Archive for October, 2011

Rex Sikes Interview!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Actor and entertainer Rex Sikes is best known to hardcore horror fans for starring as the ill fated Rodney in the cult clas-sick 1976 exploitation favorite MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. I had the chance to ask Rex all about the filming of MASSACRE, his memories of the cast, and his opinion of the film.

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

Brain Hammer: Where and when was MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH filmed? How old were you at the time?

Rex Sikes: MASSACRE as I recall was shot in the early part of 1976, seems like late winter early spring, it’s always hard to tell in Los Angeles where the weather is perfect year round. I would have been approaching 21 or 22 at the time, we all were in our twenties as I recall.

BH: Did you have any prior acting experience?

RS: Yes I had already done numerous lost films. Most of my films have seemed to have disappeared through the years. Among them, there was a terrible horror flick called TERROR OF CAGED WOMEN. I have no clue whatever happened to that. We shot much of it on location and at Columbia Studios – Sunset/Gower (now ABC) – which at that time had been pretty much abandoned as the studio moved to Burbank.

I lived in Sound Stage 1 off Sunset with other actors and film makers for a while in 74 and 75 when TERROR was filmed. We had the run of the studio lot. Later big bands like Billy Joel, Earth Wind and Fire and many others would come in to rehearse down the lot at stage 7 or 9 and would drive past my front door. I got to watch lots of rehearsals and meet lots of celebrities at that time.

BH: Did you audition for the role of Rodney? What was the audition process?

RS: I got a call from my agent to go to the director Rene Daalder’s home in the Hollywood Hills. He was interviewing or reading Kimberly Beck at the time as I recall and I was ushered into a room to look over the script. I met Bert Von Munster the cinematographer, now the Emmy winning producer, and he looked over my portfolio and seemed to be impressed. He became the man in my corner for getting a part I believe.

After a while Rene came out and said “talk to me.” Well I had nothing to say. He said talk to me so I said “I like your view.” He again said “talk to me” and I said “I told you I like your view” He then said “you may go.” And I did. I got in my car, drove down the hills and went home. When I got there the phone rang and it was my agent telling me to go back to Rene’s house.

I drove the forty or more minutes again and got back to the house. He gave me sides and told me to go into a room and read them. I think Derrel Murray may have been there, and Bert was. I’m sure there were some others. Eventually he had me come out and read and I read with him. I don’t recall what part or which pages (it must have included Rodney’s lines) but we again went through this song and dance conversation, all the while Bert would say ‘he is so photogenic, look at this and look at that picture.” I was certain I was about to be sent back home when he said “You have the part. You may go.” And I did.

BH: What are your memories of the script? What were your first impressions reading it back then?

RS: Corny in places. But I decided to learn it as it was for whatever reason. Some of the actors would say “I am not going to say this” and wanted to change their dialog but I kept it intact feeling it reflected the type of person that Rodney was. I mean, “my pa” and “chickens” and all – I said it. I mean after all, what was this poor student doing in such an affluent school? But there he was, pa and chickens…There must be a secret as to why Rodney was actually there, don’t you think?

BH: Did you have any issues with the high levels of brutal revenge themed violence in the film?

RS: No. I loved brutal violence and special effects in movies. I am more shocked nowadays. It’s hard to imagine that they can make things look so realistic. Perhaps, they shouldn’t. Maybe we need to remember after all – it is only entertainment and to stop depicting reality in such a graphic fashion. I think this more now as a family man, and with all the issues in high schools, even grade schools with violence, the film maker in me says “nah, it’s the movies – do it however you want.” SO I guess after all is said and done I am conflicted about it and have not resolved it and must take it on a case by case basis. Hmmmmm.

BH: Were you a fan of any horror or exploitation films at the time?

RS: Sure. I grew up on horror films, but remember they were 30′s 40′s, 50′s and 60′s horror – much different in special effects and in monsters. I mean THE EXORCIST made such a deep impression. Nothing was ever done like that before. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was okay to me. The movie that first totally frightened me was LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. I think I was 16 and it was the first movie where I thought “Oh my god this happens in real life” and it terrified me. Because it was too real. And of course the scene of hammering away at someone’s teeth with a chisel had my mouth numb for weeks.

BH: Do you have an idea of the budget? How much money did you make?

RS: At least a buck or two. Actually I have no idea what the budget was nor what I made. Nothing like later salaries. Probably less than 5,000 dollars when all is said and done. No residuals ever, thanks to the actors strike of 1980 which got us nothing. You know, it played all the time on cable TV and none of us have seen a dime. We probably all got scale, which was 600 or more bucks a week but there were special shooting days where much more than that was paid in a single day. I just don’t know the actual figures.

BH: How long was the shoot?

RS: 3 or 4 weeks. I believe I worked at least 3 weeks nearly consecutively. We worked a few national holidays so union wages were good for those days as I mentioned before. Although, as is often he case, I believe we were asked to waive certain bumps to our salary due to budget constraints.

BH: What was the atmosphere like on the set?

RS: We all met at production offices on Sunset on a Saturday while they were casting the last role of Oscar – Jeffrey Winner, another nice man. He won the role. How long after that shooting began I don’t recall. But we all became friends quickly and spent nearly every evening going to dinner together. Andrew Stevens bought me my first shot of Courvoisier and as I recall I shot it down to his dismay. “You have to sip it!” he told me. I do believe he bought another. So we were all pretty relaxed together and the atmosphere was happy. There are always production tensions, delays, and issues that surround film making but it was good to be with everyone. I don’t recall any fights, any incompatibility issues, perhaps minor artistic squabbles. I don’t recall ever feeling rushed.

BH: It was a genre flick shot in the Seventies so I have to ask: any coke-fueled orgies on the set to report?

RS: None that I can recall. HAHAHAHAHHA! Actually, I recall getting really drunk on Southern Comfort at a party Rainbeaux Smith had at her house once, but I know of no drugs on the set to report. And yes the 70’s were quite the era of drugs and free sex. Wow, to be able to relive those days would be great – not the drugs but the freedom from fear of disease and death. Lot’s of partying for sure but what a different time. I would never again do that to my body or brain, ever. But ohhhh the freedoms!

BH: What are your memories of Rene Daalder? Was he an easy director to work with?

RS: Rene was fun to work with. I can’t say I understood his vision for this movie, maybe none of us did but we did what we had to get it done.

I enjoyed Renee very much but I have always been a little angry with one particular shooting aspect. At one point in the film we cut to me in the library and I slam down a pencil and yell “Goddamn math problem won’t work out!” and Arthur comes to the rescue. Well, I had my own way of doing it. I wanted to do it that way. Instead, he gave me a line reading – this singsong way of doing it. He wanted me to mimic back to him how he hummed the line. I argued that no one would speak it that way – he said “Do it my way and we will do it your way.” Well we did it his way and that was it. That’s what showed up in the film and it always made me cringe. I will let fans and critics be the judge. It would have been different had I been allowed my way – that’s all I can say Still, I liked Renee and would have loved to work with him again. Perhaps it is not too late.

BH: Tell me your thoughts on your on-screen friend turned killer, Derrel Murray. You two had a nice chemistry together in the movie. Were you close off camera? How was he to work with?

RS: Derrel as I said before is great. Always friendly, always positive and upbeat. We have stayed in touch, after many years not in touch. LA can chew you up and spit you out. I have lost so many friends to drugs, suicide, murder, and later to AIDS. So when you meet cool, upbeat friendly people you like to keep them around. I have so totally digressed on this, but there are lots of great people. Derrel is certainly one of them. I genuinely liked him and I think that comes across a bit on screen. However, this was not a film with time to develop relationships. Much of it is revealed through back dialog or “at the beach.” There should be a drinking game like the Newhart show one, where everytime someone says “lets go to the beach” someone takes a shot.

BH: I’ve always had the hots for one of your female co-stars, the late great Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith. Do you have any stories or memories to share about her?

RS: I truly enjoyed Rainbeaux and would spend some afternoons with her at her Laurel Canyon digs after the shoot. She had some parties and it was always fun to be with her. I used to breakfast and lunch at the famous Schwabs Drugstore on Sunset and Laurel Canyon nearly every day and she lived right up the road about 5 minutes away.

I feel so bad for Rainbeaux. After I learned of her death, which was a couple years after it occurred, I contacted her son by email to let him know how much I enjoyed knowing her and how sorry I was for his loss. He at that time had never seen MASSACRE.

BH: How about the male lead Andrew Stevens? Any thoughts on him? He went on to have a very successful career in Hollywood. Did you feel he was a talented actor back then?

RS: I liked Andrew. We had a brief falling out over a girl – who was a friend of mine – but Andrew is a likeable guy. He became friends with one of my oldest friends in Hollywood – Kin Shriner from General Hospital and we re-established contact through Kin. In fact if Kin moved and we lost touch it would be Andrew who could reunite us. I think it is great what he has accomplished. I think back then most of us were a bit envious of Andrew. I surely would have worked like he had, but he was a good guy and fun to be around. We too lost touch and only recently emailed a bit. Kin used to encourage me to work for Andrew on one of his many projects. I would love to, but it has never happened. Perhaps in the future, who knows? But it would be fun to work for him.

BH: The trio of bullies in the film are all very convincing as arrogant little douche bags. Were the three actors: Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, and Damon Douglas nice guys when the cameras weren’t rolling?

RS: Yes, all nice guys. Enjoyed all of them. I have no clue of what happened to Ray and I would love to know. Steve I saw on and off for awhile but have not been in touch for so long. Damon I met for breakfast a few years back over by 20th Century he has become a therapist and helps people. So I have Damon, Tom Logan, Derrel in my cell phone and an email for Andrew. I have lost touch with so many people. When I left LA I didn’t intend to stay away so I never really said goodbye. It was my mistake to have not kept in touch.

