IF IT'S GRUESOME, GORY AND REALLY DISGUSTING, IT'S RIGHT UP HIS ALLEY by Ann Kolson
GORE GAZETTE image from JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT
IF IT'S GRUESOME, GORY AND REALLY DISGUSTING, IT'S RIGHT UP HIS ALLEY
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - August 31, 1983
Author: Ann Kolson, Inquirer Staff Writer
Gorehounds are a breed apart.
They can be seen lining up outside movie theaters for such stomach-turners as Corpse Grinder, Maniac, Gore Gore Girls or that all-time favorite I Spit on Your Grave . They crave nothing better than a brutal slaughter, spurting blood, severed limbs, cleaved heads and gouged eyeballs.
Though the low-budget splatter flicks they love are reviled by highbrow critics for their bad acting, poor technical quality and frequently anti- female themes, gorehounds have found a champion in Rick Sullivan.
Sullivan, 28, is the founder, publisher and sole contributor to the Gore Gazette - a 35-cent newsletter dedicated to sleazy films or, as its masthead proclaims, "Your Bi-Weekly Guide to Horror, Exploitation and Gore in the N.Y. Metro Area." Circulation of the three-year-old publication is 5,000 and growing.
Slight, mild-mannered and bespectacled, Sullivan is a "normal guy" who just happens to be known as "Mr. Gore." He looks more like a certified public accountant than a connoisseur of the gross and disgusting. Funny, he is a certified public accountant, working in North Jersey booking films and doing accounting for a small chain of movie theaters. But that's just his job; sleazy cinema is his life.
Most of Sullivan's spare time is spent in the squalid movie houses around 42d Street in New York City or, sometimes, at suburban New Jersey theaters where gory films are screened at midnight. The Fabian, a five-screen theater owned by Sullivan's boss in fraying downtown Paterson, N.J., is a showplace for the greatest in gore. (One recent imaginative, although unprofitable, booking there was the pairing of Gandhi with Tales of the Crypt, "catering strictly to Hindu gorehounds," Sullivan says.)
According to Sullivan, defining the schlock/shock genre - "goon pictures shown in goon theaters" - is easy. An exploitation film is made only to make money and "any artistic statement is only accidental."
Take the movie Blood Feast (1963), for example, that Sullivan considers a classic. "A lot of people think it's the worst movie ever made," Sullivan says cheerfully. It was made for $20,000 in six days ("It was supposed to be five, but it rained one day.")
Blood Feast - filmed in Miami by Herschell Gordon Lewis, a granddaddy of gore - made $2 million, according to Sullivan, without ever playing in New York, Chicago or the West Coast. (It did, however, play Philadelphia.) Rural Southern drive-ins are where it and films like it fare best.
At the theaters he attends, Sullivan sees who goes but can't say what makes the movies popular. At the theaters in urban New Jersey, audiences are primarily black and Hispanic. In trendy Manhattan theaters and bars that screen gore classics, much of the clientele is gay.
Scratchy prints, uninspired scripts and wooden actors are taken for granted by gorehounds. According to Sullivan, 50 percent of the actors in these films are unknowns, the other 50 percent are has-beens. Cameron Mitchell is one who appears. So is Samantha Eggar.
Sullivan sees himself as kind of a Ralph Nader: "I tell them what to see and what's a rip-off." He admits that as much as 80 percent of the movies are ''garbage" but thinks that "a lot are very good films the press ignores."
This is a fast-buck industry where the advertising budget often exceeds the shooting budget for the film. And where greedy filmmakers change the names of films to capture a new, unsuspecting audience.
Who else but Sullivan could caution the unwary that "Dr. Butcher is the 1979 Italian production, formerly Queen of the Cannibals, to which Aquarius added an opening sequence lifted from a mid-'70s American production known as Tales That Will Rip Your Heart Out from director Roy Frumkes."
The gazette is filled with other helpful tips. "Ignore the ad campaign: Class of 1984 is not the trendy throw-away fluff United is promoting it to be," one review reads. ". . . There is plenty of activity with table saws, lead pipes, switchblades, car crashes . . . to more than satiate any gorehound."
Sullivan turned to gore because he was forbidden to watch horror movies as a kid. That's his theory, anyway. But by the time he accidentally saw The Giant Behemoth, at age 5, he was hooked.
After college he wound up in a three-piece suit working as a financial analyst for Exxon in New York City and spending his lunch hours in 42d Street theaters watching gore.
Sullivan began the Gore Gazette in 1980 at Exxon expense (unbeknownst to Exxon), using company printers and mailing it in company envelopes. He "drew the line," he says, at using company stamps.
The gazette, then free, was gaining in popularity ("the printers liked it better than doing financial statements") and all was going well for several years until a security guard found a copy in the men's room. Exxon threatened to get him for mail fraud - they didn't pursue it - and after 4 1/2 years of work, Sullivan found himself unemployed. Three weeks later he found his present job with the theater chain.
Interesting, sometimes elevating - "I try to include vocabulary expansion in the Gore Gazette; I try to include at least three words readers would have to look up" - Sullivan isn't sure that the Gazette will last forever.
Sometimes, he admits, it gets boring. "How many synonyms are there for 'sick,' 'deranged' and 'crazed'?" he asks.