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Warner Archives Panel Highlights Hammer Horror, Harryhausen Special Effects and Joe Dante's 'Innerspace'

13 Jul, 2015 By: Stephanie Prange

The Warner Archive team with director Joe Dante.

SAN DIEGO — If you thought the knowledgeable video store clerk was gone, you are wrong. The clerks exist at Warner.

Warner SVP of catalog marketing George Feltenstein and Warner Archive’s D.W. Ferranti and Matthew Patterson have been curating what may be the world’s biggest video store — the Warner library — since 2009.

“In many ways, we try to be like the cool guy in the video store,” Ferranti said.

Through regular podcasts, listening to fans and careful culling of the Warner library inventory list, the team strives to satisfy the thirst for classic and obscure films that one can’t find anywhere else.

“I have explored our inventory system for 15 or 20 years,” Feltenstein said as he prepared for a panel at San Diego Comic-Con International July 11. “Most marketing executives don’t do that, but I do.”

Warner Archive, in particular, is a vehicle to offer obscure titles to fans via manufacturing-on-demand and streaming, making the process profitable.

“We can target very, very small audiences profitably,” said Patterson.

And the fact that bootlegs may exist of these obscure films is no impediment.

“There was a perception among many in the industry that if stuff had been bootlegged it wasn’t worth putting out because people had already bought it, but what we knew was that they would much rather have the better version of it,” Ferrati said.

Thus, the Warner team has been collecting elements and remastering content for fans who hunger for this product.

At Comic-Con, they brought in director Joe Dante to show the new gems these film curators had mined for horror and sci-fi fans.

“There’s a lot of these movies that fell through the cracks, that the Warner people have been very good about releasing,” Dante said. “These guys are sort of a little guerilla unit, and I think that they’ve done a remarkable job.”

Warner Oct. 6 is releasing a four-film Blu-ray set, Horror Classics Vol. One, that includes Hammer horror classics Taste the Blood of Dracula, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Mummy. The panel gave a nod to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, who became iconic stars of the Hammer horror films, and a video tribute acknowledged Lee’s recent passing.

Dante outlined the influence the Hammer horror films had on his career.

“I remember being young enough to see them when they were in theaters,” he said. “Curse of Frankenstein really scared the hell out of me.”

It was the décolletage and blood that attracted the adolescent crowd, Dante said. The films influenced filmmakers from Roger Corman to Italian Mario Bava.

Curse of Frankenstein, alas, is not available in the first horror set, but Feltenstein assured the crowd at the Comic-Con panel that it was only because the studio was working on the elements to bring out the best remastered version possible.

Warner is also releasing a Special Effects Collection Blu-ray set with The Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Them! and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Like video store clerks explaining the influences of filmmakers in each of the films, the Warner crew drew a line between the films in the collection that went through special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen.

Feltenstein explained on the panel why the classic King Kong wasn’t in the set.

“It’s already been released,” he said. “It was released on Blu-ray in 2010, and it is not included in this collection because people who want it already have it, and we don’t want people to have to buy things twice anymore. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has heard the call and we’re not going give you a release over and over and over again.”

The explanation elicited a cheer from the Comic-Con crowd.

Also highlighted at the Comic-Con panel was the Aug. 4 Blu-ray release of Dante’s 1987 sci-fi comedy Innerspace.

Dante said he first turned down the project, conceived as a spy film, not a comedy.

But then the concept became “what would happen if Dean Martin shrunk down and was stuck inside of Jerry Lewis,” Dante said, and he signed on.

The film stars Dennis Quaid as a Navy pilot who is miniaturized in an experiment gone awry and injected into an unsuspecting grocery clerk played by Martin Short.

“The effects are just as convincing now as they were then,” Dante said, but Innerspace’s ultimate success can be attributed to home video, where most fans discovered the picture.

“If home video had not happened I think the trajectory of the careers of a lot of people in the ’80s would have been different,” he said.

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