Preserving Film History and ‘The Sheik’: A Conversation With Paramount Archivist Andrea Kalas

SVP of archives Andrea Kalas leads asset management at Paramount Pictures and has a long career in preserving films. Prior to joining Paramount, she was head of preservation at the British Film Institute, digital studio director for Discovery Communications, archivist for Dreamworks SKG and preservationist and research data expert at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the Science and Technology Council where she chairs the committee on digital preservation.

Andrea Kalas

At Paramount, she has been cleaning up the classics for release in the home entertainment market. Most recently, her team restored The Sheik (1921), one of the seminal films of silent era starring the legendary Rudolph Valentino. The film is available Nov. 2 as part of the “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray Disc line for its 100th anniversary. Media Play News editor in chief Stephanie Prange asked Kalas about the difficulties and rewards of restoring such classics.

MPN: My grandfather, I recall, idolized Rudolph Valentino. Can you discuss his relevance and the position of The Sheik in the history of Hollywood and filmmaking?

Kalas: Rudolph Valentino is well worth idolizing. His importance to film history is monumental.  He was not only a brilliant performer, but he was a lightning rod for a cultural change that is hard to see from 100 years later. In today’s eyes, we might frown at a white guy passing for Middle Eastern but in the 1920s he was seen as “foreign” and “dark.” He was in many ways the first superstar, his style and legendary sensuality transcending the films he was in. Sometimes that meant controversy — many journalists of the time openly questioned his masculinity, maybe because so many women adored everything about him. He connected with the camera — he looks right at it as if it were the object of his affection. It’s hard to think of other performers since who had this incredible ability.

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MPN: Please describe the elements Paramount used to restore The Sheik and how they were obtained.

Kalas: Original camera negatives are rarely extant for silent films, unfortunately. We were grateful for a print loaned to us by Film Preservation Associates. We used that for the intertitles. We also had a fine-grain (a black and white intermediary element) that we used for the picture. We also had an original continuity script that told us timing and specific color information for the tinting.

MPN: Were there any particularly difficult scenes/sequences to restore?

Kalas: The fine-grain element had been “stretch printed” — a way to bring the silent frames-per-second speed to the standard one of 24. We needed to digitally unstretch it back to the original 22 frames per second to represent how the film was meant to be seen.

MPN: What is Paramount’s strategy in restoring classic films such as The Sheik?

Kalas: Paramount is dedicated to film preservation and restoration, and the most important priority is the condition of the films. Our top priority is making sure we preserve the films so films like The Sheik can be enjoyed when it’s 200 years old.

MPN: Can you describe a particularly hard film/scene that you and your team have restored in your career?

Kalas: Our restoration of the 1927 film Wings (1927), the first Best Picture [Oscar] winner, had a very compromised picture element that had printed-in nitrate deterioration among other issues. The work to restore that took enormous amounts of frame-by-frame work, with tools usually used for special effects. We’re very proud of the result, which is paired with a completely re-recorded and re-mixed original silent score. [Paramount Home Entertainment March 23 released Wings as part of a “Best Picture Essentials 10-Movie Collection.”]

Distribution Solutions Inks Distribution Deal With Powerhouse Films Label

Distribution Solutions, a division of Alliance Entertainment, has inked a physical media partnership with Powerhouse Films’ U.K.-based label Indicator.

Distribution Solutions will handle sales and distribution of all Powerhouse Films sellthrough releases in the United States and Canada.

The first physical Powerhouse Films releases distributed by Distribution Solutions will be available for purchase in January 2022.

Powerhouse Films has an extensive collection of classic films that includes limited-edition boxed sets and single-title releases, as well as standard-edition reissues of limited-edition titles that have gone out of print, such as John Carpenter’s Christine, Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon and Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie.

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“We are very excited to be in business with Powerhouse Films,” Distribution Solutions president Ben Means said in a statement. “Partnering internationally with a film label like Indicator, which has such a driven passion for physical media, helps expand the quality and coverage of classic films we distribute to the U.S. and Canada.”

“We’re thrilled to be bringing our unique blend of cult and classic cinema to audiences in the U.S. and Canada in partnership with the fantastic team at Distribution Solutions,” Powerhouse Films’ co-founder Sam Dunn said in a statement. “We’ve been working hard unearthing and restoring a raft of incredible titles in order to put together a schedule that will surprise and delight even the most adventurous viewer.”

