Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is Magic -- Vision of Jesus Christ

Christmas is Magic is one of the six films on our Heavenly Christmas Film Classics DVD release.  An extraordinary discovery was just brought to our attention today by a happy customer, the day before Christmas Eve.  An unmistakable vision of the face of Jesus Christ appears several times.  The face of Jesus is clear to both Christians and non-believers alike in numerous scenes.

Because the Face appears more than once, it may have been an intentional although subliminal insertion by the film's producer, Sovereign Films.  Another theory is that it is an artifact of the 16mm to video transfer process.  Yet others may claim that we altered the film to attract publicity, and I can assure everyone that is not at all the case.  The DVD was released by Festival Films over three months ago and today is the first time I and my two partners became aware of this phenomena.

Christmas is Magic was the Christmas episode of an anthology TV series called Your Jeweler's Showcase.  It was first shown on television on Dec. 13, 1953, and may have been syndicated on 16mm prints for a few years.  Our source is an original 16mm syndication print.

A WW-2 war veteran (Robert Hutton) with amnesia gets off a train in a town he never heard of on Christmas Eve.  In the village square he meets a young widow (Frances Rafferty) whose husband was killed in the war and her 8-year-old son.  The son and man, who calls himself John Doe for lack of his real name, quickly bond and he goes home with them to wait for Santa to arrive.  The mother and son pray together in a moving scene not often found on television.  Later John Doe helps trim the tree while the widow helps him remember his past.  Miracles happen.

Robert Hutton and Frances Rafferty
If indeed a Face of Jesus Christ was inserted secretly into a 1953 television show, then why has it taken 59 years for anyone to notice?  I don't have an answer.  I do have a theory as to what might happen next in this wonderful age of the Internet when social media has the power to spread unusual news at the speed of light.  Word about this sighting of the Face of Jesus might attract many viewers to see for themselves.  Interest in unexpected images of Christ is always high.  While deciding yeah or nay, coincidence or intentional, or what it all might mean, viewers will experience a profoundly moving Christmas story about love and childhood and memories and renewal.  Was the Face from 1953 intended to focus world attention on Christmas is Magic on this Christmas week in 2012?  Stranger miracles have happened at Christmas time.

We urge you to watch the film from the beginning to end first to experience the full effect of the story, then explore the Face.  Still pictures do not capture the Face of Jesus Christ very well.  It is much more apparent in the youtube video just below.  Most will see it -- eyes, nose, nostrils, beard and hair in the traditional image of Christ as depicted on the Shroud of Turin and in religious paintings.  One can see faces in almost anything, but this has symmetry, does not disappear after a few frames and is, of course, a very special face.  Look closely at the fabric of Robert Hutton's tweed suit from 14:00 to 14:25.    Once you see the Face you will spot it in other scenes both before and after.  The indication of a face could be a coincidence or it could have been woven into the fabric on purpose.  You decide.  By all means, tell your friends!  Spread the mystery. Spread the word.  Spread the joy.  Foremost, enjoy the film!

And the merriest of all Christmases to every one of you!

Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost and Rare.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have Yourself an Ozzie & Harriet Christmas!

Most TV series in the 1950s and beyond celebrated Christmas in late December.  This includes comedy shows like Red Skelton, the Ruggles, Betty White, Beverly Hillbillies, Love That Bob, etc., as well as ones you would not expect Santa or gift giving to turn up in: Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Annie Oakley, Racket Squad, Man Against Crime and more.  (On this last show, I sure would like to find the 1952 episode "The Day They Kidnapped Santa Claus.")  In fact Wikipedia offers a fascinating and humongous if not always accurate list of US Christmas TV Programs.

Every year about this time I re-visit the Christmas episodes of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" to  upgrade quality or remember the difference between "The Day After Christmas" and "The Late Christmas Gifts."  Among other things I learned this year: "A Piano for the Fraternity" (1960) is indeed a Christmas show I was not aware of.  That Wikipedia list claims there is a 1955 episode called "Christmas in October," although it does not appear in any lists of the shows so I am skeptical.  I do not have an acceptable copy of the 1954 "Lost Christmas Gift" and so have removed it from the episodes I offer.

Some years Ozzie and Harriet presented two Christmas themed episodes, some years none and other years they took a filming break to repeat a holiday favorite from the past.  Most are included in my collections of Christmas TV Shows or Ozzie and Harriet DVDs.  Eight are offered for sale by Alpha Video/ where you can also buy this poster.  Alpha does not include "Piano for the Fraternity" or that elusive "Lost Christmas Gift" that I have but is too poor to sell.  Or possibly it includes "Lost Gift" mislabeled as "Late Christmas Gift."

Leaving out that questionable "Christmas in October" show, here are the ten that definitely exist and carry the Christmas spirit with family values to every generation yet to come.  They really are special so take a look if they visit your TV set later this month.

12/19/1952.  Boy's Christmas Money
Only the 12th episode made in a series that ran for 14 seasons.  Dave and Ricky (really young) take jobs in the city in an attempt to raise cash so they can buy their own Christmas presents for their parents.

12/26/1952.  Late Christmas Gifts
When Grandma Nelson's gifts finally arrive, David and Ozzie believe she mixed them up by giving Oz the sports jacket and David a dull book.  Franklin Pangborn shines as a prissy insurance salesman who lays guilt on Ozzie for not better insuring his family's future.

12/25/1953.  The Miracle
Most unusual of all Ozzie episodes with a flashback to Christmas when he was a child, wherein Rick plays Oz, David plays Oz's older brother and Ozzie and Harriet portray his parents.  This rare episode only surfaced when associate Derek Myers acquired a 16mm print.  We are currently in a project of upgrading the video via a Golden Eye III scanner.

12/24/1954.  Lost Christmas Gift
When a package containing a baseball glove for Ricky is misdelivered, the Nelsons visit a poor family and decide to bring them a wonderful Christmas.  If you didn't catch it, I'm looking for a good copy of this one.

1/7/1955.  The Fruitcake
Every year Thorny gives Oz a fruitcake for Christmas that he hates, while Ozzie gives hard candy that is equally appreciated.  Trouble ensues when they try to return the gifts to the same store clerk.

