Mary Pickford Classic ‘Stella Maris’ Among VCI Titles Due on Disc Dec. 12 From MVD

Three classic films — the 1918 Mary Pickford drama Stella Maris, the 1941 Ernst Lubitsch comedy That Uncertain Feeling and the 1959 horror flick Horrors of the Black Museum — are due on disc Dec. 12 from VCI Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

Stella Maris, newly mastered in HD for the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release with an original score by the Graves Brothers, was a major advancement in filmmaking. Mary Pickford plays dual roles in a film that was very different from anything she had ever done before. It tells the story of two, very different young women; a beautiful, rich, but crippled Stella Maris and Unity Blake, a deformed and abused orphan. Director Marshall Neilan and cinematographer Walter Stradling created some trick photography for Mary to play both roles, using double exposure photography and complex editing which made it possible to present both characters on screen simultaneously. The Mary Pickford Foundation and the Paramount Film Archive partnered to access all elements available in the Pickford collections both at the UCLA Film & Television Archive and at the Library of Congress. Even though the archives were shut down during the pandemic, all parties cooperated to send the film elements to Paramount so they could be scanned in 4K resolution and commence work on the restoration. The two primary elements used in this restoration were a 1967 35mm black and white dupe negative and an incomplete 1925 35mm tinted print. Scans from the dupe negative were used for the majority of the feature, and all surviving material from the print was inserted where possible. New inter-titles were digitally recreated for the dupe negative to match the feel and length of the print, as the cards in the negative were static and much longer than originally intended. The tinting scheme of the print was used for all evening sequences: amber for night interiors and blue for night exteriors, with the rest of the feature black and white for all daytime sequences. Lastly, all the most egregious damage was digitally repaired, the film’s printed-in jitter was stabilized, and the film’s frame-rate was digitally varisped to 19fps, mirroring a more natural, hand-cranked projection speed suitable for 1918, the year of the film’s release. Bonus features on Stella Maris include a commentary track by author and film historian Marc Wanamaker; a liner notes pictorial booklet by the Mary Pickford Foundation; a photo gallery; and “The Mountaineer’s Honor,” an American Biograph short film released on Nov. 25, 1909. 

The light comedy That Uncertain Feeling, due on Blu-ray, stars Merle Oberon, Melvyn Douglas and Burgess Meredith. Director Ernst Lubitsch capitalizes on the husband-versus-wife theme. The film follows Jill and Larry Baker, who have been living in marital bliss for six years — until Jill develops a nasty bout with the hiccups. Exhausting all remedies to no avail and believing her problem to be psychosomatic, Jill takes the advice of friends and seeks the help of a psychiatrist. This leads to disenchantment with her husband Larry, causing marital mayhem when she becomes romantically involved with an eccentric pianist named Alexander Sebastian. Sebastian fancies himself “the greatest pianist in the world,” but he is terrified of performing in front of large audiences. Hilarity abounds as Larry strives to win back his estranged wife and Jill comes to the realization she still loves Larry. Bonus features include a commentary track by film historian Mick LaSalle.

Horrors of the Black Museum is available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. In the film, London is fear-struck and Scotland Yard is baffled by a series of strange murders that have plagued the city. Stories of the atrocities by crime journalist Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough, the same loveable Alfred Pennyworth from the new “Batman” movies) come to their own conclusions missed by the Yard. This is because of the fact that Edmond is committing these horrible crimes himself in order to create material for his writing. He does so with the help of his assistant Rick (Graham Curnow), who assists him in running a private “Black Museum” filled with murder and torture devices. The release also includes the original American International introduction called Hypno-Vista, featuring Emile Franchel, “Registered Psychologist,” that greeted all American theatergoers on its initial release. The film features the classic eyeball-gouging binoculars scene. Bonus features include the original U.S. theatrical trailer; the original European theatrical trailer; a photo gallery; archival commentary by writer/producer Herman Cohen; a 2023 commentary by film historian and artist Robert Kelly; a two-sided cover wrap that features original theatrical art and a flip side with a new graphic design by Robert Kelly; a video tribute to producer Herman Cohen; and an archival phone interview/video featurette with Herman Cohen.

VCI Inks Deal to Release Restored Mary Pickford Films

VCI Entertainment has entered into an agreement with the Mary Pickford Foundation to distribute the silent star’s archive of preserved and restored films with original music.

Available now on DVD from VCI are Fanchon the Cricket (1915) and Little Annie Rooney (1925). Both films are restored from 4K scans of the original negatives and feature new musical scores produced exclusively for these editions. In addition, the DVDs include picture filled liner notes with behind-the-scenes stories of the making of the movies and Pickford’s life at the time. The two titles were released initially on the Flicker Alley label.
 
The first Pickford film to debut on the VCI label will be the 4K restoration of Sparrows (1926), due Dec. 21 on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally. Sparrows has been restored by the Library of Congress and digitally mastered by the foundation, and it will feature an original orchestral score by the Graves Brothers. The release also contains bonus features, including never-before-seen outtakes, the original theatrical trailer, and a 16-page souvenir booklet featuring rare photographs and essays by the Mary Pickford Foundation.

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Mary Pickford was a  performer, producer and businesswoman who helped shape the film industry. While she was a founder of United Artists, the Motion Picture Television Fund and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, her greatest fame came as an actor. In less than a decade, she went from making $10 a week to being the first actor to be offered $1 million a year. She starred in more than 100 short films and more than two dozen feature films.

“It is hard to find the words to express our gratitude for the opportunity the Mary Pickford Foundation has given us,” said VCI Entertainment president Robert Blair in a statement. “It is an honor and a privilege just to be connected to such a Hollywood icon. The Mary Pickford films will automatically become the crown jewels in our library, and represent the embodiment of our mission to preserve, restore and champion classic movies.”
 
Distributed by the MVD Entertainment Group, VCI Entertainment is the oldest surviving independent home video company in the United States (celebrating its 45th Anniversary in 2021), and a distributor of classic and eclectic entertainment content for DVD, Blu-ray, TV, cable and digital platforms. The VCI library contains more than 6,000 titles, including feature films, episodes and short subjects. The library spans many genres and contains several notable classic films and documentaries, including The Miracle of Marcelino (1955), Chariots of the Gods (1970), and what is billed as  the first “movie produced for the home video market” Blood Cult (1985).

Pickford’s philanthropy was a hallmark of her entire life and by creating her foundation, she assured that her commitment to her craft, her community and her giving would continue behind her passing in 1979. The Mary Pickford Foundation works to inspire future generations of women and filmmakers in many ways, including the restoration, preservation and distribution of her films.