Chiller Report + DVD News

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bruce h
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Chiller Report + DVD News

Post by bruce h » Mon Oct 28, 2002 6:25 pm

WARNING: The names of the innocent have not been changed…

Ah, Chiller Weekend. Twice a year, fans of all things genre congregate in Northern New Jersey to release six months worth of frustration in a furious orgy of purchasing that is just barely rivaled by the spectacular feeding frenzy habits exhibited by the Great White Shark. Corralled into a space far too small for the immense numbers, attending one of these conventions is like living a –QATSI film, as the crowd lunges and lurches together like a giant, pulsing, gelatinous mass. But who ever said being sandwiched between several sweaty, overweight, unshowered horror fans can’t be fun?

I usually end up staying at the show all weekend, rooming with my Ultra Violent partner-in-crime Scott Gabbey. However, we just did Ken Kish’s Cinema Wasteland Con in Ohio a few weeks back and Chiller plans were financially iffy this time around. A few days before the festivities, Team UV member Art Ettinger gave me a call to let me know he was staying at the hotel all weekend and had an extra bed if I needed it. Perfect, I thought. This way I could drive up Saturday morning, do some shopping, drink a few beers with friends that evening, give Art a few bucks for crashin’ in his room, and drive home Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I woke up late, and still needed to shave, shower and pack. I didn’t get on the road until a little after 3:00pm, and according to Mapquest the hotel is a 3hr 48min drive. The dealers’ room was going to be closing at 7, meaning my shopping time was going to be quite limited. We couldn’t have that, now could we?

It’s a good thing the Boys in Blue weren’t hangin’ around the NJ Turnpike during my ride up, because I’m not exaggerating when I say my speedometer was sportin’ triple-digits the majority of the distance. If they don’t want me to drive that fast they shouldn’t have sold me a car that can do 165mph. Needless to say, I got there in about half of Mapquest’s estimate.

My convention goals were simple: get director Jeff Lieberman to sign my Mexican SQUIRM lobby card, find somewhere to put the beer that was in my trunk, and to pointlessly spend what little money I actually had on DVDs I didn’t need. I also tried to sneak a peak of Darian Cane’s boobs, but she wasn't havin' none of it. No matter what anyone says, she’s hot.

I’m not a huge fan of signatures, but I wanted the SQUIRM item signed because I did a lengthy interview with Jeff that’ll appear in the next UV. Illustrations look cooler when they’re signed, especially a piece this garish. After searching around for about 45 minutes, going from floor to floor and room to room, I was finally told that Lieberman didn’t show. Mission One: Failed.

A few weeks earlier, Synapse head honcho Don May Jr. had told me he might host a little get-together to show off some DVD-Rs of a few of the titles he was working on. I figured I’d materialize my appreciation for the invite by picking up a case of beer. After a little searching I luckily ran into Don at the Media Blasters table, and we transported the booze to his fridge. Mission Two: Accomplished.

Which leaves Mission Three. So what did I buy? My first purchase was from the Media Blasters table, where I briefly spoke to John Sirabella (occasional Mobius poster/MB-head/all-around nice-guy) and picked up their DVDs of WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE and FIANCEE OF DRACULA. SOLANGE is a great disc -- probably the best Shriek Show effort yet -- and I have no problem with highly recommending it. FIANCEE looks decent, but gets a little grainy during nighttime scenes (assumedly a combination of film stock and the low budget). Fans of Rollin expecting the film to look as robust as his earlier titles may be slightly disappointed, but all things considered it’s very acceptable. I then made my way to an import dealer’s room to pick up a few discs that haven’t made it to domestic shores yet. The most feature-laden item was definitely the Brazilian Coffin Joe 6-disc box set. Regrettably, once I got home I found that the supplements and commentary tracks WERE NOT subtitled in English, contrary to what I was previously told. All the features look nice and are subbed, so fans will want it anyway, but most of the additional materials consist of interviews that I can’t understand. From the same seller I also grabbed Mondo Macabro’s new DVD of THE VAMPIRE. I’m a big fan of the MM label and think Pete Tombs and crew have been doing an excellent job. The release looks quite nice, and those of you used to only seeing Beverly Wilshire’s cheapo DVDs of these Mexploitation films will be surprised at how elegant they can appear. An older title I finally picked up is Dragon’s release of the Italian shocker MAYA. A fun, late entry into the Euro-horror phase, I was always hesitant on purchasing the disc because I wasn’t too impressed with Dragon’s work on other titles. Thankfully that’s not the case here and the disc looks just as good as their release of AMAZONAS (aka MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY). No real extras other than a trailer, but it’ll do unless someone stateside acquires it. The last titles on this stop included a copy of MASSACRE TIME that I haven’t watched yet and THE SISTER OF URSULA, which locks up about 30 mins into it. I need to arrange a return. Making my way to the NYC Liquidators table I bought a cheapo disc of the old sleaze-fav SINNER’S BLOOD. It looks like crap, but my old tape was glitch-riddled so it’s a fair trade-off. The final DVD on my pile is Synapse’s COLD HEARTS disc, which I haven’t viewed yet to offer my opinion. Nice transfer and plenty of supplements, I’ll post thoughts after I watch it.

