REWIND FEATURE: ARROW FILMS INTERVIEW

We are proud to present the 3rd in an occasional run of interview features - Sam Scott's recent interview with independent UK distributor Arrow Films. With the help of some questions posed by Rewind visitors and team members, here is the interview.

Arrow Films used to release a great number of old Italian horror movies like City of the Living Dead, Phenomena, Inferno etc. What I want to know is if you will continue to release more euro horror movies in the future. Movies from directors like Joe D'Amato, Bruno Mattei, Pupi Avati especially? Alex McQuade

We would very much like to and have attempted to license many Italian films but we had to turn them down as the material they were offering was not acceptable. We have a very big commitment to quality across the board, in the past we were tied into some Italian films with issues and our customers let us know how dissatisfied they were so when we acquired ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS it was with the understanding that we would restore it from scratch ourselves. That was a huge success and weíre not turning back now - if we license any more Italian films itíll be on the understanding that itís a high quality master or we do it ourselves, but understandably companies rarely want others to restore films that already have an HD Master available so itís certainly a struggle and this will be in the minority sadly.

Is Arrow committed to releasing the entire Corman-Poe cycle? Suresh S.

We are releasing THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM next and hopefully more will follow.

What are the sort of problems you encounter trying to get the best source material for remastering and has there been times when youíve had to say Forget releasing this film, the source we have isnít good enough? Roger Shore

Itís a variety of problems because different licensors/producers operate in different ways. As explained above there are basic problems, in the past as was much more normal practice, you would acquire films and see what turned up in terms of a master and there was often little or no wiggle room. But the market has dramatically changed since then, as the market has shrunk there is a much greater emphasis on technical perfection so now we only acquire films when we know what material is available. Many licensors still find this odd and some even refuse to provide samples so itís an ongoing struggle. On the independent side of things if a master has been created, often for DVD, ten or fifteen years ago, that person may say we released this in X Country and itís selling well with the intimation we should believe them and buy it, but itís very much all about Blu-ray now and we have potentially one of the best technical teams in the world so weíre not going to be duped by some crazy up-ressed master or old DVD master, and frustratingly this still happens for new HD Masters! Where masters have been made that we have acquired or looked to acquire and have had to refuse the problem is very basic - just not good enough, where itís overly processed with digital manipulations or from a weak element, like a 35mm exhibition print rather than pre-print material like an Internegative or Interpositive, or in the best scenario possible the original camera negative and where possible for our own restorations we always always stay as close to the negative as possible (as we have done for ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, TIME BANDITS, THE FURY and forthcoming releases such as WHITE OF THE EYE, the Borowczyk short films, WITHNAIL AND I and so on).

What criteria do you use when picking films to issue on DVD and Blu-ray? James Vaughan

Itís very much based on a combination of our own tastes and the feedback we receive from our fans, sales and emails/social media. Our team has very eclectic taste so weíre fortunate that combined we probably make a wide variety of people happy but we never compromise our label ethos, either for Arrow Video or Arrow Academy. Everything is very subjective so what we deem cult for Arrow Video may not be quite what people think should be on the label, if someone has a real disliking for erotica or samurai films for instance, but things are fairly cut and dry from our perspective. The thing is, cult is a very broad term but we tend to stay within a fairly generic interpretation by focusing on solid genre films with horror as a strong focus - this would probably be from the 1960s onwards though weíll certainly consider earlier, like Mario Bavaís I VAMPIRI (1956, an extra on BLACK SUNDAY). For Academy itís anything we think fits the mould of classic so thatís probably as much of a judgement call. We will be releasing Don Siegelís THE KILLERS in March, a strong genre film but one we thought had a very good fit with the existing crime films on the Academy label (such as RIFIFI and some more upcoming crime films this year).

What prompted the sweeping changes towards the end of last year that saw Arrow go from a some what middling label to one of the top 3 UK labels (up there with the BFI and MoC)? Nick Eggleton

We released a number of films, exclusively from Italy with problematic issues. We were tied into this deal and similarly for some other films, the ongoing customer dissatisfaction with those releases prompted us to practice differently regarding our material (see above). We then were also fortunate to acquire the services of James White, a restoration supremo which chimed in with our desire to do an Italian film ourselves to show the Italian licensors what can be achieved with correct procedures and attention to detail. That restoration was such a success it prompted us to do more which led to the films mentioned above and much more to follow. This also came at a time when we expanded our team and were able to handle more releases. There was also the issue of packaging which we had changed and then finally developed into what it is now, and will remain. Lastly, we were also very fortunate to pick up some incredible licenses, such as BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, TEXAS CHAINSAW 2 and so on. All these changes combined was quite an overall change in a short period of time. Internally there hasnít been much change in the approach to each title, our 2010 and 2011 discs of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD and OBSESSION are certainly on a par with what we are doing now, both quality restorations with solid extras and expansive booklets.

Hi Arrow. Thanks for doing such a great job on Lifeforce. Iíd like to know if you plan to port over some titles from Scream Factoryís region-locked catalogue. Iím thinking of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch and Night Of The Comet. Also, it would be really great if you could get your claws on Fright Night Part II. I know that there are print issues, but someone needs to rescue that film from obscurity... Gareth O'Connor

Scream Factory have some great releases and we would certainly like to, but a lot (possibly all?) of their titles have existing licenses in the UK or we canít seem to get them from the Studios clutches, in a certain pair of titles we were asking the Studio for them well before they announced them and weíre still trying now, but unfortunately they still wonít give them up! But weíll keep trying for all the titles we know our fans want.

