LINKS TO THE PORT MANTEAU OF HORROR

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK: DEEP RED THOUGHTS WITH THE HORROR BUSINESS



It all started in 1985. I was 13 years old, still in grade school, and still quite sheltered. A typical weekend spent at my grandmother's house was suddenly and unexpectedly the birth of a whole new world. 

It was a Saturday night. My grand mom and my cousin got pizza from the local Pizza Hut, and then we stopped at a nearby super market to pick out a movie to watch for the night. I still can remember the night as if it happened minutes ago. I was in the aisle, looking at various VHS tapes when I heard the lady behind the counter talking to my grand mom about this movie she was recommending to us. The woman said something about the movie being gross, and a scene where a girl gets a knife in her head, which comes out of her mouth. Wow! I guess my grad mom wasn't too concerned about corrupting is two kids that night, so she took the bait and rented CREEPERS.


Heh, for many years, I associated Pizza Hut with the opening title credits music in Creepers, only because I was eating it while watching the film. Basically, this movie changed my life. Not only did I obviously fall madly in love with Jennifer Connely, who was only one year older than me; I was also introduced to Heavy Metal music; and more importantly, introduced to Dario Argento and Italian Horror. Having already been an avid horror/monster movie fan, I had been a well trained and experienced horror movie lover. However, I had never experienced anything like this movie before. It was pure, uncut, 100% love. The movie terrified me - I still remember watching the last 15 minutes of the movie behind two pillows. When Jennifer falls into the pit of dead bodies, slime and maggots...that was it. I was totally grossed out and out of my mind scared. And hearing Iron Maiden and Motorhead for the first time...it was so exciting! So wild! I never heard music like that before, let alone in a movie!



Since this was an one night rental, I had to watch the film a second time in the morning, before we returned it. And although I was slightly more strong willed at watching the final intense moments of the film this second time, the overall feeling was still unchanged. This movie was perfect. My love was still just as strong.

Only a few short days later, another unexpected event took place: I found the soundtrack on cassette in a local mall. Again, my life had changed. Not only did this introduce me to the sonic wonders of Claudio Simonetti, Goblin and heavy metal...there was something on the back of the cassette tape insert that opened the door even further. "From Dario Argento, the master of Horror". With that, I said to myself, If he was the Master of Horror, obviously he must have done more than one movie! Thus began the search!

You have to remember, if at all possible, that there was no Internet in 1985. There was no immediate resource where I could research all I would need to know about a movie director, no place where I could watch random clips on demand, and no place where I could download illegal copies of films. Oh no. It was a much more...challenging time. Eventually I came across an older issue of Fangoria at a horror convention and was rejoiced to read an entire article on Argento's body of work. Again, you have to know that his catalog of films was quite sparse in those days. At that point, only heavily cut prints of Unsane (Tenebre), Deep Red: The Hatchet Murders (Profondo Rosso), the Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and Creepers (Phenomena) were available on VHS. Suspiria? Forget it. That wasn't released domestically until the late 80s! It was such a different world then. But I guess that's what made the challenge all the more reward-able. 


 Anyway, pieces eventually started to fit. Thanks to the Fangoria article, I now had a reference guide for his films, and in time I was introduced to the wonderful world of bootleg VHS tapes, which then allowed me to experience and explore all I could with his name on it. Within a few short years, I was able to collect a very impressive collection of posters, soundtracks, movie stills, VHS tapes and magazines on Argento. All without the aid of the Internet. And eBay!

I don't remember exactly, but I believe it was 1988, Dario Argento made what I believe to be his first convention appearance at the Fantaco convention in Albany, NY. By that time, my collection was quite sizable, so my friend Josh and I made the trip from NJ to go to the show. I remember we got so lost at one point, we stopped in a McDonald's and asked "Excuse me....what State are we in?" We eventually find the place...and I got to meet Argento, which was, of course, awesome. At this point of time, Suspiria still wasn't released domestically and Argento was still very much an unknown in the horror world. So when I got to meet him, there was no line, no crowd, and I spent hours hanging with him. He signed everything of mine. Everything. Every soundtrack, every VHS cassette tape, every poster, every movie still. All of it! Never charged me a single penny. If you can actually believe this...this was during a time when people didn't charge for autographs at conventions. Insane! I know.   



I even came up with some bullshit story that I wanted to start an American fan club for him. He wrote down his address, I still have it to this day, I gave him my address and within a few weeks he was sending me care packages of awesome shit. The first two issues of his Profondo Rosso comic book, movie stills, black and white promo stills of himself..all kinds of amazing things. And me, I never made that fan club, I wouldn't have known how if tried. I think i got at least 3 care packages and then nothing. I guess when I never sent them something in return, they just stopped. 


Shortly after that, Suspiria finally came out on VHS and his popularity started to increase. Opera was released in the states, and his name got around even more. But Argento was literally the gateway for me into the Italian horror movie genre. Thanks to gore connoisseur Chas Balun, with his magazine Deep Red and his articles in Gorezone, I had a guide who constantly gave me endless amounts of movies to add to my list. Soon I was buying more and more bootleg VHS tapes at conventions, particularly the cannibal and zombie films. The more I watched, the more I started to see familiar faces and names of actors. I was able to see just how incestuous the Italian rotating roster of actors were...it was such a fun time. Such an adventure to discover more and more gems! And I loved all of them! No matter how many horror films I had seen prior, nothing compared to the Italian experience. Nobody ever had such wild music, ambitiously insane stories, such untamed in your face gore, such over the top....everything!

And now, here I am, 40 years old, running my own horror business, and still very much in love with the Horror genre. Now thanks to modern technology, I can further my endless quest of film research. Constantly watching and searching for hidden gems, Italian and otherwise. I often envy newcomers to the genre and just how easy they have it. The Internet truly is a wonderful tool! There is so much to explore in regards to the Italian genre. Thankfully, you can now watch a good portion of it on Netflix, read countless of articles on various blogs, research until your eyes melt on Wikipedia, and join millions of fans to discuss the genre on forums around the globe. So take advantage of the wonderful tools you have and dig in! Love it or hate it, the Italians produced a wild collection of films from the 60s up to the late 90s. Everything from Cannibals, Zombies, Nazis, Black Gloved Killers, Killer Nuns, Drugged up and wild in the streets Zoo animals and so much more! I hope you enjoy them as much as I and have your own assortment of love affairs with these truly one of a kind films.

Kevin was gracious enough to donate quite a few fantastic items to our week. let's honor his Italian Horror memory and enter the contest that will send you screaming and singing all the way to the morgue. Soundtrack reprints and awesome horror posters await. Just click HERE!!!

3 comments:

  1. Such a great article. Being 37 (and a horror fan since I was very young), I can relate to the pre-internet horror fan's dilemma - wanting to get my hands on as much info about horror films and directors as possible, but having to really work for it. But that's what made it all the more rewarding. Thanks for sharing your story. Brings back all sorts of memories (mainly of seeing the sun-faded 'Creepers' poster hanging in the upper window of a local video store, and being totally terrified and intrigued).

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  2. There are still stories to be told too... feels impossible to get at some of the B and C listers behind the scenes. Vincenzo Tomassi, Phil Scuderi.... names I want faces and stories for.

    I loved Kevin's article. Made me wish for the VHS tape exchanges of old.

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