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Kitley's Krypt:  What were your parent’s views on your affection for horror movies, especially at a young age?

Mike Baronas:  I’ve always been fascinated with monsters.  I grew up with the Gamera & Godzilla flicks back during my childhood in the 1970’s watching our local version of “Chiller Theatre” called “Creature Double Feature” here in Massachusetts.  My Mom says I used to draw them constantly and for some reason have always been captivated by them.
    It got much more realistic when my parents took me to see the re-release of Jaws when I was 10.  I still get a bit tweaked whenever I’m near any body of water.  When I was 12 they took me to see Poltergeist which also did quite a number on me.  I don’t blame my folks at all though. These choices made me who I am and I was always eager to see more.
    Then when the VHS boom hit in the mid-80’s, my Dad would drive me each and every Saturday to the local video store to pick 3 films.  I always went directly to the Horror section.  He had final say about what I was renting, but recall him only denying me one film, Faces of Death.  He would also escort me on a monthly basis into this seedy little bodega downtown to pick through all the smut rags and buy me the latest issue of Fangoria.
    So, they encouraged my horror fandom.  I am sensitive and protective however about what my little ones see because I’m a product of how powerful imagery like someone’s head being drilled completely through really is.
    If anything, my parents were more concerned about all that Slayer & Celtic Frost I was listening to back in the day...

KK:  I understand completely about the whole Jaws thing.  That also scared me for life as well.
    But why your love of Lucio Fulci, as opposed to Mario Bava or Dario Argento?  What is it about Fulci that grabbed your attention?

MB:  I think the main reason initially was the greater availability of Fulci’s classic horror films on VHS during my impressionable teenage years as opposed to Bava’s on Argento’s.  In fact, two of the first four VHS tapes I ever rented included a Bava and Fulci film (Bay of Blood & Gates of Hell respectively).  I obviously gravitated more towards the gory zombie film than the Giallo. Still do actually.

KK:  What was it about Gates of Hell / City of the Living Dead that made such an impact on you?

MB:  Atmosphere.  Fulci’s claustrophobic use of atmosphere and the fact that in the film anything could happen at any time for no good reason really had me on the edge of my seat the entire film.  Also, never had my 15 year old eyes witnessed such lingering scenes of bloodshed.  It was all so visually captivating to someone who thought Friday the 13th was the most violent film he had ever seen.

KK:  To those who don’t understand the European “style over substance” method of filmmaking, what would you say to help them understand that a little better?

MB:  Scripts for EuroHorror films have always been secondary to the director’s vision.  I’m sure you’ll agree that half the films we’ve seen of this ilk are hardly coherent, but beautiful to look at.  Fans of the genre can overlook such shortcomings much of the time, but I personally find it more difficult when it comes to Gialli because murder mysteries to me need to make more sense than not.

KK:  What about an Italian horror film in general do you consider to be underrated?

MB:  The craftsmanship that went into making these micro-budgeted masterpieces.  These artisans used their minds to solve problems during production rather than throwing money at them because they never had such luxury.
    I think EVERY Italian horror film is underrated, because having done a few horror conventions now with some of the stars from these films, a large majority of American horror fans today don't have a clue. These classics deserve seeking out by said fans more so than being force-fed yet another prequel of an American horror remake.

KK:  We couldn't agree more, Mike.  We are always preaching to seeking out these classic films.
    Which of Fulci’s film do you think is highly underrated, and should be seen?

MB:  His personal favorite, Beatrice Cenci.  It’s such a beautifully crafted film.  I’m still amazed that it hasn’t been released on DVD here in the States yet, which is surely because DVD companies only view Fulci as a horror director and probably don’t think this period piece would sell very well.  That’s the unfortunate difference between being a business and being a fan as we all know.

KK:  Working with Shriek Show, what release that you were involved with are you most proud of?

MB:  Without a doubt - another underrated gem - A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin.  My ex-business partner Kit Gavin and I went to great lengths to create the documentary “Shedding The Skin” for the 2005 double-disc release.  Never mind locating all those folks, which was nearly impossible in itself, but then traveling to Italy, England, Spain, France and California to secure all the interviews and location shots was exhausting.  Kit did an amazing job pulling it together in the end and it’s easily the best work we did for Shriek Show because we had some control over the final product, which was never the case otherwise.
    I’d like to add that for Shriek Show not to port that documentary over to last year’s re-release due the original botched prints they put out in 2005 really was a disservice to fans and frankly a slap in the face to us.

KK:  I agree completely.  Those extras on those discs were great for us fans.  Sure, seeing the improved prints were fantastic, but as die-hard fan, I was always interested in the featurettes to learn something about the film that I might not have known.  Plus you're getting it directly from the people involved.
    Was there a title that you’d really love to have worked on, but just couldn’t get the rights or find a good print of?

MB:  Kit and I were hired guns and really had no say as to what we got to work on.  If Media Blasters licensed it, we worked on it as best we could. We were part of some classics for sure – we worked on 35 Shriek Show titles in all - and I’m really proud of this, and am happy to still be assisting on some future titles of great meaning to me (but that’s all I can say at this time on those...).

