Archive for July 2011
A Hammer Film or not?
Film historian Sam Sherman nails it….
(A series of emails between film historians Sam Sherman and Rick Mitchell as prompted by my blog)
RICK MITCHELL: …but all Regal [“B” movies produced by Robert L. Lippert and released by 20th Century-Fox] films I’ve seen after that were credited in being in RegalScope, including British made THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS, which was actually shot in what’s now called Super 35; [a film collector] e-mailed me that his 35mm print credits Megascope, the term Hammer used for the films it shot in Super 35 and Columbia used on spherical films it released in Europe with anamorphic prints.
SAM SHERMAN: There is so much information and especially mis-information on this title due to several reasons – The claims that this is a Hammer film or a Regal film are completely Wrong. The film was originally made as a US British co-production between (US) Buzz Productions Inc. (Bob Lippert, Bill PIzor, Irwin Pizor) [**] and (UK) Clarion Films Ltd. (Jimmy Carreras) (a separate company and not legally part of Hammer) with Fox handling all world-wide distribution outside of the Clarion territories of UK and Japan, as the film was a UK quota financed film there, as released by Warners. The process listed was somewhere “Hammerscope” elsewhere “RegalScope”, but was most likely regular Cinemascope.
In the Fox territories the film was cut by several minutes and re-titled ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS. Videos here are from the British master and show the Warners logo and UK credits. The US Theatrical release was the top of a double bill with GHOST DIVER, which I think is a Regal film…, as second feature. US TV was originally handled by Seven Arts (which had a Fox TV film group package) and later became part of Warners. I have a Seven Arts 16MM TV print with different (US) credits which had a prominent credit for Buzz Productions, rarely seen elsewhere. My company (IIP) [Independent International Pictures] is the owner of the Buzz Productions interests. This is probably the best film that the Clarion and Hammer production team ever made. It is finally getting a reputation, is shown yearly at a special film festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and fans finally have gotten to appreciate it. When I took over the rights to this film and started working with Fox they thought nothing of the film until I told them it was great! They didn’t believe in it as they had mis-handled it originally and it made no money. Once, due to my efforts, they reviewed all of these issues and they started marketing it to Cable TV in the US (including HBO) where they did a great deal of business. This film was in the Red from 1957 to the 1990s until I took it over and now, it is solidly in the black.
RICK: Kit Parker forwarded to me your comments about the rights history of this film, which sound very complicated because it was an international co-production. ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN was shot by the technique known today as Super 35: full aperture spherical photography composed for 2.35, which would be extracted and squeezed to a dupe negative for release printing. This was originally done as Superscope but didn’t work as well on color films as with black-and-white and we are now discovering that a number of black-and-white films from the late Fifties released with anamorphic prints and advertised as being in CinemaScope or similar “Scopes” were actually shot that way. Megascope was Hammer’s term for films shot this way and Columbia used it on some films shot and released spherically in the US but with anamorphic prints in Europe, including THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD !
SAM: I won’t believe this super-35 story on ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN until I see a piece of film in my hand like that. I remember seeing some Superscope films in theatres (Tushinsky process) originally… especially INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS . It was inferior looking and very grainy from blowing up that negative. ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN always looks very good leading me to believe it was shot with an anamorphic lens and not blown up from part of a negative. I worked on two films shot in Techniscope (a similar idea using half the negative) and squeezed into an anamorphic version – and it usually looked grainy and horrible. If SNOWMAN was shot the same way, it should look equally bad which it does not.
Unfortunately, we have not had access to MGM’s files to get their side of this, only Panavision’s. Obviously, they couldn’t publicly announce it as it would have been in violation of their licensing agreement with Fox. One giveaway is there is a credit on these films saying “Process lenses by Panavision”, which was used when Panavision optical printer lenses were used for conversions. Through 1960, films shot with Panavision lenses, though credited as being in CinemaScope, carried a sub credit “Photographic lenses by Panavision. Unfortunately, this credit appears near the end of the main title sequence on the card with the copyright notice, etc., so you have to watch the film’s main title sequence to catch it. One other thing I noted was that the films’ original negatives were cut into A&B rolls so they wouldn’t have to go to another dupe stage for dissolves and fades, just title sequences and opticals. We’re fairly certain all their black-and-white “CinemaScope” pictures released in 1957 and 58 were done this way, but still need to research the 1959-60 releases because MGM had begun using Panavision lenses on its color films about that time. Marty has confirmed that THE GAZEBO, released at the end of 1959, was shot anamorphic.
