Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Big Black Block O' Bava - Hi Res Photos!

Here's the author with a blank book wrapped in the hi res dust jacket. It's a "French fold" jacket to lend the edges extra strength and resilience. As great as this cover looks, it's just an advance proof. The actual dust jacket will be laminated.

This is something that arrived here only today: an advance copy of the hardcover binding, complete with gold embossing.

Here's another treat from inside the book.
Not the title page, but rather the introductory spread. That's a previously unpublished shot from BLACK SUNDAY -- in true color, needless to say.

This is the (low res) Ozalid of the opening spread of the book's HERCULES chapter, which Donna held in our "Invasion of the Ozalids" posting. Compare this to the hi res version below:

Next, I selected at random an average page spread from the interior layout. This one is from the eye-popping chapter on BLOOD AND BLACK LACE.

The photo on the bottom right shows Cameron Mitchell clowning on the set with Mario Bava, who is lying "dead" on his desk at Cristiana Haute Couture.
Just for fun: In case any of you were getting the idea
that this is going to be "just a picture book," here is our cat Snooper snuggled amid the pages of my original typescript!

Coming soon! Order your copy today!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's Hyperbolicabbalisticexplicalydocious!

Today at Movie Morlocks, Richard Harland Smith discusses the craft of writing box copy for DVDs -- including Dark Sky Films' unreleased edition of "the greatest ghost story ever told," KILL, BABY... KILL!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bava Book Podcast

Vince Rotolo's website B-Movie Cast has posted a podcast interview with Donna and me on the subjects of the Bava book and VIDEO WATCHDOG magazine. The download runs for about 37 minutes, our segment runs about 25 minutes. It might answer a question or two that you have, so give it a listen. Our thanks to Vince for the attention.

I know we're late in posting photos of the hi-res book materials, but please bear with us. We're back on our monthly schedule with the magazine, and we've spent the last few weeks on VW #131, and it's going to be back from the printer later this week. So this week will be crazy too, but we hope to post some images more representative of the final product soon.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Alfredo Leone Wins Fights for Bava Rights

Alfredo Leone (pictured) and International Media Films have emerged victorious from Roman-based legal proceedings concerning their right to license two Mario Bava films, BLACK SUNDAY [La maschera del demonio, 1960] and KILL, BABY... KILL! [Operazione paura, 1966].

The first of these suits was filed against Leone and company in June 2006 by Intra Movies s.r.l., an Italian firm defending their supposed right to license La maschera del demonio throughout the world. The second suit was filed by Leone and company against Variety Communications and Euro Immobilfin, the licensors of KILL, BABY... KILL! to the American DVD company, Dark Sky Films.

On April 17, 2007, the Court of Rome dismissed the petition filed against Leone and International Media by Intra Movies s.r.l., issuing a detailed legal paper that meticulously traced La maschera del demonio's chain of ownership from its original producer/owner Galatea s.r.l. and Unidis s.r.l. to International Media Films, who obtained the rights from Cinestampa Internationale s.r.l. in 1999.

A translation of the original court document notes, "that the continuity of the transfer chain of the rights in the work in question, as specified above, implies the full grounds for its claim of exclusive ownership of the economic enjoyment rights of the film La maschera del demonio, with the exclusion of Italy and Spain, since these territories are expressly excluded from the transfer documents cited, so that for the remaining world territory the aforementioned defendant is the legitimate owner of said economic rights in the cinematographic work."

Secondly, a translation of a court document dated February 5, 2007 finds that "International Media Film Inc. is the exclusive holder of the rights of beneficial enjoyment, in every form and in every means of dissemination, of the film Operazione Paura ['Operation Fear'], also known as KILL BABY KILL, directed by Mario Bava, in the entire world, excluding Italy, the former colonies and Malta, [and] bars Variety Communications and Euro Immobilfin [sp?] from all beneficial enjoyment of said work, and orders the Plaintiff and the impleaded third party, jointly and severally, to provide compensation for the damages caused to International Media Film Inc...."

