Exclusive Profile: LEGEND FILMS' BOB POLLACK RESCUES CLASSICS FROM THE PARAMOUNT VAULT
The restoration company discovers the value of uncovering a bounty of previously unreleased gems and putting them on DVD for the very first time
By A.C. FERRANTE, Editor in Chief
Some of the titles you may not have heard before, others you may remember fondly but have forgotten about over the years, but with this month and next, Legend Films is bringing over 30 Paramount Pictures films back into circulation by putting them on DVD for the very first time.
From the horror spoof STUDENT BODIES, the underrated horror classic THE SENDER, 1953’s HOUDINI, John Sayles’ BABY, IT’S YOU and Richard Pryor’s comedy-drama SOME KIND OF HERO, there’s something for everyone in this new arrangement, and Bob Pollack, President of Legend Films, says that’s exactly the idea.
“If you break it down we go as far back as 1953 with MONEY FROM HOME and HOUDINI and we go as recent as 2000 with GIRL ON THE BRIDGE, a French subtitled film,” says Pollack who says it turns out to be a coincidence that a bulk of the films were from 1975 to 1983.
While Legend Films primary focus is the restoration of classic films and the colorization of classic films such as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this new business model, licensing titles from studios that would languish in their vaults untouched, is the next step in bringing Legend Films’ brand to the mainstream.
The first wave of titles have already hit DVD shelves, and a new wave will follow on July 1. Pollack recently spoke with iF Magazine about this new strategy and gave us a sneak peak of what to expect from future releases.
iF MAGAZINE: When did you decide to make a deal with Paramount Pictures on their library of older titles?
BOB POLLACK: I joined Legend Films about a year ago, and they had a great business set up with the colorization of older movies, that they were doing on a work-for-hire basis for the studios or releasing their own titles they were colorizing. I realized to have critical mass at retail and to have a much stronger catalog to warrant an audience with retailers, we needed to expand our catalog and the best to do this, was to talk to the studios. This was the first deal we put together. We were very pleased with the titles we were able to find. They were considerably better than I thought we would find once we started looking through the vaults.
iF: The big question thought is why wouldn’t Paramount release these in the first place, especially titles like STUDENT BODIES, BABY IT’S YOU and THE SENDER, seem like no brainers, especially with their fan base.
POLLACK: I can’t speak for the studio of why they wouldn’t, but as we started talking to them, these were on a list of titles they were willing to discuss. As we poured through that list, this is the best we saw. I don’t know why they weren’t released. The final number we ended up getting was 38 titles, of those 38, 32 of them had been released before on VHS, there were a few gems that had never been released like THE OPTIMIST with Peter Sellers, had never been out on VHS. The other one I was surprised about was MONEY FROM HOME with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. THE BUSY BODY with Sid Caesar had never been out on VHS. WON TON TON, THE DOG SAVED HOLLYWOOD was the other one.
iF: There are no special features – was there any thought of doing extra material for some of these titles?
POLLACK: Obviously for a small company to do this, it was a giant undertaking. It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done. Where we could get a theatrical trailer from Paramount, we put that on, but anything else we would have done for special features, would have had special clearance and they had nothing they could give us, other than what they gave us. If we had to do special features, we would have had to go out and research and get special clearance on that, so with releasing 38 films, to get a lot of extra special features, would have put us back an additional year.
iF: Let’s say like STUDENT BODIES or THE SENDER, if it does really well, are you allowed to go back and do a Special Edition later with your agreement with Paramount?
POLLACK: Absolutely. Anything we release, it’s required that the studio, where it’s Paramount or other studio, they have approval rights, I can’t imagine, any deal like this which involves a royalty, that they wouldn’t support something that would increase sales. We also have the right to release these on Blu-ray down the road. It’s something we would seriously consider. If we do have a big success, STUDENT BODIES would be one, MANDIGO, HOUDINI, some of these which have risen to the top with response from the public, if we come out with a Blu-ray for that, having a special edition for the Blu-ray release would be something we would strongly consider.
iF: The prints on some of the titles were pretty clean, did you do basic clean-up on the titles?
