DVD Review: “FANEX Files: Samuel Z. Arkoff”
Released By: Alpha Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 28, 2008
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 90 Minutes
Special Features: None
Suggested Price: $9.98
From 1984 to 2004, the FANEX Film Convention was held annually in the Baltimore / Washington D.C. area. During this time, some of the biggest and most influential names in the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres appeared as guests and entertained hundreds of fans with their stories. The FANEX Files is a DVD series featuring many of these appearances that were recorded for posterity. Trailers, artwork, and behind the scenes pictures are combined with footage of the guests themselves.
The Fanboy Factor:
American International Pictures (AIP) was the top producer and distributor of independent films in the United States for over two decades between 1956 and 1979. Not content with merely distributing to theaters, AIP formed a television syndication division that kept local horror and late night movie programs stocked for years. While one generation of fans grew up seeing these films in theaters, another would discover them for the first time on television. AIP specialized in the kind of films that the major studios avoided and recognized the massive potential of box office dollars from the largely untapped teenage market.
At the heart of AIP was Samuel Z. Arkoff, a film producer with an eye for marketing. He partnered with James H. Nicholson, a movie buff with a talent for advertising, to form American Releasing Corporation which morphed a few years later into AIP. Along with dedicated directors like Roger Corman and Alex Gordon, who could deliver fast paced exploitation pictures on time and under budget, they kept movie goers of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s constantly entertained.
In the twilight of his life and just a little over a year before his death at the age of 83, Arkoff was a guest at the 2000 FANEX. Here this elder statesman of exploitation told his story and enthralled an audience of receptive fans. The FANEX Files uses footage from this panel as a springboard to document the history of American International Pictures and its knack for reinventing itself to cater to the ever changing tastes of the movie viewing public. This documentary gives a cursory but highly entertaining overview of the various film cycles, including horror, teenage, gothic, and blaxsploitation, that AIP navigated through during its impressive run.
Outside of Arkoff, the majority of the information presented here comes from fans but the occasional onscreen snippet from people like Roger Corman does pop up. The huge film library AIP created is mainly represented by their lurid and often amusing trailers plus production photos and over the top (and often grossly inaccurate) movie posters. Considering the huge number of films AIP either produced or purchased for distribution over its twenty-three year lifespan, it is amazing that FANEX was able to condense this into an hour and a half documentary that actually leaves the viewer educated and entertained, if not wanting more.
Considering that the source material is a ten year old video and some well worn film trailers, the audio and video quality is about as good as can be expected. This documentary is chocked full of wonderful information and supported by great visuals. Sadly, there are no extras on this DVD. It would have been nice to have a commentary from FANEX personnel and a separate feature presenting the trailers in their entirety.
The Bottom Line:
Anyone looking for an entertaining overview of the history of American International Pictures has found it with this DVD. More experienced fans may find the depth of information lacking but the rare footage of Samuel Z. Arkoff is still enough to justify the budget purchase price of less than $10. There is another volume in this series on Hammer films that is equally enjoyable.