Friday, May 2, 2014

Sheer Filth: Review and Interview with Editor David Flint

David Flint’s U.K. based zine, Sheer Filth, has seen the light of day again this April, after FAB Press released both a hardback and softcover compendium. This complete collection includes all the issues of the zine from 1987 to 1990, including some of Flint’s previously unreleased material, or articles published elsewhere during the same time period. If, like me, you were simply too young (and on the wrong continent) to be exposed to Sheer Filth, now is your chance to snap up a publication essential for all fans of cult, erotica, horror, and exploitation.

While the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was a critical time for homemade zines and independent magazines about cult cinema, including the likes of Shock Xpress, Cinefantastique, and many others, Sheer Filth put an emphasis on exploitation and erotica somewhat lacking in other horror-focused publications. Editor David Flint wrote and organized an impressive body of content that covers quite a lot of ground throughout the book’s 200+ pages. Opening with a lengthy article about and interview with B-movie producer David F. Friedman (Blood Feast, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, and so many more), the zine covers everyone from Jörg Buttergereit (Nekromantik), Samuel Z. Arkoff, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ed Wood, Betty Page, Irving Klaw, Pee-Wee Herman, Annie Sprinkle, and more.

There are also numerous film reviews, including the Carry On series, an article about sex cinemas in Britain, The Horror of Party Beach, porn and erotica like The Devil in Miss Jones, Salon Kitty, and Mesa of Lost Women. Sheer Filth was also famously the first U.K. publication to cover Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People (typing that sentence was a joyous experience). Cinema is far from the only subject, and you’ll find everything from book reviews of Apocalypse Culture to fiction, tomes on sex, serial killers, Grand Guignol, the Marquis de Sade, and more. Music and art are both represented with reviews and articles on Robert Crumb, Vienna Aktionism, Psychic TV, Coil, Trevor Brown, and even a nice article on songs about death.

Arguably, you could find information about all of these things online – but you would already have to know what to look for. Sheer Filth is an indispensable resource, because it’s a connoisseur’s collection of books, movies, music, artists, and other things that are still underrepresented, out of print, not yet on DVD, or that you may still not have heard of, particularly for younger genre fans not around during the zine boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s. And that is Sheer Filth’s second major draw – it is an almost perfect time capsule of underground culture from that period. Clearly a labor of love, it is well-organized and easy to read, but also sticks to a traditional zine format and includes posters, flyers, drawings, stills, and plenty of topical illustrations. The interviews are also well worth the reasonable price of admission, as you can choose between a hard or softcover version and the book is available in the U.K. and the U.S.

Editor David Flint (he is certainly not the only contributor for Sheer Filth) was kind enough to let me ask him a few questions about the experience of creating Sheer Filth and preparing it for publication now. In addition to editing and writing for Sheer Filth, Flint has contributed to Penthouse, Flesh & Blood, Bizarre, and more, as well as written booklet notes for a number of DVD releases, including Salon Kitty, The Brood, Santa Sangre, etc. And that’s just the bare minimum of his work, which includes book publications, radio, and online writing and editing.

Satanic Pandemonium: I was part of the first generation to really use the internet to develop my knowledge/fandom, but most of it still came from word of mouth at screenings, books, zines, the video store, and bootleg services, due to lack of overwhelming internet content in the early ‘90s. How did you find out about things growing up? What were some of your favorite gateways?

David Flint: Well, the zine scene was essential. A local shop got a stack of old Cinefantastiques in when I was a kid and I picked up as many as I could afford - that was full of movies you'd never heard of. Then, there were the books - Denis Gifford's Pictorial History of Horror Movies and Alan Frank's Horror Films were essential volumes for any kid into horror. Later, the likes of Re/Search's Incredibly Strange Films and The Psychotronic Encyclopedia were eye-openers. Though by the time they came out, we were all carrying out our own explorations in video stores, renting movies we'd never heard of (because most books and zines at that point were still very U.S./U.K. biased). So it was a combination really. Some very odd things would turn up on TV at that time too -- Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler: A Film from Germany having a peak time Saturday night slot just before the horror double bills on BBC2 when I was about ten. So my interest in art house and experimental cinema began really early as a result.

