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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.

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Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

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

 

                 

 

— Out of Sight Out of Mind

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Through the years I’ve unearthed and released a number of pictures originally distributed by major studios.

One top-of-the bill picture I’ve held off offering on DVD until now is “The Soldier and the Lady,” produced and released by RKO Radio Pictures in 1937.

It’s a good movie…a staple on the late, late show in the 1950s and early 60s, but only sporadically seen since. Too bad, because it’s a fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable adventure picture from producer Pandro S. Berman, complete with a rousing music score, and a whipping sequence that somehow passed the censors. What’s not to like?

I call movies like this “out–of–sight–out–of-mind” pictures. Translation: People don’t know ‘em, don’t buy ‘em, I make no money on ‘em, but go ahead and release ‘em anyway.

Film historian, Richard M Roberts, and frequent KPF and Sprocket Vault collaborator contributed this:

THE SOLDIER AND THE LADY

Based on the story Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne, this epic action adventure follows a courageous courier of Tsar Alexander II as he struggles to deliver vital information to Russian troops fighting a losing battle against invading Tartar hordes in Siberia. It’s a straight ahead action film, adventurous, swiftly paced and blood-thirstily satisfying. The lady in the title has practically nothing to do with it.

Michael Strogoff: the Tsar’s Courier is a famous novel written by Jules Verne in 1876 that tells the story of its title character who is sent to the far east of Russia to warn the governor of Irkutsk about the trainer Ivan Ogareff, who incites rebellion and plans to destroy Irkutsk. This serial-like adventures of Strogoff and his friends battling a Tartar rebellion has captivated Verne fans for decades despite it being one of the author’s few non-science fiction works.

That said, one of the eternal movie history questions may indeed be just how many versions of Michael Strogoff do we really need? More than ten at casual count, and apparently a number of those were produced or coproduced by one Joseph N. Ermolieff, a White Russian who was one of the major film producers under the Tsar, and a political exile himself who escaped to France when came the revolution and spent the next several decades as an ex-patriot film producer over many continents. He apparently owned the rights to Verne’s novel and every decade or so managed to crank out or be involved in the cranking out of at least one new version of the peace, including a lavish three-hour French silent masterpiece directed by Victor Tourjansky and starring Ivan Mouskoujine. Then in 1935, Ermolieff produced a new French-German co-production directed by Richard Eichberg and starring Anton Wahlbrook that utilizes some footage from the 1926 version. As if this was not enough, what does Ermolieff go and do but take this 1935 version and Wahlbrook to America the following year and sell RKO on yet another remake of Strogoff re-using Wahlbrook (or Walbrook as he Anglicized the spelling) and utilizing as much footage from the Eichberg Version as one could possibly match-up with the new American cast. So RKO releases this new version, retitled The Soldier and the Lady (Fair enough, Eichberg’s Version had been titled the Tsar’s Courier) and, surprise, surprise, it’s a grand and glorious flop.

Now hold on, we didn’t say it was a deserved flop, for as patch-job French – German – American co-productions matching up footage of Anton Wahlbrook and sometimes even Ivan Mouskoujine to Anton Walbrook go, it’s pretty amazingly seamless, and Walbrook in his first English – speaking role is a very dashing Strogoff. The American cast has a lot going for it, number one being Akim Tamiroff in top-villainous mode as Ivan Ogareff, and Elizabeth Allan looking reasonably radiant as Nadia. Perhaps some are a bit put-off by comic relief Eric Blore and Edward Brophy as the reporters covering the rebellion, but this author likes both performers and finds them the occasional breath of fresh air amongst all of Walbrook’s masochistic abuse. Okay, when you get down to Ward bond as a tartar things are getting a bit silly but all in all, this Michael Strogoff moves along at an easy-to-take 85 minutes, give you much of the spectacle of the earlier European version, and gives one and incredible lesson in editing and matching old footage.

And it didn’t stop Mr. Ermolieff from making yet more versions of the darn book, next up with a 1944 Mexican version, Miguel Strogoff, I kid you not, and Curt Jurgens went through the tortuous motions again in 1960. Now of course public domain, Jules Verne’s books all seems to be one of those European co-productions they can always get off the ground though remakes seem to have dropped off since the 70s when both a feature and television version appeared. Seems to this one, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a bit more fun, but Michael Strogoff still beats it in the remake department.

