email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

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Louie Despres
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email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:52 am

I'm sick of waiting and dealing with Lou and his delays. SICK, I say. So, here we go. This is the email I got from "Michael Agee" on 9/4:

September 4, 2010


Dear Friend:

My name is Michael Agee. As you may know, I have spent all of the years
since 1984 preserving the films of Hal Roach Studios. On October 23rd of
that year, I walked into a meeting to which I had driven my "second father"
Frank Capra between the two of us and the then-Chairman of HRS, Earl Glick,
regarding Capra's desire to Colorize It's A Wonderful Life (don't ever
believe what you hear-he wanted to do it and I still have the signed
contract in my files!). After twenty minutes of my explaining his own
Library to him, Glick asked me to come to work as his assistant. Frank
urged me to do so, and by January of 1985, I had replaced Herb Gelbspan and
was president of the company, creating a new home video division (I had
built the first lab in Hollywood in 1976 after explaining tape cassettes to
the head of Nostalgia Merchant and literally put them in business-the first
non-porn video company in this country) and made sure to include ALL of the
Roach comedies in our releases.

In 1986 I was prevailed upon by the people who ultimately threw HRS into the
1990 bankruptcy (and never accounted to the court for some one hundred
million dollars that simply "disappeared") to create for them masters of the
Laurel and Hardy "Talkies" (essentially all of the films they had not
previously sold to Richard Feiner in 1968) to finally get The Boys back on
television-and in a high-quality version. I blocked an idiotic deal with
King World that would have seen L&H go the same way as had Our Gang thirty
years earlier, then called my friend Paul Spehr, head of the motion picture
division at the Library of Congress and he agreed to make what he told me
was the "biggest shipment in the history of the Archives"-some three million
feet of original nitrate negatives, fine grains, soundtracks-everything that
existed at that time on those titles. I was to have six months to create
these new masters to my standards, the first time ever that L&H would be
televised directly from the original camera negatives. (After I agreed and
ordered the film they said "well, we really need it in four months" which
meant I worked seven days a week, eighteen hours a day, transferring film in
three rooms at once at Fototronics, then editing together the pieces till
dawn at the new facility I had built to service our own Home Video
operation.)

Most of you know the results-I found the "middle reel" of Laughing Gravy
(and was able to ask Hal Roach why it had been cut), found a seven reel
print marked Their First Mistake which turned out to be a different preview
version of Pardon Us from which I created an alternate 70 minute version of
the first L&H feature, located the Spanish versions, and on and on. All of
this stuff I showed to the "Helpmates Tent" of the Sons of the Desert in
late 1986 and was made an honorary member thereof and had attended their
annual conventions every year thereafter till I got seriously ill in
September of 2006 and was unable to travel.


But, in 1992, I had gone to New York to appear on The Joe Franklin Show-TV
and radio-and that night, at 6pm, I met with Richard Feiner and acquired all
of the Roach films he had bought from Herb Gelbspan in 1968, beginning again
an ever more difficult odyssey which really wasn't completed until October
of 2006 (I also met and married Franklin's 18 year old assistant, so that
was some night!). I again worked all night seven days a week for six weeks
in mid-2006 completing the editing on everything I wanted to include on the
boxed set you have purchased. I took the advice of a good friend in the
Sons from Ireland and put all the L&H films in chronological order on the
first five discs, then added seven discs of material I had always wanted to
make available to you and, on the last disc, added to the rare documentaries
I had licensed (or located at the National Archives) a few things I simply
wanted you to see-especially the camera negative of W.C. Fields' classic The
Dentest which is not only amazing quality but is the "pre-code" version,
edited by my mentor William Hornbeck (the man Capra called "the greatest
film editor who ever lived"). I also included one of The Masquers shorts
(Wide Open Faces) which is absolutely hysterical (they were an old
vaudeville showbiz club that donated their time to make all-star shorts,
released by RKO as fund raisers for their various charities). And I wanted
you to see the Edgar Kennedy shorts (because they were made by the entire
production unit and actors S. S. Van Keuren had forced Roach to lay off in
1931 as condition for receiving a large bank loan from Bank of America (and
Van Keuren was forced on Roach from the bank to keep an eye on their money.
He stayed at HRS well into the television era.) I particularly wanted to
show the Kennedy short which Hal Law shot as essentially a re-make of the
one missing L&H film, Hats Off (for the record, there were precisely two
films in 35mm that were complete when I went to retrieve Feiner's
materials!) And included all the original Hats Off stills and script
information for comparison. And I thought Hal Roach Jr. deserved credit
for the really brilliant work he did in the early TV era. If HRS had been
able to absorb the deficit financing the "big studios" would ultimately be
able to support, there would have been no 1963 bankruptcy and, I suspect, no
early death of Hal Roach Jr. So, there's one disc of just TV shows.

