Was terribly saddened to hear the news that Mike Vraney has passed-away at the age of 56 following an 18 month battle with lung cancer. Through his Seattle-based Something Weird Video company, founded in 1990, Mike helped expose myself and countless others to the films of exploitation pioneers like David Friedman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Sarno, Harry Novak, Doris Wishman and so many, many others. Mike rescued literally hundreds of films (as well as shorts and trailers) from the scrapheap of obscurity, and I can honestly say that without Something Weird Video my knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of cinema would be nowhere near as diverse, interesting and complete as it is today.
I started out as a customer of Something Weird Video, and in the late-90s I started writing for them, contributing reviews/synopsis' for their printed catalogues as well as their VHS sleeves, and then of course online and DVD-R covers. It was always exciting getting the latest lot of videos to review for them - usually they would turn up in lots of five and, apart from the odd occasion where I might have requested something specific, I had no idea what titles I was in store for. It was often just a random assortment of gloriously gaudy titles, some I may have heard of but many I had absolutely no idea about. One parcel might have had Shanty Tramp, The Seducers, Suburban Pagans, Campus Swingers and G.I. Scare Films, Vol. 4. That's what made Something Weird Video so much fun, and such a joy and privilege to work with - every time you slid one of their tapes into the VCR for the first time, it was always a new adventure in discovery (not always an entertaining or satisfying one, but usually at the very least unique).
I probably reviewed over 100 releases for Something Weird Video, and though I never worked with or talked directly to Mike (usually I would work with his incredibly lovely and wonderfully talented wife Lisa Petrucci), his vision and guidance and passion for what he was doing was always evident. Though he seemed to be somewhat of a private person, he provided some terrific interviews over the years, he was in documentaries like Hell's Highway (2002), and shows up on the special features of some of the Something Weird DVDs (including a great extended tour of Harry Novak's Hollywood office, screening room and film vaults).
I feel terribly saddened by the way-too-early passing of Mike Vraney, and my thoughts are with Lisa along with their family and friends and loved ones. As a respected and passionate archivist with a clear love for good old-fashioned carnival ballyhoo, his presence will be much missed, but his accomplishments always appreciated and celebrated by those who love to trawl that curious netherworld of vintage exploitation cinema.
December 29, 1957 to January 2, 2014
"I'm the only guy I know whose wife cheers every time I bring home a big box of men's magazines". A nice little profile on Mike Vraney, Lisa Petrucci and Something Weird Video, which aired in 2006 on Seattle's Evening Magazine program.