Later, when I go back and I would run into someone they would go “I thought you died.” And to them I had because there was no closure in how I left them and Hollywood. It’s hard to make up for not keeping in touch still I want to. And then, sadly and happily, people move on.

BH: Your most famous MASSACRE co-star has to be Robert Carradine, who played the free spirited Spoony. How was he to work with? Were you familiar with his famous family, or perhaps a fan?

RS: I know a couple of us thought Bobby was the worst actor while working with him. Turns out when all is said and done I think he was the best. It’s just that he was soooo understated at a time when that wasn’t really formal acting. I think he does shine. And I recall doing somewhere between 17 and 28 takes as he tries to say “Detroit degenerate gas guzzler” or whatever the line was. Bobby I saw occasionally too or spoke on the phone with once in awhile. Gosh he has gone on to lots of work. Bobby is and was a talented actor. And a nice guy.

Let me now say a word about Lani O’ Grady who played Jane. I miss her. We had been out of touch for a long while, a few years after massacre after “8 is Enough” ended. About a year before she died I got her number somehow and called her. I never heard back. I just said left a message at that time that I had heard she had some troubles and I was there for her in my thoughts and I was glad she had got everything together and was hoping to chat sometime. Later, I learned she had died. Truly sad. To think there were only 3 girls in Massacre and two of them are dead. Wow.

BH: Tell me about the scene where the bullies wreck your beloved jalopy. Do you remember shooting that scene? Were any stunt people used, or did Steve Bond really drive the car?

RS: We shot some of it at Griffith Park, the drives and the stop. After they get in the car we shot at another location, a condemned school in Burbank. When they stop me I obviously was driving as was Steve I believe. After a few takes I hear someone yell “Sikes hit the van!” and I got blamed for crashing into the van. It never happened and eventually I was exonerated. But at first I was blamed.

The guys get into the car and we drive off, cut to driving at the condemned school. We all were in it for much of it except the final car jump. I believe some of us were replaced with stunt people. Danny Rogers was the stunt co-coordinator and another really good guy. I don’t remember if we were all in the car going over or not. Funny, it seems like I remember being in the front seat with stunt men in wigs in the back. That way those in the front would be seen through the windshield – but it would have to have been Danny the stunt driver. I honestly don’t recall it for certain.

BH: At the end of that tragic scene you unleash quite the raw display of emotion. After the bullies walk away you slam your car door and then kick the car while spinning around in frustration! Was that method acting?

RS: Yes pretty much. Although I did use a grass reed to tickle my nostrils to tear up. I think the bullies found that most enjoyable. So I am teary eyed and in the “moment” when action starts. And then the anger and the spin!

BH: Were you present for the shooting of any of the death scenes? If so, please share your memories!

RS: I was present for the pool death. And upon discovery of Steve Bond’s body Andrew Stevens broke my nose for real! I utter something, Harvey (Tom Logan, good guy and we are still in touch) says something like “and to think he was so full of life” then Andrew rushes to take him out and he accidentally koko-butted me in the nose.

I bled immediately. They grabbed me, threw me in a make up chair and grabbed my nose. The producer Howard Sobel comes by and asks “Do you have a history of bloody noses?” I angrily say no and tell him to get lost, to which he replies “Oh I do, that’s why I wondered.” Geeeesss! Anyway, I recovered moments later and we shot the scene. Turns out my nose was crushed. I have a broken nose throughout many scenes in the movie and a puffy face because it was shot out of sequence. In 1999 I finally got it fixed so I could again breath properly. There should have been a workers compensation claim but I never reported it.

I was there for Oscar’s death. During rehearsals the explosion knocked out Danny the stuntman briefly and the lights and set went dark. Tom and I were supposed to be in the scene next to Oscar but wardrobe put us in the wrong day’s clothes so they just went ahead without us. It was scary although no one was ultimately hurt.

I also was there for Arthur’s death at Hollywood High Library. We all thought the blood looked cool running down the page.

BH: Your character has a fiery demise! Any memories of that car explosion?

RS: It was filmed at Griffith Park which we used for the parking lot. It was a little spooky watching a dummy – with MY blue jean jacket on it get blown sky high. I was holding a girl’s hand I was dating and watching me and part of my clothing go bye bye. The production crew asked if they could use my jacket because they forgot to get one and promised that they would replace it – well not to my satisfaction did they replace it. Instead I got some crummy old blue jean jacket. Not cool at all.

BH: Do you think your character deserved to be killed?

RS: If you follow the story, yes he became as bad as the rest. Maybe a little worse. I personally would have liked his story line developed a little more because with Rodney you really saw the transformation, as you also did with Oscar. Arthur gets snobby and Harvey, well he remains Harvey up until his garage speech to David.

BH: Why are there no parents or teachers in Central High?

RS: We are alien kids transplanted from another dimension…the Black Lodge. Our real parent is The Man From Another Place, and sometimes all our arms bend back. That is why. Actually, I have no idea. That was Rene’s scripting. We wondered about it, just like there were no cops. I am sure we discussed it at times but don’t recall any specific conversations. After the fact, it did make the move stronger. None of us I’m almost certain had a clue that it would have received the response it has through the years. It is a bold move in film making to isolate the kids in that manner.

BH: Was there ever a premiere for MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH? If so, where was it, and did you attend? What was the audience reaction to the film?

RS: I think it opened on Hollywood Blvd at the Pacific theater on a Wednesday night and the cast all went. I don’t recall if it was a special screening of it or not. We sat together in two rows. As the credits rolled Lani yells out “Hey, how did I end up after Sikes?” since the original film credits somehow moved my name further down the list of costars.

It was bitter sweet for me. It is difficult to watch oneself and then I see my broken nose throughout. The audience that was there seemed to like it. Tom Logan and I hung out quite a bit and there were times in Hollywood when people would spot us and ask for autographs because we were kids from CENTRAL HIGH. I later took a director friend of mine to see it at another Hollywood theater so she could see my work in the film. She was positive. I am glad it has been well received through the years, surprised and glad.

BH: What were/are your thoughts on the finished product?

RS: I like it and I cringe, as I mentioned it is always difficult to watch yourself. What you could have done differently-and “gd math problems” and such. I thought it should be longer. Things happened too quickly. I don’t know what if anything was left out of the filming. But the market at the time was dictating and it was more of an exploitation flick. Fast deaths, no grief, revenge, and then end. That sort of formula. Embedded in it however are the subtle messages of class rivalry, power corrupting, and the dialog of children attempting to act like adults or movie tough guys. It made for an intriguing blend with the sappy music. It was bound for cult fame – I just didn’t see it at the time.

BH: Do you feel MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH has been fairly reviewed by critics over the years?

RS: I’m surprised that it was so well received in some respects. That they were able to see the message or the multiple messages that the film conveys is a good thing.

BH: Do you think CENTRAL HIGH is an underrated or overlooked film?

RS: Well it disappeared. It was here – at one time the most rented video, on TV very frequently – and then gone for years and years. Not on TV and hard to find. In that regard it certainly has been overlooked and underrated. I hope it does make a comeback.

BH: In an age where seemingly EVERY horror/exploitation film ever made is getting a remake, I think it’s safe to say that a big budget Hollywood remake of MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH won’t be happening anytime soon. Especially in the wake of tragic recent events. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think a remake would be in bad taste?

RS: NO! If done right it could address the very issues we currently face. It could point out the stupidity and horror of those actions and the hopelessness and futility for those considering anything at all remotely similar.

I made a movie short in ’77 after Massacre entitled KILLER’S MATINEE. It played between features for awhile. It was about me – the killer shooting people for making noise at Casablanca. Needless to say it disappeared after a tragic event in San Diego at a fast food restaurant. It virtually disappeared. It was a good piece of film, but it was never meant to say this is what anyone should do. Nor does MASSACRE make any statement like that. I think you are supposed to see how idiotic it is to try to make violence a solution. Horror films should be a release NOT AN INSPIRATION!!!!!!!!!!

If they remake MASSACRE do you think they would cast me as one of the parents or teachers today???? HAHAHHAAHA!!!!

Thank you again to Rex for doing this interview!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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Top 40 Zombie Flicks!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2011 by Brain Hammer

The undying popularity of the “living dead” never ceases to amaze  me. Zombies have clearly captured the hearts and BRAINS of horror fans all over the world. We are consumed with dead flesh, living, dying, and living in a zombie world. There are countless clas-sick horror flicks dead-icated to the subject, and I am proud to present a list of my 40 personal favorites.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

BRAIN HAMMER’S TOP 40 ZOMBIE FLICKS:

 

01. The Beyond (1981)

02. Bloodeaters (1980)

03. Braindead (1992)

04. Burial Ground (1980)

05. The Children (1980)

06. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

07. City Of The Living Dead (1980)

08. The Crazies (1973)

09. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

10. Dawn Of The Mummy (1981)

11. Day Of The Dead (1985)

12. Dead & Buried (1981)

13. Deathdream (1972)

14. Demons (1985)

15. Dellamorte Dellamore (1993)

16. The Evil Dead (1981)

17. The Fog (1979)

18. The Ghost Galleon (1973) 

19. The Grapes Of Death (1978)

20. Hell Of The Living Dead (1980)

21. Horror Express (1972)

22. House By The Cemetery (1981)

23. The Last Man On Earth (1964)

24. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971)

25. The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue (1974)

26. Messiah Of Evil (1972)

27. Night Of The Creeps (1986)

28. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

29. Night Of The Living Dead (1990)

30. Night Of The Sea Gulls (1975)

31. Nightmare City (1980)

32. Rabid (1977)

33. Re-Animator (1985)

34. Return Of The Evil Dead (1973)

35. Return Of The Living Dead (1984)

36. Shivers (1975)

37. Shock Waves (1976)

38. Tombs Of The Blind Dead (1971)

39. Zombi 2 (1979)

40. Zombi Holocaust (1980)

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

John Fasano Interview!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2011 by Brain Hammer

John Fasano is the hardworking mastermind responsible for creating three of my all time favorite 80’s horror epics – Zombie Nightmare, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare, and Black Roses! I was honored to have the opportunity to ask John about his memories of writing and directing those beloved cult clas-sicks…

Brain Hammer: IMDB has you credited as “assistant director” for “Zombie Nightmare.” The film’s credits do not list you at all. What exactly was your involvement in that film and why aren’t you credited for your work?

