The Importance of the American Genre Film Archive

Exploitation classics of the golden years of the Grindhouse are disintegrating by the minute.  AGFA wants to make sure they stay alive for generations to come.

I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that I’ve been an exploitation film fan since I was a kid, or that I used to peruse the Grindhouse cinemas of days past – of course I didn’t.  I was just a chubby white kid growing up in a Washington state logging town.

But I’ve always had a flair for the distasteful, exotic, and just plain weird cinema thanks to an introduction to Film Threat magazine at a younger age and a wanderlust to discover the obscure.  In the small town that I grew up in, we had video stores, some better than others, but in general your carbon copy 80’s video shops.  They were great for renting Alien for the tenth time, or getting kicked down some movie posters, but I couldn’t do much in them.

Trust me, I am never going to knock my video stores growing up.  Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today, they served a purpose in building my foundation for what was to come. As the foundation has strengthened, I have exposed myself to more than I could have ever hoped for thanks to Scarecrow Video and the internet. I have grown to love exploitation films for what they were intended to be, and not just a chance to get a laugh at the poor acting and production quality (although I still get a laugh!).

Something Weird LogoAs time goes on, we move onto the next bigger and better things and tend to forget that maybe we overlooked something, and that something could change your life.  Thanks to the late great Mike Vraney and the team at Something Weird Video, the world has been offered another chance to see the art that has been overlooked through time and is ready to gain the appreciation that it deserves.

Something Weird brought us a catalog so vast that to truly cover it all could take you half a lifetime.  Everything from 60’s porn loops to military scare films to collections of trailers that are rivaled by no other.  However, many of these films have been transferred in ways that have taken away from the art itself.  Many of SW’s early releases were 16mm to VHS and the quality can sometimes be unwatchable.  As DVD came to the forefront, the quality improved, but you are only as good as the source material.  If the original is flawed, you can’t expect any better from a duplication.  As such, the American Genre Film Archive has made it their mission to chase down these lost gems and do their best to preserve them for those of us who love them and for generations to come.

agfa1A non-profit group based out of Austin, Texas and made up mostly of volunteers, AGFA travels all over the map trading, buying, and acquiring films from private collections or from families who found a stack of cans in their dead grandpa’s basement.

But they can only do so much with what they have.

AGFA needs a 4K scanner to convert 35 and 16mm prints from the Something Weird collection and share them with the world!  Per their Kickstarter page which as of this writing only has less than a day left.  I was speaking to Scarecrow’s Matt Lynch over the weekend and he mentioned that the goal for the campaign is “…just barely enough to truly cover what needs to be done.”.  That being said, if you’re reading this, please heading over to the campaign page and kick them an extra five bucks if you can.

AGFA Warehouse courtesy of Kickstarter page.

AGFA Warehouse courtesy of Kickstarter page.

Over the weekend, Flavorwire posted a great article with Bleeding Skull’s Joe Ziemba who is one of the very active volunteers with AGFA and he spoke at length about the groups mission and what people can do to help.  If you have a chance I highly recommend hopping over to their page and checking out the article.

Now I’m gonna get all Sally Struthers on your ass…

For those of us who didn’t have access to this great material or for that fact didn’t even know what it was, it incredibly important to support what Something Weird Video and American Genre Film Archive is doing.  Generations of film lovers to come need to be able to see this wonderful moment in cinema history, the twilight years before film converted to video and the almighty dollar of filmmaking replaced the almighty heart of it.

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