POLLACK: It was pretty basic clean-up and it did vary. I know that the studio worked very hard to help us with these transfers we did. They own the transfers, even though we did them, and they wanted them to be as clean as possible. So they went and found the best available source for every movie, and in most cases, I would say 75 percent of the time, we were extremely pleased with the quality of the prints. They were very up front on us with some of these, that the best available element, was that strong.
iF: When is THE SENDER coming out?
POLLACK: On our press release, we’ve said we have 32 titles, but there are five titles in there, that are not included in there, that includes THE SENDER, because we have a deal where they will be available exclusively at Best Buy for a window. Best Buy will be putting those out in their stores on July 6, and those five movies that are exclusive for them, include THE SENDER, THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, THE DEADLY BEES, PHASE IV and FRAMED. It will be in select Best Buy stores – about 100 stores. And we have one other title that we have, that was available from Paramount that we have the rights to, and we will release in the fall, but it was out on DVD before. Our interest in this picture has grown greatly with the release of IRON MAN, because the movie is called THE SINGING DETECTIVE and it stars Robert Downey Jr. It has Mel Gibson in it, Katie Holmes, Robin Wright Penn and Adrien Brody. It was a smaller movie, great movie, but it was not considered a huge success, and I think now we’re scrambling to get it out this fall.
iF: Is this pretty much it for Paramount titles?
POLLACK: We’re in discussions on different levels with other studios, and quite frankly, I don’t want to push that any farther, until we see how this is received. It’s a huge financial commitment, to acquire these rights and put these out.
iF: When you watch a film like JEKYLL AND HYDE … TOGETHER AGAIN (from 1982), you see in some ways why it might not be released too with how politically incorrect it is.
POLLACK: I found that with a lot of the movies. I had watched a lot of these as a kid or a young adult and going back into them and watching them again. It is amazing, how representative of the times the are. THE POSSESSION OF JOE DELANEY, stood out that way. There was a lot of things that happened with that movie with kidnapping of kids and holding them hostage, is a fairly taboo subject today. That sits at the top of the list for me. Also, MANDINGO. I did not watch that movie in the '70s and watching it now, it’s a really hard realistic portrayal of slavery. It’s a meaningful movie to put out, but it’s a very difficult experience to watch it.
iF: I’m glad BABY IT’S YOU is getting a released, it’s one of my favorite John Sails films and it really captures a time and place.
POLLACK: I agree. It’s a brilliant movie and one of my favorites of the 38 we’re releasing.
iF: When BABY IT’S YOU was released on VHS, some of the songs were replaced due to rights issues, and there were a lot of Bruce Springsteen songs were surprisingly left in. Is the DVD the same version as the VHS version?
POLLACK: It’s exactly the same version that ended up on VHS.
iF: Your company has been colorization old black and white films, and yet they look pretty good – much better than what they did in the 1980’s. So the big question though, is why do this to classic films?
POLLACK: It’s to broaden the audience. One of the things we always do on our releases and as far as I can tell, virtually all the major studios who have released colorized versions from us. We release a restored black and white with it as well. So I think without the colorization, the picture would not be released. There would be no space at a Wal-Mart, Target or Best Buy. By having this as an event, a great colorized version, that looks like it was shot in color, it warrants the space and the for the purists who don’t want to see it colorized, there’s a restored black and white on there – a pristine print. A lot of the film buffs, do want to see it only in black and white. The younger generation’s of today, they haven’t grown up with black and white, and they don’t want to see it in black and white and they want it in color. So it’s the best of both worlds.
iF: Where do you see Legend Films going in the next couple of years?
POLLACK: The continuing of working on the colorization of pictures, our own releases, things we’re able to license, and continuing work for the studios. We’re pretty much the only one’s doing it today and I’m hopeful, our licensed catalog for the studios can turn into 100s if not 1000s of titles. I’m trying to expand our focus to not just colorization, but to focus on classic films, whether they need to be colorized or not. We also have another release some time in July or August, Richard Elfman, Danny Elfman’s brother, had a movie he directed from 1980 called FORBIDDEN ZONE, so we’ve colorized FORBIDDEN ZONE and we’re working out the details of when that’s going to be released. It’s a very interesting film, and it seems to have a pretty strong cult following, so we’re hopeful that’s going to be a successful release for us.