John Fasano: I wrote the script and directed about half the scenes. I agreed with producer Jack Bravman that he would get Director credit, since he had made the film possible and wanted a credit. I was just starting and would have plenty of time to get more credits (I did) on the video box it says screenplay by John Fasano but when I saw the film it saw someone else, a CANADIAN (who actually edited the film) – because a tax shelter (i.e., money back from the Canadian Govt) did not allow a film to have an American Director AND writer, so Jack just took my name off. Never told me, by the way. I got $5000 for the script, and it was the first “real” film I had a hand in directing.

BH: What was the budget for “Zombie Nightmare” and how much time did you have to shoot?

JF: $180,000 budget. Ten days of shooting in Montreal.

BH: What was the atmosphere like on the set?

JF: Wild. Frank Dietz, Thor, and the effects guys Tony Bua and Andy Clement were all friends of mine, all the crew were French Canadian and HATED us. BTW, the kid playing Jim who drives the car that kills the zombie is Shawn Levy, the director of “Night At The Museum.”

BH: You appear in “Zombie Nightmare” in a short but memorable role. Did you enjoy your acting debut?

JF: Not entirely, because I wrote it for my childhood wrestling hero Superstar Billy Graham and no one picked him up at the airport. The Zombie appliance had been made on a cast of his head and shoulder and I was the closest in his size. I was BLIND in the mask, it had no eyeholes, and had to sort of direct the scene and act blind. It was a hoot. Recently a mask maker in Illinois named Aaron Lewis recreated my makeup as a collector’s mask he sells. Looks just like me. I got one and sent it to Thor so he could use it in concerts. When I pulled Adam West into “hell,” I told him, “The joker couldn’t do it. The Penguin couldn’t. But I killed Batman.” He laughed. He is the BEST guy.

BH: “Zombie Nightmare” is a unique zombie film, as it features no flesh eating or gory gut munching. I also noticed a lack of profanity or nudity. Why was the film so tame?

JF: No money for blood.

BH: “Zombie Nightmare” features an excellent heavy metal soundtrack. Whose decision was this? Do you have a favorite song from the soundtrack?

JF: Jack found the score. “Ace of Spades” rocks in the titles, and “Zombie Night” the song as Frank is leaving the graveyard I think is very effective.

BH: Have you seen the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring “Zombie Nightmare?” Did you find it funny? Were you offended when they had your character shout “I’m husky!” and accused Dom Delusive of doing your fight chorography?

JF: No offense. Dom is an ex-neighbor of mine in L.A. Really, everything they said about the movie we had already said. After I finished shooting the film, I offered to edit it myself (I was a trained editor) but Jack went with two local kids who would do it free for the credit. After they edited for a few weeks they called me and asked if I could send them a script, so they could see what they were supposed to be cutting. They had scenes where characters were killed and then put in an earlier scene after that where the guy was still alive. A mess. Also, they used the original negative to cut the trailer, so all the best shots in the trailer were GONE and could not be used in the film.

BH: Was Adam West drunk while filming? Is there is reason why he says “HEY!” to Frank Dietz five times in one scene? Was that scripted or clever improv from Adam?

JF: Adam was NOT drunk. That was him taking several shots at the line until he found the right tone, and the editor didn’t understand he only was supposed to use one. Some of the scenes were written at the last minute and Adam had to glance at the script, and the editor LEFT IN when he’s looking at it instead of cutting away to Frank!

BH: Why the 18 second shot of the setting sun?

JF: Running time. Film had to be a certain length. Editor again.

BH: What was up with the penguin voiced medical examiner?!?

JF: That was him doing “Columbo.” Jack would ask the actors to ape certain actors or characters he knew.

BH: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” was your second film working with Jon Mikl Thor. How did this second project come to be?

JF: I had finished shooting “Zombie Nightmare” and it was being butchered by the neophyte Editing team in Montreal so I was back in Manhattan at Reeltime when Lenny Shapiro flew into town to offer Walter and Roberta a deal — he knew they could shoot a feature for 100,000 dollars (they had done it on “Blood Sisters”) so he would give them 50K and they would put up 50K, Reeltime making the film which his Los Angeles based company Shapiro Entertainment would distribute the pic and they would split the NET profits 50-50. Walter laughed at that. They should split the GROSS 50-50. Hell, Lenny didn’t want that, so he returned to his hotel in preparation for heading back to L.A. I quickly called him. If he would give ME 50,000 dollars I would raise 50,000 and make the film, happy to split the net profits.

You see, I had a plan. I would make the movie for Lenny’s 50,000 — I’d just write, direct, edit, and do the special effects myself with no pay — shit, all that stuff HAD to be worth 50K. Lenny (probably sensing my true intentions) agreed if I would meet his criteria — the film had to be shot in 35mm, it had to have X-number of monsters and naked chicks (actually eight naked breasts) and a world wide soundtrack album — sure, I said, I can do that.

BH: Tell me about more the background/budget of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.”

JF: I definitely had more balls than brains, then. The first thing I did was make a deal with heavy-metal rocker/Canadian John Mikl Thor — who had stepped in halfway through “Zombie Nightmare” to take over the lead — to star and supply an album for half of my half of the net profits. I then made a deal with the Toronto crew who had shot Thor’s video “Knock Them Down” to supply ALL CREW and EQUIPMENT for 10,000 dollars Canadian (like 7,000 dollars US) then I went to all my friends who wanted to be actors and said, “I can give ya one hundred and fifty bucks to star in this movie — that’s it, no points, no residuals — but you get to stay in a hotel in Toronto and you get to be in a real movie. They all agreed. Then I went to all my friends who wanted to be effects men. By this time I had moved from the Bronx to Bronxville New York, to a house with a finished basement. I set up the basement as an effects shop and ensconced all my friends there. In post I had to ask Lenny for $3000 more dollars to finish, so the total budget was $53,000.

BH: You must have felt pressured trying to complete a film in only seven days. Was it a fun shoot for you, or were you stressed out all the time?

JF: Sheer joy! I was directing my movie all by myself!

BH: How was it filming in Markham Ontario in winter?

JF: Fucking freezing! On the nighttime time lapse shots of the house DP Mark Mackey FROZE to the side of the camera and he had to take the camera off the head, bring it in and hair dryer him til he got free.

BH: What films would you say inspired “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare?”

JF: “Evil Dead.” “Legend of Hell House.”

BH: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” features a pair of music videos within the film for the songs “We Live To Rock” and “Energy.” How long did it take to film those videos?

JF: Just during the course of the day with the rest of the filming. A couple of hours each. My ex-brother in law, Jim Cirile, who plays STIG is the only one in the band who can play and instrument so his hands double for the Frank and the Dave in the close ups.

BH: Could you describe the “rush” of filming concert performance footage?

JF: I love it. I get into it. I jump around on stage and sing along at the top of my lungs. Those are some of the most fun scenes in any movie, “Black Roses” Murder At The Presidio.” I LOVE the concert scenes.

BH: What is your favorite song from the “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” soundtrack?

JF: “We Live To Rock.” Should have been a hit single.

BH: Not to be mean to the women involved, but I have to say that the four chicks that were supposed to be paid $100 each to get topless were all hideous looking! How angry were you when they showed up on set and refused to take their clothes off?

JF: I could have killed them and Mike Dolgy, the slime who hired them and then told them they didn’t have to take off their tops. Two of them were kinda cute. Anyway, it forced me to have my FRIENDS take their tops off, and our relationships were never the same.

BH: On the commentary track for “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” you mention an incident on the seventh day of shooting where your cameraman shot an entire roll without reloading the camera and missed filming several scenes! Do you remember what was footage was lost? Did you have to reshoot any scenes?

JF: I don’t remember now, but that’s why the film was too short.

BH: Another point repeated over and over on the commentary track was how bad the actor who played the guitarist of the Tritonz smelled! Was the smell really that bad? Could you describe the smell? Did you have to pay that actress any extra money to have a love scene with the guy?

JF: It was just bad B.O. We never mentioned it to his face. Smelled like he was a Frenchman.

BH: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” was one of the first films to be edited digitally. Were you confident in what was at the time this “new technology”?

JF: We didn’t have money for dailies. We had to cut electronically. Like I said, I was sure we could do ANYTHING.

BH: I think the answer should be obvious, but why the 10 minute sequence of Jon Mikl Thor driving a van?

JF: See above – we had a ten day schedule and Mark bugged out after seven. The film was that much short.

BH: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” features a number of scenes where people are killed in front of a sink. Why is this? Were either you or Thor traumatized in front of a sink as youngsters?

JF: My older sister used to let the water run until it was boiling hot without telling me and then when I went to the sink I got scalded. Or did I do that to my younger sister? One or the other.

BH: The end battle between Triton and old Scratch is the stuff of LEGEND! Share your unique memories of filming and participating in that epic battle!

JF: The Scratch puppet weighed like a hundred pounds and I had to scramble around on my knees holding the thing up with my arm sticking over my head into the torso. It’s head was SOLID resin and alone weighed sixty pounds. When I hit Thor with it, it hurt.

