PBS is the perfect venue for audiences to experience rare cartoons, shorts, serials and features that are rarely seen since the 1930s, 40s and 50s. So....
Matinee at the Bijou producers have been scouring data bases of existing film archives, and the film lists of newly discovered private collections, to program our first new season of 12 matinees. Each episode is programmed around Bijou’s new serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. So the hunt is on for 12 terrific cartoons, shorts and features to flesh-out each new show.
It’s estimated that 50% of all films made prior to 1950 no longer exist. One of our goals in bringing back Matinee at the Bijou is to leverage the series’ home on PBS to attract the attention of film collectors around the country who possess rare and often lost films among their cinematic treasures.
To achieve this goal, four distinguished veteran film authorities, each with their own eclectic film libraries, are working together to locate, restore (if necessary) and create top-quality Hi-Def masters, directly from 35mm or 16mm celluloid sources, required to achieve true high definition.
For example, executive producer and Sinister Cinema owner Greg Luce, has contributed an excellent print of Radio Ranch (1940) This is a rare example where a studio re-edited a 12-chapter serial down to a feature-length version for theatrical re-release. Many classic serials were reconfigured this way by studios for release to TV in the 1950s and 60s. Radio Ranch is the feature version of The Phantom Empire, a campy cowboys vs aliens romp starring singing cowboy Gene Autry. This is the original studio release, complete with the proper title, which was altered to Men With Steel Faces on some versions. The PBS version will be the first HD incarnation to be released for broadcast and DVD.
Bijou executive producers Ron Hall (Festival Films) and Conrad Sprout (Hollywood Select Video) are also seeking and finding rare and rarely seen content for the sequel series. Ron has access to some excellent sources for celluloid masters of rarely seen cartoons and shorts, while Conrad is focusing on finding color versions of some films heretofore only available in black & white.
And of course, Bijou Bob has been collecting films and working with film aficionados and collectors since the original Matinee at the Bijou series first premiered on PBS back in 1980. So we’ll be sharing some of our own discoveries along the way as well.