#SDCC15: Joe Dante Takes Us Inside the Warner Archive; Gremlins 3 Update - Dread Central
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#SDCC15: Joe Dante Takes Us Inside the Warner Archive; Gremlins 3 Update

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Warner Archive

The masterminds behind the Warner Archive Collection manufacturing on demand (MOD) initiatives have been steadily dropping classic and obscure horror films on us for about 6 years now. At this year’s Comic-Con we sat down with the three men behind this revolutionary process, George Feltenstein, Matthew Patterson, and DW Ferranti, along with horror maestro Joe Dante to talk horror and how they select the films to release under their often imitated MOD label.

“When it comes to selecting titles to release, it depends on a few things,” says Ferranti. “It’s a combination of the physical elements… the master… perceived market interest, what’s going on in our culture that could relate to it, and demand.”

Patterson chimes in, “One of the more interesting things we learned when we first started doing Warner Archives was that at first it was just going to be existing masters of classic films… you know, the kind of thing that Turner Classic Movies is known for showing. However, because some of the 70’s films were selling really well, and people starting snapping up these older TV movies, these factors kind of opened the door to where we are today… releasing classic TV shows, classic cartoons. Then because of that success, George was able to start getting funding to do remasters. The quality of our releases started going up, and thankfully fans started flocking. Now we do podcasts, go to events, are active on social media, etc. Getting people excited about these movies have been a key factor in our success.”

Warner Archive

“We also have either three or four salt mines filled with original negatives and video tapes,” Patterson goes on. “The Warner Archive is actually the largest film collection in the world. It truly is like a real mine. You just keep going through it and working stuff out. The MOD initiative allows us to target even the smallest audience without much financial risk. Being that we’re the ones who are printing these movies to disc when they’re ordered, we don’t end up with 10,000 extra copies that no one wants.”

Another good thing about the Warner Archive Collection is that it stings the problem of film piracy directly at its core. DW elaborates further. “There was a perception among many in the industry that if stuff had been bootlegged and sold already, it just wasn’t worth putting out. However, we knew from personal experience that people are just buying the bootlegs because there’s no other way to get these movies. The people hunting these films down would MUCH RATHER own a better version of the film. If an official version of a movie comes out on disc that was previously only available via nefarious channels, 9 times out of 10 they would trash the bootleg for something better, and that’s what we offer.”

“I have been physically exploring our archives for about 15 to 20 years, looking at elements and masters, figuring out what generation they may be” said Feltenstein, a man who shows a lot of love and takes an equal amount of pride in his work. “Most marketing executives do not do that. It’s not technically my job to go looking for film elements, but I do. We started with 150 titles and now we’re over 2,200 and thankfully there isn’t an end in sight.”

At this point George had to be taken to another table, but in his stead we got the always wonderful Joe Dante.

Joe Dante

“You know, there’s a lot of movies out there that have fallen through the cracks, if you will, and the Warner Archive have done an amazing job bringing them back to the market,” said Dante. “[They own] two thirds of the films out there… because they’ve acquired all these different libraries. And now they also offer streaming options. I don’t know about you, but that goes a long way in saving them space. But then there’s the Cloud thing. Everyone says, ‘Oh, it’s in the Cloud.’ I’m not so sure I buy into that! We should all just agree to never put anything important in the Cloud. I just don’t think it’ll be around forever! I saw The Crawling Eye! I know what could happen,” Dante says with a laugh.

Speaking of horror films, Warner has a LOT of Hammer films on their way to Blu-ray. “There’s only one problem with Hammer; the rights to those movies are scattered all over the place so I don’t think we’ll ever see a complete collection of them Stateside. The ones that were released by Fox were 7 Arts, and 7 Arts is owned by Warner, so they got those back. But there’s also a lot of Universal Hammer films as well as several owned by Columbia and some MGM releases that are just never gonna go to the Warner Archive, BUT thankfully Warner does own a BUNCH of them. I’m extremely thankful for what they’ve got though, and as you see, they do a tremendous job on what they release. These guys,” referring to George, Matt, and DW… It’s like they’re this little guerilla unit… they’ve done a remarkable job of bringing these movies, some of which haven’t been seen in 70 years, back to the public. What’s interesting is that after they became successful, other companies like MGM, etc., started to put out their own version of the Warner Archive, but they quickly discovered that they really didn’t know how to do it as well. As a result, a lot of those movies are now distributed by Warner Archive even though they’re not Warner pictures. That’s really telling.”

