HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Return of the Classics: Another Exclusive HKCFN Interview with Sony's Mike Schlesinger

We had the chance to sit down and talk with Mike about several of Sony's properties that are of great interest to fans of classics and genre films.

Intro


1. Mike, It’s been a while since we last spoke. How has the re-introduction of Sony to the classic titles genre been going? Has fan and consumer response been good?


I don’t hear a lot of feedback except what I read myself on the ‘net, but overall reaction seems to have been very positive.


2. How was the reaction to the Sam Kaztman set? I can say that fans I’ve talked to have greatly enjoyed the set?


The same. I must say the Home Entertainment folks were a bit surprised at how positive the reviews were! And I understand it was a major factor in my receiving a Rondo Award this year.


3. Why were not all the films on the Katz set OAR (Open Matte vs WS).


CREATURE being presented full-screen was a simple oversight, but yes, as it was presented open-matte, at least no picture information was missing. (Since it’s an earlier release than the other three, someone may have thought it was pre-WS.) In any event, we’re being more diligent about this now.


4. One thing I was pleasantly surprised at was the very long trailer for Columbia and Sony Westerns that played in the Hammer set, instead of simply being movies made past 1990, it was filled with western greats of the past. This seems like a large step in Sony exploiting its rich catalog of titles by showing consumers ‘recent’ and ‘catalog’ titles at the same time. Can we expect this is in other genres?


That was partly due to my insistence that classic movies should not be accompanied by trailers for current and/or inappropriate films. Can’t promise it’ll be 100% in the future, but they get it now.


5. You recently addressed the Eastman House Graduates, what was the subject of your commencement?


Mostly I spoke about classic films and the need for preservation. It’s actually a good field to get into, because even if movies are shot and projected digitally, they still need to be preserved on film, as we now know that digital media do become corrupted in time.


Hammer Titles


1. What triggered the decision to start releasing some the excellent non-traditional (Horror) Hammer films?


Why not? Good films are good films, regardless of genre. As it happens, the “Adventure” set was originally intended to piggyback on the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3 DVD, but it ended up being delayed. I hope to do a “suspense” box in the future, as well as a stand-alone release for THESE ARE THE DAMNED (next year is Joseph Losey’s centennial, a good marketing hook).


2. Can you explain some of the difficulty in securing uncut prints for these films, especially Stranglers of Bombay.


Generally, they try to remaster from the camera negative, but if cuts were made in it—and they’re aware of it—then the hunt is on for alternate source material. That business about deleted shots of Marie Deveraux in STRANGLERS has been making the rounds. My opinion is that the critics saw the film before the censors, and that the footage was then cut (though there are flashes of it in the trailer). It definitely is not in the camera neg, and there’s no accompanying jump on the soundtrack.


3. There have been some reports that Terror of the Tongs and Stranglers of Bombay may some extra footage, however you worked with the original negative. Can you explain what may explain this extra footage and its non-appearance? (Note: It should be noted that all films on the set are uncut and have all footage contained in all releases around the world).


A lot—but not all—of the Hammer films were trimmed for US release (usually violence and nudity). Previous releases, especially bootlegs, were probably mastered from these sources. I can assure you that Grover is an absolute bear about getting it right; if there’s anything missing, it’s either in private hands or gone for good.


4. How was the decision made to include audio commentaries on these films?


No idea. I was thrilled that they made the decision without my urging. Hell, I didn’t even know Sangster was still alive!


5. Was there any attempt or though of securing Christopher Lee’s participation on the excellent audio commentary tracks?


Not that I know of, but I’ve heard that he thinks he’s said all he wants to say on previous commentaries, so it’s possible he was approached and simply declined.


6. What can you tell us upcoming Hammer titles in October and the extras that they will have?


Alas, no extras. They spent a lot doing the “Adventures” commentaries, plus I just couldn’t find enough suitable shorts to tack on. (Most of the “scary” comedy shorts feature Dudley Dickerson or some other Black comic doing the frightened-bug-eyed routine, and while they can finesse it for the Stooges, they’re more concerned elsewhere.) I ultimately felt that the package was strong enough that it shouldn’t matter as much. After all, there were no extras on Universal’s Hammer box, and I don’t remember anyone complaining! J


7. Can you tell us a little about the star of the wonderful two reeler, Hot Paprika, Andy Clyde?


He was a veteran comedian who started in the silent era and was still working in the ‘60s on TV shows like “The Real McCoys” and “Lassie.” He specialized in playing grumpy old codgers, so as he aged he grew into the role and needed less and less make-up. He made more two-reelers at Columbia than anyone else except the Stooges—close to 100 over two decades. He’s best remembered as California Carlson, Hopalong Cassidy’s comic sidekick, and as the speedy major-domo opposite W.C. Fields in MILLION DOLLAR LEGS. Incidentally, fans of Harold Lloyd will recognize PAPRIKA as a condensed version of his silent classic WHY WORRY—right down to some of the same gags!


8. Why was the term Hammer deleted from the front cover?


Long legal story which I can’t go into, but by the time it was resolved, the covers had already been printed. In any event, it’s front and center on the horror set!


Future titles


1. Is there any word on when the Peter Lorre set will come out and what titles will be part of the set?


Probably 2010. It would contain CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, ISLAND OF DOOMED MEN and FACE BEHIND THE MASK. That’s all we got left!


2. Can you comment any further on the possible release of Scott/Boetticher films


Definitely out this fall. Thrilled beyond words. Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Taylor Hackford are participating. It’ll also contain the Bruce Ricker documentary that aired on TCM a couple of years ago, A MAN CAN DO THAT, which Eastwood produced and appears in.


3. Also some readers were wondering if Knock on any Door & Human Desire which are out in other DVD regions may be getting a Region 1 release?


