Wild East Interview

 Interview with Eric Mache, Vice President and co-founder of Wild East Productions Inc.
1) In the days of VHS finding Spaghetti Westerns of even watchable picture quality was a rarity. Was this part of your inspiration to form Wild East in order to give fans of these wonderful genre films high quality releases? What else gave you the idea drive to form the company?

Ally Lamaj and I both caught these spaghetti westerns in the theaters when they were first released - Ally watched them in the Bronx and 42nd Street in NYC, while I watched them in the theaters in Hong Kong.

Both Ally and I were VHS collectors from the early days of video. We both used to go to great lengths to find obscurities, often venturing into the strictly Spanish neighborhoods in New York City to find Venezuelan video tapes.  Many obscure European genre films were released on these Venezuelan tapes in English with Spanish subtitles.  Ally and I crossed paths in these video stores for years before we finally met and started trading spaghetti western videos.  It was our disgust with bootleggers putting out unwatchable video copies and charging top dollar that led us to consider forming a company where our aim was to put out quality restored versions of these genre films so the fans could get their money's worth.  It was also a matter of preserving these films, because the Italian companies have lost footage and English soundtracks over the years.  Such was the case with DAY OF ANGER, where the English master that was delivered to us by the Italian distributor was just over 70 minutes.  We had to buy several 35mm prints from various countries to make up the full English soundtrack.
2) How many people does it take to run the company? How is the work split up (who does the transfers, interviews, etc.)?

Let's just say that we are a very small company, and we all have side jobs to make money.  Wild East is really a labor of love - any money that we get goes right back into the next release.  I do all the graphic design, video editing, and often film the interviews.  Ally does the negotiating and takes care of the sales.  He is also very adept at tracking down prints, posters, etc.

3) How difficult can it be to locate usable negatives and prints? What was the hardest film to find usable sources for? What film was the most difficult to transfer?

Because of Italian distribution companies going out of business and masters being bought up by companies who have no real interest in the films other than making money, footage and language tracks have been lost over the years.  It's unfortunate, but true.  That's why we are constantly buying up 35mm and 16mm prints from around the world on these genre films.  It is important to us that these films be restored.

DAY OF ANGER was probably the most difficult film to find the complete English audio for.

Probably the film that was most difficult to transfer was KILLER CALIBRE 32.  We kept getting defective masters, and it took us a long time and a lot of money to restore the film.

4) All your releases are said to be limited editions. How many units do you usually have pressed and what gave you the idea of the limited edition angle?

We press small runs because we realize this is a niche genre market.  For the most part it's a collector's market, so limited editions make sense.
5) Of all your releases, what DVD are you the most proud of? What DVD was your best or fastest seller?

I'm a perfectionist, so I'm never really completely happy with any of the releases.  I inevitably find something that could have been better.  I like the Lucio Fulci audio interview on the BRUTE AND THE BEAST dvd because Fulci is completely candid and I find it quite funny when he cuts down Franco Nero as an actor.  Usually when we do interviews we run the risk of actors and directors who are afraid to say anything bad about anyone and all you get are comments like "oh, he was a nice guy", which makes for a boring interview.

Funny enough, the GOLIATH peplum double feature has been our best seller by far.

6) What was the first Spaghetti Western you ever saw and what elements draw you to loving the genre so much?

The first spaghetti western I ever saw in the theaters was SAVAGE GUNS with Richard Basehart way back in 1961 in Hong Kong.  After that I saw hundreds of spaghetti westerns  because Hong Kong theaters showed films in from Italy, Spain, France and Germany.  Theater prices were extremely cheap, the most expensive seats costing about sixty cents US.  I loved the way the spaghetti westerns were packed with action and almost always led up to an impressive climactic duel with that fantastic music playing.  Being into photography from an early age I was also very aware of the great camera angles and compositions in many of the films.

It's difficult to say what your favorite spaghetti westerns are, because there are great pleasures to be found on all levels.  I think most people would agree that ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is a masterpiece, but a small, low budget film like THE UGLY ONES (PRICE OF A MAN) is also hugely entertaining.  Then there are specific scenes in films that are standouts as well, even though the film isn't successful as a whole - for instance, the opening of MATALO, or the final duel in NO ROOM TO DIE.
7) What is your all time favorite Spaghetti Western actor and character ("Man with No Name", "Django", "Sartana", etc.)?

My favorite all time spaghetti western actor is Tomas Milian.  He looked great and brought a lot of character to all his roles.  I had the pleasure of seeing him in the play SUENOS in New York in 1990, and introduced myself backstage.  He couldn't believe that  anyone remembered his westerns.  I arranged to interview him for Westerns All'Italiana magazine.  Following that, of course, he was interviewed many, many times by cult magazines and dvd companies like Anchor Bay.

