Cinema Sewer’s Robin Bougie
WARNING: This Interview is not for the easily offended. Those of you who revel in the excesses of down and dirty exploitation film please, dive right in!
Film theory and general criticism has been feeling less then fresh in recent years. Most film courses now teach the same ideas and even very few reviews seem to focus on the more obscure features out there. That wasn’t until I stumbled upon a Canadian artist and cult film fan Robin Bougie. Bougie started self-publishing his own fanzine under the name “Cinema Sewer”. But it isn’t until recently that curious fans of cult film have had the chance to read his work outside of Canada. FAB Press released Volume 3 of Cinema Sewer back in August, below is an interview conducted with him over several emails.
I found him to be gracious and patient (particularly for my first interview). So sit back, relax; pick up a selection of the sleaziest and most shocking features out there, while I introduce The Sultan Of Sleaze, Mr Robin Bougie.
Dom: Cinema Sewer has now been going for 14 years and continues to from strength to strength. What made you decide to start your own fanzine and particularly one that is as niche as your publication?
Robin Bougie : I’m a comic artist, and have been self publishing my stuff since I was 17, and most of my friends, even today, are into the same kinda thing. There was this little photocopied comic zine a pen pal of mine named Rick Bradford did back in the mid 90s called POOPSHEET, and he asked me to do a column for it (It probably only had a print run of about a hundred or so copies). Since I was just getting into cult movies at the time, I decided to do it about that, but his zine went under after only one appearance of my Cinema Sewer column. It was such a blast reviewing movies (something I had never done before), it was a no-brainer to keep doing it in my own publication, which I started photocopying and mailing out to friends soon after. My wife Rebecca came up with not only the first cover, but also the name Cinema Sewer while we were sitting in the back of a friends van, driving around at night on the main highway on Vancouver Island, just outside Duncan.
Dom: For those that have not read or seen CS, the illustrations are a big part of the magazine (by both yourself and other graphic artists) and are part of what gives it, its uniquely sleazy feel. Do the ideas come during the writing process or do you plan what the drawings will be ahead of time?
RB: Well, the way I lay the magazine out is very old fashioned. I don’t use a computer program or anything. I make a paper paste-up model that is the same size as the printed page you see in the books and magazines. The first thing I have to do is research and a lot of note taking. Then I type the article out, and then the third thing is deciding what the illustrations are going to be. After those are drawn (or found, in the case of old advertising art) I lay them out on the page with glue stick, and I print out the article. Then I sit down at my art desk, and hand letter the text around the illustrations. Doing it this way gives everything a very organic look that you can’t get from a desktop publishing program. I want CS to look unlike anything else out there.
Dom: What do you love most about the exploitation and sexploitation genres? Is it the so bad its good quality or the fact that they are more enjoyable (and less painful to watch) then the most recent piece of trash from some mediocre Hollywood actress?
RB: There are a few things I like about these movies. They have a lack of pretension, and a full-bodied sincerity that is undeniable. There is no irony. There is no winking and elbow jabbing to let you know that they’re in on the joke. These movies know very goddamn well who their audience is, and they make no apologies or concessions in serving up exactly what that audience wants. I respect that. I demand a lack of game-playing and bullshit both in my relationships with people, and in the movies I watch. That is not to say that all old genre movies are awesome and all new movies suck, because that is black and white, and movies (or any form of entertainment) is shades of grey. But I will say this: I’m not a fan of the fakeness that seems to be so prevalent now. Fake moaning and fake tits in the porn, fake computer generated blood (and even tits, now) in the horror films, and so on. I think a lot of people are getting sick of it, but they don’t know how to scratch the itch. What do you think the current obsession with reality TV is? People want something real. But as usual, the people in charge of making this content don’t get it.
Dom: How did your collaboration with Arrow Video in the UK come about for the release of Bare Behind Bars and the more recent Pervert.
RB: They went to Harvey Fenton at my publisher, FAB PRESS, and asked him if he knew anyone that was an expert on sex-related cinema. He publishes the book collections of my magazine in the UK, and was nice enough to offer my name and email up, and they contacted me. As usual in these kinds of things, it’s all about connections. That’s the thing, I get a lot of people asking me how to get work doing the kind of writing and art I do. It’s not so much about handing out portfolios and resumes, as much as it is about rolling up your sleeves and doing the work. Create a product, and a brand. Put yourself out there and show everyone that you don’t need to be “discovered”, that you can do it on your own. Ironically, that will get you discovered faster than anything. By the way, I’ve also done Arrow Video liner note essays for their releases of TOKYO DECADENCE and THE CHEERLEADERS as well.
Dom: Personally I think that Bare Behind Bars is one of the most enjoyably bad, Women In Prison films I have ever seen. Very little about it is well done (particularly when compared to, say, Female Prisoner Scorpion which is more arty and highly polished). But then that is part of its charm, along with the infamous ‘Raspberry Pudding’ line.
