Screen Archives Acquires Rights to ‘Twilight Time’ Library

Screen Archives Entertainment May 14 announced on Facebook it has reached an agreement to purchase excess Twilight Time Movies inventory as of July 1.

The Twilight Time Blu-ray collector’s label, known for its 3,000-unit runs of catalog movies, announced May 11 it was shutting down and selling off its remaining stock, with excess product after July 1 expected to be available through ScreenArchives.com, a longtime retail partner of Twilight Time.

In its Facebook post, Screen Archives announced that Twilight Time co-founder Brian Jamieson, a veteran studio executive and filmmaker, will continue to provide marketing expertise and support to Screen Archives during the transition. Twilight Time co-founder Nick Redman passed away in January 2019.

“Having worked with Brian and Nick over the years, we took this step because we have always enjoyed a good relationship with Brian (and Nick).,” Screen Archives president Craig Spaulding said in the Facebook posting. “We wanted to keep our relationship going and continue to capitalize on Brian’s years of expertise in the industry.”

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The Facebook message also stated that “the agreement ensures that the Twilight Time label will continue indefinitely, according to the principals.”

Screen Archives also originally posted that its acquisition includes the Twilight Time Website, TwilightTimeMovies.com, and the right to reissue select titles, though that portion of the message was deleted within a few hours, leading to some speculation about whether Screen Archives would release new titles under the Twilight Time banner.

“This may or may not (but doesn’t appear to) mean that Twilight Time is going to produce new content,” wrote TheDigitalBits.com editor Bill Hunt.

The Facebook message ends with the statement that “No further details will be made available until after July 1, 2020.”

A message at TwilightTimeMovies.com indicated that that site was overwhelmed with responses to the Twilight Time clearance sale, and thus product shipments would be delayed.

‘Twilight Time’ Collector’s Label Shutting Down

The sun is setting on Twilight Time.

The boutique Blu-ray label May 10 announced on its website that it would be closing down June 30 after nine years in operation.

Founded by veteran Hollywood studio executives and filmmakers Brian Jamieson and Nick Redman, Twilight Time launched in 2011 with the concept of licensing rare and distinctive films of all genres for release on Blu-ray Disc with limited runs of 3,000 units apiece, available first through Screen Archives Entertainment before the launch of the Twilight Time Movies website.

The venture was named Twilight Time, because, as Redman put it, eventually the concept of film as physical goods would have a ‘sell-by date’ possibly sooner rather than later.

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Twilight time ultimately released 380 motion pictures from the early days of Hollywood through the 2010s on Blu-ray and DVD. The Twilight Time catalog has included films from the libraries of 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, MGM/United Artists, Universal Studios, Film 4, Protagonist Pictures, Toei Company and other entities, and showcased many Academy Award- and international prize-winning titles.

Owing to Redman’s more than 30 years as an award-winning film music historian and preservationist, most of the company’s releases included isolated music tracks, in addition to voiceover tracks featuring Redman and noted film historians. Redman’s wife, Julie Kirgo, also was a frequent collaborator on the Blu-rays, often writing the liner notes.

Redman, who also served prominently as the company spokesperson, passed away in January 2019. The challenges of running the company following his death, compounded by changes in the home video market and the rising costs of title acquisitions were cited as the key reasons for the company shutting down.

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To clear remaining inventory, Twilight Time starting May 11 at TwilightTimeMovies.com is offering deep discount pricing of $3.95, $4.95, $6.95 or $11.95 per title, which were previously priced at $29.95 each. Effective July 1, remaining inventory will be acquired by and available through Screen Archives at ScreenArchives.com.

10 North Frederick

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi, Suzy Parker, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ray Stricklyn.

