Written by: George Pacheco on July 16th, 2013
The legendary, New York City based Distribpix Inc. has been at the forefront of sexploitation, pornography and erotica since the 1970s Golden Age, releasing and curating ephemera from every corner of the genre. Today, it’s Steven Morowitz who has proven to be a savior for fans of Golden Age Pornography, a man who has spearheaded the careful, loving high-def restoration of such Henry Paris—a.k.a. erotica auteur Radley Metzger—films as The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, Naked Came the Stranger and The Opening of Misty Beethoven.
The Distribpix restorations have included some of the most exhaustive extras and elaborate packaging given to any video release, triple X or not, and are testament to the dedication of Morowitz and his team to delivering the most superior quality possible to these formerly ignored films. 10kBullets is privileged to present this interview with Steven Morowitz, conducted via email on the eve of Distribpix’s latest release, the long-awaited digital restoration of Henry Paris’ Barbara Broadcast.
Hello sir, and thanks for taking the time for this chat! With the release of Barbara Broadcast fast approaching, are you excited for all of your hard work to be put out there to film fans, and has advance feedback been positive thus far?
Yes, so far, it has been wonderful. Many are awaiting this one, even more so than Misty. I put as much work into this Barbara release, that I did into Misty, and maybe even more so, since much of the burden was on my shoulders. At this point, with the release just around the corner, I am extremely burnt out on it, but once the product hits the market, it just spreads like wildfire, that is normal with a Radley Metzger title, especially if you give the re-release some real extra love. I mean his films are that good, I have been working on them fort the most part exclusively for 2 years, and it does not get much better.
Were you surprised of the overwhelming feedback and support Distribpix received for the restoration of Misty Beethoven, specifically those who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign? Do you think that devotion like this proves, beyond a shadow of doubt, that diehard cinema and cult film fans DO still exist and support the films they want to see released?
Well, that was excellent as far as people coming to support us, but I want to remind you that we were kicked off of Kickstarter and immediately set up our own independent site at Projectmisty.com, to continue the funding and keep the momentum. I feel that Kickstarter, Vimeo and many of the video based networks out there, are biased when it comes to censorship, they are cowards and can’t get it together on that front; that is obvious. Someone must have complained, as our project was merely one of dozens if not more, of projects that have sexual content. I do feel that there are fans that will want to always get involved in projects as backers, but I think it has to be a popular film or something that the mass cine-files want to see restored, etc. It is also a way for independent producers like Distribpix Inc. to accomplish some things that we would never been able to do. One other great aspect of crowd sourcing is that it can be a litmus test for just how poplar or successful a project may be, so in one sense, not making funding, can be a good thing.
In the larger sense, do you feel that the Kickstarter route is something more labels might venture down in the future? The site certainly seems to be gaining steam daily. Do you think this may enable those with the rights to release films the means to do so in a manner befitting the film itself, with proper care and attention to detail?
I guess it can be looked at that way, I know it is gaining steam and I think for the right fit, crowd sourced funding is wonderful, but I also know of many projects that have not even come close to making their goal. I have found that when a project interests many, those influenced do a great job spreading the word, and I truly feel that much of crowd sourced funding, becomes more successful through social networking and the fact that there are so many independents out there, that don’t have the necessary funds to realize their dream. As for film specific projects, it has proven to work and help out many people I know and I personally have funded a few projects and at higher levels, mainly, because the filmmakers are my friends, and I want to see them do well, I also have a genuine interest in what they are doing.
I just also want to mention, that our crowd sourced funding of Misty, was really just to make sure there were enough people interested to invest in the Blu Ray, but the reality, in my case, was that even though the funding did help out a bit, It cost much more to actually complete the project than I initially expected.
Speaking of which, how would you approximate the work and time spend on restoring these films for release, and does it feel satisfying to know that you’ve released definitive representations of the Henry Paris films?
A great question and it’s a very tough answer. I am a perfectionist and one that works harder than I need to. I literally invest months of my time, weekends, nights, and every day, for the most part. This is mostly because so many changes have gone on over the past several years in the industry and with my small business, and now I have found myself, as you said, sort of a lone wolf, doing much of this stuff on my own. Now I have the best support structure anyone could ever ask for. Between my golden age porn expert, Benson Hurst, and my incredibly reliable lab colorist, friend and film restorer, Joe Rubin, I am with the best. Without them and of course my small team of others, like the amazing Ian Culmell, who single handedly raised the bar on these projects, and others like Lawrence Cohen, who’s support, kind words, and expertise have been a blessing. Not to mention Radley, and the actors, etc. Also, all the wonderful translators, my editors, etc.
But for the most part, I am here by myself, and with projects like this one, you just keep going until it is completed. I would say I spend about 4 months, of hard work, to compete both the DVD and Blu Ray packages, and that is from film restoration to final package and distribution.
Would you say the work which went into Barbara Broadcast was comparable to the work you did for Misty? What challenges and differences presented themselves from restoration to the other?
It was very similar, but Misty was more difficult in the sense that it was made up of 16mm, super 16mm, and 35mm, and then all these elements were put together and used to make the original 35mm BLOW UP inter-negative of Misty, this proved to be quite a challenge. Barbara was more consistent, the actual film was in very good shape. The color was in great need of some work, and it has been done to the best we could as the 35 mm Blow Up is very faded, but all in all, I would say that they are on par, with the final look, and what it will be like on BLU.
