You remember the VHS cover: a zombie, clawing its way out of a TV set. And that title? Totally 80’s, totally in blue neon with drippy, gruesome, haunted house lettering: The Video Dead, my friends. Heck it used to be on USA every Saturday growing up, hawked by Rhonda Shear or Commander USA. Well, as you know, it’s not on DVD … yet.
Cut to: Mr. Chris MacGibbon — ghoul about town, trying to do the right thing, giving us another shot of 80’s zombies, finally. I had the pleasure of throwing a few questions Chris’ way and if we all play our cards right, we’ll be slipping The Video Dead right next to our copies of Humaniods From the Deep. Why? Because we can, and we’ll have Chris to thank for it.
Heather Buckley: When was the first time you watched The Video Dead?
Chris MacGibbon: I first saw THE VIDEO DEAD when I was around four or five years old. I used to rent videos at this mom and pop store called Showtime Video [in Taunton, Mass.] and everything I’d rent was based on the artwork, if it had cool artwork it had to be a great movie. So when I saw the artwork for THE VIDEO DEAD, it was an obvious choice. From then on in, it became a constant rental for me, and a blinding headache for my father who hated the film, but watched it because it meant spending time with me. It got to the point where the clerk at the store wouldn’t even put it back on the shelf in fear it wouldn’t be there for Friday when I came in to grab it.
HB: Why did you start this Video Dead Crusade?
CM: I started the campaign [last summer] because it’s a film that means a lot to me personally and I’ve found means something to others as well. It’s a bad film there’s no doubt about that, but there’s thousands upon thousands of films that are considered cult classics that are bad in their own right and some that are considered downright unwatchable, yet they’ve made the transition to DVD. So I figured, why not take a stab at this with THE VIDEO DEAD.
It was actually going to be released October 27th through a company called Televista. Those in the business know is not a legitimate company. [At the time] I thought it was a legitimate release because I was informed it was going to be a widescreen transfer and the only way to get that was through MGM (at the time). So I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until [the transfer] was confirmed to be full screen that I knew that it wasn’t an official release and something had to be done about it.
So I went to MGM’s legal department, told them about the release, and got it canceled (with the help of a good friend of mine). [Now that the only release was canceled], only seemed right that [MGM] rectify that situation and release it themselves, properly of course.
HB: How did that go over with MGM? What was the response?
CM: Well they obviously weren’t happy to hear another company was trying to release a title they owned. They were happy however to hear a fan come out of the woodwork, so to speak, and inform them of it.
The response of the release being canceled was actually more positive than I had expected. People were basically getting a release that was transferred from a video, something the company behind it is infamous for, and that’s already what’s out there. So everyone pretty much understood why I took the actions I did.
Of course there were a few naysayers that basically bashed me for single handedly “destroying” the only release the film would ever have, but I think that was more out of frustration than anything else and once they understood what that release would have meant for it ever getting a real release, they converted over to the dark side.
HB: How close are you to getting this film to be released?
CM: Very close actually. [MGM] saw THE VIDEO DEAD on DVD MySpace page go from 49 people on Sunday [over the summer, to breaking 1,000 by that next Friday] — now in the grand scheme of things, that really doesn’t mean much over a period of time, but in a week, they took notice. Because of that things are being done with the film I really can’t discuss at this time, but it is looking good right now.
HB: Can you talk about any extras that might be featured?
CM: Well nothing has been done yet, nothing’s set in stone at this point. So right now it’s debatable if the DVD would have extras, however if it continues going down the route it is going, the fans won’t be disappointed.
HB: Will there be a HD transfer? I know MGM HD just featured a HD transfer on November 1st.
CM: Of course, that’s actually the big selling point. The transfer is done, so the amount of money that would normally be spent on painstakingly remastered a film has already been spent three years ago. So that really has helped things quite a bit and made my cause more reachable.
HB: Are you in contact with the cast and crew?
