REWIND FEATURE: Interview with Fabulous Films

Hi Richard, first of all many thanks for taking the time out for this interview with questions from our users. It is greatly appreciated. However, as usual, I will be selfish and ask a question first myself, though could you please tell us about your career with Fabulous and your background?

I joined Robert Starks back in 2001. Robert had set Fabulous Films up 10 years previously and he had some great titles including Blake's 7, Monkey, The Water Margin and some classic films including Dark Star. Robert was managing rock bands at the same time and he moved to Los Angeles with one of his projects that had been signed to Universal Records. The initial 1 year plan to move to LA went out the window and he still lives there. I had known Robert through my brother who was in the aforementioned band. I had been working in the film industry for the previous 8 years as an assistant director and I had then gone on to produce many music videos. Robert had asked if I could transfer his catalogue to DVD and 15 years later we are still talking!

1) You recently allowed us to break the news of some excellent classic TV coming to Blu-ray (A-Team, Miami Vice, Magnum PI, Knight Rider, and The Incredible Hulk). Can you divulge some more information about the masters being used for the transfers, packaging style, possible price points, all original music included etc?

NBC Universal have been internally restoring a lot of their assets for digital purposes, yet a lot of the time, they have no intention of releasing on Blu-ray or re-releasing the restored versions on DVD, due to the reducing home entertainment market. That is where we come in and we try to convince them there may be a small market for the product. We are reversioning the artwork based on the previous international DVD releases. As far as we know all the original music is included - there rarely is a problem with NBC Universal shows. As you know, the production costs for making Blu-rays is significantly higher than DVDs. These sets are likely to sell no more than 5% of what the DVD complete version has historically done. These editions are as good as you are ever going to get and they are a great collector or gift item. For example, all 4 seasons of Knight Rider will be on 20 Blurays, the RRP is likely to be about £149.99, which means Amazon will be selling for about £100. Until the manufacturing costs come down, it is difficult for an independent label like ours to compete with studios pricing. We have fixed royalties, fixed distributing costs and fixed sales costs. Studios absorb this all internally, which always makes our products dearer.

2) Adam Petrie says, I have the Water Margin Blu-ray set on pre-order and can't wait for it to be released. Can you tell me about the full Japanese versions of the TV show and what had to be done to get the English dialogue and credit sequences?

Thanks Adam. The BBC bought in The Water Margin in the mid 70's and set about creating their own classic version narrated by the late Bert Kwok. They would have been given clean beginning and end titles to create their own version. The BBC junked tens of thousands of masters they held about 8 years ago and they only kept BBC owned titles. From my understanding they did little job of tracking down the ownership of certain assets and these have now been lost forever, unless someone starts mining landfills! So there were no clean titles in the UK and Japan could not locate theirs. The owners in Japan had restored the original Japanese version, and we had the original English Digibeta tapes. We had to lift the audio and place it on the Japanese version, restore the beginning and end credits and attach those too. We found the Japanese version was a lot more violent than the English due to the early evening time slot. Also some Japanese scenes had some lengthy dialogue sections that were not necessary to the English version. We have included every single bit that we could, that had been cut from the English version.

3) You seem to have a great deal with Universal, not only re-releasing some of their previous releases but giving some films their worldwide debut on the format. Will this continue in the future? Which releases have you been surprised by the success of? James Patterson

Thanks James, we surely hope to. We have just secured another large batch of TV shows and films from them. We try to mine their catalogue as much as possible, as they have so much new content coming through, that sometimes it becomes easier to let out a title to a fresh set of eyes. A lot of time we can make a product work selling 500 units, others 5,000 is needed for them. It means a lot more product gets out there, which would have normally been overlooked. Parks and Recreation has been a good title for us, but apart from that, the rest are just steady catalogue titles. There are not thousands of sales in these titles anymore…The market is shrinking at such at an alarming rate due to digital, catch-up and piracy that we have to release 5 times as much content now to make it work.

4) Peter Hopper asks, I have been impressed with some of your Blu-rays, but left sorely disappointed at a couple of poor transfers (High Hopes, Killing Zoe) and incorrect aspect ratios (Rules of Engagement). How will you try and combat these issues in the future as it makes me more likely to wait for reviews than blind buy?

Thanks Peter,
Firstly High Hopes was a bit of learning curve for us, and it was in the infancy of Blu-ray. We used a master we thought was adequate and it obviously wasn't. The film is now with Channel 4 who have created a better HD master. Rules of Engagement was from an HD master supplied by the licensor - it was what they had created and we were tied to that. Killing Zoe was a tricky one, we licensed the DVD and Bluray rights and then we could not access the original negative nor could we access the HD master from the producer. We did an HD restoration from a print, which was not ideal, but significantly better than the DVD.. We are hoping to get access soon to the HD, so we will rerelease with a load of bonus material.