All of this was finished in October of 2006. Image was supposed to release
it in early 2007. We had paid Ambient Digital Services almost $60,000 to do
the menus and compression (create the DLT's) and DeLuxe had received over
$36,000 for creating the glass masters and pressers-and twenty test
pressings of each disc which cost $50 each! But some dumb-bum in the Image
legal department didn't realize the entire boxed set was sitting, finished,
in their offices, the test discs had been viewed and sent on to me, and that
the head of their art department had requested we hold the art files until
after Christmas because "everything was piling up on his desk" during the
holidays. After I had suffered an apparent stroke, this moron sent a letter
claiming the set had not been delivered (never bothering to actually ask
anyone about it, just checking her computer to see that the art files were
not actually in house-kept by us as they had requested) so Image cancelled
the release. I was three months into what became almost four years spent
flat on my back, and I simply set aside the boxed set release.

But what you need to understand is that it is all finished-it was finished
in 2006(!!). In fact, I sent two copies of the test pressings of the entire
12 disc set to Russ Babidge and he was to give one set to Rob Lewis at
Helpmates so Rob could review it in his magazine and on his website. This
second set was given instead to Dick Feiner (who had already gotten a copy
from me!). But all these people can tell you-it's done. All the money is
spent, the work completed. These folks have the set, they've seen it. The
pressing for you folks has been delayed due to some changes in the
protective encoding of the discs (the Chinese are stealing everything I have
done because firstly, they don't understand that the Copyright Office
website does not list ANY L&H copyrights or renewals because the online
files were only created beginning in January, 1978, and the very last Roach
L&H film was copyrighted in 1940 and renewed in 1968, so none of the Roach
information is available via internet search. Hell-they even think Gone
With The Wind is public domain for the same reason!) Secondly, the Chinese
don't really give a damn about any U.S. copyright.

This was ready to go just a few weeks ago when I was approached by a third
party and asked to wait briefly in allowing the pressing to proceed. (Now,
this is very confidential information and if ANYONE posts this proprietary
information or copyrighted missive anywhere you could screw up this entire
deal which will only hurt you and the memory of the Roach library.) The
group that has acquired the rights to put out the entire Roach library
approached me about restoring it (they, of course, have NO masters on
anything save the now decayed analogue tapes I made in 1986-you've seen how
awful they now look on TCM). They had planned to do what every damned fool
has done with the Library since early TV days-just put out the L&H films,
maybe the Our Gang comedies-and write off everything else. I am on the
verge of convincing them to put out everything in the sound era in a series
of at least a dozen high-definition blue ray sets. I am slated to travel
back east on September 22 to meet and make a deal to do this through HRS-but
they want me to hold the silent boxed set till we meet and make it part of
our Agreement. Everything you are waiting for is excepted from any
Agreement we reach and will be produced and shipped to you exactly as
promised immediately upon my either agreeing or not agreeing to do the
entire Library. But I am forced to wait until I can get back there and meet
with them. So I had to delay the shipping of your set.


Since everything on the set is finished, according to Ambient Digital
Services, it only takes a week or two for everything to be pressed, shrink
wrapped, and mailed-the hellish delay of compression was accomplished ages
ago (it took two months, by the way. It is almost fifty hours of material!)

So I ask you to do two things so we can finally get ALL of the HRS films
released: PLEASE keep this to yourself. Blabbing about it or posting this
copyrighted information somewhere could destroy this deal and you will NEVER
see Thelma Todd, Charley Chase, or any Boy Friends or All-Star Comedy on
DVD, much less the non-L&H feature films. And, please wait until I can go
back East and reach an agreement to receive your set. I know you have
waited a long time. I have always delivered for you as, according to what
the "Helpmates" members have told me, no one ever has before. I am
literally slowly dying because of my exposure to the nitrate and it's
resulting damage to my spine, which exposure was required for me to do this
work for you (and in 1986, no one knew this could happen to me).

But I have wanted since 1984 to put out everything Hal made, and now I am so
close to being able to do it. I have to travel these days by ground so it
takes longer to get there and back from California-and I have to stop in
Atlanta to meet with Turner Entertainment about getting some of the silent
films on TCM.

We are on the cusp of finally owning all our favorite films on DVD and in
high definition from the original 35mm nitrate (and I have agreed to re-do
all of the L&H films in Hi Def as part of this proposed project), so please
wait just a little longer.

You can contact me directly at halroachstudio@aol.com if you wish. I have a
lousy computer and even crappier internet service, so it will take me a
while to get back to you but I'd be delighted to hear from you. (And,
please note AOL cannot accept the final "s" on "studios"-it has to be
"studio".)

I beg you-just quietly and confidentially keep you fingers crossed. And
your eyes and anything else you can think of (sorry, men!). It's time to
see not just The Boys but Charley, Thelma, and the Gang in high definition.
I now have the strength and-as of yesterday-the medical clearance to do it.

Thanks for over a quarter of a century of your support. It looks as if
we'll be stuck with each other for a while longer.

