Saturday, October 3, 2015

Meet Rolf Forsberg

Rolf  Forsberg is a fascinating, amazing writer/director of numerous independent short films since 1964. Many of his films are religious in nature, yet told with an avant-garde surrealism suggestive of Fellini and Bergman. THE ANTKEEPER (1966) depicts mankind as antsARK (1970), though made 45 years ago, warns of the dangers of man-made pollution and climate change destroying the world. ONE FRIDAY (1973) is about race warfare told through the eyes of a toddler.

Rolf's very first film is still his most famous -- PARABLE -- since it was made for and shown at the 1964 New York World's Fair as the main attraction in the Protestant and Orthodox Pavilion. It was highly controversial since it depicted Jesus as a circus clown clad all in white. PARABLE was added to the National Film Registry in 2012. Rolf is still with us at age 91 and just completed a writing project. We recently filmed some comments about his life and film legacy. This excerpt will introduce you to the distinguished film director and these four films.

I am a member of "Team Forsberg" dedicated to restoring and reissuing Rolf's best films, and at the same time bringing awareness of him to the film community and rallying new fans. We plan three stages to achieve the goal. First is to release the four films discussed above in Rolf Forsberg Legacy Collection Vol. 1 on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download. Stage 2 will release four more films, probably PEACE CHILD, STALKED, KING OF THE HILL and JESUS ROAST. Eventually we plan to produce a world-class feature documentary about Rolf that will preserve his legacy for future generations.

This is a costly undertaking. So far we have been working on a zero budget. Extensive interviews of Rolf have already been shot. Films are being restored to higher quality than the current excerpts on the website. But we simply can't finish Stage 1 without some financial assistance. For that purpose an Indiegogo campaign began on Oct. 2. If it succeeds, then Volume 1 will be released in November of this year.

          "Most of the films I've made are very much products of the Sixties, as I am. I feel that the span between 1963 and 1971 was one of spiritual seeking, and of iconoclasm. Billy Graham was the leading evangelist throughout the entire world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian clergyman, led mass marches for justice and equality. Theologians made the covers of Time Magazine. And the Beatles sang poetry. We have nothing like it today." 
-- Rolf Forsberg, June 2015

If you are intrigued about the films of Rolf Forsberg in the two video clips on this page, you can help immensely by doing one of more of these:

  • Visit the Rolf Forsberg website to learn more about Rolf and his filmography.
  • Visit Rolf Forsberg on Facebook and "Like" him.
  • Visit the Rolf Indiegogo campaign and purchase one of the inexpensive "Perks."
  • Share posts from the Facebook page on your own timeline or other FB groups.
  • Refer any friends who might be interested to this blog, FB, website or Indiegogo

Here is an excerpt from PARABLE (1964):

-- Ron Hall, for Team Forsberg

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Gospel Films Direct

Gospel Films Archive is a growing library of  rare and forgotten Christian films from the 1930s thru the 1970s. They include TV series such as "The Christophers," "This is the Life" and "Crossroads," feature films like "Martin Luther," "Reaching from Heaven" and "The Great Commandment" along with literally hundreds of short films made to be shown in churches and on television to tell stories from the Bible, inspire Missionary work or simply explore the problems of Christians in a modern world. All are professionally produced using Hollywood directors and actors. They hold up extremely well today since the stories are timeless, yet few remember the films or know where to view them today.

Gospel Films Archive is an ongoing project with partners Bob Campbell, Derek Myers and myself, Ron Hall. We owe a great debt to distributor Vision Video for issuing our first 7 DVD releases with a special Children's Collection coming soon.

We are dedicated to educating the public about the films such that they want to see them. We continue to explore getting them on religious TV networks where they could be widely enjoyed. We are seeking grants so we can restore and stream them on the Internet or give away DVDs to all interested parties. A long range plan includes a documentary about these "lost" Gospel films that should be fascinating to secular film fans as well as Christians.

Regarding DVD sales, video rental stores are ancient history while Beta machines and Laser Discs are mere whispers. Present viewing trends include free streaming on youtube or subscription streaming on Netflix, Hulu and similar venus, or viewing on Watch TCM, Amazon Prime or HBO-GO. With the exception of TCM, none of these venus stream many vintage films, no matter how good, and especially not religious films that few have ever heard of.

