9th Old School Kung Fu Fest: Interview with OSKFF 2021 Programmer Grady Hendrix

Old School Kung Fu Fest 2021 Programmer Grady Hendrix is no stranger to this site. After all, we just covered his book These Fists Break Bricks and did an entire week around his Paperbacks from Hell and interviewed him about the influence of paperbacks on the movies that we adore so much.

We had the chance to speak with him this week to discuss the Old School Kung Fu Fest, which is being co-presented by the Museum of the Moving Image and Subway Cinema.

This is your opportunity to see eight newly restored films and one fan favorite classic by Joseph Kuo on glorious 35mm. Four titles will be available exclusively online, December 6–13, and another five films for in-person big-screen viewing at MoMI, December 10–12. 

To see any of these shows, visit the Museum of the Moving Image online or Subway Cinema.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: This is the ninth Old School Kung Fu festival. How did you get involved?

GRADY HENDRIX: We did the first one in 2000 and people seemed to like it, so we’ve done a bunch of them. And now, we’re back again after some time off because of the pandemic.

When we first started doing Subway Cinema back in 1999 or 2000, not all of us were huge old school kung fu fans. But then, after we did the first Old School, I discovered that there’s really something about these movies on a big screen with an audience. It changes your entire relationship with it. Suddenly, it feels not like some janky panned and scanned VHS tape, but a real movie. And that made us reconsider these movies.

The more we’ve done them, the more we’ve loved them. This is our ninth year doing it, so it’s something we’ve fallen in love with by doing them.

B&S: It’s like seeing a giallo on the big screen. It makes you more forgiving of the wooden dummy at the end of Don’t Torture a Duckling.

GRADY: There’s stuff in these movies that you only realize with an audience. There’s a gap when you watch them alone and you wonder why it’s there and you realize that with an audience, you’re like, oh that was there to give everyone a minute to react before they go on to the next thing.

It’s interesting that you mention giallo, because when you watch those at home, you think it’s a little sleepy here. It’s a little slow. Watching with an audience, you’re actively watching, like what’s at the end of this hall that she’s walking down? It’s a more participatory experience.

B&S: Like giallo, kung fu movies came to America and played the same grindhouses and drive-ins and found their audiences. Kung fu movies found an entirely different audience than they were intended for.

GRADY:  They speak in such a different way to different audiences. It wasn’t just that these movies had nonwhite stars, which is why black and Latin audiences love them in the States. They really work for working class audiences.

The plot of so many of these movies were about kids standing up to these forces of oppression — the emperor, the corrupt politicians, the gangsters, the local thugs who ruled their town and fighting them with nothing and you can imagine that as a 16-year-old black kid living in New York City in 1974, it can be really appealing. Most of their audiences felt like they had no power and that the entire structure of the city was designed to keep them down. It makes sense that these movies speak to them.

B&S: I can only imagine what it was like to be in one of those grindhouses and experience what it was like. In your book, the RZA says, “I’ll never forget the first time I watched The Mystery of Chess Boxing and hearing the entire cinema roar each time Ghost Face Killer (played by Mark Long) appeared on the screen. He was a villain killing off his enemies — in some cases in front of their wives and children — yet we walked out the theater wanting to be him, the baddest motherfucker on the screen.”

GRADY: I think that’s so important with these movies. One of the things that’s nice about screening them is you watch people after it’s over and they may have not known each other going in, but as they walk out the doors, they can’t stop talking about it. It’s not just going to see these movies to watch them on the big screen. It’s to see them with people.

B&S: Especially now.

GRADY: The movie-watching experience is at a premium now.

B&S: A few years ago, Drive-In Asylum showed three films and ended with Alice, Sweet Alice and that kind of blew everyone’s mind. They weren’t ready for the ending and you don’t get that emotional reaction watching it at home alone.

GRADY: That movie is also very grungy and bleak and just feels like New Jersey. Very 70s bleak, New Jersey, urban. l admire the commitment to doing Alice last! That last scene just gets you.

B&S: Between years of doing this festival and your book, I assume you consider yourself a martial arts fan now.

GRADY:  I started getting these movies in the 90s. Mostly Hong Kong movies and I love martial arts and I was loving some from the 80s and the 90s. Mostly the stuff that a little more wirework, a little more surreal beyond just Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung.

Going back to that older 70s aesthetic and late 60s aesthetic just wasn’t so much on my radar really until much much later. And it was a lot of it was economic snobbery. I just had a hard time watching a movie where it didn’t look a little polished.

It’s never going to be the budget of a Hollywood movie, but I felt like I couldn’t quite enjoy the budget level of an independent Taiwanese movie from the 70s or independent Hong Kong 80s movies. It took me a while to get past my own snobbery and see what’s really there.

I developed a real love of it. I mean, watching Joseph Kuo bringing out the simplest changes out of the simplest set-ups like two guys in a field kicking each other…when you watch what he’s done with that, it’s like watching a really good punk band just blast through a set. It’s simple but it’s powerful. They’re doing complex stuff within the simplicity.

B&S: I loved that These Fists Break Bricks leaves no stone unturned. Everything from the expected like the Shaw Brothers and Bruce Lee, but also Count Dante, the martial arts in comics, Godfrey Ho, even deep cut Shaw Brothers movies like The Boxer’s Omen and Black Magic.

GRADY: And there’s so much stuff we missed. I mean, there was so much more we wanted to write about. Martial arts on TV because it really had a presence in the 60s. Its influence on more music. I mean, there was just so much more. We just couldn’t fit in. We ran out of room. But it’s amazing to me how it went from zero to 60 so fast in the States and when everywhere.

B&S: I loved how you bookend everything by starting with how Asian actors could barely get work in Hollywood and end the story with just how powerful Sho Kosugi became.

GRADY: What was so weird to us was to find out that Japanese guys basically only played houseboys in movies before they started getting sent to the internment camps. And then to end with the biggest action star of the 80s, one of them being Sho Kosugi and the way he really would not let people take advantage of him. He really drove his own ship. It was really kind of breathtaking to see that.

B&S: While Chuck Norris was white, he also followed his own path.

GRADY: And that’s one of the things with Chuck Norris. And I know it comes off like we’re very down on Chuck Norris. And I’m not! One of the things I really admire is how hard he works because acting does not come easy to him.

He’s gone on record saying that it took him a really long time to get it. But he keeps doing the physical stuff on screen, even though he had a hard time. And you know, his first movie, no one wanted to make a movie with him. But he did it and he hit the road for almost a year and made it a big movie. Second movie, the exact same issue and the exact same hard work. Third movie and so on, until he gets the big studio contract and he walked out because he didn’t want to do the really violent stuff. He wanted young kids to see his movies because he feels like it’s good for them.

I really admire a lot of choices he made. I like that in some of his movies, he plays a karate instructor and you can see him teaching a class and he seems so much looser. And when he’s fighting in those scenes, he’s so limber and ferocious and you’re like, whoa. This is where Chuck is most comfortable.

I went back and watched some of the old footage of him in tournaments and he was a real bad ass. I mean, he was the real deal. It’s just that the cameras started rolling and he stiffened up and had to really fight to overcome the stage fright.

B&S: My favorite Chuck Norris quote is “David Carradine is as good a martial artist as I am an actor.”

GRADY: He was always super self-aware. One of the things I always think is interesting is that he developed this obsession with Vietnam and a lot of it was about his younger brother dying so young in Vietnam.

One of the things that was really interesting is that everyone took potshots at Chuck Norris all the way back to the beginning. Even critics who liked him would be like, well, it’s like watching an English muffin act on screen. And everyone was just so mean to Chuck Norris from the beginning. And you know, he had the last laugh, but man, he worked hard.

He was the opposite of somebody like Jim Kelly. Jim Kelly had some screen presence. If his career had been a little different, he could have been a huge movie star. He was also his own worst enemy. A lot of times he was really arrogant and didn’t do the work the way Chuck Norris did. He thought it was going to come to him.

It’s really interesting to look at the two of them and just sort of contrast them because they weren’t contemporaries. Kelly was going down when Norris was coming up, but I just always find that really interesting. Those two were on such radically different paths.

B&S: He’s still doing things. Like, he shows up for a few seconds in The Expendables 2 as the Lone Wolf and people lost their minds.

GRADY: I don’t really like his movies that much and I still have a tremendous amount of affection for his movies and nostalgia for them. (laughs)

B&S: His Cannon Films are interesting because the politics are so opposite of what I believe in, but I love those movies. Like Invasion U.S.A. is a great action movie.

GRADY: It’s the movie version of an old man reading Reader’s Digest while yelling at kids to get off his lawn.

B&S: I mean, that’s how he came up with Invasion U.S.A.!

GRADY: It’s the right wing uncle at Thanksgiving.

B&S: You did a great job on the commentary on the Trailer Trauma blu ray. Any plans for recording more commentary tracks?

GRADY: I’ve been asked a few times and one of the things I find really difficult is I really take commentary super seriously. It takes me a lot of prep work. I just got asked to do one and I turned it down because it was a movie I didn’t love enough to put in all the work. I liked it but I didn’t love it. But I’m just waiting. If someone asked me for the right movie, I am so there. I think it’s really fun to have the privilege of yammering about something I love as someone’s watching.

Want to learn more about Grady Hendrix and his work? Check out his web site to read about his books like Horrorstör (“the only novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture store you’ll ever need”) and My Best Friend’s Exorcism (“basically Beaches meets The Exorcist). There’s also the amazing Paperbacks from Hell, which you can purchase at Quirk Books or Amazon, and These Fists Break Bricks, which you can learn more about at the official site or order this great book from Mondo.

Don’t forget! The 9th Old School Kung Fu fest has four titles available exclusively online, December 6–13, and another five films for in-person big-screen viewing at MoMI, December 10–12. Check out the Museum of the Moving Image online or Subway Cinema to learn more.

Thanks to Grady Hendrix for his time and Emma Griffiths for coordinating this interview.

Exclusive interview with Allan Arkush

Allan Arkush should need no introduction, but if we must, let’s just say that he’s a very Zelig-like figure when it comes to the movies that we love on this site.

After a childhood in Fort Lee, NJ he attended the New York University Film School and had Martin Scorsese as a teacher and faculty advisor. At the same time, he worked at The Fillmore East as an usher, stage crew member and in the psychedelic light show Joe’s Lights.

His start in the film business came at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, where alongside Joe Dante, he cut so many of the trailers that we know and love. He graduated to directing movies like Hollywood Boulevard, Deathsport, Grand Theft Auto and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. He moved on to make his own films like HeartbeepsCaddyshack II and Get Crazy, which is now been finally re-released by Kino Lorber.

Beyond that, he’s done a lot you may have seen and not realized was him, from the dancing baby episode of Ally McBeal to numerous episodes of MoonlightingCrossing JordanHeroes and even music videos.

We were beyond thrilled to get the opportunity to speak to Mr. Arkush and discuss his career. Thanks to Matt Berry from Kino Lorber for setting up this interview.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: So how does it feel finally having Get Crazy get released 37 years after it was — for all intents and purposes — a lost movie?