The short version of all this legalese is that Leone and International Media Films have proved their ownership of BLACK SUNDAY throughout most of the world, excluding Italy and Spain, and KILL, BABY... KILL! everywhere except Italy, the former Italian colonies (Italian North Africa, etc), and Malta.

One hopes that this ruling will help to establish Leone's right to reclaim the AIP version of BLACK SUNDAY from the vaults at MGM -- and also BLACK SABBATH and EVIL EYE, the English versions of two other Bava films whose rights he obtained through the same deal with Cinestampa in 1999. However, there is a more immediate result. The Roman court ruling is likely to cancel Dark Sky Films' officially "postponed" DVD release of KILL, BABY... KILL!, which the company licensed last year from Variety Communications. A spokesman for Dark Sky Films expressed no knowledge of the court ruling, and the company has yet to make a formal announcement about the fate of its Bava disc.

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Read Marc Savlov's review here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bava Book - Final Publication Schedule

We haven't posted any updates about the book since we unveiled the low-res proofs here, because we've both been under mountains of work; it doesn't mean that nothing's been happening. To bring you up to date: After receiving our high-res proofs (pictures soon), we went through the book again page by page and made our final editorial corrections. We sent the corrected proofs back to Hong Kong on April 27 and, just yesterday, we received the following schedule from our printer:

Revised proofs & ozalids ex Hong Kong - May 08, 2007
Approved ozalids with us in Hong Kong - May 16, 2007
Bulk ready date - June 27, 2007
ETD Hong Kong - July 02, 2007
ETA Cincinnati port - July 30, 2007

* The above ETA date is subject to possible delays due to cargo jam at the port / rail road or hold-up by the US customs.

It still remains for us to receive and approve the corrected ozalids based on our final corrections, which explains those first two dates, denoting the time they will be sent to us and the time by which they expect return. The third date is when the printing job is expected to be finished, and the last two dates cover the books' shipment from Hong Kong and projected arrival here in Cincinnati.

We've been very attentive to curious coincidences as they have occurred throughout the book's production, and there have been many. But with this itinerary comes the ultimate coincidence: the Bava book is scheduled to arrive on our doorstep on July 30 -- Mario Bava's birthday.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"John Austin Frazier"... Unmasked

Ponder the fate of John Austin Frazier, driven insane by viewing the Europix triple-bill "Orgy of the Living Dead."

Today, a tantalizing excerpt from the Operazione paura/Kill, Baby... Kill! chapter of Tim Lucas' forthcoming MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, which solves the forty year mystery embodied by the question... "Who was John Austin Frazier?"

Europix Consolidated waited a full year before releasing Operazione paura in America, by which time their company name had changed to Europix-International. They branded it with the unfortunate exploitation title Kill, Baby . . . Kill!— following the patterns of AIP’s Die, Monster, Die! and Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!—which was more evocative of plunging daggers, go-go boots, and rock ’n’ roll than the suggestive, turn-of-the-century chills the film actually delivered. It was paired with The Sound of Horror—a black-and-white Spanish import originally titled El Sonido Prehistórico, which starred (in early, extremely unpromising roles) future horror queens Ingrid Pitt and Soledad Miranda, and a strong contender for the cheapest special effect of all time—an invisible dinosaur.

The resulting double-feature was sold as “The Big S & Q Show,” with lurid advertisements guaranteeing “You’ll Shiver and Quiver with Kill Baby Kill—and—Shake and Quake with Sound of Horror!” The combo scored well on the American drive-in circuit, and became something of a cash cow for Europix, who licensed both films for TV syndication as early as 1968. By this time, Variety finally got around to reviewing the overlooked film, thanks to a belated report filed by Stuart Byron (“Byro.”). He wrote: “Reviewed for the record since this Italian horror mystery, set in the Transylvanian vampire country, has been in US release via Europix Consolidated since 1966 [sic] though only now playing New York (as a second feature at a 42d St. grind house). But film demonstrates once again, as some European critics think, that in director Mario Bava lies one of Italy’s most important film talents though he specializes in genre product. Kill Baby Kill is a small masterpiece of its kind, comparing favorably with the late Val Lewton’s horror programmers of the ’40s.”

