Mike Baronas has had a hankering for horror since his impressionable,
pre-teen years of the 1970ís. Growing up in front of the television,
Saturday afternoons found him enveloped in WLVI Channel 56ís Creature
Double Feature, the Massachusetts staple for Hammer and giant monster (Gamera
vs. Guiron being his favorite) classics.
The move to more graphic styles of filmmaking came about almost by
accident when Baronas, an avid fisherman by the age of 12, was intrigued by
a movie about his favorite bait called Squirm. To this day, his fatherís
voice still resonates, ďUh, Michael, youíre looking a little green,Ē after
the filmís poor redneck slob gets a little too frisky while out in his boat
and is pushed face-first into a gaggle of electrified nightcrawlers that
proceed to burrow under his skin and up into his head. This shock left an
indelible impactÖand a curiosity that needed to be satiated.
The above introduction was taken from Mike's site, Paura Productions.
For more on his life, and all the work he has done tracking down Italian
stars for film's supplementary material and on his own Lucio Fulci
documentary, Paura, please see that site.
And now, a one-on-one chat about the Italian master himself, Lucio Fulci:
Gavin Schmitt: Mike, why have you invested so much time and money into
honoring Lucio Fulci?
Mike Baronas: I was 15 when I sat through my first Fulci film, THE GATES
OF HELL. It was during the VHS boom of the mid-1980s. I was transfixed on
its atmosphere and visceral beauty as it was unlike any Hollywood horror
movie I had ever seen. I immediately noticed the true craftsmanship and
wanted more, renting the obtainable classics at that time like ZOMBIE, HOUSE
BY THE CEMETERY and SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH. In college I began ordering
unreleased titles such as ZOMBI 3 and AENIGMA through underground video
dealers. Then in 1996 I had the opportunity to meet the Maestro at his one
and only US convention appearance in New York City. While I attempted to
interview him for a magazine I was writing for at the time, a tremendous
blizzard was on the way and we left in the nick of time. Unfortunately I
never had the opportunity to speak with him as he passed away 3 months
Since then I have been learning bits and pieces about who he was through
those that worked with him and put out a memorial DVD back in 2008 called
PAURA: LUCIO FULCI REMEMBERED. It was the first of two volumes Iím looking
to complete to pay tribute to this man that inadvertently helped in deciding
my career path. It has been an amazing journey thus far.
GS: What is volume 2 of "Paura" going to cover?
MB: It will basically follow along the same lines as the first volume
because Lucio worked with SO many people in SO many different genres. I
toyed with the idea of asking current directors how they might have been
influenced by Lucio, as well. In any case, it's moving very slowly, so I
couldn't possibly give you a potential release date.
GS: He was a critic of the Catholic Church, as evidenced in "Don't
Torture a Duckling" (1972). Is it safe to say that criticizing the Church in
Italy is a bigger deal than doing so here?
MB: Of course, as Vatican City is part of Rome and Catholicismís ground
zero. Iím sure there was even less tolerance when it came to speaking
against the Church then than now, making such outcries even more taboo in
GS: Later on, Fulci would say, "I'm a man who searches for God and who
has doubts." Where did his search take him?
MB: Not one person Iíve spoken with discussed his religious ways
directly, so I couldnít say for sure.
GS: Although his biggest success was from 1979-1982, Fulci worked in
film for many decades. Can you identify at least one underrated work of his?
MB: Without a doubt itís BEATRICE CENCI from 1969 starring Tomas Milian
and the breathtaking Adrienne LaRussa. Itís a gorgeous period piece that
happened to be his favorite film. I still canít believe it hasnít received a
proper DVD release here in the US.
GS: Where can die-hard fans track down a copy of "Beatrice Cenci" and
who should we petition to release a decent DVD?
MB: A German company, New Entertainment World, released a decent version
a number of years ago. I think Severin would do a great job with Beatrice
Cenci as there is a bit of sleeze to it and they have done a noble job
releasing some of Lucio's lesser-known films like THE EROTICIST & ONE ON TOP
OF THE OTHER.
GS: What brought about the shark versus zombie scene from "Zombie"?
