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Excerpt from the film "John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns" (2005)
Episode 2 - Horror / Cult Movie Collector
My avocation with the horror movie collection began in a slightly strange way.
It began when I started watching over and over again "Beetlejuice" when it first released,
I think somewhere around 1988.
I was only a child back then.
And another movie that scarred me was "Critters".
So I decided I liked the little monsters.
So I went to a videoclub that was about to close
and I told them I wanted something related to little monsters.
He didn't know exactly what to give me, to be precise the girl who worked there,
and she gave me to buy the zombie movie "Mutants". I freaked out.
Another similar case of that era, was when I watched on a tv channel, which I cannot recall,really late at night
a documentary about horror movies.
And the scene that freaked me out the most was the one where there was a guy
on the floor and a bunch of zombies were disemboweling him.
Excerpt from the film "Dawn Of The Dead" (1978)
Years later I found out that the scene was from the movie " Dawn Of the Dead" by George Romero.
Those were my very first experiences but my collecting began at the end of the 90's
where most of the videoclubs went bankrupt,
at least those that didn't adjust with the dvd era,
and therefore, I built my collection con with a very low budget.
I have around 1000 VHS at the moment which I bought for pennies.
The very first VHS I can recall was "Mutant" by Charles Band
with zombies bleeding yellow blood.
The greek title is "City of Monsters", released by AudioVisual.
But the first one that scarred me, in the same videoclub, was the one I saw on a shelf "Night Of the Hunted"
by Jean Rollin with the iconic cover of a woman having her eyes pierced by scissors.
I own that VHS.
And it was a real nightmare for a small child as myself to look at.
My collection at the moment consists of about 1000 VHS, 1500 DVDs and 100 bluerays.
The 5 most rare movies in my collection..hmmm..I don't know because rarity is a relevant term..
something that is now rare tomorrow may not be because some copies were discovered or something not rare today
may go out of print and become rare tomorrow.
But there are some movies that have a stable value in my collection such as
"Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things", Things", which is one of the first gay horror ever existed.
The Greek edition on VHS is extremely rare, it's the one I have,
it's called "False Impersonation of Death" released by Demokritos Video.
Another movie entitled in Greece "Cobra the Killer", in english it's called "Spasms" starring Oliver Reed
Excerpt from the film "Spasms" (1983)
and it's relatively rare..
hmm...I don't know, there are several pieces but that's constantly changing.
This one for example was never released in dvd, it's a gangster film with Jack Palance called "Knell".
Lots of adventures I've been through on the way of seeking movies, particularly during my movie safari era
in videoclubs all around Northern Greece.
The funniest one was...well, for starters I have to declare that I'm the kind of person
always losing their stop, on train, or choosing the wrong metro station, I do that sort of silly stuff.
One day I was going from Alexandroupoli to either Didimoticho or Orestiada, I can't recall..
I picked up some videotapes from a local videoclub and on my way back
I didn't disembark on Alexandroupoli at the right station but on a small village instead.
I asked the station master when is the next train to Alexandroupoli and he told me it was after 7 hours or so.
So I had to find a way to get out of there. I asked for a taxi but there was none in the village.
I went to the local coffee house to ask if someone was about to leave.
The villagers who saw a long hair bearded man with a bunch of videotapes got scared
and told me that there was someone leaving for Alexandroupoli in an hour with his Datsun truck
but he was afraid of me mugging him or something.
So I let them search me so they could take me back to Alexandroupoli.
In my collection there are not many movies coming from exotic countries
because I'm trying to focus on Europe and America.
So, I may have movies coming from weird States of America or weird european countries
but I rarely go out of that.
It's a question whether I have 10 or so asian movies, I have no african movies,
only 2 coming from Bollywood.
I try to stay there in order to deepen my knowledge cause I like so much American and European cinema
cthat for the time being on my 31st year of life I have no desire to go out of that.
There are lots of genre film directors of whom I collect the entire filmography.
I have all Ed Wood movies who is my favourite.
I have every film of Murnau's German expressionism,
every film of Argento, Fulci, Mattei, D'amato..
when I say every film I mean at least those who have been released in home video.
Jess Franco is also one of my favorite directors. I have every movie of Russ Meyer, Hitchcock, etc.
Who directed what is a factor of high importance for a movie to enter my collection.
The strongest piece of my collection I think is the one I mentioned before
"Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things".
It's a rare movie, terrible to watch, really bad, but I like it and I love it.
Excerpt from the film "Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things" (1971)
The biggest amount I've spent on a movie isn't really big.
Because all my VHS were collected before ebay became popular
where you can find movies listed for ridiculously high amounts, just because there are no more videoclubs that carry them.
So, all my videotapes costed very little,
probably the highest amount I've spent for a VHS is 10 EURO (15 USD).
As for DVDs, I'd say the same thing.
I read a lot of magazines such as Video Watchdog, Fangoria etc
so I'm aware of any new release and I buy it immediately
so it hasn't occurred to me to want something that's out of print so it costs a bunch of money.
I have stuff that later became out of print but I got them while there were still cheap.
I don't spend much.
Up to the early 00's where there were still videoclubs with VHS available, I used to do a real safari.
I used to go there and ask for old movies that nobody wanted, I checked their storehouses, their homes, their garages..
But since then, after the prevailing of dvds and the death of videoclubs for the reasons we all know,
I order most of my movies like everyone on Amazon,
other collectors, generally via internet, there's no safari anymore.. unfortunately..
Excerpt from the short film "Slay" (2013)
I deal with movies not only as a collector
but also as a writer and director.
