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“Manson was happy his voice and music would be on the sound track”

 

blog manson

 

An old friend, Wade Williams, well known vintage sci-fi movie impresario, and gatekeeper to such fan favorites, as “Rocketship X-M,” “Plan 9 from Outer Space” and the original “Invaders from Mars,” is a successful exhibitor, director and producer. Sometimes being a producer can put you face to face with…well, let Wade tell the story:

 

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The passing of Charlie Manson, the mastermind of the murderous Manson Clan that terrorized and murdered Sharon Tate and others in Los Angeles on August 9, 1969, brought back vivid memories of meeting him – face to face!

 

Days went by after the murders until a break in the case led the police to this group of “drugged out” hippies who lived in a deserted old-time movie ranch.

 

Manson and the rest of the clan were arrested and went to trial on what must stand as the most notorious murder rampage of its time. The trial lasted weeks and the news media from all over the world covered it.

 

Living in Kansas City and wanting to get into the movie business was hard. I was midway between Hollywood and New York.  I had made an amateur science fiction film “Terror from the Stars” several years before, but it never got distribution because it was, frankly, not well made, and we did not know what we were doing or how to do it right.

 

Frank Howard was a director/cinematographer/film-friend worked for an industrial film company in Minnesota who I had met thru my film collecting hobby.   Frank was brilliant; he knew lighting, how to tell a story, and was a fan of the 30’s-40’s studio films and directors like Capra, Henry King and the Selznick films. He was in his late 30’s at the time and I am not sure he is still living.  We lost track of each other decades ago.

 

During dinner at Winstead’s in Kansas City, the people in the table behind us were talking about the Manson murder trial and how horrible it was.

 

Frank said – Why don’t we make a “quickie” film in black and white based on the Manson Murders since the trial will probably go on awhile. It could play the drive-in circuits.  We talked about the possibilities for several hours and the next day started on the pre-production planning.

 

I did not want to make this film. I was not into drugs or that lifestyle and I had little or no interest. I wanted to remake science fiction films like “The Man from Planet X,” “Rocketship XM,” etc. It was Frank Howard’s and my dream to make a cheap and highly profitable film, and use the money to make something worthwhile.

 

We scripted daily as more information was revealed at the trial. I named it “The Other Side of Madness” on its first release. They changed the name to “Helter Skelter Murders” after the book “Helter Skelter’ became a best seller.

 

The film was to be shot in Kansas City and Los Angeles. The substantiating footage in L.A. and the murder sequences at various locations in Kansas City, Missouri, Leawood, Kansas and a rock concert near Lawrence, Kansas, all subbing for LA.

 

There was an announcement in the trade papers, and I received a call from Charles Manson’s attorney who was representing him for free, and getting a lot of flak. He wanted to sell me the rights to two songs recorded and sung by Charlie Manson, “Mechanical Man” and “Garbage Dump.”

 

The deal was $2000 for the rights and a three-hour face-to-face meeting with Charlie Manson in the jail during the trial. Manson could have no visitors except witnesses necessary for his defense. I was listed by his attorney as one of those witnesses.

 

Manson was happy his voice and music would be on the sound track. I actually had not heard the music at that time.

 

It was arranged the following Friday. I flew to LA with cash. I was given the recording masters and taken to the jail house to meet with Manson.

 

The master he gave me was an LP he made to promote the songs. He knew Terry Melcher, a record producer and son of Doris Day. Manson was angry because apparently Melcher would not release his music, so sent the clan up to terrorize the occupants thinking Melcher would be there.

 

I was told by Manson’s attorney to not question him about the murders, especially not discuss the actuality of what happened at the murder scene because Manson was not at the Tate house, and anything he said might be used against him.

 

I expected to see a sinister Rasputin monster of a man depicted on the cover of Life Magazine instead, I was seated at a table across from Charlie in a regular room. A guard stood by the door.

 

In was a small man, maybe 140 pounds in blue jailhouse garb. I introduced myself. He said, “You’re the man that’s making my movie?” There was nothing sinister about him other than wild hair. I realized the news media and Life magazine had re-touched his picture to make him look like the Devil in order to sell magazines.

 

He talked about the people at the 500 acre Spahn Movie Ranch. (Eighty-year-old George Spahn allowed him and his family to stay there). One of his followers was the granddaughter of the Mitchell Camera fortune. She and other Manson family followers were in our film at the ranch. The ranch burned down not long after.

 

Manson talked about him giving shelter to the homeless and downtrodden, most of which were druggies and acid users. He also was into group sex and would get his “family” all drugged up beforehand and in the barn loft would have all-night sex with both males and females.

 

(We shot a sequence in the loft of the barn and on the property after his description and some of his “family” was in the film.)

 

He used the “N” word several time, despising blacks having been in prison with them. He and his family wanted a “race war” to exterminate them, and was gathering weapons out in the desert to eliminate them. His attorney changed the subject after a few comments.