Sincerely,


Michael Agee

Louie Despres
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:54 am

and let me add, I sent "Michael" 3 emails to that AOL addy and NEVER got a reply.

Rob Farr
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Location: Our Nation's Capitol

Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Rob Farr » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:43 pm

Oh great Louie. Now we'll "NEVER see Thelma Todd, Charley Chase, or any Boy Friends or All-Star Comedy on
DVD, much less the non-L&H feature films." Way to ruin it for everyone!
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Louie Despres
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:11 pm

Rob Farr wrote:Oh great Louie. Now we'll "NEVER see Thelma Todd, Charley Chase, or any Boy Friends or All-Star Comedy on
DVD, much less the non-L&H feature films." Way to ruin it for everyone!


You're welcome. Screwing it up for film scholars since 1967!

Paul E. Gierucki
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Paul E. Gierucki » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:05 pm

Thanks for posting, Louie. Have you requested a refund yet?

-- PG

Louie Despres
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:44 pm

Paul E. Gierucki wrote:Thanks for posting, Louie. Have you requested a refund yet?

-- PG


Yes, many times, but I have been getting many, "Oh, we just made an upgrade to the set" or "Oh, we just changed the anti-piracy software". I also went as far as to ask just for one disc on DVD-r to try and see if it was legit. The last email I got from the guy at elevenmemories.com, Lou Vecchio, was on September 30th:

I am doing everything I can to get an October ship date
I will have a date that is before the 31st
I will have the precise date soon

LOU


Of course this was after the dozen I had sent him previously. I just sent him out and email yesterday stating that if I don't have my money or DVD's by November 1st, I would be filing a mail fraud case. So far no reply, but there is another person on the Laurel & Hardy forum who is going to do the same thing. Like I said, it's a small world and karma's a bitch.

Louie Despres
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:05 pm

We are into November and I paid for this set on May 18th. I have heard no word from either Mr. Vecchio or Mr. Agee, so today I filed fraud reports and urge everyone else who got taken to do the same thing. You can fill out the forms on-line and send them in. (links provided by Bernie over at the Laurel & Hardy forum):


http://www.ic3.gov
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

http://www.boe.ca.gov/invest/salestax.htm
Report Suspected Sales Tax Fraud Activity in the State of California

https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/form ... laint.aspx
U.S. Postal Inspection Service Mail Fraud Complaint

VECCHIO, LOU
2344 E. KATELLA AVE
ORANGE, California 92867
United States
(949) 466-1091 Fax -- (714) 744-1548
32480louvecchio@gmail.com

www.elevenmemories.com
email: loueleven@elevenmemories.com

Louie Despres
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Mon Nov 08, 2010 3:15 pm

Another day, another nutty email from Lou:

I cannot apologize enough for the delay in the release of the set.
I appreciate your patience and this is not a scam.

The circumstances behind the delay in the manufacturing of the finished set
are an extreme nuisance.
I have had to take over the negotiations for Michael Agee and have been with
him every step of the way to expedite this Infinity/Amazon release of the
set to the public. Those of you who pre-ordered will get yours first.

The delays were beyond my control.
Diligent daily monitoring of the process has had no effect on the process
nor has it in any way been able to speed up the process.
I am closing negotiations this week to replicate the sets myself.

I am asking for your patience, I do expect a replication date soon because I
actually spoke to the manufacturer and have spoken to all parties involved
in this distribution.

Please be patient and understand I am doing everything I possibly can to get
your orders shipped.

Jim Kerkhoff
Capo
Posts: 62
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Jim Kerkhoff » Mon Nov 08, 2010 3:50 pm

Are you sure you didn't pre-order a Warner Brothers DVD set from this guy 'cause he sure seems Looney Tunes to me! For havin' such a bad time with his process, it appears processing your payment wasn't a problem at all for him. Good luck with your unique adventure

Jim K

Louie Despres
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Re: email from "Michael Agee" re: L&H DVD set

Postby Louie Despres » Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:04 am

Another email from Lou:

I cannot apologize enough for the delay in the release of the set.
.....................The set is Finally in replication. I do not anticipate
any more delays; I am doing everything possible to have shipping
confirmations out in the next two weeks. Everyone will have their sets
before Christmas.

The circumstances behind the delay in the manufacturing of the finished set
are an extreme nuisance.
I have had to take over the negotiations for Michael Agee and have been with
him every step of the way to expedite this Infinity/Amazon release of the
set to the public. Infinity has been purchased by Super D and extended the
negotiation. Those of you who pre-ordered will get yours first.

The delays were beyond my control. Diligent daily monitoring of the process
has had no effect on the process nor has it in any way been able to speed up
the process. I am closing negotiations this week to replicate the sets with
Ambient Entertainment. I will have an agreement this week. ........ The
agreement is made and replication has begun

I am asking for your patience, I do expect a replication date with Ambient
and a shipment date that will be in this month November.
......................................As stated above you will have your
sets before Christmas.

Please be patient and understand I am doing everything I possibly can to get
your orders shipped.


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