Despite my initial enthusiasm to view the Twilight Time Blu-ray of 10 North Frederick that’s now been available for a couple months, I had to be re-nudged to take a fresh look at a movie that has always gotten to me a little, notwithstanding its structural imperfections. With human tragedy at its core and a Gary Cooper performance that’s among his most poignant, I didn’t really need refortified viewing motivation. But then we had the arrival at my door just a few days ago of a new Library of America collection devoted to the earlier John O’Hara novels that long predated Frederick’s 1955 publication — though the LoA volume does contain Appointment in Samarra, which even O’Hara detractors concede is a still major player when it comes to 20th-century literature.

And detractors he had. O’Hara was an off-putting self-promoter, the quality of his writing fell off badly toward the end of his career and his dissection of small-town ambition and the country-club-ism that went along with it got shrugged off by new generations that cared little for what looked a lot like provincial white privilege. Still, I was delighted to see former Paris Review editor Lorin Stein quoted in O’Hara’s Wikipedia entry comparing the “binge factor” inherent in the author’s best work as comparable to “Mad Men’s” … and for some of the same reasons. (Stein later had to resign the Review over sexual harassment issues, which may or may not be irony, given at least implied Don Draper-ism.)

Imminent fading rep or not, Frederick-the-novel was a big deal at the time, following its banning in some cities (including by Detroit’s finest) before winning the National Book Award for fiction. The censorship concerns compounded screen adaptation challenges that the movie already had, and after I saw Frederick in 1958 at a drive-in with, of all things, a Diane Varsi double bill completed by Henry Hathaway’s Western From Hell to Texas, I sneaked around the house to locate my parents’ paperback of the novel so I could read “the good parts.” The movie was cleaned up by top screenwriter-turned-middling-director Philip Dunne from a source so lengthy that it had to be pared down extensively. This is why a) the screen adaptation immediately throws us into a situation where it’s difficult to understand just why Cooper’s mild-mannered lawyer wants to be lieutenant governor of his unnamed state (read: Pennsylvania); and b) why a told-in-flashback movie gets stronger as it progresses after this and other mysteries eventually get explained (it also helps that three or four of the best written and performed scenes are weighted near or at the end).

The story spans the final five years (1940-45) of aging Ivy League protagonist Joe Chapin (Cooper), who’s been successful enough as a lawyer to render money worries a non-issue yet has never satisfied the loftier goals of life he’s never wanted in the first place. It hardly matters because his longtime wife and Hall of Fame harridan (an unforgettable Geraldine Fitzgerald) has enough craven ambition for both of them, projecting a level of chill-pill coldness that has estranged both of their grown children. These are: a daughter (Varsi), who’s initially too ladylike to fight back much even when mom becomes a key factor in the wreckage of her marriage to a trumpeter; plus a perennial academic flunk-out (Ray Stricklyn in an overlooked excellent performance) who wouldn’t mind watching mom bisecting the goalposts as part of someone’s successful 65-yard field goal attempt. He also drinks to excess, which is something he’ll have in common with dad during the movie’s later scenes, when everything goes wrong for the senior Chapin excepting one brief but lovely respite.

This is a mutually beneficial May-December romance with his daughter’s New York roommate (supermodel Suzy Parker, who had a limited career as an actress, and, like Stricklyn, was never as effective on screen as she is here). Cooper, who had only three years left in real life, rarely got to tread this kind of emotional ground on screen (and wearing suits at that); he soon followed this movie with two of the best Westerns he ever made: Man of the West and The Hanging Tree. He did, however, leap to play this role, apparently having learned a lot about this kind of material following his famous late ‘40s affair with Patricia Neal, when he almost left his wife for his Fountainhead co-star.

Around the edges, there’s a lot of drinking in public to go along with all the drinking in private; serial adultery braggadocio at “the club”; domestic arguments that are as cruel as they are unnecessary; lots of WASP hypocrisy; woefully underhanded political graft; an implied threat of blackmail; and all the other things that made Mayberry so great. The graft largely has to do with a local political string-puller (Tom Tully) who’s apparently the one Irishman the local power structure will allow into its circle. Tully has a lot of grease on his palms, including the $20,000 pittance (albeit in circa 1940 dollars) that Cooper/Chapin slips him in an envelope just for the chance to be considered for the state’s lieutenant governor slot, which he and/or the Mrs. have determined might be a smoother-sailing path to the White House. Yet one of the movie’s main themes is that Cooper is far too much of a classy gentleman to go for the jugular, which makes him irresistible to Parker and an object of adoration by his daughter.