And also I write reviews for genre movies for various people such as Greca Magazine,
the American site Cinema Head Cheese,
the American magazine Weng's Chop, or other magazines such as Monster.
Therefore, 100% of my time is dedicated to movies. I don't have a life.
Basically, whether the quality or the rarity of a movie counts in order to be part of a collection
that clearly depends on the collector.
Here we can talk about 2 kinds of collectors, the rarities' collectors
and those who like what they collect and watch them.
Myself, I've watched all of the 2500 movies in my collection so, to me it's important to like the movie
so, I either like the synopsis, or an actor, a director, or it has some kind of value in the time space of cinema.
I surely have collected some movies for their rarity but there are others who do that a lot more than me.
I don't know if I have a favourite format, I love them all for different reasons.
For example, the quality of VHS is crap but they have those large boxes with those covers
which sometimes are so misleading so that you can do nothing but to love the damn thing.
Plus, it's dirty, it's a lovely thing.
In addition, it has a history, it has lived for more than 25 years.
Many people collecting them nowadays weren't even born when those films were released in the videoclubs back then.
That's something amazing.
DVDs..yes, I like them a lot, I have lots of DVDs
but probably because it made the whole thing with extras and bonus material more familiar to us,
even though I've never listened to a single audio commentary in my life.
I like Blu-Ray very much, it's my new love, because its quality is like 7 times better than the DVD's.
But I don't think that there will prevail any of those 3 formats..well..VHS is off years now..
because all the Americans now watch Netflix and that thing sooner or later
under the same or another name will expand in the entire Europe too.
And physical media are doomed, I believe that the only physical media that will survive are books.
And even now that bluerays are pretty popular, at least in this genre,
they are almost exclusively targeted to the collectors' market.
I don't think that anyone else would give 25 EURO (30 USD) to buy a disc.
The craziest thing I've done to watch a movie wasn't about a single movie but about almost 200 movies.
I placed an ordered of almost 200 movies, spending quite some money.
I used to live in Thessaloniki back then, so, the movies arrived at Thessaloniki by bus.
So, I picked them from there and took a taxi to go home but the typical greek taxi-driver didn't leave me close to my place.
I was a bit far and carrying a cardboard box of 200 movies in the middle of Egnatia street in Thessaloniki.
I saw a homeless guy passing by carrying a shopping cart
and I asked him ""Could we please load the movies in the cart
to carry them at my place? It's only 2 blocks away and I don't have any other way to get them there".
I couldn't get a taxi for only 2 blocks drive.
He said "No". I told him "5 euros" and indeed he took it, loaded my movies and carried them
and that's how those 200 movies managed to reach my place.
I believe that to discover a movie in the collectors' world means
to find a movie before anyone else..
before anyone..that's a bit relevant..I mean at least not anyone from your circle and to make it popular to them.
I believe that such a case is this movie "Rockin' Roadtrip"
which is probably the most rare Troma film in Greece.
Troma has released lots of movies in Greece but this one I found only this one time
and whoever saw it was blown away.
Look, of course I prefer to watch movies shot in film either 35mm, 16mm or 8mm,
però la prevalenza dei mezzi digitali è una cosa buona
but the digital era is a good thing because cinema has become more accessible and familiar and more or less nowadays anyone can create a movie
and that can be only amazing.
Does piracy kill the horror cinema?
I wouldn't know if it does specifically for the horror cinema but I believe that when downloading happens by smart people, it should be distinguished according to some facts.
Stealing Sony, Warner Bros, Paramount and Universal, wouldn't cost anything to anyone.
But stealing an independent company which managed to make a film with pennies
I believe that it's a bit immoral.
The difference between a collector who collects movies in physical media
and another one who collects downloaded movies in his hard disk is very simple.
For example, I like butts very much. And I like to grab it when I see it.
I like to have it in my hands.
Those are deprived of that, they can only see it on the internet. That's it.
People surrounding me have accepted the fact that I collect horror movies
but what I believe is the weirdest thing that happens when someone comes here and sees all these movies
is the typical question everyone asks: "Do you have ***?"
I cannot understand how everyone's interested in whether I got *** movies
when you can find them on the internet for free and everyone has millions of them.
There's a movie that stands as my holy grail.
It's a movie I once found at a videoclub in Thessaloniki, I was shocked that there was a Greek edition of that movie.
They wouldn't sell it to me and I went again to try purchase it but it wasn't there anymore.
That was a nightmare I went through.
It's about the movie "Fugitive Girls", story by Ed Woods who also plays a role in it,
it's about women in prison, it must be really interesting.
Since then, I haven't managed to find it again. Whoever finds it wins 100 EURO (150 USD)
A movie I purchased for almost nothing which I believe has some value is this one "The Girl"
with Franco Nero and Christopher Lee. It's a crime film not so rare in Greece but it is in other countries.
What's the thing that makes cult and genre and horror collectors distinguish
from those arthouse is for starters that I have never seen in my life a serious arthouse collector.
Their collections are usually very small.
And then we, as cinema kids, we learn from cinema.
When Franco was a dictator in Spain, he tried to fund arthouse movies
and the resistance was made by Jess Franco who did genre movies.
I don't think the movie hunt will ever come to an end because there are constantly new releases coming out,
stuff you wouldn't expect to see released.
For example, an outstanding American company that has recently started to release in Bluray and DVD,
Vinegar Syndrome, lately released the 3 lost porns of Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Nobody ever expected them to be released but they were.
Therefore, I won't let hope die, I mean that even at my 40's or 50's,
I'll still be looking for Jess Franco's last lost movies.
If at some point I had to sell my collection,
first of all I would sell my body until I drop and then sell my collection.