BH: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” was originally titled “Arc Angel”, and then “The Edge Of Hell”. Which of those three titles do you prefer?

JF: “Edge of Hell.”

BH: Out of all of your films “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” probably has the largest following of loyal and loving fans. Why do you think that is?

JF: The wacky ending. I was trying to do a sendup of all these haunted house, “kill the cast one by one” movies. I LOVE superheroes and Steve Reeves movies and thought it would be great if a horror movie ended like that. People who got to the end of the film FREAKED and they told their friends. “Black Roses” is technically a much better film.

 
BH: Did the success of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” pave the way for “Black Roses”?

JF: 53,000 total budget — 400,000 worldwide sales and Lenny Shapiro was back with a new offer. 450,000 budget for another Horror movie. I had an idea….

BH: “Black Roses” to me is the definition of a heavy metal horror movie! What was the inspiration for the script?

JF: Back in the mid 1980s there used to be this chick named Tipper Gore who thought that Rock Music was the hand of THE DEVIL! Oh. Yeah. That’s ex-Vice President Al Gore’s wife. Well, anyway, back then she was leading this crusade to ban Heavy Metal, and I got thinking about my next project. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare” had made about $400,000 in sales on it’s $53,000 investment and Lenny Shapiro wanted another project. He’d since become partners with James (The Exterminator, Shakedown) Glickenhaus and asked me to try my hand at delivering a film with a bigger budget: an astronomical $450,000! Since I had delivered albums for both “Zombie Nightmare” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare,” I was looking for a subject that would lend itself to an album. You gotta realize that this was back before films had soundtrack albums filled with top 40s hits for the sake of the album sales.

Cindy and I got to talking — what if Tipper Gore was right and some heavy metal band was not only playing music of the devil, but was fronted by the Evil Dude himself. I figured the band would blow into some “Leave It To Beaver” town and corrupt the morals of the kids — they’d start drinking and smoking dope and having sex — yeah, this was back before they were doing all that shit in High School anyway. The hero would be the person who was the hero in my life — their hip English teacher, who is the only one who sees the changes going on in them. I thought of it as a morality play, and Cindy went off and wrote a script heavy on psychological crap.

BH: Is “Black Roses” meant to be a cautionary tale warning parents about the dangers of metal?

JF: Ha! It’s about MONSTER killing bad parents! Pay attention to your kids or you’ll die!

BH: You obviously had more money to work with this time around. What was the budget and shooting schedule for “Black Roses?”

JF: $450,000, 21 shooting days in Hamilton Ontario (DP Paul Mitchnick’s home town. )

BH: Like “Zombie Nightmare” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare”, “Black Roses” features an amazing soundtrack! Masi, Lizzy Borden, Hallows Eve. Just fantastic. What is your favorite song from the “Black Roses” soundtrack?

JF: “Rock Invasion.” Eliot Solomon, the distributor Alan Solomon’s son, did the soundtrack. He was friends with Carmine Appice and these other guys. His score for “Black Roses” is AMAZING for the budget of the film. I love it.

BH: “Black Roses” is notable for featuring Vincent Pastore from “The Sopranos.” How was it working with him? Was he a “big pussy” during the filming of his death scene?

JF: Vinnie was great. When I showed my cut of “Black Roses” (twenty grand under budget) to the company, I got a great lesson from my producer/distributer Jim Glickenhaus — the movie was lame. There weren’t any scares, any monsters in it. EVERYTHING was psychological and implied. All the killing occurred off screen. I figured the movie was dead — but since I’d come in under budget, the money was there to do reshoots. So I quickly came up with five new monster scenes, storyboarded them and got the effects guys working on new creatures which I would shoot in and around my house in New York. I hired Vinnie Pastore in his first role as Tony’s dad, and had him sucked into a stereo speaker by a Tony Bua-created spider thing.

BH: The original “Black Roses” vhs release featured a beautiful cover with 3D plastic artwork. Do you think this flashy packaging helped the flick stand out in video stores? Did it help with sales?

JF: I get people today who don’t remember ever seeing the movie but remember that video box.

BH: Which of these three “heavy metal horror flicks” is your favorite?

JF: “Black Roses.”

BH: Can you pick a least favorite?

JF: Easy, “Zombie Nightmare” as it turned out.

BH: Finally, any other stories or memories to share?

JF: BLACK ROSES MEMORIES –

I was lucky to get Carmine Appice (Rod Stewart’s drummer who had co-written IF YOU THINK I’M SEXY) Lou Ferrigno’s wife Carla as the stuck up Mayor’s daughter, Ken Swofford (principal on TVs FAME series and Sheriff on MURDER SHE WROTE) and my fan boy casting, JULIE-FREAKING-CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON-ADAMS as the Tipper Gore busy body who raises a ruckus over the Band’s shows. The CREATURE was the first horror movie I ever saw on television, at the age of like, two, and the images were burned into my head forever. I’m sure I got a two year old woody when Ricou Browning swam beneath Julies shimmering form. Okay.

All I needed was a guy to play the intrepid English Teacher. I knew who I wanted: Gedde Wantanabe, the disgraced Japanese businessman in Ron Howard’s GUNG HO. Casting against type — frail intellectual teacher fights monsters in big effects driven finale. Too bad his agent thought that the movie was beneath him. Then another Soap Opera actor came into our casting sessions — handsome John Martin, who actually been The MARLBORO MAN (back when you could advertise cigarettes). We had our teacher. Now we needed the monsters. Like I said, the movie was gonna be all psychological and shit, but at the end I needed the band to turn into monsters in their final concert. I went back to Tony Bua and Andy Clement, my SUNY Purchase classmates who had done Zombie Nightmare, and Andy recommended Richie Alonzo, who had done MY DEMON LOVER and now works at Stan Winston’s Shop doing pix like RELIC and JURASSIC PARK 3.

I storyboarded EVERY shot and we flew (okay, we still had to drive) to Toronto to hook up with my crew. Paul Mitchnick (DP of TVs HIGHLANDER) took me to Hamilton Ontario, just west of Toronto, a town which still had the innocence of America’s heartland. I got two Lamborghini Countach exoticars from a local dealer and we started shooting.

ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE MEMORIES –

Jack Bravman was another New York based porn movie producer who switched to low Budget Horror films when the porn industry switched to shooting on video. He was friends with Walter and Roberta and when he heard I had fixed their script he asked me if I could write a script for him. I said I would write it if I could direct it. He said he wanted to direct it, but I could direct it with him as his “assistant director” I agreed and ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE was born. I planned to shoot the film in my home town of Port Washington, Long Island, and wrote the script around locations I knew and people I could get from the Port Play Troupe summer stock company I had worked with growing up. Up to this point I had been cranking out hundreds of pages a month for magazines on what I considered the finest writing tool available, the IBM correcting Selectric II typewriter — man, you could backspace and frigging ERASE a mistake. I thought writing couldn’t get any better., Until Zombie Nightmare.

You see, Jack and I envisioned ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE as an urban thriller, with a mostly African American cast. The bad guys were a group of white yuppie scum kids who ran over an innocent black athlete, whose Voodoo practising neighbor brings back from the dead. The Black characters all had stereotypical urban names like Leon and Leroy and others that started with “Le-”. Until the day that Jack informed me his investors found out they couldn’t sell a primarily Black cast low budget film to the foreign buyers (this crap still goes on today – if Denzel or Eddie Murphy or Will Smith ain’t in it, it ain’t worth as much to Germany, Japan, etc.) so I had to change all the characters, and their NAMES to white. But how the hell do I do that with a completed, TYPED manuscript? I had to type “BOBBY” and “David” and so on, a hundred times each, cut them out with an exacto knife and then rubber cement them into the script. After doing that for several days, I looked up at Cindy and said, “We’re buying a computer.”

Dude, this was 1985, and PC s were just becoming available., They were like magical objects in Dungeons and Dragons. Mystical boxes that Science Majors understood. Cindy thought I lost it. Computers cost, like, a thousand dollars for a 12 MHz machine with 8 megs of ram and a 40 MEG hard drive, and I was getting five grand total for writing and co-directing the whole film. I just looked at her and said “I think we’re going to have to write more scripts some day, and I’m not going to go through this shit with revisions again.” You see, up to that point most of the NY based films I’d seen shot basically went out and shot whatever shitty first draft they had. So I bought a Leading Edge PC and learned the now infamous a:/C: Run Print fuck you PC boot up procedure. Shit, in those pre-Mac, pre-Windows days, sometimes you’d turn on the computer and the screen would just stay blank and THERE WAS NOTHING YOU COULD FUCKING DO ABOUT IT.

Anyway, with the computer humming away in the bedroom/office/editing suite of our Bronx roach infested apartment, We began prepping Zombie Nightmare. Jack hired a casting director in Los Angeles who got us Adam West to play the Police Chief and a young chick from GENERAL HOSPITAL named TIA CARRERE (Yeah, the RELIC HUNTER in her pre-WAYNE’S WORLD glory) For the lead Zombie we hired an actor/body builder named PeeWee Piemonte who had a Coke commercial running, and for the daddy zombie I had my eyes set on WWF wrestler Superstar BILLY GRAHAM, a far out dude I used to watch on TV with my dad, he always wore these tie-dyed tights. I got Jack to hire two classmates from SUNY Purchase. Andy Clement and Tony Bua, to do the zombie prosthetics, Andy was taking Dick Smith’s correspondence course, and Tony was a Sculpture major who was just about the best damn sculptor you ever saw. They cast up PeeWee and SuperStar and got to work. Jack and I worked out the directing deal — HE would direct the scenes with Tia and Adam West in them, and when it was just the other people, I could take over sometimes. Hey, cool, I was gonna sort of direct a film I wrote.

