Original Camera Negative for Jeff Lieberman’s, 1978, Blue Sunshine, FOUND!!
Anyway, for those of you who don’t have much time, I will first skip all the bullshit! I just wanted to confirm the rumors that have been circulating, although I have not been able to get on Facebook or the blog as much lately, I have gotten some email and a few calls regarding this. I think it is a rather awesome film discovery and worthy of some major press and fan satisfaction. Recently, I have discovered the original Picture Negative to Jeff Lieberman’s, 1978, Blue Sunshine. There has not been a physical transfer or scan, but based on the actual elements, they look absolutely great, which is a huge start. This is a famous and sought after film, and one that the horror community has embraced as sort of a cult classic. The bottom line is that film is set in LA, it has murderous maniacs, caused by some LSD they took, need I say more! Combine that with this brand new find and were talking a serious Blu Ray Release!!
So,”YES”!… The Original Camera Negative for Jeff Lieberman’s, 1978, Blue Sunshine, has been FOUND, alive and well and heading to the lab for a truly glorious restoration project. Details will follow when finalized, but the simple approach is a 4k scan, followed by Davinci timing, which it will need plenty of and then after we complete the timing, we can decide on what levels of digital restoration we need to perform, like scratch and dirt removal. It is something we need to think about before we even start the scan because today, many of the higher end scanners have a technology from Kodak called DICE, and this is a very expensive and even a complex addition to the scanners, and it basically enables the scanner to effectively remove dirt, scratches and other flaws during the actual scanning process(I think of it like a digital wet gate). You can search “film scanning DICE technology” and learn more about it. But essentially, when this option used, the scanner automatically slows down and adjusts the rate that the film goes across the gate. During this slower scan, much of the flaw that would take weeks to remove manually with digital software, can now be done with DICE. Of course, this can add anywhere from $10-20 dollars to each minute of scan time, so it is a very expensive option, so we have not yet decided if this negative will be scanned that way.
Well, “when it rains it pours”, is how the saying goes and for my small and rather intimate archival efforts, I can admit that this is true. These past 6 months have been amazing, from discovering a crisp 35mm print of an American literary and cinematic classic like Orson Welle’s, Falstaff(1965) to the negative of an American underground-cult classic like Jeff Lieberman’s, Blue Sunshine(1978), at Distribpix Inc we are certainly doing something right and that is literally unearthing some of cinema’s lost film treasures and elements.
Always traveling all over the place to retrieve film elements, look at new ones and archive collections takes a toll on the body and mind. It is like going on a scavenger hunt and if your successful , you need a 56 foot trailer truck, fork lift, 5 thousand dollars and a bottle of Advil, to simply ‘move it out’. Unlike many other worthy and valuable hobbies, like stamp collecting, where an entire collection of rare value can be carried in a briefcase and stored in a safe, a film collection needs a large space, a warehouse, a film storage facility, it’s a lot, and by film collecting standards I am rather small potatoes, housing much of a 3000 square foot warehouse with random films element and always convincing myself that I have room for me( which I do)!
And what is great, which is not that uncommon in film discoveries from the Distribpix archive, is that most of the time we are able to track down the origin of the films elements and find out where they originated (mainly through files, record and research) and how they ended up where they are. In most cases, it can be it’s own show or episode, it can be that amazing and detailed, other times its rather simple and straightforward. This is exactly the case with the negative for Blue Sunshine. For me, this was a simple forensic analysis and the determination was made through files that were from my private records, but after through research, the same info was also found to be easily available on the internet.
Analysis of the discovery of the Film Elements for Blue Sunshine (Original Picture Negative):
Here is what I can tell you about the life of the original picture negative for Blue Sunshine. Again, this is concise and to the point, but the actual story like many, is packed with details. In the late 1970’s when Jeff Leiberman had the original film negatives, he had utilized the services of Movie Lab in NYC to not only strike prints, but also store and ship prints. Movie Lab was one of the major go to labs of the day, and provided services to almost every film company during the 70’s and 80’s, from Hollywood to New York.
