kitparkerfilms

decomposed

 

You see it every day on television. Scratches, splices, specs, and hairs added by computer to reenacted scenes in order to make them appear “old.”    They do it to vintage film, and pre-HD video tape as well.  I watched a story about NASA on network TV that used video tape from the “ancient” 1980s, and they even “antiqued” it.

I’ve spent over 40 years trying to take away scratches. Whatever happened to adding “archive footage” in small letters at the bottom of the screen instead of defacing the image?

Enough grousing. In my business it is a constant chore finding suitable film material to make our DVD’s look good.

Here is a brief primer on what we look for in film materials to make our DVD’s look good.

The basic principal of film is positives are made from negatives, and negatives from positives.

1st choice for producing digital masters –

35mm Camera Negative (“EK”) – The film that actually went through the camera.  Best and sharpest element to work with.

2nd choice -

35mm Fine Grain: A positive copy made from the camera negative. Grain and contrast are kept low because each successive generation (the duplicate negative and subsequent prints as described below) add both grain and contrast.

3rd choice -

35mm Duplicate Negative:  A “dupe negative” is the source of manufacturing release prints.

4th choice –

35mm Print:  A release print as shown in theatres.

5th choice -

16mm Duplicate Negative:  Before digital, this element was used to manufacture prints for television stations, and non-theatrical exhibitors such as colleges and libraries.

6th and last choice –

16mm print. Although on rare occasions I’ve found 16mm prints struck off the 35mm camera negative, or dupe negative, normally 16mm prints are at least 4 generations from the camera negative, with expected result…loss of clarity. I use 16mm material only after we’ve searched the world for good 35mm elements.

There are many thousands of cans of films in my collection going back to 1923 stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Academy Film Archive (part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Both institutions offer state of the art facilities with carefully monitored cold temperature and low humidity vaults.  Both institutions are dedicated to preserving our motion picture heritage, and are a pleasure to work with.

Once the best film material is selected, it is retrieved from the vault and let stand for a day or two to be brought up to room temperature. Then it is sent to the lab for digitization.  The subsequent digital master is sent to VCI Entertainment where imperfections are minimized as best as possible using special computer programs…or sometimes frame by frame (by a very patient technician.)  If the final output is to be a DVD, special features (the fun part) and menus are added.

BTW, while distributing the Warner Bros. classics library on film, I discovered some prints of Clint Eastwood movies struck from the original camera negatives. Clint came to my office to discuss using some of my footage for his documentary about Carmel, California, “Don’t Pave Main Street,” and during our conversation (he made it clear he was not interested in reminiscing about his work before “Rawhide”!), and I mentioned the EK’s, which were subsequently turned over to him.

(Photo of actual decomposed film courtesy NFSA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Margia Dean, guest blogger

 

Loan-Shark-kpf-636-cover

 

George Raft was a friend of mine, and I worked with him in the film, “Loan Shark” (Lippert/1952).

 

On December 30, 1959 my date and I flew to Havana and gambled at Capri Casino in Havana where George was a part-owner.  (I still have a $1.00 chip from there.) I mentioned to George that we heard there was unrest and trouble in Cuba. He pooh-poohed it and said that it was the tourist people in Florida spreading that rumor to discourage anyone from going to Cuba.  George said he would be the first to know if anything was going on.

 

The next night my date and I travelled to the Isle of Pines to attend a New Year’s Eve party at the invitation of the Cuban dictator, President Fulgéncio Batista.  It was a lavish affair, with many prominent people there, including the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, his associate (and ultimate playboy) Porfírio Rubirosa, plus the owners of Saks Fifth Ave., and many wealthy sugar plantation owners, with their ladies, lavished in diamonds.

 

All of a sudden young men from Fidel and Raúl Castro’s revolutionary forces appeared with machine guns. Chaos ensued, and all the workers fled.

 

We were there for about three days.  Others weren’t so fortunate and stayed for a few weeks.  Food ran short, and the men fished for food.  Many of us were outside and soon covered by mosquito bites because no one knew how to operate the DDT machines. The prisoners were freed from the prison, and we were afraid they would come after us, but I guess they just wanted to escape from confinement.  The daughter of the commandant came hysterically to us and said they murdered her father.

 

I heard that Batista fled to the Dominican Republic during the night on Trujillo’s yacht.

 

George Skagel (father of Ethel Kennedy) had a private plane and offered us a ride along with Aileen Mehle, who wrote society columns, most notably in the New York Daily News as “Suzy.” We headed down to the beach and flew off. It was a daring escape, we could have been shot down as there were young men with guns all around us.

 

We were the first ones to leave. I heard that everyone else was trapped there for many days. The Cuban guests, who wanted to get home, were trapped on rat infested freighters for weeks in the bay outside of Havana.

 

Louella Parsons called and asked me not to speak with any other news reporters, and to give her an exclusive about the adventure. She didn’t want me to talk to any other news reporters, and I agreed.

 

What really annoys me is that many years later Aileen Mehle told a different, and untrue, story to Vanity Fair, and didn’t even mention me. Why?  I don’t know.  (Maybe she didn’t want anyone to know she was Batista’s guest.)  She said Skagel flew her to Miami from the airport, which was impossible, because it was totally sandbagged…no one could fly from there.

 

I never saw George Raft again after that December night when he was so happy because my date, and others lost a lot of money on his tables! He was forced to leave Havana, penniless.