Weeks — no, days before we were going to shoot in New York, Jack came back with more great news: He couldn’t make a deal with the crew Unions. We couldn’t shoot in New York or “union representatives” would shut us down (or break our legs) but he had made a deal with a producer of Porn in Montreal he did business with in his “former” life. We could go to Montreal and shoot the film. We were goin’ to Canada. I had to fire every person I promised a job to from my home town and drive North. When I arrived and Jack introduced me as the Assistant director the Canadian crew asked me for the schedule. I said, “don’t you have it?” And they said, the AD makes the shooting schedule. And I said, “Oh, I’m not really the AD, I’m the co-director.” They looked at me like I was a two headed chicken. This led to great confusion the nights when Jack would walk off the set and I had to BEG the crew to listen to me. “Really, I’m directing now — Jack’s gone back to the hotel room.”

Shooting “Zombie Nightmare” was a trip. The Montreal Producer put all of us Americans up in a sleazy Motel by the airport — porn on the TV of course which NONE of us had seen before, and the crew only spoke French in front of us (even though the bastards spoke perfect English behind our backs) Tony and Andy showed up with, like ONE FUCKING COPY of the Zombie Appliance which had to be worn by Peewee for all ten days of the shoot. Andy said he couldn’t get his foam to gel. A call To Dick Smith straightened him out and he was quickly cranking up more appliances. On I think the second day of shooting Billy Graham was flying up to join us. I returned from the set to the production office and asked if his flight got in on time. The PM blanched, looked at me and said, “Dude, we forgot to pick him up!” I jumped in my car and flew over to Mirabelle airport. Ran into the terminal. Yes, a big man got off a plane ten that morning. He sat in the airport lobby for ten hours. Then flew back to The States. I was crushed. My wrestling hero was gone. Who the hell was going to play the Zombie the next day? It was cast on his head and his neck was HUGE — Shit. We looked around — who would it fit?

I had to play the Zombie. They quickly SHAVED my arms and chest (it looked like I was wearing a fur tank top) and glued the appliance on — and I couldn’t see — Tony had sculpted the damn thing on a closed eyes life cast, and the Zombie head had sculpted eyes, so he figured the actor would just crawl out of the grave, fight Adam West, and drag him to Hell — completely blind! Anyway, on a graveyard set we built in some guy’s front yard I was buried in a hole and covered with sod. I smelled something burning — there was a red light in the hole to simulate the fires of Hell — and the hole was so cramped it was resting against my fucking leg! “Roll film,” I cried. “Action!” I broke out of the hole. Stumbled forward and grabbed Adam West — knocked his gun away — wrestled with him a bit. — pulled him back towards the grave. We set up a new angle and I got back into the hole up to my waist. Adam laid on the ground in front of me and I pulled him back into the hole. Once we were both beneath the sod I was smiling beneath my mask. “I did it.” I said. “Did What?” He asked. “Mister Freeze couldn’t do it. The Joker couldn’t do it. But I killed Batman.” Blind, burned, and mosquito bit in a land of French speaking crew. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE – ON ADAM WEST –

There is so much more to say about “Zombie Nightmare” that will fill more than one chapter of the book I’ll eventually write. It was the first film that I worked on that really felt like a real movie. Being on location, dealing with professional crews, actors, first time of being totally FUCKED out of the credit I deserved, etc., but it will always be most special to me because of Adam West.

He was my first real hero as a kid. When I was five years old, television was black and white, and westerns. Batman burst into my living room in color, the first true fantasy program any of the kids on my block had ever been exposed to. 1966. This was the start of a Golden Age, the beginning of genre fanboys. FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine was on the newsstand, the Universal Horror films had been sold into syndication, Aurora came out with their Monster and Superhero figure model kits (75 cents at Korvettes Department store!) and here, on our flickering Philco televisions, was Adam West as Batman. Sure, he was followed quickly by the Green Hornet (Bruce Lee as Kato!) George Reeves Superman reruns from the 1950’s and Six Million Dollar Man and SHAZAM and a host of others, but Batman was my inspiration. I remember the dank, dark living room of our first house in Farmingdale, New York, a tiny ranch, and the first commercial, maybe the first television image I remember — the animated teaser for BATMAN. Fuck! To finally work with the man — even in a ten day shoot with a $180,000 budget — Well, you coulda’ driven a bus over me and I would have gone to Valhalla content.

Adam was the coolest on the set. He knew that being Batman had typecast him, he had gone through a dry spell in his career, and by the time he got to Z.N. he was having fun with his status. People like us needed “Name actors” He would make a good living dropping into these crummy flicks for a few days, but he didn’t just phone it in. He really wanted to do a good job — even though the schedule and circumstances would work against him. Some examples: Driving Adam to the set I lamented that there wasn’t another scene between him and costar Frank Dietz that was out of the police station. I’d thought it would be cool to have them out for drinks, commiserated how shitty it is to be cops. He said, write it! And so when we got to the police station set I had the art department re-dress the far corner of the room to look like a restaurant, with a couple of plants, tables, and a different colored wall — and we did the scene!

Since he was working, I think two days and we had to shoot like ten scenes with him he had to have the script in front of him for a lot of the Police Station scenes. He’d glance down to refresh his memory while the other actor was giving his lines, knowing that the editor would have cut away from him during that time — but the first time moron Montreal editors left in the shots where it’s clear that Adam is looking at his script! Even in the finale when I get to kill his character, someone shot a flash picture while I was coming out of the ground that no one saw until we got the dailies and saw the few frames flashed. The hazards of Ultra low budget filmmaking.

I think Adam still enjoyed making “Zombie Nightmare,” though, because a coupe of year back when he was asked to host MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER’S Thanksgiving “Turkey Fest” he agreed if they would show “Zombie Nightmare” as the last film of the night! Of all the honors I have achieved since staring to make movies, seeing my first baby dissected on MST will always be up near the top of the list. Thanks Adam!

Thank you again to John for doing this interview way back when!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

Top Ten 80’s Slasher Flicks!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2011 by Brain Hammer

After much careful consideration, I present my list of the top ten 80’s slasher flicks. I made this list based on factors like the brutality of the kills, originality, and overall impact on the audience. Obviously this list is representative of my personal tastes, but I still feel this list represents the very best of the slasher genre.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

BRAIN HAMMER’S TOP TEN 80’s SLASHER FLICKS!!!

 

01. FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)

 

02. MANIAC (1980)

 

 

03. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

 

04. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

 

05. THE BURNING (1981)

 

06. THE PROWLER (1981)

 

07. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

 

08. MADMAN (1981)

 

09. NIGHTMARE (1981)

 

10. INTRUDER (1988)

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

John Morghen Massacre!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Gory greetings! Your old pal Brain Hammer is proud to present a tribute to the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen).

Regardless of what name appears on the title credits, Giovanni should be a familiar face to all fans of clas-sick Italian horror. He has worked with such legendary Italian horror directors as Lucio Fulci, Ruggerio Deodato, Antonio Margheriti, Umberto Lenzi, and Michelle Soavi. Giovanni is a true horror icon, and his death scenes are some of the most spectacular in splatter flick history. This special edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features a fearsome foursome of clas-sick Italian horror epics starring Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.

For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.

Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.

The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.

This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.

The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80′s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja” and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!

Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.

The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a film with GUTS, and a lot of them.

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!

 

HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980)

The flick that will make you scream “DO IT TO ME ONCE MORE!” David Hess and Giovanni Lombardo Radice play the dynamic duo of Alex & Ricky: a pair of super swinging NYC psychopaths. Alex is so bad, he even rapes and murders a girl – at the same time mind you – BEFORE the opening credits! I guess the producers didn’t want anyone to forget who David Hess was!

Alex runs a garage and deals in hot cars on the side. Ricky is his loyal, semi-retarded sidekick. One night a rich and good looking young yuppie couple pulls into the garage after hours looking for a quick repair. Ricky fixes the problem while Alex makes chit chat with the chick and ogles her ruthlessly. The couple mentions a small get together taking place at their house later and Alex and Ricky quickly invite themselves along. Once at the party and introduced to the three other guests Alex starts pawing at the girl and Ricky gets his freak on all over the dance floor much to the amusement of the others. (HILARIOUS!)

After a “now you get me, now you don’t” game in the shower, and a crooked card game where the kids try to swindle the mongoloid out of his money, Alex decides that the rich kids are trying to have some fun at their expense and whips out his trusty straight razor. The secluded house on the edge of the park becomes the ideal setting for an orgy of sexual sadism.

Every exploitative element (with the sad exception of Religion, I would have loved an obvious Jew for Hess to hurl abuse at!) is used to its fullest potential. You want multi-racial lesbianism at knife point? You got it. Racism? In spades. Rape? You bet’cha! Well, not so much actual rape as the constant threat, or perhaps promise, of rape. Violence? Oh yeah! Feast your eyes on brutal bloody beatings, razor blade slicing, poolside urination humiliations, and even 9mm castration!

As nasty as this flick sounds (and undoubtedly is) it actually plays out in a lot more entertaining fashion that you might expect. This flick is my favorite of the trilogy because I feel it has a lot more repeat viewing value than the other entries. I can’t get enough of David Hess saying “It’s too late for boogyin’ anyway” or calling the black chick “Roots.” I never tire of hearing that catchy disco theme song or watching Giovanni get down with his bad self as he seduces the always lovely Lorraine De Selle (“Cannibal Ferox!”) with his funky dance moves.

This Italian effort which was directed by the legendary Ruggerio Deodato (“Cannibal Holocaust”) obviously owes a debt to “Last House On The Left,” especially with Hess starring and the title. However, this is no inferior rehash. This flick is a tight thriller with a nifty twist ending. Another interesting aspect of the film is the fact that it mostly takes place within one location. Once we enter the house, we only rarely leave it. It’s to both Deodato’s and Hess’s credit that the film never gets boring.