[**] The name “Buzz” probably came from Robert L. Lippert, who had just produced “The Fly” (1958).
Sam Sherman, writer, producer, distributor, and film historian:
Rick Mitchell, film editor and film historian.
Wide Screen 101:
Saved from embarrassment!
Ronnie James, one of the great unsung movie and television researchers, pointed out that I neglected to include the most important Lippert movie of all, THE FLY (1958). I had intended to highlight it, but instead hit the delete key, the most dangerous key of all! He also mentioned QUATERMASS 2: ENEMY FROM SPACE (1957) and FROZEN ALIVE (1964)…I’ve asked him to double-check. Ronnie felt that the Filmography would be more useful and telling, if it was in chronological order. It started out that way, but I found too much conflicting information among my various research publications.
Film editor and film historian Rick Mitchell has great credentials when it comes to wide screen cinematography. He asked several excellent questions that I’m sure others have wondered about as well.
RICK MITCHELL: I believe there are some errors in the Lippert piece. I don’t believe Sam Fuller’s CHINA GATE and FORTY GUNS were made for Lippert but under a separate deal Fuller’s Globe Productions made with Fox, like Edward L. Alperson’s. THE FLY is not considered a Lippert production but an official Fox one.
THE FLY is definitely a Lippert production. Director Kurt Neumann came to Bob Lippert with the story, and Lippert felt it would be a big hit so, according to Dexter, authorized a $700 – $750K budget…astronomical for a Lippert production, but small by Fox standards. Most of the money went into special effects and, of course, it was filmed (in Canada) in color. Lippert showed it to Fox president, Spyros Skouras, and he decided to make it a Fox “A” release.
KIT: Sam Fuller was the producer of both CHINA GATE and FORTY GUNS, released in 1957.
These were Lippert RegalScope productions that so impressed the Fox brass that they were released as Fox/CinemaScope pictures. Head of production was Bill Magianetti, and his assistant was Maury Dexter. I spoke to Dexter and he confirmed this and also went into detail about the filming. Maury also told me some great Fuller stories connected with those two pictures which I’ll reveal in a future blog!
RICK: Are you sure THE FLY was filmed in Canada? I’d seen THE GIFT OF LOVE a few weeks before I first saw THE FLY and was shocked to see the same interiors of the house in both films. Fox did recycle standing sets: the schoolroom build for PEYTON PLACE appears in THE YOUNG LIONS and THE LONG HOT SUMMER with no changes, for example.
KIT: Rick was mostly right…only some scenes were filmed in Montreal, the rest at Fox studios.
In one of my blogs I wrote that Lippert couldn’t put his name on any of his Fox productions because he totally alienated the unions by insisting on releasing his earlier productions to television and refusing to pay residuals.
RICK: Lippert takes executive producer credit on THE YELLOW CANARY (1963).
KIT: Yes, by 1963 the union problems were behind him.
RICK: The first Regal film credited on the film as being in CinemaScope; I haven’t seen any ads or trailers, so I don’t know what’s on them.
KIT: I do know they used CinemaScope lenses on all of the Regal’s, but Fox didn’t want to use that name on low budget, black and white second features. One thing that continues to stump me is some of the Regal prints have the Fox logo, and other prints of the same picture say Regal Films! Maury Dexter didn’t know, either, so it is a probably a question that will never be answered.
RICK: See attached frame blowup from a friend’s 16mm print of STAGECOACH TO FURY; I now have one of my own. It has the Regal Films logo at the head. I have not seen any of the other RegalScope films released in 1956 and don’t know how they were credited but all Regal films I’ve seen after that were credited in being in RegalScope, including British made THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS, which was actually shot in what’s now called Super 35; [a film collector] e-mailed me that his 35mm print credits Megascope, the term Hammer used for the films it shot in Super 35 and Columbia used on spherical films it released in Europe with anamorphic prints.
RICK: Incidentally, re your Lippert Pictures filmography, THE BIG CHASE was expanded from what was to be 3-D short, I believe BANDIT ISLAND.
KIT: True; producer Robert L. Lippert, Jr. made both the 3D short and incorporated the footage (in 2D) into his feature film, THE BIG CHASE (1954). The 3D short itself is not known to survive.
RICK: I believe the color films Lippert did before the formation of Associated Producers were released as official Fox films because they were in color.