“Indicator lovingly curates and enshrines obscure, precious gems for the obsessive collector and the genre connoisseur,” award-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro said in a statement.

‘The Amazing Mr. X’ and ‘Frankenstein’s Daughter’ Coming on Disc in October From Film Detective

Special editions of the film noir classic The Amazing Mr. X (1948) and the 1950s cult classic Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958) will come out on Blu-ray and DVD in October from Cinedigm’s classic streaming network and film archive, The Film Detective.

Due Oct. 5 is The Amazing Mr. X, which stars Turhan Bey as Alexis, a mystery man who claims to communicate with spirits. Appearing on the beach one night, Alexis easily charms a depressed widow (Lynn Bari) and her sister (Cathy O’Donnell). The sly Alexis makes a living by separating gullible people from their money, but before this tale is over, he will learn that the living are far more dangerous than the dead.

The film has undergone a 4K restoration from original 35mm film elements.

Special features include audio commentary from professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney; a full-color booklet with the essay “The Amazing Mr. Bey” by Don Stradley; and “Mysteries Exposed: Inside the Cinematic World of Spiritualism,” an original documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

The Film Detective is also offering an exclusive opportunity to own the film with The Amazing Mr. X NFT (non-fungible token) auction, live on Rad. The winner of the auction will receive an exclusive physical framed lithograph of the movie poster, two Blu-ray copies of The Amazing Mr. X and NFT tokenized access to view the movie on Rad. The auction is currently available and will close on Oct. 4.

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Due Oct. 19 is Frankenstein’s Daughter, which finds Dr. Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy) carrying on the legacy of his late grandfather, the notorious Dr. Frankenstein, by building his own hulking beast with the transplanted brain of a beautiful, young woman. Bringing a fresh twist to Frankenstein films, Frankenstein’s Daughter takes place in ”modern” Los Angeles, where — despite news reports of a female monster menacing the neighborhood — nothing stops the local sun-soaked teenagers from partying poolside.

Directed by Richard E. Cunha, the film also stars John Ashley, Harold Lloyd Jr. and former Playboy Playmate of the Month Sally Todd.

This special-edition release marks the latest in a series of collaborations between The Film Detective and The Wade Williams Collection. Restorations of Flight to Mars (1951), Giant From the Unknown (1958) and The Other Side of Madness (1971) have also been released recently on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD.

Special features include an audio commentary track with author and historian Tom Weaver; a full color booklet with an original essay by Weaver; “Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker of the Unknown,: a new retrospective from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, featuring an archival interview with the famed director; and “John Ashley: Man from the B’s,” a new career retrospective featuring film historian C. Courtney Joyner.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ 75th Anniversary Blu-ray Set Due Nov. 16

To celebrate the film’s 75th anniversary, Paramount Home Entertainment will release director Frank Capra’s timeless classic It’s a Wonderful Life Nov. 16 in a collectible, limited-edition two-disc Blu-ray.

Named the No. 1 most inspiring film of all time by the American Film Institute, the film stars James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell and Henry Travers. In the film, an angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

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The Blu-ray set includes a colorized version of the film in high definition as well as the original, digitally remastered black-and-white movie in high definition, and access to a digital copy of the film.  The set also includes 10 collectible recipe cards from Insight Editions’ “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook” with cuisine inspired by the film. Additionally, the set includes more than 45 minutes of previously released bonus content exploring the meticulous process of preserving and revitalizing this iconic masterpiece, a look at the movie’s extraordinary sound, music, cinematography and visual effects, and vintage footage from the film’s wrap party.

‘Guns of Navarone’ Shooting to 4K Ultra HD Nov. 2 for 60th Anniversary

The 1961 Oscar-lauded war film The Guns of Navarone will come out on 4K Ultra HD Nov. 2 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for its 60th anniversary.

In the film, Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn star as a team of Allied military specialists recruited for a dangerous but imperative mission: to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied fortress and disable two long-range field guns so that 2,000 trapped British soldiers may be rescued. Faced with an unforgiving sea voyage, hazardous terrain and the possibility of a traitor among them, the team must overcome the impossible without losing their own lives.

