Posts Tagged ‘“Kit Parker Films”

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 most of 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
Celebrity Billiards
The Crawling Hand
Creature of the Walking Dead
Curse of the Stone Hand
Death on the Four Poster
Dinah East
Escape from Sahara
Eye Witness aka Your Witness
Fabulous Fraud
Farmer’s Daughter
Four Fast Guns
Four in a Jeep
Gay Intruders
House of Black Death
How to Succeed with Girls
I’ll See You in Hell
Island of Desire
Jungle Hell
Let’s Live Again
Love From Paris
Man Beast
Monster From the Ocean Floor
Moscow Nights aka Les nuits Moscovites
Nature Girl and the Slaver
Nine Miles to Noon
Nylon Noose
Outlaw Women
Passport for a Corpse
The Rebel Son aka Rebel Son of Tarus Bulba
Sea Devils
Serpent Island
Slasher aka Cosh Boy
Slime People
Summer Run
Summer Storm
Thunder in Carolina
Twilight Women aka Another Chance aka Women of Twilight
Two Colonels
Uncle Vanya
Untamed Women
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.

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 I don’t remember not doing business with VCI.



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


 Betty Scott [1969]


 Bob Blair [early 1970s]


 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 –

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I hired a private investigator to find the heirs…


My passion is to seek out “orphan” movies, and adopt them into my film library.  Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes over 10 years.  I never give up.


First, I need to determine why a movie has been lost in limbo for 50 years or more.  It takes lots of digging through old contracts, copyright records, television syndication files, and so forth.  Here’s the short version on how I unearthed the “Mr. District Attorney” and “Counterspy” movies.


By 1961, the rights to both series reverted to Phillips H. Lord, creator of the radio programs.  However, he elected to do nothing with them, and died in 1975.  My next job was to find out who inherited the movies.


As with comic strips (see previous blog: “Lost and Found – Gasoline Alley and Friends”,) radio programs were naturals for the movies, and studios actively acquired the best programs for transition into motion pictures.  Not all the deals were the same, but generally they seldom varied much from this:


The Creator of the radio show licenses a studio the exclusive use of the title, and characters in a radio show.  Usually option money is paid to the creator, and the studio has a year or so to exercise the option, otherwise all rights (and the money!) revert to the Creator.


If and when the option is exercised, the studio pays the Creator the licensee fee, and commences production on the first film.  The distribution deals normally had a duration of 7 – 10 years.  After that, the studio and creator may or may not renew the license.  If not, the movie falls into limbo because it cannot be exploited without the agreement of both the studio (owner of the negative) and the radio producer (owner of the underlying rights.)  Occasionally the creator was assigned all rights to the negative and walked away with full ownership of the film.


April 3, 1939, marked the start of a 13-year run of the popular crime drama, “Mr. District Attorney,” first on NBC, and later, ABC.  It was the creation of Phillips H. Lord, a successful and respected producer during radio’s golden age.  He created 16 dramatic radio series, including “Gangbusters,”  authored six books, and 15 musical compositions.


In 1940 Lord licensed Republic Pictures rights to produce three feature films based on the characters appearing in the “Mr. District Attorney” radio program. The resulting films were “Mr. District Attorney” (1941), with Dennis O’Keefe, Florence Rice, and Peter Lorre, directed by William Morgan, “Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” (1941), with James Ellison and Virginia Gilmore, directed by Bernard Vorhaus, and “Secrets of the Underground” (1942), with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey, directed by William Morgan.  I have no details on the original deal other than all rights were to revert to Lord in 1948, and the productions could not be shorts, serials or television programs.


In 1945 Columbia Pictures approached Lord to produce two of their own MDA movies.  The problem, of course, was that Republic still had 3 years left on its two picture deal, and Columbia didn’t want two other MDA movies in the marketplace, since Republic would inevitably sieze the opportunity to re-release their own MDA films in order to capitalize on any forthcoming Columbia productions.  This prompted Lord to exercise a $750 option contained within the Republic/Lord contract, against $7,500 to buy outright the negatives to “Mr. District Attorney” and “Mr. District Attorney and the Carter Case.”  “Secrets of the Underground” remained with Republic (now, Paramount), presumably because the main title wouldn’t conflict with the new Columbia productions, although at one time Republic later did re-title the movie “Mr. District Attorney Does His Bit.”