 

“Loan Shark” available on DVD from http://www.vcient.com

 

Contact:  kit@kitparker.com

© 2014 Kit Parker Films

30 Margia Glam 2 (2)

“I’d like to see a big star shoot a movie with no retakes.”  — Margia Dean

 

Margia (pron. Mar-Juh) Dean was born Marguerite Louise Skliris to Greek parents in Chicago on April 7, 1922.

 

Her hair is now white, but her charm, sophistication and sense of humor haven’t changed since the heyday of her film career.

 

By age seven she was earning money as a stage actress, playing Little Eva in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Becky Thatcher in “Tom Sawyer,” Mytle in “The Blue Bird,” and winning scholarships in two dramatic schools.  In 1937, she won the Women’s National Shakespeare Contest for her role as Juliet in the production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

 

Margia became a model, and was named “Miss San Francisco,” “Miss California,” and a runner-up in the 1939 “Miss America Pageant” where she won first prize in the talent category for a dramatic reading (still has the trophy!)  She appeared in several films in small roles and, played Police Officer Mary Faelb in the 1950 ABC TV series, “Dick Tracy,” had a featured role in the Columbia serial, “The Desert Hawk” (1944), and was Andy Clyde’s foil in “Love’s A-Poppin” (Columbia/1953).

 

In 1945, Margia scored the second lead in the stage version of Victor Herbert musical “The Only Girl,” which played at the then prestigious Biltmore Theater in Los Angeles.  She received terrific reviews. Alfred Hitchcock came backstage and offered her a featured role in “Notorious” (Vanguard-RKO/1946), but she couldn’t accept due to a run of the play contract which necessitated her going on the road for several months.

 

In 1947, Margia’s controversial agent, Frank Orsatti, secured her a bit role in the Gene Kelly M-G-M musical, “Living in a Big Way” (1947).  Orsatti convinced studio chief, Louis B. Mayer, to sign Margia to a contract.  Unfortunately, Orsatti dropped dead of a heart attack the day of the appointment!

 

Margia was introduced to exhibitor and B-movie producer, Robert L. Lippert, in 1948 by a mutual producer-friend.  Lippert gave her the female lead in “Shep Comes Home” (Screen Guild/1948.)

 

Subsequently, she appeared in a series of low-budget Lippert (I’m being redundant) productions, and mastered the “one take” 50 – 75 set-ups a day that were de rigueur for the Lippert organization.

 

Lippert became obsessed with Margia, and kept her working in his pictures where she became known as “Queen of Lippert.”

 

By the early 1950s Lippert and Margia began an on-again-off-again affair that lasted ten years. In an effort to keep her from straying from his studio and him, Lippert deliberately thwarted opportunities that would have allowed her to appear in major studio films.

 

Margia told me that she regrets being involved with a married man.  However, he was already known as a womanizer.  He didn’t get a divorce because he didn’t want to give up millions.  She said that Lippert’s first love was money, and he would never have put her in a picture if it jeopardized ticket sales, and if he didn’t hire her he would have to find someone else to work for the same pay.  Indeed, she generated respectable reviews from those critics who bothered to review B-movies.  Margia was a competent actor and audiences liked her.

 

Producer, Hal Wallis, was interested in signing Margia and asked Lippert to send over footage of her for him to screen.  Lippert provided outtakes, which ended the interest from the veteran producer.  Margia didn’t know until later.

 

Fellow Greek, Spyros Skouras, recommended her to director Michael Curtiz, as “Nefir” in “The Egyptian” (Fox/1954), but Bella Darvi had just been cast.  Skouras, was erroneously attributed as Margia’s lover in at least one blog, probably because she dated Plato Skouras, Spyros’ son.

 

Margia is best known as Judith Carroon in the Hammer Film Production, “The Quatermass Xperiment” (US title: “The Creeping Unknown”) (UA/1955), and her credits are readily available on IMDb.

 

She also made guest appearances on TV’s “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” “Conrad Nagel’s Celebrity Time,” “Public Prosecutor,” and others, plus various commercials including for Betty Crocker, Cadillac, and Phillips Milk of Magnesia.

 

Margia told me she appeared in one of the first coast-to-coast live dramas in the early 1950s, but can only recall that one of the “Bowery Boys” was in it. [Anyone know what it might have been?]

 

In 1958 she co-starred with Scott Brady in the RegalScope production, “Ambush and Cimarron Pass,” released through Fox, and received billing over a young Clint Eastwood, a subject she and Eastwood laughed about 40 years later at a Hollywood function.

 

Later in 1958, Lippert’s output was elevated to “A-“ CinemaScope pictures for Fox.  Margia produced one of them, “The Long Rope” (1961), with Hugh Marlowe.  According to Margia, the film’s director, William Witney, objected to having a female producer, but mellowed his stance when she brought it in on time and budget.

 

Margia co-starred in both “Villa!!” (Fox/1958), with Brian Keith, where she also sang two songs (and wrote additional lyrics), and “Secret of the Purple Reef” (Fox/1960), with Peter Falk.

 

In 1964, after associate-producing “The Horror of it All” (Fox/1964), directed by Terence Fisher, and starring Pat Boone, Margia met a Spanish architect who had been living in Brazil, Felipe Alvarez.

 

At the time, Felipe, who is fluent in four other languages, had limited English skills (Margia spoke Spanish) They met at a night club on the Sunset Strip where he sang. Subsequently, Margia invited him to perform at a party for Mexican celebrities.  The couple fell in love and married later that year.  They are happily married to this day, and he still occasionally sings professionally.

