kitparkerfilms

Posts Tagged ‘Classic Movies

Retire?

No way…I’m still finding too many interesting movies to release on DVD/Blu-ray.

Hard to believe Kit Parker Films is fast approaching its 50th year in the distribution of classic motion pictures! Back in 1971 the 16mm non-theatrical industry was thriving, but it was largely owned by corporations which were passionate about money, but dispassionate about films, and the quality of the film prints showed it. I saw a niche to be filled — renting out quality prints at affordable prices, and Kit Parker Films was born.

The 16mm library expanded throughout the years until home video made inroads into the industry — the quality of VHS was marginal at best, but the price was right. By the 90s I branched out into the 35mm theatrical arena, eventually becoming the go-to source for classics in that film format.

In the late 1990s I realized the days of projecting celluloid were going to be replaced by DVDs, so slowly phased out the “old” KPF, and in 2001 began purchasing the copyrights to vintage films. Over the next 15 years my collection grew to include hundreds of feature films, television programs, serials and shorts.   Many of my acquisitions required a great degree of patience and detective work to clear rights and locate suitable film elements, but those efforts unearthed many films that had seen little or no exposure for decades.

Originally “The Sprocket Vault” was created a sales division to sell my own DVD/Blu-rays through our distributor, Music Video Distributors (MVD).  Other producers have started approaching me to sell their movies…so my company is growing, and that means lots of new releases of interest for you.

 

I WANT YOU…

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TO LIKE TSV ON FACEBOOK

 

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 .

tall lie

 

The subject was “hazing,” and no studio would touch it…

 

Paul Henreid (“Casablanca”) wanted a hard-hitting exposé of a problem he felt needed to be addressed…hazing.  He pitched it to the studios, and each time was met with an emphatic “No.”  So he financed, produced, directed, and starred in it.  When he screened the completed picture for the studios it was the same story…none would touch it.  With his options and money running out, he sold the movie outright to producer/distributor, Robert L. Lippert, known for small-town, family-friendly B movies, the exact opposite of “The Tall Lie.”  Lippert also released it under the more familiar title “For Men Only.”  Although the small towns were shocked by it, business was brisk in college towns.

 

“Tod” (Robert Sherman), a gentle pledge is forced to swim in freezing water until he almost drowns…and that’s before the main titles even start!  In his screen debut, Russell Johnson, beloved captain of “Gilligan’s Island,” plays “Ky,” the sadistic president of the fraternity.  Vera Miles (“Psycho”), also in her first film, appears as Tod’s girlfriend.  Tod’s grades plummet because of the unrelenting abuse.  His professor, played by Henreid, takes notice and ponders whether hazing and the forthcoming “Hell Night” might have something to do with it.  Nonetheless, he recommends that Tod’s mother sign a release to let her son take part in the final initiation.  Big mistake.

 

“Hell Night,” the fraternity initiation of all initiations, starts off with the relatively tame ripping of the pledges’ clothes and painting their faces.  Then comes the final initiation…shoot a puppy; this is 1952!  (His friend “Beanie” (James Dobson) wants to be inducted into the fraternity so bad he stoops to drinking blood drawn from a live puppy. Although Tod refuses, he is subsequently ostracized, hounded to his death as a coward.    This prompts Henreid to push for an investigation and reforms, but is met with resistance and organized destruction of evidence, supported by college administrators and past pledges, bent on saving the good name of the college.

 

Censorship was an issue.  Various state censor boards objected, but the distributors emphasized that it was an “exposé” and “educational,” an argument that generally had positive results.  Then there was the UK where animal cruelty, real or implied, was strictly prohibited.  Exclusive (Hammer) Films, the distributor throughout England, managed to get the picture passed without cuts by adding a lengthy written prologue (included in the DVD) revealing the evils of hazing.

 

Order the DVD from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OHLR53S

 

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:

http://bit.ly/2rwgrqs

 I don’t remember not doing business with VCI.