The 7-year Columbia deal was set to go upon payment of $30,000 (approx. $400,000 in 2014 dollars), which included rights to the 9 months of radio scripts aired prior to February 29, 1940, a quitclaim of rights to the Big Little Book, “Mr. District Attorney on the Job” (aka “Smashing the Taxi Cab Racket”) (1941), along with four Dell Comics, “The Funnies,” from 1941-42.  A prerequisite minimum negative cost of $150,000 per picture assured Lord the movies would have at least respectable production values.


The result was “Mr. District Attorney” (1947) with Dennis O’Keefe, Adolph Menjou (!), and Marguerite Chapman, directed by Robert B. Sinclair.  A second feature was never produced, and the reason why is open to conjecture.  However, some sort of arrangement between Lord and Columbia was made to allow ZIV to produce a TV series based on MDA for the 1951-52 season, and again for 1954-55.


In 1949 Columbia again approached Lord, this time to acquire rights to produce one or two features based on another one of Lord’s hit radio crime dramas, “Counterspy,” which first aired in 1942 on the NBC Blue Network, and continued through 1957.  The deal was $15,000 per feature, with an extended playoff of 15 years, resulting in “David Harding, Counterspy (1950), with Willard Parker, Audrey Long, and Howard St. John (as the title character), directed by Ray Nazarro, and “Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard” (1950) with Howard St. John (top billing this time), Ron Randell and Amanda Blake, directed by Seymour Friedman.


Steve Wachtel to the rescue…


I retained a frequent collaborator, prominent Los Angeles-based private investigator, Steve Wachtel.  As a movie buff he enjoys my assignments of determining the who and where of heirs to film people.


In the case of Phillips H. Lord, the heirs turned out to be three sisters, one lived in New York City, and the other two  only a dozen miles from me, one in Glendale AZ, and the other in Scottsdale.  None had any idea they owned any movies.


I made a deal with them for all rights.


Next job:  Find good film elements from which to digitize.  The original nitrate negative of “Mr. District Attorney” (1941) had decomposed, and only the picture negative survived, and it was in poor condition.  I found an excellent duplicate safety film negative at the British Film Institute in London, and borrowed it to make a digital master.  “Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” only survived only as a poor condition nitrate picture negative, as well, but couldn’t locate a sound track…and I searched around the world.  Let’s consider it lost…for now.


Normally film elements aren’t an issue because most movies were released to TV, thus requiring multiple duplicate elements on safety film.  But since the two Republic MDA’s had never been reissued theatrically, or sold to TV, there was no need to create duplicates.  What is left of the original nitrate negatives are stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.


The Columbia movies were another story…there were plenty of film elements still stored by the studio, and they were cooperative in giving me the material.  I came up with advertising materials from Columbia, The Margaret Herrick Library (AMPAS), and good old eBay.


One of the pleasures of my business is producing extra features for the DVD’s.


One Lord sister graciously invited me to her house and showed me scrapbooks of her family, and father at work, then allowed me to copy them.  She later consented to an interview by film historian, Richard M. Roberts, who is also an expert on golden age radio.  And as always he knows the right questions to ask.

Phillips H. Lord Radio Programs:


Counterspy (aka: “David Harding, Counterspy”)

The Cruise of the Seth Parker

Gang Busters  (Original title: “G-Men”)

Mr. District Attorney

The Country Doctor (aka: The Old Country Doctor)

Phillip Morris Playhouse (Original title: “Johnny Presents”)

Police Woman

Sunday Evening at Seth Parker’s

Seth Parker’s Singing School

Sky Blazers

The Stebbins Boys

Treasury Agent

Uncle Abe and David

Under the Sidewalks of New York

We, the People


Seth Parker and His Jonesport Folks

Seth Parker Fireside Poems, Gems of the Air

Seth Parker’s Album

Seth Parker’s Hymnal

Seth Parker’s Scrap Book

Uncle Hosie the Yankee Salesman

Feature Films:

 Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard *

David Harding, Counterspy *

Gang Busters (1945 serial)

Gang Busters (1955) (Compilation of “Gang Busters” TV episodes)

Guns Don’t Argue (Compilation of “Gang Busters” TV episodes)

Mr. District Attorney (1941) *

Mr. District Attorney (1947) *

Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case (Only picture negative survives)

Obeah (Lost film)

Secrets of the Underground

Way Back Home

Television Programs: 

The Black Robe

Gang Busters

Mr. District Attorney

Musical Compositions:

Back in the Old Sunday School

(with May Singhi Breen and Peter De Rose.)

