sight.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that if most bootleggers put half as much effort into the quality of their content as they did their sleeves, they’d have far fewer complaints. But they couldn’t care less: they’ve got a great, low cost business model that works brilliantly and attractive sleeves are their honeytrap. Once they’ve got your money it’s immaterial whether you’re satisfied or not. You’d think eventually folk would wise up and the bootleggers would go out of business, but no: there are always a million more unsuspecting buyers ready to be easily parted from their money. Then there are the repeat offenders: those who buy these awful things over and over. They either don’t know or care the films can easily be had in much better quality, or they keep spending in the hope eventually they’ll turn up the odd nugget. They won’t. What they will do is keep funding and encouraging bootleggers and pirates to stay in business, thus killing off the market for quality restored releases.

It doesn’t help when blogs and film chat forums are crowded with keyboard warriors, hell bent on spreading their completely misguided, even deluded, but always cocksure opinions. Perhaps the most egregious one of all is that they’re happy to buy some crappy release, to make do until something better comes along. But the very fact they’re supporting the bootleg industry makes that possibility far less likely. The more money bootleggers make, the more they’re galvanised into saturating the market with shoddy goods. Ergo, shoddy goods are all we’ll ever get.

Avoid this beautiful faker: she's a cheap German bootleg and you're better off seeing the back of her. The Pleasure Garden (1925, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) German bootleg DVD rear.

Avoid this beautiful faker: she’s a cheap old German boot and you’re better off seeing the back of her. The credits even come complete with the absent Nita Naldi once again misattributed as the Eingeborenenmädchen (Native Girl).

Pirates, pirates everywhere, and not a drop to drink

Every country worldwide is absolutely wallowing in homegrown Hitch bootlegs, mirroring the bewildering array of poor quality releases to be had from his fellow Londoner, Charlie Chaplin. As with Chaplin, fans had to put up with rotten copies of their earlier films – if they could see any copies at all – in the dark, dark days before widely available quality home video editions. You can learn, or if you’re old enough be reminded of, how bad they were by looking at the clips in any old Hitch documentary. Or via most present day bootlegs. Why on earth would anyone but a masochist want to put themselves through watching such garbage, when every extant Hitch film can easily and cheaply be had on great quality restored releases?

Owing to the ubiquity of Hitch’s British era rip-offs in particular, he’s easily the most heavily bootlegged classic film personage of all. That’s an accolade both he and his fans could do without, but never fear: if a particular release or label isn’t mentioned in this series of guides, it’s almost certainly a bootleg. I’ve certainly listed every official pre-Hollywood Hitch BD in existence. Sadly, owing to this rampant piracy, the likes of Germany, Spain and Australia each have just a tiny handful of quality official DVDs of his British films. Meanwhile, Italy has a sorry total of only three official releases. That’s it. In many other countries the situation is exactly the same – if they have any official discs at all. But those domestic markets are all awash with Hitch bootlegs. You see now how this works? Cause and effect, especially in the world of niche film releases on home video. Detailing all the Hitch-infringing labels to avoid would be impossible: there are literally hundreds of them churning out thousands of different discs. Though having said that, I previously compiled a substantial line-up of general offenders. There’s also a 2008-compiled list covering the first 10 years of US Hitch boot DVD labels kicking around the internet with over 50 entries on it, but dozens more have appeared stateside in the interim. Basically, the only licensed US DVDs of Hitch’s British films are from Criterion, Kino, Lionsgate, MGM and Cohen; all others are bootlegs. Another point is that while the persistent thieves are happy to bootleg or pirate actual films, they hardly ever touch any of their many extras. Mind you, squatting out space-saving, single-layer, plain ‘vanilla’ discs is par for the course with boots in general.

Though Hitch’s British films endure the bulk of the thievery, almost as frequently the same fate befalls a seemingly arbitrary handful of his 1940s American movies. Even mainstream British newspapers have been guilty of transatlantic Hitch copyright theft. In those cases I doubt it was due to malice or greed; simply that the Hitchcock = public domain mindset is so ubiquitous no one bothered to pay due diligence before okaying their DVD giveaways‘ release. In terms of awareness, there’s a lot of lost ground to make up.

Buy Hitch bootlegs and this is what you can expect:

Horror hides in the shadows: Eve Gray is stretched and cropped in The Lodger (1926, dir. Alfred Hitchcock). US St. Clair Vision bootleg DVD screenshot.

