Once again my attention has got fixated on a miniscule mention in the August 1989 issue of the long defunct Factsheet 5 magazine.

The text has mentioned Blood Times, which was – and I quote – : “A zine for the aficionado of horror films. This is a special double issue, devoted to the films and career of little-known Italian director Dario Argento. It seems to be well-researched and comprehensive.” (end of the quote)

Well, from the point of December 2023 the mention of “little-known Italian director Dario Argento” brings a smile to a face of any well-versed lover of unusual cinema, but back then, that was a different story.

However, anything related to the realm of zines and DIY/self-publishing is of interest to me, period and as for the movie enthusiast in me it goes without saying horror movies form a part of my interest.

Combined with my passion to speak to the writers and publishers of yesteryear about their memories and experiences, it is of a little surprise I have made the decision to contact the publisher of Blood Times, Mr. Louis Paul, to ask him a question or two about that wonderful (or less wonderful, as it’s always subjective) time from the long time ago.

Let the search begin!

One would think you can find anything and anyone online nowadays, just simply type their name(s) into the search engine or the search field of the usual social network(s). And while this statement is fairly true, it took a while to find the right Louis Paul. To my delight, I’ve found he’s also connected to a few other great writers and movie fans, whose work I am following, like 42nd Street Pete (Pete Chiarella) or Tim Paxton of Monster!/Weng’s Chop fame. Talk about a great company!

Luckily – and I am happy to say it’s the case with the majority of persons of my interest – Mr. Paul has agreed to answer my curious questions, so…here we go (although I am sure he’s pondered why someone from Slovak Republic was showing interest in the publications from aeons ago).

Hello, Louis, thanks for your time! Although old publishers and zine readers/collectors will probably remember your name, I bet the majority of today’s audience will have a blank stare on their faces when your name drops…so, what should they know about you?

Well, I certainly travel in some of the same circles as back in the old days. Rekindling friendships with other publishers, writers, etc chiefly on Facebook. An Amazon search for my name will bring up a few books I had published, the last one I believe was in 2010. Since then, I had written film reviews, and a few articles for magazines the likes of Weng’s Chop! and Monster. In recent years, I have turned my attention towards the world of music, specifically Progressive Rock, and I started a video review channel on YouTube and Podbean, it’s called The Colors of Prog, and there is even a Facebook page where people can join and post about the subject.

As mentioned earlier, back in the day you’ve published the Blood Times zine. Late 1980s were the great time for amateur publishing and many fantastic titles have appeared during that period. What – or who – has inspired you to start your own publication?

My first experience in publishing was with a small-press publication called Retro-Rock. It, like Blood Times was sold in alternative music and popular record shops in the East Village in Manhattan. I had quite a relationship with music labels like SST, Slash and more and got to interview many music artists…not to forget the shipments of music on vinyl for review. I still have somewhere an early Green Day release shaped like a skateboard. Regarding movies – As a teenager I was allowed to travel near and far to movie theatres. I saw many of the great late-period Hammer Films, some exploitation, etc. By my mid-teens I was working in Manhattan, so I started going to the trash theatres on Times Square – Now, that was a life-changing experience. I stopped publishing Retro Rock (mentioned above), and with the advent of VHS Videocassettes and the growth of the small what we used to call Mom & Pop independently owned stores, suddenly so many movies became available. I started Blood Times magazine, and it featured a combination of reviews of films I saw in the theatre and others on VHS. I also asked some of the shops that used to stock Retro-Rock if they were interested in carrying Blood Times and they were. Suddenly I started receiving fan letters from people who wanted to subscribe (I had not thought of going past a few issues initially), and letters from people like David Friedman, the producer, and Joe Bob Briggs (I still kept those), and got a great review unsolicited, in High Times magazine from Michael Weldon, the author and publisher who had a column on zines. So, that is the beginning.

Blood Times was a zine dedicated to horror. As the F5 blurb about the double issue 6/7 mentioned Dario Argento, I need to ask – did you focus on European horror scene, or on horror in general? Can you provide us with a short tour through an issue? What could readers find inside?

