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|
|The Crawling Hand|
|Creature of the Walking Dead|
|Curse of the Stone Hand|
|Death on the Four Poster|
|Escape from Sahara|
|Eye Witness aka Your Witness|
|Four Fast Guns|
|Four in a Jeep|
|House of Black Death|
|How to Succeed with Girls|
|I’ll See You in Hell|
|Island of Desire|
|Let’s Live Again|
|Love From Paris|
|Monster From the Ocean Floor|
|Moscow Nights aka Les nuits Moscovites|
|Nature Girl and the Slaver|
|Nine Miles to Noon|
|Passport for a Corpse|
|The Rebel Son aka Rebel Son of Tarus Bulba|
|Slasher aka Cosh Boy|
|Thunder in Carolina|
|Twilight Women aka Another Chance aka Women of Twilight|
|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.
(c) 2014 Kit parker