kitparkerfilms

 

It’s been widely reported that the vast majority of millennials have not watched a black and white movie all the way through, if at all.

 

I can tell you from my personal experience with Netflix that one of the main reasons older/classic films on Netflix are rapidly declining is because they hired people in their 20s to do the programming – techies and/or MBA’s with no film background.  To them “old” and “classics” were interchangeable, so it wasn’t surprising for them to literally or figuratively close their eyes, touch a list and – bingo – selection made.  That’s why you got “classics” like “Blood of Dracula’s Castle” instead of “Dracula,” “Psycho” (1998) instead of “Psycho” (1960) – hey, newer in color must be better.  (According to Newsweek there are just 43 movies on Netflix streaming made before 1970)

 

I can hear the scheduling conference in Silicon Valley now, “Any of you hear of this ‘Dumbo’ from Disney?   Sounds boring.  Hey, they also have “Operation Dumbo Drop,” perfect – lot of poop jokes so we can double it up with ‘Superbad’.”  (I did say 20-somethings.)

 

What happened next?  These “so-called” classics failed to generate viewers, and the wet behind the ears film buyers went to their superiors with the proclamation “no one wants classics.”

 

Amazon Prime Instant Video still offers at least a semblance of classics, but it’s a combination of the usual third generation public domain movies we’ve seen in every big box store’s dollar bin, and a lot of lackluster quasi-classics again selected by title.  No different from Netflix.  Don’t blame the studios — they license classics affordably — so it isn’t a matter of money.

 

Remember the saying when cable and satellite expanded and we said “300 Channels and nothing to see?”  Now it’s 1,000 channels, and one to see – TCM.

 

The owners of classics — major studios as well as minor leaguers like myself — all expected a world of hundreds of channels on cable, later satellite, and then download/ streaming to mean new outlets for older films, called “library titles” in the biz.  Didn’t happen.    Instead, we got reality shows and their never-ending spinoffs.  Setting aside movies for the moment — try and find a good selection of TV shows made before 1980.

 

There are 76 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) living today, and 79 million Generation Xrs (b. 1965-80).  Hollywood and Silicon Valley are ignoring the entirety of Boomers, and a chunk of Xr’s, is one reason DVD and Blu-ray sales of older films and television series continue to sell briskly.

 

As we proudly attest on The Sprocket Vault website http://www.sprocketvault.com, you’ll find a varied collection of DVDs and Blu-rays in almost every genre ranging from classics, the not-so-classics, and countless hours of entertainment in-between.

 

And I should add: “Movies You Won’t Find on Netflix!”

 

Here’s the Newsweek article:

http://www.newsweek.com/2017/09/22/netflix-streaming-movies-classics-664512.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I still love running celluloid through my fingers, and was fortunate enough to find a way to turn my modest Laurel and Hardy collection into a thriving 45+ year career.

 

 

 

 

The oddest film collectors and dealers make for fascinating psychological profiles.  You’ll learn why, and a lot more, by reading Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph’s book, “A Thousand Cuts” (University Press of Mississippi/2016), with the subheading, “…the bizarre underground world of collectors and dealers who saved the movies.”

 

I lived through the film collecting heyday, and knew collectors and dealers, at least by correspondence, and most of the ones in Dennis and Jeff’s book by reputation.  Believe me, you couldn’t make them up!

 

This blog started out as a book review, but ended up as a memoir.  It brought back so many memories that I decided to share some with you.  A complete description of the book follows my trip down a bizarre memory lane.

 

I attended a few movie buff conventions in the 1970s, “Cinecon,” was the best for silent and early talkies, and The National Film Society,” usually specialized in the 1940s and 50s.

 

They were there – the collectors — sometimes lived with Mom, had some semblance of a theatre in the basement, and hoarded celluloid as if it were air itself.

 

In the early 1970s, the convention attendees ran the gamut of age.  It was fun to see people passionate about old movies and their film collections.  I “spoke film,” as did they, and loved to join in the conversations.