 

We cast the film with unknown look-a-likes from Kansas City: family members, friends, several actors and my secretary with sequences on the Plaza subbing for Century City.

 

Getting it finished and released in theaters is a completely other story, however the film was distributed world-wide, got a front page story in Variety and in London. It had many good reviews, and made news in tabloids worldwide. We did a sneak Preview in Excelsior Springs MO to a sold out theater.

 

Frank Howard’s efforts and talent made this a unique “arthouse” film noir that has a moody black and white feel and a Technicolor sequence, with Debbie Duff and Kelly Cap, who played Sharon Tate and the Prince in a dream sequence.

 

It played the drive-in theater circuits and the home use VHS and DVD markets.

 

Looking back at the box office reports, the film out grossed many studio films at the drive-in theaters, and did extremely well on VHS and DVD for various distributors. They all made a lot of money. I was happy to get my investment back.

 

I plan to re-release it when the Quentin Tarantino film on the Manson murders comes out in 2019.

 

Charlie Manson was not unique, not sinister, just a small time thug on acid who ordered his hippie clan to go terrorize some people.

 

 

–Wade Williams

 

www.thewadewilliamscollection.com

 

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The first time I saw ONE MILLION B.C. (1940) was in the late 1950s on KSBW-TV in Salinas, California.  Thought it was pretty cool, even though the station always was kind of fuzzy.  (The VCI DVD and Blu-ray are exceptionally sharp)  There was never any doubt the “dinosaurs” were anything other than lizards, but that made no difference to me, nor to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who bestowed an Oscar for its special effects.  Clips of the “dinosaurs” were later used in over a dozen low-rent feature films, including two of mine, “Untamed Women” (1951) and “King Dinosaur” (1955).

The one shot that did stun me was watching the mother of a child being entombed by flowing lava.  60 years later it still kind of gives me the creeps.  I enjoyed the movie enough to buy both Castle Films one-reel silent abridgements, “1 Million B.C.” and “Battle of the Giants.”

Author, Richard Bann, who personally knew Hal Roach for many years, was nice enough to contribute some facts.  Thanks, Dick!

“Who wrote ONE MILLION B.C.? Hal E. Roach did. At one point he was going to (but elected not to) take credit for the original story as “Eugene Roche,” a pseudonym he sometimes (but rarely) used, Eugene being his middle name. Having known him so well, I can state that this direct, blunt, raw movie absolutely reflects his world view, his values, his way of thinking. Yet others received credit for the “original screenplay.” One, Mickell Novak, was his secretary, who I met once. She confirmed that Hal wrote the picture, and others who “helped” in some fashion were given screen credit to pad the production staff. When Hal first entered movies, he was a friend of and hired her mother, Jane Novak, who made Westerns with William S. Hart. And Mickell Novak’s aunt was another silent film actress of note, Eva Novak. And much has been written about the contributions of D.W. Griffith to ONE MILLION B.C. in various capacities. With respect to the story, Griffith wrote several treatments and offered a 76-page screenplay. All were rejected. By 1940, movies made in the teens seemed as antiquated as the setting for ONE MILLION B.C., and unfortunately Griffith had not changed with the times.”

Order ONE MILLION B.C. on DVD or Blu-ray from The Sprocket Vault –

DVD – http://thesprocketvault.com/product/one-million-b-c/

Blu-ray – http://thesprocketvault.com/product/one-million-b-c-blu-ray/

 

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Option 1:  Use Scotch tape, scratch remover and melt with a blow torch.

Option 2:  Contact us and we’ll send a speedy replacement.

A customer tried Option 1 and sent us the following unedited message:

 

burning dvd

“hi, could you please refund me on the dvd disc. I played this dvd disc on my dvd player, and it did NOT work. I took it out and found huge scratches and huge cracks in the disc. I repaired the huge scratches with scratch remover, and I repaired the huge cr acks with scotch tape. I then put it back in the dvd player to see if it would play better, but it would NOT play better AT ALL. the lasers inside the dvd player would NOT even recognize the dvd disc AT ALL. it was too IMPOSSIBLE to even be recognizable AT ALL. my other dvd discs work perfectly normal and great on my dvd player, and my dvd player still works perfectly normal and great as well. it’s just that the dvd disc would NOT even play well AT ALL. my other ones did. I just about tried everything I could even do to repair this dvd disc, but NONE of the ideas worked AT ALL. it was just too IMPOSSIBLE to even be recognizable, and there was absolutely NOTHING else I could even do about it AT ALL. I tried to send the dvd disc back to you, but when I was down in my basement welding something together, I had it with me, and when it fell out of my pocket, i accidentally melted the whole entire item with a blow torch. the whole entire item completely melted down into tiny little specs, and there is absolutely NOTHING left of this item WHATSOEVER. i have absolutely NO replacement for this item WHATSOEVER. so please refund me. i need my money back. thank you.”

Of course, we promptly returned his money along with an apology for his inconvenience.

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— Out of Sight Out of Mind

soldier and the lady one sheet.png

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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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