 

Lippert tried to get Margia to break off with Felipe, and offered her money and gifts, including a ruby brooch (all of which she returned), uncharacteristic of the penurious Lippert.  He used to tell people he purchased a house for Margia, which is untrue.   She sold her home and built a luxurious home above the Sunset Strip, which she completely paid for.

 

Although Walter Winchell praised her in his column, Lippert, who knew all of the producers and exhibitors, successfully blackballed her from making films.

 

Lippert used his considerable influence to concoct a scheme to deport Felipe, but was ultimately unsuccessful.  However, he did succeed in getting Felipe fired from an architectural firm. Then he began a series of attempts to ruin the newlyweds financially.  Margia lost a restaurant she owned in Beverly Hills, a dress shop in Brentwood, and he went so far as to have a “contract” put out on Felipe’s life! Through a very good friend (producer Jack Leewood) Margia discovered his nefarious plan, and called the police so fortunately it went no further.

 

Years later he told Margia, “I had no idea, my attorney must have done it!,” and “I have you in my will for $200,000,” both of which were lies.

 

By the mid-60s, Fox decided there was no need for the type of product Lippert produced, and didn’t renew his contract.  His phone stopped ringing. Having lost both his producer position, and Margia, he headed back to the Bay Area and returned to his first love, his theatre circuit.

 

Upon his passing, Lippert’s secretary called Margia and said, “Mr. Lippert wanted you to be the first to know”.

 

Margia told me she was sorry to have made B-movies because it kept her from being assigned “A” roles.  I disagree.  Lots of A-list actors appeared in B-movies; it was a string of bad luck; the loss of the “Notorious” and “The Egyptian” roles, and especially Frank Orsatti’s death, the Hal Wallis sabotage and, of course, Lippert’s blackballing.  The B-movie part of the equation was  not the problem per se, it was the ones she was in were produced by Robert L. Lippert.

 

Fortunately, Margia went on to have successful careers, most notably in real estate, where she became vice-president of a major Los Angeles firm.

 

 

Margia Dean starring, or featuring Margia Dean in the cast and owned by Kit Parker Films.

(*) Available on DVD.

 

VCI Entertainment

 

SHEP COMES HOME (1946)

I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) *

RIMFIRE (1949) *

GRAND CANYON (1949)

RINGSIDE (1949) *

TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949) *

TOUGHT ASSIGNMENT (1949) *

RED DESERT (1949)

THE BARON OF ARIZONA (1950) *

WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT (1950) *

MOTOR PATROL (1950) *

HI-JACKED (1950) *

THE RETURN OF JESSE JAMES (1950) *

THE BANDIT QUEEN (1950) *

FINGERPRINTS DON’T LIE (1951) *

MASK OF THE DRAGON (1951) *

TALES OF ROBIN HOOD (1951) *

PIER 23 (1951) *

KENTUCKY JUBILEE (1951) *

SAVAGE DRUMS (1951) *

LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES (1951) *

SKY HIGH (1951) *

F.B.I. GIRL (1951) *

LOAN SHARK (1952) *

FANGS OF THE WILD (1954) *

THE LONESOME TRAIL (1955) *

 

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Questions?:  kit@kitparker.com

 

© 2014 Kit Parker

 

 

 

Medallion had some good movies, and some junk.  I purchased the Medallion TV Enterprises library in 2008.

John Hertz Ettlinger (1924-1993) served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WWII, and began his show business career as the manager of a movie theatre in New York.  His entrée into television was as a salesman for KTLA in Los Angeles; he subsequently co-owned KUDO in Las Vegas.

In 1954 he formed television syndicator, Medallion TV Enterprises, and operated it until his death.  Ettlinger was the grandson of John D. Hertz, founder of the largest cab company (Yellow Cab in Chicago), and Hertz Car Rental.  In his files I could only find one time John Hertz Ettlinger used his middle name, “Hertz,” preferring the made-up initial “A” for an unknown reason.

His heyday was in the 1960s when his top money-makers were the John Wayne/Batjac collection including “High and the Mighty” (WB/1954), a series of Italian sword and sandal “epics” that were inexplicably popular at the time, and a collection of grade-B and C horror films, including those produced by the infamous Jerry Warren, that seemed to appear on every Creature Features in the country.

Ettlinger proudly displayed his Beverly Hills address on the business stationery, he said he was one of the founders and an Associate Member of NATPE (National Association of Broadcasters) and MIP-TV, this gave him plenty of tax write-off’s for his many trips to Europe, particularly Cannes, where he was a fixture at the annual festival (and even died there!.)  Given Ettlinger’s presumed wealth, Medallion might have been equal parts hobby and business, particularly during the 1980s when TV syndication had declined precipitously.

In the early years of Medallion, Ettlinger produced short programming and commercials.  He made deals with producers to rep their libraries to television for a sales commission.  Years later, whenever possible, he purchased the copyrights to the pictures he had only represented.  This was a particularly good move — not only was he relieved of paying royalties for television, but a new and unanticipated cash cow came along later…home video…free of royalties.