As I’ve said before, this flick is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve forced many people to watch it over the years and it never fails to entertain. People who might consider “Last House On The Left” too brutal might find this more tolerable. There is a lot of unintentional humor to enjoy here, especially with the music and wardrobe. Lots of nice nudity throughout, and lovers of BUSH will get a hairy eyefull when the lovely leading lady Anne Belle sheds her clothes. Not to mention classic lines like “street fighting you don’t learn watching Telle Savales on tv.” This really is a clas-sick.

You can get HOUSE OF THE EDGE OF THE PARK on dvd, with a slew of bonus features, including very in-depth interviews with David Hess & Giovanni Lombardo Radice, thanks to the fine fiends at Shriek Show.

 

CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980)

Vietnam vet Norman Hopper (John Saxon!) returns home from the war scarred both physically and mentally. He tries in vain to settle back into domestic bliss with his wife in their Atlanta home but is tormented by recurring nightmares where he relives the gruesome bloodshed and flesh eating he witnessed in the jungles of ‘nam. He’s also infected with a violent infectious strain of cannibalism (!) thanks to a starving P.O.W. that took a bite out of his arm. Much to his horror and his wife’s disgust he slowly develops a taste for blood, and the tender thigh meat of the flirtatious teenage girl who lives next door.

Things take a turn for the worse after Hopper’s old combat buddy Charlie Bukowski (played by the legendary Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is released from the nut house also nurturing a taste for human flesh. Charlie takes a bite out of a half naked girl inside a grind house theater and winds up on the run from the cops and an idiot gang of bikers attempting to be vigilantes. He holes up inside a large indoor flea market and blows away quite a few cops and bikers as they try to bring him to justice. Norman shows up and convinces the cops to let him go inside to talk to Charlie. Norman regains Charlie’s trust by reminding him that the best way to deal with a can of tear gas is to piss on it, “Just piss on it.”

Norman and Charlie are then both brought back to the local mental institution, where yet another deranged vet – and coincidentally enough the same guy who bit Norman in Vietnam – Tom, is also being treated. The trio of cannibals becomes a quartet when a nurse is also infected with the cannibalism virus. The four lunatics (made up with the exact same race and gender as the four leads in George A. Romero’s “Dawn Of The Dead”) fight their way out the hospital, and then waste a few street punks who get in their way before heading into the Atlanta sewers for a gut-wrenching final showdown with the police.

Antonio Margheriti directed this infamous shocker, and the very prolific Dardano Sacchetti wrote the screenplay. This is a unique “cannibal” flick, as it features cannibalism as a virus that can be spread from person to person. The deranged flesh hunters are somewhat similar to the infected killers in Romero’s “The Crazies” and David Cronenberg’s “Rabid.” They crave flesh and blood and will stop at nothing to get what they want. The violence here is really quite exceptional, with lots of brutal fight scenes, splashy gun battles, and gory flesh ripping. The opening sequence features an especially disgusting moment where the starved P.O.W.’s chomp into the freshly barbecued flesh of a young Vietnamese girl. The highlight of the film has to be the spectacular demise of Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who has a giant see-through hole blown in his abdomen! There’s also a delightful “shock” ending that ends the film on a great note.

Apparently actor John Saxon considers this flick to be a personal low point of his life and career, and in the “Cannibal Apocalypse Redux” documentary admits he that even contemplated suicide at one point after realizing he had appeared in such a vile picture. If that’s true, imagine how John must have felt a few years later when he was starring in crap flicks like “Hands Of Steel” and “Welcome To Spring Break.” This flick features more characterization and emotional depth than the standard cannibal efforts, and is well acted and very nicely shot. It’s also “nasty” enough to have been banned in the UK back in the day, and was heavily edited in the States when released under the name “Invasion Of The Flesh Hunters.” Like any action/horror/exploitation flick, this has to be seen UNCUT to be fully appreciated.

Hats off to Image Entertainment for releasing a beautiful, digitally remastered dvd of CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE that is 100% uncut. It also includes several “sewer dwelling special features” including the aforementioned “Cannibal Apocalypse Redux” documentary, “Apocalypse In The Streets” – a video tour of the filming locations, trailers, still galleries, and more. It’s exactly the type of special edition dvd that a superior genre flick like this deserves.

 

 

CANNIBAL FEROX (1981)

A young pair of brother and sister anthropologists – Gloria & Rudy Davis (Lorraine De Salle & Danilo Mattei), take a trip to the jungles of South America to help prove correct Gloria’s theories on the “myth” of man eating man. They intend to prove that cannibalism no longer exists, and has NEVER existed! How they can prove cannibalism never existed by simply visiting a jungle is not explained. Also not explained is why they would want to bring their hot pussied little whore of a friend Pat (Zora Kerova) along for the trip. The three idiots quickly manage to crash their jeep and have to trek through the jungle on foot.

After a tasty encounter with a native who is contently munching on some fat green worms, the gang runs into a dead body and pair of lowlife drug pushers that are on the run from the New York mob after pulling a sting on a couple of Brooklyn horsemen and running off with $100,000. At first the rather strung out Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) tells a tale about a tribe of vicious cannibals that attacked them and mutilated their Portuguese cocaine and emerald harvesting companion. His buddy Joe is wounded, and lets Mike do most of the talking. Later that night and the next day Mike has some fun with Pat. After a few coke fueled fuck fests he asks her if she would like to “make” an Indio girl. Pat, being a well established slut, is intrigued by this and agrees, which leads to the attempted rape and cold blooded murder of one of the young natives.

Shortly after this senseless murder the now sick and delirious Joe finally breaks his silence and tells the real story behind the death of the “Portuguese.” It turns out that the story Mike told the gang was a lot of batshit. The so-called “Portuguese” was really a young Indio boy that Mike had tortured and murdered for not producing any Emeralds from the local rivers. With the cocaine Mike was on, he went completely crazy and seemed to get a perverted kick out of make the poor bastard suffer. Mike gouged out one of the Indio’s eyes, then castrated him and left him to bleed to death. After telling Gloria and Rudy his incredible story Joe dies from an infection. This gives Mike and Pat enough time to steal all of the supplies and leave the others for dead.

The adult men of the Indio tribe had all conveniently been away on a hunting trip while Mike was on his rampage. After returning home and discovering this incredible outrage the tribe decides that all of the white people must die, slowly. It doesn’t take long for all four of the survivors to be captured and brutal and primitive justice is dished out in short order. Once the unholy cannibal ferox has begun the natives have a blast hanging Pat with hooks through her tits and then give Mike more than a little taste of his own medicine. Humiliation and mutilation are only the appetizer for this blood feast – castration and decapitation are the main course. And of course no jungle revenge would be complete without a little cannibalism for desert.

This outrageous 1981 Umberto Lenzi film begins with a thoughtful pre-credits disclaimer that warns viewers that “the following feature is one of the most violent films ever made” and that “there are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown.” I lost count somewhere along the way, but that number sounds about right to me. Pretty much every other scene consists of nauseating footage of animals being killed, either by other animals or humans. One particularly disturbing moment features a tied up and defenseless little mongoose being savaged by a large snake! However, with all the flack that Lenzi (and all the other “jungle” flick directors) deservedly gets for his completely unnecessary cruelty to animals, I’m left wondering why more people don’t hate Francis Coppola for doing the exact same thing in “Apocalypse Now,” or despise Walter Hill for “Southern Comfort.” I guess when they do it – it’s considered art.

This is my hands down my personal favorite of all of the Italian cannibal/jungle flicks. For all of its many faults I find this one ridiculously entertaining. Say what you want about this one, it certainly isn’t boring. The dubbing, the dialog, the score – all cheesy perfection. This one wins the prize for featuring the most plentiful gore of all the early 80′s jungle flicks. It also wins the prize for the most frequent use of the word “twat” in any non porno film! Speaking of porno, the infamous Robert Kerman of “Cannibal Holocaust” & “Debbie Does Dallas” legend makes a brief appearance as a NYC cop looking for Giovanni’s character. This one has a delightfully sleazy vibe throughout that lends itself to a lot of repeat viewings.

Grindhouse Releasing did a typically beautiful job with their deluxe uncensored letterboxed edition of CANNIBAL FEROX.  As usual their dvd release includes a slew of bonus features including a commentary track with Umberto Lenzi & Giovanni Lombardo Radice, trailers, and still galleries. No gorehound’s dvd collection is complete without this gem, SHITFACE!!!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

 

 

Bill “Leatherface” Johnson Interview!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Hardcore horror fans should be very familiar with actor Bill Johnson. No one who has ever seen the 1986 horror clas-sick “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” would be able to forget his fantastic portrayal of Bubba “Leatherface” Sawyer! I was honored to ask Bill all about “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and his other projects past and present.

Brain Hammer: I did a little digging and discovered that your first three features all featured “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” alumni. Lets start with the 1980 picture “Fast Money,”which was released on vhs with the much more classy title “Sybil Danning’s Adventures Presents: Fast Money.” You make an uncredited appearance in this stoner comedy as a vice cop. Did you by any chance get to work with your future “TCM2” victim Lou “L.G.”Perryman?

Bill Johnson: I had known Lou from the Austin acting community before FAST MONEY , and acting in some scenes with him would have been a great time, but unfortunately, we had no scenes together in that movie. Meaning as an actor is not called except for days that they will be filmed.

BH: Wayne Bell was the sound recordist for “Fast Money.” He also worked on “Future Kill” and “TCM2.” What are your memories of Wayne?