Once the vendors closed up shop, everyone got together in the lobby to discuss dinner plans. After a little standing around and chatting, it was decided we were eating at a local Outback. I jumped into Anchor Bay goofball Michael Felsher’s car with Don and Vincent Pereira (Mobius frequenter/A BETTER PLACE director/rabid Argentophile) and the trip began. The ride should’ve taken about 3 minutes, but given the fact that none of us knew where we were going coupled with NJ’s insane road systems (would a red light or an intersection hurt?) it took us like 15. It was joked that Mike was taking us to the middle of nowhere to purge the vehicle of Vincent for his previous statements regarding Anchor Bay’s SUSPIRIA and MANHUNTER. We eventually found the steakhouse (the sign had burnt out, so we couldn’t see it from the highway) and made our way inside. We had a table reserved for 15, and I’m pretty sure we filled it. Our motley bunch also included such luminaries as Michael Gingold and Matthew Kiernan (Fangoria magazine), Mitch Davis (Fantasia Festival), Rick Trembles (hilarious cartoonist), Edwin Samuelson and Ian Jane (DVD Maniacs), among others. Conversation was great, the bloomin’ onions were tasty (it’s Mitch’s favorite food of ALL time), and the waiter was outta his damn mind. Then came the problem. Outback Steakhouse is probably the WORST place for a hungry vegetarian to go. After scanning the menu a good dozen times, I eventually realized that my only choice for food that wasn’t a giant slab of beef was off the “Lil’ Joey’s” children’s menu. And no matter how cool you think you are, ordering a “Grilled Cheese-A-Roo” is a pretty humbling experience. I don’t think Don’s ever gonna let me live that one down.

We finished the meal, tipped VERY largely, and left. Vincent had some other things to do, so we bid him a fond farewell and Don, Mike and I retreated to their hotel. I was fortunate enough to check out a few upcoming Synapse projects so those of you who want the advance scoop, here it is. THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE is gonna blow its fans away. The transfer is still a little grainy (it was filmed on 16mm), but the colors and clarity are eye-opening. There are details I never even knew existed on my old tape – not to mention this is the first time EVER being released to home video uncut and in English. The new transfer also adds additional picture info to the sides in comparison to my old 1.33:1 version. The sparse dubbing ain’t bad either, and I think the film will gain a lot of new fans with this release. BLUE SUNSHINE was pulled from a 35mm print (the negative has been destroyed), but you wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at it. No noticeable grain, hardly any blemishes, nice colors – another fine job from Synapse. I recently had to rewatch the film to prepare for my interview, and was surprised at how well it held up. Criminally overlooked, hopefully this nice presentation will give it a new lease on life. Last up was a completed check disc (instead of the transfer-only DVD-Rs of the other two) for Jean Rollin’s BACCHANALES SEXUELLES. While it doesn’t look as great as the previous RAISENS DE LA MORTE release, it still looks pretty damn good. The movie itself is a real wild one – although I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. I think I’ll just say, “The maid.” Bahoom bahoom.

