Exploitation Classic ‘Girl on a Chain Gang’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD April 19 From Film Detective and MVD

The exploitation classic Girl on a Chain Gang (1966) will be released on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD April 19 from Cinedigm’s The Film Detective, Something Weird Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

From famed shlock distributor-producer-director Jerry Gross, who made his directorial debut with Girl on a Chain Gang, the stirring feature about small-town hate stars William Watson, Julie Ange and Ron Charles. It follows three young people who are framed, arrested and tossed into jail by corrupt Southern police.

Gross — who produced everything from Blaxploitation films to features about teen pregnancy — exercised his social conscience in this drama about racist Southern cops. Made the year after three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi, Girl on a Chain Gang addresses a subject Gross must have believed worth exploiting into drive-in theater fare. True to his low-budget roots, the movie was filmed nowhere near the South, but in Long Island, N.Y.​

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Special features include full-length audio commentary with Movies are Magic author and “Classic Films for Kids” host Jennifer Churchill; a new, original essay from Something Weird Video’s Lisa Petrucci, in a full-color booklet insert; and “It’s All in the Title: Exploiting Jerry Gross,” a short history of the semi-legendary producer with author/film historian Chris Poggiali, from Daniel Griffith at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

1936 Musical ‘Dancing Pirate’ Due on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 22 From Film Detective

The 1936 musical Dancing Pirate will be released on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 22 from Cinedigm and The Film Detective.

Billed as the first ever 100% Technicolor dancing musical, Dancing Pirate stars Charles Collins as a dance teacher from Boston who is tricked into joining a band of pirates, leading him to be fitted for a noose in California. He catches a break when the mayor’s daughter demands the hanging be postponed until he teaches her to waltz.

Dancing Pirate earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Dance Direction. The film features many familiar faces from Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz) as the mayor, Steffi Duna (Waterloo Bridge) as his dancing daughter and Rita Hayworth (Gilda) in an early performance as a specialty dancer.

The special-edition release features a new restoration from original 35mm archival material with a new 4K scan.

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“We are delighted to release our first Blu-ray from the recent acquisition of the late Alexander Kogan’s Film’s Around the World Library,” Phil Hopkins, president of The Film Detective, said in a statement. “This particular title was his prized possession, obtained from the famous film collector Wade Williams more than a decade ago. This important piece of film history is finally getting the proper attention it deserves.”

Bonus features include audio commentary and an original insert essay from author Jennifer Churchill; “Glorious Pioneers: The Birth of Technicolor,” an interview with author/historian David Pierce; and “Ambushed by Mediocrity: Remembering the Dancing Pirate,” an interview with film producer/historian Michael Schlesinger.

1950s Sci-Fi Classic ‘Flight to Mars’ Available on Blu-ray From MVD and Film Detective

Flight to Mars (1951), an adventure from the dawn of the 1950s science fiction boom, is now available on Blu-ray Disc from MVD Entertainment Group and Film Detective.

The release features a new 4K restoration sourced from the original Cinecolor separation negatives.

From legendary producer Walter Mirisch and starring Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell, Flight to Mars emerged from tiny Monogram Pictures, one of Hollywood’s smallest Poverty Row studios.

In the film, five Earthlings land on Mars and are greeted by a team of friendly inhabitants. In time, the Earthlings learn that the genial welcoming party secretly covets their ship. Fearing they have depleted the key mineral used to power their life-support systems, the Martians are determined to get off their dying planet by any means necessary. Not only do the Martians intend to leave the stranded crew behind to die, but they also plan to invade and conquer Earth. The discovery of this sinister alien agenda kicks off a long round of deception and suspense.

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Special features include audio commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys; “Walter Mirisch: From Bomba to Body Snatchers,” a new documentary short from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; “Interstellar Travelogues: Cinema’s First Space Race,” a new documentary short with celebrated science fiction artist/historian Vincent Di Fate from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; and a full color insert booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.

Cinedigm Acquires Fandor Streaming Service

Cinedigm has acquired Fandor, a subscription streaming service for independent films, documentaries and international features.

Fandor has a catalog of more than 4,600 film titles from more than 400 film companies.

Cinedigm plans to leverage its content library, technology, engineering and distribution capabilities to rapidly expand Fandor’s content offering, relaunch the service’s apps and dramatically expand distribution to Cinedigm’s global footprint of more than 900 million connected devices, according to a press release.

Cinedigm will continue to offer the service (currently at $5.99 per month) ad-free, but also plans to offer a free, ad-supported on-demand tier as well as a linear streaming channel.

Cinedigm plans to draw from a pool of more than 7,000 relevant film titles in its library, including thousands of classic, cult and foreign titles from streaming service The Film Detective, which it acquired in December 2020, according to the release.

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Cinedigm also plans to relaunch Keyframe, Fandor’s web and video-based publication dedicated to covering the art of cinema.

Phil Hopkins, president of Cinedigm’s Film Detective division, will oversee Fandor and Keyframe, with the goal of relaunching the service in the coming quarter.

“This acquisition of Fandor, coming on the heels of our Film Detective acquisition, solidifies Cinedigm’s position as the leading global streaming company for independent films,” Chris McGurk, Cinedigm chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “As a key element of our recently announced streaming rollup strategy, Fandor will immediately benefit from our streaming distribution muscle, huge library of independent films, Matchpoint technology, cost savings and infrastructure and synergies with our wide portfolio of enthusiast streaming channels. We fully expect an immediate EBITDA uplift from Fandor and strong revenue and profit growth going forward.”

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“The paradox of the streaming revolution is that it has never been harder to discover classic, essential and new independent and foreign films,” Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president of Cinedigm Networks, said in a statement. “The founders of Fandor had the right idea, launching very early in the streaming growth cycle while still establishing a strong and resilient brand and viewer base. Our mission at Cinedigm is to enable viewers, including independent film enthusiasts, to stream their passions, and I can’t think of a streaming service that is truer to our mission than Fandor.”

“The opportunity to leverage Fandor’s passionate community of independent film enthusiasts will be integral in the service’s growth,” Phil Hopkins, president of the Film Detective, said in a statement. “Being able to communicate and collaborate with this community of content creators, bloggers, and editorial writers will allow us to significantly expand Fandor into the global focal point for streaming independent films, documentaries, classics and foreign films.”

1950s Sci-Fi Classic ‘Giant From the Unknown’ Due on Disc Jan. 19 From MVD

The 1958 sci-fi classic Giant From the Unknown will come out on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 19 from MVD Entertainment Group and Film Detective.

A 500-year-old Spanish conquistador rises from the dead in this cult classic following Dr. Frederick Cleveland and his daughter Janet, who are joined by scientific researcher Wayne Brooks in the pursuit of ancient artifacts from Spanish conquistador Vargas. When a lightning storm interrupts their search, the team finds much more than artifacts when the long-lost Vargas returns to life, with a murderous rage and an axe to grind. Giant from the Unknown features make-up design from horror mainstay Jack Pierce, known for his work on Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932).

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The release features a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative. Extras include audio commentary with author/historian Tom Weaver and guests; audio commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher; an all-new interview with actor/screenwriter Crutcher; an all-new interview with author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner; a collector’s booklet with still gallery and liner notes by Weaver; and the original trailer.