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Exclusive Q&A: Director Jeff Lieberman talks 4K “BLUE SUNSHINE” Screenings & Blu-ray

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For those unfamiliar, Jeff Lieberman’s BLUE SUNSHINE is the rare kind of horror film that redefines the term “cult classic.” As a film about LSD that, 10 years later, causes its users to go completely bald and commit senseless acts of bloody murder, BLUE SUNSHINE needs to be seen to be believed. And while the film had been a bit of a lost treasure among fright fans for a while, the film is currently taking revival houses by storm with a brand new 4K transfer.

Luckily, East Coast horror hounds will be among the first to see BLUE SUNSHINE in 4K, with the first true 4K screening taking place next Friday, December 11th, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY, with Lieberman himself there in attendance. With the screening a little over a week away, FANGORIA had an exclusive chat with the filmmaker about the 4K version of BLUE SUNSHINE, the upcoming Blu-ray release and what’s next for the genre great…

FANGORIA: How did the 4K restoration of BLUE SUNSHINE come together?

JEFF LIEBERMAN: You know how you hear about “lost footage” all the time? Usually, it’s bullshit; usually they just shot more footage and they put it back in. But with BLUE SUNSHINE, we actually had a lost negative and for 30 years, we’d assumed Movielab had lost it; shortly after Movielab went out of business, there was a flood and I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of movie negatives were ruined. Pretty much any material that had been stored in there were either ruined by the flood or stolen by people who just went in and took stuff since the place was virtually abandoned. But for years, I put the word out that I was looking for that negative and that’s why the film had a bit of a hiatus.

BLUE SUNSHINE was shown on television constantly, whether it was Showtime or The Movie Channel or WPIX, in the ‘80s and ‘90s but they were showing a version on magnetic tape made for 4:3 televisions. There were no letterbox televisions back then, but when the technology changed and DVD came along, we couldn’t sell the movie anywhere because no one would buy any movie whose sole element was an old 4:3 tape. So for ten or fifteen years, the movie sort of vanished until Synapse Films was hellbent on putting out a DVD, so we began looking for 35mm prints.

I had no idea if there were any 35mm prints out there, but we eventually found a terrible, terrible print at the British Film Institute. Synapse took 2 or 3 weeks to restore it to as good as possible, but it still looked like shit; it just looked like better shit. So that was our DVD, which came out maybe 10 years ago, but last year, I got tipped off by Brian Quinn at the New Beverly Theater in L.A. that he thought he might know where the negative might be. Then, Steve Morowitz went up to this warehouse in Seattle and told me that not only was it there, but they were in the original Movielab boxes and untouched for decades.

I thought it was a miracle, but a lot can happen to a negative over three decades: it could have gone magenta and a lot of other things could have happened. But as it turned out, the negative was perfect and it was the original negative used for making prints. So Morowitz and I went into a partnership to do a 4K scan, and in the 4K scan, we could get rid of dirt and scratches, and the color correction would be much easier, so now, BLUE SUNSHINE looks as good as it did when it was made.

The film looks great on the big screen; I recently saw it at the Silent Movie Theater in L.A. but because that theater doesn’t show first run movies, they don’t have 4K screening technology. So when BLUE SUNSHINE screened in L.A., it was naturally downgraded to 2K, which is what the Blu-ray is going to look like since you can’t tell the difference between 2K and 4K on the small screen. So the 2K version still looks great, and I’ve yet to see the 4K version in a theater. The first time I’ll be seeing the film in 4K is at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, and that’s going to look unbelievable. You really need that bigger screen and bigger theater to really appreciate the 4K version.

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FANGORIA: The fanbase for BLUE SUNSHINE has grown over the past few years, especially as the film has become available on DVD and streaming sites. However, with the film now in 4K, do you feel as it’ll be almost a different experience altogether?

LIEBERMAN: I think it gives fans a fair shot of seeing it how it’s supposed to be seen: in a theater as a group experience. But it’ll be a completely new experience for people who have only seen the film on DVD or on television. It’s not going to look like if you tried to make it now, but if you made a film that took place in 1977 about LSD that came from 1967, this version of BLUE SUNSHINE is what it would look like. The camerawork on the film is really slick, and the film is really a time capsule of the ‘70s, near the beginning of disco and at the end of hippie era.

FANGORIA: In terms of the 4K version of BLUE SUNSHINE, will the only way to see this print be via revival screenings since the Blu-ray will only be in 2K?

LIEBERMAN: Eventually, there will be a 4K Blu-ray; they’re not big enough now, and people don’t have 4K televisions yet, which you need in order to watch it in 4K. We rendered the film in 4K so that we could have a source not only for theatrical screenings, but if we spent a little more money… well, actually, a lot more money… we would have it already in 4K for the future when everyone does have 4K televisions.

FANGORIA: To be clear, Synapse Films won’t be releasing the Blu-ray, correct?

LIEBERMAN: Synapse has nothing to do with the transfer or the release. Right now, it’s Steve Morowitz, myself and Edgar Lansbury who are partnering up to put the film on Blu-ray and streaming in America only.

FANGORIA: What should fans expect from the Blu-ray release? Will it essentially be the definitive package for the film?

LIEBERMAN: Yeah, man. The extras are incredible: Robert Walden did an interview, Sandy King-Carpenter did an interview, Mark Goddard did an interview, Richard Crystal did one and I, of course, did one. Also, when I was out in L.A., I went to a lot of the locations from the movie and I did dramatic recreations of the scenes. [laughs]

FANGORIA: Do you have anything else going on at the moment aside from the 4K screenings of BLUE SUNSHINE?

LIEBERMAN: Yeah, I have a couple of things I’m currently working on. One of them, I don’t know if it’s going to happen, is a TV show that I’m working on with Don Scardino, who was the lead in SQUIRM and is now a very big TV producer. He produced 30 ROCK and so we’re partnering up on a half-hour show that I created; it’s not a horror show, but it’s… different.

BLUE SUNSHINE will have its first 4K screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY on Friday, December 11th; you can get tickets while available HERE.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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