Order DVD on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N7QYTXX

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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The click that put www.sprocketvault.com online

We’ve been so busy with creating our new company, working the bugs out, and setting up our Amazon store (it would have helped if I spoke Tagalog and Hindi) that it took us months to produce our website. No excuses other than we just wanted to do it right. Websites are always a work in progress, so let me know what could be improved.

Although the majority of releases are movies to which I own all rights, we are working on a release schedule of hard-to-find movies from other producers. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (bottom of our home page), visit and “like” our Facebook page, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

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

OK, with the website crossed off my to-do list, it’s now time to get to work setting up new releases!

More later…

P.S. Thanks to our webmaster, Wendall Williams of Provido LLC, and graphic artist Missy Koskey for making the website a reality.

Remastered from the original negative, and restored in high-definition…this classic will rock the house!

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Rock & Roll changed 1950s America at 45 revolutions per minute. The swinging-est of the R&R movies was the electrifying Go, Johnny, Go!, which has been seldom seen since its 1959 release, and never in such quality as the high-definition DVD version just released by The Sprocket Vault and sold exclusively through Amazon.

A musical promoter, played by legendary D.J. Alan Freed, searches for the next big star whom he plans to name “Johnny Melody,” and as with rock and roll movies of that era, the storyline is little more than a loose frame to hang musical numbers on.

The Go, Johnny, Go! performances are electrifying, a given since the talent is 100% gold-standard:

Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Jimmy Clanton, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Harvey Fuqua, Jo-Ann Campbell, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos and Jimmy Cavallo. Many, including Ritchie Valens only film appearance, you won’t see elsewhere.

When The Sprocket Vault acquired the DVD rights to this rock and roll classic it had no idea the original film elements were in such disarray, and more than once feared the project would have to be aborted. Fortunately, some mislabeled cans of film re-surfaced turning out to be the original camera negative from which restoration experts were able to create a beautiful, clear, sharp high definition wide screen transfer.

The supplemental audio commentary is by film historians Richard M. Roberts, Randy Skretvedt, and Brent Walker, who share fascinating facts and historical information.

Sold exclusively through Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M5ANXCA

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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One activity that is particularly satisfying to me is making available a beautiful video version of a favorite film. Even better is to couple it with an excellent commentary track. Both are the case with “When Comedy Was King” and easier said than done.

In 1958, I saw “The Golden Age of Comedy,” Robert Youngson’s masterful silent comedy compilation at the Hill Theatre in Monterey, California – laughed until my sides hurt. I’d go so far as to say Kit Parker Films would never exist, certainly not in the form it has, had it not been for that night in 1958 as this turned me into a silent comedy buff overnight and inspired me to collect 8mm (later, 16mm) prints of silent comedies from the legendary Blackhawk Films.

Two years later “When Comedy Was King” also by Youngson, was released.   This time I saw it at the State Theatre in Monterey, and it was just as funny as its predecessor! Saw it many times later in 16mm, television, VHS and DVD, all lacking the vibrancy of the 35mm presentation at the State.

Earlier this year I contacted Sonar Entertainment, owner of WCWK, and made a deal to acquire DVD rights. Then came the time to examine the film elements: What a mess! A reel of this, a reel of something else, and the quality ranged from poor to marginal. Then, finally, Sonar’s ever-helpful Maura Grady sent us 9 cans of film, which weren’t properly labelled; they turned out to the original negative!

Our film-to-digital maestro, Doug Horst, did a masterful high definition transfer, and we were off and running. There were still several issues to work out, but they weren’t insurmountable, just time consuming: The images were a checkerboard of light scenes and dark scenes, endemic in working with original negatives. However, fortunately Tiffany Clayton, always up for a technical challenge, “timed” (the industry term for adjusting light and dark scenes) and did other digital clean up as well. Our HD transfer captured more image on the sides that had ever been seen on a video or television release. The only other issue was lack of a sound track, so Tiffany sweetened up the track from an older video release and synced it perfectly.