ALLAN ARKUSH: It feels good on two levels. Naturally I couldn’t be happier that the movie will be available looking better and sounding better than it ever has. But in many ways equally rewarding was reassembling some of the original editorial team from Get Crazy and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School to make all of the extras. Kent Beyda and I go back to 1978 and he cut the extra The After Party, but he did more than edited it, using all 60 hours of interviews he wrote it and gave it shape. He also had edited the two 1983 videos. Mark Helfrich from RNRHS cut “Not Gonna Take It No More 2021” from the iPhone footage “Nada 2021″ gave us and I couldn’t be happier about that. The extras were a way for all of us to tell the whole saga of Get Crazy. Tara Donovan, one of my AFI students, working for a year producing it for nothing. Ed Stasium, The Ramones producer did the score and our original music Editor Ken Karman came back to spread his magic. And so many more…No Dogs In Space and almost all the cast and crew. What a joy. But let’s go back to the beginning.

I worked at the Fillmore East as an usher and then on the stage crew and working the lights for psychedelic shows. I was living in that environment — which was very exciting — and going to NYU film school at the same time and realizing that you could do so many of the things in your life that you’d like to do. And making a living from it!

So after making Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, I thought that it’d be good to do the next part of my life and tell the story of working in rock ‘n roll. Danny Opatoshu and I got together to write the script and it ended up becoming a real memoir of the events of my life as well as an actual plotline.

We ended up meeting with a few companies and one of them said, “We love this, but you need to set it in the present day.” We changed some stuff around and then before we started shooting, they wanted it to be a broader comedy like Porky’s or Airplane! 

Danny said, “I’m gone,” so we got in more writers, we made the changes and that’s the version that you watched. But when the movie was done, the people who ran the company didn’t like it. They didn’t think there was a market for it. So they dumped it and took a tax loss, then they went under and their library got sold, then got sold again and then it got lost.

They put out the VHS — which was in the thousands and it’s not even in stereo — and that was it.

When it came time to release a DVD, no one could find the negative. The sound elements — because it moved around so much — and all the sales and the paperwork were gone for like thirty years. Thirty years!

I would get calls every couple of years with people from independent distribution companies asking, “What can you remember about where you recorded the audio?” People would say to me, “God, I love your movie, where is it?” And I said, “I don’t know.” I honestly did not. Finally, someone said to me, “Let my company find this movie for you and let’s get it out there.”

They found out that it was at MGM. Wow, MGM had bought the library that had it and now that everything was getting ready to be streamed, they went through their vaults and organized things. So we tried to buy it from MGM and they didn’t want to sell it. And that’s where I decided to call MGM and speak to the people in charge myself and I heard from their Legal Department of Business Affairs and they said, “We’re not interested.”

So that was the end of that.

Then I got a call from Frank Tarzi at Kino Lorber a year later and he said, “We want to put this out, so don’t say anything.” And Kino Lorber negotiated for over a year and then when they said yes, Frank asked if I wanted to do a commentary. I thought to myself that this movie is really my life story, my autobiography and this has been a really long trek. Frank Tarzi has been a big supporter. I called my friends who edited the original film, asked them if they wanted to be involved and they were on board. I called Danny next and said, we can tell our story back to everyone. This gave us the chance to tell the whole thing our way and it really gave us an opportunity to close the circle.

We got a small — very small — budget to make this but hey — I worked for Roger Corman! I’m used to that! So we put together a home movie — using Zoom, because this was made during the pandemic — and it’s amongst people who should really get together and talk more often.

B&S: I’ve always loved Get Crazy because it feels like a story about a great time in someone’s life. It’s my favorite kind of movie — a hijinx movie. It’s the kind of movie where all you need is that quick line: one night at a concert hall…and hijinks ensue.

ALLAN: How did you see it first?

B&S: I know that I rented it at some point and then I had a bootleg. Sorry.

ALLAN: It’s OK. I did too! And I still have the original VHS, because those were the only ways to have my movie.

B&S: It has to be exciting to have the movie out there again.

ALLAN: It’s great. And I got it back into the right 16:9 aspect shot and got it back into surround stereo. Because we spent so much time I guess with headphones on, you can actually hear everything all over again — Frisbees flying overhead and all that kind of stuff that we put so much and the audience yelling absurd things. We also got to do a new color correct, so that I could get everything I wanted out of the color. I always wanted it to look like a 1950s Jerry Lewis movie!

B&S: Color correcting used to be this journey to meet the colorist, talk about it for hours and go away…and now you do it on your laptop.

ALLAN: Working in the trailer department for Corman, that’s all we did some days, color correct the footage for trailers. Any movie that came through, we had to double-check the 16 millimeter and then do the final color correct for the foreign films distributed by Roger working off the European negatives, so I definitely remember that old chemical process.

B&S: Back to the extras — I really love the documentary you put together. It feels like you’re in the middle of a conversation that you always wanted to hear.

ALLAN: We got everybody, which was easy, because they didn’t have to go anywhere and Kent Beyda did such a great job editing and shaping the story.. We did it all online so we could have these long conversations and the editor pulled the good stuff. I had a list of questions and I let everyone make jokes. People like Miles Chapin are hilarious. Danny Stern is really funny. And then you get Malcolm telling the story about how he never read the script? Classic.

And we did it all on budget. It’s the Roger Corman lesson: let’s embrace what we’ve been given and work with it.

B&S: Well, when I see a movie and someone says, “I didn’t have much of a budget,” I always think, “Camera angles are free.”

ALLAN: You’re practically quoting Roger Corman. I was really lucky to have a boss who was a filmmaker because that doesn’t happen anymore. Roger produced all of them, he chose them and it was his money. He gave us notes on every trailer and all of our pictures. They were always on your footage and related to how you shot things. He’d read your footage and tell you what you had done wrong and then tell you what to do the next time so you don’t make that mistake again. I mean, that was like graduate school. It’s not like the notes that you get like, “I don’t like it.” It wasn’t general notes not based on real knowledge or personal choice. After a while, what happened was that his notes were predictable in the sense that we knew his taste.

Everyone there was a film buff. So when Corman bought a Fellini movie, he didn’t have to explain to us what was good about it. Every movie that we did the trailer for the ad campaign that came from a foreign place, we picked what visual language he wanted. I mean, we did a trailer for Small Change by Truffaut where we compared all the little kids in the film to other characters in his films. Who gets to do that?

B&S: I’m obsessed by trailers and have seen you on Trailers from Hell, so I wonder, what’s the best trailer ever made?

ALLAN: The Shining has a remarkable trailer. Hitchcock’s Psycho, where he walks around the set? They don’t make trailers like that anymore.

I’ve really tried to use my Trailers from Hell episodes as a springboard to explore topics in film history that I’m interested in. I recently did one for Blast that I directed part of. Joe Dante found the trailer and so I ended up making a ten-minute intro for a two-minute trailer.

I also did one on William Whitney and how he directed this western, but when I started studying him, I suddenly realized how many movies he did and how he directed every single thing I watched on television as a kid.

The one for Deathsport is pretty funny. But I’m very proud of the one I did for Wild Strawberries and how when you see a movie of one age, it’s one thing and then you see it several times throughout your life, the movie evolves because you’re evolving if it’s a great work art.

Can I ask, what did you think of how Get Crazy looks on blu ray?

B&S: Man, it looks great. It’s strange because, like how you said that you experience a movie like Wild Strawberries at a certain age, you see them in a certain format with imperfections and you remember them with those pops and tracking and whatever. So to see it so clean, it makes it a new movie in some ways.

ALLAN: I love how blu ray increases the simultaneity in the image and in the frame because I really stuffed the frame. I liked that about the Marx brothers movies and I liked that about Hellzapoppin’, which is one of my favorite comedies. And that’s what I was trying to do. Now that it’s sharp, you can see this stuff going on all over the place.

B&S: Especially since you have the right aspect ratio now too, right? I just told someone the other day, so many of Ed Wood’s movies, people laugh about the boom mic showing up and they don’t realize that he wasn’t making this movie for TV.

ALLAN: That was a joke throughout making Hollywood Boulevard. Like we kept looking at two aspect ratios. Is this a TV safe shot? Will the boom mic show up? Can we count how many times it shows up? And Joe Dante and I thought that this would never show up on TV anyway and then it shows up on Netflix decades later. I called him and said, well, we made Netflix. And they’re showing the TV ratio one only (laughs).

B&S: Hollywood Boulevard is the fan service movie for Corman fans. I love how self-referential it is. It’s a movie I feel like I need to watch with IMDB open to research everything as it happens. And please consider this a compliment, but I feel like it synthesizes multiple films in the way that Tarantino became known for more than a decade later.

ALLAN: I think that came out of our natural sense of being postmodern. Watching so many movies, the nature of using footage from other movies and making it about an exploitation film company seemed like a good idea. So already, we’re chasing our tail and we just hired our friends to be in it, especially the ones that were directors, because we didn’t know how to direct yet. We got Paul Bartel on the set and Jonathan Kaplan, so we can turn to them if we need them.

B&S: What was Paul Bartel like?

ALLAN: He was so charming and funny and a good friend. If  I could transport you back to the old New World edit suite at lunchtime, everyone would just walk to the around the corner to the studio grill — which was just a diner — and sit at a big roundtable and it’d be Paul, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante and we’d just all talk film.

B&S: Did Paul suggest The Ramones from Rock ‘n Roll High School?

ALLAN: No. Once we got Roger convinced that this wasn’t going to be a disco movie and explained the difference between disco and punk rock. If we’re going to blow up a school, it can’t be a disco band doing it!

It was really important for us to find the right band. When we met with the A&R at Warner Brothers, they were surprised how much I knew about music. So they offered us Devo, who didn’t even have a record out yet. Then they said, “Do you listen to Sire Records?” Of course I did, the Talking Heads are on Sire.  They asked, “Do you know The Ramones?”

Do I know The Ramones? I’ve got the first three records and I think that Rocket to Russia is one of the greatest rock and roll albums I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s top ten. The thing about The Ramones is that their music sounds like surf music or a girl group, but backed up by chainsaws.

The movie is about a suburban girl who used to be a cheerleader and then she falls in love with Joey Ramone, which may not make sense, but it does! That’s what rock ‘n roll does to you. It helps you identify with people.

When this movie was made though, The Ramones weren’t The Ramones. I don’t mean that negatively. They couldn’t play concerts with other bands or tour with a band like Black Sabbath. They were very concerned with their punk image. At that point, the Sex Pistols had come to America and failed. Look at the magazines and newspapers at the time and they’re vicious. That kind of punk rock look was so negative at the time, so The Ramones were new wave. Today, their music sounds so normal and that’s really Joey’s influence, the drive that John breaks through and the rhythm section works so well.

The movie really has a large female audience. That’s because Riff Randell is a young woman who loves rock and roll, but she has agency and self-determination.

B&S: I get choked up every time I see the “I Want You Around” scene. That’s what rock and roll means to me. I mean, there’s Joey, dressed up in leather and sunglasses and he should be so tough. And that’s also The Ramones to me and how I think of them. Only Joey could be tough and sing such a love song at the very same time.

ALLAN: That scene is a homage to Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It and the scene where Julie London sings “Cry Me a River.”

B&S: I love that movie. It’s a living and breathing cartoon.

ALLAN: That’s what I tried to bring to Get Crazy and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Growing up, I loved the Jerry Lewis movies because they were cartoons as live action. Get Crazy was the end of me trying to push that style, because I started working in television after that and it doesn’t do that style as well. I did get to come back to it when I directed “The Hostile Hospital” episodes of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I really embraced that job.

B&S: Was Mad Magazine an influence?

