Cult Epics is twenty five years old, and this is their story.
Regular readers of my words here at Film School Rejects know that the only thing I love more than watching movies from the comfort of my own couch is watching genre titles from my couch that have been given brilliant new life on Blu-ray. I used to have to settle for VHS bootlegs of hard to find films, but these days we live in a world of spoils as dozens of genre-friendly labels release sharp restorations of beloved or under-appreciated gems on Blu-ray. Some focus on well-remembered classics (Scream Factory) while others deal mainly in the long-forgotten (Vinegar Syndrome), and all of them are deserving of our affection and cash money.
Cult Epics belongs in that latter group releasing titles that were never going to find mainstream appeal for one reason or another — not when they first hit screens, and not years later — and they’ve been at it longer than most. Founder Nico B started his own mail order company in the 80s specializing in rare, previously unavailable films that he was able to source directly from distributors and studios, and success led him to open physical stores in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. As much as he enjoyed broadening the availability of these titles, though, he had even grander aspirations.
The official Cult Epics label was birthed in 1991 and saw Nico bring films as diverse as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Cannibal Holocaust, and Tokyo Decadence to hungry movie fans in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The next quarter of a century saw VHS transition to DVD, and DVD turn into Blu-ray, and Cult Epics kept chugging along through it all. To celebrate those twenty five years in the business of loving oddball films the label has recently released a big, beautiful hardcover book (their second) detailing their many titles across various sub-genres.
Cult Epics: Comprehensive Guide to Cult Cinema is an over-sized and sturdy tome with glossy pages overflowing with photos (both color and b&w) and marketing artwork. Essays from numerous film historians, journalists, and Nico himself along with interviews with filmmakers accompany the images offering detailed looks at the various films and filmmakers who found a home with Cult Epics. The book is broken into sections including Arthouse, Horror, and Erotica, and they cut a wide swathe of violence, sex, and everything in between.
The Arthouse chapters afford time to Walerian Borowczyk (The Beast), Fernando Arrabal (The Guernica Tree), and a handful of filmmaker one-offs including movies starring the likes of Henry Rollins and Serge Gainsbourg. Horror dedicates a section to Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik) while also offering essays on oddball genre entries like Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, In a Glass Cage, and Dead Leaves. One of Cult Epics’ best titles, Angst, is also covered here with insight and detail by Charlie Hobbs.
Nico’s true love, though, is Erotica — he loves all of these movies, obviously, but his devotion for the saucier fare is undeniable — and the book follows suit. From the classic Japanese S&M romp School of Holy Beast to the Netherlands’ Venus in Furs to vintage film collections from the 20s through the 70s, the label has released numerous titles exploring cinema’s sensual and sexy side. Radley Metzger (The Lickerish Quartet) and the legendary Bettie Page each get their own chapters, but the most space is given to the great Tinto Brass.
Essays on the derriere master’s various films explore his love of the female form, his appreciation for film, and the varied tones and plots in which he dropped his lovingly photographed exploits. From Deadly Sweet to Paprika, fourteen of Brass’ films are discussed in detail, and the photos accompanying the text do a great job teasing his eye for beauty, humor, and controversial imagery. No one mentions his use of the occasional erect but clearly fake member, but some things are best discovered in the heat of the moment.
Nico’s fingerprints are all over Cult Epics: Comprehensive Guide to Cult Cinema, both in the film selections and the unapologetic love for them that comes across in the writings. His own dabblings in filmmaking are covered too along with his history in the field, but rather than feel distractedly self-serving it fits the book’s overall theme and interest. These are all movies available on Nico’s Cult Epics label after all, but the book is more than just a lavishly crafted catalog — it’s an ode to cinema itself. Cult or otherwise, this is cinema, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Visit the Cult Epics site to explore their titles, and order a copy of the book here.
Related Topics: Books