Horror hides in the shadows: Eve Gray is stretched and cropped in a shockingly murky copy of The Lodger. US St. Clair Vision bootleg DVD.

Murky: poor Eve is cropped again in The Lodger (1926, dir. Alfred Hitchcock). UK GMVS/Waterfall bootleg DVD.

Cropped again: poor Eve is cut off in her prime in this UK GMVS/Waterfall bootleg DVD.

The beauty: Eve is finally revealed in The Lodger (1926, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) US MGM licensed DVD screenshot.

The Beauty: Eve is finally revealed in this restored, fully toned US MGM licensed DVD.

Never looked lovelier: Eve at her best since she first shimmered in nitrate on the silver screen. The Lodger (1926, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) UK Network Blu-ray screenshot.

Never looked lovelier: Eve at her best since she first shimmered in nitrate on the silver screen. Restored and alternatively toned UK Network BD.

For lots more comparative screenshots, see The Lodger Collectors’ Guide.

Guilty, m'lud! Young and Innocent (1937, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) US Brentwood bootleg DVD screenshot.

What the… GUILTY, m’lud! Cropped and blurry US Brentwood bootleg DVD.

Not so Young and not so Innocent: Young and Innocent (1937, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) slightly better –but not by much. US Madacy bootleg DVD screenshot.

Not so Young and not so Innocent: slightly better, but not by much. US Madacy bootleg DVD.

Get the picture? Young and Innocent (1937, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) US MGM licensed DVD screenshot.

Get the picture? That’ll do nicely, sir. Restored and licensed US MGM DVD.

Pure as the driven snow: Young and Innocent (1937, dir. Alfred Hitchcock). UK Network Blu-ray screenshot.

Pure as the driven snow: Young and Innocently gleaming on the restored and licensed UK Network BD.

Of course, these screenshots only tell half the story: in motion, the bootlegs constantly bounce around inside the frame, making it even more difficult to focus on their already scratched and blurry images. Density and contrast fluctuate wildly from shot to shot and more often than not, they’re badly cropped and severely edited, losing up to a whole third of the original running time. Conversely, the official releases are clear, complete and rock steady, gliding along as serenely as a swan on a still lake. There really is no comparison.

Say that again

Regarding those bootlegged talkies, if you should pick up any from countries where English isn’t the primary language, it’s pot luck as to what audio you’ll get. You may be lucky enough to get the original, albeit in rotten quality, even unsynchronised, or you may be stuck with an amateurish dub done for some ancient edited TV broadcast, a VHS-sourced copy of which you’re now blessed with enduring. Right now, I have here by me a very smart-looking Polish box set of British talkies which, aside from the lack of copyright info immediately giving it away as a boot, is every bit as beautifully  designed as any Hitch release I’ve seen, legit or otherwise. However, even if I was willing to overlook the awful, muddy, scratched and jumpy transfers housed on its immaculate picture discs, there’s the question of the audio. It’s in the original English alright – but drowned out by a terrible voice-over; some gruff, bored-sounding Polish geezer actually narrating his translations a few seconds after each person begins speaking. It sounds like he’s doing it on the fly and at a distorted volume twice as loud as the original soundtrack, to boot (pun intended). It’s so poorly done, you can almost hear the tape recorder clicking on and off as he waits for someone to speak. Of course, he’s doing all the voices himself: male and female, young and old alike, in the same grinding monotone. Can you imagine what that does to the original overlapping, whipcrack-sharp dialogue? Kills it all stone dead, that’s what. Yes, I can follow what’s actually happening this way, but there’s no joy in it whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact. I can’t dismiss his efforts 100% though, as I have no idea as to the accuracy of his translation. I’m afraid my Polish just isn’t up to it.

So why do they abuse the Master this way? I’m glad you asked. The reason for this clumsy method is that film and TV content is always provided to licensees with the original soundtrack. In the absence of an appropriate dub for foreign markets, a discrete music and effects-only track, sans dialogue, will also be provided, sometimes along with a transcript. The dialogue is then translated and a local dub recorded to overlay the music/effects track. Of course, Hitch’s bootleggers don’t have access to discrete audio tracks or anything of that ilk, so the best they can do is lift old dubs from inferior sources or simply get someone to shout all over the original audio. Nice.