Since our food had now started digesting, we figured it was about time to head back to the hotel for the Saturday night party. We lasted about 2 minutes before deciding the band was too loud. Luckily, our dinner friends informed us that Mark Walkow (Criterion/the softest speaking man alive) was hosting a gathering in his room. Up the elevator we went, and coincidentally his room was right across the hall from where I was staying. I filled the sink with ice, plopped the beer in, and we had ourselves an old-fashioned hotel party. (While I was arranging the beverages, I heard a lot of commotion in the hallway. I took a peak out my door and saw Mondo Digital frontman/fellow party-guest Nat Thompson wheeling a chair across the passage with a gigantic smile on his face. I have never seen a happier drunk.) Of course, I know what you’re thinkin’ - when you get an illustrious group of film aficionados this big together we must have had some amazing, intelligent conversations and debates about the various facets of motion picture history and its future, right? Wrong. Instead we got increasingly intoxicated on a mixture of beer, saki and, um… an exotic liquor imported from Spain and exchanged stories regarding involuntary expulsions of unwanted bodily fluids of every shape, size and color. And the world is a better place because of it.

I had a great time, and even though my stay at Chiller was limited I feel as though the hassle of making the trek was more than worth it. To my friends new and old, I offer thanks, and hopefully we’ll do it all again in April!

Oh yeah. Last, but not least, is the DVD news portion. The part that most of you were probably skimming this long-winded, meandering piece for. Well, guess what? I have no clue what I’m supposed to leak out and what’s supposed to be secret, so there ain’t much to tell. The only nugget of worthwhile info I’ll give is this: Wild East is quickly shooting up my “cool guys” list based on the promo fliers they had lying around. Coming soon are volumes 4 and 5 of their Spaghetti Western Collection: BEN AND CHARLIE and FOR A FEW TRAILERS MORE! Fans of Italian Horse Operas really have some cool stuff coming their way. More importantly is news that Wild East is starting a new line: The Euro-Crime Collection! First up is Sergio Martino’s THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS, a real fun one where neither women nor children are safe! Let’s all pray they get done right (I haven’t seen Wild East’s DAY OF ANGER or BOOT HILL yet to judge).

(Disclaimer: I.D. tags have been given purely for educational purposes. I’m not trying to gratuitously name-drop, I SWEAR. If I left anyone out, I am truly sorry.)
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[b][SIZE="3"][url=http://bruceholecheck.blogspot.com/]Cinema Arcana[/url][/SIZE][/b]
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Griff [Mola]
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Post by Griff [Mola] » Tue Oct 29, 2002 9:03 am

Wow.

Since this was in between where I was and where I was going, I actually got myself organized enough to attend. Its bizarre. Considering there's no real discernable genre-lovin' communtity back home, it was initially difficult to fathom the sheer amount of people festering at this one location, united by a singular passion.

Since Bruce's report dutifully details what you CAN do at Chiller, I won't bore you with the semantics of what I actually DID do at Chiller. Suffice to say that, yes, I got drunk and yes, I paid through the arse for it since there were no nearby convience stores to my utter, utter dismay. There goes my DVD money...

I kept thinking I missed Jeff Lieberman but when I found out he wasn't in a room I had definitely visited a few times, I figured he must've pulled out. Rats, I'm a huge BLUE SUNSHINE fan. Shamefully, SQUIRM is one of those titles that has mysteriously elluded me over the years, slipping through them cracks that plague every man and woman's film education.

I also found the concept of meeting anyone associated with the movies in person almost totally alien to me ('cept for Ray Harryhausen who toured Oz a couple of years back) since, for the most part, they don't even exist in Australia. It was a very surreal yet approachable situation for me. It was a pleasure to meet them all but I'll only mention two: firstly, Tom Savini, because he recently got a bad rap in here but treated me like a king and even gave me one of his dearly priced videotapes - for free. Secondly and finally, Don Calfa (Ernie from ROTLD for those scratching their heads) for talking my ear off for a good 20 minutes and just being so damn enthusiastic and appreciative.

I also met some fantastic 'normal' people who I'm sure I'll remain in contact with for a while to come.

Cheers.

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