 

BFB---Reba-inspecting-film

   Bill Blair, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (nee Blair) [1976]

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 Betty Scott [1969]

Bob-at-processor

 Bob Blair [early 1970s]

Don-at-the-lab

 Don Blair [1970s]

Our relationship began 40 years ago, after I started Kit Parker Films in 1971. I contacted VCI, then known as United Films,  a  16mm film distributor like KPF, only larger, and I licensed my first studio films. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United Films’ CEO was Bill Blair*, a consummate film buff who passed his love-of-film genes onto his children.

Over time I grew to know Bill, his son Bob and Genell (Bob’s wife) as I frequently called them in the days when I was distributing movies to the Pacific Islands. Another Blair son, Don, toiled in the shipping department. Betty Scott, worked behind the scenes and wrote the checks. Many years passed before I personally met everyone in the flesh.

In the late 1970s, United Films was one of the first to realize that the future was in selling pre-recorded VHS and Betamax (remember?) tapes. United Films became VCI Entertainment, a pioneer in what we now take for granted…”Home Video.” At first they only licensed movies from various producers and paid them a percentage of each video sold. Then they realized by producing their own movies they could keep all the money:

Voila…VCI’s first in-house production — “Blood Cult” (1985) (3.3 out of 10 on IMDb). During the days of “sell-through,” it retailed for $59.95 ($130 in 2014 dollars) and made a bundle because these tapes were primarily purchased by rental stores like Blockbuster, West Coast Video, and countless independents hungry for product. The era of inexpensive “sell through” DVD’s hadn’t blossomed as yet. Their other in-house low-budget video productions were also successful, although not among the AFI’s 100 greatest American movies of all time.

Today, VCI is one of the oldest independent home video companies, and its story is worthy of a book, but none of the Blair’s have time to write a chapter.

United/VCI left the 16mm business in the early 1980s, whereas I continued representing studios and independent producers non-theatrically and theatrically until 2001. I was one of the last men standing in that field before celluloid became obsolete.

That didn’t end my relationship with VCI, but revived it.

Hello DVD’s!

I began buying rights to old movies and licensed them to VCI for DVD distribution. Not sure if we wrote a formal contract…a handshake in Oklahoma is firmer than a written contract.

40 years later, who do I still work with with VCI?  I’m on the phone with Bob Bair, Don Blair, and Betty Scott. Genell (she could write jokes for Don Rickles), and Don’s wife, Jill, figured one film nut in the family was enough. However, their “retirement” recently ended when they were recruited to caption the VCI library for the hearing impaired.  Unfortunately, Bill Blair passed away in 2006.

Another Blair son, David, previously worked for Sony, and had a client so important he moved to its home town…Wal-Mart, in Bentonville, Arkansas. Now he’s in charge of VCI’s sales while living in Atlanta. I’ve only met him once, but there is no doubt he is the right man for the job.

OK, let’s take a tour of VCI in Tulsa Oklahoma:

It is an unassuming single-story building on the outskirts of Tulsa (trivia: the most inland seaport in the United States) with offices fronting a warehouse.

Entering VCI’s lobby you’re greeted by a display filled with DVD’s, posters, and a big photograph of VCI’s founder, Bill Blair, with the statement, “Our Leading Man.”

To the right is Betty Scott’s office, with a John Wayne standee to greet you. She and I are kindred spirits because we both started out in “show business” as film inspectors. I shudder at the thought of her retiring. Although I’ve never looked behind her desk, Bob and Don probably have affixed her leg to a ball and chain.

Next office: Bob, conductor of the “orchestra.” The Maestro sits at a desk stacked with teetering papers and DVDs. I can’t imagine how many emails he receives every day. Sometimes a dozen in one day from me! Maybe if Betty writes me an extra big royalty check, I’ll send him and Genell on a long vacation; they deserve one.