12/23/1955.  First encore showing of a Christmas show -- Lost Christmas Gift.

12/19/1956.  A Busy Christmas
One of the best remembered holiday shows as Ozzie commits to so many projects - buying presents, playing Scrooge and Santa Claus - that he can't find time to decorate the house.  When the show was repeated in 1964 a new epilog was shot with Rick and David's wives and kids while Rick sings "The Christmas Song."  You can watch this bonus in the video below.

12/26/1956  Day After Christmas
Christmas gifts lead to reminiscing about the good old days, but everyone is too busy to do things together anymore, until the whole family winds up at a skating rink by accident.

12/18/1957  The Christmas Tree Lot
Ricky and David sell Christmas trees to raise money to buy Ozzie a very special gift.

12/14/1960  Girl in the Emporium
Ricky and Wally take Christmas jobs at a department store to be near a cute clerk.

12/21/1960  A Piano for the Fraternity
Rick, Wally and his frat brothers acquire a needed piano while decorating for their annual Xmas party.

Meet all 8 Nelsons in this special 1964 Christmas epilog.


 Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost & Rare.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Heavenly Christmas - Dove Foundation Award

The Dove Foundation is dedicated to identifying and promoting Family Films.  In 1991 Dove incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and began its work producing the first list of movies with the Dove "Family Approved" Seal.  Dove co-founder and CEO Dick Rolfe explains: "We were frustrated because we felt inadequate to make selections on behalf of our children without watching the films themselves beforehand.  And we didn't trust the Motion Picture ratings; G, PG, PG-13 and R."  So in 1990 Rolfe and several other parents started reviewing and assigning their own ratings to films.  At first they just made a laundry list of movies they liked and handed it out to friends, family and church members.

The list was such a hit they decided to expand the idea and created the non-profit Dove Foundation dedicated to advocating for families and moving Hollywood in a more famiy-friendly direction.  The Dove reviews, posted at, are based on traditional Judeo-Christian values.  There is a content chart and descriptions that gauge six criteria: Sex, Language, Violence, Drug and Alcohol Use, Nudity and Other.

Because we are seeking wide advertising, blogger comments, retail sales by Christmas and religious websites and on Amazon for "Heavenly Christmas Film Classics" DVD, and above all because the films are indeed family friendly and make great Christmas presents, we applied to the Dove Foundation for their approval and review.  We got both!  Actually Dove reviews every movie but many like Skyfall, Flight, Man with the Iron Fists and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D are emphatically Not Family Approved!  They might very well be great films to most of us, but not for families and kids.  On the other hand Wreck-It Ralph is Dove "Family Approved" recommended for ages 12 and over.

You can read our Award Winning Review at the Dove Website or here it is --

DVD Release Date: 10/10/2012

Heavenly Christmas Classics

Dove Family-Approved    Suitable for all ages

Reviewer: Donna Rolfe
Source: Video
Company: Festival Films
Genre: Christmas
Runtime: 134 min.
Industry Rating: Not Rated

This vintage holiday film collection includes six short Christmas films of a religious and spiritual nature released on DVD for the first time ever. Two tell the Nativity story, two recount the creation of the Christmas carol "Silent Night" in 1818, and the other two tell inspiring stories that take place during the holiday season.

1. Silent Night: Story of the Christmas Carol (1953) Beautifully told true story of how Franz Gruber created the iconic 1818 Christmas carol
2. Christmas is Magic (1953) Robert Hutton plays a war veteran with amnesia who is taken in by widow Frances Raferty and her son on Christmas eve.
3. The Star of Bethlehem (1956) Story of the Nativity told using the silhouette animation style of Lotte Reiniger.
4. Three Young Kings (1956) In Latin America 3 young boys dressed as The Three Wise Men carry Christmas gifts to the Mission children, stirring a crisis of community conscience over the true meaning of giving.
5. Star of Bethlehem (1954) Produced, directed and starring James Mason. A heartfelt, inventive and personal telling of the Nativity birth of Jesus story enacted by a cast of children, with Mason's daughter Portland Mason as Mary, and Jerry Mathers as Joseph
6. Starlight Night (1939) Opulent British docu-drama about the creation of the famous Christmas carol centers on a stern father estranged from his daughter.

Dove Worldview:  This collection of black and white vintage film brings to light the themes of Christmas. Two of the stories involve the beloved song of Christmas, "Silent Night." One that relays the history of its origin, how it came to be written, put to music and spread thought the world. The other of its connection to a family that inspired the song and reunited a family torn apart.

Then there are two stories that narrate the wondrous tale of the Christ child's birth. One that is a narrated reading and illustrated by shadow animation and the other is a narrated version read by James Mason and then portrayed as a play with young children in the roles of the Biblical story that is read every Christmas around the world.  The last two films in this charming collection are of miracle stories that happened in the Christmas season. One of a mother and child that meet a vet of the world and help him remember the Christmases of his past to make a rejoicing time for all involved. The other is a story of Latin America in which 3 young boys show the real meaning of Christmas in their small village.
This DVD will entertain young and old alike in the black and white format that shows many different facets from days gone by.

We are proud to award this collection the Dove Family Approved Seal for all ages.

Content Description:
Sex: Couple kiss
Language: None
Violence: None
Drugs: Man smoking a cigar; man takes a drink
Nudity: None
Other: Father disowns daughter because of the man she wants to marry

Visit my websites: Festival Films and Lost & Rare.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Black Heritage Films -- Self Censored!

February is Black History month.  Films are a great way to explore what can best be described as lost history because there is a library of all black-cast films going back into the 1920s that are rarely seen other than on Turner Classic Movies, yes, usually in February.  Who picked the shortest month for this tribute?  Only a few films before the 1950s are big Hollywood productions, films like "Hallelujah" (1929), "Stormy Weather" (1943) and "Cabin the Sky" (1943).  An exception was the 1933 independently produced "Emperor Jones" with Paul Robeson and a series of Robeson features largely made in England where he acted as the star or on an equal basis with white actors, films like "Song of Freedom" (1936) and "King Solomon's Mines" (1937).