Dante continues, “I was lucky enough to see some of these Hammer films when they were new and in the theater. I mean, Curse of Frankenstein! Man, I remember not being able to sleep for WEEKS after seeing that picture. What’s remarkable to me is that, back then… if you tried to make a period horror film today, with waistcoats and petticoats, horses and carriages, nobody would buy it! Kids would wouldn’t sit still for it, but WE for some reason… man, we thought it was GREAT! It didn’t bother us at all. Horror of Dracula though… that was the movie that truly gave Hammer their direction. Here was a company at that time that really wasn’t sure which direction that they wanted to go in. They decided, this was the kind of movies that they wanted to make, so they made a deal with Universal to go through the vault and make color versions of their classic monster movies. Until Hammer horror movies were very resistant to showing blood… or showing any kind of cleavage. I mean, no vampires had fangs until Christopher Lee. That was a big change and a change that defined horror in the Sixties. Soon afterwards the Italians saw that and they started – THANKFULLY – making horror pictures and that’s how we got directors like Mario Bava. It was a really great time to be a kid because all of these movies were coming out.”

“I cannot tell you how many times I would frequent the worst theatets in town just because they were the only ones playing these movies. I remember going to 42nd Street and just missed getting peed on from the balcony. There was a theater in Philadelphia called ‘The Family Theatre.’ They were open 24 hours a day and were constantly running movies. Literally no matter what happened, they would continue running the pictures. So I was there watching a movie called The Whip and the Body, a Bava picture starring Christopher Lee. It had a scene in which Lee was just whipping this girl and some guy got so excited watching the picture that he stabbed the guy in the next seat over to him. So yeah, there was like a murder… in the theater. As you would expect, it was pandemonium and the police came, but no lights ever went on in that theater and the film never stopped running. I simply just moved to another seat because if I didn’t see this picture here, I was never going to see it. That’s what you had to do back then!”

Thankfully times have changed. For better or worse. One thing that’s changed in moviemaking is the usage of CGI. Dante chimed in regarding this contemporary technology. “I have nothing against CGI; in fact I think it’s a great tool. I do, however, still like the old ways. I think they’re still interesting. If I had had CGI when I made Gremlins, it would be a better picture. I mean, I would still use the puppets, but the puppeteers could be standing right next to them instead of hiding below or behind furnishings like lamps. There were all these complications using long rods that aren’t quite as good unless you’re using them up close. I would have put the puppeteers in the shot, then done another pass and taken them out. I think the acting would be better by the puppets! CGI is in every movie, and people just don’t realize it sometimes. It’s used for backdrops and skies, you name it.”

Speaking of Gremlins, what about a new film…

“You know, I’m the wrong guy to ask,” Dante explained. “It’s not my project; it’s owned by other people, and they’re gonna do whatever they’re gonna do with it. There’s been talk about it for a while now, but we keep hearing this, this, and that, but then nothing ever becomes of it. I honestly just don’t know.”

This interview is dedicated to the memory and career of actor Allen Jenkins, whom DW is trying desperately to share with the world via his films in the Warner Archive. Did you really think I’d forget, DW?

Pro Tip: Order a copy of Sh! The Octopus available here in a Horror/Mystery Double Features collection. It will change your life.

Allen Jenkins

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Vampire Hunter D: The Series Gets Writer For Pilot Episode

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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard news about “Vampire Hunter D: The Series”, the CG-animated series based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s titular character. However, some new news broke today over at ANN as they’ve reported that Brandon Easton, who is writing the scripts for new Vampire Hunter D comics, has been tapped by Unified Pictures to write the pilot for the series. The pilot will be based on Kikuchi’s “Mysterious Journey to the North Sea” storylines, which make up the 7th and 8th titles in the book series. Unified is making this series in conjunction with Digital Frontier, the Japanese animation studio behind the CG Resident Evil titles.

Easton told the site, “I’ve had to manage the expectations of three entities: the creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, the producers at Digital Frontier and Unified Pictures, and ultimately myself. This means that you have to find new and exciting ways of telling a story that has a set of concrete rules that have been fully established by the novels.

Meanwhile, the studio has also announced that Ryan Benjamin is taking over as the artist and colorist on the Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars series with Richard Friend inking the issues.

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Watching A Quiet Place’s John Krasinski Get Scared by Freddy on Ellen Will Brighten Your Day

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I was just researching the new Platinum Dunes horror-thriller A Quiet Place and stumbled across this video. It features the film’s writer-director and star John Krasinski getting scared by a man dressed as Freddy Krueger on “Ellen.”

It’s as much fun as it sounds, and I’m sure it will make your day. It sure as hell just brightened mine.

Give it a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

John Krasinski directs the film, which will be the opening night entry at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, TX. Emily Blunt stars alongside Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds.

A Quiet Place will then open wide on April 6.