Another delivery method which we hope is the wave of the present and future (because we have jumped in with our clothes on) is ... Ta-Dah!

under the new GFA label

Anyone with a computer, iPhone, iPad or other device can rent a film for 24 hour viewing at the affordable price of $1.99 or purchase for unlimited viewing for $3.99. The company that hosts our new Gospel Films Direct VOD product line is Christian Cinema, who is currently expanding into Video on Demand in a big way. Christian Cinema sends out weekly emails to 85,000 and has a well visited Facebook page. They will promote our weekly releases far better than we ever could via the GFA Facebook page and website.

Our ambitious plan, which we are well into, is to release 3 new films every week. Here is a preview trailer of the first four  GFD releases: "A Christian in Communist China," "Africa and Schweitzer," "The Gospel Blimp" and a double feature of "This Is The Life" TV episodes. These may be rented or bought from Christian Cinema today:

Three more films were released the week of August 10. First is the 1955 Christophers production of "Lincoln Speaks for Himself," introduced by Danny Thomas with closing comments by Father James Keller. Actor Reed Hadley excels with a commanding voice as he delivers speeches from throughout the career of Abraham Lincoln. Stock footage from Lincoln's era plus new staged scenes enhance the high production values. Hadley was familiar to 1950s TV audiences through his lead roles in "Racket Squad" and "Public Defender," while action fans might remember him as Zorro in "Zorro's Fighting Legion" (1939).

"Empty Shoes" (1956, color) is the story of missionary William Carey who was the first englishman to bring the Gospel to India in the late 1700s. The final film in GFD's "Trio #2" is "Charlie Churchman and the Teenage Masquerade" (1967). Charlie is modeled after silent comedian Charlie Chaplin and is full of genuinely funny slapstick. In this episode Charlie volunteers to be youth director for his church and learns of the real problems facing teenagers behind the masks they currently wear.

Here is the preview trailer for those three films:

Click on Gospel Films Direct Videos on Demand and you will see all our releases to date! Once there, click on any poster/film and you can both read about it and view a trailer.

We invite you to browse these relevant and related links:

Vision Video's Gospel Films Archive Page
Christian Cinema
Christian Cinema's Gospel Films Direct Page
Gospel Films Archive Website
Gospel Films Archive Facebook

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Partners Bob Campbell, Derek Myers and myself launched the Lost & Rare Film and TV Treasures series in 2013 with 4 releases: Lost TV Pilots, Sports Immortals, Golf Mania and Heavenly Christmas Film Classics. Each contained films which were truly rare, not out on youtube or DVD, and were often unknown to even the most ardent film fans. Finding such "Lost" films and organizing them thematically is quite exciting, but we don't find them every day!

"Industrial Strength America" contains 6 historic energy propaganda films (listed below) from the 1940s and 1950s. Regardless of one's opinion on fracking or oil pipelines today, 70 years ago few opposed the extraction or use of petroleum, aluminum and other natural resources since the products greatly increased our quality of life and the industries created jobs that built a great nation. Hundreds of such films were made and are called "Industrial Films" since industries produced them to promote good will in their products. They can also be called "public service" films since they educated the public and were distributed freely (and maybe for free) to schools and movie theaters.

5 are in color and all 6 are filmed to Hollywood standards. Born in Freedom (1954) tells an entertaining story about the first oil well and stars Vincent Price, with Andy Clyde and Alan Hale Jr. in prominent roles. Unfinished Rainbows features Alan Ladd in his first credited screen role, and in color no less. (B-western fans might spot villain Charles King in a late scene.) Fill 'Er Up and Destination Earth are superbly animated Technicolor cartoons by Carl Urbano -- Earth is quite funny and Fill 'Er Up by the future director of The Jetsons has a good share of jokes as well. Asphalt Through the Ages and The Columbia are more traditional documentaries, except The Columbia soundtrack is by folk legend Woody Guthrie who sings three original songs.

We feel we truly have a release that will appeal to film fans, history buffs, schools and library patrons. Our main marketing will be to libraries. Here is more information on the six films.