Many black films were independent, inexpensive films often made by black directors for showing in all-black cinemas across the country.  Many are musicals that highlight jazz greats like Cab Calloway, Lena Horne and Louis Jordan.  3 minute musical Soundies preserved many more performances by the Mills Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, The Three Chefs, Bill Robinson, Count Basie, Billy Eckstine, Fats Waller and many more.  It was the dramatic films that gave a real peak at black life on the street, in night clubs and in family settings.  Books have been written and documentaries made.  I don't pretend to be an expert, but I am fascinated by these powerful, moving slices of life.

Every year I plan to promote the films early and reach a new audience in schools or cable TV, but usually February creeps up on me and it's too late to do much.  This year I started this week, in early November, tuning up five Black Heritage programs that combine features, cartoons and musical shorts along the Café Roxy philosophy.  Each has its own movie poster that can be used to promote a theater or film society showing or put on a website for television.  The shorts precede the feature, so just run the DVD for a balanced and entertaining show.

I made an introduction to run before each film, that you can see in the video below.  The onscreen text says: "In the 1930s, '40s and '50s many films were made with all-black casts, to be shown in "blacks only" movie theaters. Although largely forgotten, these minor classics reflect a culture and vibrant people that deserve reappraisal. They also preserved classic jazz numbers by such immortals as Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Bessie Smith, Louis Jordan and Ethel Waters. Some caricatures and racist jokes are remnants of a regrettable past that society has moved far beyond. They are part of history that should be learned from rather than erased, so as never to be repeated."

I am not sure this brief mention of racist jokes is enough to prepare someone who has not run into much of this due to censorship or simply never seeing the films.  How many under 30 have ever seen a blackface number or knows what one is?  Black stereotypes are perhaps widest spread in cartoons.  The most common depictions are that African-Americans are lazy, scared of everything especially spooks, eat watermelon and fried chicken all day and they got rhythm.  Elements of this appear in the 1941 Walter Lantz cartoon "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat"

Lazy black folks in Lazy Town (Pop. 123½) are napping and attracting flies. They are so lethargic they even fight in slow motion. Then a riverboat arrives with a red hot mama on board and she quickly has everyone moving to a Harlem boogie beat, dancing, scrubbing clothes, and eating watermelon. As the boogie-woogie comes to a close, Mammy hoists her skirt. Her big bottom reads "The End."

The music is lively and the cartoon is fun, but should it be shown cold to an audience or does it need an introduction today to explain that the film is a product of a different era, stereotypes are demeaning and unacceptable today, etc.  Watch the excerpt I put in my introduction and please let me know what you think.  Should I change my video intro?

In general I don't like to censor anything.  I and my lost and rare partners ran into a dilemma with the 1921 Larry Semon film "Golf" when we released GOLF MANIA DVD.  One sequence has a black caddie quaking in his shoes from a moving bag (skunk inside), his feet frozen in place.  It ends with him turning white from fright.  I felt the golf release was aimed at golfers who might be turned off by a joke out of left field that is not funny, only a sad reminder of what some film makers thought was once funny.  So it is not on our DVD, but you can see it right here:

Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost and Rare.
Click here to see the Black Heritage Programs.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming To Town!

View off our back deck, Oct. 8, 2012.
Here is a gorgeous Minnesota autumn view off our back deck from around Oct. 8, two weeks ago.  My wife Chris takes wonderful photos, a hobby she has perfected the past ten years.  We have had a hard frost but today promises to reach the mid-60s and the last gasp of Indian Summer.  Gasp!  Won't last....

As the last leaves fade and fall, as Jack Frost wends his way toward Old Man Winter and the ghosties and ghoulies creak in a week you know that Santa can't be far behind.  The biggest celebration of the year for both religious and secular -- Surprise!  Christmas! -- follows the shortest darkest day of the year, but with a two-week holiday from school and work, who notices that much.

A big tradition is family gatherings, recalling memories, gifts, the big meal and then watching "A Christmas Story" or "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV.  New Year's spawns the same desires in many to look back at years gone by.  Movie theaters and TV stations can and do take advantage of this seasonal desire for nostalgia by showing holiday films.  Almost every TV series during the 1950s had their special TV episodes from Ozzie and Harriet to Dragnet, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, etc.  You can view all of our Christmas films HERE.

Here are a few examples:

Adventures of Robin Hood: “The Christmas Goose.” (12/23/1957)
Young Davey has a pet goose, who is very attached to him. One day it saves him from a flogging from Sir Leon's men, but in so doing is caught and sentenced to become Sir Leon's Christmas dinner. 

Ozzie & Harriet: “The Miracle” (12/25/1953)
At Christmas time, Ozzie recalls the special childhood wish he had for it to snow so he could use his new skies, even though the weatherman said no way. Ricky plays Oz in a flashback to the 1930s, David plays his brother while Ozzie and Harriet play Ozzie's parents. 

Captain Gallant of Foreign Legion: “The Boy Who Found Christmas.” (12/25/55) For Christmas this year, Capt. Gallant has promised Cuffy a trip to America. However, all of the Legions' gifts are stolen from the caravan, and it looks like the captain won't be able to let Cuffy go on his promised trip. Cuffy runs away to try to find the missing presents, and learns what Christmas is really about. 

Best of the best Xmas TV shows!
Racket Squad: “The Christmas Caper.”(12/25/1952)
Several con artists use street corner Santa Clauses to collect money for poor children but then keep it themselves, so it's up to Captain John Braddock to work Christmas to catch the bad guys.

You Asked For It! North Pole balloon twister, soldiers sing Christmas carols, Abie’s Irish Rose scene, video X-Mas cards. 

Annie Oakley: Santa Claus Wears a Gun (1956) Gail Davis stars. An elderly sharpshooter, Snowy Kringle, arrives in town for a show where he will demonstrate his skill with a flintlock rifle and cap-and-ball pistol. 