Synopsis:
In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threatens their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

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Interview: Director Jeff Burr Revisits Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

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Director Jeff Burr was gracious enough to give us here at Dread Central a few minutes of his time to discuss the Blu-ray release of his 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Recently dropped on 2/13, the movie has undergone the white-glove treatment, and he was all-too-happy to bring us back to when the film was being shot…and eventually diced thanks to the MPAA – so settle in, grab a cold slice of bloody meat, read on and enjoy!

DC: First off – congrats on seeing the film get the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray – you excited about it?

JB: Yeah, I’m really happy that it’s coming out on Blu-ray, especially since so many people bitch and moan about the death of physical media, and this thing made the cut, and it’s great for people to be able to see probably the best-looking version of it since we saw it in the lab back in 1989.

DC: Take us back to when you’d first gotten the news that you were tabbed to be the man to direct the third installment in this franchise – what was your first order of business?

JB: It was fairly condensed pre-production for me, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of time to think about the import or the greatness of it – it was basically just roll up your sleeves and go. It was a bit disappointing because a lot of times in pre-production you have the opportunity to dream what could be – casting had already been done, but certain decisions hadn’t been made yet. A very condensed pre-production, but exciting as hell, for sure! (laughs)

DC: R.A. Mihailoff in the role of Leatherface – was it the decision from the get-go to have him play the lead role?

JB: No – I totally had someone else in mind, even though R.A. had done a role in my student film about 7 years earlier, and we’d kept in touch, and I’d felt strongly because I’d gotten to know him a bit that Gunnar Hansen should have come back and played Leatherface, which would have given a bit more legitimacy to this third movie. He and I talked, and he had some issues with the direction that it was going – he really wanted to be involved, and it ended up boiling down to a financial thing, and it wasn’t outrageous at all – it wasn’t like he asked for the moon, but the problem was that New Line refused to pay it, categorically. I think the line producer at the time was more adamant about it than anyone, and Mike DeLuca was one of the executives on the movie, and he was really the guy that was running this, in a creative sense. I made my case for Gunner to both he and the line producer, and they flat out refused to pay him what he was asking, so after that was a done “no deal” I decided that R.A would be the right guy to step into the role. Since New Line was the arbiter of the film, he had to come in and audition for the part, and he impressed everyone and got the part. He did an absolutely fantastic job – such a joy to work with, and he was completely enthusiastic about everything.

DC: Let’s talk about Viggo Mortenson, and with this being one of his earliest roles – did you know you had something special with this guy on your set?

JB: Here’s the thing – you knew he was talented, and I’d seen him in the movie Prison way back in the early stages of development and was very impressed with him, and he was one of those guys that I think we were really lucky to get him on board with us. I really believe that The Indian Runner with he and directed by Sean Penn was the movie that truly made people stand up and notice his work. Every person in this cast was one hundred percent into this film and jumped in no questions asked when it was time to roll around in the body pits.

DC: It’s no secret about the amount of shit that the MPAA put you through in order to get this film released – can you expound on that for a minute?

JB: At the time, I believe it was a record amount of times we had to go back to the MPAA after re-cutting the film – I think it was 11 times that we went back. What a lot of people don’t realize is after Bob Shaye (President of New Line) had come into the editing room and he thought that it was very disturbing, and cut out some stuff himself. He thought that it would have been banned in every country, and it was banned in a lot of countries but so were the previous two. It was definitely on the verge of being emasculated before even being submitted to the MPAA, and I would have thought just a few adjustments here and there – maybe a couple of times to go back…but eleven? It was front-page news in the trade papers then, and I think that the overall tone of the film was looked at as being nasty. The previous film (Chainsaw 2) had actually gone out unrated, and with the first film being so notorious, I think it was a combination of all of that, and now even the most unrated version of this would be rated R – that’s how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

DC: Looking back at the film after all this time – what would be one thing that you’d change about the movie?

JB: Oh god – any film director worth his salt would look back at any of their films and want to change stuff up, and with this being 28 years old, I can look back and say “oh yeah, I’d change this, this and this!” You grow and learn over the course of your time directing, and this was my third movie and my first without producers that I had known, so the main thing that I’d do today would be to make it a bit more politically savvy. I had always thought that they wanted me to put my vision on this film, and that wasn’t necessarily the case, so maybe I’d navigate those political waters a little better.

DC: Last thing, Jeff – what’s keeping you busy these days? Any projects to speak of?

JB: Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple of movies that I’m working on – I’m prepping a horror movie right now, and then I’ve got a comedy film that I’m doing after that. You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ve had a real up and down (mostly down) career, but I still love it – it’s what I love to do, and it’s still great that after 28 years people still want to talk about this movie, and are still watching it – that’s the greatest gift you can get, and I thank everyone that’s seen it and talked about it over all these years.

BUY IT NOW!

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