The first film noir box set will definitely be out next year. Don’t know the final line-up yet, but they’re both in the mix, so even if they don’t make Volume 1, they’ll surely be on Volume 2.


4. Is the 27th Day and other Columbia Sci-Fi films possibly being considered for release in a set?


Nothing in the immediate future—except for the Toho films, of course—but never say never!


5. Any word of full releases of Columbia Serials that we are often teased with on the Icon’s set?


Again, not soon, but it should happen in time.


6. Has Sony considered digital distribution of any of its titles or the method that was announced with HP (that would allow people to select titles and have it professionally authored and sent to them)? This would allow for great titles like The Shadow on the Window, which being a B-thriller would most likely not appear except on TCM.


The HP deal is in the works, so stay tuned.


7. Besides Ray on Blu-ray, are there any other genre classics being considering for BR release.


Don’t know. I’m just tryin’ to get the stuff out on regular DVD! And let’s be honest: I doubt that CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN would be a big seller on Blu-Ray. Remember, any DVD is only as good as its source material, and most of the older, 1.33:1, mono, B&W movies would not be significantly enhanced by a Blu-Ray presentation.


Toho films


1. So what is the word on releases of dual US/Japanese versions of Mothra, H-Man, and the Battle in Outer Space? The grey market has been filled with wide and subbed copies of the Japanese versions, but the English language version has only appeared on badly duped copies from 16MM, making them a desired inclusion.


The set is penciled in for ’09. It will contain those three plus REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3, which somehow got overlooked for DVD. The intent is to have the uncut versions with Japanese tracks as well as the English dubs. MOTHRA and BIOS are done; H-MAN is proving to be a bit trickier, but it should be completed in time.


2. Many fans have hoped that the actual US versions (in terms of credits and US version has opposed to the dub being placed over the Japanese version) will be released, do you think this will be possible?


Probably not, since it would require twice as many discs. Besides, why would anyone want the cut-up versions? You don’t see people buying ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and then saying, “Aw, crap, I wanted the version that was 90 minutes shorter and re-edited in chronological order by some studio hack.” That’s a rather extreme analogy, but you get my point.


3. The reason I ask about the US versions is that Classic Media, put both the US and Japanese versions on one disc, if that's not possible, will the US credit sequences be included perhaps as an extra.


I'm sure some method will be worked out. We certainly don't expect people to try and read Japanese credits!


4. Since some of the US versions were sequenced different and had different music, how will the dubs sync up with the Japanese tracks (do you have separate Music, FX, and Dialog tracks?


That is an issue, and one that's holding up H-MAN. Again, much of the Toho business might be better posed to Grover [Crisp Head of Sony’s Restoration] [we are working on setting an interview up].


YOR


1. The copy that played in WS and remastered quality on TCM last night had the Columbia logo, does Sony still have home video rights or only TV?


No, we still have rights in all media.


2. I take it, its going to take a new Conan movie or big sword and sandal new release to get YOR out, would that be correct?


It's not a great movie by any yardstick, and given the vast number of much better pictures that oughta be released first, I wouldn't hold my breath. But once again, ya never know!


Misc

1. Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?


Keep buying this stuff! I know it sounds crass, but that is truly the best way to keep the flow of classic titles coming—by letting them know there is a real demand for them. Part of the problem is that “new” titles make 80% of their sales in the first two weeks, and I have to keep reminding them that library titles roll out much more slowly…especially when there’s a DeepDiscount sale a month or two in the future!


2. The Three Stooges seems to be moving at full speed. I take it that readers should not expect a slowing down anytime soon?


Nope. The idea was to have everything out by the end of ’09, which is the 75th anniversary of the team’s signing with Columbia. They suddenly realized that at the original pace they wouldn’t finish in time, so now they’ve shifted into high gear.


3. Besides voting with ones wallet, how can our readers to Sony of their happiness with these releases and their desire for them to continue?


They can send any notes to me at michael_schlesinger@spe.sony.com and I guarantee they’ll be forwarded to the Powers That Be. Even a handful of letters can indeed make an impact.


4. Thank you for taking you time to talk with us today.


You’re welcome. Make the check out to “Cash.”


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6 comments:

Colin said...

Great interview and lots of welcome news!
I guess you know I'm especially happy you got those queries in about the Boetticher westerns and the noir stuff - very pleased that Mike was able to reveal such positive news.
I'm afraid there's going to be some heavy spending ahead :)

Rob G. said...

RE: Toho and the US versions.

I know this is hard for some people to believe, but some of us actually still enjoy seeing the versions of these films we're familiar with, even though they're redubbed and reedited. Since Classic Media's Godzilla discs, I was hoping this would start becoming the norm, not the exception. I hope they'll reconsider, but I guess I should resign myself to more Sony releases with the crappy international dubs, if that, and nothing more.

IKF said...

No, there using the original dubs (Columbia paid for them to be made back in the day and owns them forever, no AIP Smog issues.. I think Mike only meant, versions where the is only scenes cut as opposed to uniquely different version.

IKF said...

Colin,

I know the feeling. Just make sure you let Sony know your spending the dough. Consumers who heavily support a genre (broadly in this case classics) will always get their attention, if they now it is a large amount of people who spend a lot and do it consistently.

L. Gravy said...

Nobody complained about the lack of Universal shorts because Universal doesn't have hundreds of comedy 2-reelers sitting in the vaults. Columbia does, and we want you to keep the durned things comin'!

edo said...

Great interview and great hopes to see Columbia back catalog get released. TCM has been running alot of rare films from thier library lately and I hope this continues to roll into DVD's being released. Thanks to TCM agreement I have seen over the last few months several films that I thought I would never see in my lifetime.