Well, folks, it’s Friday the 13th in July, so the time has finally come. Joe Bob Briggs’ last Drive-In will soon be upon us. For his finale, he will be taking us on a twenty-four hour long marathon through horror, courtesy of Shudder, for his final wave goodbye. Unfortunately, due to rights issues with some of the films in the lineup, the marathon will not be available on Shudder Canada. So if you are north of the border like me, you may have to wait to see this farewell. I got the chance to sit down and talk with Joe Bob about MonsterVision and everything that led up to it in his career. Take a look!
PopHorror: Hey, Joe Bob! How are you doing?
Joe Bob Briggs: Okay! How are you?
PopHorror: I’m very well, thank you. Honestly, it’s an honour to speak with you today! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview with me.
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, I’m happy to do it. I was taking a look at your site. You got a lot of great stuff on there.
PopHorror: Thank you! We’re very big on promoting and supporting indie horror and up and coming artists. We like to give people a voice and a chance that they may not always get from the mainstream. So I appreciate you having a look at it!
Joe Bob Briggs: Where are you guys based out of?
PopHorror: We are based out of the US. Personally, I’m a writer from Montreal Canada, but we basically have writers from all over.
Joe Bob Briggs: Oh great! Actually (chuckles) I can give you a scoop.
Joe Bob Briggs: I’m not supposed to reveal stuff that’s in the twenty-four hour marathon, but there is some Montreal stuff in there, about the Quebec riots that occurred in the late sixties, because it relates to a particular movie that we’re showing, and I won’t go into what movie it is because they don’t want me to reveal the title, but I think you know what I’m talking about. *
PopHorror: I do, actually! Thank you very much for that. Oh, wow!
Joe Bob Briggs: We talk a quite a bit about Quebec. In one of them, I think it’s the fourth movie in the marathon, so watch for that.
PopHorror: Well, that’s a tough thing. I heard that it would not be showing on Shudder Canada because of some rights issues with some of the films.
Joe Bob Briggs: Oh, that’s right! I heard that. That’s unfortunate, because there’s another movie where I talk quite a bit about maple syrup porn! (at this point, we are both giggling away) And the movie Valérie (1969), which you are probably familiar with if you’ve done a deep dive into exploitation films in Canada. So there’s a lot of Quebec in the marathon.
PopHorror: That’s pretty awesome! I honestly did not expect that. Being from Montreal, I discovered MonsterVision when I was on vacation in Maine in Old Orchard beach. We rented a house with one of those projection screen TVs, I snuck downstairs one night, turned the TV on to TNT, and there was MonsterVision. When I got back, I was obsessed with getting access to more of it. I have heard stories that some of the rare people who had cable back then and had access to it, but I never saw it.
Joe Bob Briggs: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t available because I would have gotten the occasional letter from you guys, and I never got anything from Canada. I don’t think it showed out there at all.
PopHorror: Yeah, I chalk it up to childhood lore and myth.
Joe Bob Briggs: You could have pirated it, but that was mostly up in the Yukon at best (laughs)
PopHorror: Well, what we would do was find a friend of a friend who had, like, a cousin in the US, and get our hands on a VHS bootleg of the show, and copy that MonsterVision show to the point where it was unwatchable, then trade them around. So we could see as much as we possibly could.
Joe Bob Briggs: Wow! That’s amazing, that’s great. I know that in Canada and Quebec, they had a lot of strict rules about what you could watch, right?
PopHorror: Yeah, there were a lot of rules about Cancon. Basically, it way easier to get Black Christmas than it was to get MonsterVision. Are there any other places or countries other than Canada that you have heard similar stories about how people have found you?
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, I’ve heard a few similar stories from people in England. The First Joe Bob book I wrote called Joe Bob goes to the Drive-In had a wide circulation in England. Nowhere else overseas (chuckles). It was known in England, so especially the people in the rural areas were like, “There wasn’t anything to watch here besides snooker.” So they were skilled at piracy. They managed to somehow get tapes of my show, which I always thought was amazing.