ALLAN: I love that magazine. Mad was like Rocky and Bullwinkle because it was deceptively smart and satirical and the natural extension of that was going to see Dr. Strangelove on opening night. That’s where my sense of humor was.

B&S: So was Dee Dee as bad at acting as I’ve heard?

ALLAN: Yeah, he wasn’t a natural actor. That took like thirty takes.

B&S: Yet when I saw it in a theater, everyone yelled out his line. But man, your best line in that, “Do your parents know that you’re Ramones?” I think that’s Mary Woronov’s best role because she’s in a women in prison movie and not a high school comedy.

ALLAN: Well, she was the warden in the most popular Charlie’s Angels* of all time. So she’s perfect for those roles even if they’re nothing like who she really is.

B&S: Another IMDB trivia note that maybe you can dispel: Is that the Deathsport bike in the hallways scene near the end of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?

ALLAN: No. Those were bigger road bikes and that was the problem. Shooting them for that film, they weren’t really the right bikes for going across a rough landscape. But Roger got a deal on those bikes and we used them…

B&S: What happened with Nicholas Niciphor directing that movie?

ALLAN: Well, Nick had gone to UCLA and he was really good, but he was brought up in Europe and he had never seen a Roger Corman movie. And he hadn’t seen the kinds of movies that we were making, he’d seen art films.

Everyone working with Corman had turned down Deathsport. It had a bad, bad script. We were desperate to do our first picture and we still all turned it down!

One of the problems Nick had was that we’d all been working for Corman for three or four years and had built this network of people. Nick was an outsider. And he’s working for Corman, who was so cheap that he didn’t want to rent out a screening room to show him Death Race 2000 and he’s making the sequel to that movie!

He didn’t know anyone like we did, the people you could turn to to get these done. Making a Corman movie took a certain amount of camaraderie and he was walking into it blind. And his experience wasn’t enough. I don’t want to say anything about him as a person. He was a stranger in a strange land.

It wasn’t going to work, so nothing was working right. If you look at the Trailers from Hell, I summed up all of the things that were wrong about the movie. I worked on it for another six weeks afterward trying to save it. Nothing changed. It still was awful.

Roger was like, put aside Disco High — which was what he wanted Rock ‘n Roll High School to be — and come blow up motorcycles and then I’ll let you make your musical.

The story was so vague and strange. I had to spend a lot of time correcting screen direction and so forth. And I was editing and writing and shooting it was a disaster. The preview was so bad that just before the sword fight, the projectionist closed the curtain.

B&S: Well, the poster sells the movie. And Claudia Jennings. You can’t look away from her.

ALLAN: Ali Larter, who was on Heroes, is the same way. There’s no time of the day or night where she doesn’t look perfect.

B&S: Can you tell me about Heartbeeps?

ALLAN: I got offered this big studio movie. And I really have to say that I totally misread the situation. I didn’t really understand the script or maybe it didn’t indicate that it could be a wacky comedy. I seized on the idea that it could be this big story about robots falling in love and making it a Frank Borzage movie (a bizarre idea and nothing like what the studio wanted). He was big on love conquers death, love is a spiritual thing and I thought that’s what the situation was with these robots. Maybe that’s an intellectually good solution but it’s not the movie they wanted.

I made so many bad choices like a pace that was WAY too slow for comedy. I should have just turned Andy Kaufman loose, used many many more special effects and taken more advantage of the genius of my FX team Stan Winston and Albert Whitlock. We recently did a commentary for the KINO rerelease and that was both eye opening and painful, but useful to me as an artist, not unlike when I critique a film at the AFI.

B&S: But you had a great cast! I mean, Jerry Garcia is in it.

ALLAN: Yes,Jerry was someone I knew really well. And I asked him to do one of the robot voices on the guitar. I was trying to borrow stuff from other parts of my life to shoehorn in. The studio cut ALL of Jerry’s work out.

B&S: The supporting cast Get Crazy is a virtual “Who’s Who” of 70’s Corman movies. Did producer Herb Solow express any misgivings about the casting choices?

ALLAN: What I was trying to do so because it was such a large cast. I didn’t want another Heartbeeps situation. I wanted to pack it with all the things that I knew well.

Back at the Fillmore East there was a doctor who was always on call. When we decided to put him in the movie, we thought, “Who can play a doctor and have that outfit with the shiny thing on his head?” Paul Bartel. One of the best lighting designers in the world worked there. Oh, Mary can play her.

It’s like Mad Magazine and the fold-ins. How much can we fit in?

I wanted you to feel like, in the last five minutes, you realize that you didn’t catch everything and need to go back and watch it again. Maybe I need to watch this three or four times.

Working at the Fillmore was a non-stop thing. That’s why Danny Stern never sits down. And that’s what our life was like. Crazy, non-stop work and everyone else is there trying to lose it to the transcendent experience of the music and we had to keep working. We still had to focus on the job. That was a point of pride.

There’s nothing like that anymore. The music like that doesn’t exist anymore. Music that was a transcendental experience. You came to have the Grateful Dead elevate the theater ten feet off of Second Avenue or The Who just take it to the limit of human behavior and that’s not true any more.

What was so exciting is that we captured that in the movie. So much of it is definitely in the movie. When Piggy goes off the balcony, I love that. I love that everyone has signs and grades him like an Olympic event. And I’m proud that we got the score we did and the songs that were written for the film are good. Not many rock musicals have scores written for them that are good. I mean, our needle drops are even good. When Electric Larry appears, that’s Adrian Belew playing that part, the guitarist who played with David Bowie. The reggae dub in the bathroom scene is so different.

If nothing else comes out of this, I got to make a movie that shows women who love rock and roll back then still love it now in their sixties. And that’s enough for me.

As for the cast, when we did the documentary for the extras, these people are still speaking with such fondness about something that happened 37 years ago. It wasn’t like we just finished shooting. 37 years ago we spent 36 days together in a theater and they talk about it with such vivid memories.

B&S: What was it like to have Lou Reed in the movie?

ALLAN: He was the first person that we wanted. I had lunch with Lou and it turned into a serious discussion about my feelings about his music and his feelings and what he was trying to do. He had just released The Blue Mask and I was telling him how much I liked it and he was happy I wasn’t just naming the songs everyone else knew like “Walk on the Wild Side” or the obvious stuff.

We discussed The Blue Mask and I said, “It’s like journalism. You know what it;s like to get robbed in New York City. What it’s like to face death or the day John Kennedy died.”

The way he wrote a song is the way that great songwriters like Bob Dylan or Neil Young said that the music passed right through them. I’ve heard Dylan say that the songs are like being at the beach, you know how when you look at the horizon, things float toward you and you start to see them better? That’s how Dylan feels songs come to him.

That was my interpretation of songwriting and Lou went along with it.

B&S: Did any of your cab driving experience come in when you did those scenes?

ALLAN: (laughs) Maybe the way he paid for it.

B&S: I love that the bit goes the whole movie and comes back at the end. I’m used to things being forgotten.

ALLAN: (laughs) I’m all about the callback! I mean, that’s why the scalper is at the concert and the mouse’s mom in Rock ‘n Roll High School‘s apron says “I hate mousework.”

B&S: So why Caddyshack II?

ALLAN: Yes, exactly. Why Caddyshack II? There are no more questions to be answered.

I had a really successful run on television. Moonlighting was a big deal, I was doing LA Law, working on pilots and I had a deal with Warner Brothers to direct and they said, “Well, there’s another National Lampoon movie.” National Lampoon Goes to College and I thought, “That sounds like a good idea.”

They couldn’t get it bought. So they asked, “How would you like to make Caddyshack II?”

You should never make a movie for the wrong reasons. You should only make movies about something where you know no one else can make it better than you. I’m 73. So I finally learned that was the mistake there. Also, the second time I saw Jackie’s one-man show I realized he was wrong. He doesn’t connect to his audience in a personal human way. He is a very funny joke machine and you laugh yourself silly. I needed a comedian who was equally an actor. I went to the producer Jon Peters and told him my fears. He was so convinced that Jackie was a brilliant comedian and could pull it off. Jon looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t turn a Go picture into a development deal.” I should have walked away. Lesson learned.

B&S: It was a can’t win situation.

ALLAN: It was my own fault. Everyone who worked on it worked hard and the writers** were good. It was great to work with Danny Aykroyd.

B&S: Did you have anything to do with the National Lampoon Jaws movie?

ALLAN: (laughs) No but Joe Dante did! I wish he would have made that. Jaws Three, People Zero. (laughs)

I want to see the movie Joe wants to make about Corman, The Man with the Kaleidoscope Eyes.

B&S: I want to see anything he makes. I love that even in a movie like Small Soldiers, it should be a toy tie-in and simple, but he’s an anarchist.

ALLAN: Yes. Joe really isn’t capable of doing anything that doesn’t express who he is. I did this series called Witches of East End and we did some episodes together. And we did a great job within the confines of television.

There’s a lot of middle management, but I got to put my daughters through college toiling in other people’s vineyards. Heroes I’m really proud of. I’m really proud of the series A Series of Unfortunate Events and some episodes of Hellcats. But in between, a lot of it was just work for hire.

B&S: Was Moonlighting a good experience?

ALLAN: It was a good time, because I had scripts that were just like movies that I worship, like The Philadelphia Story and The Awful Truth and Preston Sturgess movies. We had the people that could deliver that stuff and that was fantastic, shooting them with hard light like an old movie.

Here’s an example. You know what a movie buff I am. You should watch Sullivan’s Travels if you haven’t seen it. There’s a sequence where they’re chasing a car with this character, he’s a director who is leaving Hollywood to learn what people are really like so he can make a movie about reality. All the press are following him in this motorhome and people are falling all over the place while it’s moving.

In Moonlighting, Bruce is in a milk truck*** being chased by these killers. And the milk truck is bouncing this way and that, throwing milk bottles out. So the next morning, we were about to shoot it and I brought in my VHS of Sullivan’s Travels and we watched it. Could it work and how do we do it within the right context?

Gerald Perry Finnerman, the cinematographer, said well, the framing is too tight. And that’s why there’s so much energy because they’re bouncing the sides of the frame and it looks like they’re going to fall out of the movie. We did it in two or three takes and that’s one of the happiest things of my life because I got to do my kind of comedy within this show.

That’s what made television so great for me because I was in charge a lot. And I was able to see scenes in a script for Heroes and recreate the opening of 8 1/2.

I also got to work on two shows that were on the zeitgeist of what was on people’s minds about gender and relationships. Every episode of Moonlighting is about a woman in charge and she wants respect. And Ally McBeal, with the dancing baby, that went through the roof.

I’ve been very lucky in TV and doing certain shows.  I learned a lot about different points of view and things in the world. When I was doing Crossing Jordan, that was a show about cornoners at a point in my life when I was just starting to face mortality. And doing Heroes was a great experience.

B&S: And you did a Dokken video!

ALLAN: I did! Oh man — we were really taking the piss out of them in that video when you watch it. When I was working on Hellcats, one of the music guys asked if I ever did a video and I told him, have you ever seen “Breaking the Chains?” And he was like…wow!

B&S: And “Beast of Burden,” which is one of the best videos ever.

ALLAN: It has my favorite shot of my career in it. When Bette is up on the peoples’ shoulders, she reaches down and pulls Mick up and we follow that with the crane.

B&S: You got your crane shot!

ALLAN: I did.

B&S: What do you teach at AFI?