Europeans make the best villains

As is so often the case, thieves in Italy and Spain were the first to produce boot Hitch BDs; now they’ve been joined by Germany. At present, official BDs have only been released in the US, UK, France and just three from Divisa in Spain, for Downhill, Jamaica Inn and Foreign Correspondent. Italian Hitch BD bootleg labels include Enjoy Movies and Studio 4K, while Spanish ones are Feel Films, IDA Films, Layons Multimedia, New Line Films, Producciones JRB, Resen, Vértice Cine and others.

Suspicion aka Sospecha (1941, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) Spanish Resen bootleg Blu-ray

It’s more than Suspicion: this is definitely a bootleg and prolific thieves Resen are the culprits. There is a legit Spanish BD but it’s courtesy of Warner Bros., not these shysters.

Incidentally, if you are in the market for a little HD Suspicion (1941), the only legit BDs are identical but differently packaged discs hailing from the US (also on digital), UK and the aforementioned Spain. There’s also an entry from Japan, which like the others  is region free, so will play anywhere.

Let’s spotlight a prolific German outfit who are pretty typical of the larger operations churning out bootlegs. They’re one of many in that country with a special affinity for preying on Hitch’s catalogue and are the first to produce domestic Hitch boot BDs. Just their Hitch discs alone are published under many different label names, most likely as a smokescreen. Those confirmed include: Best Entertainment, Crest Movies, daredo, Delta Music & Entert., div, Edel Germany, Great MoviesIndigo, Intergroove (likely the parent label), Polarfilm, Soulfood, White Pearl Movies, Power Station, WME Home-Entertainment and others. Coincidentally, they’re also affiliated with the attractive German boots described earlier. They’ve also littered streaming services like Amazon Video with their ripped-off versions. Their DVDs cram on up to four films per per disc, making for an appallingly low bitrate. Some include other, completely unrelated films, like the genuinely PD Carnival of Souls (1962). Even their single-film BDs are in much lower quality than the official versions, with several containing standard definition material passed off as HD. Even on one of their ‘better’ discs, for Spellbound (Ich kämpfe um dich, 1945), its stars are horizontally squashed and waxy on the German pirate compared to the far superior official US Criterion disc: Ingrid: De | US; Gregory: De | US. Other discs featuring restored transfer ripped from official releases naturally lop off the copyright and restoration credits in a weak attempt to hide their source.

Alfred Hitchcock 1926-1946 German bootleg Blu-rays all from the same company, Great Movies/Indigo/WME Home-Entertainment – they can't make their minds up either.

Hitchcock 1926-1946 German bootleg BDs all from the same company, the variously named Great Movies/Indigo/WME Home-Entertainment, etc they just can’t make their minds up.

Foreign bootlegs do commonly include local subtitles and occasionally an additional local dub. However, sub translations are usually very poor, while dubs are lo-fi and frequently incomplete, being lifted from VHS tapes and recordings of edited old TV broadcasts. However, not even these minimal efforts apply to the German releases in question. Their BD, DVD and digital versions alike are all completely vanilla, subtitle and extras-free efforts. Even among cost-cutting bootleggers this level of cheapness is almost unprecedented for foreign releases of English-language films (and French, in the case of Hitch’s two wartime shorts).  In at least one case, despite being listed on the sleeve, the original English-language track has been omitted altogether! Some of them have even been edited specifically to conform to their incomplete dubs. Unbelievable.

All films on The Lodger and Downhill BDs are B&W, losing their original tinting, and run at PAL speed, making their transfer origins especially questionable. Many films are inexplicably renamed, for instance Secret Agent, originally released there as Geheimagent (1936) becomes Der Spion. Meanwhile, The Paradine Case, known in its only legit German release to date by the direct translation Der Fall Paradin, on their bootleg DVD is now Schuldig oder nicht schuldig? (Guilty or Not Guilty?). Still others claim to feature Der Mann, der zuviel wusste aka The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), but instead have the 1934 version. The latter film’s single DVD boot (also here) has a shot of its star, Peter Lorre, in M (1931) on the rear: right actor, wrong film. Similarly, the rear sleeve of this Spanish boot BD-R of The Lodger has swiped artwork from this US boot DVD of The Lodger and Murder! I hardly need tell you the latter film isn’t actually even on the Spanish disc. We can play this game all day; here’s a doozy: Jamaica Inn, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, on this DVD (also here) has a cover pic of Laughton and Carole Lombard in They Knew What They Wanted (1940)! I could go on – and on – but I think you get the idea. In short, bootlegs and pirates are not only put together by thieves, but stupid ones, who have no idea what they’re doing. Don’t fall for their woefully substandard rubbish.