It was a small-press publication, done on an extremely tight budget and in the old days of computers, a lot of it was cut and paste. Illustrated with cut and past covers and typeset myself. Within a few years, other writers joined in and that made my life easier. Chiefly, BT covered anything hard, weird, and especially concentrated on the Euro Horror and Terror scene. Inside the contents were a brief introduction to that issue, two or three articles. I covered things like Mario Bava (years before others had), Jean Rollin, and especially Dario Argento. I also covered Hong Kong action and horror. Then, there were reviews. Many of them. In the beginning, there were only 6 to 10 pages of each issue of the zine. By the last issue, published in 1993, I was hitting over 40 pages.

1980s were the times of the VHS boom (and Betamax to a shorter degree) and the SOV movies. And similarly for us, the European viewers in regard to getting releases from outside Europe, American movie fans faced similar challenges…how and where to get their European movie fix. Kids nowadays can get almost everything easily and many times they don’t realize how easy they have it. So, for the record, and to teach those youngsters something about the history – how did you usually get those not-so-usual movies for your viewing pleasure and collection back then? Any interesting or funny memories related to the collecting activity?

Well, I started trading my fanzine with other writers. Craig Ledbetter published ETC (Euro Trash Cinema), and there were others like Slimetime, and oh my so many. I have a few in a closet somewhere. Anyway, as I’ve noted I was seeing movies (old and new) on VHS, wearing out machine after machine, and seeing films in the theatres in Times Square. Now of course, there were many oddities not found anywhere, and some of the publishers of the zines I traded with had copies of movies on VHS tape that they got from collectors. I amassed my own collection by that time, and one could say that was the birth of the ‘Gray Market’ video boom. Even subscribers to BT had movie lists. That meant purchasing some of the then expensive, and primitive VHS dubbing machines. Well, there are many interesting stories, probably too many to recollect. But a Swedish reader who subscribed to BT sent me a list of films he had taped off Swedish television, and it seemed they were hardcore versions of Joe Sarno film. That lead to a whole other area, and I found many of Jean Rollins’ hardcore erotic films that I did not know existed until then. I was trading with Mike Vraney as well (of Something Weird) and we often spoke on the phone and met in person from time to time. Before he really expanded SWV into a major business we would swap tapes.

Louis Paul and Craig Ledbetter (European Trash Cinema zine publishers, R.I.P.)

I started Blood Times Video because people were constantly writing to me asking where they could see these movies. Blank tapes were expensive back in the day, and there was the dubbing time, and mailers, and postage etc. But for the most part, I made some lists of the better visual quality films to be available and sold for $15 each. If I had a really bad quality or fair quality title I’d let them, have it for $10 of $12 max. Now in my collection I had some of Mike’s titles that we traded back and forth and before he had used the onscreen watermark. He was not happy and asked me not to share his movies as he was going legit. That was fine, but awkward.

How many issues of Blood Times have you published? And although I guess it would be hard to answer this question – which one was/is your favourite issue and why? When did you stopped publishing and what was the reason for the end of Blood Times?

I started publishing Blood Times in the early 1980s. I guess my Jean Rollin, Euro Spy Guide, and German Films of Edgar Wallace issues are some of my favorites. Decades later I do not even have a full run but have run into people who claim they have every issue. The last published issue was in 1993, and it contained an interview with Paul Naschy, the Spanish horror film star. I had planned an issue for 1994. We even had an interview with Alain Delon, it was all set to go and was going to be a full-color cover done professionally with a wrap binding. Then personal life things happened, including a divorce. I always planned to publish that issue, but after another year or so I let all the contributors offer their articles, reviews elsewhere because BT was done.

A zine publishing is also about networking, not only with the readers/subscribers, but also with the like-minded kindred spirits in the realm of self-publishing. Which publishers/writers (and their publications) did you enjoy the most? And as for the networking, have you also meet fellow publishers in person?

Oh sure, and I have mentioned this in another answer to a question above. I had met as I have said Mike Vraney, (the late) Craig Ledbetter, John Donaldson, Tom Weisser (Asian Trash Cinema), Michel Gingold, Michael Pulchalski, Bob Sargent, some of them have Facebook pages. Tom Weisser, and Tom Johnson who published books on the old Universal Horror films and the actors and Hammer related books, separately, were two people I had close friendships with. I am still in contact with Maitland Mcdonagh who wrote about Argento and published a book on him.

Mentioning networking, and because this interview originated from the mention in the Factsheet 5, how do you remember that – for me absolutely fantastic – magazine?

It was of many like-minded publications that appeared for a time. It was great to see mentions of other magazines, whether independently published, hence fanzine, or professionally done, but on a budget.