ALLAN: At AFI, everyone comes in with a discipline. Cinematographer, director, producer, writer. You team up and make three movies in your first year. In my class “Narrative Workshop & Analysis” we watch all of the films, four a week and we critique them as a class. It can be about themes, story or technical aspects. It’s very demanding and the students are from all over the world. After the session with the whole class, I sit with creative team privately where it gets pretty granular. I ask them a lot of questions and it’s not always about the film but about their feelings on making films and what movies inspire them.

I also do seminars about different topics like how has the romantic comedy changed as gender relations do? How much does the focal length of a lens change the writing, production design, editing, etc? We did a history of song scores and needle drops from Casablanca to Jackie Brown.

I love it. It’s a return to my roots as a film student at NYU and in Corman Land.

We really appreciate the time that Mr. Arkush spent with us and are jealous of his students, as we learned so much in the short time we got to spend with him. Please grab Get Crazy from Kino Lorber, as this is a movie that deserves to be in the collection of everyone that loves movies and rock ‘n roll.

Thanks to Mike Justice, Craig Edwards and Gigi Graham for their help with this interview.

*”Angels in Chains” which was episode 5 of season 1. You can watch it on Tubi.

**Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei

***”Maddie’s Turn to Cry” which was episode 13 of season 3.

Interview with director, writer and artist Bret McCormick

Bret McCormick directed one of my absolute favorite films of all time, The Abomination, but that’s not all he’s done. From 1984 to 1996, he released a treasure trove of films that hit nearly every shelf of the video store, including Rumble in the Streets and The Protector for Roger Corman. Now, McCormick writes and paints from his home in Bedford, Texas.

His prolific writing projects include Road Kill Volume 4: Texas Horror by Texas WritersThe Toilet Zone (32 short horror stories perfect for bathroom reading) and the novel Skin Dreams AKA Poor White Trash Part 3.

He’s also put together a non-fiction book called Texas Schlock, which examines b-movie, science fiction and horror movies produced in Texas from the late 1950s up to the present day. The films and careers of such cinematic trailblazers as Larry Buchanan, S.F. Brownrigg, Tom Moore, Edgar G. Ulmer, Robert A. Burns, Glen Coburn and McCormick, himself, are explored from a fun and appreciative perspective. You can get a signed copy right here and to see all of Bret’s books, check out his Amazon page.

With an upcoming reissue of The Abomination as well as a book about the film, we connected with Mr. McCormick who was kind enough to grant us an insightful and far-reaching interview.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: It seems like you grew up a monster kid or at least really interested in horror movies. What was your gateway into horror? When did you realize you were really obsessed?

BRET MCCORMICK: My folks were teen parents. Mom was 16 when I was born. In fact, I attended her high school graduation. That’s not something everyone can lay claim to! The TV was the babysitter in my family. My earliest memories are of watching movies, then acting out what I’d seen. Buck Rogers, Tarzan, Hercules and Roy Rogers. A local station played lots of Universal horror films and I became fascinated first with the Frankenstein monster, then Dracula and finally all of them. I had a rope swing in our yard and would pretend to be swinging and kicking the monster into the sulphur pit as I’d seen in Son of Frankenstein.

B&S: I’ve read you started sending out stories in your early teens. What kind of things were you writing? Did it inform your films in any way?

BRET: My mom worked in a real estate office and one day one of her business associates found out I liked horror and SF and gave her an anthology of Ray Bradbury stories to pass on to me. That changed my life. In Bradbury I found a path to the weird side without abandoning all that is beautiful about being human.

When I was 13, I wrote a novella about a private detective who encounters a series of murders and a zombie. Women’s rights was in the news a lot then and Ms. Magazine was a fairly new thing, so I threw in some subplot male/female friction between the main character and his landlady. It was about a hundred pages and got a couple of very polite rejections from publishers.

There were lots of markets for mystery/crime fiction back then, so I wrote a lot of that, but always with a supernatural or horror element added to the mix. I encountered the same situation in film distribution – distributors wanted action, not horror. I always tried to slip in a little weirdness. Like in Blood On the Badge where the cop’s partner is in a coma, but reaching out to him telepathically.

B&S: So how did you go from film school to just plain doing it?

BRET: It wasn’t a quick jump. I struggled for about three and a half years trying to get a job in the film business. It was all freelance and sporadic and most of what I found did not pay well. I already had a wife and child, so I decided I needed to raise money and create my own projects. Andy Anderson, the film instructor at UT Arlington, had shot a cheapie feature and licensed the rights to Vestron for $90,000. I was encouraged by that, but things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for me.

A movie that just might change your life.

B&S: Obviously, The Abomination is where so many — including me — came into contact with you. How did you come up with the idea for the film? 

BRET: I wanted to do a sort of homage to Herschel Gordon Lewis, but in my mind at least, I was creating a fusion between Herschel’s gore and the otherworldly horror of H.P. Lovecraft. Lofty aspirations for a project shot in 10 days on Super 8 film. But that was my thought process.

I write novels and short stories these days and when I do book signings a lot of folks ask where ideas come from. I believe every idea, word and action originates in the spiritual realm. I think there are discarnate entities around us all the time, ready and willing to influence our thoughts. Our thoughts establish a frequency and attract entities (or as the Greeks called them, geniuses or muses) which resonate with our vibration. These entities can direct us in creative endeavors, business, politics or weirdness like the Son of Sam or Charles Manson. I wrote a bit about this subject in a book called The Horror Writer, published by Crystal Lake.

B&S: When you speak of entities that give us ideas, do you connect that to the collective unconsciousness? Or an explanation of how some musicians say, “It just came to me?” I can see how some can get the right ideas — a song like “Blackbird” and others can misinterpret that song as a call to violence…

BRET: I speak of them as entities because to most people it feels like something “other” than themselves. Yes, you can call it Jung’s collective unconscious. I think of it as various “streams of consciousness” which I happen to find myself navigating. Almost all of my creative endeavors took on a life of their own as soon as I began them — the characters and incidents arise without my conscious intent. The characters do what they want, whether or not they are acting in accordance with my plot.

I paint, too, and sometimes after just a few strokes, literally in a matter of less than ten minutes I have a finished painting. There is no way I planned that. No way, my conscious mind can take credit for that. Some unconscious aspect of mind is controlling my movements. That doesn’t always happen. But I have found that if I make myself available on a regular basis, at the same time every day, these influences are reliably available to me. This is the reason I tell aspiring writers to have a schedule and stick with it.

Things get wild in The Abomination.

B&S: What works for me in the film — the whole thing works, actually — but most importantly, the effects work for the film. It’s just a world that you built. And unlike the CGI would now, those pieces were all over the place and a real thing. What was the experience like?

BRET: I have a real love of creating things: paintings, sculptures, monsters. I learned a lot of tricks from reading Dick Smith’s make-up guide – the one published by Famous Monsters of Filmland. I read Cinemagic and books on creating puppets. It’s so much fun to me. In this case I was doing it and making a little money, but I’d often created things simply for the joy of doing it. The production was grueling, hard and messy. Stinky, too. I’m glad we did it, but I don’t think I’d want to do it again. Not at my age. I’ll keep writing and let others make movies. Writing is a fairly comfortable enterprise and extremely satisfying to a compulsively creative person like me.

B&S: The film seems so of its time, when UHF channels were the Wild West and televangelism really hadn’t been prosecuted yet. Did any of the preachers of that time influence the film?

Robert Tilton and his gospel of prosperity in action.

BRET: Texas was full of those televangelists. People like Robert Tilton. Actually, I do not condemn these people. They saw a path to wealth and it worked for them. A leader cannot succeed unless there are willing followers. By condemning these preachers what are we saying? That we need to protect gullible people from these manipulators? Is the government any better? I don’t think so. Instead of people grumbling about churches not paying taxes, I say, start your own church. Doesn’t that make more sense? Robert Anton Wilson felt the same way, so I’m in good company.

The stories of Tabloid.

B&S: Tabloid is a pretty interesting anthology. We’ve kind of moved from tabloids being a supermarket joke that no one admitted to reading to so much of mass media. What were the theories behind the film?

BRET: In the early 80s there was a huge focus in mass media on tabloids. Johnny Carson and others on TV regularly did comic bits about them. Lots of DJs had regular segments on their shows that delved into the tabloid world.

Tabloids were the precursors of Youtube in a way. A place where the line between fantasy and reality was blurred. It’s in such places that magic happens. It just seemed like the right time to do a tabloid movie. The Talking Heads obviously thought so, too. I just wish we’d made a better movie. But Bob Ross says there are only happy accidents. Maybe I should say I wish our accident was a happier one.

B&S: You’ve moved around genres quite often, from action to horror to, well, some non-categorizable films. Do you have a specific genre you gravitate to?

BRET: Had it been entirely up to me I probably would’ve made nothing but horror and SF films. These were my true love. But I loved making movies and to keep working I often had to do things in other genres. Horror was really a disrespected genre back then. Less so today. Truth is I love story telling. I appreciate every genre and even some bizarre little films that are difficult to categorize. Like last night I watched a very low budget movie on either Netflix or Amazon called The Vast of Night. I loved it. Maybe you’d call it suspense. I suppose labels don’t really matter, only responses matter. I responded very favorably to that little film. And it was shot in Texas.

Real vampires inside

B&S: You’ve also made some docs, like Children of Dracula, which seems ahead of its time now in shining a light on a culture some would see as aberrant. What was that process like?

BRET: We ran ads in an alternative newspaper in Dallas and one in LA and then screened through the respondents. It was a very quick production. I was very glad Joe Estevez agreed to narrate. I didn’t take it very seriously at the time.

B&S: Is there a reason behind your alternate names? Did it put you in a different headspace or was there another reason?

BRET: Very intuitive of you to mention the different headspace. Yeah, I consider myself an artist and beyond just the movies, my life IS my art. I created the alter ego Max Raven in high school. In the early 80s I created Bando Glutz. In my mind Bando is a sort of fusion of Dan O’Bannon and Terry Southern. Old hippie who lives on the fringe. I’ve become more and more Bando Glutz as I’ve grown older.

From left to right, Bret McCormick, Roger Corman and cinematographer Scott Wilson.

B&S: What was it like making films with/for Roger Corman?

BRET: We’ve all heard the horror stories told by other film makers and actors about working with Corman. The main complaint seems to be how cheap he was/is. That is, of course, true. But after having made a couple of movies in the less-than-$20,000 range, when Corman give me $150,000 to do one, it seemed like a breeze. He made few demands and let me work on my own turf, so I had a blast. He visited the location in Ft. Worth for a couple of days. I have nothing but respect for that venerable schlockmeister.

B&S: I See World Peace seems like a departure from your work. What brought that up? Do you feel it was a successful project?

BRET: I See World Peace was never intended as a commercial project, but as an exploration of spiritual ideas. Is world peace possible? Some think so. Others believe it’s worth striving for even if it is impossible. The project was inspired by the bumper stickers which were issued in the 80s by Carmel Temple in Houston, Texas, which read: Visualize World Peace. That idea captured my imagination and I wanted to interview the people behind it and like-minded others. If you don’t have a copy, let me know and I’ll send you a DVD. Labor of love. The sound mix is terrible, but I had a lot of fun doing it. 

