[UPDATE 5/5/2014 11:08am – Added Charlie Band’s reply from Blu-Ray.com]
If you are reading this site, there is a chance that you attend some conventions. Whether you travel to them or they roll into your hometown, more than likely this year you will see Charlie Band. Granted, the deal he is schlepping isn’t too bad. For $18 and your credit card, you can get 3 months of the Full Moon Streaming service in addition to 3 Blu-Rays of your choice. Since I’m not a huge fan of businesses having my credit card in a recurring payment that I always forget to cancel, you can actually give the Full Moon dudes (pun intended) a $20 bill and they’ll give you the same deal without having to worry about that recharge in 3 months. Hell, I did it at Cinema Wasteland last month. I figured that 3 months of the Full Moon streaming service and three Blu-Rays – one of which including Tourist Trap – was a great deal. I should have known better. While the deal isn’t bad for the consumer, the pain is felt elsewhere.
Band is a salesman.
With being pretty active in the horror convention circuit since 2005, the “warehouse” that Charlie Band speaks of, and has been questioned recently, is a story that has been told before. If you don’t remember when the Puppet Master box set when it first came out, that was a hot item. People were paying over $200 on eBay for one since it was Out of Print and, if I have my story straight, was discontinued due to a threatened lawsuit from Paramount. Last I heard is that Band got the rights back for the first 5 films out of the 7 film box set but you can buy the 7 film box set from Full Moon. How can this be done? Rumor has it that the old “warehouse” excuse keeps him out of hot water.
The above image comes straight from Full Moon’s website. According to this image and to what Band will tell you is that there are only 100 left. This was supposed to only last a week but has lasted far longer than that. Also, from first hand experience, I attended Texas Frightmare Weekend back in 2006 for their inaugural show. Full Moon had a table and I met a guy there who had a few of these box sets. At the time I thought it was a rare item but for the $100 price tag I was leary on purchasing one that Friday when I had the whole weekend ahead of me to buy other items. Needless to say, that Sunday I went to the Full Moon table ready to purchase one before I left. They were all gone. Sold out of them Saturday afternoon. However, in talking to the guy who ran the table he started to tell me that Charlie had a box of these at the warehouse and they weren’t sold out completely. If I paid through PayPal he would ship one out to me. I gladly sent the money to the email address provided and received one a few weeks later. I figured I was getting some sort of elusive deal. Little did I know that this “warehouse” story would become something that would run through almost 10 years of the Full Moon legacy. Sure, it’s possible that Charlie could have had a warehouse of unsold box sets. It sounds like he went the route of getting each material printed separately. He got the boxes printed up back in the original production at one place and had the DVDs duplicated at another facility. This is very believable. However, here we are eight years later and he is still selling these Puppet Master box sets. I have a feeling that they are still being actively produced and are not “found in the warehouse”.
Wizard Video Reawakens!
As of late, Charlie has been selling “original” Wizard Video cases with new tapes in them. Here is his pitch video for his sale of “recently discovered” Wizard Video cases. It’s a great video that also tells of the history of how Charlie started Wizard Video by capitalizing on the unknown and new home video movement.
In the video, Charlie tells you that people were telling him to charge more but he wants to cut his consumers a deal and only charge $50. $50 for an “original” box that was never used or assembled during its original production and a new tape.
However, this has been disputed by seasoned VHS collectors. Some of which have done side by side comparisons. The best source for this dispute is Paul from VHSCollector.com. Paul’s video picks out a segment from the sell video above that really kinda shows that once Band heard that there was a secondary market that actually resells the VHS tapes that he should get involved. Paul brings up that Band only seems to be selling the most valuable and most collectable videos.
Here’s part one of Paul’s dispute video:
Paul received a response from Charlie about his video. Paul then makes a Part 2 addressing Charlie’s reply.
Is the Tourist Trap Blu-Ray Edited?
REGARDING THE ROGUE EDITOR OF THE SHORTER TOURIST TRAP VERSION
I have written several extensive Facebook posts about the “edited” version of the Bluray release of TOURIST TRAP, but my posts keep getting taken down. So, I will post this on something I control and send it out – and hope it sticks.
Now that I have read Charlie Band’s email (claiming he doesn’t know why five minutes are missing), I have a pretty good idea what happened.