Given its pedigree going in, there’s visual evidence that 20th Century-Fox didn’t spend the money it should have on location footage, even though the same studio mounted a large-scale production just two years later of O’Hara’s doorstop novel From the Terrace, which sold well but without the former’s substantial acclaim. It’s less a case that the Parker-Varsi New York apartment exteriors are on an obvious set than on an obviously bad set — complete with an in-your-face waterside matte painting in the background that’s, well, in your face. This kind of thing takes the viewer out of the picture and puts extra pressure on the actors to carry the day, which they manage to do here even if there’s not much to write home about when it comes to Dunne’s visual style.

This said, Joseph MacDonald’s cinematography never disappoints, and this is more ammo for that assertion — another display of how great widescreen black-and-white used to look before the taste of teenaged dufuses began to mandate the visual content of the movies we see. I’ve never understood how the cinematographer of My Darling ClementineViva Zapata! and The Young Lions (all in black-and-white) plus color credits like NiagaraBigger Than Life, The Carpetbaggers and especially The Sand Pebbles (with all that snake-is camerawork in and around that claustrophobic engine room) could be underrated, but Blu-ray has shown MacDonald to such great advantage that the true story is on your monitor.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Man Without a Star’ and ’10 North Frederick’

Twilight Time’s Nick Redman Dies

Film historian, documentary filmmaker and soundtrack producer Nick Redman died Jan. 17 at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., at age 63 after a two-year battle with cancer, according to Variety.

Redman in 2011 co-founded Twilight Time, a specialty label known for licensing catalog films and issuing Blu-rays limited to runs of 3,000 copies released through distributor Screen Archives Entertainment’s online store, ScreenArchives.com. Redman was a frequent contributor on bonus commentaries made for Twilight Time Blu-rays. His wife, Julie Kirgo, was a frequent collaborator on the Blu-rays, often writing the liner notes.

Born in Wimbledon, South West London, in 1955, Redman worked for the U.K. Ministry of Defense in the early 1970s, studied drama at Kingston College and took on small roles on British television. He served as an assistant producer on several projects and also worked at the BBC before relocating to the United States in 1988.

As a filmmaker, he earned an Academy Award nomination for producing the 1996 documentary The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage, a retrospective of the 1969 Sam Peckinpah film The Wild Bunch. He also produced and directed 1998’s A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers and 2007’s Becoming John Ford.

Redman also produced hundreds of soundtrack albums featuring the music of such composers as John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Michael Kamen, Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Alex North, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lalo Schifrin, Jerry Fielding and more. He earned gold-certification plaques producing a Star Wars Trilogy CD soundtrack boxed set in 1996 and a special-edition Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope soundtrack in 1997.

He helped restore hundreds of film and television scores for 20th Century Fox, serving as a consultant to the Fox Music Group since 1993. For his work, he was given the Film Music Preservation Award by the Film Music Society in 1994.

He also conducted interviews for BAFTA’s Heritage Archive, and wrote for DGA Magazine and Film Score Monthly.

He is survived by Kirgo; his daughter, Rebecca; his brother, Jonathan; and stepchildren Anna and Daniel Kaufman.

The Adventures of Hajji Baba

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars John Derek, Elaine Stewart, Amanda Blake, Thomas Gomez.

