Could have been so much better...
Michael Callaghan | Jersey City, NJ United States | 07/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"AIP was a studio that changed Hollywood - it brought independent cinema to the masses, and it entertained as many people as it frustrated. For every fan of "The Wasp Woman" and "Beach Blanket Bingo" there is a person to decry them, but nobody can deny the sheer entertainment value of so many of these films. The Pit and The Pendulum, The Thing With Two Heads, Foxy Brown, and the shamefully unavailable Rolling Thunder are a few of the seemingly endless titles AIP released in their tenure as drive-in champions. Anyone who doesn't like at least a few of those films is - well, to put it nicely, not someone I'd like at a party.
So I was looking forward to this DVD... but it's a little disappointing. I'm being generous with three stars, because this is one of the only sources to hear Arkoff speak, albeit at the end of his life and to a small audience.
Here's the thing - he started the careers of Woody Allen, Dennis Hopper, Martin Scorcese, Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro among many others, but the only interviews on the disc are with no-name cable access hosts and fan-club president types. Aside from a very brief talk with Roger Corman, there is practically nothing we learn from the interview subjects aside from the fact that they loved AIP. Well, duh. We're even subjected to scenes from some of their unknown cable shows, which have nothing at all to do with Arkoff, and lots to do with padding running time. Heck, at least when AIP padded time in their films they made it entertaining...
The narration, also, is pretty lame. "Through a series of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction occurrences, Arkoff teamed up with Nicholson to start American International Pictures". What might those astounding occurrences be? We may never know - the video won't tell us. Weak. Entire genres are glossed over with a few sentences. It feels decidedly half-baked. That, and there are several full trailers here, which anyone who collects AIP videos already has.
Which leads to another point - there are no extras. Come on! Why not put a collection of trailers in the extras? Why not a behind the scenes photo gallery? Why not a list of produced films? There are so many things that could have been done here (supplementary interviews, movie posters, a timeline, etc.), but there is absolutely nothing. Just 'chapters' and 'play'. Weak.
Still, the program does has Arkoff talking abut his career, which is almost worth the asking price. Samuel is very old here, and he gets a little babbley and tends to run on a bit, but to hear him talk about his work is still a lot of fun. He talks about Roger Corman, Anette Funicello, and Vincent Price, which is pretty neat. Still, it's too bad they didn't find footage of him when he was younger, maybe on movie sets, maybe doing interviews... it points again to the rush-job this video appears to be.
Is this DVD worth the asking price? I'd say no. Heck, for the same price you can get a Midnight Movies double feature! If, however, you have most (or all) of those discs, or are studying b-film, or can't get enough AIP, this might be worth it. It pains me that I cant make a strong recommendation, but this is just too shabby to warrant one. Samuel Arkoff, who brought so many of us so many hours of thrills, laughs, groans and rolled eyes, definitely deserves better."
A.S. Svehla | Baltimore, MD USA | 10/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DVD DRIVE-IN REVIEW BY JASON MCELREATH: Midnight Marquee Productions and Longthrow Multimedia International, through Alpha Video, present the story of the founder of American International Pictures full frame and barebones. The quality of the picture varies from crystal clear to covered in nicks and scratches due to its editing together of recent and archived interviews with vintage trailers. Taken as a whole, the presentation is quite nice with very little worth fusing over. Audio fares similarly, with the majority of Arkoff's convention interview, which really is the meat and potatoes of this release, easy enough to follow. While I was already aware of AIP's history and a huge fan of its eclectic library, hearing Arkoff relive the glory days of AIP was like listening to an old relative spinning a yarn on lazy Sunday afternoon. I may have heard his story a hundred times before, but there's something about the way he tells it that holds my attention every time.
DVD VERDICT REVEIW: When Samuel Z. Arkoff saw the declining fortunes of the downtown movie houses due to television and the exodus to the suburbs after World War II, he said to himself, "This is the time to get in and make pictures."
Arkoff, the co-founder of American International Pictures, saw markets in neighborhood theaters, drive-ins, and eventually television. Since he was a father, he also saw a market in teenagers--although you'll notice his movies featured a lot of old hands like Morey Amsterdam, Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre, Ray Milland, and Buster Keaton.
In today's multicasting and niche environment, his ideas seem obvious, but they were unusual back in the Fifties when AIP and predecessor ARC first came onto the movie scene.
Arkoff discussed his work during a convention in Arlington, Virginia, in 2000. An interview with Arkoff, supplemented by interviews apparently done later, provides the backbone for FANEX Files: Samuel Z. Arkoff.
The production isn't big budget, but it augments what could have been a dry succession of talking heads with clips and trailers, adding photos and film that back up the discussion. Close-up shots give it more intimacy than you'd expect for a discussion at a convention. It looks like it's cheap video, but done with care, making it a good way to preserve Arkoff's legacy.
The result is mainly an overview of AIP's history that'll give you a sense of its gradually increasing importance to our culture, starting with the early pop-culture impact of I Was A Teenage Werewolf and continuing through the box-office success of The Amityville Horror. Stops along the way, illustrated with trailers, include Beach Party and its sequels with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, House of Usher and the other Poe movies starring Vincent Price, biker pictures like The Wild Angels with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, and Blaxploitation films like William Marshall's Blacula.
Arkoff's in good humor. He stays mainly on an outline of his work but has room for a few stories or impressions about people like Martin Scorcese, Roger Corman, or Vincent Price. He has some insights which could help an indie filmmaker today, but the Arkoff formula, while mentioned and briefly discussed in the documentary, is mainly demonstrated by example from those trailers.
Even if you don't get anything else from it, the sight of a horror movie host, in this case Count Gore De Vol, looking more like Mister Rogers when he's out of character could provide some mild amusement.
This modest documentary is surprisingly entertaining. Even if you don't learn anything about low-budget moviemaking, you'll get a kick out of all the trailers, full of ominous narration and promises that viewers knew wouldn't be kept."