KIT: The only two color films that came out of Regal Films were THE FLY (1958) and THE DEERSLAYER (1957), which were released as Fox pictures, but produced by Lippert. When the Fox-Regal deal expired, a new one was set up under the name Associated Producers. Many of those were in color.
RICK: Were CATTLE EMPIRE, VILLA! (both1958) and THE OREGON TRAIL (1959) not part of the Lippert deal? They are credited as being produced by Richard Einfield, the son of a former Fox exhibition executive. I’d gotten the impression that all the obvious color B’s Fox released during the Skouras years went through the Lippert Unit. [condensed for clarity]
KIT: CATTLE EMPIRE, VILLA! And THE OREGON TRAIL are Lippert (API) productions. I know IMDb isn’t the be-all-end-all of credits, but it doesn’t list CATTLE EMPIRE or VILLA! as Einfield films. Maury thinks Einfield “may” have produced CATTLE EMPIRE, and he did produce OREGON TRAIL.
Both Dexter, and VILLA! star, Margia Dean, confirm that Spyros Skouras’ son, Plato Skouras, produced VILLA! Dexter says that Plato wanted to be a movie producer so his father assigned him to “produce” some Lippert’s, a way to get him off his back and still allow his son to call himself a producer, although his involvement usually wasn’t much more than as a figurehead. Dexter adds it was a similar situation with Richard Einfield, whose father was indeed an exhibitor, and therefore a customer of Fox. He added that Einfield did not have much to do with the actual producing, but did more so than Plato Skouras given Einfield had a background in film editing and directing.
Dexter has given me more details on THE FLY. He says Lippert read the “The Fly” short story in a 1957 Playboy Magazine, at the suggestion of director Kurt Neumann. He immediately dispatched someone to Paris to buy the movie rights from its author, George Langelaan. Langelaan was paid $2,500, a little over $19,000 in 2010 dollars.
I’m thankful for Rick’s questions and comments, and hope he will contribute more.
GREAT NEWS! Maury Dexter wrote an unpublished autobiography which I found to be a page-turner. He has asked me to make it available at no charge. I’ll get to work on the project as soon as I can figure out how to upload the book from a floppy disc!
Google Rick Mitchell, or start with this site:
The Big Chase DVD:
Please bear with me while I get over my passion for compiling lists!
I’ve spent weeks putting together a filmography pictures produced by various companies controlled by Robert L. Lippert. So far there are over 300 (!) productions spanning a 20 year period commencing in 1945. It’s been interesting, fun, and definitely time-consuming! My goal is to make this information definitive…not an easy task given many of the movies were made anonymously. Look for it soon. In the meantime I offer you the lists below.
Lippert Pictures: Unrealized Or Retitled Projects
During 1947-49, Lippert Pictures, and its predecessor, Screen Guild Productions, announced titles to trade publications become available in the “next season,” implying they were in production, or close to it, or “in preparation,” which was another way of saying little, if anything had been prepared other than the main title.
During my interviews with producers Maury Dexter and Robert L. Lippert, Jr., I was told by both that Lippert, Sr., almost always came up with a title before commissioning the screenplay, but did occasionally change his mind, ending up releasing the picture under another title. For example, the announced title, “The Ghost of Jesse James,” could have been changed to “The Return of Jesse James,” which actually was released. At this point we’ll never know which titles were abandoned, or actually released under other titles.
I’ve always wondering what a Lippert production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, much less directed by Samuel Fuller, in CineColor, or a Wizard of Oz sequel would have looked like had Lippert Pictures actually produced them!
Titles announced as being available “next season”
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – Project sold to Walt Disney
ABILENE KID, THE
ALGIER’S AMBUSH – George Raft
COME OUT FIGHTING
DEAD END CANYON
GHOST OF JESSE JAMES
GREAT JEWEL ROBBERY, THE
ISLE OF ZORDA
KING OF THE SAFECRACKERS
PARK ROW *
SON OF SHEP
WOMAN WITH A GUN – Paulette Goddard
* Samuel Fuller eventually produced in 1951 for U.A. release
Titles announced as being “In Preparation”
DALTON’S LAST RAID, THE
DAREDEVILS OF THE HIGHWAY
I WAS KING OF THE SAFECRACKERS
STRANGER IN THE HOUSE
TALES OF CAPT. KIDD
ABILENE KID, THE
WESTERN BARN DANCE
WIZARD OF OZ, THE – Series