I had a conversation with a movie theater last week that said they are located downtown in a vintage restored theater, their town is holding a holiday festival of some sort, and what could they show for free in their theater that people could walk into and out of at leisure?  My answer was Christmas cartoons since they are short, many in color, timeless themes and don't involve plots like TV shows.  My Christmas Cartoon Festival contains 10 secular films followed by 2 religious cartoons at the end. The last two can either be run or skipped.  I recommend showing the story about the birth of Christ to all faiths, and it makes a strong ending to the show by injecting the real Christmas, but they have the choice to stick to Santa Claus and end with "The Night Before Christmas."

SANTA'S SURPRISE - first Little Audrey cartoon.  Kids stow away in Santa's sleight and help him recover at the North Pole.
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER - Max Fleischer cartoon with the famous song and story.
CHRISTMAS NIGHT with the Little King
TOYS WILL BE TOYS -- color singalong in a toy shop.
CHRISTMAS COMES BUT ONCE A YEAR - Fleischer classic with Grampy playing Santa to Orphans.
HECTOR'S HECTIC LIFE -- dog at Xmas time.
SOMEWHERE IN DREAMLAND - another Fleischer classic about two poor kids who dream of gifts and food.
NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - live action telling of the famous poem.
LITTLE CHRISTMAS BURRO -- little burro ends up at the manger.
STAR OF BETHLEHEM -- Lotte Reiniger color Nativity.

Like cartoons, many of the vintage TV shows cover the Santa Claus and gift giving aspect of Christmas.  What happens when the Santa in Betty White's department store starts giving away presents?  How does miser Jack Benny shop for cheap Christmas presents?  How does homeless bum Freddy the Freeloader (Red Skelton) have a happy Christmas?  

Others do tell the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, as in Westinghouse Studio One's "The Nativity."  One of my favorites as featured in "Heavenly Christmas Film Classics" is "Three Young Kings."  Set in Latin America, three young boys are chosen by the local parish each year to dress up like the 3 Wise Men and distribute gifts from wealthy parents to their children.  As they ride through town on donkeys they pick up an increasing crowd of poor children, to whom they eventually give all the presents paid for by others.  This precipitates a crisis of conscience in the church.  The film was shown without commercial interruption on the DuPont Theater in 1956 during an era when the majority of America was Christian, and yet can still be enjoyed by all today regardless of religion.

In hopes of some online religious retailers selling the Heavenly Christmas DVD, we created an alternate cover as shown here with a medieval nativity scene replacing the fatherly Santa Claus.

You can view all of our Christmas films at this Festival Films website page.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Golf Mania Review!

I find myself in a happy, unique position in my Festival Films career in that for the first time I have two DVD Christmas releases that show every promise of selling quite well --  Golf Mania! and Heavenly Christmas Film Classics.  Many have not been offered before on home video.  The most common film that all film buffs have seen is W.C. Fields in "The Golf Specialist," but how many golfers today have heard of it or of Fields for that matter?  A search of golf websites finds many instructional films and the few Hollywood features like Caddyshack, but no DVDs of vintage golf films.  Yet ask any golfer if they have heard of San Snead, Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan and you will find immense interest in the rich history of the game.

My partners Bob and Derek and I see Golf Mania! as a present to give to golfers this holiday season, or for golfers to give to themselves and have fun watching on Christmas Day.  How many golfers are there out there?  How many millions?  Who knows, but you see the potential.

Christmas is celebrated by many millions with church, carols, decorations, trees, gifts, Santa, vacation travel, a big feast and more.  It is perhaps the most beloved American tradition, a yearly celebration of faith, family and friendship.  A large part of family togetherness over the long week end is re-watching holiday film favorites on TV like Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Scrooge, It's a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown and of course A Christmas Story.  Watching as a family once a year brings back and creates new memories.  The six vintage but fresh films in Heavenly Christmas fit right in.

My immediate crusade in early October is to spread the word to the large audience I know is out there.  The first part is to find online distributors in the world of golf or Christmas, and believe me there are lots of both.  Video giants Movies Unlimited and Alpha Video ( have started selling them on their websites and shortly in printed catalogs that will go out to thousands of customers.  The second part of the campaign is to get reviews online and blogs talking about the DVDs.  There are hundreds of GOLF blogs out there and some are responding to my screener offer.  The unique It's a Wonderful Movie website specializes in reviewing Christmas films.

Once a review appears, most readers know they can find any DVD at  Type in "Golf Mania" at Amazon under Movies and TV and it comes up in first position; if you search under "All" it does come up on the first page.  "Heavenly Christmas" comes up in fourth place under Movies; but does not show in a word search under "All."  However, "Heavenly Christmas Films" search in "All" ... we're number one!

When a potential buyer finds either film on Amazon, he might be further persuaded by the favorable reviews.  Here is a review by Greg Van Beek for Golf Mania!

If there's a golfer on your Christmas shopping list, look no further! This AMAZING, two-hour + compilation of extremely rare golf films, spanning the years 1908 to the late 1950's, is sure to delight any and all 'hackers', from novice to pro.

Here's a rundown of the 9 films cleverly and professionally woven together to create a unique feature film:

1.) Goofy Golfers Newsreel (12 min.)
Features President William Howard Taft in 1908 golfing! The first US President to take up the game. There's clips of an early Felix The Cat cartoon, footage of W.C. Fields golfing (a more hilarious golfing partner there couldn't have been), Larry Semon, and even 1930's sexpot Jean Harlow! As the narrator states "Ms. Harlow is in fine form". A shapely Harlow in a tight sweater, clearly sans bra, is indeed 'fine form'! A young Bing Crosby, circa 1932, is shown golfing with Jimmy Thompson and Viola Dana. Watch for Bing skillfully removing one hand from the club moments before taking a swing!

2.) Golf Magic (1948) This 9 minute short shows skiers golfing on show in the mountains, Jack Redman showing off his trick golf clubs and strokes, John Montague golfs with both ends of a shovel (!) and a baby sinks his first putt!

3.) Follow Thru (1940) A 10 minute short featuring pros Jimmy Thompson, Dick Metz, and Horton Smith demonstrate golfing techniques in the old wood shaft days.