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Adapted by screenwriter Carl Foreman from Alistair MacLean’s best-selling novel, The Guns of Navarone was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and won for Best Special Effects (1961).

Update (9/10/21): Date changed from Oct. 12 to Nov. 2.

Restored ‘The Sheik’ Joining ‘Paramount Presents’ Blu-ray Line Nov. 2 for Its 100th Anniversary

The epic 1921 silent film The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, will join the “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray line Nov. 2 for its 100th anniversary from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Originally released at the height of the nation’s appetite for motion pictures, the romantic drama The Sheik became a massive sensation, breaking box office records and earning more than $1 million during its first year of release.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, the film was directed by George Melford and stars the legendary Valentino as the title character. The role helped propel Valentino into stardom and sealed his status as a Hollywood heartthrob — and the original “Latin Lover” — at the age of 26. Valentino is Ahmed Ben Hassan, a charming Arabian sheik who becomes infatuated with the adventurous, modern-thinking Englishwoman Lady Diana Mayo (Agnes Ayres). When the sheik abducts Lady Diana, the two clash, but ultimately profess their love for one another.

Since original negatives for silent films rarely exist, Paramount searched the world for the best elements for the restoration and used a print and an intermediate element called a fine grain. One source of the film yielded better results for image quality, another for intertitles. One of the elements was “stretch-printed” and had to be adjusted digitally during the restoration process. In the silent era there was no standard frame rate, so stretch printing was done to show silent films at 24 frames per second. In addition, tints and tones were digitally applied, guided by an original continuity script from the Paramount archive.

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While The Sheik was wildly successful, it did provoke controversy, much as the source material had upon its original publication in 1919. Many of the themes and controversial elements of the film are still being grappled with and are explored in a new featurette on the Blu-ray with film historian and professor Leslie Midkiff DeBauche, “Desert Heat: 100 Years with The Sheik.”  The disc also includes a music score by Roger Bellon and access to a digital copy of the film.

As with all films released in the “Paramount Presents” line, The Sheik is presented with collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments.

Update (10/12/21): Release date changed from Oct. 19 to Nov. 2.

Audrey Hepburn Seven-Film Collection Coming to Blu-ray Oct. 5

The Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection will come out on Blu-ray Disc Oct. 5 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was originally released on Oct. 5, 1961, this collection includes Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Funny Face, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, Paris When It Sizzles, War and Peace and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The collection also includes access to digital copies of each film and legacy bonus content.

Based on Truman Capote’s best-selling novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s made an indelible impact on movies, fashion and society. In director Blake Edwards’ timeless classic, Hepburn’s New York party girl Holly Golightly embarks on an entertaining, comedic adventure to find love in the big city.

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Winner of eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, My Fair Lady also won the Best Picture — Musical/Comedy Golden Globe and was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Adapted from the Broadway stage hit, the film stars Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, a role that earned him the Oscar for Best Actor, and Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle.

Set against the backdrop of the timeless City of Lights, Funny Face stars Hepburn as a bookstore clerk turned modeling sensation and Fred Astaire as the photographer who discovers her. Funny Face was the only pairing of the two stars and remains a love letter to Paris in the 1950s.

Humphrey Bogart and William Holden are the mega-rich Larrabee brothers of Long Island, New York in Sabrina. They have little in common, except that they’ve both taken notice of a beautiful, sophisticated young woman, possessing a delightful zest for living, suddenly in their midst — Sabrina Fairchild (Hepburn).

Hepburn lights up the screen in her first starring role opposite the charismatic Gregory Peck in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday. Ranked as the No. 4 greatest love story of all time by the American Film Institute, it earned 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won the Best Actress award for Hepburn, Best Costume Design for legendary designer Edith Head and Best Writing for Dalton Trumbo (whose family accepted the trophy decades later as he was blacklisted at the time and couldn’t take credit for writing the movie).

Hepburn reunites with William Holden in the romantic comedy Paris When It Sizzles, making its Blu-ray debut. Hepburn is Gabrielle Simpson, the captivating young assistant to screenwriter Richard Benson (Holden), who has three days to finish his movie. Together, they write and revise a romance/mystery as they envision themselves in the lead roles.

Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece War and Peace comes to life in this epic of international conflict, spectacular adventure, gripping intrigue and tragic romance set against the sweeping backdrop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Directed by King Vidor, the film stars Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Mel Ferrer.