CM: Yes actually, three of the film’s cast members are on the MySpace page as friends and I have been in contact with several members of the crew. We’re actually did a radio show on the October 28th on Diabolical Radio called THE RETURN OF THE VIDEO DEAD. We’ve had Rocky Duvall, Patrick Treadway, Al Millan, Lory-Michael Ringuette, and Patrick Denver.
HB: What was the response?
CM: The shows we did were great. The cast, so far, has been overly enthusiastic about getting the film released on DVD. Most of them couldn’t understand how it wasn’t out already given it was a pretty successful film when it was released in the 80s. I mean when I tell you it was made for no money, that’s no exaggeration, the budget was actually LOWER than the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD which, I believe was made for $110,000 or something to that effect? And this had LESS of a budget given the time difference and the effects in the film — I find that fascinating. Especially the way the zombies look, they’re just awesome make-up jobs and each effect is pulled off very well, exhibiting that this film really was a labor of love of a group of very talented people.
They’re a great bunch of folks and I look forward to any conversation I have with any of them, whether it’s to give them some news or just to see how they’re doing that week. I’ve made some new friends with my campaign and I’m very glad to have. They have some great stories to share and part of why I wanted to get them involved was to help them get these stories out.
You have all these sites and articles published about other films, whether they’re better or worse than THE VIDEO DEAD is up to whomever you ask but, there is virtually NOTHING on the ‘net about what went on behind the scenes on this film. I mean nothing. So it’s very cool to kind of be the first to break through the ice and give people something to sink their teeth into…so to speak.
The shows are archived on Diabolical Radio’s website and I believe are available to download. They also have a ton of other great shows with a lot of very cool people and are definitely worth checking out. They just did a show with the cast and the director of DEMONIC TOYS 2, which was a blast to listen to.
HB: How can we help you get The Video Dead to DVD?
CM: Basically what you’re doing now. Telling people about the site, getting the word out there and telling all the naysayers that something like this can work and it is possible to get the people at these studios to listen. Especially with us being in an economic crisis, they’re pretty much willing to try anything they think they can make a buck out of and all they need is a push, in some cases a shove, in the right direction.
I mean look at films like THE MONSTER SQUAD, a film that Lionsgate may have thought was going to nothing for them and it outsold some of their features that came out the same week that were in theaters. THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, when that was released on DVD for the first time, it outsold Carpenter’s THE FOG, which had his balls to the wall special edition and was at the same price bracket. I remember looking for the RETURN disc, and not being able to find it anywhere because it had sold out, yet every store I went to had a surplus of THE FOG. Just goes to show you sometimes that hidden gem getting some new, and in most cases much deserved, exposure can go a long way.
I do want to mention, self plug here, the site is running a contest now through the end of November, which I’m considering extending till the end of the year. You can win a signed copy of the poster, signed by the cast and crew I’ve contacted, and a model of the poster art made by one of the guys who worked on the special effects in the film, Patrick Denver, who has since worked on films like Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, BATMAN RETURNS, TREMORS 4, ALIEN RESURRECTION, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. 5, and TITANIC, all as a model builder and the cult show “Robot Chicken”. So not only are you going to be getting a model made from a guy who worked on the film AND the full-sized signed poster, but you’re getting it from a guy who is super talented and had his hands in some great projects. It’s really exciting, and he’s only making a small amount of these bad boys that will be given to the cast and crew we’ve contacted and the contest winner.
HB: Any tips for the fan out there to advocate for their VHS obsession to make it to DVD or Blu-ray?
CM: Never give up; never let anyone tell you it can’t be done. Because it can be done, things can happen with a few phones calls and some finessing. Studios can’t deny numbers, they just can’t. If they see numbers coming in, people saying, “Yes, we’ll buy this when it comes out, yes we support this release”, they’re not going to ignore that. It will take time, as it is with this endeavor, and there will be times where you feel like all is for nothing and it’s time to just throw in the towel and give up. Never do that. Whether a week, a month, hell even a year goes by where you don’t hear anything, if you have the numbers, and you have the stamina to keep it up, it will pay off in the long run.