4.) Rough But Hopeful (1946) is a 10 minute novelty newsreel featuring over 20 Hollywood stars on the golf course, including Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Randolph Scott, Dennis O'Keefe, Bing Crosby & Bob Hope, and more!

5.) Golf (1922) A BEAUTIFUL print of a rare two-reel silent short featuring silent comedian Larry Semon cavorting on the golf course with a villian played by none other than Oliver Hardy, about 4 years before he teamed with Stan Laurel! There's even a goofy squirrel that may have inspired the gopher sequence decades later in Caddyshack! You quickly forget this is a silent film, with the new, masterfully created soundtrack made especially for this short, complete with in synch sound effects.
6.) Golfing with Bing & Bob (6 minutes) A 1998 compilation produced by Festival Films & film archivist/restorer Bob DeFlores, featuring Bing Crosby & Bob Hope cavorting on the links, circa 1930's to the 1950's. Highly enjoyable... almost like watching a mini "road to" film!

6.) Golfing with Bing & Bob (6 minutes) A 1998 compilation produced by Festival Films & film archivist/restorer Bob DeFlores, featuring Bing Crosby & Bob Hope cavorting on the links, circa 1930's to the 1950's. Highly enjoyable... almost like watching a mini "road to" film!

7.) Don't Hook Now (1942) An extremely rare two-reel short that even the Bob Hope archive didn't possess until it was discovered by film archivist / restorer Bob DeFlores. This short is worth the cost of the DVD alone! It's footage of the 6th annual Bing Crosby Pro-Am from Rancho Santa Fe (Bing's "Clambake" didn't move to Pebble Beach until 1947). Bing is joined by Bob Hope, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Hines, Byron Nelson and many more! Plus, Bing even manages to croon a tune about golf called "Tomorrow's My Lucky Day"!

8.) Another gem. A PRISTINE quality print of the classic 1930 two-reel short "The Golf Specialist" starring W.C. Fields. The footage of Fields on the links is priceless... he even manages to sneak some colorful language past the censors! It's all set at a Florida hotel, and Fields goes golfing with the house detective's flirtatious wife and an incompetent caddy! Laughs abound.

9.) Faith, Hope, & Hogan (1953) A rare 25 minute episode of The Christopher's Show, with Father James Keller on the golf course with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Phil Harris, and Ben Hogan, who is interviewed about his remarkable recovery from an accident. This ranks right up there with Don't Hook Now on the rarity / enjoyability scale. Again, Bing, accompanied by guitarist Perry Botkin, croons the theme song of the Christopher's movement, "One Little Candle", a song never recorded by Bing (Perry Como had a record of the song out at the time).

A fascinating, highly enjoyable (and EXCELLENT quality) DVD compilation of a veritable who's who of golf from the first half of the 20th Century! Highly recommended. This is no bargain bin DVD. It's professionally produced from the best available prints of these rare films. You won't be disappointed!

Here are handy links to Golf Mania and Heavenly Christmas.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Heavenly Christmas Film Classics!

Our brand new release just in time for the holidays is "Heavenly Christmas Film Classics" as fully described on the front and back DVD covers shown above.  Watch a video preview down below.  You can read more about it or order today from  "Lost and Rare" site.  It shortly will be for sale at Movies Unlimited, Alpha Video, Amazon and others.  This rare collection of vintage holiday films is the perfect Christmas gift to watch on Christmas Eve after opening presents.

The idea of issuing an exclusive line of DVDs began about a year ago when partner Derek Myers acquired the James Mason film "Star of Bethlehem" which neither of us had heard of.  We did not know the celebrated, accomplished British actor was a Christian who wanted to produce religious films as an expression of his faith.  He found time to make this film between his work on A Star is Born and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.   This "Portland Production" is named after his daughter who appears in the film as Mary, mother of Jesus.  All actors in the Nativity re-enactment are children, with Jerry Mathers as Joseph!  James' wife, Pamela, also appears in this family production.  The film is not listed at IMDB, although a second Portland Production called "The Child" is.

Derek and I wanted to put out this one film ourselves and found five other rare Christmas films to go with it.  Bob Campbell joined the team to form "Lost and Rare Film & TV Treasures" series early this year which resulted in Heavenly Christmas and Golf Mania! becoming our third and fourth DVDs.

The word "Heavenly" crept into the title since the films are of a spiritual nature.  Two of them tell the eternal Nativity story about the birth of Jesus Christ.  Two others amazingly tell the same historical story about the creation of the beloved "Silent Night" Christmas carol in 1818, although you will find them remarkably different in execution.  The final two films are set at Christmas time.  Here they are:

Silent Night: Story of the Christmas Carol 
(1953) 13 min., color.  Excellent story about the creation of the famous carol in 1818.  While this film has been issued in other Christmas video collections, this is the first time in Color!

Christmas is Magic 
(1953) 24 min.  Robert Hutton plays a war veteran with amnesia who is taken in by widow Frances Rafferty and her son on Christmas Eve.  She helps him recover his memory while forming a bond.  Produced for the obscure TV anthology series "Your Jeweler's Showcase."

Star of Bethlehem 
(1956) 12 min., color.  Story of the Nativity directed by Lotte Reiniger using her unique silhouette animation style.

Three Young Kings 
(1956) 29 min.  In Latin America three boys carry Christmas gifts to the mission children dressed as the Three Wise Men.  When they ride through the poor section of town, the boys decide to give the presents to the ragged children following them, which causes a crisis in conscience in the community over the true meaning of giving.  This episode of DuPont Cavalcade Theatre is introduced by Thomas Mitchell.

James MasonStar of Bethlehem
(1954) 26 min. Produced, directed by and starring James Mason, with the participation of his wife, daughter Portland and other child actors. Mason and his wife first read sections from the bible that lead up to the birth of Jesus. He visits his daughter in bed and their discussion leads into an enactment of the Nativity starring a cast of children. Jerry Mathers plays Joseph. A heartfelt, inventive and personal religious project by a Hollywood star at the height of his fame.
Starlight Night
(1939) 30 min. Opulent British docu-drama about the creation of the famous Christmas carol centers on a stern father estranged from his daughter.