What I said earlier about life being a work of art – I think it’s important to remember that. People are multifaceted and to brand oneself as exclusively a ‘horror’ guy or exclusively an “action” guy is short-sighted, unrealistic and really serves no one other than the distributor or publisher who is trying to get you to go along with such nonsense. People who insist on seeing more of the same from their favorite “artists” are not deep thinkers and are really just sheep always moving toward the familiar. A commercialized form of xenophobia.

B&S: If you could remake anything, would you? Where would you see those stories taking place today or how would the world change them?

BRET: I was always prolific. I still am. I have way too many ideas. No way I can even write them all down before I die. There’s always a new avenue to explore, which is why I’d never remake anything. I’ve written four screenplays this year, though. And I’ve always wanted to write a sequel to The Abomination. If the opportunity arises and it makes sense financially, I’ll do it.

B&S: Where can that movie go from here…not to ask you to give it away for free?

BRET: Well, you’ve seen The Abomination. Anyone who has seen The Abomination knows it consists of two distinct narratives: what you see and what you hear. Ever notice how what we hear in our lives (on TV news, radio and films) is often distinct from what we see with our own eyes? Yet, both have a definite influence on us and become part of the story of who we are and who we choose to become.

Manos showing up in Texas Schlock (taken from https://severed-cinema.com/review-of-texas-schlock-by-bret-mccormick/)

B&S: I love Texas Schlock. It seems like so much of the films and culture from Texas reflect horror differently, from the way Brownrigg views the world to the budget fun of a Larry Buchanan film to something people have seemed to forget like Robert Burns’ Mongrel (hell, even Roky Erikson’s whole solo stuff is so horror obsessed). What is it about the great state of Texas?

BRET: Not much has been written bout it, but Jameson Film Studio out of Dallas was a highly influential enterprise, not just regionally, but nationally. Maybe I should write a book about them. S.F. Brownrigg, Larry Buchanan, Tom Moore and Larry Stouffer all did work for Jameson before exploring exploitation films. Jameson was in business for about 60 years. Because Jameson’s alumni got into the B-movie racket, I think other Texans were inspired to give it a go. Texans have a reputation for being extroverts and bragging a lot. I think they’re the sort of folks who think, you’re telling me I can’t do that? Just watch me!

I LOVE Roky Erikson! The poor guy got a raw deal for sure. I go on binges of listening to his music. Slip Inside This House really haunts me. I wrote a short story based on If You Have Ghosts. 

Lone Star State. What is the lone star if not a pentagram? Not to generalize about the entire state, mind you. I definitely believe in honoring the light and realizing that the dark exists only as a shadow thrown by the light. But I will say a lot of evil has been committed in the state of Texas by people who seem oblivious to the fact that they are behaving wickedly. I’m talking about the lynchings and incarceration of immigrant children, that sort of thing.

As the great awakening continues, I think we’ll see less and less mindless evil. More and more mindful cooperation and a general raising of consciousness. There will still be people who choose to act out dark impulses, consciously choosing evil, but there will be less spontaneous evil arising from misguided sense of virtue.

Oops. Sorry I didn’t realize I’d climbed up on that soap box.

B&S: I’m intrigued by this Great Awakening concept. Jodorowsky claimed that this time of plague was almost like the cards of change in the tarot, that this was an opportunity, if people wanted it, to change art to be about empowering the human spirit and encouraging connection. Sometimes, great change comes with great sacrifice, as you know.

BRET: Anyone with an awareness of their own spiritual nature has noticed we are in the midst of a great awakening. It’s been going on in earnest for about twenty years now. People feel it. Some don’t want to talk about it. Old systems of control are breaking down and people have more access to information than ever before. More people are making the choice to act in cooperation rather than competition. Jodorowsky is right on. And you’ll find the same sort of perception emerging from artists and philosophers and seekers all around the world. A human who sees him/herself as fundamentally spiritual knows that sacrifice is an artifact of illusion. One’s destiny is controlled by one’s mind, by one’s intent.

Thanks to Bret for all of his time and amazing answers. Stayed tuned for big news on the re-release of The Abomination and the book. Until then, you can get a signed copy of Texas Schlock right here and to see all of Bret’s books, check out his Amazon page.

Schokkend Nieuws Film Magazine: An Interview with Dutch Filmmaker Wim Vink by Hans Minkes

Editor’s Note: This interview with Dutch filmmaker Wim Vink by Hans Minkes originally appeared in the pages of the Netherlands-published Schokkend Nieuws (Shocking News) Film Magazine, dedicated to horror, science fiction, fantasy and cult cinema. It was first published on July 9, 2013, and digitally-republished in its homeland on September 9, 2013, and updated on July 22, 2018.

Hans Minkes, the writer of this interview for Schokkend Nieuws, also publishes his film insights for the Dutch-language cinema blog Bloedlink FilmBlog— a blog dedicated “about the real necessities in life . . . Genre, Horror, and Cult Movies!”

As you read this interview, you’ll discover Wim Vink has a rabid, international fan base and is revered in the United States by horror aficionados. While the press is bountiful in the Netherlands, there’s no English-language press on Vink’s works—let alone an interview—with the writer-director.

Our thanks to Schokkend Nieuws and Hans Minkes for allowing this English-translated version of this article to appear on B&S About Movies. We also extend our special thanks to You Tube user altohippiegabber for their efforts in preserving the career of Wim Vink and making us aware of this rare interview, which we’ve translated for U.S. and other English-speaking fans. As Alto opined: Wim Vink is undoubtedly the godfather of the Dutch horror film, “the uncrowned horror king of Tiel.”

Amen to that.

Wim Vink: Groundbreaker from Tiel

09-09-2013 | Last updated: 22-07-2018 | 07-09-2013
By Hans Minkes

In ZOMBIE 1, Richard Raaphorst’s short film from 1995, Wim Vink rises from the grave after a drunk has pissed on his tombstone. This time, reaching retirement age is enough to bring about his return. Wim Vink, after a long career as a professional photographer, hangs up his camera. But his film camera hangs on another twig. . . .

The founder of Dutch low-budget horror—he has directed the short films ZOMBIE HORROR (1981), DANCE MACABRE (1986) and the feature film HEAVEN IS ONLY IN HELL (1994)—is reviled by many. He is accused of a lack of talent or is called a sell-out for the ostentatious use of surreptitious advertising in his films. Yet there is no escaping it: Wim Vink was the first to shoot horror films on pro-super-8 and 16mm with friends and acquaintances. And that from the wet river clay of Tiel.

What I admire in this man is that he has managed to make horror films with his own hands for years and that he enthusiastically tried to sell them to everyone. Pouring blood bag after blood bag on your actresses, while no one around you is waiting for this and investing so much money in your dream with a reasonable chance of never seeing it again, that’s guts! To me he is the Godfather of Dutch Horror.

ZOMBIEHORROR was your first short horror film in 1981. Why did you choose horror?

“I was crazy about horror. I had already filmed everything; documentaries, nature films, corporate films, but no feature film yet and you should have tried everything. The equipment was there and within two days I had gathered friends around me who wanted to go on the adventure with me. I was a big fan of Fulci, Argento and Romero’s work, so a horror film was a natural choice.”

Image courtesy Letterboxd. Both are available as a two-fer PAL-VHS in overseas markets.

How did you manage to finance the films?

“I paid for everything out of my own pocket for ZOMBIEHORROR. I had a budget of 10,000 guilders (!) [dollars]. Later I started using surreptitious advertising. I often had to hear criticism about that, but it was effective and shooting a film costs a lot of money.”

It sometimes comes across as if you were fighting the windmills of Tiel like a Don Quixote in clogs. Did you encounter a lot of resistance? To what extent are you responsible for the end result?

“The problem is I’m stubborn. I want to keep everything in my own hands and that takes a lot of time. I wrote the scripts, filmed everything myself and also did the editing. It was always really a Wim Vink Production. You really shouldn’t arrive in the Netherlands with Dario Argento at the time, then you would have been ripped off. I’ve argued hundreds of times with people who don’t understand horror, but I don’t anymore. Everything is allowed in movies. It is and remains film. End of discussion.

“The headmaster of a school in Zoelen, a village next to Tiel, has been unimaginable at me with letters sent to the local newspapers. I was put down. Fortunately, there were also supporters, such as the then mayor of Tiel. The misunderstanding has even once almost led to a real lynching. I had planned a funeral scene next to the cemetery in a small village outside Tiel on a Sunday morning. We were busy when suddenly a procession with villagers and accompanying coffin entered the cemetery. To say the least, people were not pleased with the film crew present. We were almost molested there. Fortunately, one of the actors was a police officer. He called for reinforcements quickly, otherwise things could have gone wrong.”

In the pre-internet era, advertising a movie was a bit more challenging than it is today. No YouTube or crowdfunding, but with a film look and your soul under your arm, you can visit potentially interested parties. How did you handle that?

“In the Netherlands I distributed large numbers of video tapes with my own hands, but it was mainly abroad where I had the most success.”

In a videotape I bought from you, I found a personal message from the American distributor Mondo Video. They asked if you could provide NTSC versions of your movies. What have you managed to achieve internationally?

“I immediately saw the great potential of the foreign market and therefore decided to make my films in English. I have spent many guilders [dollars] advertising in fanzines worldwide. For example, I had advertisements in Fangoria, which I paid five hundred dollars for at the time, and then you only had a postage stamp size in advertising space. The advertising campaign certainly paid off. I distributed my films single-handedly in the United States, Russia you name it! I also had a long-term contract with the French television channel Antenne 2, which often showed my films in the late evening programme. I have won 187 awards worldwide, so in addition to scorn and ridicule, I have certainly received respect and appreciation. [There was never a deal with Mondo Video due to financial disputes].”

The VHS reissues/courtesy of onorato73/picuki.

Despite the relative success overseas, you were systematically rejected at film festivals in the Netherlands. Seems quite frustrating to me.

“I submitted my films several times for festivals, but I never made it through the pre-selection. ‘We don’t allow those kinds of films,’ was often the reaction I got. I thought, look at it, I am organizing a festival myself; the Benelux Horror & Science-Fiction Narrow Film Festival in Tiel. It had four editions in the eighties and was very infamous! I had about 1,200 visitors in one day, so there were definitely people waiting for genre films.”

Strangely enough, you can’t be found in the compilation video THE NETHER HORROR COLLECTION from 1995. Your name does appear in ZOMBIE 1 by Richard Raaphorst. The grave of Wim Vink that is pissed on by a drunkard, on which ‘Wim Vink-the Zombie’ comes to life; do you consider it an ode or a snarl?

“Oh, delicious! I think it’s a good joke. Any form of publicity is advertising and it was entertaining too. Richard Raaphorst contacted me to ask if I would mind. The film was already finished by then, but I said: ‘Go ahead!’ I’m actually flattered.”

I recently came across a DVD of your movie HALF PAST MIDNIGHT on a site. Doesn’t seem like pure coffee to me?

“I’ve come across that DVD too, but it’s as illegal as it can be! I have not given permission for that. I’ve been working on the release of a DVD box set containing all six horror movies I’ve made for some time now. With making offs, trailers, soundtracks, stills, mini posters, and two short horror/science fiction animation films. And then there is also a bonus. What that will be. . . . There were some contractual obligations that made it take so long.”

The original VHSs/courtesy of mattressparty/picuki.

Now that you’re retired, you naturally have plenty of time. Can we expect some more news from you?

“It’s always itchy! I have stories on the shelf for ten films. But making those films takes a lot of time and energy and I’m not twenty-five anymore.”

