‘The Talisman’ Among Westerns, Adventure on Tap May 7 on DVD From VCI and MVD

The Western The Talisman (1966), the Western compilation When Cowboys Were King Collection 2 (1930s) and the adventure Trail of the Royal Mounted (1931) are due on DVD May 7 from VCI Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

In The Talisman, upon the aftermath of a wagon train massacre, two people are awakened by a raging thunderstorm, only to find they are the sole survivors of the mayhem. One is a Cheyenne warrior, the other a young white girl, both arch enemies in the present wars over territory and land. Upon discovering the girl is still alive, the warrior raises his knife to finish her off, but stops when he sees a Thunderbird appear in the sky above them. Feeling this is a sign he is to keep her alive and be her protector, the warrior takes on the task. The grateful girl accepts his help, but is still determined to reach her intended destination, which is to be united with her fiancée. When they cross paths with a group of white mountain men who promise to take her to her people, the warrior reluctantly lets her go with them, giving her his amulet, a Talisman, to protect her. But once she is out of the watchful eye of her Cheyenne protector, the poor girl soon finds that her newly found champions have nefarious intentions. Luckily, her protector is still nearby and senses something has gone awry. Written, produced and directed by John Carr (Fugitive Lovers, Death Wish Club), the film stars Ned Romero (“Star Trek”), Richard Thies (“Route 66”), Ray Browne (“The Avengers,” 1961), Jerald Cormier (Terror Circus) and Linda Hawkins.

In Trail of the Royal Mounted, a 10-chapter serial making its DVD debut, Jack Logan is the heir to half of a map to a hidden Indian mine. The trader and villain Jean Gregg sends his chief henchman Mack to make life difficult for Jack. Jack is aided in his quest by the heirs to the other half of the map: Helen Holt and her younger brother Billy, and by a uniformed mystery man known as “The Mystery Trooper.” The serial stars Robert Frazer (The Vampire Bat), Blanche Mehaffey (The Battling Orioles) and Al Ferguson (The Three Musketeers).

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In When Cowboys Were King Collection 2, VCI has put together a second offering of four films, starring some of the most popular cowboy stars of the 1930s, when cowboys were the kings of the Saturday matinee. Titles in this collection include: Rogue of the Range (1936) starring Johnny Mack Brown, Silver Spurs (1936), Stranger From Arizona (1938) and Spirit of the West (1932) starring Hoot Gibson. Special features include “Carrying the mail — Wally Wales”; the “Cisco Kid” color TV episode “Railroad Land Rush”; and “The Winning of the West —Battle of Adobe Walls.”

1964’s ‘The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald’ Due on DVD Jan. 16 From VCI and MVD

The drama The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964) will be released on DVD Jan. 16 from VCI Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

On Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, the brutal assassination of the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy took place. The man accused of perpetrating this tragic murder was U.S. Marine veteran and Dallas resident Lee Harvey Oswald. However, before Oswald could be tried and found innocent or guilty of the charge, he was murdered by a local night club owner named Jack Ruby on Nov. 24, 1963. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald is a courtroom dramatization, utilizing facts and evidence obtained from public records and eyewitness accounts (The names of the witnesses and sources of information have been changed and withheld to protect the privacy of the individuals) and is only to portray what might have happened had Oswald been brought to trial. Shown for the first time in 1964, it was immediately pulled from circulation for unknown reasons and has not been shown publicly since.

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The film stars George R. Russell, George Edgley, Arthur Nations, Charles Mazyrack, Joreta C. Cherry, Howard Ware and Don Gillespie.

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.

Western ‘A Bullet for Sandoval,’ ‘The Gamblers’ Headed to DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 7 From MVD and VCI

The 1970 Western A Bullet for Sandoval and the 1970 card shark film The Gamblers will be released on DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 7 from MVD Entertainment Group and VCI Entertainment.

In A Bullet for Sandoval (DVD, Blu-ray Disc), John Warner (George Hilton) is a rebel soldier who deserts his outfit on the eve of battle and goes over the border into Mexico to be with his girlfriend when she gives birth to their child. When he arrives, Warner finds that his fiancée has died in childbirth and her father (Ernest Borgnine) wants to kill him in this savage Western fare in the tradition of A Fistful of Dollars. Bonus features include the original U.S. theatrical trailer and commentary by Alex Cox, actor, director, writer, expert on Spaghetti Westerns and director of Repo Man (1984) and Sid and Nancy (1986).

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In The Gamblers (DVD, Blu-ray), a team of professional card sharks sets out to fleece a wealthy aristocrat of his savings and receives an I.O.U. in payment, which turns out to be worthless. The film stars Suzy Kendal (To Sir With Love, Bird With the Crystal Plumage) and Don Gordon (Bullitt, Papillon). Special features include commentary by Robert Kelly, noted film historian.

