Archive for October 2011

Jim Skinner

From KTVU’s web site:

Jim Skinner, the station’s Film Director, built a national reputation by insisting that Hollywood studios send only the best prints of its films to KTVU. Any scratches or defects raised his ire and ensured that the print was returned unscreened. Viewers benefited with pristine copies of such classics as Casablanca, Rebecca, The Maltese Falcon as well as more modern blockbusters, including Earthquake, Airport 77, and Smokey and the Bandit. Furthermore, Skinner despised censorship and KTVU audiences often glimpsed on-screen nudity or heard obscenities not normally shown on commercial television stations.

As much as Jim was loved by film lovers, he was reviled by studio film departments, and the labs they used to make prints.  If it wasn’t perfect, he’d send it back, and back, and back again, until that one tiny hair on one frame was remedied.  He always complained to me about reoccurring problems with “sibilance”.  He said it so many times that I finally looked it up. (It’s the noise associated with syllables like “s,” “sch” and “ch”) During his tenure at Channel 2, Kit Parker Films used the same labs to make up prints for its library.  The labs didn’t care too much for me because was I was finicky enough, but at least I was diplomatic and would compromise.  Jim, on the other hand, was in a class by himself.  He didn’t care about making friends, and would badger labs until they were really pissed off…pushed them until they gave in and made new negatives, and sometimes multiple negatives.  The man could not be intimidated.

I’d first met Jim in 1981, and he was a perfectionist if there ever was one.  Jim loved to regale me with stories of how he battled with film laboratories and television syndicators to bring their standards up to his standards.  If we weren’t talking about print quality it was about his second favorite subject, Christmas.  One year Jim invited my wife, Donna, and I to see him during the holidays so he could show off his decorations.  I’ve never seen anything like it; tree alone must have taken days to decorate.  

Jim’s favorite movie was “Royal Hunt of the Sun” (1969), with Robert Shaw and Christopher Plummer.   When its distributor, CBS Films, sold the movie to Channel 2, they didn’t know what they were getting into.   He turned that movie down so many times for quality purposes that the air date had to keep being postponed.  Eventually it passed his muster.  Later on I distributed the CBS library in 35mm and 16mm, and ordered a new print.  Written right on the negative was “KTVU Quality.”  That was one print I didn’t have to QC.

Eventually Jim left KTVU and went to work for Encore.  “Twenty-something’s” were running the programming department, and they simply didn’t understand old movies much less appreciate the way Jim did things.  He also tired of what he claimed were constant jokes about gays, something I assumed Jim hadn’t encountered in the Bay Area.  Embittered, he left Encore, becoming a recluse in the Colorado mountains.  He’d get snowed in for weeks, and that was okay with him.  I couldn’t reach him by phone, and years later, when I was finally able to speak with him; he was dying of cancer, and avoiding everyone, even his old friends at KTVU. 

Jim Skinner had an obsession, no an obsession, with print quality.  He could see blemishes that would be far beyond a normal person’s retinal perception.  He was even more particular about audio imperfections.  The joke was only canines could hear the same upper frequencies that Jim could.   

The Fourth Man From Oakland to follow

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Now we’re those old film guys…


My first encounter with Robert L. Lippert was in 2004, after I’d called and asked him if he’d be willing to be interviewed about his legendary father, producer-distributor-exhibitor, Robert L. Lippert, Sr.  This was shortly after I purchased the 100+ feature film library produced and distributed by “Senior,” as Bob called him.   

Bob lived in Pebble Beach, California, with his lovely wife Hong Sook.  Their house was filled with world-class Asian antiques, and his living room walls lined with photographs of him and his many adventures…and he had a lot of adventures; as a film editor, producer, exhibitor, aviator, restaurateur, and I’m sure others he didn’t have the wall space to document.

Bob took me to breakfast and we talked about his father, then we went over to his stately home.  He led me downstairs to his office which was filled with posters from movies he had worked on, “High Noon,” “The Tall Texan,” “The Sins of Jezebel,” and many others. Soon the subject of conversation turned to Bob himself.  He had a lot to say, and did so with gruff, colorful language that you’d expect of a veteran of B-movie making.  No one had ever asked him about his life in the movies for 50 years, and he was delighted to have someone interested, especially an avid listener like me.  

We met several more times, most notably when he invited my wife, Donna, and I for lunch at the Pebble Beach Country Club.  I dressed nicely with a sport jacket, but wore jeans which I found out was taboo at the country club.  He took me back to his house and gave put on a pair of his slacks.  I was a size 32, and he was a shorter man who wore size 38.  I was quite a sight, but I didn’t care.

Bob’s passing saddened me because he was my last link to the “old school” filmmakers I so loved.  


My good friend, Steve Durbin, recently told me, “Remember those old film guys we loved to hear stories from?”…“Now we’re those old film guys.” 


