Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cool Ass Cinema Presents: An Interview with Brannon Carty, Owner of RetroVision Entertainment

Since JAWS (1975) first made swimmers think twice about going back into the ocean, a number of filmmakers here and abroad have attempted to create more reasons to stay away from large bodies of water. Most of these pictures are poorly made, unintentionally hilarious productions that have, in some cases, attained cult status with a devoted fan base. A surge in DTV aquatic creature features in the last ten years has maintained a near constant feeding frenzy of poorly rendered CGI shark movies for a new generation. But what of the older, retro underwater killer fish flicks? 

Mr. Carty sits next to one of the barrels featured in the original JAWS (1975)
A new upstart DVD company based out of Greensboro, North Carolina headed up by the very young Brannon Carty has set its sights on unleashing a number of those flesh-eating fish movies (among other types of films) that have yet to surface on American shores in the digital format. Below is an interview with Mr. Carty, the very young owner of this company, RetroVision Entertainment. 

Cool Ass Cinema: First off, tell us a bit about yourself and your interest in genre cinema.

Brannon Carty: In a nutshell, I'm just a guy who loves films and wants to make films for a living. Ever since I saw JAWS for the first time, I've wanted to immerse myself in film. With the help of my parents, I've expanded my love of films from the James Bond franchise, all the way to westerns and horror.

CAC: What led you to want to start your own DVD company?

BC: When my parents purchased their first DVD player, I was given JAWS on DVD and I was blown away at the amount of special features on the DVD and wished that all releases were given the same treatment. There was also some very bad releases (every single NIGHT OF THE SHARKS DVD) that contained just the film and a simple menu. I felt that I could do much better than these small labels that were just looking for profit. Thus, the idea for RetroVision was born!

CAC: Your company's specialty is in exploitation movies of the aquatic horror variety. When did this fascination with shark and killer fish movies begin, and what triggered it?

BC: Despite our current selection, we are not limited to aquatic films. We specialize in almost every genre (minus adult films). My passion for shark films came from when my parents let me watch JAWS for the first time. After seeing the film, I began to hunt down every shark film I could find. At the time, there was a shark movie website called 'Sharks On Film' and it had a list of every single killer shark film that had ever been released. This list of films led me to hunt down CRUEL JAWS (1995), THE LAST SHARK (1981), TINTORERA (1978), etc.

CAC: Your flagship title is Enzo G. Castellari's EL ULTIMO SQUALO aka THE LAST SHARK aka GREAT WHITE. What were your thoughts on this movie the first time you saw it?

BC: I had originally heard about THE LAST SHARK through the 'Sharks On Film' site I mentioned earlier. Upon looking at the screenshots of the shark attacking the helicopter, I was intrigued and then began searching for it on ebay and found a cheap $5 DVD-R of the film that was sourced from the Greek VHS tape. After watching the film, I fell in love with the film for its catchy opening tune, shark effects, and lead characters (James Franciscus and Vic Morrow). At the time , I thought it was better than JAWS and showed the film to everyone I knew. But, they didn't share my enthusiasm for the film!

CAC: Considering this film has been kept on lockdown by Universal since its brief early 80s theatrical run, were there difficulties in obtaining the license to release it? Please explain.

BC: The films injunction ended in 2010 (or sometime after Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS came out). An unknown distributor was the first to take note of this and licensed the film for an Instant Streaming and DVD-R release through Amazon. The only real problem was trying to figure out if any rights for the film were registered in the United States and if they still belonged to the company that registered them.

Brannon Carty with the producer and director of THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING James Gelet at Jaws Fest 2012
CAC: Did you reach out to anyone involved in the actual production of LAST SHARK to be a part of this release?

BC: I did reach out to Joshua Sinclair (Governor William Wells) but I never received a response past him telling me about his time on the set. However, one of the extras in the film did end up ordering a copy of the finished product!

CAC: Were there difficulties in locating materials -- of either Italian or US promotion -- for extras on this DVD?

BC: The hardest material to locate was the poster art for the DVD cover. We ended up using a Thai poster and removed the text and folds from the poster and used it for the DVD cover. Everything else was easy to find due to ebay and the internet.