First of all, it’s completely disingenuous of Charlie to say: “I’m cc’ing David to see if he has any insight” since he knows very well that I was not involved in the production of the Bluray other than to make the audio Director Commentary – and to do an interview – both of which I did here in Las Vegas – at my own expense and efforts.
I was not involved in the editing of the shorter version of TOURIST TRAP which is now on the Bluray version – nor did I know it was being done when I did the commentary. If I were to have done any editorial changes, it would have been called “The Director’s Cut.”
The original theatrical cut of TOURIST TRAP is/was the “Director’s Cut, ” as far as I am concerned. I believe that would be the longer, 90 minute version – although I do not know what the time of that original version was – after all these years. I would have to go back to an old VHS version – and compare to the Cult Video DVD version (90 minutes). I suspect they are the same.
The thing about TOURIST TRAP is that it has risen from relative obscurity from its original release in 1979 to some sort of cult film status. It has loyal fans, admirers, people who have written reviews, blogs, whole chapters in numerous books – all discussing the merits or lack of – of the movie. They are mostly diehard fans.
So, you just don’t arbitrarily take out five minutes – and release a different cut from the original movie that has become a cult film – unless the original filmmaker does this new version – which sometimes but not always includes scenes or sections of the film that were originally cut from the film (ie. a LONGER version, not a shorter version) – with some explanations of why the director omitted these scenes from the original release. This “new material” gives the fans more insights into the movie they like so much.
At this point, most people who will – or would – buy the Bluray version – are already fans of TOURIST TRAP – or are serious collectors of films. And they want MORE information about the film they are already fans of. I promise you they don’t want a “tighter” version by the producer.
As Charlie said in his email, he spent a considerable amount of money to put out this Bluray version. And I am grateful for that. I am grateful he allowed me to do a new commentary – and the sit-down interview. And Charlie was generous enough to send me a number of the TOURIST TRAP Blurays for the crew who helped me with the commentary and the interview. I am also grateful for Charlie Band for hiring me to direct my first feature – TOURIST TRAP, in 1978 – he started my filmmaking career – and I made many films for him – and I was very happy to do so. I will ALWAYS be grateful for his support.
Charlie is a totally hands-on producer, as anyone who has ever worked for him know, and there is no way he wasn’t aware of this edited, shorter version. There were only a few people in post who worked on this TOURIST TRAP Bluray. They were all paid by Charlie. I seriously doubt one of them was a rogue editor who decided – on his own – to cut out five minutes of the film – and slip it in. That could be what happened, but I doubt it. What would be easier to swallow is that one of these editors said to Charlie: “Let me have a pass at it – I’ll tighten it up – and make it better.”
But, you just don’t do this. The customer will feel cheated. And they should.
I have been flooded with questions about this edited version – and I can’t answer them all – so, hopefully my response will be passed around and shared – and not taken down.
Most of the 35mm negatives of my early features have been in storage for years at various labs in Los Angeles. As we are able to afford it, we have been taking the negatives out of the lab and making HD masters, then Blu ray masters and then replicating Blu ray discs. We have hired some of the best color correction experts we could find, have done audio commentaries and other special features when possible – all in an effort to bring the fans of our early works the best quality viewing experience possible. The issue of the 5 missing minutes of Tourist Trap is upsetting for all of us as we never touched the negative that has been in storage for 36 years. When the time came we simply had the lab deliver the negative to the color correction house who did their work and they then delivered an HD master back to us. We added the special features and then had the Blu ray master authored.
Tourist Trap was distributed in the US by a company called Compass International. I was not involved in the theatrical distribution of my films back in the late 70’s and there could be many reasons why those minutes were cut out by the distributor: maybe for a foreign delivery, maybe to save money when making 35mm theatrical prints or maybe for a TV delivery. It’s even more strange since the old video master that we’ve used over the years to make the regular VHS and DVD copies most people have seen apparently was the longer version. When all of this came up I copied the director David Schmoeller to see if he could shed any light on the subject.
He suggested that I possible had someone arbitrarily cut out 5 minutes to make the film play better. That’s both an incorrect and unfortunate accusation, especially due to the fact that David personally did the audio commentary for the new HD remaster of his feature and never noticed or said a word to the effect that this was a shorter or damaged version.