 

However, by the early 80s, when I took my wife to a couple of these events, the more eccentric of the bunch were starting to look a little odd.  Mismatched clothes, pale skin, paunchy, and only seemed to talk about their treasured prints.   “IB Tech,” “adapted scope,” “dupe,” “reduction print,” and “Kodak original,” seemed to be in every other sentence.

 

She couldn’t understand people endlessly discussing the merits of Cinecolor, and moreover, just who was Raymond Rohauer, and why does everyone want him dead?

 

By the 2010’s when Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph started writing their book, some of the collectors still lived in the same houses they grew up in.   Mom was long gone, curtains closed, and their cherished film stacked like an obstacle course throughout the house.  I know one collector who used every bit of floor space and resorted to using his kitchen counters and half of his double-sink.   Like I said, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

 

As the years progressed, sitting endlessly in the dark presumably eating movie theatre food, took a toll on their health to the point that picking up heavy reels and operating a projector became difficult, or impossible.

 

Let’s back up.  Long before DVDs and Blu-rays, before VHS, if you wanted to collect movies and show them in your home, it had to be on 16mm film.  A few collectors even had 35mm (even 70mm) setups in their homes, which gave them major bragging rights.  16mm was used everywhere video/digital is now; non-theatrically (schools, libraries, universities, airlines, summer camps, you name it) and television.  Prints weren’t cheap to manufacture, and the studios didn’t make copies for collectors…so a black market was created, the more desirable the film, the higher the price.

 

Entrepreneurs with a bit (or a lot) of larceny found ways to steal or make copies of varying degrees of quality to sell to eager buyers.   “The Big Reel,” was a tabloid full of ads enticing collectors to buy, sell or trade thousands of prints in each issue; I loved reading it.  According to the book, at one time there were 4800 subscribers, so we know there were at least that many collectors.   A lot of the film dealers (don’t get me going on Thunderbird Films) were shady at best, and worthy of a blog themselves.  No need for that, just read Dennis and Jeff’s book.

 

Apart from the very few who actually deprived studios or television and non-theatrical distributors* by using bootleg prints commercially, or out-and-out stole them from television stations or film exchanges, collecting film had a benign effect on studio profits.   (You could buy 16mm movies legitimately from companies like Blackhawk Films, but they were predominantly silent movies and talkie shorts.  As a kid, I saved my money to buy 8mm, later 16mm, Laurel and Hardy shorts from Blackhawk.  Jeff Joseph did the same thing, which makes us kindred spirits.)

 

But, politics and hysteria got involved.  The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) conjured up out of whole cloth an absurdly high amount of money the collectors were stealing from the studios.  The inevitable witch hunt commenced, the FBI called in, some film collectors (actor Roddy McDowall was the most high profile) were arrested, and their collections seized.   This whole legal travesty, a dark side of the Justice Department, was eventually overturned in court.  A friend and mentor, Al Drebin of Budget Films, had a lot of films taken, only to receive a call years later from the FBI, “What do you want us to do with all of this film of yours?”   He got his films back, but I guess they forgot to reimburse him for all the legal fees he racked up defending himself.

 

It was routine for studios to throw out footage they felt was worthless.  Of course, no celluloid is worthless to a film collector, and their midnight dumpster diving has turned up one of a kind riches we now enjoy on DVD.  Things like deleted scenes, stereo sound tracks, missing footage, or even whole movies.   Thank you, film collectors.

 

“A Thousand Cuts,” is so deftly written that those without a whit of film knowledge will enjoy the book for its character studies, alone.   Had it not been for Dennis and Jeff, this entire subject would probably have been lost to history.

 

Below is a description of the book as copied from the dust jacket:

A Thousand Cuts is a candid exploration of one of America’s strangest and most quickly vanishing subcultures. It is about the death of physical film in the digital era and about a paranoid, secretive, eccentric, and sometimes obsessive group of film-mad collectors who made movies and their projection a private religion in the time before DVDs and Blu-rays.

