Red Shirt Hero: An Extensive Horror Interview With Michael Felsher – Talks Up Charles Band, Sam Raimi, And So Much More

Michael Felsher Horror Interview

Michael Felsher Horror Interview

DVD producer Michael Felsher is every horror fan’s hero – they just don’t know it yet. Through his production company, Red Shirt Pictures, Michael has had a hand at giving classics like Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad, Faces of Death, Zombie, and Evil Dead 2 the special DVD and Blu-ray editions they’ve always deserved. If you want exhaustively detailed interviews, featurettes, commentaries, and documentaries on your favorite horror and sci-fi films, Red Shirt Pictures is the studio to make your wishes come true.

With the hectic year of 2011 behind him and the three releases already completed for 2012 (Red Scorpion, Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except, and Rolling Thunder), Michael is gearing up to begin work on his next slate of special features, many of which will be hitting store shelves and Amazon this October. Yell! Magazine caught up with him at HorrorHound Weekend Columbus to discuss the state of Red Shirt Pictures, DVD/Blu-ray production, and the future of home video for horror.

Michael, what are your working on right now?

Well, right now’s the time of year where I’m starting to finally get some projects going. Most of my releases are horror-themed, so they all come out from August to October. So usually right after October I got nothing until March. I’m doing a half dozen titles right now for a company I work with a lot. I can’t tell what the titles are yet because they haven’t made the official announcement, but they’re big, big titles. They’re ones people have been looking forward to special editions of for a long, long time. I’m gearing up and in about a month I’m gonna be crazed.

So you go through periods of pre-production on a lot of these featurettes and then you’re just blitzed?

Yeah, there’s a lot of planning, contacting people, then it’s just a matter of shooting and shooting and shooting and shooting and editing my brains out. I don’t see daylight for like two months and by the time it’s all over in like a flash then… crickets. It’s a very intense period of time. Usually like around June no one talks to me, I don’t go outside, I’m always just editing three or four things at once. I wish, in a way, these things were spaced out more but because my stuff’s horror-related it doesn’t really work that way.

You’ve done tons and tons of DVD special features. What is the favorite project you’ve worked on?

That’s hard to say. There are ones that mean a lot to me but for very different reasons. The documentary After Effects, about Pittsburgh filmmaking I did for Effects, that was my first one and that means it was my first multi-interview piece and it was a subject very close to my heart. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was my first studio film. Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps, if I had a list of dream projects, those would be on them. Even some of the smaller ones are really special for me.

I’d say recently Evil Dead 2, the Swallowed Souls documentary, was a very special one to work on and I’d say Intruder, which is one of the great unsung slasher movies, to be able to do a 40 minute documentary about that, to do the commentary, and to help coral the deleted scenes and all the extras for that one was really another special one off the green list.

There really haven’t been very many projects where I’ve been all, “Oh God, I really wish I hadn’t done that.” Probably the only one I can think of like that was the Children of the Corn remake, and I’m not saying I wish I hadn’t done that, but the movie turned out to be a pain in that ass – it was not any easy shoot and the guys I hired to shoot a week of behind-the-scenes stuff… the actors were reluctant to talk about what a horrible time they were having. So it doesn’t make for a particularly great interview. And then the Night of the Living Dead documentary, that was a major pain because there was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama.

Survival of the Dead: Walking After Midnight is a favorite one because I kind of host the whole making-of-the-movie. You know, I think the ones that stick out for me are the ones where I try to step outside the box a little bit, try something a little bit different than the normal featurette – those are the ones I like.

Have you ever done a featurette for a movie you either didn’t particularly like or was kind of half-and-half on?

Oh, yeah, yeah. Actually, there are several projects I’ve done – The Wraith is one for example…  not one of my favorite movies, but [after] watching it again and talking to the people in it I do have a renewed sense of appreciation for it. No one sets out to make a movie that’s bad. No one’s out to make a movie that’s mediocre. A lot of effort and love and time go into these things and you get a sense of that.

I think the one I was turned around the most on was Faces of Death. That’s the project I was most turned around on because I got to meet the director of it, who has never gone on camera, and he did a commentary with me. By the time I finished the commentary I learned so much about the making of the movie that I had no idea [before].  Even though the subject matter isn’t something that appeals to me, the artistry and approach they took is incredibly impressive. How they would take real footage and bookend it with fake stuff and even add fake stuff in between to flesh it out so that it wasn’t real or fake anymore – just kind of a combination of both.