Has Anybody Found a Trouble?

Heavenly Jewels

If You’re Happy

Jesus Is My Neighbor

Sailing with My Father

That First Little Sweetheart of Mine

There’s Four in Our Family

We Are Gathering with the Lord Today

You Go to Your Church and I’ll Go to Mine

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(c) 2014 Kit Parker Holdings LLC













…producer-exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s mantra and, appropriately, the title Mark Thomas McGee’s biography/filmography of the man and his films as published by BearManor Media.   I’m a B-movie aficionado, and this book is a real page-turner.


“I’m not in this for personal glory, I’m giving the public and the exhibitors the films they want for purely commercial reasons.”  – Robert L. Lippert


Robert L. Lippert, produced close to 250 feature films, including “The Steel Helmet” (1951), and “The Fly” (1958), and distributed scores more on behalf of other producers.  He launched the careers of Samuel Fuller, James Clavell, and others; and owned a theatre circuit of well over 100 theatres.  But, he flew under the radar to the degree that only hard-core movie buffs even know him.  My company owns all rights to over 100 Lippert productions, and I tried to shed at least some light on Lippert and his films in my blogs and DVD special features, but Mark does the job right.


Mark McGee wasn’t given an easy task:  Lippert shied away from giving interviews, and only two people who worked with Lippert are still living, actress Margia Dean, and production head/producer/director Maury Dexter.  Mark really did a lot of digging and I believe has revealed almost  everything about Lippert that isn’t lost to time.


Lippert’s biography is intertwined with Mark’s observations about the films as separated into four main chapters dealing with Lippert’s four production companies: Screen Guild Productions and Lippert Pictures (produced and distributed in-house), Regal Films, Inc., and Associated Producers (produced for release through Fox).  I think this was the appropriate method because in real life it was truly hard to separate Lippert the man from his movies (and his theatre circuit.)


Lippert seldom had artistic pretentions.  Many of his productions are at best less than notable — certainly by and large ignored by the critics.  Mark lists every, and describes most, Lippert film.  I really enjoyed the comments of exhibitors who actually played the films.  This was back in the day when every small-town theatre manager stood in the lobby and said goodnight to patrons as they exited.  Sometimes the managers hid, but most times the audiences for whom Lippert produced his films were more than satisfied.  Less sophisticated audiences during the 1940s and early 1950s often preferred Lippert productions over those from the major studios.  Don’t believe me?  Read the book!   I read every one of those critiques in one sitting.  Better than a box of See’s Candies.


Lippert productions and co-productions available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:

Key: Theatrical distributors: LP = Lippert Pictures; SG = Screen Guild Productions; Hammer = Lippert/Hammer Films Co-production


ARSON, INC. (1950) LP


BAD BLONDE (1953) UK: Flanagan Boy, Hammer, LP



BLACK GLOVE, THE (1954) UK: Face the Music, Hammer, LP

BLACK PIRATES, THE (El pirata negro) (1954) US-Mexico, LP

BLACKOUT (1954) UK: Murder by Proxy, Hammer, LP


CASE OF THE BABY SITTER (1947) Featurette, SG

COLORADO RANGER – TV: Guns of Justice (1950) LP


CROOKED RIVER – TV: The Last Bullet (1950) LP



DEADLY GAME, THE (1954) UK, Third Party Risk, Hammer, LP



FANGS OF THE WILD aka Follow the Hunter (1954) LP

FAST ON THE DRAW – TV: Sudden Death (1950) LP

FBI GIRL (1951) LP



GLASS TOMB, THE (1955) UK: The Glass Cage, Hammer, LP



HAT BOX MYSTERY, THE (1947) Featurette, SG

HEAT WAVE (1954) UK, House Across the Lake, Hammer, LP


HIGHWAY 13 (1948) SG




HOSTILE COUNTRY – TV: Outlaw Fury (1950) LP


I’LL GET YOU (1953) UK: Escape Route, LP









MAN BAIT (1952) UK: The Last Page, Hammer, LP


MARSHAL OF HELDORADO – TV: Blazing Guns (1950) LP


MASSACRE (1956) Fox





PAID TO KILL (1954) UK, Five Days, Hammer, LP-D

PIER 23 (1951) LP


RACE FOR LIFE (1954) UK: Mask of Dust, Hammer, LP








SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) UK: Lady in the Fog, Hammer, LP