Being from the New Jersey, I think you were familiar with the majority (if not all) of the output of movie zines from New York, covering, for example, the now legendary grindhouse cinema of the Deuce. How about your own experience of the infamous 42nd Street?

I have mentioned the 42nd Street moviegoing experience earlier. These were not your usual movie theatres. An Italian Giallo could be billed with a German crime thriller, or some nasty euro rape revenge film. Back then $3 to $4 brought you admission. Stale popcorn but you could bring beer and smoke cigarettes in those theatres as floors were not carpeted. When oddly enough XXX sex films found themselves on the same bills as martial arts movies from Hong Kong and Euro horrors, it got even weirder. Audiences were generally appreciative hardly rowdy, but I did not go past 10PM at night. More than once I was offered sex from the streetwalkers who went up and down the block and this was inside the movie theatre! Yes, a fun and wild time.

Before moving to your other activities… we’ve already mentioned other zine publishers from the heyday era of zine publishing. Some are well known and frequently mentioned, say, Bill Landis, Rick Sullivan, Chas Balun, some not so… which ones would you point out as not getting the fame or publicity they deserve?

I met Landis more than once, he was weird, and I will leave it at that. His fanzine Sleazoid, was one of the best of its kind, and his writing style unique. Rick Sullivan seemed nice enough. He actually used to do the in-person onstage guest interviews for the East Coast New Jersey – based Chiller Theatre convention. After he took ill and could not do it anymore, I was asked to do it. Google search or YouTube Louis Paul Chiller Theatre Interviews. I have been at it for over 20 years now, and a highlight of those would be interviewing Keith Emerson of ELP! Easily, Craig Ledbetter, who passed last year, should get some posthumous award for turning on so many people into Euro horror, crime, and erotica. That man had connections everywhere and in the last months of his life located many Bruno Mattei films shot in the Philippines no one knew existed…in English!

There are still some publications going on, for example, Steve Puchalski’s Shock Cinema … do you still follow any of those small publications even today? Any newcomers people – especially we in Europe – might not be aware of?

There really seems to be a slowdown of sorts for publications like this nowadays. Possibly due to information easily available with searching the Internet, possibly due to Covid and its effect on keeping people indoors for a long time. I know Shock Cinema is still going at it, not sure if anyone else is. I wrote a lot for Monster! and Weng’s Chop! And even sent contributions (3 years ago) and they have yet to publish another issue of either.

It comes as no surprise that your other passion is music, especially prog rock, to which is dedicated your Youtube videocast Colors of Prog. That has started 2 years ago (if I am not mistaken)…and still going strong, which for such an arcane subject is pretty great feat, I’d say! I’ve seen a couple of episodes and although prog is not my forte (I’ll admit that without any torture), the developing quality of your channel haven’t escaped my attention! So…prog rock…what band has lead you to this interesting genre? Pink Floyd? Jethro Tull? Or was it Goblin in the connection with already mentioned Dario Argento?

Thank you for mentioning The Colors of Prog, and mentioning that. Well, I love all kinds of music, but discovered, oddly enough about three years ago, that there were all these Italian, German, Greek and etc bands out there, and in some cases, those bands have been active since the early 70s. Some of the obscure bands like Osanna (from Italy) contributed an all-original score to an Italian thriller. Come to think of it, many of them have. I find the music different and enjoy trying to tell people about something they may not be aware of. I love Goblin, I have the first pre-Argento record – as the Cherry Five! Always loved Goblin, and I interviewed Claudio Simonetti about 23 years ago, and oddly he remembered when I saw him on a Prog Cruise last year. I like Yes, and Floyd, and of course Tull, who I saw live again the first week of November…good show. Unfortunately, we are at the point where some of our musical idols, or bands of interest are dying off as their heyday may have been the late sixties, or early seventies. And, for some, like the big three just mentioned…they managed to reinvent themselves.

The “Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine” podcast you’re co-hosting, is of more interest to me, and there’s a good reason for it – you and your buddy Doc Savage discuss many great actors, actresses and cult movies… podcasting, although bearing similarities with print publishing, is still quite different in many regards. How do you find talking on the mic compared to typing the words on the typewriter/keyboard? Although nowadays audio is preferred vehicle for many, which one do you personally prefer? Written word or spoken word?