MB: Iím quite sure it was scripted as such. Iíve heard that the original
stuntman was conveniently sick for the scene so the sharkís trainer had to
step in and wrestle with it. It probably made the whole sequence better in
the end as the zombie showed no fear in attacking that poor drugged-up fish.
GS: Jim Harper has called "Zombie 3" (1987), "sloppy, derivative and
stupid". Would you care to defend the film?
MB: Defend it?? No, because you can tell itís a complete clusterfuck
while watching it. It does have some memorable scenes Ė like the head flying
from the refrigerator Ė but itís not a film to be taken seriously like
Fulciís gothic horrors. Itís a tongue-in-cheek comedy for the most part and
hardly should be called a Lucio Fulci film as Bruno Mattei & Claudio
Fragasso both had a hand in finishing it when the director had taken ill.
GS: Fulci described himself as "mild" and "weak". What do you think
his personality was?
MB: Having met him and from all Iíve been told, Lucio was a perpetually
grumpy individual. He was an intellectual and very cultured, but was never
really taken seriously as his hygiene and manner of dress were often grungy.
GS: An intellectual how? What were his interests outside of film?
MB: He was a writer of books, screenplays and even songs, most notibly
for crooner Adriano Celentano - the Italian Elvis - who had major hits with
the Fulci-penned "24,000 Kisses" and "Your Kiss Is Like A Rock". He was much
more than the gore film director most want to remember him as.
GS: At times, Fulci was a sharp critic of Dario Argento. Fulci accused
Argento of claiming to be the creator of the zombie film, called him a bad
writer, called his music "false" and said his work was too repetitive. What
can you say on this apparent feud?
MB: Daria Nicolodi told me there was no true feud per se, but Iím sure
the budgets he received for his films in comparison to Argentoís did piss
him off to some extent. He did the best he could with what he was given. I
truly wish that THE WAX MASK wasnít taken out of Fulciís hands as it
wouldíve been an endearing chapter closed for the both of them on this
GS: It has been written that Fulci died of diabetes, but "some
unanswered questions remain about his death." Can you elaborate on this?
MB: Iíve heard numerous things from numerous people like Fabrizio Jovine
who witnessed Fulciís insatiable sweet tooth as he plowed through a dish of
hard candy in a single sitting, stuffing the wrappers between seat cushions.
So itís obvious he didnít take very good care of himself in that respect.
Iíve also been told that on the night prior to his death he had a large
piece of chocolate cake before retiring to bed, forgetting to take his
insulin injection. There is some speculation surrounding this but no
investigation was conducted to my knowledge.
GS: Obviously, Fulci is one of the biggest names in horror. More
specifically, though, what are his influences on the horror genre?
MB: Lucio was a visual director and very in your face about it. He knew
his audience and gave them what they wanted and obviously much of what he
did still holds up today.
GS: Some have called Michele Soavi the successor to Argento. Could
anyone be considered the new Fulci?
MB: Not at the moment, as the film industry in Italy is spotty at best.
Budgets have primarily been for television projects for years now. In fact,
when I met Michele, he was shooting a movie-of-the-week for RAI.
GS: Why are Italian horror DVDs so expensive, often asking as high as
15 or 20 bucks for a used copy of, say, "Cat in the Brain"?
MB: Licensors got wise to the value of these films with the DVD boom in
the early 2000s and costs for DVD companies to obtain them skyrocketed. For
example, I heard second-hand that the cost of Fulci's ZOMBIE back in 2000
from Variety was $10,000 and today it's 10 times that!! Prices haven't come
down much and it's probably why films like BEATRICE CENCI will never see the
light of day stateside.
Special thanks to Mike Baronas for his time!
DELUXE 3-DISC SET
Release Date: August 14, 2012 COMPLETE
MOVIES REVIEWED The Innkeepers, Monster Brawl, Attack the Block,
The Woman, Grave Encounters, Paranormal Activity 3, Red State, A Serbian
Film, More Brains Documentary, The Incredible Melting Man, War of the
Worlds (1953), Ghoulies, Troll Hunter, and more!