END

* Be sure to read the retrospective review by R.D Francis at B&S About Movies of Wim Vink’s Half Past Midnight and Heaven is Only in Hell, along with Pandora and Dance Macabre.

Our many thanks to Julius Koetsier, the Editor-in-Chief at Schokkend Nieuws, for working with B&S About Movies to honor the work of Wim Vink in the U.S.

Banner image courtesy of Schokkend Nieuws Filmmagazine Facebook.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes film reviews for B&S About Movies and publishes music journalism pieces and short stories based on his screenplays, on Medium.

Part 2 of interview with producer, writer, director (and so much more) Joel Soisson

Yesterday, we shared part one of Joel Soisson, who has worked on some of our favorite movies such A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, PhantomsPulseTrick or TreatThe SupernaturalsThe Prophecy and so many more.

With the release of his new film, My Best Worst Adventure, available on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive and Vimeo, we got the opportunity to discuss his incredible career.

B&S About Movies: You said, “I’m locked into making low budget movies that are not meant to be permanent. They are not meant to be revisited at in ten years. They are not meant to be paragons of art or social commentary. They are just meant to entertain somebody for 90-minutes and then they go on about their day.”

Are you surprised by the permanence of film?

Joel: Yes, I really am. Because there are two types of films in my world.

There are the ones that are like newspapers in which you put out your best work. And whether the end result is good or bad, it’s old news on the next day. Then there are the ones that every now and then you look at it and realize that now, this is possibly timeless. This might be a little bit of a cult classic. This might even engender some sequels and some more business and some fan appreciation.

Those early movies we discussed — until I got into the Nightmare on Elm Street world — my resume was not one of permanence. I mean, except for you. Thankfully there were people like you that are out there holding the torch for those old days.

B&S: You realize that I love Trick or Treat.

Joel: Okay, now you finally got to one where I actually have some real affection.

I like that film too. It was just a sort of a simple, you know, glam rock story about bullying and not particularly deep. We were hired by Dino De Laurentiis to do a version of A Nightmare on Elm Street with obviously different characters. But he wanted a Freddy Krueger. Rhet Topham dreamt up a new version with a guy named Sammi Curr.

That movie wasn’t a breakout hit but it has the longest legs of practically any movie that I’ve ever worked on. I still have people emailing me and leaving messages about how that movie got them through a real rough patch in their teen years.

B&S: That’s why I’m excited to be able to tell you, I was that Ragman character growing up. So the movie means so much to me because it really feels true to my teenage experiences. You know, without the presence of a rock star returned from hell.

Joel: Actually t was amazingly pervasive and I was kind of that kid too except I was a little bit before heavy metal. My salvation was the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton-type stuff but it’s the same thing. It’s just like taking refuge in the music. When you feel like you’re tortured and bullied when you go to school…so yeah. I have a real fondness for that film.

B&S: It’s a movie that’s beloved by metal bands, too. What always comes up is that it feels like one of the few movies that understands what it feels like to be saved by music. It isn’t fake where the soundtrack and metal ideas were grafted on. It wasn’t a tie-in just to be commercial. It just feels honest.

Joel: But we did have a great soundtrack with Fastaway. And we had Gene Simmons, who was a trip. Have you ever interviewed him? He is a very, very big fan of Gene Simmons.

This is a story about Charles Martin Smith, who directed the movie, and Gene.

You know, he was an actor before, he was in American Graffiti and Never Cry Wolf before going into directing. A great guy and a talented director, so here he is flying into Wilmington, NC to make Trick or Treat and he finds himself sitting next to Gene Simmons, who was coming in to play Nuke.

Gene is reading the script and Charlie leaned in and said, “Is that the script for Trick or Treat?”

And Gene answers, “Yeah, this some piece of shit that my agent said yes to before I had the chance to say no.”

Without pause, Charlie says, “Hi, I’m Charlie Martin Smith and I’m the director of that piece of shit.” (laughs)

The same thing happened to me with O.J. Simpson.

B&S: Hambone and Hillie has an amazing cast.

Joel: That was the first film that I wrote, so I was excited to be on set. He walked up and I had no idea who he was outside of the fact that he was a football player and was in those airport commercials, but when I said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” he informed me that his agent had two stacks of films, ones that OJ was taking and ones he wasn’t. And the agent screwed up the stacks and he was stuck making my movie. So that was how I met O.J.

B&S: He should be so lucky. I mean, that cast is really special. You have Candy Clark, Alan Hale Jr. and Lillian Gish!

Joel: Now that I watch her silent films, I think that nobody was better than Lillian Gish. I’ve really developed an appreciation for what the silent movies were and what she did was pretty fantastic and I almost have come to the notion that those damn talkies came along and spoiled a good thing.

B&S: It’s obsessed by who could and couldn’t make the transition from the silents to the talkies.

Joel: I wouldn’t say she equaled her success, but she was in The Night of the Hunter.

So like a lot of us, I’ve gone inward during the pandemic and I just watch too much Turner Classic Movies or Netflix, but it’s all for work.So that has influenced the next two films that I’m writing and one is a loose remake of The Magnificent Seven with Danny Trejo is as the old Brenner part.

The other project that may be closer to my heart is a remake of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and updating and reimagining that story. I bring that up because it reminds me of The Night of the Hunter because it has Bogart being — like Mitchum — pure evil. Usually, when Bogie was playing bad guys, he was the antihero and you’d still root for him. But he’s no hero in that movie at all. And that’s just delicious to get to play with a character like that. You don’t have to do anything redemptive about him. He just isn’t worthy of it.

B&S: You should check out how Battle Beyond the Stars tells the same story as The Magnificent Seven. Robert Vaughn plays the same character in both movies. Now, it’s not great, but I was a Star Wars kid and couldn’t wait for a new sequel.

Joel: Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a before and after Star Wars for so many careers? There’s a whole generation of people that say that that movie is why they are in the business. And of course, the generations that came afterward, I don’t know why they’re in the film business! (laughs)

B&S: As a kid, having Peter Cushing be in the first movie legitimized it.

Joel: I mean, if you were a 70s monster kid watching horror hosts, I can see that. I’m a Cleveland boy and we had Big Chuck and Little John, Ghoulardi…he was the first person I ever saw that could superimpose himself over a movie and make fun of it. I still remember seeing him do Attack of the Crab Monsters with the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. And his son ended up being Paul Thomas Anderson!

B&S: So what was it like taking that experience with that cast into a young and unproven one with My Best Worst Adventure?

Joel: One of the reasons why I’m so proud of that film — and I’ve since become an even bigger silent movie buff — is because our two leads have been made functionally mute so they had to act in the way that actors did in the silent days. It was all about the visuals and the emotions that they conveyed through their looks, attitudes and actions.

B&S: The Prophecy is another big movie. I took a first date to see it and she walked out during the tongue biting scene.

Joel: (laughs) This girl wasn’t the one you married, I hope.

That’s probably my favorite franchise that I’ve ever been involved with. Look at the cast we had — Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen and Eric Stoltz before you even get to Christopher Walken. Oh my God, it was just a fun cast!

The idea was that these Hallmark angels in the Old Testament were not nice at all. They were brutal motherfuckers. And they just take you down. And I looked at it as they hated humans and then we have these predatory angels and nothing had been done like this before. Now, TV is starting to do things like Legion but in 1995, nobody was doing this.

The producers didn’t get it. They really liked the story but said, “What if instead of angels, they were zombies?” And we answered, “Well, that’s not the story.”

So we found Robbie Little who said, I’m going to give you too little to make this movie, but I will finance it.” And that worked out, because it had to be this outsider type of film because the mainstream wasn’t buying it. That’s what worked.

When I look back at all the genre things I did, that’s the one that I would remake or make another sequel. Gregory Widen, who wrote the original script, made something as engrossing as The Bible and it’s just as full of paradoxes as The Bible. So whatever you believe, you don’t have to be Christian, you can interpret so many things out of the Scriptures. And the angels are mysteries that we can’t understand and it’s fascinating to me.

I love that we find this conflict between the angels, with Walken’s Gabriel leaving Heaven and trying to start a new Hell, but Satan comes to Earth and says, “Not on my watch.” And Satan helps humanity! There’s humanity and even some John le Carré espionage.

Don’t forget to check out Joel’s new flm, My Best Worst Adventure, available on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive and Vimeo. We really appreciated the opportunity to speak with him.

Thanks, Mr. Soisson and also special thanks to Rachel Michelle at October Coast for setting up this interview.

Part 1 of interview with producer, writer, director (and so much more) Joel Soisson

Joel Soisson’s biography reads like a list of everything people watched and rented in the 80s and 90s, including Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, PhantomsPulseTrick or TreatThe SupernaturalsThe Prophecy and so many more.

With the release of his new film, My Best Worst Adventure, we had the amazing opportunity to discuss Mr. Soisson’s career. We’re incredibly indebted to him for his time and energy. Please check out his new film on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive, Vimeo and more right now.

B&S About Movies: Tell us all about My Best Worst Adventure

Joel Soisson: I was looking for something that had a little bit more heart and substance than a lot of the genre stuff that I’ve been doing for quite some time. I wanted to find a sort of a vehicle that would allow me to scratch that itch, but I didn’t want to get so far from my sort of horror/action/suspensive roots that it got soft.

When I was actually shooting a little horror-thriller in Bangkok, I met the producer there and started talking to her about her own life in Northern Thailand and growing up with this crazy sport called buffalo racing, which you know from seeing the movie is kind of insane. I mean, kids riding stampeding buffaloes!

That was kind of my way into the story, it’s like I want to do an alien kid on an alien planet, someone who lands in the middle of this place where it’s scary and exasperating and predatory and completely outside of their frame of reference. And she’s got to survive. In the middle of that, she has her sort of coming of age.

B&S: It is an alien place. And one not often explored in a western-made film.

Joel: Oh, it isn’t! And the parts that are, are kind of like The Hangover 3 aspects of Thailand. The glitz and the seamy underbelly of Bangkok. But there’s also this whole other side to Thailand that is ancient and spiritual and just super fascinating, especially from somebody from a culture like ours where you just don’t share a lot in the same experiences. But it does turn out that we share a lot of the same values and that’s sort of one of the discoveries that the lead character makes.

B&S: People are still put off by foreign countries and say, “It’s so strange.” Yes! It’s foreign. Celebrate that there is a different place outside of your experience.

Joel: I wasn’t trying to make necessarily a timely movie, but this is such a factionalized divided country in a divided world. At some point, the divisions kind of melt away and you have to look at what drives people. And to me, it’s bonding between people and family and the desire to do well by one another.

There are moments of abuse and bullying in the film. There are these traumas, but even with the perpetrators of these acts, I wanted to find their hearts. Is there some merit in their lives? Can they ultimately come around? Because this film does not have a conventional bad guy and so much of my career has been based around defining the bad guy and allowing him to pillage and plunder and behead people for 65 minutes until he gets his in the end. And then we say, “OK! We’re satisfied. We for our revenge!” (laughs)

B&S: It struck me as anything but a traditional Hollywood coming of age movie.

Joel: I think that’s because it is real. It’s not biographical per se but it was based on real experiences that this producer had. And so it informs the whole story. There was the challenge of animals, children, language and culture, but I felt like I had her on my side guiding me. What was legitimately Thai? What was her experience? And when I became my crass Hollywood self, she was never shy to point out that I was falling back on my old Hollywood tropes.