At the same time, do you feel that these restorations, like the films themselves, lift the work of Henry Paris/Radley Metzger to a point beyond the attention of adult/erotica fans and into the realm of classic arthouse? Have you received reviews from sectors of film criticism which surprised you, from writers who may not normally cover X rated fare?
Oh, yes indeed. Another great question George. That is most likely one of the most surprising aspects of these Henry Paris films. We have received reviews and screener requests from critics and writers all over the world. I was more than taken back by some of the very encouraging reviews about the package in general and all of the extras. Some very heavy visited blogs, review sites and film forums, have been a buzz, since the release. And even the BFI, gave us one of the greatest compliments we could have ever expected.
Backing up a bit, would you mind informing our readers a bit of the Distribpix back story with regards to all of the history behind the company?
It is such a long and wonderfully amazing story that did indeed encumber all things golden age erotica, from early sexploitation to 80’s one day wonders. For the full version, you’ll have to wait for the movie, but essentially armed with little funds, two New Yorkers, established a sexploitation film based distribution company that morphed into an East Coast giant, literally encompassing all aspects of the video industry and in many ways, dominated. From production, distribution, merchandising, advertising, retail outlets, etc. Really is a story of its own.
I, like many, really enjoyed the Rock Shock and Pop visit to the Distribpix archives. How does it feel representing so much history as a company, curating such a wide range of collectible ephemera from the golden age of 70s pornography?
It is amazing, but I am not sure that it is necessarily the most important thing in the world. It feels great to be surrounded by this archive and knowing that if all of this was destroyed or lost to a natural disaster, that a good part of NYC film history would also be gone. That in itself is important and I do take care of this very well. It is not just film as you are aware of, but just about anything you can imagine. Original art material , thousands of photos and chromes, press books, ad mats, and tons of posters. Since the RSP, tour, we have been overwhelmed with people wanting more, so we are going to begin to feature some exclusive video webcasts to further explore the nooks and crannies of the archive and explore it with some interactivity with the fans.
Do you think there’s a connection between how horror, cult and exploitation pictures have enjoyed a rising level of interest and exposure and an appreciation of golden age porn? Does one hand wash the other in this regard, specifically how many directors during this time ventured back and forth between the two?
Yes, there is an absolute connection and nothing is very mysterious at all. Horror and sex, are both alternative forms or exploitation cinema. The real filmmakers from back in the day were making films, they were creating their art. In some cases, they realize that this was their beginning and they don’t want to acknowledge the film as part of their legitimate catalog or tenure, and in some cases it may be that a film was “out of bounds” and something they were not proud of.
Either way, there were many directors that ping-ponged between the genres, or simple started in one, and found success in the other. Guys like Danny Steinman, Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham to name a few. They all worked as exploitation filmmakers, and dabbled in both porn and horror, and in some cases, excelled at both.
I LOVED that you released the Misty soundtrack with such amazing liner notes and packaging. Are there any plans to release any other classic library soundtracks from this period, and have you received similarly positive feedback to this amazing release and all the hard work which went into it?
Response to the CD was insane. but to be blunt, it was a year in the works, a total labor of love and literally almost did not happen, it is a long story. In the end, the package and overall quality of the stereo tracks and extras are tops. I am not sure I would opt to produce another music album, for with the licensing, packaging and duplication, it is rather expensive. But, I have yet to see an OST for an adult film, treated with as much love as the CD Soundtrack for Misty.
How was it compiling the legion of extras for the Misty Blu Ray, and what other projects are currently occupying your time, now that Barbara is finished and awaiting release! I saw Scorpio ’70 mentioned on the new blog? What can you tell us about that?
I enjoy the extras very much, and for Misty it was almost exhaustive. It almost becomes obsession and can become difficult to stop. Misty was sort of an exception and even the Barbara package is super loaded, almost like Misty. The extras are excellent to create and produce, but in many cases, the work is not worth all of the effort, so it does make one wonder, if it is worth all the time invested. I guess it would depend on the project.
As for what is going on now, Yes Scorpio 70 is one of maybe 20 or so, projects that are either restored in or some phase of restoration. I have been working on a Francis Ford Coppola film, Tonight For Sure, and the film elements are unfortunately in bad shape, so it has taken a twist. But other adult films, that have been restored are SOS, Through The Looking Glass, Angela The Fireworks Woman, and a dozen or so random sexploitation features. I will hopefully be able to continue to work with Radley Metzger as well.
Other projects are two brand new sites being launched, one is totally focused on the legendary films of Radley Metzger and his fans, and the other is a virtual cornucopia of exclusive video based docs, and shorts that exemplify Pornography in NY from the 60’s thru the 80’s, a hub for networking, but also a place to educate and enlighten.
Final thoughts and comments? Thanks again for doing this, sir and for all the hard work you do! Here’s to many more Distribpix years and releases to come!
All in all, I am thankful for all the fans, all the customers and especially all the people who help me get these products to market. Without them, my small and independent releasing company would not exist. I am possibly signing a distribution agreement and that would help this archive to exploit many more films. And please, do yourself a favor and buy yourself the new Barbara Broadcast!!