Here are some preview scenes from each of the 6 "Lost and Rare" films that are lost no more:

"Industrial Strength America" DVD is available now for $19.95 from Festival Films. Visit the Lost & Rare website to order and for more information on all our releases.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Edgar, Charlie & Fin


We have proposed to Turner Classic Movies that they present an EDGAR KENNEDY DAY Tribute, featuring Edgar biographer Bill Cassara as co-host. The response from TCM was extremely encouraging, concluding with "I do think there’s a very good chance we can make this happen." No date has been set and "Edgar Day on TCM" is not assured, but it seems highly likely. TCM often holds such tributes on a star's birthday, and Edgar's birthday was ... last week! So look forward to April 29, 2016 (a Tuesday) to see 12 hours of Edgar on TCM.
TCM can include in the tribute classic Hal Roach shorts with Edgar plus features already in their library like San Francisco, Duck Soup, A Star is Born, Unfaithfully Yours and My Dream is Yours with Doris Day.
To flesh out an Edgar Day tribute, we are offering TCM 8 of Edgar's best RKO shorts and several feature films that are not in TCM's library. FLIRTING WITH DANGER (1934) is one Edgar feature we are offering TCM. Three brash and cocky TNT powder mixers -- Robert Armstrong, Edgar Kennedy and William Cagney -- are sent to South America to work at a dynamite plant. This scene shows Edgar mixing a powder batch while his fellow TNT cohorts are busy romancing.

You can help make TCM Edgar Day happen by posting Likes and Comments to Edgar's Facebook page to show TCM your enthusiasm, Like Edgar on Facebook and invite your friends to do the same:

Hal Roach friend, collector and expert Richard Bann presented a program of rare Roach shorts at the final Syracuse Cinefest #35 in March. The excited and large audience was treated to 3 Edgar shorts that none of us had seen before. First was the Spanish language version of the Our Gang comedy "When the Wind Blows" (1930). In the early sound era Roach filmed many of the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gangs in French, Spanish and Italian versions for the foreign markets. Jackie Cooper, Mary Anne Jackson, Wheezer and the other kids actually spoke Spanish one line at a time without knowing what they were saying. The most convincing and very funny Spanish delivery was by Edgar as Kennedy the Cop as he tromps through a dark and windy night trying to catch burglars.

"Crazy Feet" (1929) is an early Charley Chase talkie that only recently had its sound track restored to the picture. When Thelma Todd is struggling with Eddie Dunn in her car, Charley comes to help her. Kennedy the Cop shows up and mistakes Charley for the trouble maker, so Edgar shadows Charley the rest of the film as he tries out various vaudeville acts with Thelma.

"Dad's Day" was a 1929 Roach All-Star film starring Edgar as a beleaguered father with a teenage daughter and son and their boyfriend and girlfriend. The whole family goes to the beach for the day, but still no respect for poor dad as he loses his bathing suit among other trials. Charlie Hall supervises the changing room and gets to call Edgar "Baldie." The plot is like a pilot film for Edgar's RKO Average Man series, except the family dynamic lacks chemistry. Roach liked Edgar and proposed a Kennedy series to MGM, but their theaters said viewers did not want Edgar. How wrong they were! So Roach started a Harry Langdon series instead, Edgar moved to RKO under Harry Sweet's guidance and the rest is history.

Laurel and Hardy's little nemesis, Charlie Hall, appeared in cameo roles in 12 of Edgar's RKO shorts, including our recent acquisition "Slightly at Sea" (1940). This is one of the mid-series films with Vivien Oakland as Edgar's wife and short Bill Franey as his father-in-law. Jack Rice plays brother-in-Law in what may be his only film as Franey's son. The series truly tried every combination and this plot required Brother. The funniest gag with Charlie Hall. The joy the two veteran's show playing against each other is clearly evident.

Changing subjects drastically to the Roy Rogers 1948 Trucolor western Grand Canyon Trail... Although the film is in the public domain like more than 60 of Roy's Republic westerns, I had never gotten a decent copy before and so had never watched the film or sold it. It was shot and first shown in Trucolor, which is similar to Cinecolor withou a true blue. However, when Republic released the roy's to TV in the 1950s they only issued it in black and white and DESTROYED all of the color elements, so it is no longer thought to exist in color.