BJ: When on the set typically he was busy with his sound cart capturing what was needed. I run into him every now and then here in town and catch up on events with him. Wayne Bell is one of the friendliest, happiest looking, steadiest, easy going people you’d ever want to meet.

BH: Ronald W. Moore’s “Future Kill” is an interesting horror/sci fi hybrid flick. Lots of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” survivors worked on this one. You played one of Edwin Neal’s thugs. How was it working with Ed?

BJ: As is often the case when making a movie, actors who know each other well sometimes don’t ever see each other during the making of that movie, such is the case here, I had no scenes together with Ed Marilyn Burns on that movie. However, Ed, Marilyn and I did go to UT Austin together. Because we had no classes of performances together, Marilyn and I rarely saw one another. I was lucky enough to catch her playing the role of Helen of Troy in a modern adaptation of TROJAN WOMEN.

While on the other hand, Ed and I were cast in two stage plays, where we put in a lot of time together. “The Rehearsal” by Jean Anouilh, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by Shakespeare. We had intense and fun times. Also have done some voice gigs for commercials, V.O.s, with Ed Neal and its always a fun time with Ed.

BH: The special effects make up in “Future Kill” was done by the late, great Robert Burns. Bob also starred in “Confessions Of A Serial Killer.” What are your memories of working with him?

BJ: Bob Burns was a unique, outré artist and a fine human being. Had a great sense of humor. Bob often hosted a party to celebrate actor Rondo Hatton’s birthday, Bob was a big fan. I had no scenes with Bob in “Confessions…” so didn’t see him on that set, however because Bob lived in Austin, and was involved with the industrious local Indy filmmakers in the 80’s/90’s, like David Boone, Brian Hanson, Kirk Hunter, Kevin West, Marcus van Bavel, Don Hartack I did see Bob fairly often. And Bob being very busy was either working on someone else’s project or working on directing a personal project.

A particular film project of his called, “ Dad On Arrival”, about a traveling Executioner for the prison system, I was cast as the Executioner, we filmed some portions of his script as Bob could work it into his schedule. I liked working with Bob as the director, a lot. He had a marvelous enlivening energy that gave me a great sense of freedom and empowerment and enjoyment of our process. Unfortunately Bob passed away before “Dad On Arrival” could be completed.

BH: You made an uncredited appearance in “Confessions Of A Serial Killer” as an oil rig worker. How was it working on that film? I understand the production was “troubled.”

BJ: The day that we shot my scene things were going good and it wrapped out quickly. It was a scene early in the movie relating to Bob’s character, based on Henry Lee Lucas and his early childhood formative years. The Scene was about two oil rig workers, me and actor, Paul Smith, who were “partying” with the Mom of the yet to be serial killer. His Mom who I guess, as a way for her to support the family brought in “clients” to the home. Unfortunately, she did her “meetings” on the couch in front of her toddler son and her drunk wheelchair ridden husband. The scene ended with the husband decided during that partying scene to wheel himself into the next room and shoot himself dead.

BH: What are your opinions on these early efforts in your acting career? Did you enjoy the finished products?

BJ: Well as you know, there’s a quite a learning curve to be negotiated and I was always glad to be able to work, especially with so many fun people putting these movie projects together. I’ve got lots of special memories, so I’m really glad for all of those opportunities.

BH: Were you a fan of the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre?” How did you land the coveted role of “Leatherface?”

BJ: Just before my actual audition for Leatherface, was the first time I ever saw the original TCM, and after watching that movie I was definitely a true believer in Tobe Hooper’s vision, so yeah I was a fan. It’s a perfect horror film. I landed the role of Leatherface in the usual manner, I was called up, I auditioned and was cast in the role. The studios were doing a nationwide search and I just happened to be living in Austin instead of Hollywood. Since Bubba had no dialogue I made up the action on some suggestions from the casting director, Pat Orseth and screenwriter Kit Carson in the preliminary sessions before going before Tobe. Fortunately Caroline was there too, so it was great to play off of her, she is such a fine actress. During those auditions, Caroline was definitely sizzling! And then when Tobe was part of the mix the energy went way up, to psychedelic, the good kind, with great colors and body rushes.

BH: Did you feel any pressure “stepping into the shoes” of Gunnar Hansen? Did you copy specific things from his character or did you attempt to create your own Leatherface completely? How much input did Tobe Hooper and L.M. Kit Carson have on the character?

BJ: I opted to stay out of Gunnars shoes and make tracks of my own. I could see right off that trying to do a Gunnar Hansen impersonation would from the outset be doomed to failure, so I avoided that. Gunnar did a shiveringly unique characterization, hey there’s only one, Elvis, and that’s all there is ever gonna be; same with Gunnar’s performance. At the same time, I was faced with the fact that Gunnar’s Leatherface and mine were from similar worlds, but with some very significant differences, made absolutely evident by Kit Carson’s idiosyncratic script so there wasn’t really going to be any “picking up just where everything left off” from the first film.

This sequel was taking place in a parallel universe, so I went into that world spinning in that direction. I welcomed input and influence from Kit and Tobe, who were both very collaborative and I think we came up with some fun results. Kit as screenwriter/producer for this movie and a terrific collaborator and I’m very appreciative that he was so open, generous and insightful. Kit is really cool in the Extra Features sections of the Gruesome Edition dvd release of TCM2. Tobe wanted more humor than the first TCM. Horror and humor together such that people wouldn’t know whether to be scared or to be laughing or what to be doing. I’m recalling what one fan told me about TCM2 that I really like a lot, “The Texas Chainsaw Masascre 2 is my favorite couch drug!!”

TCM and TCM2 have been fan favorites for over 30 and 20 years respectively. These two movies simply just, work. I like what Cinematographer for TCM2, Richard Kooris said about Tobe and TCM2 and I think it likely applies to the first TCM, which is that, Tobe has made a very personal film here. And these films have a fan following in the only arena that really counts, the heart and mind of the fans. The positively, absolutely, truly Far Out Fans that can brand a film as either a frequently viewed Cult Classic or a dust collector.

BH: “TCM2” is infamous for being a difficult shoot. How much did the budget and time constraints effect you as an actor? Was there a sense of pressure on the set?

BJ: Pressure on the set might could have been concluded by some as pretty considerable, sometimes even more so. The Studios were under contract to the exhibiting movie houses to have a finished film on the screen by a rapidly approaching deadline. The Studios seemed to be nervous which is fair enough, since Tobe had just wrapped, “Invaders From Mars” remake for them and he’d gone over schedule. One report was that they tried to fire Tobe off of TCM sequel on two separate occasions but for the strength of Tobe’s contract they would have succeeded. And on top of the human pressures there was the record Texas 100+ degree heat that summer which cooked up more problems.

The final 24 hours of principal photography, ending approximately 10:00 am, July 4th, 1986, had been a non stop filming marathon, literally running from one set up to the next and pretty much directed by the Cinematographer, Richard Kooris, since Tobe was in bed with pneumonia. Tobe wasn’t the only person to come down with pneumonia, many did including me. Earlier on I had contracted the worst case of pneumonia the doctor had ever seen, and the doctor put me in sick bed for a week taking meds every two hours.

BH: Tell me about working with Tobe Hooper. What are memories of working with him on the set, and do you ever recall seeing him without a Dr. Pepper?

BJ: On the set Tobe was not without his trademark Dr Pepper and cigar. Someone had the assignment to keep him supplied with fresh Dr. Pepper, and Tobe carried a briefcase stocked with his Cuban cigars. He was crackling with energy, excitement and a lot of affection for what he was doing. He was having fun making the movie.

BH: The mask you wear in “TCM2” is hideous! Tom Savini did an amazing job. How long did the mask making process take? Did you remember the first time you saw yourself all made up, and in full costume? What was going through your mind at the time?

BJ: Tom Savini told me that a member of his make up crew, award winning SFX Makeup Artist, John Vulich designed Bubba’s Leatherface mask which was then executed in the SFX make up dept. run by Tom Savini. That was an awesome kind of a quasi-Jungian Shadow Self manifestation piece of art. My make up started out at 4 hours to apply and got down to 2 hours. First time in full costume in wardrobe dept I thought that Bubba, as Karin Hooper , the head of the wardrobe dept, had said, “Bubba is a real snappy dresser!” Bubba was ready to cruise for foxes anywhere anytime.

BH: How deeply did you immerse yourself in the character of Bubba Sawyer? Your co-star and partner in crime Bill Moseley admits to diving head first in Chop Top and not coming out until the picture was finished shooting. Did Bill’s insanity fuel your performance, or did it make you want to choke him?

BJ: I was fascinated by the entire process and Bill Moseley was hilarious so it was a full plate of fun and bizarreness for the duration of the shoot. Bill’s extemporaneous stream of consciousness riffing that he got going was really a big help for me, both entertaining and immersive into the special world of the Sawyer Clan Family interactions. Living in Austin it was easy to go home every day. I had to. They wouldn’t get me a hotel room. Since I did go home instead of an empty hotel room, I couldn’t, characterization-wise, really go down deep and stay there. I did not want Bubba Sawyer going home everyday to my wife and neither did she.

I came up for air, after the shooting day was done, but while on the clock, I re-submerged and rejoined Bill and Jim.

BH: Was it hard or easy for you to stay in character? I’m curious if the ad-libbing of Bill or Jim would ever crack you up, or if you could always “stay in the moment,” so to speak?

BJ: Well, staying in the moment is the only really safe place to place oneself during a scene, so its kind of easy to stay in character. I’d laugh in character when appropriate but mostly, Bubba was in trouble and had to avoid being punished and/or humiliated, so not too many laughs for Bubba. He was tied up running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Off camera Bill and Jim were a fun bunch, Bill mostly was a tour de force who I enjoyed immensely, we could rant and carry on with abandon.