SP: There are some truly amazing interview subjects and contributing writers throughout the various issues of Sheer Filth. How did you find those contacts?

DF: I can't remember exactly. H.G. Lewis was doing an appearance at the Scala in London, which is where I met him; I obviously found Dave Friedman's address somewhere. Tuppy Owens got in touch to subscribe, funnily enough. A lot of people were attending festivals and similar events -- Pam Green was doing promotional stuff for David McGillivray's book for instance, and Annie Sprinkle was performing in Newcastle (I used to travel a lot to interview people!). As time went on, it certainly became easier to access people, but nothing like it is now where you can hit them up on Twitter or Facebook.

SP: To get a little more in depth, how did you manage to find out about some of the things Sheer Filth covered very early on or before anyone else in the U.K.? Nekromantik comes to mind.

DF: Nekromantik credit has to go to David Kerekes, who had made contact with Jörg Buttgereit before the film was made -- so we ran his review of Jörg's earlier film Hot Love in issue 2, I think. As a result of that, he got in touch with me, sending the poster for Nekromantik over, and we went from there. We became buddies for a few years - even went to see the Cramps together when he was over here for a festival!

As for other stuff, it was just luck. There was a finite amount of material that anyone could cover, and not THAT many zines out there. As a lot of them were video nasty/gore fixated, it was fairly easy to pick up on other stuff. I just wrote about the sort of things I was seeing at the time -- when someone in Italy says they have a mondo movie called Mutant Sexual Behaviour, of course you have to see it! There was definitely a certain level of competition in the end to find rare stuff no one else had seen, but initially, it really was a case of seeing something weird and then writing about it. I always thought that was the whole point -- why write about the same old films? If people were buying my zine, I wanted them to be told about films, books and music they might not know about, not to give them yet another New York Ripper review.

SP: Do you have a favorite Sheer Filth memory?

DF: Not really, to be honest. It was actually a pretty good time all round, so any memories are more general ones of the period -- hanging out in Manchester with like-minded miscreants every Saturday, usually lurking around Steve's World Famous Movie Store, which became the central fanzine selling hub in the city. This was the era of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, so there was a real buzz about the city, even if you weren't into that scene. It was a great time, looking back on it, and publishing Sheer Filth did mean that I was at the centre of it. So I think that is the best memory -- just the whole atmosphere of that period, from 1988 to maybe 1995.

SP: Why release a compilation of Sheer Filth now? And how has the reception been?

DF: The project came about because I was looking at the idea of e-books and thought it might be worth digging out the old material and giving it a new life. It was originally that simple - scan and upload. But I'm too picky to let it go like that and thought I could tidy it up a bit, correct some typos, get better quality images… anyway, Harvey from FAB Press was up at the Mayhem Film Festival and I mentioned this to him, and he was keen on the idea, so we pretty much etched an agreement that weekend to do it as a proper book. Thank God! It took a couple of years after that to finally appear, but I'm very happy with it -- I'm my own biggest critic normally, but because this content it so old, I can actually look at it objectively now and enjoy it again.
And people seem to be enjoying it. The reviews have been embarrassingly positive, we had a great launch night, showing Jake West's Video Nasties: Draconian Days to a sold-out crowd, and it seems to be selling well. I was always aware that there seemed to be more love for Sheer Filth than anything else I've done, for whatever reason.

SP: What are some other recent or upcoming projects we should look out for?

DF: I'm working on a couple of things for FAB, but neither has been announced yet, so I can't say what they are -- one has to do with film censorship. I'm still looking at the idea of e-books for some projects and of course I have my website ( Other than that, I have to work out a way of making a living -- times are hard in the freelance world!

SP: Thanks, so much, David!

You can pick up Sheer Filth from Amazon or the hardcover directly from FAB Press – and again, it comes highly recommended and is a critical resource for anyone interested in exploitation, horror, cult cinema, or underground culture.

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