Screen Archives has just announced pre-orders are available for 1954's epic The Egyptian, released by niche label Twilight Time. Twilight Time is a partnership between Nick Redman and Brian Jamieson, both of whom have a long history with various Hollywood studios and have been at the forefront of both restorations and specialty releases. The Blu-ray of The Egyptian marks Twilight Time's first foray into high definition.
The names Nick Redman and Brian Jamieson may sound familiar, and yet many of you may not instantly be able to place them. Brian was a Marketing and Distribution Executive with Warner Brothers Theatrical and Home Entertainment divisions for over 30 years, and later collaborated closely with Stanley Kubrick from Full Metal Jacket until Kubrick's untimely passing. Chances are if you have bought any Fox soundtrack CDs, specifically the magnificent restorations released on Varese Sarabande and other labels, you've seen Nick's name in the credits. Nick is also an Oscar nominated documentary writer and producer for his brilliant piece on Sam Peckinpah and The Wild Bunch (a collaboration with Brian). Nick granted Blu-ray.com an exclusive interview to discuss the upcoming Blu-ray of The Egyptian as well as a host of other interesting subjects.
You've long been associated with Fox. How did that relationship come to be?
I moved to Los Angeles from London in the late 1980's and started working with (writer-director-album producer) Bruce Kimmel at a little label called Bay Cities. Bruce handled Original Cast rereleases and I concentrated on soundtracks. Bruce ultimately left to join Varese Sarabande and by a fortuitous series of events, I ended up at Fox, which was just starting to realize the incredible assets it had which could be released. They told me upfront they knew what they wanted to do, but had no idea how to do it, so I should not ask any questions. And so I got into audio restoration and soundtrack releases in an unusual way, and just sort of felt my way along.
Tell me a little bit about your soundtrack restorations. I'm a huge fan of Alex North's score for Cleopatra and the 2 CD release of that score is a must have for any serious soundtrack collector. Tell me a little about that album and the challenges it presented.
Well it was just hit and miss at Fox as with most studios they have incredible assets but they don't know where any of them are. For instance, say a film like There's No Business Like Show Business, you might have audio elements spread across 80 rusty cans in a vault that's at a sweltering 100 degrees on a good day. I just kind of learned as I went along all the technical aspects of retrieving data. It used to go onto 24 track tape when I started, now of course it's all digital (with tape backup). But some mags were so badly damaged they literally dissolved as we were archiving them, so it was a miracle we were able to get anything on certain projects.
Like you, I've loved Alex North's score for Cleopatra but I knew going in there wasn't going to be enough money at Fox to really do the project the way I wanted. What ultimately happened is Kevin Burns was making a Making Of documentary about the film for TCM I think and I was able to piggy-back funding of the soundtrack restoration onto that project, as he needed background music. That's what I've repeatedly tried to do, tie in the soundtrack restorations to other projects, and it's worked really well a lot of the time.
You have an incredibly soothing, melodic voice and the dulcet tones of that voice have been heard on many commentaries through the years. How did you get started providing that service and is there a favorite commentary you've provided?
I can't really recall how I got into doing those, but you know, I'm never really the commentator, I'm more of the host. I have a great ability to round up experts on a variety of subjects and then marshal the conversation so that there aren't all those appalling pauses. It's more like a radio show that way, and I think I helped develop that genre. It comes from doing many live presentations on stage for the British Academy of Film and Television, for whom I do quite a bit of work. You know, I don't really think I have a favorite.
You helped develop the marketing strategy of the limited release, which initially meant soundtrack reissues of typically a few thousand units. Was that an organic phenomenon, one that was dictated by costs, or how exactly was the idea developed?
Well actually that strategy was developed by Fox Music in conjunction with the American Federation of Musicians and it's been a brilliant strategy that allows a lot of niche products to see the light of day. Licensing fees and royalties are paid a bit differently than they usually are, based on the limited number of units, say 1,000 or 3,000 or whatever it turns out to be. But really people have forgotten that it was only through the auspices of the AFofM that we were ever able to do anything like this, and they should receive a lot of the accolades.
Now you've moved into something similar with your new video label Twilight Time, Unlike some MOD operations like Warner Archives, you're offering fully pressed DVDs in limited releases of some exciting Fox films, usually offered with isolated scores, a really nice bonus. Have your first releases fared as well as you had hoped?
Well, what we've come to realize is there's a huge difference between a soundtrack consumer and a DVD or Blu-ray consumer. The soundtrack collector is rather rabid and wants the product right away, so we tend to get a lot of orders up front and then they kind of dwindle off as time goes by. On the other hand, the DVD orders have been more of a steady stream. We're still feeling our way along, we've only released four titles so far, so it's still early days.
Now you're about to release a film I have loved for years, and it is going to be Twilight Time's first ever Blu-ray release. The Egyptian was a mammoth 1954 Fox production directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz, and starring Gene Tierney, Edmund Purdom, Jean Simmons, Michael Wilding and Peter Ustinov—among a cast of thousands, as they say. Tell me about your history with this film.
Well this is just one of around 100 Fox titles we licensed and frankly I was amazed that they let us have it. In fact I kept having recurring nightmares they were going to come to their senses and tell us they had made a mistake. The fascinating thing is Fox had not one, but two, HD masters for the film, one from 2005 and another from 2010! They had recorded a commentary in 2005 which we're releasing on Twilight Time, so it's obvious at one point they must have had plans to release a Blu-ray themselves, but that never happened.
Wow! So Fox just had two HD masters in their assets? How does something like that happen?