I’ve always been a looney-tunes sucker for Arabian adventures in which caliphs, emirs and peasants look like someone you might see working a Motel 6 desk at 3 a.m. Thus, it was a personal delight a while back to see my old quiz show buddy Hal March in 1954’s Yankee Pasha playing someone named “Hassan Sender” — a casting coup I thought might never be topped. But here we are at the very opening of the same year’s The Adventures of Hajji Baba — and in full 2.55:1 early CinemaScope, we have Peter Leeds, Percy Helton and Claude Akins popping up in the same frame. As is often true, there’s no substitute for verisimilitude, and, of course, we haven’t even gotten to title lead John Derek yet.

So we will. In terms of Derek’s career timeline, this surprisingly lavish ‘B’-plus extravaganza come from fairly deeply back in Derek’s pre-“Bo” era, when the actor was still a couple years away from getting Debra Paget to take part in what amounts to Golden Calf submarine races in Cecil B. De Mille’s The Ten Commandments before the two repent from sin. But here, he’s cast as the lowly (if confident and handsome) Persian barber Hajji, who shaves and works out the shoulder kinks of his clients who include Thomas Gomez sporting a large enough gap between his upper front teeth for Chuck Yeager to do some stunt flying. You know: A little deep-tissue massaging here and a little Barbasol aftershave (or whatever the going product was) there — though I didn’t see much evidence of Butch Wax. This is almost surprising, given that the movie’s entire 94 minutes are given to palming off ancient times as the mid-1950s.

Lowly or not, Hajji ends up being viable suitor for Princess Fawzia (Elaine Stewart), who never stops letting everyone know that she’s smack atop the uppermost rungs of the “1%” or whatever they called that in those days. Worse, she has the entitled temperament of, say, a Trump Cabinet wife who finds a way to expense imported room service caviar and a new bra (I guess it would have to be Persian silk) out of some Treasury fund meant for hurricane relief. Plus a box of Wheat Thins for the caviar.

The movie thus becomes a cross between The Taming of the Shrew and It Happened One Night amid an assortment of desert adventures once Stewart’s Princess Faksia escapes from her fancy digs in an attempt to run off with a womanizing prince who’s also a rival to her exasperated father. These include being taken prisoner by a hoard of Turcoman Warriors (escaped slave babes who are now marauding land pirates) who string up their prisoners the way John Wayne and Stuart Whitman temporarily are in The Comancheros. Their leader (further minting the Western motif here) is Amanda Blake of “Gunsmoke,” which reminds me: Dennis Weaver’s Chester character wouldn’t have felt totally out of place here had he shown up in a cameo.

And yet all this ticklish nonsense doesn’t matter much on a purely sensual level because a name producer (Walter Wanger, just after Riot in Cell Block 11 but a little before Invasion of the Body Snatchers) sprung for major production values that probably helped the picture become a minor hit after Allied Artists wangled a distribution deal with studio-of-release 20th Century-Fox. So, OK: maybe Allied would stint a little on budget-busting the following year when they released Leo Grocery and Huntz Hall in Bowery to Bagdad (say, I’d better plunder my Bowery Boys archives because I see that the great Joan Shawlee is in that one). But not here.

To wit: Hajji production designer Gene Allen and color consultant [George] Hoyningen-Huene are a large reason why George Cukor’s movies looked so consistently smashing in the period spanning A Star Is Born (the version that ultimately matters, I mean) through My Fair Lady. And for that matter, Hajji cinematographer Harold Lipstein shot Heller in Pink Tights, which is among the most gorgeous of that bunch. Musically, the movie went all over the way with a score by Dimitri Tiomkin — and from the same year of his Oscar-winner for The High and the Mighty. In Twilight Time fashion, the score is isolated on this exceedingly immaculate Blu-ray’s alternative track, which is welcome.

In keeping with the ’50s, there’s also a Tiomkin-Ned Washington title tune sung by Nat King Cole — a fairly sizable hit that I remember vividly from my pre-rock early childhood. A Nat King Cole inclusion, even one with a really cool Nelson Riddle arrangement, shouldn’t work in this kind of movie, but Hajji is such a ludicrous anything-goes affair that the tune’s employment almost manages to be haunting — and might even be if the acting were better (though I suppose you have to say that Derek half-successfully goes with the flow). Taking a Tex Ritter cue from the frequently reprised Tiomkin-Washington theme to High Noon during that earlier film’s own narrative, a Cole refrain pops up throughout here, almost subliminally on the soundtrack.

