Posts Tagged ‘Classic Films


The following movies were eventually released on good quality DVD’s:


APACHE RIFLES (Admiral-Fox/1964)

Picture and sound track were a jumbled mess. Technician at VCI eventually matched everything up.  (I still owe someone a steak dinner!)


THE COWBOY (Lippert/1954)

35mm color negative ruined by mold. Used 16mm color “EK” (print from the original color negative) for the DVD.  Black and white duplicate negative and color “separation negatives” survive.  BTW, I had a blast producing the commentary track with the authentic old cowboys who were the stars of the film.


THE GLASS TOMB (Hammer-Lippert/1955)

Original 35mm material missing. Used 35mm release print borrowed from the British Film Archive



35mm color material missing. Used a 16mm color “EK.” 35mm black and white negative survives.


LIKE IT IS (Psychedelic Fever) (Lima/1968)

Missing sound track. Used audio from a bootleg VHS bought on eBay.  Sometimes pirates serve a useful purpose!



Master 35mm material was cut for release in the UK and the excised scenes scrapped. Used missing footage found in a 35mm US release print.  Scenes that were deleted prior to its US theatrical release were found in a Spanish dubbed print and are included as a Special Feature on the DVD.


MASSACRE (Lippert-Fox/1956)

Color camera negative survived – without titles. Used titles off a like-new 1956 16mm color print I bought from a collector on eBay.  Not the first time a film collector has saved the day.



35mm sound track decomposed. Used track from 16mm Armed Forces negative, which was longer than the theatrical release version. Extra scenes are part of the DVD special features.



Nitrate picture and track negative decomposed. Used a “fine grain” master print borrowed from the British Film Institute


OUTLAW WOMEN (Howco/1952)

Original 35mm Cinecolor material decomposed. Used mint 35mm Cinecolor print


SEA DEVILS (Coronado-RKO/1953)

Combined 3-strip Technicolor negatives located at Technicolour in London and restored by Canal+, owner of Eastern Hemisphere distribution rights.


SHOTGUN (Champion-Allied Artists/1955)

Badly faded camera negative was all that survived. VCI technician was able to bring the color back to life in a tedious process of correcting the color scene by scene. (Another steak dinner, this one due Doug at Film and Video Transfers)


SINS OF JEZEBEL (Lippert/1954)

Original 35mm color negative missing. Used mint 35mm AnscoColor print labeled “Roadshow Version”.  Could find no difference between the Roadshow and Regular release; not surprising given its penurious producer, Robert L. Lippert.   Note:  Fortunately AnscoColor, unlike widely used Eastman Color, does not tend to fade.



No color film elements known to exist. Used 35mm AnscoColor release print borrowed from the British Film Institute.  16mm black and white negative survives.



As with “Apache Rifles,” picture and sound track were a jumbled mess. Technician at VCI eventually matched everything up.  (Guess I owe three steak dinners.)

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When I think of movies like “Hellgate” (Lippert/1952), directed by Charles Marquis Warren, and “The Tall Texan” (Lippert/1953), directed by Elmo Williams (Oscar-winning film editor on “High Noon”), I marvel at how  directors like that were able to produce really entertaining films on a minimal budget (and an even more minimal shooting schedule.)

David Schecter does the same, only he thinks of the composers, in this case, Paul Dunlap and Bert Schefter.

“Monstrous Movie Music” is the name of David’s company.  He specializes in producing CD’s with music scores from lower-tier science fiction films, but there are a few “A” features as well. These movies were helped immeasurably by the gifted composers, who like their director and producer counterparts, relegated to the demands of low budgets and extremely tight production schedules.

Some bring back fond memories of my going to the movies as a kid at the State and Rio Theatres in Monterey, CA:  “The Blob” (Paramount/1958) composed by Ralph Carmichael; “The Last Man on Earth” (AIP/1964), composed by Paul Sawtell and Bert Schefter; “The Brain From the Planet Arous” (Howco/1957), composed by Walter Greene.  I remember as the end title on “Arous” came on the screen and thinking I’d just wasted $.50.  My disappointment was forgotten after watching the co-feature, “The Alligator People” (API-Fox/1959), composed by Irving Gertz, exemplifying there is no accounting for the taste of an 11-year-old.

David Schecter is a champion of composers, especially the lesser-known ones, many of whom he knew personally, and dedicates himself to making their scores available.  He and his staff have gone to the trouble of re-recording the scores utilizing renowned symphony orchestras in Poland and Slovakia when they aren’t releasing original soundtracks.  He write superb liner notes as well.