Their bicoastal location allowed prolific producers and directors on both coasts to more easily churn out pictures in the booming exploitation market. In many cases, these local labs thrived on the business of exploitation filmmakers(more on the cheaper, action style films and X-rated adult features), as the demand for this niche and theatrical prints was at it’s peek, as grindhouse after grindhouse dotted the streets of NYC and many other cities across America. America wanted it’s filth and they needed it quickly and easily, the only way to make it accessible was to have prints struck and in some cases hundreds of them for theaters all over the world! Today, we take for granted that much of the HD quality video we all watch on our tablets and mobile devices is streaming from some invisible Cloud that lingers in the atmosphere, of course I am speaking of cloud based servers and storage. But, back in the 70’s and 80s’s, if you want to see the shit, if you wanted anything to do with it, you went to the theaters. It was an experience. It was a way of life, this was just before and during the infancy of the home video revolution(VHS). This is how America and most viewed films, it was a place for the commoner and the cinephile, the raincoated-pervert or the business man. If you wanted it, you came out to see it, no way around!! I was fortunate enough to be a youngster around it, I saw it and experienced NYC and Times Square in the late 70’s and early 80’s, man it was incredible. Anyway, there is no way of getting around technology, don’t fight it, embrace it.
Back to the story……so while the labs were always busy the began to depend more and more on the success of the filmmakers and producers, and as these filmmakers would move on from one project to another, it was not uncommon to have original elements either stored or held at specialty film labs. Movie Lab was that place for Blue Sunshine, as well as literally thousands of other films elements from studios big and small, from around the world.
In the early 90’s, when Movie Lab had gone out of business, which is it’s own story, there were still thousands of film elements that were either abandoned, not claimed, unknown or just not identified correctly and became the property of Movie Lab and/or their responsibly to get rid of it, as they space the inhabited for so long was now to be vacated. So in the early 90’s, after a business deal was made between Distribix Inc. and Movie Lab, all of these various film elements were brought by trailer trucks to a warehouse in New Jersey, owned by Distribpix. These elements were stored for a while and eventually ended up in some different areas, some stayed in NYC, and many went to Los Angeles and then we followed the paper the trail to Seattle’s, Something Weird Video, where they would stay for approximately 25 years, hidden and tucked away with thousands of other boxes in storage areas, filled with film elements, ranging from negatives, to prints, mag tracks, trailers, work prints, etc.
The simple reason they ended up in Seattle, at SWV, was due to the fact that in the early 1990’s a young and aggressive businessman( as well as cinephile, professional collector, comic book hound, punk rock expert, and well known video bootlegger) by the name of Mike Vraney had contacted Arthur, the owner of Distribpix Inc, as Mike wanted to distribute some of the early Distribpix sex exploitation films, as well as try and exploit the new Movie Lab acquisitions as well. While I was just getting out of junior high school around that time, I was still aware of what was going on, to a degree, now my tenure and files can confirm everything. Anyway, Mike Vraney and Distribpix had a very pleasant relationship, and I remember times when Mike, Dave Friedman and my father and brother, would often all rendevoux once a year in the Big Apple, where they would romp around, eat and drink. Mike was a true character and I have thought about him so much since his passing just over 15 months ago. He leaves behind an amazing legacy and film collection, and a good portion of those elements are owned by Distribpix Inc. Anyway, after Mike’s passing I had spent almost a year going back and forth to Seattle every 6 weeks or so, to spend time with Lisa, Mike’s wife and owner of SWV, as well as Tim Lewis, the head of operations. We had some great times. I also got to be at Mike’s memorial and oother events to remember his life. While in Seattle this past summer, I had also been looking through elements and gathering films as well. In July of 2014, after spending 3-4 consecutive days on my hands and knees, I was elated to find a box that was labeled with Blue Sunshine.
I don’t exactly recall why I was looking for it or why it was on my ‘keep an eye out for” list, maybe because Jeff had mentioned it to a friend of mine, as he knew I would be scouring through the Movie Lab elements with a fine tooth comb, but Lisa was also aware of the fact that they might be there. I mean Jeff Leiberman even had a hunch, as he would know best and he was right. I immediately brought the box to Lisa where it was locked away in her office until I was able to have it securely package and shipped to the east coast. Where is sits beside me and awaits a 2 hour drive too the lab in just over 48 hours! That is the life line of these elements, I hope you enjoyed this story. I am want to thank Mike/Lisa/Tim from SWV for always being such solid people to me and great hosts and I want to thank and congratulate Jeff Lieberman on the confirmation that his original negative not only exists, but will be getting a grand restoration and one done with love, passion and care to detail.
While this is a great find and the elements are now safe with me they will be going home to daddy!! After the restoration, which is complete I will personally drive the negatives back to Jeff’s home, where the reels can live with Jeff, sandwiched between some of his other prized elements he owns. I just hope his film elements for Remote Control, will not be too jealous of his brand new and gorgeous looking 35mm-celluloid addition to the family!
More details to follow. Thank you for reading.