IN MEMORY OF “SOMETHING WEIRD” FOUNDER MIKE VRANEY (1957-2014)

The world of cult film was dealt a huge blow this morning when Something Weird Video’s Facebook page reported the death of Something Weird’s founder, Mike Vraney, at the age of 56, in the following post:

In Memorium
MIKE VRANEY
Founder of Something Weird
December 29, 1957 to January 2, 2014

We regret to tell you that Something Weird’s founder, Mike Vraney, passed away on January 2, 2014 after a long heroic battle with lung cancer. He was 56 years old, way too young to leave this planet. There was still so much Mike wanted to do in his life, so many films to be found, and adventures to be embarked upon.

This sad news may come as a shock to most of you. Mike was a very private person and didn’t want anyone, except his closest friends, family and colleagues, to know about his illness. He went through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments for over a year, but sadly the cancer spread and cruelly took him from us.

Mike had a larger-than-life personality and a genuine enthusiasm for movies. Something Weird was his heart and soul, he was obsessive in his pursuit of tracking down the weirdest, wildest movies out there. And it wasn’t enough to find a few forgotten films, he was always in search of the movie motherload. (Making 370 two-hour volumes of Nudie Cuties loops is a good example of this. Who does that?! Mike Vraney!) Even as a child, Mike loved movies. During his teenage years, he worked at the Bel-Kirk Drive-In, and then later as a projectionist at the Green Parrot and Apple Theaters in Seattle. Then around 1990, Mike went in search of as many old, unusual, obscure, and lost low budget exploitation movies as he could, and preserved them for prosperity. Mike amassed thousands of these rare movies and had them transferred to video so that people could relive the good old days of going to the drive-in or grindhouse theater, in their very own home. We have him to thank for introducing fandom to the wonderful world of sexploitation sinema, rescuing it from the dark recesses of forgotten film vaults and defunct movie theatres.

Some of you may know that prior to Something Weird, Mike was involved in the early Seattle punk rock music scene. He was a partner in Modern Productions, the group who started Seattle’s seminal rock venue, The Showbox, in 1979. Mike then went on to manage such well-known bands as The Dead Kennedys, TSOL, and Seattle’s own The Accused. Mike always seemed to be at the forefront of whatever was happening and cool.

Mike’s second greatest passion in life was collecting old comics, vintage toys, movie memorabilia, and pop cultural ephemera. He enjoyed going to the swap meet and always had a magical ability for finding great stuff. But when he wasn’t working, collecting, or telling great stories, Mike spent quality time with his beloved family. Mike adored his wife and business partner, Lisa, and two (now young adult) children, Mark and Danielle. These three were the center of his universe, and his reason for getting up each and every morning.

The folks at Something Weird fully intend to honor Mike’s incredible legacy. Mike may be gone, but his remarkable achievements will live on. One of the happiest days of Mike’s life was when legendary David F. Friedman and Dan Sonney called him “the forty-first thief,” which to him was the ultimate compliment and recognition for his work. We’d like to think that Mike’s now hanging out with his old pals Dave and Dan, reminiscing and talking shop with Dwain Esper, Kroger Babb, Barry Mahon, Joe Sarno, Doris Wishman, Bob Cresse, Dale Berry, Michael Findlay and all the other exploiteers and smut peddlers who’ve gone to the great grindhouse in the sky.

We will miss Mike with all our hearts. Goodbye dear friend, husband, father, and fearless leader…
— Lisa Petrucci, Tim Lewis, Kendall Bechtel, Mark Vraney, Danielle Vraney of Something Weird Video

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Mike was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the modern restoration and distribution of exploitation cinema. The works of David Friedman, Andy Milligan, Joe Sarno, Barry Mahon and countless others are known to as many exploitation film fans now only because Mike took an interest in their work and tirelessly released and promoted them with a ballyhoo that would make P.T. Barnum proud. Even better-known cult icons like Bettie Page and H.G. Lewis wouldn’t be as well-known on the pop culture scene as they are without Something Weird’s releases of their work, pulling them from the dark corners of aging VHS tapes and into media for new generations to appreciate. Mike even assisted in releasing newer films with their creative roots in grindhouse oddities such as John Michael McCarthy’s TEENAGE TUPELO, and he paid tribute to the world he loved with last year’s THAT’S SEXPLOITATION documentary/love letter written and directed by Frank Henenlotter.

I only had the chance to talk to Mike once, while ordering a batch of Something Weird tapes for a video store I managed in the late ‘90s, but his distribution work had opened my eyes to an amazing work of oddball cinema long before that. A store I frequented in Milwaukee had a closet-sized space devoted to Something Weird titles, and I spent much of my meager earnings exploring the likes of FLESH AND LACE, THE SECRET SEX LIVES OF ROMEO AND JULIET, THE FAT BLACK PUSSYCAT and PSYCHED BY THE 4-D WITCH.

The world of Something Weird and Mike and Lisa’s love for the films they brought back to life was explored by Evening Magazine, in a piece visible below:

Our condolences go out to Lisa, his children Mark and Danielle, and everyone whose cultural interests were forever changed by his work. We’ll miss you, Mike.

 

@Paul Freitag-Fey

vraney

Jon Abrams

Editor-In-Chief at Daily Grindhouse
Jon Abrams is a New York-based writer, cartoonist, and committed cinemaniac whose complete work and credits can be found at his site, Demon’s Resume. You can contact him on Twitter as @JonZilla___.
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One Comment

  • Reply
    Adam
    January 3, 2014

    Sad news indeed! At one point in my life I thought I was into weird movies (old scifi and horror, B-movies) and then I found Something Weird Video!

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