5) Are there titles Fabulous would like to release, but unable to licence? Christopher Williams

We are always chasing titles, luckily there has been very few that we have missed out on, that we really wanted. We have worked a lot with NBC Universal, Fox, MGM and CBS. Most of the other majors rarely sublicense content and they have so many gems in their vaults, that will probably never be released. We do appreciate fans emailing us with suggestions for releases, we will always investigate a title.

6) Loved The Wonder Years box set and finally being able to watch the episodes with ALL the original music. How much effort went into clearing all the rights and has the release been as successful as it deserves to be and any chance of this coming to Blu-ray? Harry Groves

Thanks Harry. The Wonder Years took 5 years from the initial communication to getting released. The show had so many legal issues preventing it from release that we had to get round. When the show was made, the producers only cleared the music for TV broadcast and not home video. The show then becomes very popular and then attempting to reclear the music becomes very expensive. Also down the years Fox kept on swapping out music tracks as the licenses expired, so trying to rebuild the show to it's original broadcast form became a challenge. All I can say is I had a lot more hair and we had a lot more money before we started working on this show. I loved the series as a youngster and it was a privilege to be able to bring it back. It has performed as expected in this climate, it is not cheap, as it cost a fortune to license and a fortune to clear and produce. It is great value and a brilliant gift, packed with 23 hours of bonus features and it should perform well over christmas. If it ends up doing well it could end up on Blu-ray, there are no plans in the US or UK for the foreseeable future though.

7) I would like to ask when we can expect the complete series of Monkey on Blu-Ray? I heard that it was under consideration at Fabulous a year or so ago, and having a complete set on Blu-Ray with the episodes Fabulous dubbed themselves (And perhaps even with the opening titles corrected to English like the others) would be brilliant and the opportunity to have all 52 episodes in the correct story order would be unmissable. Will this still be released and if so when? Nathan Lloyd

Thanks Nathan, it is on our schedule, I would hope in the next year for it to happen.

8) Will the "Lost" Episodes of Miami Vice the four episodes ("Miracle Man" and "Leap of Faith" etc) that were never originally aired as part of the series' original network run be included? If so will they be placed after the series finale, "Freefall", in the order that they were originally broadcast or the intended order? Will their still be a BBFC cut for the cockfighting? Aaron Esmonde

Thanks Aaron, I have not started work on this one yet, so cannot answer those questions. Feel free to email through the website and I will keep you updated as and when we have news. If you can offer any guidance or advice it would be most appreciated, we do like fans to get involved and tell us if we are going wrong.

9) Have you considered trying to licence current shows like 'The Americans’ that the main distributor (in this case Fox) appear to have abandoned on blu-ray? Richard Clark

Thanks Richard, at the moment Fox are not licensing any of their TV shows out, if this changes I will be on it!

10) What has happened to the Fabulous Frights range on Blu-ray? The Relic is my fave release of yours! Ricky Harding

Thanks Ricky, we are always looking for titles and have not been presented with anything suitable for the range recently. We are releasing a lot of old 50's Sci-Fi B movies on DVD at the moment, which are a lot of fun.

11) We were inundated with people asking if certain titles will be released by Fabulous on Blu-ray, with many noted numerous times. Maybe if I just list the most popular and you can give us a yes/no/maybe and even more info where possible?
- Night Gallery
- Quantum Leap
- Buck Rogers
- Murder, She Wrote
- Columbo
- Monk
- Day of the Jackal
- I Dream of Jeannie
- Bewitched
- Starsky & Hutch
- The Rockford Files
- Seaquest DSV
- The Raccoons (seasons 3-5 on DVD please!)
- Street Hawk
- Automan

We would love to release more of these titles on Blu-ray, the sad reality is they are currently only selling 5% of what the DVD has ever done. They are expensive to produce and manufacture and only certain genres work at the moment. If we license a show and the licensor already has HD materials, it stands a chance of getting a release. I think all of the above are maybes, it all depends on how much smaller the market shrinks. If consumers bought more Blu-rays, it would give us the confidence to invest in other titles. The Raccoons is still on my radar, I see Kevin Gillis from time to time and I have all the masters, I just have to sort a deal out with him!

Thanks very much for your time once again, but before I go, any chance of me being cheeky and seeing if there is any more exclusive news you can divulge about what the future holds?

We have got a long list of titles we have licensed from NBC which will keep me going for a while. I have already given you all my hot news!! I must say a big thank you to everyone that supports us by buying the products. We are not a big US studio, just 2 people who operate from a small office at Pinewood Studios and we have just celebrated our 25th anniversary this year. This has all been possible because of you guys. It is your ideas, your suggestions, your repeated emails that keeps it and us going. We need fan interaction, we need advice, we need criticism! ( we would prefer being emailed directly than being slammed on Amazon though!)

Click HERE to check out Fabulous Films on Amazon, or HERE for their official site.