Film Ventures International, we love you. You started — and by you, we mean your owner Edward L. Montoro, by writing, directing and producing the adult film Getting Into Heaven in 1968. That movie, made for $13,000, brought back twenty times its cost.
When other studios innovated, FVI either brought in films from foreign lands — like Boot Hill from Italy and Dragon Lives from Hong Kong — or helped create outright pastiches of more established films.
This trend started with the purchase of 1974’s Beyond the Door, which started its life as an Italian film called Chi sei? and is really a bastard child of The Exorcist. And by bastard child, I mean that it’s pretty much the same movie. FVI would also release the ripoff — let’s saying loving tribute — films Grizzly, Great White and Extra Terrestrial Visitors in the hopes of taking people’s hard-earned cash for cash-in projects.
In 1984, as the company was reeling from lawsuits against that aforementioned shark epic and lower box office expectations for some other releases, Montoro took $1 million dollars out of the safe and disappeared, never to be seen again.
He leaves behind a trail of films that I’d be proud to have been associated with. Just one look at our Letterboxd list of FVI releases should make any film fan’s brain get excited. So how do we pick four of them to show? Trust me. It wasn’t easy.
MOVIE 1: Beyond the Door (Ovidio G. Assonitis, 1974): This is where so many folks’ love of FVI starts, so it was a natural pick. Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills of Nanny and the Professor) is having the worst pregnancy ever, perhaps because a Satanic ex-lover has cursed her. What follows is a mash-up DJ supermix of all the moments that you loved from The Exorcist, along with Montoro providing the voice of the Devil. This movie is a tribute to the power of marketing, as its title subtly references the porno-chic blockbuster Behind the Green Door while FVI would go to any lengths to promote this movie, including hiring actors to faint during screenings and sending ambulances to pick them up to create hysteria (and one assumes, more revenue).
MOVIE 2: Mortuary (Howard Avedis, 1983): This movie is a crowd-pleaser. Set up to look like a slasher, it’s more a loopy dark ride of constantly switching genres and themes. Christie thinks her dad was killed, even if her mother (Lynda Day George) doesn’t believe her and ends up getting remarried in less time than it took for you to read this paragraph. What follows are occult rituals, parental murders and even possessed houses in a movie that will go out of its way to scare you. If you love Bill Paxton, get ready to fall for him all over again.
MOVIE 3: Grizzly (William Girder, 1976): People have gotten upset at me for saying this before, but let’s face it. This movie is Jaws on dry land. That isn’t to put this movie down. In fact, I celebrate every awesome bit of it, from the astounding Neal Adams-drawn poster to the bear-POV shots and the ending where the bear gets blown up real good with a bazooka shot by Joan McCall.
MOVIE 4: Stunt Rock (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1978): “It’s super human, super music, super magic and super amazing! You’ll be compelled over the edge of sight and sound and under the spell of mind-boggling action and music! Pushed to the danger zone! It’s a death wish at 120 decibels! Stunt Rock! The ultimate rush!” It’s also one of the few movies that can live up to its trailer. I always love to pick a movie right at the end of the drive-in that rewards die-hard film lovers while offering nothing to the casual watcher. Stunt Rock would be that movie.
FVI release so many movies that we could do several of these evenings. What are your favorite films that they released? What would be in your drive-in night? Let us know and we’ll share it with the world.