Monstrous Movie Music:

The movies themselves are available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:


“Hellgate,” starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, and James Arness (one of my favorites), directed by Charles Marquis Warren, is part of the two-disc DVD collection titled, “Darn Good Westerns”  Volume 1, featuring five additional titles, “Panhandle” (Allied Artists/1948) with Rod Cameron, in “glowing Sepiatone,” and four from Lippert Pictures, “Fangs of the Wild” (1954),  with Charles Chaplin, Jr., and underrated actress Margia Dean in one of her best roles, “The Train to Tombstone” (1950) which is a Don “Red” Barry western, “Operation Haylift” (1950) with Bill Williams and Ann Rutherford, and “Wildfire – The Story of a Horse” (1945) starring Bob Steele, in Cinecolor, which was the first production from legendary exhibitor turned producer, Robert L. Lippert.

“The Tall Texan,” is a solid western starring Lloyd Bridges and Lee J. Cobb, with cool special features, including “The Making of ‘The Tall Texan’” by Elmo Williams (still alive at age 100!); audio reminiscences by Ross May, a wrangler for the movie; the original theatrical trailer, and Chapter 1 from “Secret Agent X-9” (1945).

On the subject of Elmo Williams, I highly recommend “The Cowboy” (Lippert/1954), a feature length documentary filmed in color.  Both “The Tall Texan” and “The Cowboy” were made in Deming NM where in 2005 my wife Donna and I went to produce the commentary featuring reminiscences of four of the original cowboys who starred in the film.  Listening to these authentic cowboys fifty years later is a hoot…worthy of a blog of its own.

*Usually credited as a Lippert production, it was actually an independent film from producer by John C.  Champion (brother of Gower), under his Commander Films banner.  Champion also produced “Panhandle.”

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Distributing revivals of classic films is an art in and of itself; an art in which we excelled.

Periodically studios would take back a classic or specialty film from us so they could do their own reissue.  Their plan was to generate publicity to launch a home video release, with the hope of also making money at the box-office.

Sometimes they got the publicity they wanted, but the small fortune they spent on marketing doomed any possibility of making money selling tickets.  

CBS is not a company associated with feature films, but they had a motion picture division in the 1970s, Cinema Center Films, that released 30 feature films including “A Man Called Horse,” was by far the most well known.  In the late 1980s we obtained both theatrical and non-theatrical rights to all 30, and theatrical rights to their crown jewel, “My Fair Lady.”

CBS funded the original Broadway show and licensed motion picture rights to Warner Bros. for $5 million enabling them to produce and release a film, with all rights to be transferred to CBS 7 years after its theatrical release.   (An incredible deal for CBS)

In 1993 we were working on reissuing MFL with new prints in a roll-out commencing at our best premiere venue, Film Forum, in New York City.   However, unbeknownst to us, CBS was restoring the movie and had a deal to release it theatrically by 20th Century-Fox in both 35mm and 70mm.  Naturally this caused friction because we had been assigned the theatrical rights and were working on our own release.  However, we worked out a fair deal and Fox was allowed to release it, with rights reverting to us after 60 days.   

Fox was a master of distributing and marketing first run movies and, as with all the major studios, had no idea how to reissue classics. Consequently MFL played at inappropriate theatres for that type of picture.  Box-office was, at best lackluster despite very hefty marketing expenses.  One exception was at New York City’s mighty Ziegfeld Theatre were it did very good business ($75,000 for the first weekend as I recall) which may sound like a lot of money, but after extremely high marketing costs, and theatre, expenses were deducted, the engagement became awash in a sea of red.  

When we got the picture back it had already played in major cities for weeks, but we went right back and placed the show in those same cities at what we knew from experience to be the right venues in the right part of town.  In virtually every case we out-grossed the theatres where it previously played first-run with Fox.


The best example is in San Francisco where Fox opened MFL at a good first-run upscale house and supported it with another big ad campaign.  I believe their gross was under $10,000 for the first week and, of course, declined the subsequent 2 weeks.   Two months later we opened it at the ideal venue for that type of picture, The Castro, and grossed $50,000+ in one week, with virtually no advertising costs and, again, after the movie had played for weeks at the other theatre.   

I’m not casting dispersions on Fox or CBS, as they may well have been thrilled with the publicity, and be damned with associated costs (called a “bought gross” in motion picture distribution parlay), but rather to point out that no matter how much money is thrown into marketing a revival, selling tickets is predicated upon placing the show at the right venue which we were masters at.

Most of the theatres we played didn’t pay for advertising, but put the word out using their in-house efforts such as printed calendars and close relationships with the press.   The maestro of marketing is Bruce Goldstein of NYC’s Film Forum.  He could (and can) be depended upon to garner more exposure in the media than any deep pocketed studio could ever hope to with their older films.

