Posts Tagged ‘DVD’

Lost and Found

January 26, 2012

Not too long ago, I learned that an animated version of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolken’s prequel to Lord of the Ring was found. This version is over 11 minutes long and dates from 1966. It was designed by Czech illustrator Adolf Born and was written and directed by Tom and Jerry animator Gene Deitch and you can watch it here:

As you can guess, this discovery got me thinking about other lost and found films. There are many films, most from the early days of motion pictures that have become lost, either through neglect, accident or the nitrates ate away at the film and there is nothing left to watch. There are also many films that were, and still are, languishing in a closet somewhere, only to be found when someone knocks something over or lifts up a box.  So, I have put together a list of some films that are lost and some films that were found.

Lost
The Story of the Kelly Gang
(1906)
This film tells the tale of Australia’s most famous criminal or “bushranger” Ned Kelly. Directed by Melbourne native Charles Tait, the film was a popular and critical success and lead to a succession of bushranger films. Soon these type of films were banned in several Australian states because they romanticized crime and criminals. Unfortunately, at the turn of the 20th century, studios didn’t realize the historical significance of saving a film, like The Story of the Kelly Gang. So, there was no procedure put in place to preserve these films for future generations, hence it became lost. Still, the film has not entirely disappeared. Nine minutes of footage was found in a deserted house in 1979 and just before the film’s 100th anniversary, Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive contacted archives around the world in regards to the film. As it turned out, the British Film Institute had an incomplete film labeled “Kelly Gang,” and it contained more footage of the film. While, it is far from complete, there was enough footage to get a feel for the film and that was added to a DVD of the film.

Humorisk (or Humor Risk) (1920s)
Would you believe that the Marx Brothers made a silent film? Yes, it is true. In fact, it was their first film and they played different characters to the ones that they became famous for. Reports are that Groucho didn’t like this film, so he purchased it and destroyed all prints and negatives. Ouch! That’s taking the killing of your darlings to extremes.

Catch My Soul (1974)
Conventional wisdom states that most of the films that became lost were from the early years of the 20th century. For the most part that’s true, the exception is Catch My Soul. This is a rock opera based on Shakespeare’s Othello and has folk singer Richie Haven as the lead. The film was directed by Patrick McGoohan, who was the lead actor in the famous television show of the 1960’s The Prisoner. The film got poor reviews and one critic said that it was “pricelessly funny” without meaning to be, since it was dramatic film. Wait, it gets worse. According to McGoohan, one of the producers found religion and added 15 minutes of religious material to the film. McGoohan didn’t like that and tried to have his name removed from the credits. The next year it was re-titled as Santa Fe Satan and then it disappeared. So, check your closets and attics, keep an eye open at flea markets and while checking out stuff on eBay, because a print of this film might show up in those places.

Found
Cléopâtre
  (1899)
No, this is not the one with Liz and Dick. This is a French film and the earliest horror film made. This film deals with the re-animated mummy of Cleopatra and the havoc she creates. It was thought to be lost until 2005 when a print of the film was found. So, now the French film canon includes more than just chain smokers who discuss the meaning of life in sidewalk cafes.

Richard III (1912)
This is a film adaptation of the Shakespeare play of the same name and is considered the oldest American feature film in existence. It featured the, then, famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. This film was thought lost until 1996 when a high quality print was found.

Metropolis  (1927)
This film wasn’t lost like the other films mentioned. Rather, after it’s premiere in Berlin, the film was cut from its original 153 minutes to 90 minutes. Restoration was done in 2001 with combined footage from several archives and that brought the film up to 124 minutes. That version was considered to be the most complete version until 2008 when a 16 mm negative was found in, of all places, Buenos Aires. This negative contained 25 minutes of lost footage. This footage was integrated with the 2001 version in 2010 and now the film is as close to director Fritz Lang’s original version of the film as possible.