Here are some prevue scenes:

Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost and Rare.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Now Here's A New Idea!

In the past week I have had three fortuitous conversations in the use of public domain films along the lines of the Café Roxy credo -- show films anywhere and anytime and be creative.  Is that my credo?  It sounds good anyways.  Anytime.  Any place.

(The Hercules poster will become clear in due course.)

The first was seeing an actual TV schedule of how good customer RCN/TV was integrating PD films in the Pennsylvania area with local programs of gardening, cooking, high school football games, the Phil Stahl Show, Jolly Joe (?!) and others.  I wonder what Midnight Mausoleum is?  A Friday afternoon block consists of one TV show after another in this order: Roy Rogers, Robin Hood, Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Ozzie and Harriet, Jack Benny, Date with the Angels, Life with Elizabeth, Mr. and Mrs. North, Man with a Camera and One Step Beyond.  Then local football.  Please peruse their schedule.

I preach at my Café Roxy website how any bar or restaurant or coffee shop can show public domain films as background filler or scheduled shows.  I have visited a few bars and discussed the idea and left free samples.   No takers in the bar scene, but I am still convinced that if someone showed 3 Buster Keaton shorts every Wednesday they would be swamped after word got around.  They could run them silent and re-run the same three again and again.  I now understand that bars simply don't have the time to fiddle around with a DVD player.

Along came a new company last week with a new idea.  I will keep their name and midwest location private.  They are already broadcasting local high school football in bars and grills via a live and scheduled feed.  They plan to add PD content when there aren't any live sports.  I sent a Lotsa Laffs! and free Roxy Sampler to get them started.  So they do all the work and the bars just sign up at a low fee.  Additional expansion calls for streaming to residential and additional restaurants, bars, grills, etc.  Now if I can only find a sports-free night where they can try my Buster Keaton night.

The most interesting call came out of the blue from a man with a foreign accent who wanted to buy all 29 of my cartoon DVDs.  After saying fine, great and assuring him they were all in the public domain I asked what he wanted to use them for.  This is a tricky question as it may sound impolite, so I quickly added that he did not need to tell me, his use would not change the price and he could use them for anything he wanted to.  Price does depend on format since BetaSP masters cost a lot more.  I also need to discourage users who want to add a new sound track or change the films in any drastic ways that might infringe on image rights of the actors involved.  For instance you can't add a funny voice track that has John Wayne or Cary Grant swearing.

So I asked judiciously "Why do you want all my cartoon programs?"

I did not expect: "To give away in newspapers in Greece."

That idea explains itself -- give away a free DVD each week to encourage newspaper subscriptions.  That's a new one on me, though it has occurred to me that companies like micro-wave popcorn could give away DVD freebies that would only cost pennies to mass produce.  We talked a bit more and I gave him the idea that 6 or 7 cartoons on one DVD would be a nice bonus rather than all 17 Betty Boop cartoons that come on my first cartoon volume.  That way they could stretch 29 cartoon DVDs into 52 or so of their releases.  They could also mix up the cartoons with a single disc containing a Betty Boop, Popeye, Tom and Jerry, Fleischer Color Classic, Little Lulu, etc.

When I shipped off the cartoon order I included a later idea -- add a serial chapter to each disc to really hook newspaper subscribers.  Serials have worked in newspapers since the 1800s.  They still work on TV in the soaps and shows like "24."  Zorro and Flash Gordon can grab an audience today.

In Greece.  And that Hercules poster up above?  Old Herc is greek.

Visit my websites at Lost & Rare and Festival Films.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Golf Mania" Mania!

I am writing again about our upcoming Golf Mania release at Lost & Rare because the DVD has been authored and a release date has been set for Sep. 25.  This is well in time to get into online and printed catalogs for film fans -- Movies Unlimited, Alpha, Amazon, etc. -- as well as online golf retailers and golf stores so it can be promoted as "The ideal Christmas gift for the golfer in your life!"  No one golfs on Christmas Day up here in Minnesota, but the whole family can watch Golf Mania with Dad.  Almost everyone knows a golfer they would like to buy a unique holiday gift for that only costs $20 bucks!  Think about it.

The Golf Mania DVD runs about 130 minutes.  We plan to compile the highlights into an hour film that will delight non-golfers as well.  The idea is for fundraisers held at country clubs to show the short film as part of the entertainment activities, then sell or give away the complete film as door prizes.  Ideal for gift baskets at golf tournaments!  The fundraisers could either be for the club or staged by any group, any time and any place.

A last minute enhancement to Golf Mania was a new music and effects track added to the Larry Semon silent comedy GOLF.  Derek Myers added suitable classical music plus dozens of golf hits, putts, gun shots, explosions and other slapstick noises.  The result is a big hit with audiences who now know when to laugh or react and who instinctively feel the 1922 film has been modernized for their enjoyment.  GOLF (1922) features Oliver Hardy as the villain and has not been released in any major collections of Hardy's early comedies.

We are busy searching out other golf films in the public domain or that we can license to include in a projected sequel: Golf Mania 2!  A few clips are in the prevu video below.  Others in hand or on tap include:

Smooth Approach (1939)
A Pictoreel Sportscope produced by Frederic Ullman Jr., supervised by Frank Donovan.  Pro golfers Ed Dudley (smoothest swing in the game), Dick Metz (star of the '38-39 winter circuit), Jimmy Thompson (longest driver in golf) and Horton Smith (most consistent putter) demonstrate their golf skills at scenic Pebble Beach course bordering the Pacific ocean.

Pictoreel presents Brother Golfers (1938)

The six pro golfing Turnesa Brothers cruise to Guatemala where they compete in a friendly family match of 3 oldsters vs. 3 youngsters.  All six drive to start each hole, then continue from spot of the best drive.  Nip and tuck down to the 18th green ... who will win?

Pictoreels were produced by RKO Pathé and issued as sports one-reelers that played in movie theaters like newsreels, except each concentrated on a specific sport like golf, tennis, football and baseball.  They were made for general movie audiences and entertain just as well today to non-sport fans.  Who doesn't enjoy watching a good golf film?  If you have read this far, then you surely are included!