Bottom line: people who know me know that I’m not even a fan of remakes let alone am I someone who would cut out 5 minutes of any film I’ve made – especially a film that is considered one of our best. The fact that we’ve stored and kept these negatives safe for decades, and are now spending considerable money bringing them out on Blu ray, I know is appreciated by most of our fans. Anomalies will happen as records regarding elements stored for decades can be lost or their history forgotten. There’s only one original 35mm negative on any film – and the one we used to make a beautiful HD master of Tourist Trap is apparently an alternate cut than the one widely circulated.
As I originally asked of David, if anyone out there can offer any insight, I urge them to contact us.
In the meantime, in my opinion, save for the missing or alternate scenes in questions, this is the best Tourist Trap has ever looked and, especially after watching it again now, I believe it still has the power to affect and frighten its audience.
ABOUT THIS BUNGLED “TOURIST TRAP” BLU-RAY…
I was finally able to sit down this week with the new TOURIST TRAP Blu-ray released in the U.K. by 88 Films, and as it turns out, the discovery that this disc has 5 minutes of footage missing only scratches the surface of the problems with this release. (I’m told the U.S. Full Moon release was encoded at a lower bitrate with lossy audio compression, so I chose to skip that version.)
16 years ago, during my tenure as post-production supervisor at Full Moon, I personally oversaw the first anamorphic telecine from the original negative for the 1998 DVD release. Being a longtime TOURIST TRAP fan and having intimate knowledge of the film from this aforementioned work, it was immediately apparent from the first frame that this version was not produced from the same source material.
For example, the main title cards — simple yet effective white text on a black background — have a blurry “halo” look, like a photocopy that’s gone through too many generations, rather than the relatively clean edges (for standard definition) seen on the DVD release.
The first scene with Woody rolling the tire down the deserted road was the next dead giveaway — although sharper than DVD, the print used for the Blu-ray is much grainier than the negative, and let’s just say it’s not the kind of grain you’d expect to see from a pristine image right out of the camera. (It definitely wasn’t upconverted from SD, at any rate.)
There’s also a fairly heinous blunder in the shot right before Jerry, Becky and Molly find Eileen by the side of the road… step through it frame-by-frame and you’ll see the image briefly shift right to left, exposing a shard of black in the process. (There are additional jump cuts later in the show that seem to indicate frames were removed, presumably due to film damage, which do not exist on the original negative.)
Unfortunately, once the sun goes down, the Blu-ray goes completely downhill. Almost all of the nighttime scenes are simply too dark, often to the point of being nearly impossible to make out what’s happening on screen. The first hint of this actually comes during the opening scene where Woody is being menaced in the back room of the gas station — the camera tilts from the decapitated mannequin in the window, down to the laughing head on the floor, which is near completely obscured by darkness.
When I supervised the DVD transfer, I was pleasantly surprised how much new detail was lurking in the shadows… mannequin faces and other creepy bits of business that were probably lost even in the original theatrical presentation! The colorist and I were careful to grade such sequences to preserve as much extra detail as possible, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for whoever was in charge of this HD transfer.
Throughout the film, black levels are crushed to the point of losing any detail that might have existed on the film reels. This confirms my earliest suspicions the HD transfer was not from the original negative, because any competent colorist would have access to more than enough latitude to extract such detail — especially with the superior technology introduced over nearly two decades.
Having now seen the Blu-ray, I’m more confident than ever that Full Moon used an inferior (and obviously shorter) film print for the HD transfer, rather than the original negative. About the only advantage of the Blu-ray version is that the print is overall cleaner than the DVD — we didn’t have the budget to do proper dirt and scratch removal for the 1998 transfer, which is otherwise superior to the HD version in almost every other way. (The Blu-ray also includes a “5.1 surround” track, but it’s nothing more than the original mono mix pushed into the front speakers.)
Despite these problems, the sure-handed feature film debut of director David Schmoeller, the lush cinematography of Nicholas von Sternberg and that positively creepy, classic music score by Pino Donaggio still stands the test of time for me, much as it did upon first viewing late one night in the early ‘80s on HBO. (Also worthy of note is the solid cast, which includes The Rifleman himself, Chuck Connors, as well as the drop-dead gorgeous, soon-to-be Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts.)
