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WANTED By The Bad Movie Police! J.R. Bookwalter's Life of Video Crime PDF Print E-mail
Written by Written by Joe Sherlock   
Apr 20, 2005 at 02:00 AM
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WANTED By The Bad Movie Police! J.R. Bookwalter's Life of Video Crime
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DG: The Bad Movie Police is a genius concept - how did it come about? 

JRB: It started as an inside joke...I like self-depricating humor and I don't take myself but so seriously. So for years when I would hear a siren off in the distance, I would joke that the Bad Movie Police were coming to take me away. It became a running joke with my little group, and as the years went by I started thinking, "Gee, what if making bad movies really was a crime?" Then it occurred to me that that was a great idea for a DVD series and a good way to get a handful of movies we had made in 1991-92 back into the market. I didn't want to release them without a "hook" - they were simply too embarrassing to stand on their own.

Around the beginning of 2001, I decided to commission some scripts for the series and even had behind-the-scenes featurettes cut for the first two segments. At that time, it was just Ariauna Albright playing Sgt. Elke Mantooth. I wasn't that crazy about those scripts, then I got busy producing some more crap for Full Moon so the idea languished until early 2003 when we reworked the idea to include a partner named Lt. Drucilla Dread, played by Lilith Stabs. That's when we shot the first 3 episodes over a 5-day period in Los Angeles.

DG:Three volumes are available right now, but there are plans for a 4th and 5th release, correct?

That's right. The first two, CASE #1: GALAXY OF THE DINOSAURS and CASE #2: CHICKBOXER, were released in October, 2003. CASE #3: HUMANOIDS FROM ATLANTIS, was just released in November. All three of those were written & directed by John Treacy, but I'll probably be taking over the directing reins on the next two, which are slated for release in late 2005. Those will be CASE #4: MAXIMUM IMPACT and CASE #5: ZOMBIE COP. Among the ideas being written for them now include Ariauna's character going undercover at a "Bad Filmmakers Anonymous" meeting, Lilith's character hunting down the notorious Lance Randas who is plotting a bad movie terrorist strike with actors James L. Edwards and Tom Hoover, and the girls will also be held hostage at a B-movie fan convention. I have a lot of other ideas, particularly spoofing real people and incidents from my own personal experiences in the business. So, it should be fun!

DG: Midnight Skater and Demon Summer are by a bunch of young moviemakers from your hometown of Akron, Ohio, correct? How did you hook up with them?

JRB: Speed Freak Productions is a group of young filmmakers in Kent, Ohio (only a stone's throw from Akron) headed by brothers Andy & Luke Campbell. I had been given a copy of Midnight Skater at a convention by one of their posse, writer/actor Stacey Silvers. That actually led to me making a deal for both SKATER and SPLATTER RAMPAGE WRESTLING, which was a collection of outlandish backyard wrestling videos they had done when they were kids. At the time they were just getting started on shooting Demon Summer, which I also picked up upon completion.

I have to tell you, these kids have talent! Though SKATER was quite crudely made, there was definitely something kinda cool going on in the movie and Demon Summer was a quantum leap forward in quality and production values. I recently saw the trailer for their next flick, THE RED SKULLS, and it looks like they are going to outdo themselves yet again. I don't often praise much of the no-budget stuff, but I'd keep an eye out on these kids...they're going places.

DG: How did you end up releasing Brett Kelly's The Bonesetter and upcoming Feral Man?

JRB: Brett had been a website reviewer in Canada and had sent me Feral Man when it was first completed. I never did get a chance to watch it because I tend to get more screeners than I have room on the schedule for! We kept in touch and he sent me The Bonesetter when it was completed. Some time passed and we wound up meeting at a convention and really hitting it off. So I made a point to watch the flicks when I got home, and I was pretty impressed. Originally I had planned to include the films in some multi-pack releases, but after some research I found it was better to keep them as individual releases. Brett is another one I think who's got some real potential, especially since he's kind of a triple-threat as writer/actor/director. And boy, are those Canadians nice folks! (laughs)

DG: The Dead Next Door is currently undergoing a special edition treatment that you've been detailing in your DND Blog. How did the deal come about and what can fans look forward to in this definitive collector's edition?

JRB: It's funny how that came about, because I had initially put out the word that I was thinking of doing a Limited Edition release because I get so many people asking when it's coming out on DVD. FANGORIA caught wind of it and posted it on their website, and in addition to hundreds of e-mails from fans saying they wanted to buy it, Michael Felsher at Anchor Bay inquired about licensing the rights to do a proper remastered Special Edition. A few negotiations later, the deal was done and I've been spending most of 2004 tinkering around with that.

First and foremost is a brand-new transfer from the original Super-8mm film elements. That was a bit of a task in itself because we had never actually cut the film - instead everything was transferred to 1" video and it was finished that way (this was 1986-88). We decided to assemble new telecine reels of just the actual takes used in the film, then I would conform that against the final picture to reassemble it with new titles and opticals. But all that work was worth it, because the new transfer looks like a completely different movie! Anchor Bay is doing some final restoration work on it now to remove as much of the film damage as possible.