CAC: What's going on with the release of Lamberto Bava's MONSTER SHARK (1984) and Bruno Mattei's CRUEL JAWS (1995)?

BC: CRUEL JAWS (1995) presented a problem that was too expensive to deal with: the stolen JAWS footage. We could not afford to license the footage nor would we want to release it without the consent of Universal. MONSTER SHARK (1984) is still in the works! 

CAC:  Are there plans to put out either of the KILLER CROCODILE movies, or Joe D'Amato's DEEP BLOOD (1989)?

BC: I have been asked by many people to release KILLER CROCODILE but I haven't looked into it yet. As for DEEP BLOOD (1989), both the rights holder and I could not agree on a price for licensing, so no deal was ever done for the North American market.

CAC: You're currently in the process of putting out Castellari's IL CACCIATORE DI SQUALI aka THE SHARK HUNTER (1979) starring Franco Nero in HD. Why this particular title, and do you have plans for Blu-ray releases for other titles in your catalog? 

BC: THE SHARK HUNTER (1979) has been a long time favorite of mine since I saw it on the old Prism VHS release from the 80s. Being a Franco Nero and Enzo Castellari fan, I felt this film deserved a proper digital release since it has never had one (minus a shoddy VHS transfer on the Grindhouse Experience Vol. 2 bootleg). As for the Bluray lineup, if it is possible, most titles will have both a DVD and Blu-ray release. For example, GREAT WHITE was filmed in standard definition and would not need a Blu-ray release (although the higher bitrate would help the films picture quality). 

CAC: Compared with Castellari's killer shark movie, was this title fairly easy to acquire?

BC: THE SHARK HUNTER was tough to acquire as I spent many weeks trying to reach the rights holders. Once I did get into contact with them, it was smooth sailing from there.

CAC: Tell us a bit about this 1998 movie you're putting out entitled GREAT WHITE.

BC: GREAT WHITE is a killer shark film that was shot on digital beta cameras in 1998 in Laughlin, Nevada. It had a low budget but the director (Zac Reeder) made thebest out of what he was given. It involves a 12 foot great white shark that makes its way into a freshwater river during the summer season. The main character, Steven Miller (Richard Keats) is the only one who knows the truth and must convince the town before it's too late! It was made because a Japanese investor wanted to cash-in on the shark film craze and fill rental stores in Japan with a new shark film. The film was a huge hit in Japan and was released there as JAWS '98! It was also released in Germany as SHARK - LURKER OF THE DEPTHS. GREAT WHITE (1998) was also one of the first shark films that I remember seeing and has a special place in my heart.

CAC: If you were to recommend a few US, or non-Italian made exploitation/Drive In shark/killer fish movies from the 70s and 80s, what would they be and why?

BC: Now that I think about it, there weren't many non-Italian sharksploitation films. The closest thing to a non-Italian made killer fish film would have to be RAZORTEETH (2005) from the Polonia Brothers. It's more of a comedy, but is quite good once you get past the low budget and bad acting. Another would be GREAT WHITE (1998). It has very good acting and a believable storyline based on the 1916 attacks in New Jersey.

Brannon Carty and Todd E. Braley at Jaws Fest 2012
CAC: You also recently announced your company acquired films from award winning filmmaker Todd E. Braley. Tell us a bit about him and his work.

BC: Todd Braley is a filmmaker from Grand Junction, Colorado who writes and directs both short and feature films. Braley is an extremely talented man who has won many awards for his films ME, A RAPIST?! and SILENCE. He has a true passion for what he does and he shows it through each film he makes. It is a true honor to work with someone as outgoing and committed as Braley.

CAC: Is there anything else on the plate at Retrovision for future release that you've got your eye on?

BC: Nothing is set in stone yet, but I do have a long list of films that I would love to release on both Blu-ray and DVD.

Mr. Carty standing in front of his six foot THE LAST SHARK poster
Cool Ass Cinema would like to thank Brannon of RetroVision for taking time out to answer questions about his company, his releases, and his fascination with the genre in general. 

RetroVision currently has an indiegogo campaign for THE SHARK HUNTER (1979) for an HD restoration on Blu and DVD. You can see it, and contribute if you wish by clicking HERE.

You can also visit the RetroVision website to peruse and purchase their products HERE and like them at their Facebook page HERE.

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