Mike Vraney, founder of the underground/exploitation film distro concern Something Weird Video, died yesterday after a long struggle with lung cancer. He is survived by his wife, artist Lisa Petrucci.
Something Weird (warning: boobies) was founded in Seattle in 1990, and has kept thousands of filmed oddities alive and available that almost certainly would have lost were it not for Vraney’s curatorial ministrations. From SW’s about page:
Here on your screen is a whole world of film that just a few short years ago was considered lost or worthless. The industry that produced and distributed these films had long since vanished and there was no sign of the men who actually created these bottom of the barrel celluloid wonders. That is until now.
In 1990 (roughly), we started Something Weird Video with the idea of releasing films that had never been on video. In my mind, the last great genre to be scavenged were the exploitation/sexploitation films of the 30’s through the 70’s. After looking into this further, I realized that there were nearly 2,000 movies out there yet to be discovered. So with this for inspiration, my quest began and wouldn’t you know, just out of the blue I fell into a large collection of 16mm girlie arcade loops (which became the first compilation videos we put together!) Around the same time I received an unexpected phone call that suddenly made all this real - my future and hands-down the king of sexploitation Dave Friedman was on the other end of the line - this would be the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship for both of us. Dave’s films became the building blocks for our film collection and he has taught and guided me through the wonderful world of sexploitation - introducing me to his colleagues (Dan Sonney, Harry Novak, H.G. Lewis, Bob Cresse, and all the other colorful characters who were involved during his heyday) and they’ve been eager to dive into the business again. (And initially, most are shocked that anyone is even interested in this stuff to begin with!)
Anyone—everyone—interested in strange cinema owes Mike Vraney a debt. The video shop that I mentioned in a DM post just yesterday carried so a huge a selection of his wares that they ultimately wound up simply giving him his own Something Weird wall, so much of worth did he preserve. Very little of SW’s stock is work safe—sleaze was the order of the day—but this relatively tame trailer imparts the kitschy, campy, sexy, goofy fun of the films he rescued from oblivion. We salute you and your legacy, Mr. Vraney, and we’re very sorry to lose you.