Swing Shift: The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

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hearthesilence
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Swing Shift: The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#1 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:51 pm

I just came across a great write-up from an old issue of Sight & Sounds. I know Jonathan Rosenbaum and I think Dave Kehr have also championed this 'director's cut,' but I'm wondering if anyone here has seen it and whether it circulates in a decent copy? I'm kind of curious how it looks, but I can't even find a clip of it on YouTube.

beamish13
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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#2 Post by beamish13 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:10 pm

Vineberg also wrote a terrific book entitled No Surprises, Please: Movies in the Reagan Decade that discusses this in some detail and also features a still from a video workprint of Demme's cut. Actually, one of the contestants on the Independent Film Channel's short-lived game show Ultimate Film Fanatic showed their VHS of it on the air! Sadly, it's not circulating on the torrent webs and I've never seen a copy reach the hands of a collector I personally know.

I can hook you up with a copy of the original cut of James L. Brooks' I'll Do Anything, though! :D

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John Cope
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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#3 Post by John Cope » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:51 pm

beamish13 wrote:I can hook you up with a copy of the original cut of James L. Brooks' I'll Do Anything, though! :D
I would love to see that.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#4 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:59 am

Well, this is disheartening:

In a four year-old interview with Britain's GUARDIAN (10.10.98), Demme was asked if fans might one day have a chance to see his cut of SWING SHIFT.

"You must have read that article in SIGHT AND SOUND," he replied. "That was great! When SWING SHIFT came out the critics universally trashed it, even some of those critics that I particularly admired and even some that I had previously considered almost friends. This motif was running through the reviews: this guy looked as though he had some kind of promise, but looking at this thing, forget about it. And I thought, my God, if my work is bad, then trash me, but this isn't even my work.

"But there was nothing I could say about it. You can't go whining to the press. But then somehow a videotape of the original -- the scripted movie -- found its way over to SIGHT AND SOUND and an article was written saying it was very good the original way. And it went to great pains to enumerate why it was much better than what Warner Brothers had done. But it will never be seen anywhere, because now the videotape's all faded out and the Warner Brothers post-production people trashed all the out takes and our version as soon as I lost control, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was really something!"

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hearthesilence
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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#5 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:06 am

Also, apparently the VHS box for the movie at Philadelphia's TLA Video on 4th St (now closed) had a hand-written note from Demme attached explaining it wasn't the movie he shot.

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PfR73
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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#6 Post by PfR73 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:39 pm

That's really a shame that all the trims were destroyed. This was one I was always hoping Warners would restore when they were on their kick doing new versions of The Big Red One, The Outsiders, Superman II, etc.

The trailer on the DVD is interesting in that it features a shot not in the theatrical cut of Ed Harris speaking to the camera; a Demme trademark that, as I recall, is completely absent in the released film.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#7 Post by impossiblefunky » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:41 pm

I was always curious about Married to the Mob -- those credits seemed to suggest that there was a whole other world to that movie, too.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#8 Post by kurt__ » Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:17 am

hearthesilence wrote:Well, this is disheartening:
But it will never be seen anywhere, because now the videotape's all faded out and the Warner Brothers post-production people trashed all the out takes and our version as soon as I lost control, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was really something!"
Demme is, I think, exaggerating a bit here: there are other copies out there made from the tape he's referring to. I saw it last month and it was really something.. I'm sure it'll leak online someday. Here's a pic of the (incredible) final shot in Demme's cut:

Image

Haven't read the S&S piece, so maybe it covers all this but I also wrote a little bit about the differences in Demme's cut here: http://letterboxd.com/kurtwalker/film/swing-shift/1/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
beamish13 wrote:I can hook you up with a copy of the original cut of James L. Brooks' I'll Do Anything, though! :D
PM'd ;O

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hearthesilence
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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#9 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:21 pm

Still haven't seen this, but I'm finding that a lot of links here relevant to the cut have been disappearing off the web. The Sight & Sound link is fortunately cataloged permanently in archive.org, and I found another copy of the Guardian interview where Demme goes into SWING SHIFT in greater detail. The main purpose of the interview was to promote BELOVED, but he says quite a bit about SWING SHIFT:

AW: [You] had your first big studio experience with Swing Shift, which didn't work out terribly well I think. Is that right?