KK:  Now you have peaked our interests, but I guess we'll just have to wait on what those are.
    What were some of the reactions of these stars of these Italian horror films when you asked to interview them?  Were they surprised that someone actually wanted to talk about these films?

MB:  Exactly. Most everyone was more than gracious and some even invited us to their homes for meals and the like.  Some were floored that an American had even seen these films never mind traveled 4,500 miles to interview them on camera about these low-budget quickies they did some 25 years ago.  Many still remain friends today and I’m thrilled to now be bringing my friends over to meet their US fans on the horror convention circuit now too.

KK:  How did the book project come about?  And how did that transform into the DVD Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered: Volume 1?

MB:  The book idea came about upon completing Stephen Thrower’s “Beyond Terror” which didn’t really tell me who Lucio Fulci was as a person, something I longed to know since my failed attempt at interviewing the director at the 1996 Fangoria convention in NYC shortly before his death.  I figured the only real way to accomplish this was to find out from those he worked with and that started the ball rolling.  Everything fell into place after that: Kit & I met, we began contacting folks, and were able to do a large majority of interviews face-to-face thanks to securing the Shriek Show gig and meeting Fulci’s collaborators during our down time.
    We clocked in countless hours of interviews and, sadly as time went on, neither Kit nor I had the time to dedicate to such a massive project for various reasons.  So there it sat for years.  I had been itching to at least release something from all the hard work we’d done, and when I went back to look at all the on-camera footage I had taken, I discovered that what I had here was exactly what I wanted.  You see, the last question we asked everyone was, “What is your fondest memory of Lucio?”  Thankfully we were allowed to film those responses on-camera more often than not and watching them one after another was quite a striking memorial to my favorite director.  Since this was the heart of the project in the first place, I decided to compile all this footage and release it on DVD.

KK:  I know we really enjoyed it, but how is the DVD being received by the fans?

MB:  I’ve been very humbled by all the emails I’ve been getting and the great reviews I’ve read.  Granted I put endless hours into this project with the help of an amazing group of professionals, but it’s those 90 craftsmen and women that we got to share their feelings about Lucio who deserve the praise.  I was just the conduit to bring their memories to light.
    Some have commented on the fact that it’s not a full-fledged documentary, but it was never envisioned that way from the onset.  The DVD was to be an ancillary part of a Q&A interview structured book.  This last question was just a continuation of these interviews and the DVD a bonus to the fans to see what these talents who brought us endless hours of enjoyment look like in person.  Since the DVD ended up being almost 4 hours long, I think it has enough legs to be considered more than just a “bonus”.

KK:  We definitely agree.  It's great to see all of these faces today from these movies that we watched over and over again.  When can we hope to see Volume 2?

MB:  Since Volume 1 took 7 years for me to complete, ask me again in another 5...

KK Since you've done a few conventions with some of these Italian celebrities, such as Giovanni Lombaro Radice, Ruggero Deodato, and Catriona MacColl. What has been their reaction to seeing their fans. Did they even realize that they had this big of a following here in the states?

MB Those I've brought over thus far - Deodato, Lomabardo Radice & MacColl - have done these types of things before and sort of knew what to expect.  It was great to see the reactions of the fans coming to the tables literally shaking when meeting them, because that's what I originally felt too.  Fans of this genre aren't casual obeservers, but die-hards.  These films are part of their lives.  While I've known them for years now, I still can't quite explain how friggin cool it was to be sitting between two stars of my favorite horror film of all time for an entire weekend.
    I'm interested now in seeing how Al Cliver & Ottaviano Dell'Acqua do at HorrorHound in Pittsburgh in a couple weeks as neither of them have done a convention ever before.  I've stated elsewhere how taken Ottaviano was when we went to his home with a poster & t-shirt from ZOMBIE with his face plastered on it.  He couldn't believe that people actually work clothing with him on it.  He got on the phone and called his brothers and was just so excited because in Italy, stuntmen are forgotten. It felt so good to know that we made someone happy simply because we care.

KK:  And lastly, do you think the Italian film industry will ever make a comeback?

MB It's difficult to say.  Italian horror cinema will never be what it was back in the heyday of the 70's & 80's, but there's obviously some renewed interest with Argento getting a US theatrical release again, Bava's GHOST SON getting Lionsgate distribution on DVD, Soavi behind the lens again for his fist horror film in over a decade and Deodato currently shopping his official CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST follow-up.
    Back when doing the DVD trips from 2001-2004, we were told by practically every actor how Italian cinema was dead and if you did anything it was for television.  We can hope that it will grow again, and until keep those classic names in the forefront to educate new generations.

KK:  Well thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Mike, as well as your hard work of helping to not only educate horror fans out there, but also helping them meet some of their Italian Horror Heroes!

For more information about Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered - Volume 1, head over to their website HERE.