Again, for The Paradine Case, here’s the German-friendly real thing.

You little star: this German Great Movies Blu-ray has Hitch's wartime shorts, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache (1944), in their original French only, with no subs whatsoever and the icing on the cake? It's in particularly poor standard definition. You'd be far better off with any of the licensed, subtitled releases listed here.

You little star. Not. This German Great Movies BD has Hitch’s wartime shorts, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache, in their original French only, with no subs whatsoever and the icing on the cake? It’s in particularly poor standard definition. You’d be far better off with any of the licensed, subtitled releases listed here.

Surprisingly, many of the German knock-offs, along with myriad others, have been reviewed on numerous otherwise-credible home video sites, not one of which has picked up on the fact they’re plugging illicit copies. Such naïvety only aids bootleggers in general: the internet is a truly wondrous, democratic arena where everyone has a voice. Unfortunately, all too often that also applies to the ill-informed and those who are wilfully ignorant. They speak authoritatively, having done no research and often presenting pure opinion as fact, even when faced with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, others spout similar nonsense on social media, in chat forums and sundry other places. Such endorsements, along with being sold by trusted, established outlets like Amazon and eBay, only lend the rip-offs both credibility and respectability.

Here's not looking at you, kid. German Great Movies... etc bootleg Blu-ray box set.

Here’s not looking at you, kid. German Great Movies… etc bootleg box set.

It’s your move

Of course, rather than buy licensed releases you could always go online and stream or download copies of many of these films for free. But again, as with Chaplin, you’re more likely than not to end up watching ones that are, to put it mildly, of sub-optimal A/V quality and completeness. Added to their other shortcomings is the quality of the discs themselves. Of course, the cheapest low quality blanks are always used and a recurring issue with all boots, especially Hitch’s, is that they frequently skip or freeze, or won’t even play at all. Granted, not all boots are terrible quality: sometimes they’re copied (at lower bitrates) directly from regular releases and visually at least, are often virtually indistinguishable in quality – albeit minus any extras, original language subtitles, etc. Technically, those are classified as pirates or counterfeits, as well as bootlegs.

If you happen to already own any Hitch boots, bin them or give them to someone you dislike and treat yourself to the pleasure of seeing the films transferred properly. I can’t stress it enough: everywhere you look, the number of good quality, official releases is relatively small, as opposed to the countless shoddy knock-offs outnumbering them many, many times over. Granted, the bootlegs are usually ridiculously cheap to buy. But crap, no matter how cheaply it’s sold for, is still crap. Ultimately, bootleg buyers are really cheating themselves. Not only that, but very often the quality versions can often be had for the same or little more cost anyway. The choice, unlike the bootlegs themselves, is always clear.

It’s easy to spot bootlegs of Hitch’s British films and others. Avoid if they’re not listed here:

Alfred Hitchcock Collectors’ Guide

For more tips on spotting counterfeits in general, see:

Beware of Pirates! How to Avoid Bootleg Blu-rays and DVDs

The last word goes to our old friends Resen, who have unwittingly – and half-wittingly – given us a pirate of pirates:

Jamaica Inn aka Posada Jamaica (1939, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) Spanish Resen bootleg Blu-ray

Spanish bootleg BD

How ironic. If you need a Spanish-friendly version of Jamaica Inn, here’s the real thing.

For more detailed specifications of official releases mentioned, check out the ever-useful DVDCompare. This article is regularly updated, so please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.


  1. Pedro
    July 16, 22:01 Reply
    Thank God I found this guide. I almost bought a Spanish bootleg Blu Ray of Spellbound from EBay. They are so easy to find!
    • Brent Reid
      July 16, 23:16 Reply
      Glad to be of service, Pedro – but watch out for the Italian bootleg too! There are only three legit BDs of Spellbound so far: US MGM (region 0,, French Carlotta (region B, optional English and French subs, and Japan MGM ( Criterion are also preparing another US BD as we speak.

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