SHADOW MAN, THE (1953) UK: Street of Shadows, Hammer, LP



SKY HIGH (1951) LP



STOLEN FACE (1952) UK, Hammer, LP


THEY WERE SO YOUNG (1954) W. Germany-USA, LP





UNHOLY FOUR, THE (1954) UK: The Stranger Came Home, Hammer, LP





WINGS OF DANGER (1952) UK; Dead on Course, Hammer, LP


Lippert productions directed by Samuel Fuller arevailable on DVD from the Criterion Collection





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(Sorry to say that The Silent Treatment was discontinued after publication of this blog.)

Today it seems that young people have no interest in old movies, and don’t even know that films from the silent era exist.  But, there are exceptions to the rule, and I had the pleasure of meeting one such young woman.

In March 2007, Brandee Cox came up with the idea of publishing a bi-monthly newsletter about silent films. She shared that idea with graphic designer/film buff, Steven K. Hill, and The Silent Treatment ( was born.  Their partnership in TST continues…much to the benefit of silent film buffs around the world.

I met Brandee Cox in 1999 when she sought  an internship at Kit Parker Films  while finishing her degree in Cinema Studies: History, Theory, and Analysis from San Francisco State University.

Although I was told in advance Brandee was a film buff, I certainly wasn’t expecting a young woman from the millennial generation to be so knowledgeable about old movies, especially silents.  Even more surprising was her interest in the physical aspects of motion picture film.

In those days Kit Parker Films was a distributor of motion pictures servicing the film libraries of major studios and independent producers.  We had thousands of 16mm and 35mm prints stored at our Sand City (Monterey area), CA film exchange, and employed film inspectors whose job it was to carefully check each print for damage, color fading, and other blemishes.  This was the perfect job for Brandee given her interest in film archiving, and I hired her on the spot and she was with us for six months.

With her intern credit going towards her degree from SFSU, she took the next logical next step, film archiving post-graduate work at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.  After finishing her studies there she got and still has the perfect job, archiving films at the Academy Film Archive, a division of the Academyof Motion Picture Artsand Sciences that archives, preserves, and restores motion pictures.   Now she was, and is, able to work with all of the motion pictures she wants…and gives us The Silent Treatment.

I founded Kit Parker Films over 40 years ago, made old movies my vocation, and have been surrounded by old movies ever since.  It’s a pleasant surprise knowing there are young people who have that same passion and are making it their vocations as well.

As for Brandee, she and I are just big kids in a candy shop.


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The Fiend Without a Face…




…became Richard Gordon’s most well known movie, but most film fans do not know his name because he generally didn’t take a screen credit.  On the other hand, classic horror movie fans know him well as the producer of “The First Man Into Space,” “The Haunted Strangler,” “Corridors of Blood,” and many others.

I first met Richard Gordon over 30 years ago when he sold rights to one of my movies.  He began Gordon Films, Inc. in 1949 as an international sales agent importing and exporting films to the United States, and was still going strong over 60 years later.   He was the consummate film fan, particularly of movies from the 1930s, who knew every bit player as if they were family members.   During that time he produced two dozen, mostly horror movies, and was the last person living who had worked with both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.  Dick was working on a deal to sell a few of my movies to England when he was stricken a few months ago.

Dick was born in England in 1925, and was a textbook example of an English gentleman; reserved, articulate, private, well spoken, respectful, cultured (he had an amazing art collection,) mannerly (the type who would stand up when a lady got up from the table), and a canny businessman.  He upheld a custom, from an era of long ago, of hanging up pictures of his clients on the wall behind his desk.  But there was a lot more to Richard Gordon.

Dick and his friend Joe Cattuti, were devoted to each other, and the two of them travelled around the world for half a century.  Dick and Joe, and my wife, Donna, and I, had dinners with them which always lasted over 3 hours.  Joe and Donna would talk about all kinds of things, but it always started out about fashions.  Dick and I focused on movies: How it was going to the movies as a child in England; how he and his brother, Alex*, asked strangers to accompany them into horror movies (there was an “H,” for horror, rating which excluded youngsters from attending without an adult,) his time in the British Navy in WWII where he learned German (and how it helped him in business), how his father, whose favorite movie was “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924), hated his own job and encouraged his sons to go to America and give a shot at their passion.

