Interview: Remote Control director Jeff Lieberman


International House Philadelphia will be hosting a special screening of the 1987 cult film Remote Control on July 30th. We picked the brain of the film’s director Jeff Lieberman on the impetus behind restoring the VHS classic, the films relevance today, and his upcoming projects. Lieberman will also be in attendance on the 30th for a Q&A following the screening so don’t miss out on this unique experience! Find out more after the interview below.

Cinedelphia: What went into the decision to restore Remote Control?

Jeff Lieberman: I’ve made five feature films and it’s the only one among them that doesn’t ‘live on’ in the digital world. The chief reason it’s not been seen on television in the past ten or so years is because it’s never been digitized and could only be played in the old analogue, square TV low resolution format, which nobody plays anymore. So essentially, nobody’s seen the movie the way it was intended to be seen since back when it was first released in 1988. Now it will live on in digital eternity!

C: Why did you choose to take on the project yourself?
JL: I waited and waited for someone to do it figuring so many lesser titles have made it to DVD but to no avail. Now with Blu-ray, there was an opportunity to present it in the exact quality and format as it was originally intended and the timing was perfect with so much of the home video generation looking back at, and re-embracing, their beloved VHS tapes of the 80s and 90s.
C: The film is quirky and loads of fun, it’s hard to imagine why it became a ‘lost film’ in the first place. Can you tell me a little about the film’s journey, from its inception, its fade into obscurity, up to its restoration?
JL: The reason it became a ‘lost film’ is that it was made as part of a package of ten movies by a financing group that was trying to cash in on, ironically, the video explosion around that time, 1987. The way things went with independent film packages in those days is that the entire lot of them sells to another bigger distribution company, and that company in turn gets bought up by an even bigger one. The end of the line for this package, along with hundreds of other titles, was Carolco Pictures, who eventually went bankrupt in 1998. Remote Control had played on American television in the old format quite frequently on places like USA Networks, Sci-Fi Channel and syndicated stations, but the only format in home video was the original VHS release. It took a lot of research but I was finally able to get the go ahead and at my own expense, created the newly remastered digitized version, just in time for its 25th anniversary.
C: Were there any surprises in revisiting the film?
JL: It immediately struck me how much more the movie resonated today than it did back when I made it. It’s one thing to be satirizing the times you’re living in, in this case the home video explosion of the late 80’s, the sudden flood of obscure horror and sci-fi movies available on the new format, the ‘how to’ videos etc., and quite another to look back on that era now. Because I satirized and exaggerated everything, the fashions, the hair styles, the music of the times, it really serves as sort of a time capsule now, something I never thought about while I was making it.
C: Since reissuing the film on DVD/Blu Ray, what has the response been like?
JL: The response has been terrific. I spent the money it takes to put out a top quality product, no shortcuts, just the way a studio would do it pressed from a 2K color corrected transfer. My greatest concern was quality because I knew it would be looked at skeptically by the techie geeks since I was doing this myself and not known for this type of thing. So aside from the great reaction to the movie itself from those who either never saw it before, or only saw it in the old format, I’m delighted that it passed the grade with flying colors with the tech minded crowd.
C: Since the film is clearly a love letter to the B science fiction movies of the 1950s, could you tell us what films inspired you during the making of Remote Control?
JL: Pretty much ALL of the great 1950s sci-fi inspired me on this movie, but especially the ones that were based around the fears of that time during the Cold War, and the eminent atomic war that was to happen any day. This new fear of radiation fallout was instilled by the government on a daily basis so Hollywood producers quickly ‘cashed in’ on it and made movies that directly fed into the fears the audience already had coming in. Movies like The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Day the World Ended, etc. In the 1970s the government did a similar thing with LSD and their outrageous claims of the harms it could do ingesting this new almost alien product, so I reacted with a movie called Blue Sunshine tapping right into the bogus fears already sold to the audience. So when the home video ‘explosion’ happened I said to myself, ‘aha, another new thing!’ People are suddenly doing something en mass they’ve never done before, renting movies in stores and playing them in their homes. What evil and symbolic ramifications could I glean from this phenomenon? ‘The Aliens!’ Then I sat down and wrote the movie.
C: What’s next for you? Any new projects on the horizon?

JL: I do have a movie called Cinemuerte which I’m trying to put together and am also going to do a lecture series on the history of the horror movie at Purchase College in the fall.

Remote Control-feature

Remote Control
1987 / 35mm / Dir. Jeff Lieberman / 88 min.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Doors at 7:00 pm, Show at 7:30pm – $15 (ON SALE SOON)
International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia

Fans of 1980s sci-fi cinema–and those nostalgic for the glorious video store era–will not want to miss this rare screening of a forgotten gem. Kevin Dillon (most famous from the television series Entourage, but we’ll always remember him as the kid from Heaven Help Us and the Blob remake) stars as a video store clerk who uncovers an insidious extra-terrestrial plot to brainwash mankind via hypnotic VHS tapes!  Picture an amalgam of the movies Clerks, They Live, and Ringu, and that will give you some idea of what to expect from this clever satire of the video craze of the ‘80s.This special screening is hosted by genre favorite Jeff Lieberman (director of Blue Sunshine, Squirm, and Just Before Dawn), who will be on hand to introduce Remote Control, as well as do a Q & A with audience members following the film.  Be sure to catch this one-time only event!

Author: Lucas Mangum

Lucas Mangum is an author from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His flash fiction has been published in Death Head Grin, MicroHorror, and his short story “Goblins” is available as an ebook. He also hosts the bi-monthly Awesome Reading Fests in Doylestown. Read his blog, The Dark Dimensions, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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