JD: It turned out very poorly, yeah. We did a film and I hope that very few people here have seen it!

AW: It's played a lot on British television I think

JD: Oh great! Well, an extraordinary thing happened. We made this film and it told the story a certain kind of way and it was a very different kind of movie for Goldie Hawn to make. When the picture was finished and the studio looked at it, they perceived this great chemistry that existed between Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell - who had fallen in love while making the movie. So a very high profile Hollywood writer was brought in to rewrite the movie as more of a kind of Tracy and Hepburn film, a light romance. We had this hard-nosed feminist, all women together thing, and Kurt Russell was supposed to be a bastard, and suddenly all these scenes were being rewritten, and I found myself in a very awkward position because I had to co-operate with these new scenes. I actually had to shoot them, otherwise I would have been in violation of my contract, and so in order to protect the movie that I thought we were making I had to shoot these very bad scenes.

Finally we shot the scenes and had a screening for the Warner Brothers executives. Everybody trooped in, really proud of themselves because they had sort of made me do this, and we screened the movie for them. They saw the new scenes and they came out slightly pleased but also, probably, scratching their heads because it didn't quite work.

There was a preview that night and the editors and I had gone back to the cutting room and restored our version, so they all sat down in the theatre again and saw what they hated. I lost my control after that. I was called into the office the next day for a list of changes, and I told them then that I was finished with my work.

[move on to other topics and then...]

... Can I go back to one thing and really reveal my inner guts for one second? I'm sitting here very calmly and telling you the Swing Shift story, and about how they took it away from me. For a filmmaker, in your professional life, it's hard to imagine anything more devastating, because you haven't just had your work taken away from you. You've worked on it for more than two years, first with writers, then through pre-production, then with the editors and the composers, etc. etc., so everybody else's work is being taken away. And the director is the kind of custodian of all the collaborative artists' good work and it is his job to maximise everybody's work and present it in the best way possible. So when they took this movie away and started chopping it up I knew that this would happen, so it wasn't the usual ego thing - like my God, they're going to take my movie away - it was also this investment of everybody else's hard work.

This high priced Hollywood writer - who I've never mentioned - came in and saw this as an opportunity to really endear himself to Warner Brothers, who were mad at him for a movie he did where he went grossly over budget. So this guy came in and started writing scenes but had some difficulty writing them and was taking time, and meanwhile this one thing that we had been planning to do stopped making sense. It was scheduled for three nights in the beginning of December and September rolls by and October was rolling by, and Bob (oops, sorry!) isn't providing the scenes... He was the second person they went to actually. Originally they went to Elaine May. This is on the up side actually. This was a great moment. Elaine May came to see the movie in its original form and then came to lunch with Goldie and Goldie's partner and I to - as far as Goldie and Warner Brothers were concerned - launch into things. Elaine May who I'd never met before, God bless her, came walking into the room and said: 'are you Jonathan? What a wonderful movie, it's fabulous! Are you guys out of your mind?' And they explained to her the vision of what the film could be, you know more of this Tracy and Hepburn kind of thing. And she said: 'well all these ideas sound great for some movie, but they go completely against the ecology of this movie as it now exists, and you'll never pull it off.' (I love that, the ecology of a movie!) But anyway, we did it and then this extraordinary thing happened. Finally these pages come in and they weren't very good, and the Warner Brothers executives, God bless 'em, are going 'ah, um, well jeez'. We knew there was going to be a scene in the living room and a scene in the kitchen and a scene in the backyard, and they all involve Goldie and Ed Harris (who played her husband) and Kurt, for some other scenes, but there are no details.