A big surprise in Grand Canyon Trail is the appearance of Jimmy Finlayson as a sheriff in his last scripted and credited comic role. Fin only shows up in the last 8 minutes but zings in some funny one-liners and has comic business with sets of hand cuffs.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Strange Case of O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE

THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE was a single season, half-hour anthology TV show released in 1957. No one has seen the show since 1957 or the limited run in syndication shortly thereafter. There are no episodes out on DVD and none on youtube other than the excerpt you can view down below. All episodes are clearly in the public domain since none were registered with the Library of Congress when the show was released to TV. A 1957 show would also need to be renewed 28 years later, and there are naturally no renewals with Library of Congress since no episodes were registered in the first place.

Late last year a large collection of original network 16mm prints fell into my hands. I was contacted by a TV station manager that I work with who had been given 250 prints from the series. I offered to give him free transfers of each episode in exchange for the right to sell them elsewhere. In due course all 250 prints were shipped off via FedEx to Derek Myers, who received quite a shipment as you can see in all the boxes surrounding him.

Inside these boxes were indeed 250 multiple prints of only 39 episodes. There were 17 copies of the first episode alone -- "The Reformation of Calliope!" This western story features an all-star cast of Ernest Borgnine, Dick Foran, Beverly Garland and Elisha Cooke, that amazingly no one has seen since 1957!

How many episodes of THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE were made remains a mystery. The IMDB says 39 and we have 39. 39 is also a common number for a 1950s TV season, as in 39 episodes of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans."

O. Henry
However, the Classic TV Archive lists 42 episodes and a question mark about a few additional ones (which seem to be re-titled versions of ones in the 39). The 3 titles CTVA lists that we do not have are "Tobin's Palms" (© 5/16/57), "The Count and the Wedding Guest" (©5/20/57) and "The Gentle Grafter" (© 5/23/57). A closer inquiry reveals these are copyright dates by Doubleday for the film scripts and not for the films themselves. CTVA lists cast or plot synopsis for all episodes except these three. Since no one has seen the show in recent years, their synopses must have come from old issues of TV Guide. This suggests the 3 shows in question were never listed in TV Guide, never ran on TV and possibly were never even made. We seem to have every episode that was syndicated to TV, and very possibly every episode in the entire series.

Veteran character actor Thomas Mitchell stars in each episode as writer O. Henry himself. In stories that are period pieces like westerns, he discusses with his publisher where he got the idea for the story. But in stories of old New York, Mitchell/O. Henry interacts with the story and meets his characters as he supposedly discovers first hand the story he will later write. In some he tells the story to his publisher and meets up with the real characters at the end of the episode. This rather unique story telling method is made possible by the fame of the author himself and the audience's presumed desire to learn where each story came from, plus the professionalism of actor Thomas Mitchell who makes it all credible.

Thomas Mitchell
Anthologies were quite popular in the 1950s, from Four Star Playhouse to Climax, Suspense, Studio One, One Step Beyond and others. The O' Henry Playhouse is an anthology series, meaning that each show has a complete story and often notable guest stars. Some of the famous actors are paired with others one would never suspect worked together, like Louis Hayward and Johnny Crawford in "Hearts and Hands," DeForest Kelly and Jackie Coogan in "Fog in Santone" and John Carradine and Charles Bronson in "Two Renegades."

The film clip below is from "Two Renegades." First O. Henry visits Civil War vet and doctor John Carradine who is about to be executed 40 years after the end of the war. He then visits his publisher when soldier of fortune and yankee Charles Bronson shows up to say hello. O. Henry continues relating how Carradine saved Bronson's life when he had jungle fever in latin america and they become unlikely friends. When Bronson is arrested as an insurgent, Carradine bribes his captors with confederate money to get him released, but fails to leave the country before the deception is discovered, and is hence sentenced to death.

