I have recently had a chapter published in Alzena MacDonald’s edited collection Murders and Acquisitions: Representations of the Serial Killer in Popular Culture. The abstract for the chapter is as follows:
In early 2003 a film called Fantom Kiler (1998) was being discussed in online fora by fans of European cult cinema. Its production shrouded in mystery, Fantom Kiler gained notoriety within the online fan community as promotional materials for the film labelled it as a “stylish East European giallo”; a homage to a cycle of films that were particularly popular in Italy during the late 1960s and 1970s. Supposedly made in Poland, though most of the spoken dialogue is a mixture of both Polish and Russian, the film follows a masked serial killer who stalks and murders a number of scantily clad women. It blends near hardcore pornography, gratuitous nudity, poor acting and scenes of extreme violence into ninety minutes of video. Filmed on videotape, suffering from constant changes of aspect ratio and having a number of subtitle spelling errors, the low budget origins of the film appear obvious.
Rumours began to circulate within the European fan community regarding the mysterious production history of the Fantom Kiler. Information emerged stating that the director’s name, Roman Nowicki, was a pseudonym for a British horror fanzine producer who played an important role in developing European cult cinema fandom in the United Kingdom. Clues to the British origins of the film could be found throughout the film, one particularly attentive viewer noticing the English locales used. As further details surfaced more Fantom Kiler films were released. To date, there have been four entries in the Fantom Kiler series, with each sequel closely matching the theme of the earlier entries, scantily clad women being murdered in varying sexually aggressive ways by a serial killer.
Drawing on an interview conducted with ‘Roman Nowicki’, this chapter examines the Fantom Kiler as an example of what I describe as ‘slash’ production: a form of fan production that gives specific attention to serial murder and reproduces the serial killer as a fan object. The Fantom Kiler series, through its intertextual relationship with the giallo, illustrates the contemporary fascination with the serial killer and allows for a new consideration of the ways this cultural figure is appropriated by fan cultures for pleasure and also for profit.
The book is available from the publisher Bloomsbury and also from Amazon.
A Sad Song for a sad day.
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Another fan DVD can be retired. Camera Obscura, who I regard to be the premiere DVD label currently releasing Euro-Cult fare, are releasing the previously unavailable giallo Spirits of Death (aka Un bianco vestito per mariale) on June 1 2013. The Dutch cult DVD etailer OMG Entertainment are currently offering a 10% discount for customers who pre-order before the release date. Here are the details taken from OMG’s mailer:
UN BIANCO VESTITO PER MARIALE’
a.k.a. SPIRITS OF DEATH / AWAITED DEATH / A WHITE DRESS FOR MARIALE’ / EXORCISME TRAGIQUE
sound: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
picture: 2.35:1 (anamorphic widescreen) / PAL
subtitles: English, German (optional)
bonus features: Featurette “Esoteric and cryptic“* featuring director Romano Scavolini, audio commentary with Christian Keßler and Marcus Stiglegger, booklet with liner notes by Kai Naumann (German/English), Deleted Scenes, Italian trailer, picture gallery
* with optional German and English subtitles
running time: ca. 85 Minuten (original uncut version)
region code: 2
packaging: DigiPak in cardboard sleeve
limited to: 2.000 pcs
As a child, Marialé had to witness the unspeakable: Her father catches her mother lying in the arms of her young lover and decides to end this extramarital affair via handgun. Many years later, the traumatized little Marialé has grown into a beautiful young woman. She spends her life in her wary husband’s secluded castle, with barely any contact to the outside world. One day, she decides bring a little joy to her life and invites a group of old friends to spend the weekend in her gothic home. When the decadent party culminates in a boundless orgy, the first dead body turns up. And this is only the shocking beginning of a blood red night of epic elegance…
10 years prior to his notoriously gory axe shocker Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, Romano Scavolini created this stylish gothic giallo par excellence. Un Bianco Vestito per Marialé is the beautiful bastard child of Mario Bava and Federico Fellini, a colorful ode to decadence with all the ingredients fans of Italy’s genre cinema have come to love: beautiful women, bloody murders, blowing curtains, a star-studded cast and an exquisite soundtrack by grand masters Fiorenzo Capri and Bruno Nicolai.
I have recently had a chapter published in the Italian book The Piracy Effect, edited by Roberto Braga and Giovanni Caruso, that looks at how the giallo, a cycle of popular Italian, is reappropriated and distributed by fans on torrent file-sharing websites. I argue that this is a response to the current market conditions that render the commercial release of currently unreleased gialli on DVD unviable.
After a long seven years I have finally submitted my PhD thesis titled: Making European cult cinema: fan production in an alternative economy. The abstract for my thesis is as follows:
This study gives attention to the fan production surrounding European cult cinema, low budget exploitation films often in the horror genre, that engage a high level of cultural commitment and investment from its fans. It addresses wider issues of debate relating to why people are fans and whether they are anything more than obsessive in their consumption of media. The academic study of fandom is relatively a new area, the formative year being 1992 when studies such as Henry Jenkins’ Textual Poachers, Lisa Lewis’ The Adoring Audience and Camille Bacon-Smith’s Enterprising Women approached fandom as a cultural activity. Studies such as these celebrated fan activity and focussed on fan production being a symbolic activity rather than an economic activity. Academics have only recently began to recognise the commitment, time and effort that fans invest when producing artefacts.
I explore the ways European cult cinema fandom might be understood as an alternative economy of fan production by looking at how fans produce artefacts and commodities. It uses an innovative method of data collection which includes ethnographic observation and interviews, focused on public offline and online fan activities, and my own personal experiences as autoethnography. The collected data is interrogated using a theoretical framework that incorporates ideas from cultural studies and political economy: using the concept of an ‘alternative economy’ of European cult cinema fan production. The purpose being to interpret an object of fandom as a production of meaning, physical artefacts and commodities, therefore understanding fandom an both cultural and economic production.
I argue that, in this alternative economy, fans are ‘creative’ workers who are now using digital technologies to produce artefacts that are exchanged as gifts or commodities; this practice relating to repertoires of professionalism. I find that fans are not just producing artefacts and commodities relating to European cult cinema, but that through these processes they are culturally and economically making what has become known as European cult cinema.
I will always regret not being able to go and see one of Levon’s Rambles.
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An interesting fan interpretation of one of the iconic scenes from Dario Argento’s Tenebrae in Lego.
Initially I was loathe to purchase this classic poliziottesco film on DVD for a third time but I am a sucker for limited edition packaging. It is pleasing to hear that this limited edition lenticular cover release by Shameless has already had its 1000 copy run ship to retailers meaning that if you want this limited edition cover you had better get an order in sooner rather than later. Being the first real release of a classic poliziottesco on DVD in the UK and that it appears to have sold rather well we might get to seem some of the other quality films in this cycle given a release.
There have been some surprising Blu-Ray releases this year and this World War 2 propaganda film is most certainly one of them. The cover is beautiful and the HD picture quality is stellar.