Oh, you are aware of that and listen? Thank you. I met ‘Doc’ (obviously not his real name but he used to work an important day job and did not want this affecting that, so he uses a pseudonym), when he was attending in the first row, one of my early convention Q&A panels. Writing is different of course. You can go back as many times as you need to refine, correct, make sure your voice comes through. Podcasting is different. For Weird Scenes we decide on a schedule of shows and subjects. It’s my idea to try to cover what may be regarded as important or relatively of-interest films that we discuss. I have a collection of movies (mostly Euro horror related and the such, and access to more) that is so large sometimes I think of selling some of it off. Anyway, both of us start with a list, a prepared script, and quickly veer off the track. Sometimes my co-host did not get the chance to see a film, or really disliked something, and I enjoyed it. It is a give and take, and sometimes we can get weary – yes, I know these run long – A still out there Jess Franco filmography runs hours and is in at least three long podcasts. For the Colors of Prog, I used to go unscripted, and long…but its just me. I try to keep them now no longer than 30 min. Whatever is the endgame, even some editing cannot help a mispronounced error or mistake. As I said, you correct that in writing…. But with the advent of AI it remains what will come of that.

Good things come in threes, the saying goes, or something similar…and to be completely pedantic, I can’t forget to mention yet another podcast venture you’ve taken part in…Taste of Fear. However, I am not able (at least for now) to find any episodes online, so, can you tell us something about that podcast? How did it differ – if it differed at all – from “Weird Scenes…”?

I do have a link to an episode. That was from around 2010/2011. I did that Podcast with Rich Caron (also known as Rich Rabid back then). I really liked working with him and enjoyed our partnership. In a way, it was similar to Weird Scenes, but we tried our best on an archaic system (we had to phone each other through an online switchboard and edit in real time). We did interviews on Taste of Fear, one I recall was with David Hess, the late actor from Last House on the Left. We added an additional co-host, a woman, but I quit when the people who were producing the show (it was an umbrella production company) wanted a say in subject matter although our shows were quite popular. Rich and Danae continued awhile without me before leaving as well.

Louis and Bei Ling

I have to say I am a bit jealous when I see you as a guest panel interviewer at famous New Jersey convention Chiller Theatre…meeting so many great cult people…how did you happen to get involved in this convention? I guess we all have a favourite star (or stars) we would love to meet… which one of yours have you had the opportunity to meet and interview at Chiller Theatre?

I answered this question in an earlier response. I replaced Rick Sullivan who was doing this. Sometimes it is not always fun and a guest is a drag or on the verge of being rude (that’s when I go to the ‘questions from the audience’ portion). I do not want to name names regarding that, but for the most part it was a pleasure, and sometimes an honour to interview these people.

There’s also one more area we haven’t touched upon…and that’s your career as a writer. I know of two of your books for McFarland (namely Tales from the Cult Film Trenches (2007) and Italian Horror Film Directors (2010)).

My first book was published in German, by a German publishing company – Inferno Italia – Der Italienische Horrorfilm in 1998; my second for the same publisher, was in 2000 titled Serien Morder; that was about Serial Killers in fact, fiction and film. I got screwed by the publisher who put his name as primary author although I did all the writing. My first co-authored book (with Tom Lisanti) in America is Film Fatales -Women in Espionage Films and Television Shows, which was in the late 1990s. It is tough to work with an established publishing house. They assign their in-house editor who may have no idea what you are writing about but offer suggestions, not often useful, etc. And you do not really make much money, and don’t even mention kindle versions.

We’re moving slowly towards the end of this interesting interview…and towards the end of 2023 as well, so it’s only logical (to quote Dr. Spock) to ask…what plans does Louis Paul have in store for the upcoming year of 2024?

Honestly, I do not have an idea to be truthful. I am sitting on two almost completed books that I may self-publish. One I can say is growing up as a teenager in an amusement park area (Coney Island), my interest in music and movies. It is sort of a Roger Corman version of an autobiography. The other is about Times Square, 42nd Street of the 70s/80s. Both need rewrites.

And this one I will leave totally up to you…any final message to the readers of this interview?

There really was nothing like the fanzine scene of the early 80s. There was nothing like the birth of the VHS boom where so many movies, old and new became available on videotape that you can watch in the privacy of your home. Finally, there was nothing like seeing a great, or sometimes not so great, European horror film or thriller projected on a big screen. I am lucky to have lived through the sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond.

(This interview was conducted by the end of 2023)