LSVideo specialize in rare films. You’ll probably never see 90% of these films in a rental store. Although they are very careful about quality, they stock even the poor quality films because they think they're important. They are extremly candid in reviews of their offerings. If the quality of a film isn't great, they tell you. Most of their videos are from the best prints, sometimes the only prints in the world.
Their website is: http://www.spvi.com/~lsvideo/
Their mailing address: PO Box 415, Dept F, Carmel, IN 46032
Joe Cunningham of LSVideo was interviewed by Nocturne editor Barbara Peterson.
When was LSVideo founded, and by whom?
LSVideo was founded in 1989 by two video collectors who became disillusioned about what kinds of things were available on video. We switched to film and found that many more interesting things were available there. It was our goal to get some of the films that no one had seen much into the hands of collectors via video.
The selection from LSVideo mirrors the interests of its founders - odd television shows and off-beat 30s, 40s, and 50s films, German Silents, Karloff, Chaney, and Lugosi.
Where do you get your stock?
We got the original stock from a great many places. It would be hard to describe all of it. There are a good many films we've found in junk piles; sometimes we find collectors who are willing to strike new prints from their negatives. There's been a substantial amount of crawling through old movie theaters. We were considering buying a local theater last year and turning it into a revival-only house with oddball stuff from our collections. Unfortunately, we were outbid.
What are the chances of getting more Conrad Veidt titles in the future?
In just a few years, some of his American work will become public domain. There are decent, extant prints of The Last Performance and The Man Who Laughs that could be released. At this time Universal owns the rights to them but it would cost them too much to make their video release worth it. (Editor's note. Check out Universal's Website at: http://www.universalstudios.com/horror/ ).
The German archives also hold a great deal of other material that could be released if they didn't think it was worth so much. There are a lot of interesting Veidt titles held in the US by some of the archives, too. Eastman House has a bad-looking print of Nju and they also have a print of a real howler, The Cross Women Have to Bear (with Werner Krauss).
We're also working on getting some upgrades of Veidt material we already have, especially Waxworks, which is a really horrible print.
How long (and how expensive) is the process of compiling one complete print from several incomplete ones?
Well, it can't be a very expensive process because we don't have much money. (Kino has money; we have patience). The whole thing depends on what medium you have the originals on and what the condition is. For example, we found a beautiful original print of Things to Come recently, far better than the murky prints we usually find, but it was missing the first 5 or 6 minutes from the film. It took only a couple of hours to get it cleaned up with our old print so we had a complete print with almost no splices.
Video is much harder to edit than film, so that takes longer and requires more expensive equipment.
If we have to do translations, it takes even longer and if we have to do translations in multiple languages, it takes still longer. The longest one ever was Orlac, which took several months.
For our print of The Hands of Orlac, we combined scenes from German and Russian versions of the movie. We ran each tape for the length of one SHOT. This means that we shut off the tape as soon as there was a cut to another point of view or a title came on. Most shots last only a few seconds, but running a longer segment makes it difficult to compare the differences between versions.
Unfortunately, we only had videotapes of Orlac to start with. We found some overseas collectors who had foreign PAL-standard tapes of the film, and someone had a tape of a version that had been partially translated into English (although the titles were almost illegible).
None of the prints was complete. The German and English prints were nearly identical and had been cut for time compression. All the character development and scene transitions were gone.
The Russian print was much longer but it had been censored. All of the "supernatural" elements were deleted from it. The hallucinations in Orlac's bed, the closeups on the knife with the "X" on it, and the weird explanations of Nero were all missing.
Strangely, the maid's role was almost completely eliminated from both prints, but in different sections. The Russian one contained her introduction to Nero, but the German one had her confession to the police. It seems odd that neither print had both scenes.
Also, the films had both been cobbled up into semi-random order. The Russian version had been so jumbled by the censors that the translator even became confused by it, in addition to the fact that it had been transferred with 2 of the reels in the wrong order.
We ended up making copies of the films on tapes which we shredded through repeated viewings. These were given to translators (we got some university students to use the films for class projects). From this, we made notes of what order we THOUGHT the shots should go in. Once that was done, we went through, shot by shot, and edited the tapes on a special VCR.
There are several sections that have some abrupt shifts in quality. The early scene in which Orlac's wife hears that a train has wrecked near Montgeron has an obvious edit in the middle of it, as does the scene later on in which Orlac finds the knife. These were necessary to maintain continuity of the film but the sudden cutting is a little jarring. Normally, we tried to stick with one print until we got to a title and then went to the other if we needed to.
The translations took about a month each (and cost us only about $50). The editing took about three months of evenings to complete; perhaps 80-90 hours of editing videotape.
We were lucky because we were testing some new computer equipment to do video titling at the time, so we got that part of it done very cheaply. The titles were all done on a Macintosh system using Photoshop to generate the text.
Where did you find your copies of Weird Tales, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Waxworks, The Hands of Orlac, and The Student of Prague?
They were gotten over a period of several years. A couple of them came from overseas collectors. Caligari is from the same print that most folks have, namely the Museum of Modern Art print. It's a particularly good print, but a standard cut.
You translated the titles into English. In so doing - were you faithful to the German or did you elaborate a bit?
It's not really possible to do a completely faithful translation. These films contain a great deal of slang expressions and they also have the famous German composition with the verb at the beginning and the nouns at the end. A completely faithful translation would sound like Yoda speaking gibberish. However, we tried to be very faithful to the spirit of what the folks were trying to say.
In the case of Orlac, most of the titles didn't make any sense anyway, so these are the least faithful of all. The German version had some bridging titles to cover missing scenes and the Russian version had been rewritten to follow party lines more closely.
Do the German subtitles for these films exist and would you ever contemplate releasing the films with German subtitles?
The German titles exist for Prague, Weird Tales and Orlac. We have no plans of releasing them with German intertitles; that market is very limited. We did sell a couple of Orlacs with German titles to a local baker, but he complained so we gave him our translated version when we finished it.
Conrad Veidt movies are some of your best sellers.
We laughingly say that Hans Albers is our most popular actor, since he appears in Gold, FP1, and Blue Angel, all of which sell pretty well. However, it's hard to justify that claim, since the real reasons those sell are because of other actors in them (Brigitte Helm in Gold, Peter Lorre in FP1, and Emil Jannings in Blue Angel (editors note. ahem. because of Marlene Dietrich in Blue Angel?).
Veidt's films do very well for us. Prague, Weird Tales and Orlac have each sold about 200 copies. That may sound like a lot, but they've been on the market for several years (Weird Tales in 1990, Prague in 1991, and Orlac in 1992). We estimate that we only recently made our investment back in Orlac. These sales (much more than the fairly feeble sales of Waxworks and Caligari) make Veidt our most popular actor. He's followed by Lon Chaney, Sr., Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and, of course, Hans Albers.
(Editor's note. The Conrad Veidt Society does not endorse the quality of videos offered by LSVideo or any other video company, archive, or museum that we interview for these pages. Readers are encouraged to submit reviews of their Veidt tape acquisitions for the benefit of other members.)