By Jonathan Marlow
October 10, 2005 - 8:48 AM PDT
What made you decide to put The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky out first on DVD?
They were the ones that haven't been seen in fifty years. I think they each ran once or twice in the very early 1980s on television. They hadn't been seen since. They also had the most damage. The High and the Mighty had been damaged by a flood in the film vaults.
When Michael went in to get Hondo and McLintock!, he saw that all the film was sitting in water. The High and the Mighty was the most severely damaged; we lost three reels of film. But because you have other elements, it can be recombined. When you go to digital, you can straighten out all of these problems. It looks so pristine you couldn't believe that anything was ever wrong. That's why I started there.
Where did you do the restoration work?
The film restoration was done at Cinetech, which is now owned by Ascent Media [Group]. And I did all my sound restoration at Chace Productions. They do everyone's sound and it's amazing. They've got a room with a twelve-foot-long board, with every kind of dial and nob and screen to watch. They take out every hiss and fizzle and pop, things that you couldn't believe. They make it sound like it's brand new and then take the sound up to 5.1 Dolby. The post-production part was done at Post Logic [Studios]. That was Paramount's call to use them. They were great.
How did you decide that Paramount was the place to put these films out? Obviously, they have the largest collection of John Wayne films in their library.
I was the new girl on the block and all the studios knew that I had this John Wayne product. I let all of the studios know that I was interested in a distribution deal and Warner Bros., Paramount, Sony, MGM, all of them, came to me. That was the requirement - that they come to my office, make their best offer. I explained that I had a very traditional lifestyle and I didn't have to do this, but I wanted something that made sense to me from a relationship point of view. I said, "Make your offer and I'll get back to you in two weeks." I did and I chose Paramount. The head of their home video department was a young man named Tom Lesinski, who'd had great training from Warner Brothers. He worked under Warren Lieberfarb. So, you know, it was a fresh air blowing through the air. They were the most enthusiastic and it's been a great partnership.
I suspect that the case against Goodtimes Home Video was a disappointment for Michael...
Yes, of course. [McLintock!] was the very first film, that was his baby.
His first as a producer...
Produced by himself. We lost the copyright by an accident at a law firm. There are heartbreaks that happen in your life but you pick up and go forward. He recut it and panned-and-scanned it and was able to get a new copyright. That's when he brought it out on VHS. Now, for me to do a widescreen edition, I have to go back to my original film elements. The quality is so outstanding that if you're going to plunk down six bucks [for the public domain version] or twelve bucks, go for the twelve bucks because you get the quality and you get the widescreen that no one else has been able to do. And it has incredible added value material. That's the good thing about all the films we've brought out. There's a small history lesson, either about Batjac or photos and information about John Wayne you wouldn't find anywhere else. We get into a lot of different information [in the special features] and nobody will be disappointed. Particularly on The High and the Mighty, with all the information about flying in the 1950s.
How involved were you in selecting the special features that appear on all the discs?
I don't whether you'd say "involved' or if they might say "nosey" or "pushy!" But yes, I was, and so they gave me an Executive Producer title [on the discs], which I thought was very nice. I certainly didn't ask for that.
When will some of the other films in the Batjac collection be released?
We refer to the John Wayne films as "the big four" and the other ones as "the little five." They'll be out, I think, after the first of the year. One of the films, Budd Boetticher's Seven Men from Now, is almost like a little cult film.
It's a particular favorite.
It really is a good western and Clint Eastwood's company, along with Paramount, produced a documentary on Budd. I gave them whatever little bit of information I knew about Budd because I did meet him and let them use some footage. It's going to run on Turner [Classic Movies in December] and then, right after that, we'll run Seven Men from Now.
There are a handful of others which I'm not quite as familiar with, like Track of the Cat...
Bob Mitchum, directed by Bill Wellman. You know, it's interesting. It's shot in Technicolor but it looks like it's black-and-white because it's black against snow and the only color is one of the character's red coat and the blood of the cat in the snow. It's a kind of an arty film. University film students like this one a lot. The other one is a film noir, Plunder of the Sun with Glenn Ford. That was filmed down in Mexico on location, which was unusual in the 1950s to do that. In the midst of all the Indian ruins down there.
Then there is Man in the Vault.
Man in the Vault, which is one of the first pictures that Batjac company ever produced. That's kind of funny, since the house that they use is Michael's dad's actual house in Encino, shot around the swimming pool. This was a real low budget film and that's how they could function, by using peoples' homes and locations that they could beg, borrow, or steal to use. The last one is Ring of Fear, a Technicolor film that was directed by Bill Wellman. It's a circus story with Mickey Spillane and Clyde Beatty and all these lions and tigers...
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"It's a team effort."
"When you go to digital, you can straighten out all of these problems."
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In addition to his persistence in acquiring obscure films for GreenCine, Marlow is a writer, filmmaker, curator and occasional critic. Not necessarily in that order. He is also a dedicated skeptic.
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