The scenes come in and we're two days away from when we're meant to be shooting and now the Warner Brothers guys say: 'Jonathan, what are we going to do.' And I'm like 'are you kidding. We'll throw them out, we'll forget the re-shoot, we've got a nice movie, let's get it out there.' And they say, 'oh, God, that's just typical of you.' So they push it back another week, right into the three nights when we're shooting, and it stops making sense. So now suddenly - as if it wasn't hideous enough before - I'm not going to be able to be there during the daytime preparing the nights' shoots. There was this one day where we got the days work done. But on the second day - there's this practice when if you're a director and you object to how things are going, you put your name upside down on the slate - I put my name upside down on the slate. Directors always hear about this upside down on the slate thing and you never know if it actually happens, and then one day your name is upside down on the slate! So we did that and we finished the shooting at six o'clock and then I jumped in the car. Ed Harris came with me, and we raced to the theatre and shot it. And the next morning I got up and started getting ready to do these re-shoots, and, all I can tell you, I don't know how I got there, but I just remember finding myself sitting in the bathtub at six thirty in the morning, just crying. I was just so low. But we continue shooting that day.

By this stage, all the Warner Brothers guys hate me so much now, and they come in and they're like, 'hum, it's going rather slow today, and you're meant to shoot about six pages of work. You may have to miss your shooting tonight if things don't speed up a little round here.' I'm doing a take and the whole directing thing was horrible. I'd turn to the actors and say, 'okay, actors, what are you going to do?' And then I'd turn to the cameraman. They'd fired my cameraman, Tak Fujimoto because he didn't make the actors look young enough or something and the whole point of the re-shoot was to make everyone look younger. So I turn to Bill Fraker, another wonderful cameraman, and say, 'well Bill, any ideas on how to shoot this?' And he'd say, 'well we could...' And I'd say, 'actors how does that sound to you? Good, okay, great, let's set it up...' And that's my job.

So finally, it's about six o'clock. We're not finished and there's a certain amount of relishing going on on the sidelines because now I'm really going to pay, I'm not going to show up on my shooting on the other thing. Ed Harris, God bless him, sees what's going on and he says, 'oh Jesus, I've got a terrible headache, I've got to rap. I've got to get out of here'. So Ed walks out the door and I'm like 'it's a rap!' And I go running out and go rushing to my car, and there's Ed Harris in the car seat and says 'let's go!' So the movie gets made and they took Swing Shift away. They trashed the score, put the new scenes in, etc, and I was really depressed about all that. As joyful as I was about how Stop Making Sense had turned out, I remember more the horror of what can happen to you in this line of work. Not so much that stuff I was talking about but just seeing how tough people can be and how mean they can be to you. I didn't want to see that again. I went on a really lonely trip to the Caribbean and walked around on my own for a couple of weeks and decided that I would hope to continue making movies, but only with people I really liked. So that's my new rule, since 1984.

AW: And has it worked out?

JD: It's worked pretty good so far. I moved back to New York and made Stop Making Sense and so on. Anyway, that was a very long story and I apologise for going on. I had to get it off my chest.

[moving on, but late in the interview, one more question...]

Question nine: Will we ever get to see the director's cut of Swing Shift?

JD: You must have read that article in Sight and Sound. That was great! When Swing Shift came out the critics universally trashed it, even some of those critics that I particularly admired and even some that I had previously considered almost friends. This motif was running through the reviews: this guy looked as though he had some kind of promise, but looking at this thing, forget about it. And I thought, my God, if my work is bad, then trash me, but this isn't even my work. There was nothing I could say about it. You can't go whining to the press. But then somehow a videotape of the original - the scripted movie - found its way over to Sight and Sound and an article was written saying it was very good the original way. And it went to great pains to enumerate why it was much better than what Warner Brothers had done. But it will never be seen anywhere, because now the videotape's all faded out and the Warner Brothers post-production people trashed all the out takes and our version as soon as I lost control, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was really something!

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#10 Post by Dr Amicus » Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:23 am

hearthesilence wrote:
Question nine: Will we ever get to see the director's cut of Swing Shift?

