WHEN DID YOU START COLLECTING FILMS AND CAN YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST ONE YOU BOUGHT?
In 1989 I was 12 and was given my very first film on VHS, an anonymous sounding film-clip compilation entitled The Best of Martial Arts, presented and narrated by John Saxon, which showcased various Golden Harvest films - Bruce Lee classics, ninja films, Jackie Chan comedies and so on. My primary interest though was Horror and Science Fiction. I was an avid reader of 2000AD from the age of 6 or 7 and by the time I reached my teens I was gravitating towards adult Horror. I have cherished memories of long summer afternoons spent behind closed curtains watching the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series, The Fly, Phantasm II (it would be a few years yet before I saw the original), Re-Animator and Day of the Dead. The first film I bought on VHS was undoubtedly the big-box New World edition of Hellraiser, from my local videoshop for the princely sum of 10 Irish pounds. I'm sure it never occurred to me that I could have bought a brand new sell-through copy for the same price at HMV. Fast forward to May 1992 and Dark Side magazine's Video Nasties issue appears, a pivotal moment in my film watching life that would change the map of Horror forever...
TELL US ABOUT DIFFERENT FORMATS: WHICH DO YOU COLLECT ?
The first decade of film collecting was VHS. Collecting Horror on video here in Ireland demanded patience and perseverance. The Video Nasties round-up wasn't quite so severe here, only a small amount of headline-grabbing titles were pulled off the shelves to satisfy moral outrage, but with fewer tapes in circulation, one had to spend hours of detective work sifting through grotty video shops looking for banned titles, and uncut pre-cert rarities. But even as late as the mid-90's I was finding the odd bit of buried treasure - Thorn EMI's uncut edition of Suspiria, hard to find pre-cert titles like The Blood-Spattered Bride, The Crazies and Martin, Intervision tapes like The Exterminator and Poor White Trash, curios like The Jesus Trip and Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, and the occasional Video Nasty - The Burning, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, Blood Bath, I Spit On Your Grave and Gestapo's Last Orgy...
Another important source came from a more underground connection. I knew someone who sold dupes of Cult, Exploitation and Video Nasty titles and had no qualms about selling his wares to geeky teenagers. These tapes came in color photocopied sleeves and were mastered from tapes that were usually degraded to an inch of their life, all swarming tracking lines and random color shifts, but after handing over £6 per tape (or 3 for £15!), I was finally seeing the likes of Cannibal Holocaust, Last House on the Left, Snuff and hard-to-see exotica like Nekromantik, Bloodsucking Freaks and New York Ripper (letterboxed with Dutch subtitles!). To my huge regret most of my tapes, originals and dupes are long gone. By 2001 I had transitioned from VHS to DVD, and consigned the bulk of my tapes to the trash just because DVD was so superior. Who knew that The Devils would take 12 years to come out ? Nevertheless, the sun had firmly set on VHS, and I remember well the seismic event of Pioneer's DVD edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre arriving through my letterbox from the US in 2001. DVD coupled with online shopping was a revolution in terms of film collecting, and I was fortunate that those frenzied years of DVD buying dovetailed with an era of strong Euro-to-Dollar rate, cheap shipping from the US and relaxed customs controls - none of which are true today.
It's interesting that in this era of high-definition presentations I've become increasingly preoccupied with laserdisc, and in the last few years I've been putting together a modest collection. I don't have a laserdisc player but I find this dead format strangely seductive, indeed fetishistic, and I do enjoy seeking out laserdisc editions that came with vintage or exclusive artwork. And oddly enough I find myself collecting VHS again, in recent weeks I've picked up a copy of Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge and Mario Bava's Shock on VHS, both for their wonderful artwork.
WHAT WOULD YOUR SAY ARE SOME OF THE STANDOUT TITLES IN YOUR COLLECTION?
I don't have a whole lot of rarities on DVD, perhaps a few titles that have gone out of print in recent years - Anchor Bay's DVD of Cockfighter immediately comes to mind, and Barrel's DVD of Last House on Dead End Street which came in an attractive fat-boy case adorned with terrific artwork by Stephen Bissette. I'm quite fond of some European discs I've picked up over the years - the German edition of What Have They Done To Your Daughters ? and two Camera Obscura titles, Terror Express and Mondo Candido. Boxset wise, I like to show off my Raro boxset of Andy Warhol films, and Potemkine's massive 52-disc Eric Rohmer collection. And I've been fortunate to score a number of Arrow special editions - Videodrome, Phenomena, and I'm particularly proud that I was part of the crowd-funding campaign for the Walerian Borowczyk Collection. I've been lucky too to land some very nice Japanese laserdiscs, and most recently I picked up a copy of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things laserdisc, a very limited run signed by Bob Clarke and Alan Ormsby. And I must mention the 2008 documentary entitled Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky which I bought on DVD from the director Dmitry Trakovsky who included a handwritten letter thanking me for the interest in the film and explaining his ideas and motivation in making the film - a very nice touch.