Elaine Stewart was a really terrible actress, though I will say there are some beach shots of her in 1953’s A Slight Case of Larceny (from Hajji director Don Weis) that stopped my clock. Weis had a tiny and brief cult (quite so — and on both counts) that rated notice in Andrew Sarris’s The American Cinema; he had recently directed Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in I Love Melvin, which, for all its lack of pedigree is a more entertaining musical than La La Land will ever be. Hajji is similarly unpretentious, but it was actually considered to be racy in its day, which no doubt upped the grosses. My same-age friend Kathy from a next-door suburb tells me that she and her 7-year-old cronies really wanted to see it at the Grandview Theater in ’54 but were deterred by that old bugaboo before it became, more specifically, that Jack Valenti bugaboo: “parental guidance.” (My closest friends all ran a fast elementary-school track.)

Just three years later, Derek was back in soundstage Persia, though by this time, his career had slipped enough that he rated only fourth-billing in William Dieterle’s Hollywood swan song Omar Khayyam, which, for reasons unknown, Paramount green-lit for lead Cornel Wilde, the still ubiquitous Debra Paget and, yes, even window-shattering Yma Sumac, whose high notes could have taught Frankie Valli a thing or two. I actually even programmed OK once at the AFI Theater, which was ill-advised even for me, though, frankly, I would have run “The Complete Fred Sears” if I could have gotten 35mm VistaVision prints (I know, buffs: wrong studio). Some guy even drove down from Baltimore to Washington to see it, and that wasn’t even the year the Orioles opened the season at 0-and-21.

There’ve been no good prints I’ve ever seen around of Hajji; the TV prints rip out the transmission when they lurch into pan-and-scan after the film’s lengthy pre-credits sequence. I was more excited about this release than probably any other moderately sane person who’s been capable of attaining, say, a car loan, and seeing it look as intended gave me a huge kick. The scenics are splendid, and there’s more room for the campy acting to breathe (or, if you prefer, wheeze).

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Naked Prey’ and ‘The Adventures of Hajji Baba’

Next Stop, Greenwich Village

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Lenny Baker, Ellen Greene, Christopher Walken, Lois Smith, Shelley Winters.

Blume in Love has always been my favorite achievement from writer-director Paul Mazursky’s treasured output spanning (mostly but not exclusively) 1969 to 1978. But after seeing Next Stop, Greenwich Village for the first time in decades via this new Twilight Time release, it may have some competition. Even though the soundtrack’s Paul Desmond staples somewhat predate the story’s setting, not many musical selections would so instantly suck us into the milieu. And for bravery of the especially brazen sort, how do you put a price on a scene where Shelley Winters pulls her dress up in a tap dancing fantasy sequence?

After years of self-imposed exile, I’ve recently been spending a lot of time in Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and even my old grad school alma mater NYU, which has probably made me susceptible — though, yeah, a Brooklyn girlfriend has inevitably helped — to this extraordinarily personal coming-of-age comedy-drama, though the milieu still seems a little seedy to a wider-open-spaces Midwestern type such as myself. But the movie rings true on its own merits without need of any outside boosting, thank you, and gets quite a shot from some casting in a couple roles that means more than it did at the time.

The last said, Village’s two leads are Lenny Baker, whose character-actor looks and premature death limited his screen career — and Ellen Greene, who scored only modestly in the movies, though she did also het to re-create her stage role in Frank Oz’s screen version of Little Shop of Horrors. Standing in as Mazursky’s autobiographical surrogate, Baker is the focus here, though Greene helps create such a determined soul here as his rocky squeeze that I suspect a lot of women come out of the picture affected by her own story, which involves a then illegal abortion and a fear of feeling trapped. Everyone here, by the way, benefits from exceptionally strong writing, though choice casting sampling from a pool of the era’s best New York actors really puts it over.

