Mail Bag! Jack Marino’s KILL ZONE MOVIE!

10 Jul

The Mail Bag brings great news about filmmaker Jack Marino’s film KILL ZONE that has just been distributed worldwide. Congrats, Jack! He writes:

This was my very first film. I came up with the concept and the title, and in 1984 it was the first film I produced. In 1983 I was alone with my partners all deciding to shut down our first production company, SPARTAN PRODUCTIONS, INC. We broke up because we were all burnt out with the massive rejection that comes with the name, Hollywood.

By 1983 I was working in a video duplication house. I had gone from video dupe house to video dupe house. I wanted to make my own film and I told my wife that if I didn’t make a film, which would be a miracle in 1984 we would head back to Boston in the spring of 1985.

I came up with the idea for KILL ZONE and put it all down in a treatment. In the meantime, my ex-partner David A Prior and I collaborated on a dozen scripts over the previous three years. David was directing a movie shot on video called Sledgehammer. He was doing the filming in his apartment in Venice and a location up in Simi Valley.  He called me up and I went down there to see what was progressing. I was impressed with the fact Dave had found a financial backer and had written and was directing the project himself.

Dave and I arranged a meeting and at that meeting, I told him my idea about KILL ZONE and that I had also set up a new company called Spartanfilms, Ltd.  We discussed the story of KILL ZONE and he read my treatment. He was excited about the idea so we came to an agreement and brought Fritz Matthews back into the fold. We started to write the script and I came up with the concept for the cover artwork. The agreement was that I would be the producer, Dave would be the director and Fritz would star in the picture.

Our biggest problem was where would the money to finance this film come from?  My parents were coming out to L.A to see their first granddaughter and I wanted Dave to meet my father. We all sat down and laid out the plan to garner financing. We would get 50 people to put up $1000.00 each to make this picture. Now, remember neither Dave nor I had ever made a 35mm film before however, we were certain and confident we could pull it off.

My father and mother committed to putting up the first $1000.00. Looking back at that moment, that $1000.00 was responsible for launching future low-budget films in the AFM. If my father hadn’t been the initial investor there would have been no way I would have had the confidence to get on the phone and ask 18 other individuals to put up $1000.00 each, including my sister Joan and most of those investors were high school and college friends of mine from Boston. That initial investment from my parents was responsible for launching KILL ZONE and eventually my next two films and when Dave left Spartanfilms and formed AIP he made over 35 films. None of this would have happened without my parents’ investment.

I raised all the funding and we started shooting the film in September of 1984. I hired Victor Alexander, a filmmaker with all his own camera equipment as the Director of Photography and eventually the Editor. Needless to say, we had a blast! It was a fun shoot and we made a lot of friends with the cast and crew. These friendships have lasted to this day. Once the film was completed, we took it around to all the distributors and Shapiro Entertainment gave us an ‘advance’ for the film which was totally unheard of at that time.

KILL ZONE premiered at the 1985 AFM American Film Market and it was a huge hit. In fact, by 1986 most of the filmmakers were making their own version of KILL ZONE. Our film changed the entire marketplace for the next ten to fifteen years at the AFM.  Once Dave and Fritz left Spartanfilms, Ltd., they made over 35 films using the KILL ZONE formula. Dave was one of the most prolific directors in the video market all through the 80s and 90s.

I was all alone dealing with the income stream from my distributor Shapiro and like most distributors they don’t like to pay their filmmakers any of their profit back. I went up to their office every quarter to get a check from them and in the end, they paid me back my entire investment and then some. I managed to pay back all my investors a 180% return on their money.  So here I was a first-time Producer that made back the original investment and 80% profit on my first producing effort.

That was one of the reasons why John Lebert decided to back me on my first producing and direction effort called FORGOTTEN HEROES. He figured if I went through this hell to pay back my investors, I would do the same for his investors.

It had been a long and tenuous journey from the time my father gave us that first $1000.00 and by 1990 I closed out the KILL ZONE partnership since I was the sole partner left. I took all the film elements and stored them in one of the biggest film vaults in Hollywood. The place looks like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark and that is where I left them to be forgotten forever.

Fast forward to 2022 (and I believe that for some unknown reason, Providence had a hand in this) I get a call from Steve Latshaw who is responsible for the resurrection and redistribution of this long-forgotten film.

Steve raised KILL ZONE from the dead.

Steve was a big fan of KILL ZONE and he worked for a dub house that was looking for action films to distribute from the 1980s. He took the original 35mm IP and transferred it to digital, remastering it in 4k Blu-ray. It was Steve’s company that John and I negotiated with since my company, MARINO FILM GROUP was now the owner of Spartanfilms, Ltd. The only film produced by that company was KILL ZONE. John and I made a deal with MVD for world distribution.

Never in my life would I have ever thought KILL ZONE would get a re-release. You can order the Blu-ray on Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Apple, etc, and there is a bonus section with two interviews with Jack Marino. One is with Steve Latshaw and the other is with Heath Holland on his own show “Cereal at Midnight.”

I would like to take this time to give a very special thanks to my good friend and fellow filmmaker/writer, Steve Latshaw, who called me out of the blue asking about KILL ZONE and asking what my plans were for it.

— David DeWitt

1 Comment

Posted in Mail Bag, Promo


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  1. Karl

    July 11, 2023 at 12:24 am

    JUST ordered and… can’t wait!

    Thx David and, of course- JACK!