I'm loving the work that Arrow is putting into it's releases, some making the UK releases the best versions in the world. Just wondering, regarding the deal with MGM, do you approach them at intervals to ask for the rights to distribute certain titles, or do they give you a list of ones they allow you to pick from? Steve Wells

Itís a bit of both but much more commonly we come up with our own wish list, thatís the case for MGM, Fox and Universal certainly, but even in some cases they donít have the rights to the films themselves and our release of SQUIRM wonít be around long as the rights expire with MGM (and therefore us) much sooner than is usual.

Could you consider some kind of Kickstarter project for expensive movies? I'll pay easily £25 per title for the films such as Banditi a Milano, Roma a mano armata, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh or Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. Vaso Djogovic

We currently have a kickstarter going that offers different rewards along the sort of scale you mention. We would definitely like to make our next kickstarter Arrow Video focused and have three possibilities pending but we need to get agreements from the rights-holders, access to the material and so on. Hopefully we will have something soon!

Does your TENEBRAE release use the Wild Side transfer? What factors shaped the decision to offer this (at least initially) as an exclusive through Zavvi? Paul Lewis

It does, but a new encode (so not exactly the same) and we added another interview, with critic Maitland McDonagh and beefed up the booklet! The decision to make this a Zavvi exclusive was made before we decided to release it. Zavvi are always asking for certain titles to be a steelbook exclusive and we thought Zavvi might be interested in TENEBRAE so with their financial support of the release we were able to do it. Had we not had that support from Zavvi, this release would not have happened, it would be too risky to re-invest in a new release (from the deal structure with licensors this can often be tricky) and also releasing a title on Blu-ray for the second time too presented a risk but with Zavvi itís been very plain sailing. It will be available from other retailers in the near future.

Do Arrow often make newer transfers than ones currently available. THE FURY is better than the Twilight Time release for example? Jari Kovalainen

Yes, the restorations mentioned above are all new following the existence of available HD Masters and the restoration of many of Borowczykís films have never been on any video format at all!

And here are some bonus questions! First off, what are the criteria a film and its presentation source material should fulfill to be considered worthy of an Arrow release?

The film should either be highly requested by our fans or be something we feel is valuable to be brought to the UK market, and, in addition, the teamís own personal taste is a high factor. Along with this the considerations are the presentation of the film in the UK (available, not, quality DVD or non-anamorphic, picture quality, extras). Secondary considerations are how the film is presented in other countries, whether it has a good master or not, and whether it is properly authored (quality encoding, lossless audio, extras). As regards the material, it should be of high quality, exhibiting good depth, natural grain, stable, uncut, in the correct ratio and so on).

Are the same people involved in the Arrow Academy and Arrow Video releases?

Yes, itís all one team but some work on Academy and others work more on Video but as mentioned the team has very eclectic tastes so itís not much of a split.

Who is the most popular movie-maker amongst the Arrow crew?

The popular filmmaker in the Arrow collection is certainly Dario Argento as we have releases of many of his films and if we include his work as a producer thatís even more as DEMONS and DEMONS 2 were very successful.

Are there any plans to release Kill Baby Kill and Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava)?

We will hopefully release KILL BABY KILL, possibly this year but DANGER: DIABOLIK unfortunately is with Paramount.

What titles would you have loved to release that you didn't get the chance to?

Suspiria!!!! The David Lynch Collection as released by Universal was another big one, I am a huge Lynch fan and would have loved to have been able to tackle his films, especially ERASERHEAD. Likewise VIDEODROME which weíve had flat out noís so many times I should probably let it go and stop annoying everyone at Universal! John Carpenterís films too which are very unlikely to happen being with other companies who wonít let them go. REPO MAN would have been amazing but the Eureka release is lovely, though I canít help but still wanting it to be part of the Arrow Video collection. There are probably loads but itís not worth going on about what could have been. Weíre very lucky to have released some really wonderful films, even upcoming some real greats like PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and WHITE OF THE EYE are my passion projects right now.

Do you accept suggestions from people who purchase products from you (and if so how do we make them)?

Yes we do! We have a dedicated email and please do use and share it - suggestions@arrowfilms.co.uk

Have you seen an increase in sales this year? Compared to before, you seem to now put a lot more effort into both the restoration/ clean up and encoding side of your discs. I personally value quality of the product over quantity of titles, and thus my Arrow purchases have shot up this year. Indeed, I don't think I bought a single Arrow disc until ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS! Now I have a small collection of 20 titles.

Weíve seen an increased number of new customers and for the past 13 months we have been releasing more titles. Things were patchy before, in large part to the volume of Italian titles which werenít up to the quality of the American or French films we released, depending on your interest you may want to check those out. I can certainly recommend De Palmaís OBSESSION, the anthology Edgar Allan Poe, horror SPIRITS OF THE DEAD by Fellini, Malle and Vadim, Jules Dassinís seminal crime film RIFIFI, THE TIN DRUM, FRANKENHOOKER, MANIAC COP and others.

Now that you're playing on a whole new level, do you plan on going back to any of your older titles which didn't get such loving treatment? You appear to be doing so with TENEBRAE, is there anything else planned?

Nothing else is planned, TENEBRAE was a one off as there was an existing master available. If thereís appetite for this please let us know via suggestions@arrowfilms.co.uk. With enough demand in a title to be upgraded it could be a possibility...

Thanks very much for your time and the great interview. One final question though! Any exclusive information you can sneak us?

A pleasure. Sort of - we have a sampler DVD coming out soon which will reveal some of our as yet unannounced titles. This should be free and will be available from Fopp stores but we will try and make this as widely available as soon as possible!

Thanks again to Arrow Films for allowing our users this opportunity of an interview. You can support them and Rewind by buying their products from Amazon.