Medallion’s first offerings were known as the “Governor Westerns.” [Somebody please tell me what those were].  In 1959 the company started to take off with a batch of Jack Broder productions, “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla” (Realart/1951), etc., a series of 1940s PRC “Billy the Kid” westerns starring Buster Crabbe, a few Hal Roach features such as “Captain Caution” (UA/1940).  His  crown jewel was “A Walk in the Sun” (Fox/1945).

As the years went by Medallion would lose libraries and pick up others.

He earned a reputation, mostly undeserved, as someone who attempted to resurrect copyrights to movies that may have been in the public domain by adding copyright “©” symbols to his movies that did not originally appear on general release.  His files show that when this was done inappropriately, the Copyright Office indeed rejected the applications.  I didn’t add any of those movies to my library.

Renewing someone else’s copyright at the very end of the last year of initial copyright protection was an illegal way that pirates would secure copyright renewals to pictures they didn’t own, something I had heard for decades that Ettlinger was guilty of.

However, Ettlinger’s secretary was fastidious about sending paperwork to Medallion’s Washington DC copyright law firm to register or renew copyrights.   Although the secretary may have sent in the requests in September, October and November, for example, the law firm often waited until December to submit renewals to the Copyright Office.  An odd, suspicious, and I’d say risky, way of renewing copyrights, but Ettlinger never threw away a piece of paper, and the correspondence between him and his attorney’s show that he acted above board in such situations.

Ettlinger also purchased abandoned negatives from laboratories in a variation of “Storage Wars.”  This was for the physical elements only, with no rights conveyed.  However, again borne out by my examination of the Medallion files, in order to clear title, Ettlinger subsequently purchased copyrights from the producers or financiers (often The Walter E. Heller Co. and Ideal Factoring) who foreclosed on bankrupt pictures.

In 1993 John Ettlinger died, and the assets of his company were sold to Parasol Group Limited, which Nathan Sassover controlled.  Sassover proceeded to market the Medallion Library, and augmented it by producing various TV series of varying quality by adding new matter to footage in the public domain as with his “Drama Classics” and “The 40s.”  He also produced wholly original productions, including “The Adventures of Dynamo Duck.”  Apparently the programs sold very well in Europe until the public domain issue came to light, and licensees realized they paid a lot of money for very little exclusive programming.

Parasol then sold to Applause Networks, Inc. which became Internet Broadcast Networks, Inc., later known as, Mediacom Entertainment, Inc., and Sassover became CEO, President and Secretary of Mediacom.  [Maybe two people care about this, but I’ll go on]  Mediacom sold to Branded Media, which was financed by Group III Capital, Inc.

Neither Branded or Group III were very familiar with the motion picture and television business.  Impressed with Mediacom’s balance sheet, they were unaware  that a large percentage of the library was essentially in the public domain, or to which distribution rights had reverted to the producers.

Group III claimed there was a diversion of funds by Parasol, Sassover and another man, and sued.  They were awarded treble damages ($7,900,236) plus interest and attorney’s fees.  I found no evidence that Group III received any of that money.

Subsequently, Branded sold the library to EMN Acquisition Corp., which was in the business of placing advertising at airports.  They knew even less of the business than Branded Media.

In 2007 I wanted to repatriate negatives to three movies produced by John Champion (brother of Gower);  “Hellgate” (Lippert/1951), “Panhandle” (AA/1948) and “Shotgun” (AA/1955).  A fourth, “Dragonfly Squadron” (AA/1954), was sought by Jeff Joseph of SabuCat Productions, who wanted to restore it in 3D.

The problem was a $250,000 storage bill at FilmBond in Burbank CA, where thousands of reels of Medallion material, including the Champion movies, had languished for many years.  It took a year to eventually gain release of those materials, and that is how I was introduced to EMN, who made a pennies-on-the-dollar deal with FilmBond for the release of all of the elements.

In 2008 I purchased the library from EMN, and VCI Entertainment has released most on DVD.  I gave the public domain material, plus the negative to “Dragonfly Squadron,” and the thousands of cans of film that was either in the public domain, or where rights had previously expired, to Jeff Joseph of SabuCat Productions.

The following makes up the Kit Parker Films Medallion TV Enterprises Collection, some of which have territorial restrictions.

 

Actors and Sin
Assault of the Rebel Girls aka Cuban Rebel Girls
Attack of the Mayan Mummy
Breakdown
Celebrity Billiards
The Crawling Hand
Creature of the Walking Dead
Curse of the Stone Hand
Death on the Four Poster
Dinah East
Escape from Sahara
Eye Witness aka Your Witness
Fabulous Fraud
Farmer’s Daughter
Four Fast Guns
Four in a Jeep
Gay Intruders
House of Black Death
How to Succeed with Girls
I’ll See You in Hell
Island of Desire
Jungle Hell
Let’s Live Again
Love From Paris
Man Beast
Monster From the Ocean Floor
Moscow Nights aka Les nuits Moscovites
Nature Girl and the Slaver
Nine Miles to Noon
Nylon Noose
Outlaw Women
Panhandle
Passport for a Corpse
The Rebel Son aka Rebel Son of Tarus Bulba
Sea Devils
Serpent Island
Slasher aka Cosh Boy
Slime People
Sputnik
Summer Run
Summer Storm
Thunder in Carolina
Twilight Women aka Another Chance aka Women of Twilight
Two Colonels
Uncle Vanya
Untamed Women
Violent and the Damned
Wall of Fury
Wild World of Batwoman
Yesterday and Today

*These titles were distributed by Medallion; I purchased them from the producers.

