Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lost, Found & Future: A Peek into Vinegar Syndrome

The phrase “lost film” is one of the saddest in the English vernacular. For being such a young format, it seems inconceivable that any movie could already be vanished to the ether of time. Of course, most know that a large portion of silent films were lost due to both intentional negligence, since film was considered a culturally disposable medium, and bad storage habits, leading to severely deteriorated prints. Due to the flammable nature of the nitrate, some prints would even spontaneously combust!

There's a new type of lost film, though. There are films that are barely old enough to collect a pension check that are marked as missing. People didn't really know better back in the early days, but what is the excuse for the past forty or fifty years? The flammable type of nitrate film stopped being used after 1952, so it's not really the case of movie prints literally bursting into flames. But then what is it? 

A lot of it is direct kin to the same kind of thinking that dates back to the early 1900's. Film was not considered “respectable” therefor it wasn't viewed in terms of preservation. Fast forward several decades later, with the tide changing enough for people to start thinking in terms of cinematic preservation. Ironically enough, most preservationists were thinking in terms of “respectable” films. Genres and subgenres, like adult, sexploitation, horror and underground, were, much like those early silent reels, were regarded as disposable and crude entertainment.

This kind of ignorance and pigheaded elitism is borderline chilling, but there is a silver lining. As more and more people are debating the future of cinema, there are those who are working hard to fight for the preservation of all film. Especially the type of films that have gone on unloved in mainstream circles for too long. Front and center on this right path is Vinegar Syndrome

Unearthing everything from arthouse gems (Nelson Lyon's “The Telephone Book,” Theodore Gushuny's “Sugar Cookies”) to ultra obscure cult films (Stanley Lewis'Punk Vacation”) to adult film classics (Alex DeRenzy's “Pretty Peaches,” Roberta Findlay's “Angel on Fire”), as well as lurid oddities (Bill Milling's “Oriental Blue,” Howard Perkins' “Baby Rosemary,”), they are more than a mere distribution company. Giving the kind of love and care to prints that is normally reserved by companies thrice as old and twice as big, Vinegar Syndrome first come upon my periphery with their Blu-Ray release of “The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis.” Being someone whose teenage years were spent reading and re-reading and then reading some more books like Michael Weldon's “The Psychotronic Video Guide” and Re/Search's “Incredibly Strange Film Book,” this was a release right after my own heart. 

A simple basic release of such previously lost H.G. Lewis films like “Black Love” and “Linda & Abilene,” would have been more than enough. Especially when you take into account how many a cult film fan had all but given up on these titles ever surfacing. But, even better, not only did they surface but on a lush, re-mastered release to boot. It felt like a gift and it was that key that unlocked for me, the world that is Vinegar Syndrome

 In keeping with their forward-thinking means of preserving and distributing these fringe gems of the past, Vinegar Syndrome have started a fundraiser via Indiegogo. The VinegarSydrome.TV project is a motion to bridge their incredible library of cult films with the digital age by creating a video-on-demand channel for such a treasure trove of cinema. Given that their title database is going to grow by at least forty more titles this year, it is a undoubtedly a project worthy of any film lover's attention.

Now....let's all go to the movies! 

2015 © Heather Drain

Thursday, January 1, 2015

No Such Thing as an Act in Vain: The Golden Age Appreciation Fund

This world is many things. In the splendor of life, this existence can be beautiful, harsh, strange, sad and wondrous. For many artists, life is all of this times nine. There's no 401K plans and financial instability will more often than not, be an ever constant presence and yet, it is this blood-born drive to create, to express, to scream, to whisper and to be seen that drives you to create even when your more financially pragmatic loved ones and friends are shaking their heads and asking when are you going to get a “real job.”

The only true shame in being an artist is the number of those who have dedicated the prime years of their life to expression, and still end up having to struggle in their later years. In the 50' and 60's it was the bluesmen who laid out the blueprints for a large part of modern music and yet, rarely, if ever, saw a dime for their hard work and toil. All that despite the fact that there were definitely people making an obscene amount of money off of them, meanwhile the artists themselves often lived in near poverty.

There are too many sad variations of this tale in all the arts, but one area in particular involves the men and women who took creative, personal and societal risks and forged new ground in the adult film industry. A sad but true factor is that our society is still devolved enough to shame consenting adults whose only “transgression” has been to have been naked and having a fairly good time on camera. When you think of all of the real atrocities that happen on this planet every single minute you breathe, consensual adults having sex should really be nonexistent on the list of things to be offended by.

Luckily, a trio of kind souls have started a new non-profit entitled The Golden Age Appreciation Fund. Founded by Mark Murray, whom along with his lovely wife Miranda, organized the original Golden Age fundraiser back in 2013, Ashley West whose work, both as a writer, an up and coming documentarian and the primary force behind the groundbreaking and essential The Rialto Report and Jill Nelson, who is the tremendous author of the quintessential biography on John Holmes (A Life Measured in Inches), as well as the definitive tome on women in Adult film (Golden Goddesses). These three have come together and created this organization, in which 100% of the donations goes directly to the artist that they are aiding.

In a world where artists and performers who have earned others millions of dollars and given countless joy to a world wide audience, they should not have to worry about basic necessities in their later years. So if you're a fan of the classic era of this genre or just someone who wants to support artists who are having to go through the harder aspects of life, please check out the Golden Age Appreciation Fund

Copyright 2015 Heather Drain