My favorite character was Django, and I used to get a kick out of the later Django films where the character was nothing like the original.  I remember seeing DJANGO SHOOTS FIRST when it first came out in the theaters and laughing when Glenn Saxson came on the screen. He was nothing like Franco Nero's original character.

8) Besides Sergio Leone, who seems to be nearly everyone's favorite director of the genre, who is your personal favorite director?

My favorite director, apart from Leone, was probably Sergio Corbucci.  He made consistently good films, the only inferior western being THE WHITE, THE YELLOW AND THE BLACK. I just saw COMPANEROS on the big screen at a theater in NYC and was greatly impressed.

9) I am also a huge fan of what Quintin Tarantino calls the "Macaroni Combat" genre of Italian war films. Any chance we will see other releases in the future along the lines of the "Salt in the Wound" and "Churchill's Leopards" double feature?

Unfortunately Italian WW2 films are a disaster.  There does not seem to be a market for them.

10) Since your DVD releases are limited editions, once they go out of stock their prices sky rocket on eBay and with third party sellers. Any chance such high demand titles as the first "Sartana" film and "Day of Anger" will ever see a re-release along the lines of "Kill and Pray"?

We are currently discussing the possibility of putting out a SARTANA box set with all the Garko Sartana films restored and remastered.
11) A man by the name of Charles Ambler gives wonderful incites and facts about the films on liner notes accompanying the DVD cover artwork. Who exactly is Charles Ambler and how did you come to use his infinite knowledge of the genre for your DVD releases?

Charles Ambler is a really good writer and, I think, a teacher.  Ally met him quite awhile ago, and he is very reliable for giving us excellent liner notes.

12) The artwork has always been my favorite part of your releases as it incorporates original poster artwork into the design. I learned that it was actually you that does all the design work. How long on average does it take you to design a DVD cover and how did you gain such wonderful skills to do so?

I went to art college and have a masters degree in fine art and filmmaking.  When I came to New York, I had to learn the commercial end of art almost overnight.  I also did a lot of illustration, and illustrated several books, and developed the EVIL ERNIE and LADY DEATH characters for Eternity Comics.  After working in the commercial art field since the mid 1970s, it was a natural transition to do Wild East's dvd covers.

13) I noticed your wonderful transfers for "Grand Duel", "Beyond the Law" and "Johnny Yuma" were 'stolen' or 'borrowed' by other companies and used in many of those multi-film Spaghetti Western bargain sets. Was there any notion on your part to ever take legal action?

The Spaghetti Western "Bargain set" manufacturers are a pain in the neck!  Of course we are upset by getting ripped off by them, but the public get what they pay for.  JOHNNY YUMA, for instance, is missing some scenes that we restored in those cheap sets.  Other films are full screen, and, if you are fitting that many films on dvds, you are not providing great quality.  They are also missing any extras we provide.  Usually, by the time these sets come out, we have sold out our dvd runs.

14) The company name Wild East is very clever for representing the films you release. Was it you the coined the name?

When we started the company we had a long brainstorming session to come up with a name, and since we are based on the East Coast, we did a variation on the term "Wild West".

15) Though the company is obviously a labor of love by you for these genre films, is there much profit in such a market as Spaghetti Westerns? Have you been pressured lately to move towards the Blu-ray market?

Yes, we have been pressured to enter the Blu-ray market.  We'll see what happens.

16) The question everyone wants to know: what are your personal top ten favorite spaghetti westerns?

My favorite spaghetti westerns include ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, GOOD BAD & UGLY, THE UGLY ONES, COMPANEROS, FURY OF JOHNNY KID, DAY OF ANGER, RETURN OF RINGO, IN THE DUST OF THE SUN, A MAN CALLED BLADE, KEOMA, DJANGO, and THE GREAT SILENCE.  There are more, but these are the first that come to mind.

17) Last but not least can you give fans any hints on what's in store for Wild East to release in 2012?

I mentioned that we are looking into releasing a SARTANA box set, and we are negotiating for some releases that will be very interesting for collectors.  I don't want to jinx them!  We also have great interviews with a lot of actors and actresses like Nieves Navarro, Frank Brana, Ricardo Palacios, Teresa Gimpera, and several more to add as extras.

A special thanks goes out to Eric Mache for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. Please head over to the official Wild East website and pick up some titles and help support this wonderful cult film company!

Here's a video of my personal collection of Wild East DVDS