Packaging blunder mars home video release of ‘Atlas Shrugged’

One probably doesn’t have to wonder what Ayn Rand, the founder of objectivism and hero to millions of libertarian-leaning Americans, would think of the Occupy Wall Street movement were she alive today. It’s the sort of quasi-collectivist, economic-leveling movement for which Rand harbored bottomless contempt.

Nor is there much doubt what she would think of the home video packaging of “Atlas Shrugged: Part One,” the film adaptation of Rand’s 1957 novel, an ode to individualism and those who thrive in a capitalist society through ingenuity and hard work.

On Tuesday, the film made its DVD and Blu-ray debut.

On Friday, its producers acknowledged via the film’s website that the synopsis included on more than 100,000 retail DVD and Blu-ray copies of the release was marred by a glaring error. The promotional copy on the back title sheets fundamentally mischaracterizes the project’s core message with this encapsulation: “AYN RAND’S timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice comes to life.”

Whoops.

"Atlas Shrugged: Part One" producers John Aglialoro (left) and Harmon Kaslow initially were "mortified" by the error in the synopsis but then started capitalizing on their accidental press attention. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

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“Atlas Shrugged: Part One” producers John Aglialoro (left) and Harmon Kaslow initially ... more >

“As we all well know, the ideas brought to life in Atlas Shrugged are entirely antithetical to the idea of ‘self-sacrifice’ as a virtue,” Atlas Productions chief and “Atlas” co-producer Harmon Kaslow said on the film site. “Atlas is quite literally a story about the dangers of self-sacrifice. The error was an unfortunate one and fans of Ayn Rand and Atlas have every right to be upset.”

“You can imagine how mortified we all were when we saw the DVD but, it was simply too late — the product was already on shelves all over the Country,” said Scott DeSapio, Atlas Productions’ chief operating officer and communications director. “It was certainly no surprise when the incredulous emails ensued. The irony is inescapable.”

The chagrined producers of “Atlas” have wasted no time setting up a Web page — http://www.AtlasShruggedMovie.com/title-sheet — where purchasers of the DVD can request a replacement title sheet free of charge. The rewritten promotional copy more accurately encapsulate’s Rand’s source novel as one of “rational self-interest.”

In the meantime, purchasers of the botched original can enjoy their good fortune in acquiring what Mr. Kaslow calls a “real collector’s item” and producers can enjoy their bounty of accidental press attention.

Those unfamiliar with Rand’s novel expecting a film series more akin to blockbuster adaptation like those of “Lord of the Rings” or “Twilight” will be surprised by “Atlas Shrugged: Part One,” which opened in theaters this year on — you guessed it — April 15.

True to the novel, the film’s plot doesn’t contain many of the elements that mass movie audiences traditionally crave. The action comes in the form of stern business negotiations, underhanded political lobbying and passionate discussions about individual productivity, usually over drinks or in an immaculate boardroom. There is, on the other hand, a romance between two very attractive people. (If, that is, your idea of a meet cute is a hardball meeting about steel prices.)

One of the film’s more remarkable features is its overt embrace of Rand’s message of individual achievement and laissez-faire capitalism. Its politics aren’t just conveyed in the plot, but spoken out loud by its more heroic characters, who provide a striking contrast to the villains — crooked businessmen and politicians seeking to handicap the productive under the guise of fairness and equality.

There is no ignoring the almost uncanny relevance of Rand’s themes to the escalating class tensions of today, as embodied by Occupy Wall Street.

“‘Atlas Shrugged’ was really written to be a warning, not a newspaper,” Mr. Kaslow said in a phone interview. “The themes just parallel what’s happening today.”

Whatever Randians and average moviegoers thought of the film, critics generally savaged it, sending it to a dismal 12 percent average at critical aggregator site RottenTomatoes.com. Asked whether disproportionately liberal film critics might have been biased against his unapologetically pro-market film, Mr. Kaslow refused to point fingers.

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