The 39 episodes of THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE are not yet for sale. I hope to sell the entire collection to a DVD company that will promote them the way they deserve, and make many sales to the education market as well as to fans of vintage television. It is quite rare for a TV series unseen for close to 50 years to suddenly turn up. It will come as quite a surprise to the many O'Henry fans out there who at this moment are unaware that many of his classic stories were ever filmed.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Edgar Kennedy Show Update

Edgar Kennedy is a superb character actor and comedian who started with Mack Sennett and is one of the original Keystone Kops. Today he is most famous for his part as the street merchant in the Marx Bros. DUCK SOUP, and as Kennedy the Cop in numerous late-silent/early talkies with Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang and the Boy Friends series at Hal Roach Studios. Edgar turns up in many A-classics of the 1930s and 40s such as SAN FRANCISCO, A STAR IS BORN, SIN OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK and UNFAITHFULLY YOURS.

With Dot Farley and William Eugene in "Lemon Meringue" (1931)
Every year from 1931 and the release of the now-lost LEMON MERINGUE short to 1948, RKO released six Edgar two-reelers for a total of 103. On top of this he had the same "Family" and supporting cast from beginning to end. This included Florence Lake as Edgar's ditzy wife, Dot Farley as his nagging mother-in-law and a brother-in-law played by William Eugene and later Jack Rice. In the late 30s when these actors were busy elsewhere, RKO experimented with Vivien Oakland as Edgar's wife and Bill Franey as Vivien's father. Then they returned to the original family format. This series in which audiences came to know and love a family year after year essentially established the television sit-com format that became TROUBLE WITH FATHER, MY LITTLE MARGIE, I LOVE LUCY and is still with us today.

Virtually every film fan loves Edgar Kennedy, and yet few are aware of or have seen many of his "Average Man" series for RKO. The big news is that most of them are screamingly hilarious even today. We invite you to watch many of them at the Edgar Kennedy website and see for yourself.
Ed & Family in "I'll Build It Myself" (1946)

Me and my partners Bob Campbell and Derek Myers have been trying to tell the world about Edgar's 103 RKO shorts for several years. Our ultimate plan is to bring these Edgar shorts to TV and DVD audiences in "The Edgar Kennedy Show." We tried premature campaigns to raise funds on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo in 2013. We have an active Facebook page. In November and December we picked up over 100 Likes on Facebook, so online audiences continue to find us and help spread the news to other Edgar fans. We know there are thousands of film fans who do love Edgar and would love to see his RKO shorts.

The Library  of Congress holds original 35mm negatives and positive prints on 88 of the Edgar RKOs. These were contributed in the late 1950s. We are in touch with the donor who can OK our use of the prints. Of course transferring 35mm material to video is a costly endeavor. We also have original 16mm prints that were widely run on TV in the 1950s and 60s. You can view many at the website. These 16mm prints can be transferred to high def digital format today with excellent results.

The exact format "The Edgar Kennedy Show" might take has not yet been determined. Most Edgar shorts run from 17 to 20 minutes. Our initial idea was to create 24-min episodes to fit a 30-min commercial TV time slot, with the extra time devoted to brief original segments showcasing Edgar's brilliant career and rich film legacy. Again, a noble but costly idea.

So we begin the new year 2015 in fresh pursuit of a viable broadcast or webcast partner and home video affiliation. In the short run and a quite logical goal, we would like to persuade Turner Classic Movies to program an Edgar Kennedy day tribute and include 8 or 12 of the RKO shorts that we can provide. TCM could include some of the Hal Roach shorts that feature Edgar, plus Edgar's feature films that they already have in their library. Author of the Edgar biography, Bill Cassara, could appear with Robert Osborne to discuss the films. This could easily fill a day of Edgar.

Here is a short video to introduce the "Edgar Kennedy Show."


Please share this video with any online friends. Visit Edgar and Like him on Facebook. Visit the Edgar Kennedy website for more information and view many of Edgar's RKO shorts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Time Is Here!