‘Cisco Kid’ Collection Among Titles Due on Disc From VCI and MVD Aug. 15

The 1988 Omar Sharif film Paradise Calling, “The Cisco Kid” 13-film Western collection and the 1970 Jane Seymour film The Only Way are among the VCI Entertainment titles due on disc from MVD Entertainment Group on Aug. 15.

Paradise Calling (aka Les Pyramides Bleues, La Novacia), due on DVD, stars Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago, Top Secret!) and Carole Davis (The Flamingo, “Sex and the City”). In the film, Elise, the beautiful young lover of a much older, wealthy magnate named Alex, who lavishes her with his love, adoration and money, is only partially content in her high station in life. Another part of her longs for a life of sanctity and purity, that only a life with God can bring. This angers Alex, who wants all her attention and affection for himself. After a terrible accident occurs at one of their fancy parties, while Alex is in a drunken state, things come into focus for Elise. Desperate to get away, she flees to a convent in France to hide from Alex. Distraught over Elise leaving him, Alex hires agents to find her and bring her back to him. But, unbeknownst to Alex, Elise has since become involved in another entanglement.

The Only Way, starring Jane Seymour  (Somewhere in Time, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”) and available on Blu-ray Disc from a 4K restoration, is set during World War II. In April 1940, the armies of Nazi Germany invade Denmark. The Danish government promise peaceful cooperation on the condition that Denmark’s Jews remain free. The Nazi’s agree. In October 1943, the agreement is broken. This is the true saga of Denmark’s valorous actions to save Danish Jews from Nazi extermination at peril of death.

Of all the heroes of the Old West, few are as well-loved or as easily recognized as the Cisco Kid, based on O’Henry’s famous character. Together with his bumbling, but lovable amigo Pancho, Cisco has entertained millions of children and adults for many years. This five-DVD Cisco Kid collection, containing 13 movies, combines the talents of both Gilbert Roland and Duncan Renaldo starring in the role of the Cisco Kid. The movies in the collection include The Gay Amigo (1949), The Cisco Kid in Old New Mexico (1945), The Cisco Kid Returns (1945), Satan’s Cradle (1949), South of the Rio Grande (1945), King of the Bandits (1947), Robin Hood of Monterey (1947), Riding the California Trail (1947), South of Monterey (1946), Beauty and the Bandit (1946), The Girl from San Lorenzo (1950), The Daring Caballero (1949), and The Gay Cavalier (1946). The release includes two bonus “Cisco Kid” episodes in color from the popular 1950s TV series; an archival video interview with Duncan Renaldo; an archival video interview with Duncan Renaldo and Colonel Tim McCoy; and multiple photo and poster galleries.

Jack Armstrong(1947), due on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration, is a cliffhanger series. It follows a brilliant scientist working on atom-powered motors who is kidnapped and taken to a mysterious island where the master villain hopes to conquer the world. Jack Armstrong, of course, thwarts these evil plans in the nick of time. The series is filled with exciting chases, fights and thrills through 15 chapters. For those old enough to remember, it is reminiscent of the old radio show.

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Finally, the Spanish-language film La Soldadera (1966) is available on DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration. In the film, a simple country girl named Lazara is caught up in the Mexican Revolution when her new husband Juan is forced to join the federal army on the eve of their honeymoon. Refusing to be separated from Juan, she chooses to follow him, traveling with the troops. When Juan dies in battle against the Villistas, Lazara is forced to change her allegiance to the winning side. Wanting security and a home of her own, she marries the Villista general Nicolás, and bears his child, only to have him killed in a battle with the Carrancistas. Still hoping to seize her dream of a home, she takes up with yet another man on the winning side, only to find as the war carries on, she is condemned to live as a vagabond.

Mary Pickford Silent ‘Johanna Enlists’ Headed to Disc July 11 From MVD and VCI

The 1918 silent Johanna Enlists, a comic romance starring Mary Pickford, will be released on Blu-ray plus DVD July 11 from MVD Entertainment Group and VCI Entertainment.

In this strikingly different and very personal war story, instead of the guns, cannons and Huns audiences were getting used to in 1918, Pickford plays a young woman living quietly with her family on an isolated farm, wondering how she will ever meet a potential husband. When an entire battalion of soldiers march in to be bivouacked on the land, the war is brought home and she suddenly is faced with a wide choice of suitors.

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Johanna Enlists served as an important means of encouraging enlistments that were still needed even as the film was released only a few months before the war’s end. 

The release features a 4K restoration.