The book includes the stories of film historian/critic Leonard Maltin, TCM host Robert Osborne discussing Rock Hudson’s secret 1970s film vault, RoboCop producer Jon Davison dropping acid and screening King Kong with Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East, and Academy Award–winning film historian Kevin Brownlow recounting his decades-long quest to restore the 1927 Napoleon. Other lesser-known but equally fascinating subjects include one-legged former Broadway dancer Tony Turano, who lives in a Norma Desmond–like world of decaying movie memories, and notorious film pirate Al Beardsley, one of the men responsible for putting O. J. Simpson behind bars.

Authors Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph examine one of the least-known episodes in modern legal history: the FBI’s and Justice Department’s campaign to harass, intimidate, and arrest film dealers and collectors in the early 1970s. Many of those persecuted were gay men. Victims included Planet of the Apes star Roddy McDowall, who was arrested in 1974 for film collecting and forced to name names of fellow collectors, including Rock Hudson and Mel Tormé.

A Thousand Cuts explores the obsessions of the colorful individuals who created their own screening rooms, spent vast sums, negotiated underground networks, and even risked legal jeopardy to pursue their passion for real, physical film.

 

Order it from Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Cuts-Bizarre-Underground-Collectors/dp/1496807731/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504826067&sr=8-1&keywords=a+thousand+cuts+book

 

*In the old Kit Parker Films non-theatrical days, a collector, under the guise of a bogus “museum,” rented just about everything we had concerning Nazis.  Things like “Triumph of the Will,” and the mini-series, “Holocaust.”  After a while we noticed none of them were returning.  Each time we’d call there was an excuse.  Even Marci Krause, a member of the KPF team known for getting prints back, couldn’t succeed.  I suggested Marci call this “museum curator” and tell him Mr. Parker found a big box of Nazi concentration camp home movies, and would they be of value to the “museum.”  Of course, the proviso was first he had to return all of our films.  They arrived the next day by FedEx, along with a call, “Did you send the concentration camp movies?”  Marci’s response was “Gotcha.”

 

9076c46106bf6684fbbc9d3b478437f6--one-million-the-movie (003)

The first time I saw ONE MILLION B.C. (1940) was in the late 1950s on KSBW-TV in Salinas, California.  Thought it was pretty cool, even though the station always was kind of fuzzy.  (The VCI DVD and Blu-ray are exceptionally sharp)  There was never any doubt the “dinosaurs” were anything other than lizards, but that made no difference to me, nor to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who bestowed an Oscar for its special effects.  Clips of the “dinosaurs” were later used in over a dozen low-rent feature films, including two of mine, “Untamed Women” (1951) and “King Dinosaur” (1955).

The one shot that did stun me was watching the mother of a child being entombed by flowing lava.  60 years later it still kind of gives me the creeps.  I enjoyed the movie enough to buy both Castle Films one-reel silent abridgements, “1 Million B.C.” and “Battle of the Giants.”

Author, Richard Bann, who personally knew Hal Roach for many years, was nice enough to contribute some facts.  Thanks, Dick!

“Who wrote ONE MILLION B.C.? Hal E. Roach did. At one point he was going to (but elected not to) take credit for the original story as “Eugene Roche,” a pseudonym he sometimes (but rarely) used, Eugene being his middle name. Having known him so well, I can state that this direct, blunt, raw movie absolutely reflects his world view, his values, his way of thinking. Yet others received credit for the “original screenplay.” One, Mickell Novak, was his secretary, who I met once. She confirmed that Hal wrote the picture, and others who “helped” in some fashion were given screen credit to pad the production staff. When Hal first entered movies, he was a friend of and hired her mother, Jane Novak, who made Westerns with William S. Hart. And Mickell Novak’s aunt was another silent film actress of note, Eva Novak. And much has been written about the contributions of D.W. Griffith to ONE MILLION B.C. in various capacities. With respect to the story, Griffith wrote several treatments and offered a 76-page screenplay. All were rejected. By 1940, movies made in the teens seemed as antiquated as the setting for ONE MILLION B.C., and unfortunately Griffith had not changed with the times.”