JD: You must have read that article in Sight and Sound. That was great! When Swing Shift came out the critics universally trashed it, even some of those critics that I particularly admired and even some that I had previously considered almost friends. This motif was running through the reviews: this guy looked as though he had some kind of promise, but looking at this thing, forget about it. And I thought, my God, if my work is bad, then trash me, but this isn't even my work. There was nothing I could say about it. You can't go whining to the press. But then somehow a videotape of the original - the scripted movie - found its way over to Sight and Sound and an article was written saying it was very good the original way. And it went to great pains to enumerate why it was much better than what Warner Brothers had done. But it will never be seen anywhere, because now the videotape's all faded out and the Warner Brothers post-production people trashed all the out takes and our version as soon as I lost control, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was really something!
That was me - and yes, I had read the article in Sight and Sound!

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#11 Post by whaleallright » Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:13 pm

This is all fascinating and depressing to read. Swing Shift was made in the middle of what I consider Demme's best period—from Handle with Care through Something Wild—and even the released version has some grace notes that suggest what a wonderful film it might have been (or rather, was). If anyone knows where I might find a copy of the "director's cut," however battered by generation loss, PM me.

Just to stray from the immediate topic a bit.... Although I appreciate the craft of his breakthrough film, Silence of the Lambs, I have to admit I feel much as Dave Kehr did: that it was in many ways a betrayal of the spirit of Demme's best work, and set him down a path that's often been dispiriting to follow. I actually somewhat admire the unfashionable social-problem melodrama of Philadelphia (which never fails to make me cry), but there's nothing in that or any of the other fiction features Demme has made since that boasts the rich variety of tones, the respect for the mystery of character, and the understated grace of his work in of late 1970s/1980s.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#12 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:07 pm

I don't know- I feel like he's been doing more documentaries than anything lately, and one of his relatively few fiction features lately (Rachel Getting Married) stands with any of his earlier work, I thought. He hit a weird slump immediately after Philadelphia, but I feel like he's back to making consistent, small, interesting movies right now.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#13 Post by knives » Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:12 pm

Agreed, though I'm not terribly familiar with his pre-Swing Shift work. His recent film with Shawn and Gregory is crazed and impressive in a weirdly impressionistic way. Then again I mostly like Beloved however different it is from the earlier films so I might be insane.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#14 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:09 pm

I've heard people suggest that Demme never quite recovered from the criticisms of homophobia/transphobia hurled at The Silence of the Lambs, especially given his strides to be an inclusive filmmaker throughout his career. The films that immediately followed like Cousin Bobby, Beloved and Philadelphia in particular up the political and social agendas to counter this.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#15 Post by jazzo » Wed Jan 18, 2017 1:22 am

He's my personal favourite filmmaker, and Something Wild is probably the film that changed me the most as a clueless suburban teenager in the 80's, having no idea that the exotic possibilities of colour and music and design in that film could mix into such a beautiful, bewildering, meandering and unpredictable stew. Discovering that film and the Hernandez Bros. in the same year Had such a profound effect on me that I actively started exploring everything that most of my peers were avoiding.

I'll always love his energies and his political/social agendas, or the ways he constantly zigs when he's supposed to zag, present even in his slight missteps like the Manchurian Candidate remake ( which disappointed me only in its somewhat neutered ending), or outright failures like Truth About Charlie, which I did outright hate except for one final, stunning scene that montages a dreamlike meeting between the leads to the beautiful Feelies song "Slow Down".

Now if I could just get Criterion to release Melvin and Howard or Citizen's Band.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#16 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:04 am

I also wonder if the drubbing that ...Charlie received, the closest he went to his "fun" early films for a while, also took the wind out of his sails. Rachel Getting Married was a mostly succesful return to form, but it didn't quite achieve the nonchalant warmth and hipness of his early films, and certainly didn't capture the visual flair of his early work. Still, it leads me to believe he isn't completely lost to George Stevens Syndrome.

Echoing your comments, one thing missing, and perhaps something that is irrecoverable for a 72 year old, is his early films understanding of pop culture and americana, particularly those strains which at the time would have been called "alternative" or "counter culture", and the way they open up new vistas and understanding of American society for people. Something Wild seems to be all about finding the commonality, not gap, between a certain NY Bohemia and that of the small-town American road. And with it, an alternative to both the corporate suburbia and reckless criminality that form the film's two poles, a sort of soft rebellion that's all the more effective for it's inclusiveness. (In that regards, Linklater's Everybody Wants Some is the best Demme film in years.)

