Remember that scene from “The Iron Lady” where someone asks Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher what she would do if she became Prime Minister of England and she responds “Crush the working class, crush the scum, the yobs!”? No? Well that’s probably because you saw The Weinstein Company’s “The Iron Lady,” and not the pirated cut with revised dialogue that’s floating around the Russian black market.
According to a report in The Guardian, this bootleg “Iron Lady” is not only available in Russia, it’s been reviewed by at least one Russian film critic as if it were a legitimate cut of the film. From their piece by Kevin O’Flynn:
“The pirated Russian translation of the film, voiced over in a monotone by one man, depicts Thatcher as a bloodthirsty, Hitler-admiring leader, whose fondest desire is to destroy the working class. While some of her critics might say this is an accurate representation of her plans, even her fiercest enemy would concede the Russian version takes it too far… the translation, no matter how over the top, has fooled at least one film critic on the Russian newspaper Kommersant, who quoted parts of the pirated version in a generally positive review.”
The Guardian notes that snarky bootlegs with reedited dialogue are not uncommon in Russia, but this mondo “Iron Lady” may be the first time a film’s political subtext has been so radically altered to suit a secondary author’s purposes. Of course, bootleg films with altered soundtracks are not without American precedent, either. Back in high school, a friend, sweaty and terrified the cops would break down his door at any moment, cautiously invited me to his basement for a screening of his prized possession: a grainy VHS copy of “Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D” — yes, that’s the full title — a version of George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” redubbed with sarcastic voices. There have even had a few instances of legitimate bootleg redubs — Woody Allen’s first film as a director was “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?,” a fully authorized reedited goof on two Japanese spy films.
Still, this version of “The Iron Lady” sounds hysterical — at least 40% more hysterical than the version released in American theaters (admittedly, the scene in the legit cut with Thatcher fixing her dead husband’s tie was already a hoot and a half). Anybody have a copy?