PopHorror: I know that when you started out in print media, accessibility to these types of genre films were extremely difficult to come by. I mean, basically, there were the drive-ins in the south and the all night cinema strips in the big cities in the north. You literally had to pound the pavement or drive to all the drive-ins to catch these things.
Joe Bob Briggs: Yeah, when I first started writing about exploitation films in 1982, they were considered disposable trash. They were not recognized by mainstream media at all, and they were not really accepted by, you know, legitimate movie theaters, so they were only shown at the drive-ins and in the downtown grindhouses, and so in order to review them, I had to go to the drive-ins. I mean, it was a riot!
Generally, these films would only run for one week. I would try to do what I could to see them all. There was guy in New York named Bill Landis who had a magazine called Sleazoid Express, and he was doing the same thing in Times Square. He would go to 42nd street and watch pretty much the same movies I did. He was reviewing them, and I was reviewing them. We were really the only two guys in the country reviewing these films. That led to a friendship with Roger Corman, and a lot of the things I put in my reviews were largely based on the principles I learned from him, things like the Drive-In Totals and all that.
PopHorror: You always had a huge amount of information and background on the films you were showing. Now we have the internet and IMDb, which means all anyone has to do to pepper their articles or podcasts with some interesting background or behind the scenes information, is just a click away. How did you go about gathering your information for a show?
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, I had one researcher, and we would find magazine articles and books a lot of times, we would track down old issues of Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, but for a lot of the films, we couldn’t find anything. We struck out on quite a few films, and I just had to wing it. We would occasionally call up people and ask people I knew, “Hey, do you know this guy? Where did he go? Where’s this director from?” It was a lot of digging around like that. The director of Howling VII, we could never find that guy. (Laughs) But yeah! You’re right, it was really difficult to find stuff back them. Today, I don’t always trust the internet because misinformation can get out, and if enough people see it, it becomes accepted as fact. It’s always better to go to the source if you can.
PopHorror: Since the internet and Facebook groups, I’ve found that there are more female fans of horror than I could have ever imagined. From your exposure to the fandom over the years, has this been a growing trend or something that has always been present? Or are we are just seeing it now because the access Facebook gives to each other?
Joe Bob Briggs: It’s definitely been a growing trend. Since I first started reviewing these movies and doing these TV shows, it was an overwhelmingly male audience. In fact, the demographics on my show was very, very male, and the interest of females in horror is a thing of the last fifteen to twenty years, which has been a constant growth. We are seeing a lot more woman in the fan conventions, and now we are seeing them in a place of real power in the genre. They are running horror sites and making great films now.
PopHorror: I’ve had some of my best discussions about horror with female friends on the sites. It’s a far cry from when I was growing up, trying to find anyone who would be interested in watching and discussing a film.
Joe Bob Briggs: Actually, our mail girl for the show is a horror blogger! Traditionally, the mail girl was just a model, but she’s a horror blogger who knows her stuff and a lot of people in the industry, which is great! It’s totally changed.
PopHorror: I agree! The horror community is not like the sci-fi community which, in some fanboy circles, still seems to want this outdated idea of a boys club.
Joe Bob Briggs: Yeah, the horror genre is very democratic. If you go to a sci-fi convention, it’s a certain type of demographic, but if you go to a horror convention, it’s everybody. Horror is something that brings us together.
PopHorror: I couldn’t agree with you more. I will leave it on that note, because I think it sums up perfectly how every fan feels. Joe Bob, thank you for your time. Interviewing you was something I’ve always wanted to do.
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, thank you! It was my pleasure.
*If you were wondering what the scoop was at the beginning of the article, I’m pretty sure Joe Bob was referencing The Purge because in 1969, Montreal went through what was eventually dubbed the Night of Terror, where police went on strike for 16 hours, and the city went insane.
The Last Drive-In 24hr marathon with Joe Bob Briggs begins tonight, Friday the 13th, at 9PM EST on Shudder. Don’t’ miss it!