RB: As I mention in the liner notes on the DVD, Bare Behind Bars could well be the filthiest and most pornographic women’s prison movie ever made outside of the XXX classification.
And yeah, the Brazilian trash isn’t anything like the Japanese stuff. The Japanese are, even today, probably the best at merging the art-house and grindhouse aesthetics and mood into one amazingly cohesive end product. Class, sass and tortured ass. Only the French come close. Brazil? It’s pure sleaze. It’s fucking great stuff, man. The genre was known as Pornochanchada and they were exploitation movies that were really cooking in South America between 1977 and 1985. The Chada movies were a little more designed around getting laughs than their exploitation genre cousins in other countries, but they were nonetheless overtly vulgar, and intended to shock and dismay. There are a few other translated classic Chada movies out on DVD, like Amazon Jail, Violence and Flesh, and The Chick’s Ability. They’re all quite twisted, and worth a watch. Hopefully more will come out, because it’s a nearly untapped well as far as English translated versions go. There are so many more I want to be able to see! I mean, “Bruce Lee VS Gay Power”?? Hahaha, yes please!
Dom :”Bruce Lee Vs Gay Power” sounds like a slice of sleazy piece of brilliance. On the subject of slices of cult film brilliance, is there specific selection of cult films you would recommend for those who have recently gotten into this genre?
RB: I go through phases where I get really high on this or that, but there are a dozen that I keep coming back to, and feel are pretty much MUSTS -no matter where your genre film preferences reside. In no particular order:
THE STORY OF RICKY (Japan/Hong Kong 1991)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (Italy. 1968)
THE TAMING OF REBECCA (USA. 1982)
DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (Hong Kong 1994)
THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE (Sweden. 1974)
VICE SQUAD (USA. 1982)
SAVE THE GREEN PLANET (Korea. 2003)
HOUSE (Japan. 1977)
NOT A LOVE STORY (Canada. 1981)
FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41 (Japan. 1972)
THE HITCHER (USA. 1986)
COCAINE COWBOYS (USA 2006)
Dom: What are your opinions on the recent slew of the more modern exploitation features that have made their way onto cinema screens and DVD/Blu-Ray? Such as Hobo With A Shotgun, Machete, Bitch Slap, The Human Centipede et al. Personally I feel that some do lack that sincerity you would get from some actual exploitation films.
RB: I react to each one as an individual work of art, and try not to dismiss anything without seeing it. I’ve seen all the ones you mention there, except for Bitch Slap. (Interviewers note: Bitch Slap is beyond atrocious)
I thought MACHETE was a really exceptional film in particular. HOBO was entertaining, but I felt it really lacked quiet introspective moments — which are very important. Nothing but crazy action and insanity is like a paragraph where every sentence ends in ten exclamation points. It’s exciting, but it’s not good writing. Like SNAKES ON A PLACE, HUMAN CENTIPEDE was good with a midnight crowd that were hooting and laughing and interacting with the movie, but I highly doubt it would hold up to a night alone with a beer and a bag of chips. I really liked the sewn ass-to-mouth concept though, very original.
Dom: Within the pages of CS there is (as you have previously mentioned) various different cut outs and advertisements. These are some fantastic past highlights for fans of cult film. I even noticed a few advertisements for 42nd street double bills. Are these from personal collections?
RB: Yeah, they’re almost all from my collection. I have what I figure is one of, if not the biggest ad-mat collection in Canada. Ad-mats are the little black and white ads that movies use to advertise in newspapers, and they usually came supplied in press books up until the mid 1980s. For more than a decade now I’ve been tracking down the press books for these movies, or going to libraries are spending afternoons going through back issues of old newspapers and printing out the adds for the types of movies I write about in CS.
Finally is there anything you would like to cover in future copies of CS, that you have yet to get round to doing?
RB: A lot of times I’ll be researching an article for a year or a half a year before I get around to writing it, so I have a lot of fish in the fire at the moment. Nazispolitation is something I’ve wanted to do for about 8 years. Never had the adequate page space to really devote the amount of verbiage I want to the genre, but I have something in the works with a contributor. I’ve also been writing a big thing about GEWNDOLINE (France. 1984), and her creator, John Willie. John was the infamous publisher of the 1950s fetish magazine “Bizarre”, and I’ve been researching how an investigation into his involvement with a 19 year old bondage model who was photographed, raped, and then murdered pretty much ruined his career and life- even though he was innocent. Look for that in a future issue.
Robin is currently doing a free 1-hour book drawing for everyone that orders Cinema Sewer vol. 3 directly from him before Dec 1st 2011. If you are interested and want to keep his unique piece of fanzine going, check out the link below for full details.
Also feel free to check out his live journal for daily updates over at http://bougieman.livejournal.com/
(Images copyright Cinema Sewer, Robin Bougie and Arrow Video UK)