B&S: So I went a little crazy researching your career and you’ve worked on a lot of movies that I’m quite frankly obsessed about. You said that you’ve worked in every role there is, well, here’s your first credit and you were the boom operator on David Hess’ To All a Good Night.

Joel: Wow. (laughs) Yes, yes. Okay. Obviously, you’re on the level. Wow, I’m glad that I have an audience for some of the things that I thought just slipped away in the anonymity — whether deserved or not.

B&S: I may have watched it more than a few times. I mean, Harry Reems shows up in it.

Joel: So what did you think of my sound mixing? (laughs) At least the boom doesn’t show up in the movie! When I was hired, I had no skills whatsoever except that was six foot three, so they figured, “Okay he can keep that thing out of the way.”

This is a first for me because I’ve never been asked about To All A Goodnight. I’m just like having a little bit of PTSD, so you’ll have to forgive me. All of the cast and crew were put up in the same house, there was no money whatsoever and it was just bedlam. And somehow, something comes out of that kind of thing. I guess it’s watchable!

B&S: I mean, look at the conditions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Joel: I’ve actually only quit a film once in my career and it was during the same period I was booming. I want to say that the title was Operation Overkill and it was shot in Reno. The production manager had this brilliant idea to take all of the catering money and half the production budget and run over to the casino and see if he could double it and have us actually have a credible budget.

It did not go down that way.

Rather than return to the seat of the set, he just took off because, you know, he had failed us. Basically, we are now getting no money and no food. And that was the killer. Right there, I said that I was done with this film. If my book comes out about the art of making movies, it’s going to be titled Make the Food Good.

B&S: Another early film in your career was Superstition and it’s another movie that I’m kind of fascinated with because — you can tell it wants to be Suspiria — but it also feels like it outright hates its characters.

Joel: It also outright hated the people who paid to watch it!

Full disclosure: I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen either of those films but the memories are still raw after 35 years. I was in the art department on that one. It was another learning experience about what I’m not good at. I was driving the art department van through Los Angeles on Fairfax and there was a light on a pole and I took a corner wrong and scrape! There was just this incredible gouge on the side of this five-ton truck that I had to drive back to the set.

I’d been in the business just a few months and I thought my career was over. How do you get out of that anonymously, like how can you return the truck and get away with it? I didn’t succeed in doing that and had to own up to being the worst hire on the set.

B&S: Which brings us to The Supernaturals. And what a cast this had.

Joel: Doesn’t it? Yeah, again, I wouldn’t say the movie I’m most proud of! There was a guy named Sandy Howard that did probably pound for pound as many films as Roger Corman was doing back in the day. They were cranking those out and anybody that was even remotely in his orbit could wind up producing, writing or even occasionally directing just because he’d have so many movies. He’d look around and say, “Who can do this?”

There was one thought that he gave us to guide the movie. There was an s on the end and it was The Supernaturals, not the Supernatural. So we have to have more than one supernatural.

B&S: There’s an urban legend that Maurice Gibb is in the movie in the Civil War scenes.

Joel: No, but he did some music for it and we dumped the score he wrote! I remember meeting him at the Plaza Hotel which was a trippy experience for me. I’m a wide-eyed 22-year-old film geek and here I am meeting a Bee Gee.

If we could have set the whole Civil War minefield scene to “Stayin’ Alive,” that would have been great. I don’t think he would have gone for it.

B&S: He should have been in it. It would have been an actual good film unlike Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Joel: (laughs) I would love to be compared favorably to Sgt. Pepper’s!

B&S: The movie is a rough watch.

Joel: Aren’t you the guy who likes To All a Goodnight?

COMING UP TOMORROW: Joel gets into some of the 90s films that he’s best known for such as Trick or Treat and The Prophecy.

Interview with Shawn Kelley, director of My Father’s Brothers

Earlier this week, we discussed My Father’s Brothers, a documentary about the journey that filmmaker Shawn Kelley’s father and seven survivors went through after one life-changing battle in Vietnam. Now, we’ve had the opportunity to discuss the film with him and wanted to share it with you.

The MFB 3rd Platoon before the events of June 29, 1966.

B&S About Movies: I’ve read that this film was based on a car ride with your father. Did you ever expect to make a movie about him? 

Shawn Kelley: I never expected to. My dad didn’t really talk about the war when I was growing up. During that car ride, I had a lot of one-on-one time with him, and I found out things about his past that I didn’t know before. So, we kept talking. The more I learned, the more I thought this was a story worth telling.

B&S: War seems like something that the general population forgets, but we’ve been at war literally since you and I have been born. And for the soldiers in the movie, the war keeps going. Did your father keep a lot of this inside before you talked?

Kelley: Combat veterans process their experiences in different ways. I believe my dad wanted to keep his experiences in the war separate from his children. Maybe as a way of “protecting” us. That’s what it felt like in the interview process – while he told me what happened during the battle in 1966, he was holding some things back. The other veterans I interviewed did not. So much so that I was trying my best not to cry while I was talking to them. I am still amazed, and horrified, by what they went through.

The MFB 3rd Platoon after the events of June 29, 1966.

B&S: Did you know any of the men your father served with before the film?

Kelley: I did not! I even went to high school with the son of one of my dad’s platoon leaders, but I didn’t make the connection that his father and mine served together until much later. As for the veterans in the film, I knew a little about them, and I had read statements they had written about the battle as I was prepping for production. But I met them for the first time the night before I started interviewing them. Now, after traveling to reunions and film festivals with them, and getting to know them more, I’m proud to call all of them my friends.

B&S: What movies influence you?

Kelley: That’s tough to answer, because so many films have influenced me in some way even beyond the story. It could be a camera technique, how they handle foreshadowing, or even a small, unexpected moment that you just can’t stop thinking about. A few docs that come to mind are Muscle Shoals, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. For narrative, Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, and Saving Private Ryan.

The MFB Airborne reunion.

B&S: What are some facts that we should know about vets and trying to understand what they’ve gone through?

Kelley: Unless you’ve worn their boots, you’ll never really understand what they experienced or how they may still be processing it. One of the vets in the film was drafted, trained, and sent to Vietnam. He was only in the army for two years, but because of what he went through, he sleeps upright in a chair, 50 years later. PTSD is a much bigger problem in our veteran community than most people know. Telling a veteran, “Well the war is over, you’ve got to just move on and forget about it,” may be the worst thing you could possibly say. It trivializes what they went through. As a country, we need to support our veterans more – they’ve given so much.

B&S: Any projects coming up?

Kelley: A friend of mine who was in the Marines called me out of the blue one day after he saw My Father’s Brothers at a film festival. He told me he had an idea for my next film. I said, “Great, what’s the idea?” He said, “Something light-hearted.” I laughed, but I am taking his advice. While I have plans to do more docs about veterans, my next film is about a craftsman and his journey to becoming a custom knifemaker.

We really appreciated the time that Shawn spent speaking with us. Make sure to watch My Father’s Brothers by checking out the watch page of the official website, as well as the official Facebook and Instagram pages.

INTERVIEW: Cecil Castellucci on live action Disney films

When I started off this live action Disney idea, one of my friends on Twitter suggested that I speak with her friend Cecil Castellucci, who was in the midst of live tweeting multiple Disney films (she still is — you can follow her on Twitter to read them).

Any time that she was tweeting them, I’ve delighted in reading her comments along with sending messages back and forth. Once this week finally came around, I was beyond excited that she agreed to be interviewed for our site.

Before we get started, Cecil Castellucci is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of books and graphic novels for young adults including Shade, The Changing Girl; Boy Proof; Soupy Leaves Home; The Year of the Beasts; Tin Star, The Female Furies and Odd Duck. In 2015 she co-authored Star Wars Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure. She is currently writing Batgirl for DC Comics and The Little Mermaid for Dark Horse Comics. Her two newest graphic novels are Girl on Film (Boom!) and The Plain Janes (Little Brown). Her short stories and short comics have been published in Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Womanthology, Star Trek: Waypoint, Vertigo SFX: Slam! and many other anthologies. In a former life, she was known as Cecil Seaskull in the ‘90s indie band Nerdy Girl. She has written two opera librettos Les Aventures de Madame Merveille (World Premiere in 2010) and Hockey Noir: The Opera (World Premiere 2018). She is the former Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus, a two-time MacDowell Fellow, and the founding YA Editor at the LA Review of Books. She lives in Los Angeles. You can check out her official site for more.

If you’re a Kirby fan or just like strong women heroes/villains/somewhere in-between, you need to check out Female Furies.

B&S About Movies: Did you watch these Disney films as a kid or are you coming into them as an adult?

Cecil Castellucci: Oh I totally watched Disney films as a kid. My mom was going back to school to get her PhD so my Dad used to take me and my brother to a double feature matinee on Saturday’s so that she could study.  So that’s when I saw a lot of the classics or ones that were not first run. And when we were older, there was always family movie outings and Disney films definitely figured into that equation of what we would go see.  The nice thing about seeing/revisiting some of these films is it’s like an archaeological excavation into my own film memories and going back to the beginning of my roots as a cinephile.

B&S: You’ve been live tweeting your live action Disney experience for a while. How did that get started?

Cecil: Well, you know, during the pandemic I was riding the whole thing out solo. And I had to keep myself amused. I was on a zoom with Jose Pimienta who I did the graphic novel Soupy Leaves Home with. He and his lady, who is in animation, were watching every animated film in order as a project and for art learning. I had just written the comics for Disney of Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Frozen, and I’m a Disney/Disneyland fan. I thought: “Who knows how long lockdown will be and it will sort of be a measurement of time. What a good pandemic project!” But I didn’t want to do just animated films, because I’m a live action girl. So it was really something to keep me occupied and engaged and I thought something fun that I could tweet about and have a little connection. Because most people have a fave Disney film or at least one that they have a bit of nostalgia with.  I also just thought it would be really interesting to see the evolution of a studio and its voice. Like an ethnographic study! I should mention that I decided I would only do Disney films not Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures. I’m going to include Pixar but I haven’t decided about Marvel or Lucasfilm yet. Maybe I’ll put that to a Twitter poll.

B&S: What’s the best you’ve watched? The worst?

Cecil: Well, I’m only on film 153 and by my count I still have about 370 films left to go, so I can’t really say for certainty which films I think are the best. And there are some classics that are just great, or have some great things about them, but in reviewing you’re like, oooooh that is super problematic. There are a couple of titles that I had forgotten about thought were stellar and were a great pleasure to watch/rewatch. Those include Sleeping Beauty, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Robin Hood, Freaky Friday, Candleshoe, The Black Hole and Tron. As for the worst, I’d say Song of the South, all of the Davy Crockett films and pretty much all of the westerns and One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.

B&S: Were you a Disney Channel kid?

Cecil: I was not. I think it came on the scene after I was a kid.

B&S: Do you think anyone other than the writers caught on to the fact that the movies had a central Medfield setting?

Cecil: Yes!  I mean, the Kurt Russel films make it obvious, and I kind of love that there’s this one central fucked up university in the Disney Universe.  I mean, I kind of want to go to Medfield. Seems like a lot of cool weird shit goes on there. And they definitely celebrate science and invention.

Medfield even shows up in Disney theme parks!

B&S: What makes the perfect Disney movie?

