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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:


Dear Greywizard:

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 MST3K.

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.


Hi again,

I was the one who gave you the info on FVI and could you tell Jim Bertges
that I appologize on the confusion of ARC and FVI. A bear-y blatant rip-off of JAWSI 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

John

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 lawsuits were
inevitable.

(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.


I 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?

Thank you,
Eric


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 Okay... but the best at what?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 campaigns were
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.)

TVsGrady


Jim: I can't give a specific answer regarding Pod People since that's a film that was Probably not far from the last house on the leftreleased 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 sold.
 


UPDATE: Recently, 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 movies."
     

  • 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 budget.
     

  • 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 webpage http://www.badmovieplanet.com/unknownmovies/reviews/fvi2.html 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 Huston.

"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 Supervisor

"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."

 

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