Order ONE MILLION B.C. on DVD or Blu-ray from The Sprocket Vault –

DVD – http://thesprocketvault.com/product/one-million-b-c/

Blu-ray – http://thesprocketvault.com/product/one-million-b-c-blu-ray/

Option 1:  Use Scotch tape, scratch remover and melt with a blow torch.

Option 2:  Contact us and we’ll send a speedy replacement.

A customer tried Option 1 and sent us the following unedited message:

 

burning dvd

“hi, could you please refund me on the dvd disc. I played this dvd disc on my dvd player, and it did NOT work. I took it out and found huge scratches and huge cracks in the disc. I repaired the huge scratches with scratch remover, and I repaired the huge cr acks with scotch tape. I then put it back in the dvd player to see if it would play better, but it would NOT play better AT ALL. the lasers inside the dvd player would NOT even recognize the dvd disc AT ALL. it was too IMPOSSIBLE to even be recognizable AT ALL. my other dvd discs work perfectly normal and great on my dvd player, and my dvd player still works perfectly normal and great as well. it’s just that the dvd disc would NOT even play well AT ALL. my other ones did. I just about tried everything I could even do to repair this dvd disc, but NONE of the ideas worked AT ALL. it was just too IMPOSSIBLE to even be recognizable, and there was absolutely NOTHING else I could even do about it AT ALL. I tried to send the dvd disc back to you, but when I was down in my basement welding something together, I had it with me, and when it fell out of my pocket, i accidentally melted the whole entire item with a blow torch. the whole entire item completely melted down into tiny little specs, and there is absolutely NOTHING left of this item WHATSOEVER. i have absolutely NO replacement for this item WHATSOEVER. so please refund me. i need my money back. thank you.”

Of course, we promptly returned his money along with an apology for his inconvenience.

Visit our web site regularly, and subscribe to our email list

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black pirates poster

Who needs a real pirate ship?!

What’s more fun to watch than a B-movie produced by Robert L. Lippert?  A double-feature produced by TWO Robert L. Lippert’s (Sr. and Jr.), both featuring B-movie stalwart Robert Clarke, one filmed in AnscoColor with Lon Chaney, Jr. as a priest, and with a script  by Star Trek producer Fred Freiberger.  Oh, and a rowboat for a “ship”!   With a lineup like that, who needs Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, or even a real pirate ship?

I’d about given up hope of finding color film elements on “The Black Pirates” (Lippert/1954) until a few years ago when my friend, producer Sam Sherman, revealed he had been storing the original negative for decades under the Spanish release title, “El Pirata Negro.”  It came into Sam’s possession this way:  In the mid 1940s, Robert L. Lippert and William Pizor formed Screen Guild Productions, which later became Lippert Pictures.  Pizor was in charge of international sales.  (Pizor founded two low budget studios)

In 1954, Lippert acquired distribution rights for seven years to “The Black Pirates,” which was co-produced by Robert L. Lippert, Jr. and Mexican producer, Ollalo Rubio, under the banner of Salvador Films Corp.  For some unknown reason “The Black Pirates” negative ended up in Pizor’s film vault.

Pizor’s son, Irwin, also a producer, took over the vault after the elder Pizor died in 1959, and Sam Sherman maintains it to this day.

Sam gave me the negative. Thank you, Sam!

But, there were problems:  the AnscoColor negative had excellent color, but it had odd looking streaks in some of the reels.  Poor lab work?  (It was done in Mexico)  Improperly stored?  For sure.  Lippert Jr. told me the negative had been stored under hot and humid conditions in El Salvador where the film was mostly shot.  Since I don’t like releasing movies with blemishes, the DVD release was tabled until hopefully a good print or some other usable element could be found.