‘The Social Network,’ ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Oliver!’ Among Six Classics in Sony 4K Collection Coming Oct. 12

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is debuting six more classics on 4K Ultra HD disc for the first time ever Oct. 12, exclusively within the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Vol. 2.

Films in the collection, only available on 4K as part of the set, include Anatomy of a Murder, Oliver!, Taxi Driver, Stripes, Sense and Sensibility and The Social Network. Each title includes special features.

Included with the collection is a hardbound 80-page book, featuring in-depth sections about the making of each film via six new essays from writers Julie Kirgo, John Kenrick, Glenn Kenny, Michael G. McDunnah, Kayti Burt and Nev Pierce.

The set also includes an exclusive Blu-ray bonus disc featuring 20 short films from the Columbia Pictures library, all presented in high-definition. The shorts, curated from more than 80 years of the studio’s history, showcase a wide scope of creative output across both live-action and animation, from “The Three Stooges” to award-winning mid-century cartoons to titles from Sony Pictures Animation.

The courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture (1959). The film pits a humble small-town lawyer (James Stewart) against a hard-headed big-city prosecutor (George C. Scott). Emotions flare as a jealous army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) pleads innocent to murdering the rapist of his seductive, beautiful wife (Lee Remick). Produced and directed by  Otto Preminger, the film features a score by Duke Ellington.

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The musical Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, won six 1968 Academy Awards including Best Picture. It follows the story of a plucky young orphan and his quest for love and happiness in a world populated by Oscars rascals, rogues and thieves.

Winner of the prestigious Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1976) and nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Taxi Driver stars Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s classic film of a psychotic New York cabbie driven to violence by loneliness and desperation. The film co-stars Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle and Cybill Shepherd.

In the comedy classic Stripes (1981), when quick-witted slacker John Winger (Bill Murray) loses his apartment, girlfriend and job all in one day, he joins the army. Directed by Ivan Reitman, the film also stars Harold Ramis, John Candy and John Larroquette.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture (1995), and directed by Ang Lee, Sense and Sensibility stars Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant. The romantic comedy, based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, sensible Elinor (Thompson) and passionate Marianne (Winslet), whose chances at marriage seem doomed by their family’s sudden loss of fortune. Rickman, Grant and Greg Wise co-star as the well-intentioned suitors who are trapped by the strict rules of society and the conflicting laws of desire.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture (2010), The Social Network, directed by David Fincher, chronicles the formation of Facebook and the battles over ownership that followed upon the website’s unfathomable success. With a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and a cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, the film bears witness to the birth of an idea that rewove the fabric of society even as it unraveled the friendship of its creators.

Update (8/24/21): Release date changed from Sept. 14 to Sept. 28.
Update (9/10/21): Date changed to Oct. 12.

1960s Christopher Lee Classics, 1980s Actioner ‘Strike Commando’ Among Titles Due on Disc June 22 From MVD and Severin

Christopher Lee European classics and 1980s actioners Invaders of the Lost Gold and the “Rambo”-inspired Strike Commando and Strike Commando 2 are coming to disc June 22 from MVD Entertainment Group and Severin Films.

Due on Blu-ray is The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee. The collection features movies made during his career in 1960s Europe and brings together five of these Lee classics — Crypt of the Vampire (1964); Castle of the Living Dead (1964) co-starring an unknown Donald Sutherland; Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962); The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967); and the rarely-seen Challenge the Devil (1963) — with the 24 surviving episodes of the 1971 Film Polski anthology series “Theatre Macabre” hosted by Lee. All are remastered from original negative materials with more 10 hours of trailers, rare promos, audio commentaries and vintage interviews, plus the Castle of the Living Dead soundtrack and a new 88-page book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby.

Coming on Blu-ray and DVD are the actioners Strike Commando and Strike Commando 2.

For Strike Commando, writer-director Bruno Mattei and co-writers Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi borrowed from Rambo: First Blood Part II, Missing in Action and more to create their own ’Namsploitation masterpiece. Reb Brown (Uncommon Valor) stars as Sgt. Mike Ransom, a one-man war machine on a vengeance mission against brutal Vietcong, merciless Russians and double-crossing U.S. officers. Christopher Connelly (Raiders of Atlantis), Luciano Pigozzi (All the Colors of the Dark) and Jim Gaines (Island of the Living Dead) co-star in the film mastered in 2K from the original negative for the first time. Special features include “War Machine,” an interview with Fragasso; “All Quiet on the Philippine Front,” an interview with Drudi; and in-production promo; and the trailer.

