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Category Archives: Film
New hd restoration completed–
Autographed blu-ray available now!
LOVE LETTER TO EDIE is the story of Edith Massey. Edith was one of the most popular underground movie stars of the 1960s-1980s. She appeared in many John Waters films, including MULTIPLE MANIACS, PINK FLAMINGOS, FEMALE TROUBLE, and DESPERATE LIVING.
Expert film restorers, Debenham Media Group recently produced a careful digital restoration of LOVE LETTER TO EDIE using the original 16mm film. The 2K HD video transfer required substantial color correction, scratch and dust removal, and image stabilization, because the original color film had aged substantially. Image Design Productions producer, Brian Scott, did the digital re-assembly of the transferred cuts, and performed additional color corrections and audio enhancement.
AND it looks gorgeous!
Order copies from the right column, and you will receive an autographed copy.
Thank-you for your interest.
The film’s first release in 1975 was on 16mm film, when it only played in movie theaters and film festivals.
Around 1985, VHS cassettes were in wide enough usage that small films like Love Letter could be distributed to individual collectors. They were duplicated in real-time in banks of VHS recorders.
The first 16mm to tape transfer was done at a small video production house in Owings Mills, MD by a company that produced professional wrestling programs and happened to have a film to 1″ tape transfer machine. The company’s owner happened to be a former math teacher at my high school and gave me a good deal.
From that master, I made a 3/4″ industrial grade video copy, which was the dub master for the hundred or so VHS copies I made at Quality Films and Video in Baltimore, which was also the lab for all John Waters’ 16mm films (through Desperate Living). I advertised these VHS mainly with a classified ad in Rolling Stone, and sold a few at Edith’s Shopping Bag store in Fells Point. Edith had died in California in 1985, but her old partner still kept the store going, specializing in Dreamland collectables.
The number of videos sold didn’t quite pay for all the duplication and advertising costs, so it went out of print for about 8 years. At that time a company called “Hit’nRun” films, which specialized in underground films re-transfered it and designed a colorful new cover. They made about 1,500 copies, but I never received payment. In the mid 90s, I made yet another transfer to digital Betacam video tape with Roland House Video in Arlington, VA, re-designed the cover for DVD, and added 15 minutes of personal memoirs to the program. I made 1,000 DVDs, which sold out in about 5 years.
Since then I still sell about 75 copies a year, and make them 50 at a time with the DVD-R process. I still have the 16mm original from 1975 and could make a HD transfer, then sell Blu-Ray HD copies. That could cost about $2,500. Maybe it would be a good Kickstarter project.
It’s Easter, when eggs become an important subject across the country, and references to Edith Massey abound.
Even a noted conservative pundit who regularly writes for such un-Edith right-wing publications like The American Conservative, The National Review, Weekly Standard, The Dallas Morning News, The Wall Street Journal and Beliefnet penned a little piece this week in The American Conservative. Rod Dreher relates that in an afternoon dream his backyard flock of hens had laid 13 eggs, and that when he woke up, he saw that a real hen had laid two eggs on the grass!
Thinking this must be a mystical event, he asks that “Edith Massey come back from the dead and interpret this occurrence!” The article even includes a clip from Pink Flamingos.
My, aren’t conservatives lightening up (or lighting up)! I don’t follow Rod Dreher, except he refers to himself as a “crunchy conservative” (which explains the backyard chicken thing), but maybe he lives in Colorado where weed is so easy and legal. If so, Edith would be so proud. (Actually he lives in Louisiana, not known much for clear thinking, so not much difference).
The day I saw “Searching for Sugar Man,” I received my first-ever royalty check from MGM/United Artists for a union film I worked on back in the 80s. “Sugarman” won the 2012 Academy Award for best documentary. The movie is a mind-bending story from the 1970s that goes against the grain of typical show business success stories. It’s about how success can be achieved by someone no one ever heard of, in a place that doesn’t count, then be forgotten and re-discovered in a series of weird coincidences. It is a common story in show business.
“Searching for Sugar Man” tells the story of singer-songwriter, Sixto Rodriguez, who played bars and coffee shops around Detroit. Rodriguez came up in the wake of Bob Dylan. A former executive at Motown Records agreed to a record deal after Rodriguez was discovered by two respected Detroit record producers who agreed there was money to be made in the world of protest singers and folk music. Sounds like the big break every artist dreams of, but the public disagreed, and like so many other singer-songwriters of the time, his records didn’t sell, and he vanished.
If Rodriguez had moved to Greenwich Village, like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary and others, to be a part of the hyped-up singer-songwriter scene there, it may have been a different story. But Rodriguez was not interested in offering himself up to the hype machine of New York record labels.
Rodriguez would have sunk into eternal obscurity, except a bootleg of his record was smuggled into South Africa. His protest songs charmed the local white progressive population who suffered under the apartheid regime of white supremacist thugs, and yearned to join the world-wide counter-culture ushered in by artists like the Beatles and Dylan.
South Africa at the time was the world’s pariah, and Western artists avoided the country like the plague, starving the progressives of the music and culture they wanted so badly.
Rodriguez’s bootleg record filled a void, and his rebellious songs became underground anthems for millions— the South African equivalent of “Kumbaya” and “ Satisfaction” rolled into one. Rodriguez’s albums circulated by the hundreds of thousands, year after year in South Africa, in censored and uncensored and legal and bootleg versions. A myth grew around Rodriguez in South Africa that he had committed suicide on stage to protest a cold, unfeeling world. To the contrary, Rodriguez had remained in Detroit, worked as a laborer and quietly raised a family. His professional music career abruptly ended after his second non-selling album tanked and his recording contract was yanked.
A South African journalist tracked Rodriguez down in the late 90s, and brought him to South Africa where sold-out several concert tours—and he was revered for helping bring down the apartheid system.
My fresh $10.67 royalty check from MGM/UA on my desk, I was intrigued that South African record distributors claim they regularly sent royalty checks to A&M Records in the for the hundreds of thousands of Rodriguez albums sold. Some say more than a million records were sold. Rodriguez had no idea that more than a handful of his records had sold anywhere—he never received a royalty check either. Sussex Records, the original American label was sold several times, and Clarence Avant, its founder cannot trace Rodriguez’s contract after forty years.
So, here’s the classic Show Biz Question: “Where are my royalties?” The answer? “There are no royalties, or, hire an attorney and just try to get them.”
Anyone with the slightest involvement in royalties knows this dialogue. Of course, some stars do just fine collecting them. Though certainly not a star, I’m astounded that the Directors Guild of America tracked me down after many decades to pay me a measly $10.67. If it weren’t for a union contract, I’d never have received that. I wish the Waters’ films I had worked on had DGA contracts. I’m sure hundreds of others, who worked on low-budget-hell productions that eventually paid off, even decades later, would agree.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all unions had no/low budget agreements and welcomed all to share in the spoils—rare as they are? But how un-capitalist is that? And former low/no budget filmmakers love capitalism, especially when they finally have the wherewithal to hire good attorneys.