(The Eyes of the World)
(Interviews with archives, museums and video companies with Conrad Veidt material in its collections.)

Through the Looking Glass
The Em Gee Film Library

Students attend film classes at high schools, colleges and universities all across the country. Chances are the movies they get to watch in these classes have been rented for the occasion from the Em Gee Film Library.

Nocturne editor Barbara Peterson interviewed Murray Glass, founder of the Em Gee Film Library

How did you get into the business?

I have been in the business of film rentals for approximately 40 years. It started as a hobby, collecting 16mm films. After I got out of the army, after W.W. II, I went back to my alma mater, C.C.N.Y, for some refresher courses in my major, chemistry.

My first rentals were actually accidental, in that I was taking a course at C.C.N.Y. on Motion Picture History. The instructor was none other than Hans Richter, the famous avant-garde film-maker (GHOSTS BEFORE BREAKFAST. RHYTHMUS 21, DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY, etc.)

When we came to discussing Charlie Chaplin, I mentioned that I had a few of his films at home, and Richter told me to bring them into class, which I did. A few weeks later, I got a check in the mail.....my first film rentals.

While taking Richter's course, which was followed the next semester by a course on Documentary Film (also taught by Richter), I began going to the Museum of Modern Art on a regular basis, and I was hooked, I became a real film buff.

When I came to Los Angeles, I was working as a chemist, but I began collecting seriously, and in order to be able to afford purchases, I began renting in a small way, while buying films, which eventually grew to a collection now totaling some 6000 titles in all genres.

After a while, I discovered that I was making more from film rentals and sales as a sideline than I was from working as a chemist, and enjoying it more....so I went into it full time.

Who are your customers?

We rent mainly to colleges and universities that have film history courses, but we also rent to film societies, theaters, museums, and television stations...very occasionally to private individuals.

Our sales division (Glenn Photo Supply/Glenn Video Vistas) offers some 1,800 titles in 16mm film and/or video for sale.

In terms of rentals, I can tell you that our library is probably the largest of its kind...namely, historical films. We offer films going back to before the turn of the century, on into the silent and early sound era and afterward. In terms of (16mm) film sales we offer more titles in more genres than any one else, with the possible exception of Blackhawk Films....and we are distributors for Blackhawk as well. In video sales, we're about middle in size.

Tell us about your catalogs and advertising.

We have both sales and rental catalogs; the sales catalog sells for $5.00, postpaid. Rental catalog (and supplement) sell for $12.50, postpaid.

< I advertise rarely for sales. When I do, it's either in THE BIG REEL or in REEL IMAGES, both of which are publications for film and video collectors. I never advertise for rentals. I've been in business for 40 years, and we're well known among instructors who teach film history. In addition, whenever I come out with a new addition to the catalog, I send it around to everyone who I think should have one. We are also listed in a variety of source publications, including the internet. There's also a lot of word-of-mouth.

Where did you get your stock?

I have obtained material from a variety of sources...companies like Blackhawk Films (for whom we are also sub-distributors), collectors, archives, as well as lucky finds at swap meets, in attics and garages all over the country, as well as from sources all over the world. We have located, preserved, and made available from nitrate, original subjects of all kinds. We also used to deal in standard-8mm and super-8mm, until they went the way of the 78 rpm record.

Are there conventions for film renters?
I don't know of any conventions for either film collectors or film renters, per se. The Cinecon (Convention of Cinephiles) meets every year on the Labor Day weekend. It started out as a small gathering of 8mm Film collectors and grew every year until it is now a big deal. It attracts film buffs, which includes film collectors, video collectors, memorabilia collectors, and just individuals who are attracted by the rare films which are shown every year. It used to be held at different major cities around the country (and once in Toronto), but it has been held in Hollywood for the past seven years. There are similar, regional conventions at other times of the year in Columbus, OH, and Syracuse, NY.

Describe your facilities

Our rental library sits in film cans at our facility on large wood and steel racks. Our facility occupies 1100 (crowded!) square feet. I have one full-time employee and one part-time. It is air-conditioned as required. People have a strange notion that films have to be kept in cold storage. 0rdinary room temperature is fine. In the summer, if it gets too hot, we turn on the air conditioning. In winter, we turn on the heat....just like at home! Our film negatives are stored at the laboratory which does our printing.

How many Conrad Veidt movies do you have?

We have the following for rent in 16mm (R) and for sale in 16mm (F) and/or video (V):

THE BELOVED ROGUE R, F, V
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI R, F, V
WAXWORKS R, V
DARK JOURNEY R, F, V
THE MAGICIAN (THE LAST PERFORMANCE) R, F, V
UNDER THE RED ROBE R, V
THE WANDERING JEW (Excerpt-last reel, English) R
THE WANDERING JEW (Dubbed in Yiddish) R

The Magician?

I obtained my copy from England. That's the title under which The Last Performance was released there.

Do you have multiple copies of many movies?

If its one of our most popular titles, we will have multiple copies. For example, we have four copies of CALIGARI and 12 copies of GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, etc. If all our copies of a certain title are booked for the requested date, the school (or other user) may often request it for another date...or another subject for the same date. If not, they might try to get the film elsewhere.

Service, print quality, etc, play a role in determining whether a user will come to us or someone else...but often the determining factor is price...and our prices are better than most.

One of our most frequently-rented subjects is CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, because of its importance historically. Unfortunately, not so much because it has Conrad Veidt in it. That's why we have multiple copies.

We get comparatively infrequent bookings of the other Veidt films. We have as many Veidt films in our collection as we do, because the collection remains, at base, a hobby in the sense that I acquire films that I like when they become available. (The first time I saw Conrad Veidt was in 1940, in The Thief of Bagdad. He far outshone the nominal star, Sabu, and Ive been a fan ever since.) Some of the films in the collection have never had a booking...and, possibly never will!

Do educational facilities place their orders in a timely manner?

It all depends....we've had bookings as far as a year in advance. On the other hand, we've had emergency bookings which required us to ship on Federal Express for next day delivery! The reasons could vary all over the map...the most frequent being either the failure of a film to arrive from another distributor, or a professor having forgotten to book a film until the day before the class!

Comment on the film quality in your collection

As a collector, I have always tried to get the best quality prints available from whatever sources I could. Some of the films are reduced from original nitrates, at the best labs in Hollywood. Our print of CALIGARI, for example, not only is complete and of good visual quality, but it has an excellent, orchestral sound track.

WAXWORKS is much better than the mushy print which used to be distributed by Films, Inc. BELOVED ROGUE was reduced from a beautiful nitrate print, in which there was absolutely no nitrate deterioration except for a short sequence in the 9th (of 10) reels. THE MAGICIAN (THE LAST PERFORMANCE) is of excellent quality

Each of these features rent for from $35.00 to $50.00 for a single showing. Our sales prices vary all over the map! Contact us for those prices!

Do you plan to acquire more Veidt films?

We're always looking for additions to our collection. If anyone out there has prints (in excellent condition only!) and is willing to let us copy them, we would be very willing to make it worth while for them to do so.

The Em Gee Film Library/ or Glenn Photo Supply / or Glenn Video Vistas is located at:
6924 Canby Avenue, Suite 103
Reseda, CA 91335
Tel: (818) 881-8110
Fax: (818) 981-5506
E-mail: [email protected]

(Editor's note. The Conrad Veidt Society does not endorse the quality of videos offered by Em Gee Library 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.)

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