In Strike Commando 2, Mattei, Fragasso and Drudi return to the Philippine jungles with a higher budget, bigger action and actor Richard Harris for a film that borrows from Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rambo and other actioners. This time, Sgt Mike Ransom (Brent Huff) battles the KGB, rogue CIA agents, an army of ninjas and a tough bar owner (Miss World 1977 Mary Stavin), among others. Mel Davidson (Robowar) and Vic Diaz (The Big Bird Cage) co-star in this sequel featuring a 2K scan from the original negative for the first time ever. Special features include “Guerrilla Zone,” an interview with Fragasso; “Michael Ransom Strikes Back,” an interview with Huff; and the trailer.

From producer Dick Randall — whose international trashterpieces include Escape From Women’s Prison, The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield and Pieces — comes Invaders of the Lost Gold, an all-star Philippine production of the 1980s, on DVD and Blu-ray. In the last days of WWII, a Japanese platoon is attacked by headhunters while attempting to hide millions in gold. Then, 36 years later, a grizzled guide (Stuart Whitman) is hired to lead an expedition — including Woody Strode (Spartacus), Harold “Oddjob” Sakata and Laura Gemser (Black Emanuelle) — into a jungle inferno of greed, violence, nudity and murder. Edmund Purdom (Absurd) and Glynis Barber (Dempsey and Makepeace) co-star in this film directed by Alan Birkenshaw (Killer’s Moon). Also known as Horror Safari, the film is scanned in 2K for the first time ever. Special features include “Rumble in the Jungle,” an interview with director Alan Birkinshaw, and outtakes from Machete Maidens Unleashed with Birkinshaw and the wife of Randall.

‘A Place in the Sun,’ ‘Nashville’ and ‘Bugsy Malone’ Join Paramount Presents Blu-ray Line in August

Three classics, A Place in the Sun, Nashville and Bugsy Malone, are joining the “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray line in August.

The limited-edition Paramount Presents Blu-rays come in collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of each film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. Each disc also includes access to a digital copy of the film.

Due Aug. 10 is A Place in the Sun, from director George Stevens. The 1951 film, which won six Academy Awards, is remastered from a 4K film transfer in celebration of its 70th anniversary. The release includes a new “Filmmaker Focus” featuring film historian Leonard Maltin talking about Stevens and the innovative film techniques he used for this story of ambition, passion and betrayal. The disc also features previously released bonus content, including commentary by George Stevens Jr. and Ivan Moffat, retrospective cast and crew interviews, and a segment on Stevens featuring filmmakers who knew him. In the film, Montgomery Clift stars as George Eastman, a young man determined to win a place in respectable society and the heart of a beautiful socialite (Elizabeth Taylor). Shelley Winters is the factory girl whose dark secret threatens Eastman’s professional and romantic prospects.

Nashville is also coming out Aug. 10. Director Robert Altman’s seminal 1970s film is newly remastered from a 4K scan of original elements. The release includes a new featurette entitled “24 Tracks: Robert Altman’s Nashville.” The disc also includes a previously released commentary by Altman. The film follows 24 distinct characters with intersecting storylines over five days in the titular city. The ensemble cast includes Ned Beatty, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Geraldine Chaplin, Henry Gibson, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin, Shelley Duvall, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum and Barbara Harris.

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Bugsy Malone will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut Aug. 31. Director Alan Parker redefined the movie musical with his first feature-length film, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The film has been remastered from the original elements for this limited-edition release. The Blu-ray includes a new Filmmaker Focus delving into this early work from the director of FameThe Commitments, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Mississippi Burning and Evita. Set in 1929 New York City, Bugsy Malone captures a flashy world of would-be hoodlums, showgirls, and dreamers — all portrayed by child actors. As Tallulah, the sassy girlfriend of the owner of Fat Sam’s Grand Slam Speakeasy, future superstar Jodie Foster leads a talented cast. Parker’s script is combined with the music and lyrics of Paul Williams.