As far as the roughly 5 minutes of footage missing from this Blu-ray release, producer Charles Band has gone on record stating “we never touched the negative that has been in storage for 36 years,” which is absolutely not true. For one thing, the original negative used to create that version is the full 90-minute version originally released in 1979.
There has been speculation from the film’s director and others that Full Moon voluntarily cut the film down for reasons unknown. Someone suggested to me this was done to reclaim copyright over the film, but given the end titles keep the original Charles Band Productions copyright intact, I don’t believe either theory holds water.
It seems quite obvious to me the Blu-ray version was created from some other inferior 35mm print, probably a shorter version created for television or international. The cuts are all quite arbitrary and unrelated to censorship — after all, the movie is already fairly bloodless and carries a PG rating (?!) from the MPAA.
“There’s only one original 35mm negative on any film,” Band concludes. That may be true, but I’m 99.9 percent certain the source material Charlie refers to had absolutely nothing to do with the production of this inferior Blu-ray version. Personally, I’d skip it and seek out the discontinued DVD — or better yet, put pressure on Full Moon to recall the disc and give fans a release worthy of this cult horror classic.
– J.R. Bookwalter
WHY CHARLES BAND RELEASED THE 85 MINUTE BUTCHERED VERSION OF TOURIST TRAP:
How about this possibility: Charlie Band no longer had access to the original negative – because he hadn’t paid his lab bill – so, he had to resort to other sources – possible a foreign version – which happened to be a version that was an 85 min cut. A number of experts have said they are sure the TT Bluray released was not from the original negative. I have no idea, David. I am just the original filmmaker. And I think Charlie is being disingenuous – and is really under-estimating the fans of this movie. His first curt statement was really insulting – to the fans of the film and only incidentally to me. His next statement, much more reflective of the uproar – was a more sympathetic statement to the fans – but also a prevarication – because he knew of the Cult Video DVD – which was based on the original negative – and which he paid for – yet in his statement – he pretended the 85 minute version was the “labs fault” – which he had to know was untrue. He wants us to believe he had no knowledge that the version he put out on the Bluray was shorter. I don’t really believe that – but it could be true. But, let’s say it IS true, then he is just incredibly careless as a distributor. And he should pay the consequences for his actions – and face the wrath of a dissatisfied consumer. He can attack me all he wants – I have nothing to lose. He has not paid me the money he owes me for residuals on Puppetmaster – which are significant – or on Tourist Trap. And, he can continue to remove my name from my works – as he did when he removed my credit A FILM BY DAVE SCHMOELLER from the first PUPPETMASTER – which is contractually required. I wrote and directed PUPPETMASTER – and he then subsequently put HIS name above the title: CHARLES BAND’S PUPPETMASTER – as if HE wrote and directed the film. He can continue to remove my credits from the films I wrote and directed for him over the years – but he can’t complete erase history (fortunately, the films I wrote & directed for him during the Empire years – are owned and released my MGM. I am sure I will be credited for the work I did despite his effort to discredit me. My work will always speak for itself. And his reputation will always shadow him. And if he wants to keep attacking me, I will continue fighting back. Bring it on, Charlie Band. I am fighting for my films. You are fighting for money.
What is the point of this post?
Horror is near and dear to my heart. I’ve had this website for almost 7 years now. Back in the 70’s there were filmmakers that were interested in the genre and the flexibility it gave them to tell their stories. However, there were also people who saw the money in the genre and cranked out as many films as they could regardless of the craft. I grew up with Full Moon Entertainment and learned about Wizard Video after the fact, so I’m not attacking Band here. However, I do not like the idea of someone selling you a product under a falsity. I’m also not a fan of re-edited films. The right thing to do is to recall or discontinue the Tourist Trap Blu-Ray and create a new one with the director’s original cut. Will this happen? If you are to take what Schmoeller says to heart, probably not. My own personal opinion is that Charlie is milking every dollar he can from new fans, hipsters and older fans that have a penchant for nostalgia. It also begs to question that some of the films under his Wizard label now have different rights holders but are they being evaded from payment due because of this VHS loophole?
The decision is yours whether you want to buy either the new Tourist Trap Blu-Ray or any of the Wizard Video releases. I just feel like you should know the full story and all the information before you make said decision