Celebrity Golf with Sam Snead (1960)
Golf legend Sam Snead plays a round of golf with Hollywoods biggest celebrities for prize money going to their charity. Each episode is hosted by Harry Von Zell and filmed at Lakeside Country Club. At the end of each match, Snead gives the celebrity golfer a lesson in the finer points of the game.  The episode we have includes Jerry Lewis.  The Golf Channel revived this series in 2003 by adding pop up factoids to the show and issued six episodes on DVD (now out of print).  However, early checking reveals that the shows may be in the public domain and we are checking further.

Charley Chase
In golf hat?
All Teed Off (1930)
Hal Roach production starring Charley Chase, Thelma Todd, Dell Henderson, Edgar Kennedy and directed by Edgar Kennedy.  While all of Charley Chase's sound films are still protected by copyright, the extremely rare and longer French version of All Teed Up is in the public domain.  I saw the film once at a Syracuse Cinefest and the French film with subtitles runs a full 30 minutes.  As I recall, the comic golf game proceeds to play all 18 holes in order.  Being able to include the film is not yet definite but was suggested by the world's foremost Hal Roach authority and collector.

Here is a sneak peak at some fun golf clips that are not on display at Lost and Rare Golf Mania! page.  The Little Lulu cartoon is "Cad and Caddy."  The Three Stooges live segment was filmed to appear before and after 1962 cartoons in The New Three Stooges show.  This series is in the public domain, but our use of Stooges film clips in a Goofy Golfer Newsreel might depend on additional rights clearance.

Please contact me if you have any rare golf shorts that were made to be shown in movie theaters.  Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost & Rare.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On the Road (again) with Bing & Bob

Beyond legendary entertainers, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope were very generous, patriotic Americans.  They filled their days with a variety of work and play.  A typical week (1930s thru 1950s) involved rehearsing and performing a radio show, filming movies, making personal appearances, filming TV shows, playing golf, visiting the race track and in Bing's case making records.  Still they found time for worthy causes like entertaining the troops, government public service films, hosting the Oscars, religious films and honoring golf caddies!  Since they were friends they often teamed up for charity.

My friend since 1970, Bob DeFlores had a special love for vintage music and Bing Crosby.  He collected rare Crosby films and was privileged to visit Bing in 1977 six months before Bing's untimely death.  Years later this meeting led to an association with Kathryn Crosby and several trips through Bing's basement film and audio collection to help evaluate and preserve other rare films.

A message to sailors in "Road to Home"
In 1994, Bob and I slowly realized that he had many rare films that happened to be in the public domain, and I had a video company that could sell them.  We put together a 90 minute collection of obscure Bing Crosby/Bob Hope shorts, called it On The Road With Bing and Bob and then looked around for Bing Crosby fans.  They were not hard to find!  At the time various fans supported two regular magazines packed with photos and information, plus a monthly newsletter.  The sumptuous and informative BING magazine by the International Club Crosby, edited by Malcolm MacFarland and Greg Van Beek, is still published 3 times a year.  Read all about the magazine and join the club at the ICC website.

"The Fifth Freedom"
So Bob and I issued the VHS video in 1995 and were widely publicized in the Bing Crosby magazines, which resulted in over 200 sales.  Five years later we offered the same films on better quality DVD for another round of sales.  We also issued everything we had about Bing Crosby that happened to be in the public domain, such as Bing's Mack Sennett Shorts, the 1957 Edsel Show, Bing Crosby Cavalcade and more.

About four years ago I arbitrarily stopped selling the films because we had reached all the Crosby fans and Bing Crosby Enterprises was starting to produce their own music and film projects.  Be sure to visit their official website.  However, since I now sell on where you can buy it now, I thought I would reissue our first release to see if Bing and Bob fans might find it there.  All of the films are in the public domain, they have not been chosen by Bing's estate for DVD release and many are still quite rare.  I added three clips as noted in the list below.

DVD Re-issue
On Sale Now!
Theatrical Trailers to Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar, Road to Morocco, Road to Utopia and Star Spangled Rhythm.

The Road to Home (1945) Bing and Bob caution sailors not to jump ship at end of the WW-II as they reminisce about their Road pictures.  Who even knew the armed forces had this kind of problem?

Command Performance (1944) Bob Hope, Jerry Colonna, June Allyson, Gloria De Haven and Francis Langford entertain the troops.  Bob hosted over 40 of these variety shows that were sent to the troops during WW-II. 

The Fifth Freedom (1951, Color)  Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Arthur Godfrey remind us of our American freedom of choice.  On the surface a patriotic film about american freedoms, but everyone smokes Chesterfield cigarettes!  Contains some great small-town Americana scenes from 1951. 

You Can Change the World (1954)  Bing and Bob join Loretta Young, William Holden, Irene Dunne, Anne Blyth, Paul Douglas, Rochester and Jack Benny to hear Father Keller tell how all of us can help change the world for the better.  Bing sings “Young American" in this episode of The Christophers TV show.  We traded our excellent copy to The Christophers in 1996 in exchange for their film "Faith, Hope and Hogan" that is included in the September release Golf Mania. 

Excerpt from The Edsel Show (1957)  Frank Sinatra joins Bing on a musical road tour of the world until they run into old ski nose himself.  This is not a public service film, but continues the theme of rare Crosby/Hope "Road" films, this time with Frank subbing for Bob.  (Newly added to this video release.)  

1954 Academy Awards Show (1954)  Bing Crosby comes to the dais to help Bob Hope hand out music Oscars.  (Newly added to this video release.)

Honor Caddie (1954)  Color.  Bing and Bob in an excerpt from a public service short honoring golf caddies.  (Newly added to this video release.) 

The Road to Peace (1949)  Bing joins Ann Blyth in an inspirational plea for world peace.  They sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling."  Added last to the disc since the message goes on a bit long! 

These films are highly entertaining today.  The following clip from "You Can Change the World" shows Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Father Keller and Bob Hope's phoned in contribution.