My favorite Christmas song is "The Christmas Waltz," written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Stine for Frank Sinatra in 1954. It became the back cover song for Frank's new version of White Christmas. It may be my favorite since I don't hear it that often, yet it has been recorded by dozens of pop artists. I also can never recall the lyrics in full so I put down the first chorus here to aid future memory lapses:

Frosted windowpanes
Candles gleaming inside
Painted candy canes on the tree

Santa's on his way
He's filled his sleigh with things
Things for you and for me

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love
Every song you hear seems to say
"Merry Christmas
May your new year dreams come true"

And this song of mine
In three quarter time
Wishes you and yours
The same thing, too

GFA Christmas Collection DVD

We produced this superb collection of rarely seen Christmas shorts and released it two years ago as Heavenly Christmas Film Classics. However, the team forte is acquiring and releasing rare films; it is not in marketing them properly and so sales to date were slow. This year everything has changed with the new DVD cover, new menu on the DVD, new promo video (just below) and most importantly massive marketing by our distributor, Vision Video, who I believe is the largest distributor of Christian Videos in the world. Vision Video has an extensive printed catalog mailing as well as website where they list our other DVD releases and they supply to numerous third parties. Buy from if more convenient.

I am delighted to explain my 3-way partnership with the rest of the GFA (Gospel Films Archive) team. Bob Campbell is the driving force who makes and expands new contacts in areas I would never seek myself. Bob produced the original Matinee at the Bijou series on PBS in the 1980s - a big hit! Bob is working to bring back to the public these vastly overlooked and pretty much lost Christian films that were shown in churches, on TV and for missionary work in the 1950s-1970s. Bob forged the alliance with Bill Carroll and Bill Curtis at Vision Video and is pursuing TV possibilities. 

Bob arranged a large donation of GFA films from Paul Marks of the former library of Visual Aid Center. Paul is currently the Director of Operations of the International Christian Visual Media Association. Another invaluable ally that Bob befriended is Kirk McCrea, who works with the Salvation Army in Ypsilanti, MI. I re-print Kirk's Christmas message below the video.

Our second partner is Derek Myers, who is a producer and tech guy at a Christian TV station (WGGS TV-16) in Taylors, SC. Derek houses the 16mm GFA collection, does all our video transfers and voice overs for any needed preview videos. He is just finishing transferring the donated films from Paul Marks, and we are expecting another large donation soon.

Both Bob and Derek are devout Christians. I was raised Lutheran and then Baptist in high school, but while I try to live my life by those teachings I do not attend any church. So at times it feels odd devoting time to Christian videos, but I can assure one and all that these are for the most part professionally made, highly entertaining short films that richly deserve to be restored to the public. One I watched recently -- And Then They Forgot God -- is a sci-fi film set in the future with a shock ending worthy of the Twilight Zone ... and I couldn't figure out what it had to do with religion at all. I guess a warning that some future utopia may forget God. 

My family celebrates with a Christmas tree, presents and family. Wife Chris, her brother Scott, sister Nancy and husband Greg and their sons, and my son Jeff is coming in with wife Amanda from Silicon Valley where Jeff is a programmer for LinkedIn. It should be a full house, a great meal and a happy gathering. May each of you share similar joy this holiday season!

Here is the preview for the GFA Christmas Collection. More info about each films is at our GFA website.

Merry Christmas!
All year we work with children caught in poverty and the lack of associated opportunity. The most amplified effects of poverty, however, are not seen in the children, but in the parents -- who themselves were raised in poverty by parents who, most likely, were raised in poverty -- and so on and so on. All of these people routinely face a large portion of society holding a clenched fist, railing that they are not "entitled" to anything, that charity only "enables" them their poverty (and pre-judged life style), and that they would never hire them, anyways, because of those same reasons. Jesus seems to have a different idea, however, stating throughout His written word that He came to bring them to the gospel, that they should be visited, hydrated, clothed, and sheltered; that they are rich in faith; that He will lead them out of their "captivity;" that they are blessed; that He will exalt them and raise them to sit with nobles; and that those with means are to give with an open hand.
In a thousand languages, the world continually demands “justice!,” but Jesus says that one’s own need for mercy followed by extension of that mercy to others is the only way to live. He will provide justice in His time. Right now, He brings people new hearts that are full of joy, love, and hope – during the best of times, and the worst of times (and compared to eternity - hardly any time).
Please consider supporting the Ypsilanti, MI Salvation Army Corps (or any Christian ministry) as they administer the love of God through both temporal and spiritual efforts.
All the blessings of His Christmas to you!
Kirk McCrea