I asked him what he thought about the fact that each of his movies entertained millions.  He looked bemused and responded, “Well, not quite millions.”   I defended my math:  First there were movie theatres, then countless airings on TV, and later cable, satellite, VHS, DVD, and now video on demand…all around the world.  He paused for a few seconds and the look on his face told me he had never actually thought of it that way before. (Tens of millions would be more like it.)  

One year I met him in Pittsburg at a horror convention where lots of old movies are shown, and old stars would sit in a room and autograph stills for a fee.  On the flight there I thought to myself that it would be completely out of character for Dick to charge for an autograph;  that he’d find it undignified, as well as disrespectful to his fans.  When I got there he was signing autographs, and not only didn’t charge for them, he provided the stills.   

Richard Gordon, a class act.


If you can only read one book over the next year, let it be “The Horror Hits of Richard Gordon”,0,4233442.story

Richard Gordon’s producer-brother, Alex, also had an interesting life in the movies…and was a great guy!: 


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Samuel Fuller’s “I Shot Jesse James” (1949)


Before Roger Corman there was Robert L. Lippert.

Producer/Exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s low-budget productions are sometimes called Grade “C.”  Personally, I’ve never seen one below “B-,” and in fairness, he did put out some “B+,” “nervous A,” and who can call “The Fly” (1957) anything but an “A”?

Lippert felt there was an unmet demand for “B” product for his circuit of theatres, so in 1945 he and John L. Jones formed a production company, Action Pictures, and distribution company, Screen Guild Productions.   The first and sole release for 1945 was “Wildfire – The Story of a Horse,” in Cinecolor, starring Bob Steele.  Regular releases followed, and in 1949 Screen Guild , became “Lippert Pictures,” and in the final count, cranked out over 125 low budget movies, and released many more acquisitions and reissues.  He produced many more films for release by 20th Century-Fox…more about the Fox deal later…

The early Lippert productions were unremarkable B movies (okay, there may have been some C’s), with a few notable exceptions.  Things changed in 1949 when he rolled the dice and took a chance on a feisty independent newspaper reporter by the name of Samuel Fuller. Lippert gave Fuller, who had no movie experience, virtual free-reign, and his name above the title, to create a film about Jesse James’ assassin, Bob Ford.   It was released as “I Shot Jesse James” (1949), and became a critical and box office success, and today it is considered a classic, notable, among other things, for its extensive use of close ups.  Soon after, Fuller directed his second film, “The Baron of Arizona” (1950), a true story about a swindler who seized much of Arizona by forging Spanish land grants.  Vincent Price played the “Baron,” and many years later claimed it was one of his very favorite roles.  Truly, the Lippert/Fuller magna opus was the classic Korean War drama, “The Steel Helmet” (1951), which garnered first-run dates at prestigious theatres.  The three Fuller films are out on DVD from the Criterion Collection.

Lippert’s cause célèbre was to produce films as cheaply as possible, and still offer at least some entertainment value, particularly for the more unsophisticated movie patrons. No Lippert movies were allowed to go over budget.  Not egotiable…even for Fuller.

Robert L. Lippert, Jr. told me a story about filming of the climactic ending of “The Steel Helmet,” where a Korean temple is to be destroyed, and it almost didn’t come to be…  Fuller had shot all but the ending, and production was about to go into overtime. Lippert came on the set and literally pulled the power switch to shut down production.  Fortunately, after he left the set, Fuller turned the power on and filmed the finale.

In 1950, Lippert gave himself a challenge…produce a series of six Jimmy “Shamrock” Ellison-Russell “Lucky” Hayden westerns, all at the same time, using the same casts, sets, crew, and so on.  In one movie an actor may play a bad guy and a bartender in another.   A camera was be set up in the saloon, for example, and the saloon scenes for each movie would be shot sequentially, with actors rushing about changing costumes between each roll of the camera.  It must have been a nightmare for the script girl!  Robert L. Lippert, Jr. told me it was his father’s proudest achievement!  VCI released this series as a set under the “Big Iron Collection” banner.

