Behind The Screams, Part 1
Shocktober starts today and in addition to our massive 10th Anniversary sale, we dug into the archives to unearth insights from years past shared by Scream Factory creators Cliff MacMillan (Production and Acquisitions at Shout! Factory) and Jeff Nelson (Senior Director of Marketing at Shout! Factory). The two wrote down some of their experiences for Scream's 5th Anniversary in 2017 that go behind-the-scenes of some of our early titles.
Read on to discover what went into bringing your favorite films into your homes, and check back in every Thursday in October for more throwback stories!
HALLOWEEN II & HALLOWEEN III
JEFF NELSON: We were very excited (and a little anxious) about launching Halloween II and Halloween III, two beloved sequels, because we knew we had to knock them out of the park. I remember wondering of we’d even be able to get our illustrated artwork approved from the studio we licensed it from since we’d never done something quite like this on older films prior. End results were fantastic. Artist Nathan Thomas Milliner (who went on to do several of our covers) did a great job hitting the right artistic feel for each. Red Shirt Pictures did some really in-depth extras and Sean Clark provided highly amusing episodes of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. I watch these every year in October (like every fan) and am proud we did them justice. My favorite guilty pleasure on the discs is the ridiculous TV cut for Halloween II and the TV spots for Halloween III.
CLIFF MACMILLAN: When we requested the original TV cut with such gem lines like “aww sugar,” it looked like Universal didn’t have the master anymore. So I requested a master that said “AMC version.” I figured it was just the theatrical cut with the swear words bleeped out, but luckily it was the original broadcast TV cut.
CLIFF MACMILLAN: The Funhouse has always been one of my favorite horror films, so when Universal agreed to license us some feature films, it was at the top of my list along with Halloween II , Halloween III and Phantasm II.
JEFF NELSON: Our first Tobe Hooper film (and thankfully, not our last) came off relatively smooth and we were fortunate to get his participation in it. Also getting Kevin Conway aka The Barker ("They Wiggle and they Dance" lol) This film looks particular great on the new transfer because its carnival-setting is so colorful and I find myself going back to it quite a bit over the years. The rare TV spots are also a guilty pleasure. Amusing personal connection: I did a book report in 7th grade on the movie tie-in book and got an “A” on it!
CLIFF MACMILLAN: They Live was always a favorite of mine, so it was on my first list of films to acquire from Universal when we did our first deal. I wish we had been able to get Roddy Piper for a new interview and to have him do it with Keith David but often it’s hard to get two people in the same room at the same time. Maybe we could have gotten them to fight again. We miss you, Roddy!
JEFF NELSON: They Live was especially exciting for us, it being our first John Carpenter title in which he directed. Our action-packed new artwork (from The Dude Designs) blew away all the fans of the film here in the office and Red Shirt Pictures scored some mighty impressive extras with John Carpenter, Keith David, Meg Foster, etc. This release ended up being our 3rd best-selling title at the time (behind The Babadook and Mad Max) and continues to sell at a solid pace...and we definitely saw a bump during the 2016 election year for sure. A smooth project overall.
CLIFF MACMILLAN: I had a chance to see The Burning in the theatres when it was first released. It’s always been one of my favorite slasher/summer camp films. I just wish Cropsy had returned for a sequel. It was great to have Lou David discuss his experience as the deformed killer.
JEFF NELSON: Love this movie! (But then again, I am partial to '80s slashers). Really holds up, in part due to Tom Savini's effective make-up effects - if only for the "raft scene" alone - and captures a perfect nostalgic vibe for summer camps alongside Friday The 13th. The "Cropsy" killer is also pretty formidable. Our release sold way beyond our projected expectations. The reaction to Nathan Thomas Milliner's fantastic, in-your-face and gory artwork (both from fans and Shout! Factory staff) was powerful and it certainly will go down in our books as one of the more memorable covers we've produced.Very pleased with how smooth this one went. BTW, for whatever reason, the opening kill with the sex worker is my favorite scene. Sorts of cracks me up and is creepy at the same time. Seems like a scene you'd find out of Maniac (1980).
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION
CLIFF MACMILLAN: I’m happy to say I am old enough to have seen the epic Ninja III: The Domination when it was released to theatres! I had to drive to Berkeley often to see the Cannon Films as they didn’t always make it to Marin Country. I wish we could have been able to get Shô Kosugi and Lucinda Dickey to do some extras, but it was great to get the director and stunt coordinator.
JEFF NELSON: “Only a Ninja Can Destroy a Ninja”. What a glorious WTF film! Originally Ninja III: The Domination was going to be paired with another action film and released as a DVD double-feature. Because we sensed that excitement would be big for this release, I quickly said “no!” to that strategy and we maneuvered it into a DVD & Blu-ray combo and spent $ on a new film transfer. Very proud how well this sold and its success definitely allowed us to put out other so-bad-it’s-good films in the line. I had never seen the film before prior and now have seen it several times and showed many friends too. It’s just lovably bonkers…from the aerobics, the over-the-top fighting, bad acting, The Exorcist-like possession…and a scene involving V-8 that will make you never look at the drink the same again. Ninja III: The Domination was also our first Cannon film release with many more from the infamous studio to follow.
JEFF NELSON: I have fond memories of seeing this spectacle in the theater with my Dad in 1985 (I was 13) and having to turn away during the scene in an airplane where blood starts pouring out of some corpses to make the shape of a bloody Matilda May. I was really grossed out! Lifeforce sold very well and completely blew past our sales expectations. Red Shirt Pictures came through with the extras, scoring hugely with getting May to agree to do an interview. (We thought this might be impossible at the time.) This release also marked the first project we brought artist Justin Osborn on board. His new piece - and the response to it - was so good that we definitely asked him back for other projects. (BTW - It’s currently on the reverse wrap of the Blu-ray).
CLIFF MACMILLAN: It was great to have Tobe Hooper come in and help us with the color correction on Lifeforce. He had not been a fan of the color correction done on the original HD master. He said “groovy” a lot. It was like Chop Top was helping color correct the film.
CLIFF MACMILLAN: The Howling was a film I really wanted and we were happy to get. It’s one of my favorite werewolf films. I enjoyed working with Joe Dante on Piranha, so it was nice to work again with him. I visited his office to pick up his personal print. He had the best selection of classic movie posters. I was very jealous.
JEFF NELSON: The Howling is, and will always be, my favorite werewolf film. I saw this one as a kid on cable and then several times since. Many things contribute to why it works: Pino Donnagio's stirring score is one of his best, Rob Bottin's wolves are scary still to this day, and the leading ladies (Dee Wallace, Belinda Balaski and Elizabeth Brooks) hold every scene they're in. Oh, and the hamburger end credits make me smile every time. 🙂 Not a lot of drama happened in the process of our release but I do recall that the only disappointment is that we couldn't get Bottin out of hiding to talk about his amazing FX work. Other than that, it's a pretty comprehensive package. Sean Clark did an amazing Horror's Hallowed Grounds episode on this that goes right to "The Colony" too!