VCI Entertainment

Questions?:  kit@kitparker.com

(c) 2014 Kit parker

 I don’t remember not doing business with VCI.

 

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   Bill Blair, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (nee Blair) [1976]

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 Betty Scott [1969]

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 Bob Blair [early 1970s]

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 Don Blair [1970s]

Our relationship began 40 years ago, after I started Kit Parker Films in 1971. I contacted VCI, then known as United Films,  a  16mm film distributor like KPF, only larger, and I licensed my first studio films. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United Films’ CEO was Bill Blair*, a consummate film buff who passed his love-of-film genes onto his children.

Over time I grew to know Bill, his son Bob and Genell (Bob’s wife) as I frequently called them in the days when I was distributing movies to the Pacific Islands. Another Blair son, Don, toiled in the shipping department. Betty Scott, worked behind the scenes and wrote the checks. Many years passed before I personally met everyone in the flesh.

In the late 1970s, United Films was one of the first to realize that the future was in selling pre-recorded VHS and Betamax (remember?) tapes. United Films became VCI Entertainment, a pioneer in what we now take for granted…”Home Video.” At first they only licensed movies from various producers and paid them a percentage of each video sold. Then they realized by producing their own movies they could keep all the money:

Voila…VCI’s first in-house production — “Blood Cult” (1985) (3.3 out of 10 on IMDb). During the days of “sell-through,” it retailed for $59.95 ($130 in 2014 dollars) and made a bundle because these tapes were primarily purchased by rental stores like Blockbuster, West Coast Video, and countless independents hungry for product. The era of inexpensive “sell through” DVD’s hadn’t blossomed as yet. Their other in-house low-budget video productions were also successful, although not among the AFI’s 100 greatest American movies of all time.

Today, VCI is one of the oldest independent home video companies, and its story is worthy of a book, but none of the Blair’s have time to write a chapter.

United/VCI left the 16mm business in the early 1980s, whereas I continued representing studios and independent producers non-theatrically and theatrically until 2001. I was one of the last men standing in that field before celluloid became obsolete.

That didn’t end my relationship with VCI, but revived it.

Hello DVD’s!

I began buying rights to old movies and licensed them to VCI for DVD distribution. Not sure if we wrote a formal contract…a handshake in Oklahoma is firmer than a written contract.

40 years later, who do I still work with with VCI?  I’m on the phone with Bob Bair, Don Blair, and Betty Scott. Genell (she could write jokes for Don Rickles), and Don’s wife, Jill, figured one film nut in the family was enough. However, their “retirement” recently ended when they were recruited to caption the VCI library for the hearing impaired.  Unfortunately, Bill Blair passed away in 2006.

Another Blair son, David, previously worked for Sony, and had a client so important he moved to its home town…Wal-Mart, in Bentonville, Arkansas. Now he’s in charge of VCI’s sales while living in Atlanta. I’ve only met him once, but there is no doubt he is the right man for the job.

OK, let’s take a tour of VCI in Tulsa Oklahoma:

It is an unassuming single-story building on the outskirts of Tulsa (trivia: the most inland seaport in the United States) with offices fronting a warehouse.

Entering VCI’s lobby you’re greeted by a display filled with DVD’s, posters, and a big photograph of VCI’s founder, Bill Blair, with the statement, “Our Leading Man.”

To the right is Betty Scott’s office, with a John Wayne standee to greet you. She and I are kindred spirits because we both started out in “show business” as film inspectors. I shudder at the thought of her retiring. Although I’ve never looked behind her desk, Bob and Don probably have affixed her leg to a ball and chain.

Next office: Bob, conductor of the “orchestra.” The Maestro sits at a desk stacked with teetering papers and DVDs. I can’t imagine how many emails he receives every day. Sometimes a dozen in one day from me! Maybe if Betty writes me an extra big royalty check, I’ll send him and Genell on a long vacation; they deserve one.

Next stop is the control room — similar to the space station. It’s where the restoration, authoring, and graphic design are created. There are computers and monitors all over the place, and I can’t tell you how they do one single thing. All I know is film splicers have gone the way of the buggy whip. Tiffany Beseau-Clayton is the head rocket scientist, and there is Ben Hosterman, and his brother, Greg Hosterman, known as the “graphics guy.” They all belie the popular psychology belief that individuals are either “right brain” (creative) or “left brain” (logical). They are always open to suggestions…no egos at VCI.

http://vimeo.com/91738671

Jason Blair, Bob and Genell’s son, works next door replicating special order DVD-R’s.

And then you walk into their warehouse. Wow…manna from heaven for film buffs; a warehouse filled with DVD’s awaiting shipment to customers like (hopefully) you. It’s the domain of Bill Blair’s daughter, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (who wears many hats,) her husband Steve, and daughter, Olivia.

There are many reels of old film Bill once tried to sell me four decades ago. For years Bob’s been telling me that someday he’s going to ship it all to an archive, but the same cans and boxes have sat there for as long as I remember. Someday never seems to come.

Now pass through the swinging door and meet Penny Brokaw. She handles billings and is the voice of the person who takes your order. I think she has a ball and chain under her desk, too. As you’ve gathered by now, VCI is a pleasant place to work.

In the next office is Exec V.P., Don Blair. He has even more paper stacked on his desk than Bob. Don says he has a TV with Roku in every room in his house. I believe it. His favorite two topics are: sales are going to be off the charts next year (hopefully true) and VCI doesn’t get credit due for its quality restoration work (always true.)

