Posts Tagged ‘“VCI Entertainment” “independent producers”’
OK, finally got enough requests to convince VCI release these two on DVD!
During the 1940’s – early 1950s before television killed “B” movies, army comedies, musicals (MGM or Monogram…didn’t matter,) themes about Tinsel town, and of course westerns, were guaranteed hits in small town and rural America.
Producer/distributor/exhibitor, Robert L. Lippert, decided to combine the genres for sure-fire hits. He did, and they were.
“G.I. JANE”, is a musical-comedy taking place at an army camp starring Jean Porter (sorry, not Demi Moore,) Tom Neal (Hollywood’s real-life bad-boy), Iris Adrian, Jimmie Dodd (“Jimmie” from the “Mickey Mouse Club,) and Jeanne Mahoney, with direction by B-movie stalwart Reginald LeBorg.
At a remote Army training camp in the desert, our boys in uniform want to do more than wave at the WAC’s, and a new recruit bets them $500 he can make this happen. A stern female lieutenant makes things tough but eventually it’s Mission Accomplished, the barracks filled with beauties and ballads.
“I Love Girls,” “Line-up and Sign-up in the Army Corps,” and “Nervous in the Service,” are a sampling of the musical numbers.
“GRAND CANYON,” a comedy with two songs (“Love Time in Grand Canyon” and “Serenade to a Mule”!) about Hollywood producers filming a western, staring Richard Arlen, Mary Beth Hughes, Reed Hadley, James Millican, Olin Howlin, Grady Sutton, and Joyce Compton, with Paul Landres in the director’s seat.
There’s grand fun, grand feudin’ and grand fightin’ in this spoof on low-budget Hollywood moviemaking. Assigned by Robert L. Lippert (who appears as himself in a pre-title sequence) to make a Western on indoor sets, Reed Hadley farcically tries and fails, and finally convinces the front office to allow him to shoot on “location.” Rural audiences howled when an Arizona cowboy showed them Hollywood types a thing or two about acting, and ends up with the starring role!
Here’s where the filmflimflam comes in:
The advertising claims the movie was filmed at the Grand Canyon, and a prologue to the movie even thanks the Department of the Interior for its cooperation. Sure, the exteriors are, but the scenes with actors, most of the movie, are filmed on sets, against process shots, or in a familiar location spot near L.A.…but who’d go see a movie called “Bronson Canyon?” There are a couple of scenes with “actors” filmed on location, but are in reality stand-ins, shot in such a way that the audience couldn’t tell.
The fight scene featured in “Mike’s” dream was taken from “The Return of Wildfire,” another Arlen/Lippert film. Arlen’s opponent in the fight is Reed Hadley, his “director” in “Grand Canyon.”*
Viewed today, these movies are fun to watch, but remember they were made for the Princess Theatre in Meredosia, Illinois, not the Radio City Music Hall.
*Thank you Bob Dickson for this tidbit.
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 drinks 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.
Available on DVD from VCI Entertainment: http://www.vcient.com
Four Guys From Oakland Part 4 —
I was disappointed when it was announced that Bob Wilkins was leaving Oakland’s KTVU after having been Channel 2’s host of “Creature Features” from 1971 – 1978.
John Stanley was to be Bob’s replacement, and the only “John Stanley” I knew was an entertainment writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. It turned out he was one and the same, and I was pleasantly surprised that he was a worthy successor to Bob.
John knew how to conduct an interview, and I always looked forward to reading them in the Chronicle. Apparently I wasn’t the only one; John’s tenure at the Chronicle lasted 33 years!
He interviewed Clint Eastwood on the set of “Rawhide,” James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Ida Lupino, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Russell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger, and …I couldn’t begin to remember them all.
“Creature Features” gave John an opportunity once again to interview science-fiction and horror stalwarts; this time on camera: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Ray Harryhausen, Roger Corman…again, too many to recall.
John Stanley’s latest book, “The Gang That Shot Up Hollywood” is loaded with re-worked interviews/observations/reflections (and over 750 photographs) of many of the famous entertainers he’s interviewed through the years at the Chronicle. My favorite is the section on Samuel Fuller. John knew Joe Rosenthal, photographer of the famed Iwo Jima flag-raising, and there is a very interesting piece on him, too.
You can buy the book from Amazon, but if you get it through John’s site, www.stanleybooks.net, he’ll autograph a copy for you. Even if you don’t buy the book, be sure to check out his site and “click” every option as there are more cool books including, “The Creature Features Movie Guide” and his autobiographical, “I Was a TV Horror Host,” and various “Creature Feature” DVDs as well.
John Stanley’s efforts too often fall under the radar…don’t let him fall under yours.
ROBERT L. LIPPERT BIOGRAPHY
Future movie exhibitor and producer scion, Robert L. Lippert, was born March 11, 1909, and abandoned on the doorstep of the San Francisco Catholic Charities Orphanage. He stayed at the orphanage for almost two years until he was adopted by Leonard and Esther Lippert of Alameda, California.
Lippert grew up in Alameda, and at age17 quit high school to marry his high school sweetheart, Ruth Robinson.
Capitalizing on his skill at the keyboard, he started show business as an organist for silent movies. Through on-hand experience, he became knowledgeable about all aspects of motion picture exhibition. In 1929 he rented portable equipment and became a road showman, traveling to theatreless towns throughout the west, by then he was completely enamored by the motion picture business.
In 1936 he made an arrangement with a Detroit dish manufacturer and soon announced his greatest gimmick, “Dish Night.” The concept called for exhibitors to give away a different dish, saucer, etc. every Tuesday over a period of 52 weeks. Over the period of one year, the loyal movie patron would be rewarded with a complete set of dishes and, of course, countless hours of entertainment!
He toured the country selling his plan (and dishes) to exhibitors around country. Not only did he make money, he developed relationships with exhibitors around the country…an asset to be used later when he went into motion picture distribution.
Lippert later used the same concept to promote “Book Night.” This time inexpensive encyclopedias were given away weekly. Miss a Tuesday and you have an incomplete set of books!
The origin of the Lippert Theatre Circuit came about in 1942 with his ground-up construction of the Grand Theatre in Richmond, California. He particularly embraced drive-ins beginning in 1945 with the Malaga in Fresno, the first of its kind Northern California. Eventually Lippert owned 118 theatres.
…okay, the part about his productions will follow…