Moving Pictures
Apr 02, 2024, 06:28AM

Night of the (Formerly) Living Boutique Film Labels

Remembering Olive Films, Twilight Time, and Code Red.

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The thrift store, quickly becoming one of the last reliable places to buy physical media, can be overwhelming. There’s no greater joy than when the employees simply give up, leaving a giant cardboard box of unsorted but priced media items in the middle of an aisle; others may find the endless digging too much. “The eye” allows you to scan that sea of Borat DVDs and Titanic double-tapes to find items that are interesting among the dross. And among all of them, you’ll find many Home Media Labels that are no longer with us. Here are three.

Olive Films (2016–2023): The most recent to go is Olive Films. They never really established a clear niche or genre identity like “we love shot-on-video 1980s horror!”—nor did they have a front-facing person like David Gregory, co-founder of the alive-and-well Severin Films. But they did manage to bring many films to disc that no one else could. I thank them for their releases of Maurice Pilat’s Police (1985) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1989-1999), two of the many minor miracles they managed over a seven-year run. I treasure my copy of John Boorman’s Hope and Glory (1987), an old favorite languishing until 2020 on some company’s “owned IP” pile. The formal announcement on their website was a thoughtful end to an admirable run.

Code Red/Scorpion Releasing (2006—????): It’s not always that neat. There were two brothers, Walt and Bill Olsen. Each ran a DVD/Blu-Ray boutique label focused on different aspects of genre film. Both labels ended when the brothers died—Bill in 2022, Walt last spring. Unlike a Paramount Pictures or Miramax product, their long history of agreements are unraveling, rights expiring, films cast back out into the cold limbo of the gray market, awaiting another distribution agreement, another home. A pallet full of their releases, around 60,000 Blu-Rays and DVDs, is now being sorted through by the proprietor of Grindhouse Video in Knoxville, Tennessee. The story of these two brothers is worthy of its own investigation; cursory online searches only take you so far. Colorful and tragic stories abound, waiting to be fact-checked. Both label’s releases will become rare, some will become valuable, but all are worth a look if found in the second-hand wilderness.

Twilight Time (2011–2020): Eric Hatch once told me: “If you want to get collectors stirred up online or elsewhere, mention Twilight Time.” Their run of limited-edition releases of films from amazing transfers were both prized and seen with a degree of cynicism, the brouhaha reminding me of the accusations of “forced scarcity” of the current vinyl collecting craze. Other controversies were more quotidian, owing to the obsessive nature of those who care about a release being exactly what the filmmaker and their creative team intended. In any case, their discs consistently look and sound amazing. If I ever get my hands and eyeballs on their Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) release—never found cheap—I’ll see cinema heaven. Their end was built into the name: the two principals, Brian Jamieson and Nick Redman, knowing their time in the media industry was coming to an end. In 2020, all rights were absorbed by another company, with some new releases appearing recently under the Twilight Time label. But it’s not the same.


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