Last is the conference room where Bob, Don and I, and often joined by our friend and collaborator, Steve Durbin, have spent many an hour talking about business, often digressing into tales about various colorful characters and crooks whom we’ve all dealt with throughout the years. We used to sit around grousing about our various physical maladies until Bob said we were complaining like a bunch of old men. If the shoe fits… (But, we did stop complaining.)

Many home video companies have come and gone over the years. Sure, I’ve had other companies ask to distribute my movies. Maybe I’d make more money, but would the graphics be right? Would I get paid? Why bother?

I’ve got an Oklahoma handshake.

*See previous blog.

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vci

Kit Parker Films DVD’s available from:  http://www.vcient.com

 

contact:  kit@kitparker.com

(c) 2014 Kit Parker Films

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I hired a private investigator to find the heirs…

 

My passion is to seek out “orphan” movies, and adopt them into my film library.  Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes over 10 years.  I never give up.

 

First, I need to determine why a movie has been lost in limbo for 50 years or more.  It takes lots of digging through old contracts, copyright records, television syndication files, and so forth.  Here’s the short version on how I unearthed the “Mr. District Attorney” and “Counterspy” movies.

 

By 1961, the rights to both series reverted to Phillips H. Lord, creator of the radio programs.  However, he elected to do nothing with them, and died in 1975.  My next job was to find out who inherited the movies.

 

As with comic strips (see previous blog: “Lost and Found – Gasoline Alley and Friends”,) radio programs were naturals for the movies, and studios actively acquired the best programs for transition into motion pictures.  Not all the deals were the same, but generally they seldom varied much from this:

 

The Creator of the radio show licenses a studio the exclusive use of the title, and characters in a radio show.  Usually option money is paid to the creator, and the studio has a year or so to exercise the option, otherwise all rights (and the money!) revert to the Creator.

 

If and when the option is exercised, the studio pays the Creator the licensee fee, and commences production on the first film.  The distribution deals normally had a duration of 7 – 10 years.  After that, the studio and creator may or may not renew the license.  If not, the movie falls into limbo because it cannot be exploited without the agreement of both the studio (owner of the negative) and the radio producer (owner of the underlying rights.)  Occasionally the creator was assigned all rights to the negative and walked away with full ownership of the film.

 

April 3, 1939, marked the start of a 13-year run of the popular crime drama, “Mr. District Attorney,” first on NBC, and later, ABC.  It was the creation of Phillips H. Lord, a successful and respected producer during radio’s golden age.  He created 16 dramatic radio series, including “Gangbusters,”  authored six books, and 15 musical compositions.

 

In 1940 Lord licensed Republic Pictures rights to produce three feature films based on the characters appearing in the “Mr. District Attorney” radio program. The resulting films were “Mr. District Attorney” (1941), with Dennis O’Keefe, Florence Rice, and Peter Lorre, directed by William Morgan, “Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” (1941), with James Ellison and Virginia Gilmore, directed by Bernard Vorhaus, and “Secrets of the Underground” (1942), with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey, directed by William Morgan.  I have no details on the original deal other than all rights were to revert to Lord in 1948, and the productions could not be shorts, serials or television programs.

 

In 1945 Columbia Pictures approached Lord to produce two of their own MDA movies.  The problem, of course, was that Republic still had 3 years left on its two picture deal, and Columbia didn’t want two other MDA movies in the marketplace, since Republic would inevitably sieze the opportunity to re-release their own MDA films in order to capitalize on any forthcoming Columbia productions.  This prompted Lord to exercise a $750 option contained within the Republic/Lord contract, against $7,500 to buy outright the negatives to “Mr. District Attorney” and “Mr. District Attorney and the Carter Case.”  “Secrets of the Underground” remained with Republic (now, Paramount), presumably because the main title wouldn’t conflict with the new Columbia productions, although at one time Republic later did re-title the movie “Mr. District Attorney Does His Bit.”

 

The 7-year Columbia deal was set to go upon payment of $30,000 (approx. $400,000 in 2014 dollars), which included rights to the 9 months of radio scripts aired prior to February 29, 1940, a quitclaim of rights to the Big Little Book, “Mr. District Attorney on the Job” (aka “Smashing the Taxi Cab Racket”) (1941), along with four Dell Comics, “The Funnies,” from 1941-42.  A prerequisite minimum negative cost of $150,000 per picture assured Lord the movies would have at least respectable production values.

 

The result was “Mr. District Attorney” (1947) with Dennis O’Keefe, Adolph Menjou (!), and Marguerite Chapman, directed by Robert B. Sinclair.  A second feature was never produced, and the reason why is open to conjecture.  However, some sort of arrangement between Lord and Columbia was made to allow ZIV to produce a TV series based on MDA for the 1951-52 season, and again for 1954-55.

 

In 1949 Columbia again approached Lord, this time to acquire rights to produce one or two features based on another one of Lord’s hit radio crime dramas, “Counterspy,” which first aired in 1942 on the NBC Blue Network, and continued through 1957.  The deal was $15,000 per feature, with an extended playoff of 15 years, resulting in “David Harding, Counterspy (1950), with Willard Parker, Audrey Long, and Howard St. John (as the title character), directed by Ray Nazarro, and “Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard” (1950) with Howard St. John (top billing this time), Ron Randell and Amanda Blake, directed by Seymour Friedman.