Despite the puny budgets, minor classics resulted, including “Little Big Horn” (1951) and “The Tall Texan” (1953), both starring Lloyd Bridges.  There was also a distinctive film noir series filmed in Great Britain starting in 1953 when Lippert formed a production alliance with his British distributor, Exclusive Films, soon known as Hammer Film Productions.  Under the arrangement, Lippert would provide an American “star,” on the way down, but who still had some name value, plus cash to pay for part of the production.  Exclusive/Hammer and Lippert divided up the distribution territories.  The result was a series of good thrillers, supported by solid English casts, and many directed by Terence Fisher, in his
pre-horror film days.  The Lippert-Hammers are all available as part of the “Hammer Noir” collections released by VCI Entertainment.

Lippert, like Roger Corman after him, was able to gather together producers, directors, screenwriters, composers, and, of course, actors, willing to work on tight schedules for minimal pay.  There were stars who had lost their major studio contracts (Paulette Goddard, George Raft) or who had problems with the House on Un-American Activities (Lloyd Bridges, Lee J. Cobb).   Even Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicolson had roles in later Lippert productions.

Lippert was a master marketer.  When producer George Pal set out to mount a big budget Technicolor production of “Destination Moon” (1950), based on the science-fiction book by Robert A. Heinlein, Lippert saw an opportunity.  He capitalized on Pal’s media campaign by throwing together his own low (of course) budget “moon” (he changed it to “mars” to avoid a lawsuit)  picture,“Rocketship X-M” (1950).  It beat Pal’s movie into the theatres, stealing a good deal of the Technicolor epic’s thunder.   I’m told Mr. Pal was not amused.

Trouble, and opportunities, lay ahead for Lippert.

To be continued…


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“No one ever asked for their money back.”

David F. Friedman was a carnival pitch man at heart.  His passion was to “turn a tip” (attract an audience with the promise of something that isn’t quite delivered), and he did it with movies.

When Dave died earlier this year, I was among many of his friends who were surprised by all of the press.  Not that he didn’t deserve it; we just thought he operated under the radar.  There were long obituaries in major papers calling him the “Trash-Film King.” I call him the “King of the Raconteurs.”  He never repeated a story unless you asked…which I often did.

See his obituary at:

Overview of his life and films:

His autobiography is very, very funny: A Youth in Babylon, Confessions of a Trash-Film King (Prometheus Books, 1998)

In 1987 I met Dave, along with his fellow film exploitation-partner, Dan Sonney.  I was producing a documentary on the early era of exploitation films, hosted by Ned Beatty, ultimately released as, “Sex and Buttered Popcorn” (1988).  Dave and Dan were the true stars of the picture, and with those two together for an interview meant you had to fight to hold back your laughter.  Fortunately, their banter is captured in the finished film.   BTW, Dan was a one of a kind character in his own right; he fractured the English language so much he made Sam Goldwyn seem like Ernest Hemingway.

The documentary:

As a young man, Dave he hawked facts of life books, while appearing as “Elliot Forbes, eminent hygienist” during the entr’acte in the road-show exploitation film classic “Mom and Dad” (1945).  There are scenes of that movie within my documentary, and even 40 years later he could reenact the sex book pitch from memory, “I’m here to peel away the veils of sexual ignorance…”  He still knew how to work a crowd.

Dave had a successful career producing and exhibiting exploitation films, “Blood Feast” (1963), considered the first “gore” movie was his “Citizen Kane,” and “Two Thousand Maniacs” his “Casablanca,” both directed by Herschel Gordon Lewis.   He loved fooling the suckers (oops, I mean “audience”) with a unique brand of what he called ballyhoo.  I think his favorite thing was coming up with double entendre titles like “Trader Hornee” (1970) “The Ramrodder” (1968), and “The Big Snatch” 1971), or catch-lines like “Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!   Dave always had problems with censors and newspapers objecting to the words used in his advertising.  He came up with a word that sounded naughty, but really wasn’t…“nubile.” When the inevitable objections came forth, he simply asked his adversaries to “look it up” in the dictionary.

During his early years there wee censor boards, along with cops who wanted to, and did, shut him down for showing something that would now appear in prime time on cable TV.  He relished pulling one over on the authorities even more than the ticket-buying public.  One time the Knights of Columbus picketed a theatre showing one of his films.  They drew a crowd, even in the rain, and which increased ticket sales, so Dave went under cover, got them coffee and doughnuts, and encouraged them to stay in the rain and continue their “assault on public morals.