Cult Horror Film ‘Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things’ Due on DVD Oct. 11, 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Oct. 25 From MVD and VCI

The 1972 cult horror film Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things will be released on DVD Oct. 11 and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc Oct. 25 from VCI Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

Directed by Benjamin (Bob) Clark, the creative director behind Porky’s, Black Christmas and A Christmas Story, the film follows five young kinky actors and their artistic director who come to a desolate and nearly forgotten burial island with a morbid history of murder, rape, curses and demons. Alan (Alan Ormsby), the brilliant but bizarre director of the company, has brought them to the foreboding place to dabble in witchcraft, specifically to dig up a fresh corpse and use it in a ritual ceremony which is supposed to raise the dead from their graves. It seems as though Alan has really gathered his “children” here, only to play a practical joke on them and then to party the rest of the night away. However, the joke’s on Alan. His bizarre ritual ceremony really does raise the dead from their graves.  Ormsby — though he turned in what has been described as “one of the most obnoxious screen performances in history” — actually made a mark for himself as the screenwriter for such memorable films as My Bodyguard, Cat People, Karate Kid 3 and Porky’s 2.

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Special features include a new 2022 video introduction and Q&A with Alan Ormsby; a new 2022, 90-minute video documentary Dreaming of Death: Bob Clark’s Horror Films, with many new interviews with cast and crew; a full commentary track with Ormsby, Jane Daly and Anya Cronin; The Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival May 22, 2007, Q&A; a video filmed in between a double feature showing of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and Deathdream at the Beverly Cinema; “Confessions of a Grave Digger,” a  video interview with Ken Goch; a photo and poster gallery; the “Dead Girls Don’t Say No” music video by The Deadthings; the “Cemetery Mary” Music video by The Deadthings; the original theatrical trailer and radio spots; a new liner-notes booklet written by Patrick McCabe; and a collectible slipcover limited to the initial pressing.

1930s Joan Crawford Classic ‘Rain’ Due on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 27 From VCI and MVD

The 1932 Joan Crawford drama Rain, celebrating its 90th anniversary, will be released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Sept. 27 from VCI Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

The release features a new 4K restoration produced from the original, uncut 94-minute version.

Rain — a classic that caused controversy when first released — portrays W. Somerset Maugham’s powerful story of Sadie Thompson and is perhaps the most celebrated version. It vividly captures the lives of several very different human beings, thrown together on Pago Pago during a fierce monsoon. Crawford is the cynical prostitute, and Walter Huston is the minister who tries to reform her.

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Special features include a commentary track by Mick LaSalle, writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and noted film historian; a commentary track by Richard Barrios, writer, historian and commentator; a liner note booklet written by Marc Wannamaker, writer and film historian; the  original theatrical trailer; a poster and photo gallery; a period appropriate Betty Boop cartoon and newsreel; and the alternate 76-minute “cut version” of the 1938 Atlantic Reissue for comparison.

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.

1930s Serial ‘Wild West Days,’ Mexican Film ‘Santo in the Treasure of Dracula’ Coming to Disc Feb. 9 From MVD and VCI

The 1937 serial Wild West Days and the Mexican film Santo in the Treasure of Dracula: The Sexy Vampire Version are coming to DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 9 from MVD Entertainment Group and VCI Entertainment.

In Santo in the Treasure of Dracula, after inventing a time machine, Mexican wrestler El Santo goes back in time to track down the location of Dracula’s hidden treasure with the noble intention of using the treasure to help fund a children’s hospital. In his quest to obtain the treasure, he is forced to face down and battle Dracula and his bevy of beautiful, vampire vixens. The original 1969 release of Santo en El Tesoro de Drácula was black-and-white and featured no nudity. The film was simultaneously shot in color featuring full frontal nudity for European markets and finally released in Mexico in 2012 as El Vampiro y el Sexo. Presented for the first time in the English language, the film was directed by Rene Cardona Sr., who helmed a number of entries in El Santo’s filmography including two co-directed with his son — Santo in Operation 67 and Santo in the Treasure of Montezuma. Bonus materials include trailers.

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Wild West Days, a Universal Studios film serial based on a Western novel by W. R. Burnett restored in 4K, was based on the novel Saint Johnson by William R. Burnett. However, the main character in the serial is a frontiersman called Kentucky Wade instead of Saint Johnson as in the novel. It’s an action-packed serial presenting the dangers, hardships and triumphs of the early Western pioneers. Kentucky Wade and his two buddies ride to help a couple who are being threatened by outlaws, and he and his pals also keep busy fighting their way across the plains and mountains to battle a tribe of Indians led by Red Hatchet. Shortly they also contend with false reports of a strike, which starts a gold rush and hair-trigger action. Episodes include “Death Rides the Range,” “The Redskin’s Revenge,” “The Brink of Doom,” “The Indians Are Coming,” “The Leap for Life,” “Death Stalks the Plains,” “Six Gun Law,” “The Gold Stampede,” “Walls of Fire,” “Circle of Doom,” “The Thundering Herd,” “Rustlers and Redskins” and “Rustler’s Roundup.” Directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith, the serial stars Johnny Mack Brown, George Shelley, Lynn Gilbert, Frank Yaconelli, Bob Kortman, Russell Simpson and Walter Miller. Wild West Days was the 103rd of the studio’s 137 serials (and the 35th with sound) and was the first of three serials Brown made for the studio before being promoted to his own ‘B’ Western series in 1939.