I also went back to the original 24-track audio elements and remixed the show in 5.1 surround...unlike OZONE and some of the Tempe DVD releases I didn't do a complete rebuild of the audio elements, but THE DEAD NEXT DOOR really has been brought to modern standards with this mix. A few fans have asked me to keep the original stereo mix on the DVD as well..I'm sort of loathe to do that because it's pretty substandard, but I may cave in just to be a completist. I think when people compare the two, they will decide not to listen to the old mix anymore. (laughs)

As far as extras, Anchor Bay wants to limit the release to a single disc but it will still be loaded. I've already assembled a reel of outtakes & deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, video "storyboards" (test footage compared to the final footage, which also includes some of the first 3/4" test footage) and a whole lot more. I'm hoping to include PDF versions of all six drafts of the screenplay on the disc as well, because the story took a few turns over the months I spent writing and rewriting it. But I think it's safe to say this will be a pretty complete release and the fans of that film will be quite happy!

DG: You get these questions all the time, no doubt, having been at it as long as you have, but what is your take on the current state of the "underground video" scene? I still have a copy of the ol' Tempe Buzz newsletter in my office and while the titles and names have changed there still seems to be a steady flow of "product" coming out for fans of no-budget horror. Some is good. Some is crap. Is it a case of things just going in cycles?

JRB: Honestly, I think things are just as bad as they always have been, and maybe worse. I say "worse" because back in the days I was publishing Alternative Cinema, it was somewhat more excusable to make bad movies because the technology was really not affordable to us...you had to shoot Super-VHS or 8mm video or whatever, and the quality wasn't very high. When Mini-DV became affordable in 1996, that excuse started to fade away. So now all these filmmakers have access to DV and Final Cut Pro and all these great tools, but many of them are still making crap. And the reason for that is simple - it's really hard to make a good movie! Anybody can make a bad one, it happens all the time in Hollywood and the proof is on the big screen.

The thing is, crappy movies will always outweigh good movies...it's just the way it is. People like to rag on shot-on-video movies being the antichrist, but were these people paying attention in the '80s? There were way more 35mm movies with reasonable budgets getting shelf space, and they were all pretty bad!! So I'm not sure that video in and of itself is the problem, the problem lies with the people making the movies. And the problem there is, most of the companies that have close ties with corporate giants like Blockbuster or Hollywood are making what they think will sell to them...generally watered-down crap with a nice box cover. These companies, and Full Moon is included in them, don't seem to care what the movie is...all they care about is a catchy title, some nice cover art and maybe a good trailer, because that's what's going to encourage those brain-dead buyers at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video to buy. Sadly, nobody seems to care about the content of these movies anymore except the fans, and they're the ones really taking it in the ass every time they rent or buy that stuff. Thankfully many of them have been resourceful enough to find smaller companies like Tempe, Brain Damage, Sub Rosa, et al who are offering something with a little more meat on its bones, even though the budgets might be smaller.

DG: At one point there was talk of a Kingdom of the Vampire remake. It seems to be a clever yet simple story that could very well be retold. Any chance of this getting remade?

JRB: I was ready to make a KINGDOM remake a couple years ago, this time with Matthew Jason Walsh both writing and directing. Brinke Stevens was enlisted to play the mother, Jeff Dylan Graham was attached as Jeff and Lilith Stabs was going to play the girlfriend. The main problem with that project was, I really loved what Matt did with the relationship with Jeff and the girlfriend, but he pretty much left the stuff between the mother and Jeff alone. I always felt that was where the original film suffered most, because it sort of degenerated into a bunch of whining and screaming. Matt and I didn't see eye to eye on the concept at that time, so I just moved on to something else. But the subject comes up every now and again. I'm finally releasing the original KINGDOM in the spring of 2005 as part of a double feature called NIGHT CREATURES, but I'd still like to do the remake and maybe recut the original for a double bill release in the future. Who knows!

DG: You have also mentioned a Dead Next Door sequel from time to time and usually the reasons for not making it at the time were budgetary. Are you any closer to making that movie? Do you still have a desire to?

JRB: Most of the deals for DEAD FUTURE: THE DEAD NEXT DOOR fell apart because the people who wanted to make it either couldn't cough up the money or they wanted to start tampering with the script too much. My only real dealbreakers on this project are that the budget be bigger than the original (even if it's by one red cent!) and that I have the same creative freedom I enjoyed on the original - which means, give me the money and let me do it my way. That seems easy enough, but you'd be surprised. Of course, with zombie-mania now in full swing I've had some new interested parties, but the same dealbreakers are in full effect. Hopefully when the Anchor Bay DVD is released in August there will be some legitimate interest in doing it. I've also entertained the possibility of a remake as a way to get the sequel made, but I think the fans have got to be getting sick of all the remakes...I know I am!

DG: Anything else you'd like to add to Tempe fans and new fans alike out there?

We've got some cool stuff coming in 2005! In late February we'll be releasing the POLYMORPH Special Edition, which was the first DV feature I did back in 1996. I'm currently remastering THE SANDMAN for a Special Edition DVD release in the summer. I just acquired a very hip little zombie flick called THE STINK OF FLESH from first-time director Scott Phillips, whose previous credits as a screenwriter include HORRORVISION and DRIVE. And of course let's not forget Chris Seaver and his whacky hijinks...MULVA 2: KILL TEEN APE! is coming in late March starring Debbie Rochon, who takes over the title role, as well as a packed FILTHY McNASTY: TRILOGY OF FILTH disc. Be on the lookout for those, and as always I love hearing from the folks who are watching this stuff...good, bad or indifferent your feedback is always welcome!


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