Much or even most of Village is about acting, which is the side of the profession Mazursky pursued before finding his true calling behind the camera; he was in Stanley Kubrick’s shaky debut pic Fear and Desire (and unlike Kubrick, seemed happy to enough to concede its existence), and then as one of the hoody classroom cutups who made Glenn Ford wish he were teaching home economics in Blackboard Jungle. The Brooklyn-to-GV subway ride isn’t very far in minutes, yet it separated two entire worlds in the more traditional ’50s, when moving away from one’s parents without the impetus of marriage could seem like an affront to a Jewish mother (and can Winters ever play a Jewish mother, or at least a certain identifiable brand of one). And to make things even worse with mom: Here’s Mazursky/Baker not even leaving to learn an honest trade but to pursue a perceived folly that attracts dream-world rabble.

And yet the mother, who reciprocally loves him but also drives him up the wall, is something of a closet case — as was Mazursky’s own — when it comes to her own show biz appreciation. Along these lines, she can also jitterbug for real (Winters’ aforementioned fantasy tap pops up in a slightly different context), which she ends up doing during another of her unannounced “drop-ins” — this one at a rent party full of assorted pro-Rosenberg bohemians dancing to and floating on vintage 78s and old-school beer bottles. Acquiescent to all this maybe 90% of the time is a passive husband played by the instantly familiar Mike Kellin — who, here (as was often the case in his other movies) had one of those faces that divulge his character’s entire story.

I love the casting here, which includes lifelong favorite Lois Smith, whose single scene in East of Eden got to me as a child and who’s still around these days (Lady Bird and Marjorie Prime in just the past year). But the big bonus points these days come courtesy of seeing Christopher Walken in his first role of real note: as the intellectual stud of the aspirants’ group and one whose surface charm betrays his lack of character. Walken at least gets billing, but the truly wondrous ambush here is an unbilled Jeff Goldblum, who shows up late to blow a hole in the screen with a couple scenes as a self-destructive neurotic who does everything in an audition to make the producers not even desirous of asking him to read. Not long after I began programming at the AFI Theater four decades-plus ago, a resourceful guest lecturer got Mazursky to bring a print of Village down to D.C. from New York for a pre-opening screening — just as he did with Martin Scorsese and Taxi Driver the same month. And I remember people (myself included) just marveling at Goldblum — the way we had a year earlier with Richard Dreyfuss as Baby Face Nelson in John Milius’s Dillinger — in a “Who is this guy?” kind of way. Added note to star-gazing completists: The mustached guy standing off to the side in a fairly early saloon scene is Bill Murray.

The standout, though (and about a quarter-century after she was a newcomer) has to be Winters, someone I’ve cracked wise on for a lot of years but an actress whose chutzpah I’ve also secretly admired for just as long. Due to a geographical scheduling conflict, I once had to turn down an opportunity to attend a small dinner with her, leaving it to a pair of AFI colleagues and also two of my closest friends to witness the sight of her taking off her pantyhose in a Georgetown restaurant. Greene and Mazursky both praise her to the sky here in a voiceover commentary from a previous release; the latter died in 2014, which points up the timeless value of home-release commentaries in general for all your streamer/pretenders out there.

I always thought Mazursky a particularly keen industry observer, dating back to the time I heard his claim (in a documentary) that when someone talks about the advance “word” on an unreleased movie, it means that “someone who hasn’t seen the picture talked to someone who hasn’t seen the picture.” Here, he matter-of-factly tosses off the assertion that Winters didn’t get a much deserved nomination for Village because it didn’t make money. Don’t you love it when someone gives voice to obvious truths that no one feels comfortable about addressing?

Mike’s Picks: ‘Next Stop, Greenwich Village’ and ‘Criss Cross’