The lost and found films mentioned in this blog entry demonstrate the importance of archiving films. After all, whether a film becomes a classic or a flop, it is part of the historical record of the studio that made it, so it needs to be saved for future generations. It also demonstrates the importance of keeping track of your own stuff. After all, if you lose your stamp, coin or baseball card collection, do you think the Smithsonian Institute will help you find it?

Of course, it you have any information about the lost films mentioned in this blog entry, please contact the following film archives: 

Australia
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
McCoy Circuit, Acton ACT 2601
GPO Box 2002,Canberra ACT 2601
Email: enquiries@nfsa.gov.au
http://nfsa.gov.au

USA
National Film Preservation Board
Library of Congress (4690)
Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20540
Attn: Steve Leggett, Staff Coordinator
Email: sleg@loc.gov
http://www.loc.gov/film/

The author would like to thank Gene Deitch for his assistance with this blog entry.

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/the-hobbit-long-lost-animated-short-discovered

http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/9-famous-lost-films-that-have-been-rediscovered/

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/70351

http://www.kino.com/metropolis/restoration.html#rest

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Some Video Stars Aren’t Dead Yet

September 29, 2011

True confession time. I don’t subscribe to Netflix. (Gasp!) I don’t rent DVD’s from Redbox. (Shudder!)  I when I’m in the mood for a watching a movie at home, I go to my local library. The library near where I live has a great selection of movies, children’s DVD’s and old television shows. Blame it on Tower Records & Video (R.I.P.), which was also located near where I live. When I went to Tower for a video to rent, lots of times I didn’t know what I wanted to watch until looked around and found something that caught my eye. Memorable rentals from Tower include Logan’s Run, Batman Returns, The 6th Day, Family Man and even an episode of Nova that dealt with the restoration of the Sistine Chapel.

Unfortunately, the video store is an endangered species. In 2001, there were 25,000 video stores in the U.S. By 2010, the number of video stores went down to 9,900. Still, there are a few hold outs and here are some notable ones:

Video Connections
Just when I thought that all the Mom and Pop video stores were eaten by Blockbuster and other chains, I read about this one store in Vancouver, Washington, that is alive, well and has a vigorous client base. Why? Simple, as the chains have fallen, independent like Video Connections have filled the niche of those who want to rent a DVD today but aren’t exactly looking for the latest release. It also helps the independents that they aren’t restricted by the 28-day waiting period that movie production companies have imposed on Netflix and Redbox for new-release rentals. So, they can get titles in sooner than the current DVD rental behemoths. Let’s forget that helpful staff members and free popcorn helps to bring people in, as well.

Twilight Video
No this store isn’t dedicated to all things Twilight. It is another independent video rental store in Washington state. (Why does Washington state have all these independent video stores?)  The store has over 3000 titles in stock and rents games, as well as DVD’s. If you want to own a DVD, Twilight also sells new and used titles. There are also snacks for sale, so you can watch your favorite film without having to starve.

TLA Video
TLA stands for Theater of the Living Arts and this started out as an experimental theater group in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, then evolved into a movie theater that played art house films and classics like Metropolis and Black Orpheus. In the 1980’s as VCR’s (that stands for videocassette recorders in case you are not a member of Generation X or older) became more popular, they branched out into the video rental business. While TLA had popular films, like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, it didn’t forget its roots, since it had a great selection of foreign films and independent films. In fact, the business was so successful that the movie theater closed and management turned its focus to video. In its heyday, there were six stores in the Philadelphia and one in New York City.

Yet, unlike Video Connections and Twilight Video, the bricks and mortar part of TLA’s business is closing and it video library will soon be available online, both as physical DVD’s and as streaming. Call me an old fashioned rube, but I felt sad when I heard TLA’s stores were closing. I often visited a TLA store in Bryn Mawr, PA (a Philadelphia suburb) and found the selection to be better than Tower Records & Video and the staff to be very friendly and knowledgeable. So, I wish the staff of all TLA’s stores well, wherever life takes them.

So, there are some physical locations were you can rent a DVD from real live people. If only there were more of them. Oh well, there’s always the library.