Next stop is the control room — similar to the space station. It’s where the restoration, authoring, and graphic design are created. There are computers and monitors all over the place, and I can’t tell you how they do one single thing. All I know is film splicers have gone the way of the buggy whip. Tiffany Beseau-Clayton is the head rocket scientist, and there is Ben Hosterman, and his brother, Greg Hosterman, known as the “graphics guy.” They all belie the popular psychology belief that individuals are either “right brain” (creative) or “left brain” (logical). They are always open to suggestions…no egos at VCI.

Jason Blair, Bob and Genell’s son, works next door replicating special order DVD-R’s.

And then you walk into their warehouse. Wow…manna from heaven for film buffs; a warehouse filled with DVD’s awaiting shipment to customers like (hopefully) you. It’s the domain of Bill Blair’s daughter, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (who wears many hats,) her husband Steve, and daughter, Olivia.

There are many reels of old film Bill once tried to sell me four decades ago. For years Bob’s been telling me that someday he’s going to ship it all to an archive, but the same cans and boxes have sat there for as long as I remember. Someday never seems to come.

Now pass through the swinging door and meet Penny Brokaw. She handles billings and is the voice of the person who takes your order. I think she has a ball and chain under her desk, too. As you’ve gathered by now, VCI is a pleasant place to work.

In the next office is Exec V.P., Don Blair. He has even more paper stacked on his desk than Bob. Don says he has a TV with Roku in every room in his house. I believe it. His favorite two topics are: sales are going to be off the charts next year (hopefully true) and VCI doesn’t get credit due for its quality restoration work (always true.)

Last is the conference room where Bob, Don and I, and often joined by our friend and collaborator, Steve Durbin, have spent many an hour talking about business, often digressing into tales about various colorful characters and crooks whom we’ve all dealt with throughout the years. We used to sit around grousing about our various physical maladies until Bob said we were complaining like a bunch of old men. If the shoe fits… (But, we did stop complaining.)

Many home video companies have come and gone over the years. Sure, I’ve had other companies ask to distribute my movies. Maybe I’d make more money, but would the graphics be right? Would I get paid? Why bother?

I’ve got an Oklahoma handshake. 

UPDATE:  VCI Entertainment and Kit Parker Films join forces in The Sprocket Vault.

—————-

Visit our website to order DVDs from the Kit Parker Films Collection –

www.sprocketvault.com

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

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

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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

ALOHA

BLACK TULIP

COME OUT FIGHTING

CORNY RHYTHM

CROSS-CURRENTS

DEAD END CANYON

DEAD RINGER

DESERT QUEEN

FOR DISHONOR

FORT DEFIANCE

GHOST OF JESSE JAMES

GREAT JEWEL ROBBERY, THE

ISLE OF ZORDA

KING OF THE SAFECRACKERS

MADAM SHERIFF

MONTANABADLANDS

MUSTANG FURY

PARK ROW *

PILLAR MOUNTAIN

SON OF SHEP

STRATOCRUISER

WOMAN WITH A GUN – Paulette Goddard

* Samuel Fuller eventually produced in 1951 for U.A. release

Titles announced as being “In Preparation”

CABOOSE

FIREBUG AGENT

HIGHWAY WESTWARD

REDSKIN RENEGADES

STREAMLINER LIMITED

Titles unrealized

BANDOLEER

CALIBRE .45

DALTON’S LAST RAID, THE

DAREDEVILS OF THE HIGHWAY

I WAS KING OF THE SAFECRACKERS

OUTLAW HIDEOUT

RADIO PATROL

STRANGER IN THE HOUSE

SUNSET RIM

TALES OF CAPT. KIDD

ABILENE KID, THE

WESTERN BARN DANCE

WESTERN FURY

WIZARD OF OZ, THE – Series

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Visit our website to order DVDs from the Kit Parker Films Collection –

www.sprocketvault.com

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

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

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:

http://vcientertainment.com/about_us.php

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.

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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 http://www.sprocketvault.com

and…

Visit our website to order DVDs from the Kit Parker Films Collection –

www.sprocketvault.com

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

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


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