I’m proud of my past record/history in exposing classic films to movie lovers in the way they were meant to be shown…in 35mm.

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Bill Blair (1930-2006) was more than a film buff, he was a film nut.

Unlike my other two “Film Friends I Miss,” Bill never wrote an autobiography.  He was modest, so it would have been out of character for him.  Fortunately, his son, Bob, wrote an affectionate, biographical piece on his father and his brainchild, we all know today as VCI Entertainment.  Combining Bill’s biography with VCI’s history made sense to me since Bill and VCI were so intertwined that sometimes it wasn’t always possible for me to separate the man from the business.

Bill Blair-Biography/VCI Entertainment-history:

It was almost four decades ago when I first spoke with Bill, two years after I founded my 16mm (Bill called it “16 em em”) library, Kit Parker Films.  This was before there was such a thing as home video.  All I had to offer were movies in the public domain, so it was important to move up a notch by offering copyrighted ones.  No one was willing to sell me any, at least that I could afford.

Bill founded United Films, also a 16mm distributor, only big-time, renting out many copyrighted movies from major studios.  I called and asked if he would sell me several “A-” RKO movies.  He agreed, even gave me a real good deal, especially considering it put me in competition with him for those movies.  He was a nice man to do that, and, as you can see, I never forgot it.   He let me buy more movies, and then more.   It didn’t take long for me to realize that Bill worked with me not only because he was a nice guy, but because he knew I was a kindred spirit…a film nut…just like him.  A friendship developed, that would which continue for over 30 years, right up until his passing.

Some time later we couldn’t come to an agreement on the price of some Dick Tracy serials.  Somehow he worked into the conversation that he had, as he called it, a “bad ticker.”  I took that to mean exactly what he wanted me to, that he really didn’t care if the deal went through or not, because he wasn’t going to be around much longer to care about it.  I figured out years later that he was saying that to make me worry about losing the deal for fear he really didn’t care.  Bill got his way, even though he wanted the deal as much as me. It was just one of his ways of negotiating.  He tried the “bad ticker” routine later on, but by then I had caught on.  If I pressed him I wonder if he would have grasped his chest pretending to have a heart attack, just like Fred G. Sanford did in “Sanford and Son”?

BTW, he did have a bad (physical) heart, but it managed to serve him well for  another three decades-.

Another of his mid-west style negotiating tactics was to speak real slow and work into the conversation that he was just a “Slow mule from Oklahoma,” or just plain “Okie.”  This was to get you to think he was a rube ripe for the picking, but in reality, at the end of the day, he’d end up with all the chips!

I don’t want to paint Bill as someone who took advantage of a 25 year old’s naïveté.  The extra money he got from me was peanuts.  He loved toying with me because I think I reminded Bill of himself at the same age…a kid who “had” to have those movies.

Later in the 1970s VCI got out of the 16mm film business and VCI became the first firm to produce movies specifically for the video market.  In fact, they made the very first one.  Don’t ask me the names because I’ve been pretty successful at erasing his made-for-video movies completely from my mind.  He asked me what I thought of an early one…all I could say was it was “innovative.”

Ten years later he produced a picture called “The Last Slumber Party,” which was really gawd awful.  Again he asked me what I thought, and I just paused until he blinked, and admitted, “I know, I know, it’s a piece of s**t.”

I didn’t actually meet Bill in person until around 2000.  As expected, he was modest and unassuming, and I already knew he had the bedside manner of a country doctor.    By now I had a reputation for clearing rights to hard to find movies, and helped him get some of his favorites, such as the Benedict Bogeaus collection**.  Coincidently, they were “A-” RKO releases he had wanted for years, and it was as if I gave him the moon…just the way I felt when I got those other “A-” RKO’s from him three decades before.  Believe me; I was just as happy to help him, because it gave me a chance to make him really happy.  After all, he always was good to me.

Bill was beyond being a film buff, he was a film nut, and his enthusiasm was absolutely infectious.  Film buffs, and nuts, alike; owe a lot to him and his team for locating, restoring and releasing hard to find movie favorites on DVD.  His sons inherited that passion, and continue searching out the movies Bill always wanted, but were always just out of his grasp.   I know he appreciates that.

Bill Blair lived his dream, made his passion a vocation, got to work with all the movies he wanted, and was loved by his family, employees, and people like me.

I miss Bill Blair.


The Benedict Bogeaus RKO Collection, all in Technicolor: “Appointment in Honduras,” “Silver Lode,” “Passion,” “Cattle Queen of Montana,” “Escape toBurma,” “Pearlof the South Pacific,” “Tennessee’s Partner,” and “Slightly Scarlet.”  I recommend them.  Check them out at


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