If you love grindhouse movies, and you saw Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, you should definitely pay attention to the man behind the curtain. That man is Bob Murawski, Raimi's longtime editor and an Oscar winner for The Hurt Locker. In his downtime between projects like Raimi's Spider-Man franchise, Murawski owns and runs a film company called Grindhouse Releasing devoted to the extremes of cinema. A Grindhouse release has a rotgut seal of approval, whether it's the kind of gore epic that once played grimy 42nd Street cinemas (Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust), an overlooked Hollywood rarity (Frank Perry's The Swimmer), or a long-lost movie by an obsessive auteur that never saw the light of day (Duke Mitchell's Gone with the Pope).
Grindhouse's latest, and possibly greatest, is a 1972 oddity with the all-time-great title An American Hippie in Israel. Written and directed by a first-timer (and never-sincer) named Amos Sefer, it swings from fantasy to sexploitation to horror in its story of four people whose search for a private Eden leads to murder, mayhem, and dust-covered orgies. Since the death of his business partner, Sage Stallone, Murawski has continued on with Grindhouse. In advance of Hippie's midnight shows Friday and Saturday at The Belcourt, he spoke with the Scene about cult movies, misconceptions about the cult horror genre, and his weirdly named hometown.
Are you really from a town called Bad Axe?
Sadly, yes. Small town in the middle of nowhere. I had to drive 70 miles to see a new movie when I was growing up. (I drove 70 miles to see Pieces and it delivered on every level on the promise of that poster!)
You and Grindhouse Releasing appreciate, track down, compile, and restore these cult classic exploitation and horror movies (especially the '70s and '80s Italian ones I'm not allowed to see). What is it that thrills you most about Grindhouse, and particularly, Hippie?
First and foremost, I love the movies. My heart has always been in low-budget exploitation films. The more shocking and outrageous the better. So it's a thrill to be able to do great, studio-quality releases of obscure films that have never had a decent presentation. There is more entertainment to be found in any 10 minutes of An American Hippie in Israel than you would find in a dozen studio movies.
Is there a hippie-horror genre? And if so, what are some other films that relate to Hippie?
Mostly the Manson related subgenre — David Durston's classic I Drink Your Blood, Sweet Savior (aka The Love Thrill Murders) starring Troy Donahue, and of course The Manson Massacre. ("Helter Skelter was only the beginning. The Manson Massacre takes you all the way!")
What's an annoying/incorrect generalization people often make about Hippie or other Grindhouse pictures?
The whole "so bad they're good" attitude toward these films drives me crazy. I want to punch these people in the head and tell them that the movies are so good they're great. They may be low-budget and a little rough around the edges, but they're full of great ideas and hugely entertaining. Yeah, there are sometimes some strange ideas of plot, pacing and characterization, and maybe some bad acting, but the makers of these movies put their heart and soul into them 100 percent and made them with absolute sincerity. So stop thinking you're so superior, you know-it-all jerks!
I've run into a lot of people who cannot or will not "get" Hippie when I explain it to them. Do you have an elevator pitch?
The greatest movie you've never seen! A movie like Hippie literally defies description and categorization. That's what makes it so incredible and unique. The director couldn't get it distributed when he finished it in 1972. Everyone thought it was too weird and far-out. I'm hoping audiences can finally handle it 40 years later.
Your catalog at Grindhouse Releasing is small, but the releases are deluxe. How important is it for these releases to have so much going on with collectibles and limited-edition posters?
As an obsessive fan myself, I just want to make them the way I would want them, with every detail as perfect as it can be, no matter how much it costs and how much time it takes. People slam us for taking so long with our releases, but when you're trying to make a thousand things perfect, it takes time. Even then, you can't get everything right, especially on these low-budget movies which were neglected and cheaped out on at every step. It's a long, hard fight, but I apply the same amount of care to these movies as I do to the big studio movies I work on. Everything is super-important, and everything needs to be perfect.
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