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EXCL: Producer on Restoring My Bloody Valentine

Lionsgate’s upcoming uncut DVD

A slasher boom is coming in 2009 and one peeved miner named Harry Warden is throwing open the doors and leading the charge when My Bloody Valentine 3D arrives January 16th. Warden’s return is just the beginning. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger are all in line with their own reboots/sequels to scratch at the front door of your local multiplex again in the next year or so. And in a time where what’s old is new, there’s an upside. Studios are returning to the vaults to dust off the original films that are serving as inspiration for these remakes hitting theaters. That’s great for the fans, even better for fans of George Mihalka’s Canadian ’80s slasher film My Bloody Valentine.

Produced by the team John Dunning and André Link (of Happy Birthday to Me, Cronenberg’s Rabid and Shivers), My Bloody Valentine suffered an evisceration by a distributor (in this case Paramount) under fire by critics who were lambasting the studio at the time for the body count picture Friday the 13th. To avoid the dreaded X rating, Paramount made a significant number of cuts to My Bloody Valentine and released it in theaters February 11, 1981. And now, thanks to the efforts of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Mihalka’s sophomore feature effort – a gem amongst its brethren and one that’s undeniably Canadian – will be seen by fans uncut. Getting to this point, however, took a bit of detective work.

“People have been looking for the [excised] scenes for so long and there was never any real clear direction on where they were or if they even existed,” explains Peter Ventrella, producer of Lionsgate’s MBV: Special Edition. He, with Dustin Dean, the senior director of DVD and Blu-Ray production at the studio, spearheaded an effort over the summer to piece the film back together. “It was a mythological search for this lost treasure of a movie. Keep in mind, this was ’80 when [Dunning and Link] produced the film which came out in ’81 – most footage that was cut out of essentially an independent film that was picked up by Paramount for release, you have no hope of finding any of this stuff.”

For years rumors circulated that the footage was nonexistent. Lost forever to time. Others said one of the producers had a cut and that ultimately proved to be true. Dunning had provided Ventrella with a VHS that contained a version of the film with glimpses of unseen footage. Then, one day, Dunning peered into his storage facility located in Canada and “found boxes of 35mm footage,” recounts Ventrella. “He didn’t really know what it was, didn’t really know if this was the lost footage he suspected it was and sent us this material. We were like kids on Christmas morning when we got the packages and opened them up. This was indeed the material that had been lost.”

“It was in surprisingly good condition because it’s cold up in Canada and the film must keep well,” Ventrella laughs. “But the 35mm film was an interpositive. It wasn’t the original negative, it was a strike made from the negative, so it was pretty nice and close to the original. The picture itself was nice, it had a tiny bit of fading, but we color corrected it, so I think it’s close to the final color corrected version of the release feature.”

With footage in hand, Dean and Ventrella say there was never a question of whether they should restore the film or relegate the cut scenes to the special features section of the DVD. The game plan was to release an uncut version all along. And to help in the restoration, they called in director Mihalka. Ventrella recalls, “He was really glad we found the material and he was instrumental in viewing the elements put back into the feature and giving us some tweaks and suggestions on how it originally was. Having him there was the last piece of the puzzle. It was an early film for him and he remembered every detail – where everything went, the original audio mix, everything, so it was essential having him there.” In total, with the restored footage, the film now runs an estimated three minutes longer than its theatrical counterpart. The scenes now intact? The infamous “shower head” kill, perhaps? You’ll have to see for yourself.

Mihalka and producers Dunning and Link were not just integral to the birth of this new MBV, they’re also participating in the DVD’s featurette Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film. The doc will look back at the film’s production, trace the innovations made in the slasher genre and feature interviews with some of the other players involved in the film. “In terms of the actors, we found Carl Marotte who played Dave, the guy who gets his head dunked in the hot dogs, Lori Hallier, who played the lead Sara, and Neil Affleck who plays Axel Palmer,” says Ventrella. “Neil was an interesting guy. He had come down to L.A. after working on the original movie to work as an animator on The Simpsons for 10 years and he’s now back in Canada pursuing his acting career. He brought in original props from the film and showed them on camera and had a lot of great stories.”

“One other person we hooked up with is [composer] Paul Zaza,” he continues. “You might remember him for the end song that plays over the credits. The burning question with Paul was Why? Why and how? He’s great and a really accomplished composer. He did scores for a bunch of films including Black Christmas and a bunch of Canadian films. His stories about how the end song came about are going to be very satisfying for people that always asked why.”

Among the interviews on Bloodlust also expect to see plenty of production photos, many of them from personal collections. Also on the disc, Bloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film History. “Having been a huge fan of slasher and horror films growing up, I thought it would be a fun idea to put together something that encapsulated the roots of the genre. How they developed and really where MBV ’81 fits into the scheme of things and where it led to. You find a lot of these films are related and there was a style in terms of influences and we felt it would really put things in perspective for both the fans of the genre.”

Ventrella explains this feature is a “a family tree style interface where the roots of the tree are Psycho and various influences that came out of it from H.G. Lewis to gialli to the slasher godfathers which would be Friday the 13th. Then the rubber reality films like the Freddy Krueger [films] and the various permutations that came out of that. There’s backwoods bloodletting like The Hills Have Eyes and we get into the Hammer films. So there’s a great context for where MBV fits and where 3D comes into the whole scheme of things.

Between the new 3D film and the forthcoming My Bloody Valentine: Special Edition, it’s shaping up to be a good year for Harry Warden. Look for Lionsgate’s DVD on January 13th. Currently, there are no Blu-Ray plans in the works, however, if anything changes, we’ll let you know.

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor