Readers' FVI Questions
After the interview, I invited readers to
submit their FVI-related questions to Jim. Here are the questions
submitted, with Jim's answers:
Great interview with Jim Bertges of FVI. Although it was not listed in
your interview, one of my favorite FVI movies is the 1983 film The
Pod People a.k.a. The Return of E.T. Actually, I really do
not care for the movie, but the treatment given to it by Mystery
Science Theater 3000. The Pod People version of MST3K has to be
one of my favorites.
I think many loyal readers of this site are or were fans of MST3K. I
have never heard from anyone who was involved in a movie that ended up on
My questions to Mr. Bertges would be as follows:
1.) What, if anything do you know about this movie? Pod People
starts as a teen-slasher movie, but ends up trying to be a sappy kids
movie with a silly alien. Was this originally started as a horror film
but changed to cash in on the success of E.T.?
2.) Did you ever see MST3K version of it and what was your opinion?
Keep up the good work
J. Canker Huxley
Jim: Like man of the films listed
as having been released by Film Ventures, this is one in the fuzzy area I'm not sure of. The film is listed as being
made in 1983, but released in 1984. 1984 was the year FVI was abandoned
by Ed Montoro and only had a few films in release--this was not one of
them. There are two possibilities, either it is mistakenly listed as an
FVI movie (I've never seen it, even on MST3K, so I don't know if it
bears the FVI logo; or it was picked up after FVI was bought by INI and
was released under the FVI banner after I was gone. I'm sorry I can't
provide more insight or interesting information on this one. Other
films that fall into this "fuzzy" category include Grizzly II,
Master Ninja I & II, Hundra, Ellie,
Alien Predator and Criminal Act.
I was the one who gave you the info on FVI and could you tell Jim
that I appologize on the confusion of ARC and FVI. I thought FVI
and ARC were kind of the same, but got confused. Sorry. But I wanted to
ask Jim if he knew anything about Beyond the Door, despite he
didn't work at FVI when Beyond the Door was released. But I
was wondering if he might know some questions regarding it.
1- Even though you didn't work at FVI until 1979, do you know anything
about the law-suit Warner Bros. filed against Montoro over Beyond
the Door in 1974, claiming it was an Exorcist ripoff?
2- Beyond the Door also had a sequel
also made by FVI around the time you came to work for FVI. Do you know
why Beyond the Door II was credited a sequel to the first.
Apparently I can't find anything similar except the actor David Colin
who was in both films. (I didn't see Oliver Hellman's (director of
Beyond the Door 1) 1990 prequel Beyond the Door III).
3 - Did you hear any good stories about
some of FVI's better films like Grizzly or Day of the Animals?
Thanks for your time
Jim: (1) As you said, this one was
before my time at FVI and while I was there, there were certain things
that weren't discussed, like past lawsuits. Like many foreign movies
Film Ventures released, Beyond the Door stole ideas
blatantly from popular films and worked them into their stories. This
is what made these films so exploitable for FVI, but it also meant that
(2) You have probably found the only
similarity in the two films besides their distributor. Beyond the Door
was a great success for
Film Ventures and when they found another horror film with a similar
theme and one of the same actors, the saw dollar signs and made it Beyond the Door II.
As usual it all
comes down to money.
(3) Unfortunately, no. When I was there,
they were concentrating on the new films they were distributing and working on and didn't do a lot of
reminiscing about the old ones. We did get occasional visits from
Richard Jaekel and phone calls from Chris George, but no talk of those
older films. Those films were made while FVI was based in Atlanta,
Georgia and many of the staff members didn't move with the company when
it came to Los Angeles (that's where they picked up all the AIP old
timers). In fact, some of the Atlanta staffers went over to another low
budget company called International Picture Show which made some Tim
Conway comedies, The Billion Dollar Hobo and They
Went That Away and That Away.
Oh, and don't worry about the FVI/ARC thing, it was even confusing for
those of us who worked there.
saw that you wanted us to write in
with our own questions and I have had one but didn't know who to ask:
Most of the movies released by Film Ventures International were pretty
bad, a few were watchable and one or two were kind of enjoyable, I was
wondering if you could ask Mr. Bertges if he's ever been approached by
anyone to do remakes of some of them? Also I would like to know who did
the artwork for the movie posters and such, they are extremely high
quality (especially Mutant) was
it one company who did them all?
Jim: The majority of the movies that Film Ventures
released were "pick ups", that is finished films that were brought to
FVI by the producers who were looking for distribution. The powers at
FVI would negotiate a deal for the
distribution rights for the films for a certain period of time, which
could be as much as 20 years. Eventually the rights to the films would
revert to the original owners unless FVI bought the complete rights to
the film outright. So, to actually get to an answer, people wanting to
remake films distributed by FVI would have to do some research to
discover who actually holds the rights to a particular film in order to
secure remake rights. There were several films that were actually
produced by FVI, these included Day of the Animals, Grizzly,
The Dark, Kill and Kill Again
and Mutant. Those titles were probably included in the
deal that sold FVI and all its library to INI. As far as I know, there
have been no inquiries about re-doing any of the FVI titles.
When I was at FVI we had two different design agencies working for us.
One was B.D. Fox and Friends who did the campaign for Cardiac Arrest
and some special projects and quickly priced themselves our of our
range. They went on to do lots of work for Universal and Fox. The other
company was called Design Projects Inc. and they did the bulk of the
campaigns from '79 on. They employed artists like Jack Lynnewood, Rudy Obrero, Brian Whitten,
Scott McLeod and others. For me one of the most interesting aspects of
my job at FVI was participating in the creation of these campaigns and
watching them develop from sketched ideas into full campaigns. The Ad
usually better than the movies. Several years after FVI folded, I ended
up working at Design Projects which turned out not only to be an Ad
Agency, but became a production company as well. Design Projects is where the film Demonwarp was made.
For the most part at Film Ventures we operated without publicists. In
the later years we did hire two different guys to handle publicity, but
neither one lasted too long. But mostly the odd calls came to me. I
dealt with an organization for the deaf who needed a synopsis of the
movie before they went to see it. I dealt with people from the Count
Dracula Society/Academy of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films (Dr.
Donald Reed) when they wanted to set up special screenings. I got
coverage for some of the FVI movies in Fangoria and Cinefantastique.
What ever the receptionist didn't know how to deal with came to me. So,
one day I got a call from the Dallas newspaper that their movie critic,
John Bloom, wanted to start a more "down to earth" kind of movie
criticism column. He wanted to review Drive-In movies for the masses
and since our film The Grim Reaper was heading to
Dallas, he needed publicity materials on it. I gathered as much
material as I could on the film, providing a set of stills, a one page
synopsis and some posters and sent them on to Texas. Later, when I got
a copy of the column back in the mail, I noticed that the name on the
column had changed (presumably to protect the guilty) to Joe Bob
Briggs. This was his first column and I was sure from then on to send
him materials on movies that fit his review parameters (which was just
about all of the FVI product).
I'd like to know some more about FVI's
practice of releasing movies whose copyrights had expired under new
titles (Pod People, Cave Dwellers,
Space Travelers, etc.). How did they
get started doing this? Why were the new credits sequences composed of
footage from other movies? (For example, the opening credits sequence
to Pod People features aliens that look totally
different from those in the actual movie.)
Jim: I can't give a specific answer regarding Pod
People since that's a film that was released after the company was
bought by INI (or it's not actually an FVI film at all). However, FVI
does seem to be a champion at retitling, doesn't it? The top contender
in that category has to be the movie we re-released as The
Female Butcher when I was there. The first reason for changing
a title was that the film was a foreign "pick up" and the foreign title
didn't have the proper exploitative ring to it. The other reasons had
to do with the times in which these films were released. As I said
previously these were the earliest days of VCRs and Drive Ins and Grind
Houses ruled the land of exploitation films. That, plus the fact that
these films were released regionally made changing titles a frequent
practice simply for monetary reasons. If a film didn't perform well in
a territory under a certain title, it was retitled and a new campaign
was created for the next territory. Or if a film performed well one
year in the Grind houses of New York's 42nd Street, then the next year
it got a new title and a new look for the posters and newspaper ads and
it was sent out again. There were even instances where the genre of the
film was changed in the ads to see if it would sell better as a horror
film instead of a gangster film. It was all done to squeeze as much
money out of each film and the existing prints as possible.
Now, I'm not sure about adding different footage from other films. They
did produce new titles and had them cut into the first reel of a retitled
picture. This would not be very extensive footage since it cost money
to shoot and make prints of the new titles. The expense of changing
titles had to be kept to a minimum. Doing this for a TV release would
be more practical since it would only would involve a limited number of
prints, but FVI didn't have a TV or ancillary department until its
later years. And once a copyright expired, it was not possible to sell
a property to any ancillary outlet because the buyer would be as liable
as the seller. Those who buy films for TV are well aware of this and
would require proof from the seller of his rights to the property being
Jim was kind enough to send me a copy of a feature article on FVI
published in The Hollywood Reporter on May 1, 1984. Some of
the more interesting details:
Edward L. Montoro got into the film
business because of an accident. In 1968, he barely survived a plane
crash that placed him in the hospital for three months. "When I got out
of the hospital," he explained, "I decided that I would do whatever I
wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I decided I wanted to make
Despite knowing "absolutely nothing
about moviemaking," Montoro determination eventually resulted in him
writing, directing and producing the nudie picture Getting Into
Heaven, which ended up making almost 20 times its $13,000
Russ Meyer gave Montoro a lot of advice
in the starting up of FVI.
Montoro's big break came with buying
the distribution rights to Boot Hill. Although he
initially had trouble selling the movie, his fortune turned when
Embassy Pictures began its successful launch of the Terence Hill / Bud
Spencer movie They Call Me Trinity. Seeing that Boot
Hill also had Hill and Spencer in its cast, Montoro redesigned
the ad campaign to focus on the two actors, then followed Embassy from
town to town, releasing (to great success) his movie shortly after Trinity
played and left.
Montoro considered Grizzly
the best picture he ever produced.
Montoro at this point had little
interest in scary fare. "Let someone else make them. I think they've
sliced and diced people up in every way humanly possible."
At the time of the article, Montoro
seemed to be seeing that days were numbered for the independent film.
He noted that independents now had to produce more of their own product
to survive, instead of relying on pickups. He also pointed out that
with cable and TV making their own movies, they would soon only want
the blockbusters. "You have to spend $2.5 - $3.5 million to compete on
any level at all."
Concerning the illness Montoro had
(which was mentioned on an update of the original interview page by
ex-FVI employee Rick Albert), the article gives some more insight into
this. The previous year, Montoro had woken up sick, and decided then to
change his lifestyle. Gone was his workaholic schedule. He lost weight,
and ditched his long hair and jeans for a typical business appearance.
He also bought a trawler, which he started to spend long periods on
cruising up and down the coast.
Most interesting of all, the article
ends with this answer from Montoro concerning the question of what
he'll do next: "Early retirement. I'm serious. That'll be a new stage
of my lifetime career. I want to head for my boat and quit all this."
UPDATE 2: "John"
sent this along:
"I am not sure if this can help you, but
after reading your interview with Jim Bertges, a former employee at
Film Ventures, you asked him information concerning Grizzly 2.
I found some information on why Grizzly 2 stayed un-released
from Nick Maley, who worked as the special effects designer on the
film. You might already know some of the details, but I'll try and
clear up the mess concerning Grizzly 2. Back in 1976, Ed
Montoro and Film Ventures released Grizzly and the film opened
with to everyone's suprise to major success earning a very large some
of cash. Montoro decided to smuggle the cash away for himself, which
eventually led the film's director William Girdler and
producers/writers David Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman to file suit against
Montoro to have the profits returned. Ironically, that same year,
another killer grizzly film was being made and released from Alaska
Pictures, an exploitation thriller called Claws starring Jason
Evers. Because Grizzly was making money, the producers of Claws
re-released the film worldwide, and called it Grizzly 2, to
capitalize on the success even though the film had no relation to Grizzly.
William Girdler was killed in a helicopter accident in 1978, and it was
up to David Sheldon to write the "real" Grizzly sequel which
was called Grizzly 2: The Predator and was shot in 1983
starring Charlie Sheen. Montoro, to my knowledge probably had nothing
to do with this sequel, even though he owned the rights to the original
Grizzly, he might have stayed away because of the
law-suit Sheldon and Girdler filed against him back in 1976.
Grizzy 2: The Predator was cancelled during pre-production due to
special effects problems, at least that's what I remember Nick Maley
telling me. Sheldon tried to finish the project in 1986, but still had
no luck and to this day the film still is unfinished. I admitted myself
that I saw Grizzly 2 The Predator, but I later found out that
the film I saw was actually Claws, under it's retitled name
Grizzly 2. The funny thing was, I remember seeing a documentary on
George Clooney, who remarkably had a role in Grizzly 2 The Predator
and he told the interviewer about the film and that the film's
financier had suddenly disappeared which is what Clooney claims that
the film was unfinished. I sometimes wonder, was that financier
Montoro? But I'm sure I'm wrong since Jim Bertges cleared that up for
you in your interview. I hope this can give you some insight on the
whole Grizzly 2 thing, it was always confusing to us who were
fans of the film."
UPDATE 3: Nick Maley sent this in:
"I just found myself mentioned on your
in relation to Grizzly 2: The Predator. The movie did NOT fold
due to special effects problems. It was a long time ago and many
details escape me now but the main unit shots were essentially complete
and we had not started to film the effects miniatures that we were
planning when we were suddenly told the movie was pulling out of
Hungary. It was our assumption that they were out of money. They said
that we would continue but were shipping everything (including the
animatronic bear that we had completed) to the US for storage. This was
a big concern for me as I had taken a big pay cut to be able to Direct
these sequences. To add insult to injury all the crew's PERSONAL
equipment was impounded by the Hungarian Government, supposedly for the
company's non payment of money due to Malfilm.
"The producers were reportedly...
Ross Massbaum .... co-producer
Suzanne Nagy .... producer
Joseph Proctor .... producer
Joseph Ford Proctor .... producer
"I only dealt with Joe Proctor who said finance came from a bank in
"Somebody, I don't recall who, the movie WAS released. I remember being
told that some FX person in the US "got the bear working" although we
had swapped a lot if the r/c around in the hope that they would have to
come back to us to complete the project and therefore comply with the
agreement that I would head the unit to shoot those sequences. Perhaps
problems getting it started up are at the heart of reports that
problems with special effects stopped the picture. The movie business
is full of false rumors. If a pidgin had crapped on the food wagon
there might have been a rumor that Hungary was being bombed and there
was a direct hit on the Budapest water supply : )
"I did not head Special Effects. I was Make-up and Animatronic Effects
"It is listed on IMDB as Grizzly 2: The Concert with the year
1987. But most credits are missing from their record so I wonder if all
their info is hearsay. I have wondered if it wasn't a tax write-off.
Making a movie and not releasing would seem reminiscent of The
Producers. The budget was purportedly 6 million."