That was one of my favorites and, again, I’m not saying I feel like watching of Faces of Death right now, but when I watch it I have a whole new appreciation for what they did.

You mentioned to me before the interview how you were displeased with Charles Band’s original release of Intruder.

Yeah, I think most of people were.

What’s your opinion of Charles Band? I know he’s touched the careers of so many people, rubbed a lot of people the right way, a lot of people the wrong way…

Well, he’s like Roger Corman in that regard. Roger also has rubbed people the wrong way over the years mostly because of his reputation for being a cheapskate – the almighty dollar ahead of everything else. But that’s his method. At the same time, you have $2 to make this film, but you have a week to make whatever movie you want.

I think Charlie has his own quirks and his own things. I’ve heard horror stories, I’ve heard great things about him. There are people who’d swear by him, there are people who’d never work with him again. My experience with him has been very positive – with Intruder he’s the one who licensed the movie out and allowed people to get access to the uncut version of the film, and he did an interview with us which was vital because he could really talk about the distribution of the film, what happened to it, why it got cut. My experiences with Charlie have been great.

I ask because I’m a big fan of Band. He’s long-been one of the independent guys who’ve most fascinated me, because his career spans so much…

Yeah, there’s been a birth and a re-birth with him like 15 times. He came along and was one of the early video tape guys with Wizard Video and did Empire, then Full Moon, and now he’s back with Full Moon and Wizard again. I mean, he’s done an amazing amount of work and produced some really great films.

I’m surprised no one has done a documentary on him or written a book about him.

Yeah, I’m wondering if there has been a project like that. Maybe Charlie doesn’t want to do it or maybe he wants to do his own project. I would think he would be a fascinating subject. He and his father both, Albert had a huge, long career before Charlie – I mean, their whole damn family. Especially like his brother, Richard, the composer. I would to see [that]. That’d be a cool documentary to do.

I heard on about your involvement in a special-edition release of Jackie Kong’s cheese classic Blood Diner. What happened with Blood Diner?

Originally, I was supposed to be working on Blood Diner at the same time as The Wraith and The Gate. And that’s what I was hired to do. Very shortly after that the plans changed, they decided to drop Blood Diner. I think all three of them were going to be in one box – like a cult films box they were planning to do. Somewhere along the line that plan changed, but at that point I had already filmed five or six interviews about Blood Diner. Blood Diner just sort of went into a limbo, I asked about it and it didn’t look like they were going to ever revisit it.

Next thing I know, this being a complete surprise to me, I get a call from the [ podcast host] Creepy Kentuckian and he’s saying, “Well, they’re finding it at Wal-Mart as part of an eight pack.” And sure enough I did find it at a local Wal-Mart as part of like six movies on one DVD. So I don’t know what happened, but the person who authorized that may not have had any idea. Lions Gate’s a big company and I’m going to try and find out what happened there, but it’s so much for Blood Diner. I guess in the end its good that it’s out there. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not enraged about it either.

So did you do the featurettes? Are all those ready?

No, they’re not edited yet, just all the interviews were shot and I wasn’t going to start editing until I got the masters in and asked to use the clips, but it never got to that point. I have all the footage still.

Did they do a new transfer for the DVD or is it a VHS rip or what?

As I understand, I have not seen it yet- I actually ended up giving my DVDs away to someone else – the transfer on the DVD is widescreen transfer, because they did do an HD transfer for TV a few years back. So I think they just downgraded that. Which is good, it probably looks pretty decent.

The best it’s looked?

Oh, I bet. It has to look better than the VHS.

Is there any DVD that’s not out there on Blu-ray that you’d love to work on?

Pretty much everything has gotten released. I was really hoping to do something with Fright Night and they licensed it out to a company, some cool guys called Twilight Time, for a limited run, but Sony wouldn’t let them add any extras to it. Which was very strange, but I would’ve loved to do that.

There are a few titles out there, but I can’t really think of anything. There are a few titles I think could’ve been done better like Prince of Darkness, I think that could’ve been awesome. There are several films out there that have just kinda been thrown out there movie-only. I’m sure I could come up with a long list. When I look at all the dream projects I could’ve listed, I’ve been so lucky – Creepshow, Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps, Evil Dead II – there’s probably something out there.

Find out what Michael Felsher wishes for Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson after the break…

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