Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

Sub Rosa is back with a Video Vengeance, and releasing a bunch of bodacious VHS with groovy extras! I'm talking Legos based on characters from their flicks! INSANO GROOVY, MAN!

New entities of video-obsessed entrepreneurs are releasing tapes all over the place, paying homage to their most beloved analog obscurities and rescuing them from certain cinematic oblivion. But there's one company that's been doing it since 1992, and they've recently re-animated their VHS label Sub Rosa to bring all the Videovores out there some retro-slices of SOV madness along with what promises to be a long line of video trastherpieces to come. SRS Proprietor and video-era veteran Ron Bonk spills his guts all about the history of his company and its dealings with the SOV distribution market, the ballooning VHS resurgence, and most importantly, how he's having a blast bringing it all back...


LM:You were there for the initial start up of SRS Cinema. How did it come to be? RB: Yep, my company… it basically formed as an offshoot of Sub Rosa Studios, which was the incorporated version of Salt City Home Video. SRS Cinema was initially going to focus on in house productions and higher budget releases, where Sub Rosa was focused on super-low budget stuff; but eventually SRS became more of the focus and Sub Rosa all but closed down. But I've brought back Sub Rosa for these VHS releases, which has been fun! LM: Could you explain the difference between SRS Cinema and Sub Rosa, just so people know what’s up!? RB:Both are LLC's: Sub Rosa came first, as a distributor; I formed SRS Cinema originally for the production side of things and to handle more "elite" type production for distribution. But eventually it all became SRS because it was easier to go under one label. But now I brought Sub Rosa back… Sub Rosa handles the VHS distribution; SRS handles the DVD and the production side of things. LM: The catalog for the O.G. SRS became reasonably massive. How did acquisitions happen? Was SRS a large entity, or more of an indie operation? RB: SRS was definitely an indie operation, but that didn't stop us from having a large catalog… we owned the distribution rights to 150 titles at peak. Due to shrinking demand in the marketplace we signed less and less and didn't resign titles that expired, and the catalog is about half that now. As far as acquisition, my name was just out there, via the 3 companies: Salt City, Sub Rosa, SRS Cinema - and filmmakers sought me out. I had/still have great relationships with many filmmakers and they spread the word to other filmmakers they meet. Product still comes in; we are just much more specific these days, focusing on gore/exploitation where in the past we tried art house/drama/docs/etc., so we don't pick up much still. In fact, we are more inclined to produce stuff in house and own it for life, but if we have a really good pic come across our desk, we will sign it! We release about 4-6 DVD's a year and are on schedule to do 12-20 VHS releases this year.

Sub Rosa's new VHS releases thus far! Man, dig that sweet, sweet uniformity! Reminds one of Key Video, no?!

LM: Were the people behind SRS personally inclined to low budget horror and fringe cinema, or was it more of a business angle? RB: Definitely personally inclined… still am! But like any company, we eventually tried bigger budget stuff. We had some large budget stuff… some up to $1 million dollar budgets… offered to us and at first we declined this product. Our releases were never grossing anywhere near $1 million let alone $100K, but after awhile we did sign some higher budget stuff hoping that with the connections we had built, they would in turn do much more with product with higher production values/name actors/etc. But no, they pretty much did the same as the low budget stuff, many times much worse. My buyers wanted their gore, horror, exploitation; they didn't care about a dramatic festival indie flick even if it was a really good flick. LM: What ultimately made SRS shut down? Or go into a hiatus, as it were? RB: SRS is alive and well! Sub Rosa closed for awhile… running 2 companies was too much and it made more sense to focus on one company and the DVD releases coming out through it. But these days with the VHS line, we thought it would be fun to re-launch Sub Rosa for them. Sub Rosa has a lot of great fans; I was surprised by how many people I heard from about how beloved the label was, and since Sub Rosa was first a VHS line we figured it would bring back some fond memories if these titles had the Sub Rosa label above them. LM: What's up with Spine? I think you guys did the DVD version, but Vultra put out the VHS... Was it a rights issue or? RB: We never released Spine on DVD actually. We never had any rights to it... and neither did Vultra, actually! Vultra just took it and released it, and I gave Dave (the owner of Vultra and a good friend) shit about selling bootlegs. As a former SOV filmmaker, bootlegging was the biggest stab in the heart back in those days. We were struggling to make pennies off these movies and to have someone selling them without our permission or paying us was so disheartening. But Vultra since, as far as I know, only does legit releases, so that's a positive thing at least. Vultra DID release Scrapbook which we had released prior, and then Image released it. Scrapbook was soooo out there that I would never do a VHS re-release of it, unless it was a significantly different version, so I gave Eric (Stanze) my best wishes with Vultra and their release.

The O.G. VHS release of SPINE and Vultra's "Doin-it-my-way-or-no-way" VHS version. GROOVE ON BOTH.