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#17 Post by jazzo » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:58 am

Oh, completely. With Audrey. With his co-worker. With Nelson. The ladies in the suit shop. Everyone at Audrey's reuinion. The film is filled with them.

The scene where the little baptist girl knocks on Charlie's car window to ask if he's alright, and the taken aback wonder at her kindness when he says that he is, is so, so touching.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#18 Post by bdsweeney » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:16 am

Putting aside the fact this is the 'Swing Shift' thread ... I always thought the most traditionally Demme-ist moment of 'The Silence of the Lambs' was the streetscape that the closing credits play over. Just watching life pass by.

I agree with whaleallright's definition of his best period, but would definitely extend it to 'Married to the Mob'.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#19 Post by JMULL222 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:01 pm

The SWING SHIFT director's cut is out there (a film professor at a school near me taught it alongside the theatrical cut, as a lesson in studio editing, for decades.) And would recommend RICKI AND THE FLASH to anyone in this thread who hasn't seen it—to me, it's the closest Demme has come to the rhythm of his CITIZEN'S BAND/MELVIN AND HOWARD/SWING SHIFT DC/SOMETHING WILD period ever since (have also always had the uninformed feeling, as someone else in this thread mentioned, that MARRIED TO THE MOB is cut/compromised/altered from original intentions in some form.)

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#20 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:29 pm

Married to the Mob was definitely a deliberate attempt to make a more commercial film, as all of Demme's features up until then were critical darlings but never more than cult hits. But I've seen nothing to suggest anyone forced Demme to recut the picture.

While the Director's Cut widely circulated among critics at the time, it still proves elusive to even the most storied backchannels. Which is worrying, as even Demme suggests his own personal copy is degraded and unwatchable.

Rikki... was fine, but still sorely lacking the vibrancy of Demme's best work. A promising throwback to form, if still a step back from Rachel and not helped by Streep in the ham period of her career

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#21 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:58 pm

If someone knows where I can see this, PM me - streaming is even okay.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#22 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:05 pm

FWIW, if anyone is viewing the mkv file of the open matte transfer that's circulating, I would crop the top frame by 35 pixels and the bottom frame by 55 pixels - this can be easily done in VLC player if you go to WINDOW > VIDEO EFFECTS and select the "CROP" tab. (The upshot is that this eliminates the bottom half of the time-code burn-in so it's less distracting.)

I came up with these numbers by streaming the clip of the opening Steadicam shot on TCM.com and comparing screen grabs of overlapping frames. The clip hosted on TCM is tighter by a few pixels, but it's a miniscule difference and I figure it's better to err on the side of showing a hair too much rather than cutting off too much.

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Re: Swing Shift - The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#23 Post by connor » Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:09 pm

hearthesilence wrote:FWIW, if anyone is viewing the mkv file of the open matte transfer that's circulating, I would crop the top frame by 35 pixels and the bottom frame by 55 pixels - this can be easily done in VLC player if you go to WINDOW > VIDEO EFFECTS and select the "CROP" tab. (The upshot is that this eliminates the bottom half of the time-code burn-in so it's less distracting.)

I came up with these numbers by streaming the clip of the opening Steadicam shot on TCM.com and comparing screen grabs of overlapping frames. The clip hosted on TCM is tighter by a few pixels, but it's a miniscule difference and I figure it's better to err on the side of showing a hair too much rather than cutting off too much.
Mind if I ask where you found this? Never seen it on any torrent site.

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Re: Swing Shift: The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#24 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:15 pm

No discussion of pirated movies here, please. Even if they're unreleased.

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Re: Swing Shift: The Director's Cut (Jonathan Demme, 1984)

#25 Post by perkizitore » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:07 pm

FIXED
mfunk9786 wrote:No discussion of how to pirate movies here, please. Even if they're unreleased.

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