Oh, you know, some executive who may not even be there anymore may have loved the film and wanted it in hi-def, or, you know, Martin Scorsese called up and wanted to arrange a screening. There are a million ways it can happen. And there are other HD masters we've acquired for other Fox titles, though I frankly don't know what they are yet, I just know some exist in the titles we've licensed.
So the actual HD transfer was done and supervised by Fox?
Absolutely, and it was the same team who did The Robe, so any fans of that movie who loved that Blu-ray are probably going to be just as thrilled with The Egyptian. I can tell you it looks and sounds spectacular.
I've always been slightly amused at how similar the two Edmund Purdom quasi-Biblical epics are: The Prodigal and The Egyptian. Do you see any similarities between the two?
You're absolutely right, they have many similarities, but The Egyptian is a manifestly better film than The Prodigal.
Purdom often gets a bad rap for being a fairly lifeless performer, and of course he replaced Marlon Brando in The Egyptian, which meant comparisons were bound to be to his detriment. What do you think of Purdom?
Well, think about it: can you really imagine Brando playing such a passive, wussy role? I think the criticism is really more about the character, for whom it's very hard to feel any real sympathy, than for Purdom, who does fine, at least in my estimation. People want their movie stars to have the answers in films, not be asking question after question, and for that reason alone, you can't have a movie star playing Sinuhe, you need a contract player, and that's what Purdom was, despite his few starring roles.
Finally, your Blu-ray comes at a pretty hefty price point--$39.99, plus shipping and handling, as they say. What would you say to those who might be interested in this title but are a bit hesitant to plunk down that much money?
Well, we've priced this at what I call the Criterion end of the spectrum because we've had to, and I would just encourage fans of the film and supporters of Blu-ray in general to get behind releases like these, or else there won't be any more of them. All of the studios have incredible assets, but many are shy about venturing into the marketplace with them, which leaves labels like Twilight Time to pick up the slack. We certainly want to release as many Blu-rays as we can, and I can tell you we're already in negotiations with other major studios to visit their catalog releases like we've been doing with Fox. We may release titles entirely new to digital media, as well as some new to Blu-ray which have only had a DVD release, but we obviously need to sell as many copies as possible to stay in business.
Really good, short interview. The Robe is a great Blu release and has a commentary to match. I plan on purchasing every Twilight Time blu release. These licensed releases can take much time and effort to produce and I would regret missing out on a copy even of the sales are not as fast as most film score releases.
Great interview -- I've already ordered my copy of the film. I applaud Twilight Time's efforts, and encourage everybody to support them with their wallets. I'm wondering, Mr. Redman, if the 1951 version of BIRD OF PARADISE is one of the Fox titles your company has licensed. I think you would be very surprised at how many film fans consider this one of their very favorite guilty pleasures.
I was thinking... I bet an added bonus on the Blu releases and would have others snapping at the DVD / BLU Twilight Time titles. They should use that cool Slipcover case that the Fox Cinema Classics were using and esp on teh blu releases (the same style as KINO uses) It would be cool and make the releases even more special.
JMK---- Please both thank Nick for us readers and please ask him if there is some sort of tentative list of possible future blu-ray releases from Twilight Time.... say, "Untamed," "King of the Khyber Rifles," etc.
Jeffrey, great interview, thanks so much! And my hats off to Twilight Time for releasing this Cinemascope classic. I will be covering this in my Silver Screen column here on the site next!
We all need to get behind these releases, buy them and have them sell out, it sounds so promising that many movies we would not see on Blu-ray (or even DVD) could get a Blu-ray release!!!! I ordered 2 copies to show my support.
Nick.... Brian... thank you for bringing The Egyptian to Blu-ray. I have already pre-ordered this wonderful movie. Please keep up the great work, and I do hope there will be more classic releases from Twilight Time in the future. I have always wanted this film, and I am very excited about this Blu-ray release. And thank you Jeffery for a very enjoyable interview. Bravo !!!
I love that titles like this are coming to blu-ray and I hope studios consider releasing obscure titles in HD, even if it is limited. I preordered it, definitely in support of future releases. I used to pay Criterion CAV laserdisc prices in the 90s, so I still feel like I'm getting off cheap, even at $40.
$40 is about $15 too much for me. Glad that they are doing it, but nobody really pays $40 for a criterion movie. I have every single criterion blu ray release and with the exception of the sets have never paid more than $25. I would consider a blind buy for that price.
Had to order two of them! I'd rush to pay $40 for this! Like rondanto, I can't wait for a gorgeous transfer of this all time favorite in blu-ray. It doesn't get any better than this. Still, an announcement for an HD "Demetrius and the Gladiators" would be some mighty tasting frosting!
As I promised I pre-ordered, and I'm happy to see so much support for this kind of movies.
I really hope they are able to strike deals with other studios too, as Mr. Redman suggests in the interview. There are SO MANY old movies that unfortunately will NEVER be released on blu-ray by big studios.
I hope Twilght will give us a restored Blu Ray release of "Demetrius and the Gladiators " since Fox has not done so yet. I would have thought as a sequel to "The Robe" they would have restored both movies at the same time
Nick has asked me to reiterate that all Twilight Time releases are fully pressed DVDs/BDs, not MOD recordable media releases. Evidently there's incorrect speculation on another site with less well informed readers.
I recently moved to the East Coast after working for multiple production companies on the West Side.
Does anyone know where Twilight Time's home office is located? I'd love to work with this company!
Definitely believe in what they're doing!
I pre-ordered mine the day that it went up. While the price may be a little steep, I'm more than willing to pay if it means getting a quality transfer of a classic film. I truly hope that there are more Blu-rays still to come.
I wish Twilight would have seen fit to release "Woman obsessed" on blu-ray. They just released it on dvd, with 16x9 enhanced transfer and isolated score track. I bet there was a high-def master available.