LM: So the on-coming (and on-going!) VHS resurgence is what inspired the re-birth of Sub Rosa? RB: Yeah, as mentioned above, the re-emergence of VHS lead me to bring back Sub Rosa. Originally, I was just going to do them under the SRS label… but then I thought it would be fun to put Sub Rosa back up there on the covers.

The full-on package for DAY OF THE REAPER. Dig all those groovy extras, Videovores! The Lego man was in the bathroom at the time of this photo...

LM: Totally! The nostalgia in conjures is terrific, and it’s so groovy that you’re bringing back the label with all these videos. Speaking of, Day of the Reaper was an awesome VHS release, and it had some really outstanding extras. Whose idea was it to do a Lego man? Too cool!! RB: Thank you! We are definitely proud of it! I actually came across a Steven Spielberg Lego figure right before we released DotR and I thought “How funny would it be to do a Tim Ritter Lego?!". That eventually formed into a Reaper Lego figure and doing one for each of Tim's releases. Some people have asked if we will be doing Lego figures for the non-Ritter titles but, for now at least, I wanted to keep them exclusive to Tim's titles. I mean, that could change if demand is so high . The non-Ritter titles will instead have something different. We have been developing this character called "The Trader", which is basically a spin-off of an old idea we used to do called "The Red Files". The Trader will host each VHS release and we will have new short segments either online or on the VHS releases where you get to know The Trader and understand how he got all these tapes, and find out what a vicious individual he can be. We think it's a fun angle and we hope the fans enjoy it! Eventually, The Trader may only host specific VHS releases and we'll do something different for another specific line or something. But for now, Ritter titles will have Lego tie-ins; Non-Ritter titles will be hosted by The Trader.

Oh, well, here he is! Hey, groovy Lego Reaper dude! And who's your friend? Ah! It's the hitchhiker from TWISTED ILLUSIONS! You guys make a cute couple!

LM:Being in the original VHS game, what are your thoughts on the resurging interest in tapes? RB: It surprises me a bit, I guess… I just appreciate the clarity of DVD. It was frustrating shooting on S-VHS and Hi-8MM because you couldn't make the shots look like the Hollywood movies or get that cinematic look. And the grain was always frustrating. Then the VHS tapes I had, some of them would getting eaten by the players, or would deteriorate if not stretched once a year. And the players would crap out randomly. I was a bit skeptical of the new interest but as I looked at it further, I understood it. The nostalgia is a big draw, especially remembering what it was like to go into the old Mom & Pop video stores and look at these strange titles you never heard of and wonder what their plots were and so forth And there's this appreciation for the old style artwork, which is all but lost today . I'm excited about it now, especially as we do these limited edition releases. I like that there's an end point to the runs. I like that because of the limited runs these tapes will only increase in value. I like that the sales are direct to the retailers, no middle man, no getting screwed by a sub-distributor who might not pay you, and no returns. It's just clean and simple and the people buying these know what to expect so they aren't shocked when they don't see "Avatar" level FX, etc. The fans love these flicks and are so excited about them; it's just so much more pleasing and quick a process from picking a title to release next to being sold out and shipping that final copy.

Sub Rosa / SRS Cinema is is also dishing out A TON of old-school VHS love, selling off a bunch'a vintage VHS stock. BRINGIN' IT BACK, and we love it!

LM: What's next for SRS? You guys have a really killer catalog to pick from, so lots of Videovores out there (including myself!) are excited! RB: We are planning more releases! Of course, going through Tim Ritter's catalog, our extensive SRS backlog, and even touching base with old friends (or hearing from them first) to release their work on VHS. They all have really dug it so far. We are also planning some neat tie-ins to the videos. Like Ritter's flicks have the Lego figures, the non-Ritter flicks now have this character we created called "The Trader" who will host the releases more and more. Plus we have some neat and unique merchandise ideas, like limited edition prints, posters, Tees... it's all a lot of fun and so homegrown; I really enjoy it. And of course, more movies are planned, under SRS. We're editing She Kills right now, and have scripts in the works for several more movies, So, a lot of really cool things are planned, and you can stay up to date by the SRS Cinema Facebook page.

An insanely groove-tastic take on the classic Paragon-style art for one of Sub Rosa's upcoming releases: THE PACT. And below, some teaser artwork for Tim Ritter's VHS trashterpiece: TRUTH OR DARE! DIG IT.

LM: Anything else you'd like to add? RB: Well, I also run the Scare-A-Con Film Fest which is part of the convention James V. Johnson does. JV does an amazing event, a great horror and sci-fi convention that brings in some great celebs. I'm honored to run the film fest part of it. Basically, Scare-A-Con has absorbed my B-Movie Film Fest, which I've been running since 1999, and it's exciting to see it evolve to this newest form.

A super-bitchin' thanks and gnarly hi-five to Ron and his brands for championing VHS throughout the years and bringing it back for those of us who adore it! Be sure to groove on over to his sites and peep all of the mad radical video vindication they've got going on HERE and HERE.


Interview with Ron Bonk by Josh Schafer

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published