He was a very intelligent (got a degree in electrical engineering atCornellUniversity), creative individual, never took himself seriously, and lived life to the fullest.  When he wasn’t smoking a cigar the size of a Titan Missile, he was eating enormous meals and drinking whiskey.  One year I bronzed one of his stogies and gave it to him for Christmas.  I never thought he’d live to be 87.

After he retired toAlabama, my wife and I visited him and his wife, Carol.  She was a very refined and cultured woman who was a well-known bird watcher.   She would call him an “Old Goat,” and warn him “if you eat one more bite, you’ll burst.”  (She declined prestigious positions in cultural organizations inLos Angelesfor fear Dave’s occupation might come to light.) They were so different, yet perfect for each other.

One year we all took a train trip toNew Orleans.  Dave and I sat in the bar for hours while I encouraged him to tell stories.   Finally there came a time when even I was exhausted, and thought he was, too, so I retired to my sleeper to take a nap.  I’d forgotten my glasses, went back, and there he was, wide awake, performing card tricks for a group of kids.  Classic David F. Friedman.

In his later years he bought a small carnival and he was in hog heaven.  I asked him how he was able to show human oddities long after laws prohibited it.  “You mean ‘freaks’?  I don’t have any; I simply show examples of the ravages of drug addiction!”

After “Deep Throat” (1972) was released, and hard-core pornography became readily available, Dave retired.  He made a couple of those films, too, but soon became bored; it wasn’t fun anymore.  There no longer was a need for a pitchman, and a con, because by that time everything was shown on the screen.

Dave often told me he never cared about making money.  He used the old cliché that it was just a way to keep score.  He had a long career hustling bad movies, but he swore that no one ever asked for their money back.

David F. Friedman DVDs:

Dave’s carny jargon:’carny’_slang


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Two years ago I purchased the Medallion TV Enterprises film library.   Some movies were prestigious, others schlock, and still others in-between.  (More on Medallion in a later blog)  One, “Yesterday and Today,” is an oddity.   It’s a silent movie compilation primarily covering the period 1900 – 1910.  The excerpts  really interesting, well above average, but the identification of them in George Jessel’s  voice-over is a mess.  The majority are incorrectly identified!

It all started with two 1951 British compilations, Return Fare to Laughter, produced by Henry E. Fisher, compiled by James M. Anderson, and Those Were the Days, produced by Bishu Sen Butcher, and edited by Philip Wrestler, both for Butcher’s Film Service Ltd. Y&T is essentially a combination of these two films, The British producers apparently had access to an excellent library of early films.    But, the descriptions?  A mess!  I got the feeling that some of the films came from mislabeled, or unlabeled, cans with, in some cases, made up titles!   Y&T perpetuates these errors, but the good thing is the excerpts are sharp (from 35mm) and long enough to actually enjoy…most I’ve never seen before.

This is the part I really enjoyed:


Richard M. Roberts

As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to identifying the most obscure of silent films, there is Richard M. Roberts, and then all others.  I called him into service, but many of these films are so obscure that even he had to call in his fellow film historians.  They eventually identified just about every one, sometimes starting with the absolute thinnest of clues.  The fruits of their efforts are contained in the supplemental commentary track.  Roberts narrates it himself in his usual light-hearted, unpretentious way.  In fact, I think I’ll take a break from writing and watch (listen) to it again.

Trivia:  The producer was the late talent agent Abner J. (“Abby”) Greschler, who dabbled in the importation of some minor British pictures.  Here comes super-trivia; they were: Emergency Call (US: The Hundred Hour Hunt) (1952,) Bombay Waterfront, (1952,) and Life’s a Luxury (US: Caretaker’s Daughter) (1952.)  Why did a powerful, and extremely wealthy, agent for Martin and Lewis, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Benny Goodman, Eddie Cantor, and Milton Berle (later, Vince Edwards, Marcel Marceau, The Monkees, Jayne Mansfield, and others) bother with some grade B English movies, and also spend time creating a special-interest picture like Yesterday and Today, with the end result being a difficult-to-book 57 minute running time?  Tax shelter?  Hmmm, maybe I’ll ask Richard…when he’s recovered from this assignment! — Kit Parker


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This one is really cool:


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