BH: You had the great honor of working with Jim Siedow. What are your memories of Jim on and off the set of “TCM2?” Was he the kind of sweet, gentle man that I’ve always heard him to be?

BJ: Jim was all that, yes, Jim was pretty far out. Relaxed, funny, at ease, friendly, shy, solid. A warm, very nice man. Hard working, totally committed actor, he was great to play in a scene with, great because of all the crunching pressure and sometimes “the powers that be” would ratchet up the tension higher by doing something nonsensical like practically turning off our drinking water. Production assistants were bringing in cases of bottled drinking water, stacks of them, and we drank them all. Suddenly out of nowhere that all was cut back by about 75% with the insane rationale that our drinking water was costing them too much money. We just had to grimly laugh at the absurdness of something so self defeating as that. People were on the verge of dehydration and collapse. The temperature on the set in the underground scenes was around 125 degrees.

BH: Arguably, your most memorable moment in “TCM2” is the seductive chainsaw leg rubbing you unleash upon your beautiful leading lady Caroline “Stretch” Williams. First of all, how sexy did she look up close and personal in those shorts? (I had to ask!) More seriously, was that a difficult scene to shoot? Did you actually touch her with the saw for the insert shots?

BJ: Well, Caroline was and is now to this day highly attractive and vivacious I think you know what I mean. She wasn’t Bubba’s fave for nothing. Bubba doing his courting ritual with his Saw, the scene was intense but flowed smoothly in the filming of it. Tobe knew what he wanted and was detailed in how he wanted the sequencing. The tension was pretty high, lots of anticipation, nerves on edge, personal, social, sexual boundaries on the line preparing to be crossed over and violated and not timidly. The physical action really wasn’t all that very explicit, it looked like a lot more was happening than what actually did happen. Caroline’s portrayal, and camera angles and editing gave it a very raw, violent, rapine atmosphere.

Caroline really made that scene sing. Without Caroline Williams special qualities as an actress, and her willingness to enter into that bizarre cruelty with full commitment, openly vulnerable, with poise, and not just a little courage, that scene wouldn’t have had the extended heated frisson it did. From Bubba’s point of view, Stretch opened up and anchored that strangely erotic space which was, in its own way, essentially a love scene, and without the woman dedicated to that purpose, no love scene can come into being. From Stretch’s point of view she was more in a Stockholm Syndrome situation, where in order to survive the captive is bonding with the captor.

(I recall a story told to me by a friend of mine, who was having seriously dangerous domestic problems from her husband. She was being choked to death by her husband, and as she felt herself dying, she knew she could not overpower him, so she gently placed her hands on his hands at her throat, looked into his eyes and loved him and kept loving him. He released her.)

So, back to the Ice Tub, after we had finished the take that they put in the movie, we were all cranked up pretty high, sweating, panting, I recall Tobe turning to the Cinematographer and demanding to know, “Please tell me that we got that!!!”, and a smiling Richard Kooris, nodded in the affirmative. That felt pretty great. And to paraphrase Caroline speaking at a TCM2 reunion Q&A Panel responding to a fan who had asked her about that very explicit scene, about the “Chainsaw and her nether region”, Caroline retorted, “That saw Never touched my nethers!” And that’s a fact.

BH: Another great moment is when Stretch blasts you in the face with the fire extinguisher. How was that effect done? On a side note, did the mask ever get in the way of your vision?

BJ: I’m assuming the Prop Dept did some standard “fire extinguisher” effect. And Yes, the mask did take away some of the peripheral vision, fortunately I didn’t have to play tennis or fly a fighter jet in that mask.

BH: “TCM2” has a deleted scene worth mentioning. The infamous “mall slaughter” that also included the death of the legendary Joe Bob Briggs! I love this footage! How much time do you estimate was spent filming this omitted sequence? Did you think it should have made the final cut?

BJ: That was maybe half a day from setting it up to wrapping it up. By today’s standards it could have stayed in no problem, but I believe Tobe was trying to avoid an “X” rating which back then was much easier to get, even just showing too much “blood” was an offense to the Rating Board (I’d heard Tobe caution once or twice while filming, advising the blood pumpers to back off a little on the volume of blood being sprayed around). When TCM2 opened it did so, Unrated.

BH: Then of course there’s the one and only Dennis Hopper. “Lefty” gave you quite the battle! Obviously Dennis is quite a character. Do you have any fun stories about him on or off the set to share?

BJ: If I wasn’t in front of the camera I was mostly inside my little trailer in the A.C. in order to keep my make up intact, so it was problematic for me to see a lot of folks. Dennis was at the Location only when he was in a scene, so didn’t see him much. However one day it was his birthday and he was given an informal party in the afternoon with a cake and a song. Someone handed him, as a gift I imagine, what looked to be a very large bottle of Champagne. Dennis looked at first stunned then puzzled as he held it away at arms length looking around questioningly, wonderingly. He was saying sort of to no one in particular that he had stopped drinking (I mean, come on, hello, Earth to everybody, Media had been reporting his sobriety for quite some time now) and this gift was puzzling to say the least. Finally someone told him it’s not alcohol, you unscrew the bottom of the bottle and it’s full of chocolate.

Dennis relaxed into a smirk and put the bottle down kindly. Presenting him that was a nice gesture but it didn’t seem like candy was on his menu either.

BH: PLEASE tell me about the chainsaw duel with Dennis Hopper! How closely did you work with him in that scene? Was it difficult? It looks incredibly grueling. How was that amazing special effect of the chainsaw in your abdomen achieved?

BJ: Fact is Principal Photography was behind schedule with the Studios having too much to lose if any key personal got injured so as to avoid delay in filming, the Studios weren’t taking any chances, at all, so Everybody had a stunt double and they worked very, very hard. Studios made certain that stunts were not on my dance card nor were they going to be.

Dennis and I did film one or two Inserts for the duel and the remainder of the dueling was done by the Doubles. And they got beat up plenty by what they had to do. The “chainsaw in the abdomen” effect was pretty much just exactly like the old tried and true “arrow through the head”. The saw blade was “U” shaped in the middle to go around the waist, the ‘U’ shaped middle was attached to a harness to strap it on the body. Special shirt and coat constructed to fit around the saw’s blade perfectly went on over the rig. And slender steel cable running around the ‘U’ shaped part of the trick saw that was made of tubular steel, connecting the front and back “genuine looking chainsaw bars”.

The front and back bar ( the bar is the shiny blade looking part of the saw) of the saw were themselves were looped in a saw-chain so there was a front loop and a back loop of chainsaw chain circulating around individual front and back bars, connected in the middle by a piece of “U” shaped tubular steel, inside of which was a loop of Cable connecting the rotary action of the front and back loops of Chain. That cable synchronized the front and back loops of circulating chain, so the whole package in place looked just like a saw through the guts, churning and chewing poor little Bubba’s innards. The cable synchronized the “chain” on both parts of the saw blade, that you could see in front and back of Bubba’s body. It all ran by an electric motor and was a very well done piece of magician’s equipment.

BH: The over the top gore in “TCM2” lead to a self imposed “X” rating. What is your opinion on the content of the film? Do you feel it “goes too far,” or do you think the splatter fuels the satire?

BJ: While on set filming ChopTop hammering L.G.s head, I had heard Tobe coin the phrase that this “is the cinema of Excess.” So the splatter does seem to be in alignment with the satirical bent. The focus was on Yuppies, becoming an upwardly mobile catering Business (usually business models frown on any limits to their growth or the upwardness of their mobility, so that there are almost no restraints, “the world with a fence around it is not enough”) so, “hand over fist” is the order of the day.

A fist full of bucks, another example of excess, when Dreighton , the Cook, the elder brother, confronts Dennis Hopper and mistakes him for a business rival, one o’ them chickenshit burrito bunch and Dreighton (Jim Siedow’s spelling) whips out of his pocket a bankroll fat enough to gag a rhino and attempts to buy Hopper off. Of course Lefty is really there as “the lord of the harvest” to bring everything down.

And as a final offering as an example of “Excess” I assert that Pride/Shame is a main driver dichotomy of the Sawyer family activities in this film’s world, excessive self importance and self-pity, homicidal emotional hijacking, way poor impulse control. Not the best set of qualities for a moderated well balanced business, or a happy family. Great for a horror film however.

BH: I am a HUGE fan of “TCM2!” I think it’s one of the rare sequels that lives up the original film. Not everyone agrees with me of course. It seems that “TCM2” is a “love it or hate it” sort of film with fans. I’m curious how you feel about it. Do you feel it’s a worthy sequel?

BJ: Hell, yes! N’uff said.

BH: Since working in “TCM2” you’ve appeared in several films including “D.O.A.” & “Paramedics.” You’ve also done voice work for several different successful video games, including the “Ultima” series and “Deus Ex: Invisible War.” Do you find this voice over work to be more or less fulfilling than appearing in front of a camera? Do you have a preference?

BJ: I like what the entertainment industry calls Voice Acting a great deal, it is very satisfying and appealing in its’ own way. It is incredibly challenging and lots of fun, too. It’s even more fun when you are working with someone, as I have a number of times, who is as marvelously talented as Ed Neal. Ed’s got a huge string of VO projects and a million voices to do them with; Ed is an extraordinary Voice Actor. But mainly, I personally prefer the added dimensions that the camera and stage events provide.

BH: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say?

BJ: Thanks to you, Brain Hammer, for this opportunity to talk to all you Fans, to whom I send a million THANKS YOU’s from me to each of all of you.

It is you Far Out Fans and your love for the special world of this genre that makes this world go ‘round!

With that said, I’m looking forward to seeing you all around.

 – Bill Johnson

THANKS AGAIN TO BILL FOR DOING THIS INTERVIEW!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!