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.

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.

‘Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations’ Coming on Disc June 16 From MVD

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations will come out on Blu-ray and DVD June 16 from MVD Entertainment Group.

The comedy films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have been beloved around the world since they were first released between 1927 and 1940. Unfortunately, many of the available copies are blurred dupes printed from worn-out negatives. The best of their short comedies and two of their features have been fully restored for the MVD release.

The release includes new 2K and 4K transfers from the best original 35mm materials. The release also includes the 1927 silent “pie fight” film The Battle of the Century, making its video debut after being “lost” for 90 years; the only reel of the duo’s bloopers and outtakes, “That’s That!”; shorts “Berth Marks,” “Brats,” “Hog Wild,” “Come Clean,” “One Good Turn,” “Helpmates,” “The Music Box” (the legendary Academy Award winning “piano moving” short), “The Chimp,” “County Hospital,” “Scram!,” “Their First Mistake,” “Towed in a Hole,” “Twice Two,” “Me and My Pal,” “The Midnight Patrol” and “Busy Bodies”; and the feature films Sons of the Desert and Way Out West (which includes the team’s famous soft shoe dance routine).

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Extras include 2,500 rare photos and studio documents, audio and film interviews with the duo’s co-workers, original music tracks and trailers, and a full restoration of their one surviving color film The Tree in a Test Tube. Also included are commentaries by Laurel & Hardy historians Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann.

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The restorations are provided by Jeff Joseph/SabuCat in conjunction with the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Library of Congress.