Then, in 2016, another old friend, Wade Williams, gave me an original 35mm color print, and it had those same blemishes!  Conclusion:  The movie must have been shown in theatres with the same imperfections I’d rejected for a DVD release.   Tiffany Clayton* has done the digital restoration work on the majority of my movies and she tasked with fixing this one, and the resulting image is probably better than when it looked in theatres.

black pirates trailer

One other thing, only the Spanish main and end titles survived, so we used them.  No big deal.

The difficulties I had in locating good film materials is nothing to what Lippert, Jr. endured while producing the movie.  He told me the movie was “shit.”  The experience, yes, the movie – not nearly so bad.   Find out exactly what he had to say about making the movie in a reenacted interview as part of the DVD special features.

TSV Logo small

SWASHBUCKLER DOUBLE-FEATURE from The Sprocket Vault

“The Black Pirates” (1954)

Cast: Anthony Dexter, Robert Clarke, Martha Roth, Lon Chaney, Jr., Toni Gerry, Víctor Manuel Mendoza

Location filming in El Salvador highlights this hot blooded tale of pirates landing in a Latin American town in search of buried treasure, and learning that a church was built over the spot. A pirate chief enslaves the townspeople and forces them to dig for it–but more twists lie ahead.  Script by Star Trek producer Fred Freiberger.

74 min | Color | 1.87:1/widescreen | NR

“Tales of Robin Hood” (1952)

Cast: Robert Clarke, Mary Hatcher, Paul Cavanagh, Wade Crosby, Whit Bissell, Ben Welden, Robert Bice

In 12th-century Nottinghamshire, ruthless tax collectors oppress the simple folk. Meanwhile, deep in the shadows of Sherwood Forest, a new hero is born: Robin Hood a sharp-witted swashbuckler joined by his Merry Men steals from the rich and gives to the poor–AND, on his own, romances the lovely Maid Marian.  Some scenes were filmed on the set of “Joan of Arc” (1950). Originally produced as a TV pilot, but released theatrically.

1952 | 60 min | B&W | 1.37:1 |NR

Bonus Features:

Interviews with Robert L. Lippert, Jr. and Robert Clarke by Tom Weaver (reenactments)

Original trailer to “The Black Pirates”

 Order DVD on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZFBT15

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

Visit our site regularly and sign up for our email list.

www.sprocketvault.com

Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

http://bit.ly/2rwgrqs

 

*You can find more restoration work by Tiffany Clayton on her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyclayton/

 

 

 

 

It’s been a year-long journey, but our “Super 10-Chapterplay of the Air” is finally released!

I have owned the chain of title for years, but couldn’t find any film elements to work with. Then long-time friend and film collector, Jeff Joseph, loaned us his one-of-a-kind 35mm tinted nitrate print. Working with an almost 90 year-old-print took time, but it turned out beautiful.

We are delighted that silent film accompanist Dr. Andrew Simpson agreed to score, and what a great job he did.

Our favorite commentator, noted film historian, Richard M Roberts, liked the serial so much he produced and recorded a full-length commentary…excellent, as always.    More time was spent syncing (easier said than done), checking the final master, creating packaging, replication, shipping to Amazon, and impatiently waiting for them to disperse inventory to their various warehouses. It’s here at last!

“Superior to the usual run of serials…full of thrills…” – Schenectady (NY) Gazette

You just might think the Schenectady Gazette’s comment is an understatement.  Feel free to let me know. Of course, you’ll have to buy it first! Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y4GLV4C

 

The following is our formal press release —

The Sprocket Vault announces its DVD release of the 1928 silent serial THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN, a ten-part “Super Chapterplay of the Air” starring silent era-serial superstar Walter Miller and Eugenia Gilbert produced by the long-lasting Poverty Row Producers, The Weiss Brothers.