I’m a Joe nobody, I don’t work for a studio, I don’t have connections with a studio, I am just a fan of this film and others like it. It’s a crying shame how some of these films just waste away or slip into obscurity because there’s really no need for it. I love what Warner Brothers is doing with their Archive Collection, I think that idea is brilliant. There are just so many studios that own so many films that they may never release, and why? To me, it makes absolutely no sense to have a film just rotting away in a vault somewhere and not releasing it at all, especially in this day and age where even a bad film from the 80s, that back then was considered something you’d find under the barrel you were scraping, is something people love and kind of celebrate to now.
To me a bad 80’s film is like a shitty car from the 50’s, everything looks great on the exterior, it’s a beautiful car to look at, but when you pop open the hood and find out you can’t make it down the street without filling your gas tank for the tenth time that day, you still appreciate the car. You still look at it, know it’s a piece of junk, but love it nonetheless.
These films grow their appeal with age mainly because it reminds us of a simpler time that maybe some of us weren’t there to experience first hand. I was born the year THE VIDEO DEAD came out , I never really got to own my own record player, buy records, see videos make their boom, when I was growing up it was about buying CDs, having a walkman super glued to your ears, we still had videos but, so did everyone else, it wasn’t like you were the first kid on the block to own a VCR like you would’ve been back in 1978. Technology was advancing what seemed like daily. I remember when DVDs came out and it was this HUGE thing, now it’s Blu-ray and I think back going to myself, “You remember when you just put a DVD in and it played the movie?” Now you have to press menu, one, four, up, down, and left just to get to the main menu on the disc! Okay it’s really not that complicated, but you get where I’m going with this.
HB: After this crusade what is next? Rejuvenatrix? The entire Vestron catalogue? I say if you can do it once, next — reach for the sky. You can be our guy on the streets, getting released what needed to be. I could only imagine Dread Central’s list alone.
CM: Oh boy, you have no idea how many times I’ve been asked that question. Uh, it would be something I would potentially consider; I mean I love doing this. I love talking to the studios about the film, getting them excited, getting the people involved who haven’t spoken about the film in twenty plus years and, in many cases, to each other but, it is frustrating when nothing is happening and people are expecting results. It almost seemed like people expected this to happen overnight because at the very beginning, things did move very fast, but it never stays that way. You always have to have that idea that eventually things will slow down and you will just have to sit and play the waiting game until something comes up. Until then, your hands are kind of tied and you can’t say anything. There are things about this that I would LOVE to tell everyone, but I can’t, not until everything is finalized.
In that aspect, it’s really frustrating and demanding, but everything else, I love. Would I do it again? Maybe. If it was the right film and I felt like I could really push it and get results, sure why not. Something that would require a lot of effort and pushing, I’d probably have to think about, but more than likely would never say no. I have been getting requests however to help get the film TRICK OR TREAT released on DVD as well as a re-release of FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2, which I thought was kind of amusing but, those films are both bigger cult films that studios know they can make a buck off of but, apparently, with both, there’s some rights issues they are trying to work out, or have been for some time. I’m not sure which, but, I know they know there’s an interest in those two titles. The other one I’ve been asked about is THE MUTILATOR, which I don’t know the story behind, but I am trying to figure it out with a few friends.
Well there you go. I hope everyone is excited now, it just might happen — The Video Dead on DVD, all because of a little horror fan that could. I, of course, will also be rooting for the widescreen re-release of Fright Night Part 2 with lots of extras. Hey, anything can happen with a little fan love and dedication, it’s Hollyweird, USA after all. Keep it scary my fright fans.
As of press time the sad news has broken that MGM’s entire film library and even their logo are up for auction. Looks like the road ahead is still going to be a bit of a long one.
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