Nathan Shumate’s terrific website Cold Fusion Video Reviews has been going about as long as mine has. In 2010, Nathan collected some of his always astute and entertaining reviews into a book, The Golden Age of Crap. Which seemed like a good time to interview him.
“The number doesn't have any particular significance. I had decided on the theme for the book (movies which gained their audiences on VHS through the '80s and '90s), and went through the movies I had reviewed to find a good cross-section of interesting reviews from the time period. I put the number of reviews in the subtitle so that people would know this isn't supposed to be a comprehensive guides to the B-movies of the period; it's a smattering of the high and low points.”
How much rewriting did you do from the online versions of the reviews?
“In some cases, not a lot. In others, I revised drastically. The overall thrust of my rewriting was to make the reviews make sense in chronological order.”
Isn’t there a danger that you might alienate some of the B-movie makers that you know by featuring their work in your book?
“It's a danger I'm willing to face! Seriously, though, I don't cast personal aspersions on any of the directors in the book (aside from Albert Pyun, and he's probably used to it by now). I have tremendous respect for genre workhorses like Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski; that doesn't mean they don't turn out an unimpressive movie now and then. And they've all got pretty thick skins anyway; after all, for most of their career people have been looking down their noses at them because the area of the movie industry in which they work isn't ‘respectable’ or ‘legitimate’."
How much effect, if any, do you think online film reviewers have on audiences and on the industry?
“I don't think that mainstream movie releases are much affected by movie reviews, online or otherwise. I mean, Transformers 2 got a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it grossed over $400 million domestically. But with movies from the ‘long tail,’ where there isn't a massive TV ad campaign and Happy Meal tie-in, more fringe-oriented reviewers that their audiences have grown to trust can make a relatively big difference.”
What is the absolute worst film you have ever reviewed?
“There are several contenders for that title, unfortunately. I think I'll have to go with Killers in the Woods (2005), an amateur shot-on-video project that was really nothing more than an incompetent faux-snuff fetish film: the main character meets a woman walking through the woods, they ad-lib some dialogue, he strangles her, lather, rinse, repeat. I tried to dissuade the filmmaker who contacted me about taking a screener, but he kept insisting on sending it to me. So I don't feel sorry for him.”
And what is the most notable response you have had to a review?
“A few years ago, I tracked down a cartoon feature I remembered faintly from seeing it on TV in my preschool years. It turned out to be the early anime Jack and the Witch (1967). In my review I included an account of what little I had remembered of the movie and how I tracked it down, and over the next couple of years several dozen people wrote to thank me; they had had similar maddeningly vague memories of the movie from TV viewings in their childhood, and when they googled what little they could remember - often a scene in which one character chants, ‘Into the machine! Into the machine!’ - they found my review. It astounded me how many people retained trace memories of a single viewing of that movie, each half-believing that they had dreamed it all because they had never heard of it since.”
Interview originally posted 17th June 2010