Its geographic inaccuracy aside, Byron’s comments are significant in hindsight as one of the earliest American commendations of Bava’s talent. Europix maintained the film as an active theatrical rental for several more years, during which time it trailed other double-bills from Europix (and other companies) as part of weekend triple-bills. In 1972, it was revived once again as part of Europix-International’s legendary triple-bill, “The Orgy of the Living Dead.”

For this program—the brainchild of Europix national sales executive Bob Kilgore, formerly with Gemini Film Corporation—Bava’s film was retitled Curse of the Living Dead and cut to 75 minutes, by dropping an entire reel. Also in the package were Revenge of the Living Dead (a similarly shortened retitling of La lama nel corpo/The Murder Clinic) and Fangs of the Living Dead, actually Amando de Ossorio’s Malenka (1967), a Spanish/Italian vampire opus starring Anita Ekberg—the only film of the three not previously released by Europix. Disguised with new, unfamiliar titles and fresh PG ratings, the films were first paraded across America in March 1972 with a brilliantly exploitative ad campaign. It pictured a screaming man in a straitjacket, who, the accompanying text explained, was “John Austin Frazier,” a man committed to a mental hospital after viewing the “Orgy of the Living Dead” triple bill. “If you lose your mind as a result of viewing this explosion of terror,” the ads declared, “you will receive free psychiatric care or be placed, at our expense, in an asylum for the rest of your life!”

The campaign—hilariously fleshed-out in a trailer that showed as little footage from the three films as possible—was masterminded by Alan Ormsby, a young artist/writer based in Coral Gables, Florida, where he played major creative roles in the making of several well-remembered, independent horror films, including Deathdream (1972, writer and makeup), Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972, writer, actor, and makeup) and Deranged (1974, writer, co-director and makeup). In 1975, he published an instructional book for children, Movie Monsters: Monster Makeup & Monster Shows To Put On. In later years, he co-authored Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People (1982), directed the recursive horror film Popcorn (1991), and wrote The Substitute (1996) before his stint as a staff writer for the CBS detective series Nash Bridges. Ormsby’s personal devotion to the horror genre made the “Orgy of the Living Dead” campaign a classic of boisterous ballyhoo, which also managed to include a surprising grace note of scholarly respect. For the first and only time on an American film poster, the Maestro’s name appeared above the title: “Mario Bava’s Curse of the Living Dead.”

“I don’t know that I can take credit for that,” laughs Ormsby, “but I certainly knew who Bava was at the time, going all the way back to Black Sunday. I remember also being very impressed by Planet of the Vampires, with its scary dreamlike atmosphere. A lot of people, over the years, have asked me about the work I did on that campaign, some of them asking me to sell them the rights to that skull artwork I did for the posters, but I don’t own it anymore.”

When asked the earth-shaking question “Who was John Austin Frazier?” Ormsby draws a blank until he’s reminded about the screaming man in the straitjacket—and then he laughs.
“That was my friend Victor Bumbalo,” he reveals, “an award-winning playwright who has gone on to write screenplays and do some acting jobs, too. Europix did a special one-sheet just of him, which was hilarious; I’ve seen it on eBay. I remember that Bob Clark and I also shot some film of him, which I guess was used in the trailer. It was shot right inside the offices at Europix, which was this dinky little company in the midst of a porn theater district in New York City. I remember, at the time we shot that, Behind the Green Door with Marilyn Chambers was playing at a theater right across the street!"
The trailer Ormsby mentions was subsequently abbreviated into a pair of TV spots, which are included as extras on the KILL, BABY... KILL! disc in Anchor Bay's THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION VOLUME 1 box set). As was widely reported, Bob Clark recently perished with his son in a terrible automobile collision caused by a drunk driver.
Book excerpt (c) 2007 by Tim Lucas

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