 

 

Featuring vintage biplanes and exciting action, THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN was the last silent serial produced by The Weiss Brothers and one of the last silent serials ever produced. Thought to be a “lost” film, Producer Kit Parker, who purchased the holdings of Weiss Global International in 2004, was approached by film archivist, Jeff Joseph of SabuCat Productions, who offered to loan a near-complete original 35mm tinted nitrate print which was missing only the first reel of Chapter Nine. The print was lovingly restored and transferred (recreating the missing reel from stills and plot synopses), and a new piano score was commissioned from ace silent film accompanist Dr. Andrew Earle Simpson, main accompanist of the Library of Congress Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia.

 

The Sprocket Vault’s DVD release of THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN also features a complete and comprehensive commentary track by noted film historian Richard M Roberts. He weaves a story about the production and the people involved, from stars Miller and Gilbert, co-stars like Robert Walker and Dorothy Talcott to Director Harry Revier and the production staff of Weiss Brothers-Artclass Pictures, a family of low-budget film producers whose filmmaking operations kept them in business from the 1910s up to the 1990s, outlasting some of Hollywood’s major studios.

 

The Sprocket Vault’s release of THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN heralds an important rediscovery in film history, as few silent serials exist today in anything resembling complete form, much less in lovely tinted original print quality. It’s a fun, light-hearted cliffhanger that shows the joys of Saturday Matinee moviegoing and what could be done on less-than-spectacular budgets as well as illustrating the early days of flying,   seat of your pants filmmaking from the seat of your pants days of Aviation.

 

Also included as bonus features:

 

  1. “Flying Cadets” (1928) 2-reel short with great vintage plane shots filmed at Brooks Field, TX
  2. New York Censor Board File (some scenes were required to be cut for the serial to be shown in the State of New York!)
  3. Gallery of original posters and lobby cards

 

DVD BASICS

 

Retail: $24.99

Amazon Price: $19.99

Language: English title cards

Running Time:

Color: Original color tints

Year: 1928

Rating: Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 – 4X5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s up to you…

 

High-definition is a given today, but we make decisions whether or not to release Blu-rays based on two different factors: 1). Success of Blu-rays on similar movies released by our former distributor, VCI Entertainment, and 2). Customer response, garnered from surveys, blogs, social media and emails.

When we announced a high def digital restoration of WHEN COMEDY WAS KING and GO, JOHNNY, GO! we received little input asking about Blu-ray availability. Those that asked said they would buy the DVD if there were no Blu-ray: “Yes… I was just wondering if you were also going to release on Blu-ray.” It is surprising how many of our customers report that they don’t even own Blu-ray players.

We received terrific press coverage from many bloggers and the print media on these two titles. All the critics remarked about the terrific image and audio quality, and virtually paid little attention to the fact Blu-rays were not available.

I have no objection to producing Blu-rays if the demand is there, but given we are a small company, it doesn’t make sense for us to spend the time, money and hassle of producing and stocking both DVDs and Blu-rays at Amazon for the majority of our titles.

We did get requests for Blu-rays for the documentary, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” (1975), which is a time capsule covering just before The Great Depression until the beginning of WWII. It tells the story of the 1930s using archive footage and clips from Hollywood movies (especially Busby Berkeley musicals and crime dramas starring James Cagney). Renowned artist and filmmaker, Philippe Mora skillfully created the feel of the era by allowing the footage to tell the story on its own and without added narration. Maybe it took an artist born in France, and living in Australia, to give us such a captivating visual perspective of 1930s America. I first saw it in 1975 at the Dream Theatre in Monterey, CA, and have seen it many times since.

Personally, it seems somewhat of an odd choice for a Blu-ray, but customers’ requests get serious consideration at The Sprocket Vault – so let’s see how many orders are ordered on Blu-ray versus our high-definition DVD’s.

Order “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” on Amazon –

DVD:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XGJBR91

Blu-Ray:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XGP5R5Z

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook
www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

Visit our site regularly and sign up for our email list.

www.sprocketvault.com

Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLHjjG-o5Ny5BDykgVBzdrQ .

 

                 

 

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