The following movies were eventually released on good quality DVD’s:
APACHE RIFLES (Admiral-Fox/1964)
Picture and sound track were a jumbled mess. Technician at VCI eventually matched everything up. (I still owe someone a steak dinner!)
THE COWBOY (Lippert/1954)
35mm color negative ruined by mold. Used 16mm color “EK” (print from the original color negative) for the DVD. Black and white duplicate negative and color “separation negatives” survive. BTW, I had a blast producing the commentary track with the authentic old cowboys who were the stars of the film.
THE GLASS TOMB (Hammer-Lippert/1955)
Original 35mm material missing. Used 35mm release print borrowed from the British Film Archive
THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID (Lippert/1954)
35mm color material missing. Used a 16mm color “EK.” 35mm black and white negative survives.
LIKE IT IS (Psychedelic Fever) (Lima/1968)
Missing sound track. Used audio from a bootleg VHS bought on eBay. Sometimes pirates serve a useful purpose!
MAN BEAST (API/1956)
Master 35mm material was cut for release in the UK and the excised scenes scrapped. Used missing footage found in a 35mm US release print. Scenes that were deleted prior to its US theatrical release were found in a Spanish dubbed print and are included as a Special Feature on the DVD.
Color camera negative survived – without titles. Used titles off a like-new 1956 16mm color print I bought from a collector on eBay. Not the first time a film collector has saved the day.
MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR (Palo Alto-Lippert/1954)
35mm sound track decomposed. Used track from 16mm Armed Forces negative, which was longer than the theatrical release version. Extra scenes are part of the DVD special features.
MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY (Republic/1941)
Nitrate picture and track negative decomposed. Used a “fine grain” master print borrowed from the British Film Institute
OUTLAW WOMEN (Howco/1952)
Original 35mm Cinecolor material decomposed. Used mint 35mm Cinecolor print
SEA DEVILS (Coronado-RKO/1953)
Combined 3-strip Technicolor negatives located at Technicolour in London and restored by Canal+, owner of Eastern Hemisphere distribution rights.
SHOTGUN (Champion-Allied Artists/1955)
Badly faded camera negative was all that survived. VCI technician was able to bring the color back to life in a tedious process of correcting the color scene by scene. (Another steak dinner, this one due Doug at Film and Video Transfers)
SINS OF JEZEBEL (Lippert/1954)
Original 35mm color negative missing. Used mint 35mm AnscoColor print labeled “Roadshow Version”. Could find no difference between the Roadshow and Regular release; not surprising given its penurious producer, Robert L. Lippert. Note: Fortunately AnscoColor, unlike widely used Eastman Color, does not tend to fade.
STRANGER ON HORSEBACK (Goldstein-UA/1955)
No color film elements known to exist. Used 35mm AnscoColor release print borrowed from the British Film Institute. 16mm black and white negative survives.
THUNDER IN CAROLINA (Howco/1962)
As with “Apache Rifles,” picture and sound track were a jumbled mess. Technician at VCI eventually matched everything up. (Guess I owe three steak dinners.)
AVAILABLE ON DVD FROM
There are movies which Kit Parker Films owns rights but cannot find suitable elements. Maybe you can help!
“The Black Pirates” (Salvador-Lippert/1954) Original AnscoColor negative missing. Duplicate negative with Spanish main and end titles survives, but was damaged by improper storage.
“God’s Country” (Lippert/1946)
Original Cinecolor nitrate negative decomposed in the 1960s. 35mm and 16mm black and white duplicate negative and sound track survive.
“Highway 13” (Lippert/1948)
Not really missing, but we had to use the 16mm negative which was less than optimal. I was told not to bother because the whole movie took less than 3 days to produce but, hey, it’s a mini-masterpiece!
“Rawhide Trail” (Terry and Lyon-Allied Artists/1958)
Nothing at all. The Allied Artists library was split between Warner Bros. and Paramount years ago, but this independent production was not among them.
“Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” (Republic/1941)
Nitrate negative decomposed. Not released to television so no duplicate negatives produced.
“The Incredible Face of Dr. B”
and “House of Frights”
Mexican films from 1963 that were also released in English language versions. Although the Spanish negatives survive, the English versions apparently do not.
“Let’s Live Again” (Seltzer-Fox/1948)
Only a mediocre 16mm negative and print survive.
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
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
© 2014 Kit Parker Films
“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.
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) *
© 2014 Kit Parker
I don’t remember not doing business with VCI.
Bill Blair, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (nee Blair) 
Betty Scott 
Bob Blair [early 1970s]
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.
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.
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.
Kit Parker Films DVD’s available from: http://www.vcient.com
(c) 2014 Kit Parker Films