Robert L. Lippert, Jr. Filmography:

Massacre (1956) Producer

The Black Pirates (1954) Co-producer

The Big Chase (1954) Producer *

Fangs of the Wild (1954) Producer

Sins of Jezebel (1953) Producer

The Great Jesse James Raid (1953) Producer

Bandit Island (3-D short)  Producer, director *

The Tall Texan (1953) Assistant film editor

Hellgate (1952) Assistant film editor

The Jungle (1952) Assistant film editor

High Noon (1952) Assistant film editor

FBI Girl (1952) Assistant film editor

Pier 23 (1951) Assistant film editor

Roaring City (1951) Assistant film editor

The Danger Zone (1951) Assistant film editor

The Steel Helmet (1951) Assistant film editor

The Bandit Queen (1951) Assistant film editor


All except “The Black Pirates” and “Bandit Island” are available on DVD.

* “Bandit Island” was later incorporated into “The Big Chase.” 


These passages appeared in a previous a previous post, “The Lippert-Fox Productions/Lippert Trivia”:


’The Black Pirates’ (1954) was shit, and ‘Massacre’ was no good either.” — Producer, Robert L. Lippert, 

After a day of filming “Massacre” (1956) in Guatemala Producer Robert L. Lippert, Jr. was relaxing in his hotel room and heard gun shots in the room next to him. Recalling that a General was staying there, he immediately calculated it was an assassination (it was.) Lippert didn’t want to be shot as an eye witness, so he jumped out the window and ran on foot all the way to Mexico, and the cast and crew, who were staying in another hotel, departed by plane.

Again during the filming of “Massacre,” Lippert, Jr. said he was on location in a rural town where he found the electrical power was at best unreliable. Of course power was essential. To proceed with filming he went to the local airport, such as it was, which was powered by a generator. He paid off government officials to obtain the airport generator during the daytime hours. Daytime air operations ceased, and each night the generator was returned to the airport thus enabling planes to once again take off and land.

There wasn’t enough money in the production budget to afford a pirate ship in “The Black Pirates” (1954), so the movie begins with the “pirates” arriving on shore in a row boat. They never leave land for the entire movie.


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 “Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong” – Bob Wilkins


KTVU, Channel 2 in Oakland, California, was one of the nation’s powerhouse independent television stations.   I started watching in the late 1950s/early 1960s when they aired cool (to a kid) live shows such as Captain Satellite, Roller Derby, and National All-Star Wrestling.  But movies were consistently their ratings grabbers.  In 1986 KTVU became part of the Fox Network and, of course, its programming forever changed. 


KTVU fixtures I was happy to have met…





“Don’t stay up late, it’s not worth it”


From 1971 to 1979, Bob Wilkins, the cigar-chomping, dead-pan humored, host of Channel 2’s “Creature Features,” whose deprecating comments about his program’s library of grade B and Z horror and science fiction films were irresistible. (He did show some good movies, too).  One of his hallmarks was to recommend that his viewers not watch his movie, but change to another channel.  He even read the TV Guide listings of opposing programs!  Sponsors were ticked off until they found out that his gimmick jacked up ratings.  I, for one, found his approach irresistible, although one viewing of “Creature from the Haunted Sea” was enough.


“This movie has two things going for it…it’s in color and they speak the English language.”


Bob interviewed big-time horror and sci-fi icons like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Harryhausen and Christopher Lee.   I first time I met Bob in 1972 when he invited me to be a guest on his show.   Thank god he put me at ease with his low-key bedside manner as I’d never been on television before, much less a show with so many viewers.   He must have liked me because he had me as a guest several times, and I was always grateful for the plugs. 1979 Bob called it quits at KTVU, although he continued with his Sacramento “Creature Features” show on KCRA a few more years.  Bob was a very funny guy, with a wonderful, wry sense of humor, and that voice…I can still hear him say…


“Well, that’s it. I told you it’s bad!”




Bob Shaw was one of the nicest, most knowledgeable, and unpretentious film critics I’ve ever met.  Before he was hired by KTVU, he was already working gratis behind the scenes at “Creature Features,” providing Bob Wilkins with trivia for the show.  In 1977 Bob W. talked Channel 2’s film director, Jim Skinner, into hiring Bob Shaw as a film editor.  Later Bob Shaw became the station’s film critic, and he was one of the best.  The stars he interviewed invariably liked (some adored) him, and that interviewer-interviewee connection made his movie critiques that much better.   


Bob and I met in the early 1970s while I was a guest on “Creature Features.”  We both were 16mm film buffs, so spoke the same language, but we didn’t have much time to talk because he was nervously running around the set making sure props were in order.  We spoke on the phone a few times through the later 1970s, but I didn’t see him again until the early 1980s when he had been working as a film editor.   KTVU ran lots of movies, so he was in movie buff heaven.   When the station first let him review a new movie on-camera, he was not too sure of himself, as anyone in the same situation would be, but it was clear from the very beginning he was going to be one of the best.  And he was.


We lost both Bob Wilkins and Bob Shaw in 2009.

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