 

Steve Wachtel to the rescue…

 

I retained a frequent collaborator, prominent Los Angeles-based private investigator, Steve Wachtel.  As a movie buff he enjoys my assignments of determining the who and where of heirs to film people.

 

In the case of Phillips H. Lord, the heirs turned out to be three sisters, one lived in New York City, and the other two  only a dozen miles from me, one in Glendale AZ, and the other in Scottsdale.  None had any idea they owned any movies.

 

I made a deal with them for all rights.

 

Next job:  Find good film elements from which to digitize.  The original nitrate negative of “Mr. District Attorney” (1941) had decomposed, and only the picture negative survived, and it was in poor condition.  I found an excellent duplicate safety film negative at the British Film Institute in London, and borrowed it to make a digital master.  “Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” only survived only as a poor condition nitrate picture negative, as well, but couldn’t locate a sound track…and I searched around the world.  Let’s consider it lost…for now.

 

Normally film elements aren’t an issue because most movies were released to TV, thus requiring multiple duplicate elements on safety film.  But since the two Republic MDA’s had never been reissued theatrically, or sold to TV, there was no need to create duplicates.  What is left of the original nitrate negatives are stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

 

The Columbia movies were another story…there were plenty of film elements still stored by the studio, and they were cooperative in giving me the material.  I came up with advertising materials from Columbia, The Margaret Herrick Library (AMPAS), and good old eBay.

 

One of the pleasures of my business is producing extra features for the DVD’s.

 

One Lord sister graciously invited me to her house and showed me scrapbooks of her family, and father at work, then allowed me to copy them.  She later consented to an interview by film historian, Richard M. Roberts, who is also an expert on golden age radio.  And as always he knows the right questions to ask.

Phillips H. Lord Radio Programs:

Commandos

Counterspy (aka: “David Harding, Counterspy”)

The Cruise of the Seth Parker

Gang Busters  (Original title: “G-Men”)

Mr. District Attorney

The Country Doctor (aka: The Old Country Doctor)

Phillip Morris Playhouse (Original title: “Johnny Presents”)

Police Woman

Sunday Evening at Seth Parker’s

Seth Parker’s Singing School

Sky Blazers

The Stebbins Boys

Treasury Agent

Uncle Abe and David

Under the Sidewalks of New York

We, the People

Books:

Seth Parker and His Jonesport Folks

Seth Parker Fireside Poems, Gems of the Air

Seth Parker’s Album

Seth Parker’s Hymnal

Seth Parker’s Scrap Book

Uncle Hosie the Yankee Salesman

Feature Films:

 Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard *

David Harding, Counterspy *

Gang Busters (1945 serial)

Gang Busters (1955) (Compilation of “Gang Busters” TV episodes)

Guns Don’t Argue (Compilation of “Gang Busters” TV episodes)

Mr. District Attorney (1941) *

Mr. District Attorney (1947) *

Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case (Only picture negative survives)

Obeah (Lost film)

Secrets of the Underground

Way Back Home

Television Programs: 

The Black Robe

Gang Busters

Mr. District Attorney

Musical Compositions:

Back in the Old Sunday School

(with May Singhi Breen and Peter De Rose.)

Has Anybody Found a Trouble?

Heavenly Jewels

If You’re Happy

Jesus Is My Neighbor

Sailing with My Father

That First Little Sweetheart of Mine

There’s Four in Our Family

We Are Gathering with the Lord Today

You Go to Your Church and I’ll Go to Mine

For a complete list of my films check out http://www.kitparker.com -

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Check out http://www.vcient.com for DVD’s -

vci

(c) 2014 Kit Parker Holdings LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

talk's cheap

 

…producer-exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s mantra and, appropriately, the title Mark Thomas McGee’s biography/filmography of the man and his films as published by BearManor Media.   I’m a B-movie aficionado, and this book is a real page-turner.

 

“I’m not in this for personal glory, I’m giving the public and the exhibitors the films they want for purely commercial reasons.”  – Robert L. Lippert

 

Robert L. Lippert, produced close to 250 feature films, including “The Steel Helmet” (1951), and “The Fly” (1958), and distributed scores more on behalf of other producers.  He launched the careers of Samuel Fuller, James Clavell, and others; and owned a theatre circuit of well over 100 theatres.  But, he flew under the radar to the degree that only hard-core movie buffs even know him.  My company owns all rights to over 100 Lippert productions, and I tried to shed at least some light on Lippert and his films in my blogs and DVD special features, but Mark does the job right.

 

Mark McGee wasn’t given an easy task:  Lippert shied away from giving interviews, and only two people who worked with Lippert are still living, actress Margia Dean, and production head/producer/director Maury Dexter.  Mark really did a lot of digging and I believe has revealed almost  everything about Lippert that isn’t lost to time.

 

Lippert’s biography is intertwined with Mark’s observations about the films as separated into four main chapters dealing with Lippert’s four production companies: Screen Guild Productions and Lippert Pictures (produced and distributed in-house), Regal Films, Inc., and Associated Producers (produced for release through Fox).  I think this was the appropriate method because in real life it was truly hard to separate Lippert the man from his movies (and his theatre circuit.)

