Monday, October 17, 2011

R.I.P. Bill Barounis

The name Bill Barounis may not mean much to a lot of people reading this, but for anyone who's into lost Turkish genre films - or weird world cinema in general - Bill was King. Sadly I just found out that Bill, who started the one-man-company Onar Films to make available some of the rarest Turkish movies ever, passed away over a week ago (yep, I'm falling way behind on my Google Reader updates...). From dipping in and out of discussion forums, I'd been aware that he was battling cancer for a couple of years now, and that he recently had a bad stroke. It didn't look good, but it still comes as a shock to find out that he's actually gone.

I first dealt with Bill some years ago when he was selling tapes on eBay under the name deathland. I bought a few things off him (still have J.P. Simon's Supersonic Man gathering dust somewhere), and he was a great guy to deal with, but I mostly liked to check back on his items-for-sale to see what kind of oddities he was selling - and the crazy prices they would go for. These were super-rare, original, often bootlegged Greek pre-records of horrors, gialli, superhero films that were highly sought after in the collectors' market.

Onar Films was a godsend to fans of these films. Because of the rarity of these films, and the lack of decent sources, these prints generally look less-than-stellar (HD snobs need not apply), but they were the best he could find and he packed the DVDs with many neat extra features. Plus they were all subtitled. Have a peek at the opening minutes of Casus Kiran (Spy Smasher) just to get an idea what they're like:

I tried to pick up almost everything he put out, and it's a real bummer that Onar will cease to exist now that he's no longer around. We're talking the preservation and distribution of movies that an industry had zero interest in archiving or caring for. There's no cushy vault somewhere housing a mint print of 3 Dev Adam. These aren't films that'll likely get released in New Zealand. One can only hope someone else will continue the legacy that Bill left behind, and do it with same kind of dedication that could only come from someone who did it solely for the love of these films.

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