Sources:
http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/aug/27/people-still-like-to-rent-video-by-hand-people-sti/

http://www.twilightvideorentals.com/

http://www.tlavideo.com/company/aboutus.cfm?v=1&sn=3809&g=0

http://articles.philly.com/2011-08-11/news/29876641_1_tla-video-video-stores-movie

Kimosabe, Uncle Walt Says Stop

August 25, 2011

I found a news item about Disney Studios stopping production of the latest Lone Ranger movie. The reason for halting production was the budget. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was able to reduce the budget from $250 to $232 million, but Disney wanted the budget down to $200 million. There was also the theory that since Cowboys and Aliens did poorly at the box office, Disney was going to put the Lone Ranger on the shelf for now. The film was in pre-production, meaning that while no film was shot, money had been spent on the project and Johnny Depp, who was to play Tonto, will be paid the full amount that was listed in his contract. No word on Armie Hammer’s salary (he was to play the Lone Ranger) or what Director Gore Verbinski thinks about all of this.

What do I think of all of this? Woo-hoo! There is some intelligent life in Hollywood. How many Lone Ranger radio shows, movies, shorts, television shows and cartoons were made? Is it really necessary to make yet another one? Enough has been done with the story, so I don’t think even actors like Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp can really add anything new to it.

This trend of remakes, reboots and redos has gotten very, very old, very, very fast. The Lone Ranger belongs to another time when, simplistic stories of the “Old West” were the norm. That’s not to say that a film based on the “Old West” can’t be made. Just be original about it. If you are thinking that I wanted Cowboys and Aliens to do better at the box office, you are right. After all, what was to stop aliens from visiting Earth in the 1800’s? So, it is not so far fetched that the cowboys would come in contact with them.

I end this not by pleading with the Hollywood powers that be to be more original. Instead, I ask the moviegoing public not to be so quick to see a remake, reboot or redo movie. Seek out something original for a change. As for all the Lone Ranger fans out there, if you folks are so hungry for some “Hi-ho, Silver!” stuff, then put some Lone Ranger films in your Netflix queue or go to your local library and borrow a few Lone Ranger DVD’s. You’ll be able to enjoy those films with the original actors and there won’t be another remake, reboot or redo movie cluttering the film landscape.

Source:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/lone-ranger-halts-production

Other Cinemas

November 17, 2010

Yes, the movie offerings from Hollywood are fun to watch. The thing is what if you want to watch something different and I’m not talking about foreign or indie films.

Well, what else is there to watch? You ask. Old television shows? No, I’m talking about oddball films like educational films from the 1950’s or short documentaries about public parks, feature films that were made, then quickly forgotten or even employee training films.

Who wants to watch films like that? You ask. Believe it or not, loads of people. In this entry I will mention several organizations that specialize in preserving and most importantly, showcasing oddball films for public enjoyment.

Secret Cinema London
Just when you thought you could only see movies in a sterile multiplex or at home, Secret Cinema in London, brings spectacle and mystery to the moviegoing experience. Founded by Fabien Riggall, in 2005, Secret Cinema shows films in locations around London and the UK. To take part in the Secret Cinema, people have to sign up via a newsletter on the organization’s website and locations aren’t announced until the day of the screening. If that wasn’t mysterious enough, the title of the film isn’t announced until the credits start rolling. Yet, there are clues littered along the way to the viewing location, such as mock posters and actors wearing costumes related to that evening’s movie screening. One viewing featured an actual heavy metal band that entertained people before the film. To learn more, go to:  http://www.secretcinema.org

Secret Cinema Philadelphia
The “Secret” in Secret Cinema Philadelphia, isn’t the location. Organizers announce that on their website weeks ahead of time. Rather, it is the subject matter which ranges from, what founder Jay Schwartz calls “neglected films of all kinds… teen-exploitation, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelia, oddball black comedies, ‘golden turkeys,’ ’70s nostalgia…” even rare movie shorts and educational films. What makes Secret Cinema unique is that they show original films on 16mm reels, not video or DVD. Viewings are in various locations in the Philadelphia area and the show’s been going on since 1992. To learn more, go to:  http://www.thesecretcinema.com

Found Footage Festival U.S.
What happens when two guys stumble upon a fast food training video?  They, being Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, start collecting what they call “…strange, outrageous, and profoundly stupid videos on VHS.” In 2004, they had enough footage to start the Found Footage Festival.  The rules of Found Footage Festival are:

1) Footage must be found in a physical format, as in VHS tapes.  It can’t be floating around on YouTube.