 

Lippert seldom had artistic pretentions.  Many of his productions are at best less than notable — certainly by and large ignored by the critics.  Mark lists every, and describes most, Lippert film.  I really enjoyed the comments of exhibitors who actually played the films.  This was back in the day when every small-town theatre manager stood in the lobby and said goodnight to patrons as they exited.  Sometimes the managers hid, but most times the audiences for whom Lippert produced his films were more than satisfied.  Less sophisticated audiences during the 1940s and early 1950s often preferred Lippert productions over those from the major studios.  Don’t believe me?  Read the book!   I read every one of those critiques in one sitting.  Better than a box of See’s Candies.

 

Lippert productions and co-productions available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:

 www.vcient.com

Key: Theatrical distributors: LP = Lippert Pictures; SG = Screen Guild Productions; Hammer = Lippert/Hammer Films Co-production

APACHE CHIEF (1950) LP

ARSON, INC. (1950) LP

AS YOU WERE (1951) LP

BAD BLONDE (1953) UK: Flanagan Boy, Hammer, LP

BANDIT QUEEN, THE (1950) LP

BIG CHASE, THE (1954) LP

BLACK GLOVE, THE (1954) UK: Face the Music, Hammer, LP

BLACK PIRATES, THE (El pirata negro) (1954) US-Mexico, LP

BLACKOUT (1954) UK: Murder by Proxy, Hammer, LP

BORDER RANGERS (1950) LP

CASE OF THE BABY SITTER (1947) Featurette, SG

COLORADO RANGER – TV: Guns of Justice (1950) LP

COWBOY, THE (1954) LP

CROOKED RIVER – TV: The Last Bullet (1950) LP

DALTON GANG, THE (1949) LP

DANGER ZONE (1951) LP

DEADLY GAME, THE (1954) UK, Third Party Risk, Hammer, LP

DEPUTY MARSHAL (1949) LP

EVERYBODY’S DANCIN’ (1950) LP

FANGS OF THE WILD aka Follow the Hunter (1954) LP

FAST ON THE DRAW – TV: Sudden Death (1950) LP

FBI GIRL (1951) LP

FINGERPRINTS DON’T LIE (1951) LP

GAMBLER AND THE LADY (1952) UK, Hammer, LP

GLASS TOMB, THE (1955) UK: The Glass Cage, Hammer, LP

GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID, THE (1953) LP

GUNFIRE (1950) LP

HAT BOX MYSTERY, THE (1947) Featurette, SG

HEAT WAVE (1954) UK, House Across the Lake, Hammer, LP

HELLGATE (1952) LP-D

HIGHWAY 13 (1948) SG

HI-JACKED (1950) LP

HOLIDAY RHYTHM (1950) LP

HOLLYWOOD VARIETIES (1950) LP

HOSTILE COUNTRY – TV: Outlaw Fury (1950) LP

I SHOT BILLY THE KID (1950) LP

I’LL GET YOU (1953) UK: Escape Route, LP

JUNGLE GODDESS (1948) SG

JUNGLE, THE (1952) LP

KENTUCKY JUBILEE (1951) LP

KING DINOSAUR (1955) LP

LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES (1951) LP

LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) LP

LOAN SHARK (1952) LP

LONESOME TRAIL, THE (1955) LP

MAN BAIT (1952) UK: The Last Page, Hammer, LP

MAN FROM CAIRO, THE (1953) Italy-UK-USA, LP

MARSHAL OF HELDORADO – TV: Blazing Guns (1950) LP

MASK OF THE DRAGON (1951) LP

MASSACRE (1956) Fox

MOTOR PATROL (1950) LP

MR. WALKIE TALKIE (1952)

OPERATION HAYLIFT (1950) LP

OUTLAW COUNTRY (1949) SG

PAID TO KILL (1954) UK, Five Days, Hammer, LP-D

PIER 23 (1951) LP

QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (1947) SG

RACE FOR LIFE (1954) UK: Mask of Dust, Hammer, LP

RADAR SECRET SERVICE (1950) LP

RENEGADE GIRL (1947) SG

RETURN OF JESSE JAMES, THE (1950) LP

RIMFIRE (1948) LP

RINGSIDE (1949) LP

ROARING CITY (1951) LP

SAVAGE DRUMS (1951) LP

SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) UK: Lady in the Fog, Hammer, LP

SHADOW MAN, THE (1953) UK: Street of Shadows, Hammer, LP

SILVER STAR (1955) LP

SINS OF JEZEBEL (1953) LP

SKY HIGH (1951) LP

SKY LINER (1949) LP

SQUARE DANCE JUBILEE (1949) LP

STOLEN FACE (1952) UK, Hammer, LP

STOP THAT CAB (1951) LP

THEY WERE SO YOUNG (1954) W. Germany-USA, LP

THREE DESPERATE MEN (1951) LP

THUNDER IN THE PINES (1948) SG

TRAIN TO TOMBSTONE (1950) LP

TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949) LP

UNHOLY FOUR, THE (1954) UK: The Stranger Came Home, Hammer, LP

VARIETIES ON PARADE (1951) LP

WEST OF THE BRAZOS (1950) LP

WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT (1950) LP

WILDFIRE (1945) SG

WINGS OF DANGER (1952) UK; Dead on Course, Hammer, LP

YES SIR, MR. BONES! (1951) LP

Lippert productions directed by Samuel Fuller arevailable on DVD from the Criterion Collection

BARON OF ARIZONA, THE (1950) LP

I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) LP

STEEL HELMET, THE (1951) LP

Contact:  kit@kitparker.com

(c) 2014 Kit Parker Films

 

 

 

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