Next up, I wanted to provide a commentary track. Film historian, author, filmmaker and raconteur Richard M Roberts was up for it, and as my vote for Dean of Silent Comedy, he was the perfect person for the job. Richard was also influenced by the works of Robert Youngson as well, and created a commentary that intermixed his insight on the comedies themselves along with their performers, directors and producers. He also interspersed a long overdue biographical tribute to Robert Youngson himself. I asked Richard if he would allow us to use three rare comedies from his personal collection as a special feature. He agreed, but insisted they have a musical accompaniment, the cost of which would put an already over budget project further into the red. When it comes to quality, Richard doesn’t negotiate, so I bit the bullet and retained Donald Sosin, a leading silent movie composer. Glad I did.

You can buy it today for $14.99 exclusively from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MFX85QA

THE SPROCKET VAULT presents the restored high definition video release of Academy Award-winning Documentarian ROBERT YOUNGSON’s wonderful 1960 Comedy Compilation WHEN COMEDY WAS KING which showcased some of the funniest comedy scenes by famous comedians of the Silent Era, including Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Ben Turpin, and two of the great silent comedy producers, Mack Sennett and Hal Roach.

Remastered from the original 35mm negative and presented in its original full edge-to-edge 1:33 theatrical aspect ratio, audiences can once again enjoy classic comedy sequences from films like BIG BUSINESS (1929) with Laurel and Hardy, COPS (1922) with Buster Keaton, the only surviving footage from Harry Langdon’s THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1924) and the other classic comedies. Thanks to Robert Youngson’s perseverance, the film source material of most of the comedies originated primarily from the sparking clear original camera negatives, not the jerky, flickery fourth generation copies that are so often shown.

THE SPROCKET VAULT’s new DVD release of WHEN COMEDY WAS KING features a commentary track by noted film historian, author, filmmaker and raconteur RICHARD M. ROBERTS, who provides fascinating facts and historical information on the comedy classics showcased. He also pays tribute to WHEN COMEDY WAS KING’s producer Robert Youngson, revealing his story and his important contribution to bringing these films out of obscurity and back to the attention of the film history community and general audiences alike.

As an extra bonus, Mr. Roberts graciously allowed TSV permission to showcase three complete, rare, wild and crazy silent comedies from his own large collection of early film. For the first time in over 90 years audiences can get a taste of undeservedly forgotten names from the hundreds of comedians making films in the Comedy Film Industry of the Silent Era: Hughey Mack and Dot Farley in AN ELEPHANT ON HIS HANDS (1920), Lige Conley in the frenzied FAST AND FURIOUS (1924), and the politically-incorrect Three Fatties (Frank Alexander, Hilliard Karr and Kewpie Ross) in the deliriously destructive Ton of Fun comedy HEAVY LOVE (1926), all featuring commentary by Mr. Roberts, and a new musical accompaniment by one of the leading silent film composers, Donald Sosin.

 

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 .

 

 

 

I’m researching the 1928 Weiss Brothers-Artclass Pictures serial, “The Mysterious Airman.” It’s the only silent Artclass serial that survives in its complete form – complete except for Chapter 9, Reel 1.

All I had on the missing reel are records from New York Motion Picture Commission (then part of the State of New York Education Dept.), which was little more than a censor board.

A number of states had movie censor boards. As late as 1970 I recall seeing “Airport” (1970) in Baltimore, complete with a spliced on 1950s-looking black and white (spread out to Cinemascope) censor seal.

Between 1921 and 1965, distributors were required to submit all feature films, serials (each chapter had to be applied for separately), shorts, cartoons and newsreels to the Commission for screening. Objectionable scenes had to be cut from the prints before a license to exhibit in New York would be granted.

As you’ll see, the censors demanded “views of a machine gun” cut before a license would be granted, Reason? “…they will tend to ‘incite crime!’”

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First Graphic Exchanges, Inc., a division of Rayart (later Monogram Pictures), Weiss-Artclass’ States Rights distributor for New York. Weiss-Artclass didn’t have enough output or funds to afford operating their own exchanges, so licensed them to independent distributors who sold film in various territories.

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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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