2) Whatever the footage’s original intention, it has to be “unintentionally” funny. “Whatever it’s trying to do,” states the Found Footage website. “It has to fail miserably at that.”

The Found Footage Festival travels throughout the U.S., Canada and even the UK with Pickett’s and Prueher’s collection of VHS tapes ranging from instructional/informational videos to straight to video cartoons to employee training videos. The one thing they have in common is that these videos are, as the founder put it, “unintentionally” funny.

To learn more about the Found Footage Festival, go to: http://foundfootagefest.com/about

See, a person doesn’t have to live on multiplex, Netflix or YouTube movies alone. There are organizations that brings the oddball and unexpectedly humorous films to the masses.

Sources:
http://www.secretcinema.org/

http://www.thesecretcinema.com/

http://foundfootagefest.com/

Never Too Early To Promote A Movie Or Is It?

August 4, 2010

The character posters for upcoming Green Lantern movie were released recently at the San Diego Comic Con. You can see the images here: http://screenrant.com/green-lantern-character-posters-sandy-70401/

The movie is scheduled for release on June 17, 2011. Yes, that is almost a year from now.  That leads to this question: Why promote a film so early? One reason is the cost associated with making a movie. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the average cost of making a movie in 2006 was $65.8 million. That figure takes into account movies ranging from blockbusters to little independent films. As for the blockbusters, the cost for Avatar has been reported to be anywhere from $230 million to $500 million, Iron Man 2 costs about $170 million and those are just two recent films.  Since the studios are spending this much money on a film, they obviously want a return on their investment.

Another reason, is that there is so much in the way of entertainment choices, namely cable, DVD’s and the Internet, that the powers that be at movie studios want their film to be top of mind when it comes to answering the question “What do you want to do tonight?” After all, one would hope that the more someone is reminded that a particular movie is coming out, the more likely he or she will go out to see it.

The trouble with promoting a film so early is people will ignore the hype and move on to something else. Some film franchises, like Star Wars, and Star Trek have huge fan bases, so just the mere mention of one of these films being in a pre-production phase will get the blogosphere and fanboys buzzing. Of course, not every film has such a fan base to draw on. When I first learned that a Green Lantern movie was going to be made, I had to look up who the Green Lantern is.[1] Since not all moviegoers write a blog, I wouldn’t be surprised if others didn’t bother to do research on the character.

Will this advanced publicity help or hurt the Green Lantern?  That question will be answered in the summer of 2011. Of course, if it were up to me, I would start promoting a film six months before it is to be released.  I feel that six months is just enough time to build up demand without people tuning out the publicity.  Then again, I don’t run a studio, so my ideas don’t count.


[1] The Green Lantern is a superhero in the DC Comics universe.  The origin story of the Green Lantern goes like this:  A construction engineer, named Alan Scott, was the only survivor of a train accident. The reason he survived was because he was holding a magical lantern. He makes a ring out of part of the lantern and uses the power of the lantern to fight crime.

Sources:

http://www.comic-con.org/cci/

http://screenrant.com/green-lantern-character-posters-sandy-70401/

http://www.cinematical.com/2007/03/08/mpaa-in-2006-an-average-movie-cost-65-8m-to-produce/

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/12/how-much-did-avatar-really-cost.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/movies/10box.html

451 “All American Comics” #16, The Green Lantern Origin and First Appearance, Very Rare 1940. Mastronet Americana Catalog, October 2001, pg. 153