You can purchase On the Road with Bing and Bob directly from Festival Films right here!

Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost and Rare.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Public Domain Movies for Everyone - Part 2!

While Festival Films started selling public domain films on 16mm to colleges in 1976, the focus shifted to other sales but then back to public domain movies around 2000.  The big change was caused by the introduction of DVD Video format in 1997.  (It does seem like it has been around a lot longer, doesn't it?)  I had resisted selling VHS dupes of public domain films because every time you copy VHS the picture quality markedly declines, mainly in the focus softening.  This is not the case with DVD -- you can copy and re-copy with minimal loss of quality.

One day my friend, documentary filmmaker Don McGlynn, suggested to me and Bob DeFlores that it might be wise to collect DVDs of every public domain film to have our own stock footage library.  We never acquired a joint library but the idea stuck with me.  I got an early Pioneer brand DVD recorder without a hard drive and transferred some VHS collections that passed through my hands on the way to customers: around 90 Ozzie & Harriet TV shows and 50 Roy Rogers.  I swear the quality sharpened somewhat when they were digitized from VHS to DVD.  I later got a Pioneer recorder with hard drive so I could edit DVD-R discs for re-sale, followed by years of making masters from VHS, DVD, laser discs, 3/4", BetaSP masters, etc., to create a library of features and TV shows.  Many of these are listed for sale at my Festival Films website.

There are still a lot of films to get better quality of.  There are still a lot of public domain films that have been lost or unavailable for years.  It's an ongoing, adventurous and exciting quest to find original 16mm prints and make new transfers.  But back to today's subject ... who buys, uses and enjoys public domain films today?  MOVIE FANS of course!  If the vintage films did not still entertain, enlighten and amaze then Festival Films would not exist.  However, a quick trip through my website reveals that I don't really sell DVDs direct to the public.  I sell public domain films to others who then reach a much broader public.  Here is a brief look at my major customers over the last ten years.

DVD Companies
Around ten years ago I formed an alliance with Hollywood Select Video, a company that had pioneered VHS sales of public domain films in Target, Best Buy and Walmart stores in the late 80s.  So HSV had 1" masters from which they could make 3/4", BetaSP or DVCam masters for other companies.  Acting as a salesman I sold high quality masters (not copies of VHS or other DVDs) to Timeless Video (Medic), Mill Creek (westerns, crime, TV shows for their multi-packs), Genius Entertainment, Alpha Video and others who in turn authored the films and TV shows and issued as their own DVD releases.  Today only Alpha is still actively issuing new public domain films of basically anything they do not already have.  Alpha will shortly release the 1941 airplane film Power Dive and possibly Lure of the Islands (1942) from new film to video transfers from me.

There are lots of independent, college, local cable access, etc., TV stations that could add inexpensive programming that the public has always loved and still does.  How cheap?  On volume sales it comes down to about $5 for a half-hour TV show they can run again and again.  The baby boomers who grew up on 1950s TV are entering retirement, but the shows do not depend on nostalgia to build an audience since they are just as entertaining seen for the first time.

I advise TV stations to run the Café Roxy Matinee series or create Crime Busters, Comedy Cavalcade or Western Range one or two-hour time slots in which they can rotate the many genre TV episodes.  Classic movies have never been more popular as evidenced by the TCM film festivals, but local TV programming is usually free.  Try using a host to introduce the films.

Movie Theaters
At least once a month I hear from someone with this story: "Our small town just got some money to remodel the old opera house/1930s movie theater.  We put in a projection TV system and want to try some of your movies."

My suggestions are to look at the Café Roxy posters with friends and family.  If a show looks exciting from the poster, then it may attract an audience since they can use the poster to promote each show.  Another idea is to involve local restaurants and coffee houses to both display the flyers and offer free admission with any receipt from said places.  Charge $1 or $2 admission, rather than free, and make money off concessions.  The main goal of early shows it to get an audience who has fun and passes the good word along.

Show the Matinees in the fall, not summer when folks are away.  Try late night horror shows on Friday-Saturday after your regular features.  Show Buster Keaton!  He always wows em.  Start a film society series.  Show westerns if you are in the south where they are still popular.  Bad sci-fi like Plan Nine From Outer Space or exploitation like Reefer Madness always draws a crowd.  Here are the top ten reasons to try Roxy program in movie theaters:

  1. Families can let their kids run amuck, have fun and buy popcorn!
  2. The old Adventure Serials can still bring back repeat viewers!
  3. Classics & Clunkers, Westerns, Horror, Sci-Fi, Adventure & Mystery = Variety for any taste!
  4. Late night "Turkey Fests" will attract the hip crowd!
  5. Saturday Matinees will attract kids, families and fogies!
  6. The inexpensive DVD programs allow you to charge just $1.00 admission, or even offer Free Movies, and profit off concession sales!
  7. Free Roxy posters help promote each show!
  8. The Roxy Sampler Show is free for you to try out!
  9. Show "Oldies but Goodies" that people remember fondly!
  10. And the Number One reason to try Roxy shows: Be the only theater in town doing this!
Bars and Coffee Houses
Café Roxy was started to convince these places to try free movies.  See my mission statement at top of the blog page.  One idea that has been tested is cartoon brunches.  Movie trailers can run as background images.  Another is silent comedy night where you can run the films silent and patrons may or may not get into, but once they laugh uncontrollably at a single Buster Keaton short they will come back the next Wednesday for more and bring their friends.

The best idea is to create film society evenings, which works well on college campuses.  This involves rounding up a crowd first and then opening it to the public thru flyers.  You certainly need an area or side room fixed up for DVD projection or large screen TV, perhaps a party room often used for birthday parties.  Starbucks will never have the flexibility to try this but independents have an opportunity to stand out and bring back audiences, who by the way eat and drink freely while they watch.

Direct Sales to the Home Market
This is new to me!  The Lost & Rare series aims to sell very rare, previously unavailable films to the public at a low price.  We also sell thru Movies Unlimited, Alpha Video and  Much more about our first two releases and upcoming DVDs are on the L&R website.

Please browse my original Festival Films site to see which films are in the public domain.