That perfectly framed shot above is from Richard Fleischer’s “Mandingo,” which has just come out in a very watchable edition from an independent outfit, Legend Films , that’s begun licensing some of the Paramount library titles that Viacom-CBS-Paramount no longer seems interested in handling. They’ve announced 32 titles, among them “Money from Home,” the 1953 Martin and Lewis film that was mysteriously missing from Paramount’s excellent Martin and Lewis box sets (were these the last hurrah of Paramount’s home video division?).
And also out this week, from MGM’s suddenly revitalized DVD division, is Blake Edwards’ sublime “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?” — one of the most perfectly constructed of Edwards’ films, and one of his darkest. More ruminations in the NY Times.
Still hard to say what’s going on with the Universal vault fire. I’ve heard theories ranging from major cover-up (an archivist from another studio asks why was Universal in such unseemly haste to assure its stockholders that nothing significant was lost, even though there was no time to make a thorough inventory), to “it’s no big deal” — that “only a few prints of older films were lost.” Nikki Finke is reporting that Universal lost “100 per cent of archived video prints kept in the so-called ‘video vault’ on the lot,” but also that “Universal has already committed itself to making new prints.” Good news, that, but Ms. Finke goes on to note that “Universal does have an extraordinary history as a leader in film preservation,” which makes one wonder where she’s getting her information. Perhaps GE-NBC-Universal will take this as a wake-up call and get its library in order. And perhaps, in the near future, pigs will fly.
Update: Michael Cieply talks to Bob O’Neil, Universal’s vice president of image assets and preservation, in the New York Times:
Mr. O’Neil said the company planned to strike new prints of the films, which include classic works by directors like Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges, and many of Universal’s horror movies. But he said the process would be slow, given that only about a half-dozen film laboratories are equipped to work with the archived material from which the new prints would be taken.