Cecil: Character. Heart. Warmth. Story. Care. I think a character who figures out it’s ok to walk through the/ their world as themselves. Self-acceptance.

B&S: Has any of this impacted your writing?

Cecil: I am not quite sure yet, but I think it probably will in some unknown way. One thing for sure, is seeing all the problematic stuff being so blatant and obvious makes me even more aware of that and so makes me really think about trying to avoid that. So that awareness has impacted me. Because a lot of the films it’s like, really you had to do that? And go there? And what that what? Whoa not cool storytellers. That is not cool.

B&S: Have you ever compared the remakes?

Cecil: My rule is that I am going in order, so I’m only in 1983 right now. The remakes will be coming up sooner than later and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they are updated and if they hold up a bit better and try to fix some of the oh no stuff. And you know, have more girls in them. Too many boys in a lot of the earlier films.

B&S: Who is the better Disney hero: Dean Jones or Kurt Russell?

Cecil: Hmmmmmmm. I’m going to go Kurt Russell because I think Kurt Russel the actor had cooler parts outside of Disney films that had a little more edge. Dean is a little milquetoast. Sorry, Dean!

B&S: When does Condorman show up in the MCU?

Cecil: Never, hopefully. Condorman is a boring hero. Gosh I disliked that film so much. BUT I would gladly write a comic book miniseries about LASER LADY who he created a comic book about. So give me a call, Marvel about that!

Thanks Cecil for your time! Don’t forget to check out her site and all of her great books!

Exclusive interview with Courtney Gains, star of Children of the Corn, The Burbs and the new Queen Bees

With thirty years of being in the movies, Courtney Gains’ career is so much more than Children of the Corn. His resume is packed with plenty of classic films and TV shows — 132 and counting — including Sweet Home AlabamaColorsCan’t Buy Me LoveHardbodiesBack to the FutureThe BurbsLust in the DustSecret Admirer — and a memorable appearance on Seinfeld.

We were beyond lucky to get the chance to speak with him and learn what experiences have meant the most to him as an actor, what he gets recognized for the most, how he found his way on stage with Phish and what he’s up to right now.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: Our experience with pop culture is to absorb it and discuss it, so your experience fascinates me. What’s it like to be part of so many different strains of pop culture?

COURTNEY GAINS: Because of all my 80s projects, right? Yeah, that’s something I’m proud of. As an actor at the time, once I did a horror film, my next goal was to not do the same thing twice — not just genre, but type of role. And I was able to accomplish that in the 80s obviously doing everything from like Malachi to Can’t Buy Me Love to Hans in The Burbs and even Colors. They were all very different types of roles, which was my goal.

B&S: When we brought up that we were interviewing you, everyone mentioned a different thing that they knew you from. Seinfeld came up a lot*.

CG: The smelly car! Apparently one of the top-rated shows of all time. I mean, what a great thing. What a great show.

B&S: Does what you get noticed for fluctuate all the time?

CG: For sure. Because what happens is you start getting recognized on the street again for a particular thing, right? Like you can all of a sudden it’s like The Burbs. Or like three people in a row say Seinfeld. Hmm, that must have been on TV recently. The things that get played the most nowadays are Back to the Future and Sweet Home Alabama seems like it’s on all the time.

Courtney as Sheriff Wade in Sweet Home Alabama.

B&S: Is it amazing to just flip on the channel and there you are?

CG: Yeah, I’ve managed to be on TV every week. It’s nice. Overall the most recognizable role would probably be Children of the Corn and particularly that’s what I’m known for at conventions. But sometimes. people come up to me with pictures from Can’t Buy Me Love.

B&S: And then people want you to say the big line.

CG: Yeah. A lot of people want me to videochat with their mother. And they’re always asking me to shout “Outlander!” But that’s a lot of work to do over and over.

B&S: That’s extra if you want that.

CG: (laughs) I will flip you off in forty languages like Hardbodies, though, if you ask.

B&S: You hit the teen movie genre from both angles, the sweetness of Can’t Buy Me Love and the raunch of Hardbodies.

CG: Back when you know, seeing boobs in a movie was was was a thing. You know, pre-pre-internet porn.

B&S: It’s a different world now. We had to hunt for nudity.

CG: Skinemax! I got Hardbodies through the director Mark Griffiths. I was in an acting class and he and Geno Havens were casting the movie. They were running the class, so when Mark got that movie, he always asked for a chance to rewrite the script. He tailor-made that role for me. I still had to come in and audition, but it was kind of a done deal. So that was really nice for him to give me that opportunity.

B&S: What’s a movie that you’re really proud of that people may not think of?

CG: Lust in the Dust is a pretty cool film. A lot of people don’t know it, unless they’re Divine fans, but I just think it’s so many good performances and so many wonderful veteran actors. I stayed another two weeks just to watch everybody work because I was just, you know, getting a chance to Cesar Romero work. I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance like that again.

There’s a movie that I produced it that I’m proud of — I also do a lot of music in it — called Benny Bliss and the Disciples of Greatness. It’s an anti-technology, rock ‘n’ roll road comedy and I play the lead in it. I wrote four or five of the songs for that, too. It’s a movie I stand by and I think people would enjoy it.

B&S: You just put out a new album out…

CG: Yeah, got a couple things going on. So I have a solo project called Acoustic Gains. That’s just all acoustic songs I put out, we’ve released our first single called “There was a Time” and the second single “Cherish” is coming out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can listen to this song on Spotify.

I also have a band called Ripple Street. We’ve put out three singles this year. My bands are on opposite sides of the spectrum because the acoustic stuff is very mellow and then the other stuff is very heavy, like Black Sabbath.

B&S: You played with Phish, right?

CG: I met Mike Gordon hitchhiking in the mid-80s right before Can’t Buy Me Love came out. We hit it off and I kept in touch with them as they grew into this big band. They had this friend that they were always pranking who was deathly afraid of Malachi. They had an idea for a great prank and it was never the right time and place, but they were coming to Vegas and it was the perfect scenario.

They had been trying to do this for years. When it finally happened, they acted like they were just going to watch the movie while he was on mushrooms and then one by one, everyone else left the room. So I snuck in and put on Trey’s (Trey Anastasio, lead singer and guitarist of Phish) jacket and sat down next to the guy. I didn’t even have to be Malachi that much because the guy’s mind was just blown.

After that, they said any time I wanted something, it was like whatever I want. And I said, “Well, let me come up and play.” They said, “Done.” Got to play in front of 8,000 people in Vegas**. That was pretty amazing.

B&S: Now, you’re in Queen Bees. That has an amazing cast too, almost on par with Lust in the Dust.

CG: Yeah, on par with and then some. I only do a cameo in it, but I was surprised my cameo made the trailer so that’s been really cool. I got a chance to work with Ellen Burstyn, Jane Curtain, Ann-Margret and Loretta Divine and I was like, I’m not gonna pass this up. To get to watch those iconic ladies and work with them was great.

Jane Curtain was really sweet. You know, you get on a set, especially when it’s just for a day. And so often, how the movie feels depends on the vibe of the people right? There’s some of them that are like, “I’m not gonna see you tomorrow. I’m not even gonna bother to get to know you.”

Right. And others go out of their way. But she was so great. When I got introduced to all of them. She was like,” I’ve seen you” and everything like that. Wow, Jane Curtain just said that to me. How cool is that?

B&S: What else are you working on?

CG: I’m in a really dramatic horror movie called The Bleeding Dark that is coming out soon and just finished Tales season 3 for BET. It’s a ten episode anthology and I play a bad cop and it was really interesting.

I have another movie called River that comes out July 13 and it’s a real independent sci-fi type movie. When I say sci-fi that I don’t mean with a lot of special effects. But it’s got sort of alien undertones to it.

It’s a cool project. I play an interesting role — Dr. Michael Glenn — and he’s this small town antique store curator, but he’s also the local psychologist. So he works with this girl because she’s having time lapses. You know, she disappeared for like a week and doesn’t remember how and why. And so I work with her and it’s just a different role for me.

I had a nice long COVID beard for it. It wasn’t a normal role, not a bad guy role, somethingvery mature and a very loving role. And it’s nice to do something different like that.

I’ve never played a shrink before. I’ve always thought that it was something that I could do. Because I teach acting and have taught a lot of psychodrama, drama therapy, you know, where you get into people’s heads and how you can open up the floodgates for them emotionally.

I think actors are — we have to be — psychologists to ourselves, we have to know what pushes our buttons what we’re passionate about and what we’re not passionate about.

I’ve always found psychology interesting. As a matter of fact, if I hadn’t become an actor, I might have become a child psychologist. So that’s probably what I would have gone to school for, because I found it interesting.

B&S: You find yourself bouncing all of those emotions off one another in scenes…

CG: But you need to know people’s different styles I’m a method actor. And so I’m looking, you know, from the inside out. As I say, you have to know what’s gonna push your buttons.

When I taught acting, it’s about if a character has some type of loss, it can be something simple. Yet in a scene, you’re acting but the other actor isn’t connected.  So I find that it helps to talk to them about something they’ve lost. Let’s talk about something in their life and create that mood, right? And they can see that, they can feel that, it’s generating in themselves. And like that’s what I’m talking about. Now, let’s drop into the scene. Sll of a sudden the scene clicks, right? Does that make sense?

B&S: It totally does. Because it’s like creating an emotional language that people may not be able to fully tap into…

CG: Or do they even know how to go about getting that right? So once you start to show them some ways to get access, then they can start applying that to other stuff.

This is huge because as you audition, you have to prove to people you can do the part even though you don’t know the dialogue very well. You have maybe 24 hours to work on it, so it can feel like a cold reading. So you have to find some way to lock into the scene emotionally and bring that with you. And that’s the truth that you carry with you.

Eric Stoltz in one of the few shots of his brief time as Marty McFly.

B&S: I have a weird method question for you. Were you involved in any of scenes in Back to the Future when Eric Stoltz was still in it?

CG: Yeah, so I so I didn’t actually work with Eric at the time. We did Memphis Belle together, so we got to talk about all of this then. But I did work during the time Eric was on the movie.

The story was that he was being super method and making everybody call him Marty. And I guess the dailies were coming back and they didn’t think he was funny enough.

I mean, I think Eric’s a fine actor, but I guess they didn’t think so and that’s when they dropped him. The good news for me was that you can only drop an actor once and then bring them back on a certain date. They’d already done that. So basically, they did the reshoot for five weeks. I was on payroll on a job that I was probably only going to work a week on. So for it to go on to be one of the top-grossing — maybe still the top-grossing trilogy of all time — it’s been the best residual checks I’ve ever had. So I’m very thankful for Back to the Future.

There’s Courtney as Mark Dixon in Back to the Future.He’s the guy who puts the kick me sign on George McFly and tries to cut in on his dance with Lorraine.

B&S: Any truth to the urban legend that when they fired him, Christopher Lloyd really thought his name was Marty and asked, “Did they fire Marty?”

CG: (laughs) Is that real? That’s really funny.

B&S: What actor have you learned from?

CG: That’s a tough question, because  I think it’s like you get little tidbits from everybody.

Here’s an example. Tom Hanks big monologue at the end of The Burbs, after he comes out of the burning house and says, “It’s not them. It’s us.” That was at like two or three o’clock in the morning. He could have just said, “Man, I’m tired. We’ve been up all night.”

But, you know, he did, he showed up. And that, that level of professionalism and commitment is what I got at that moment. and from him.

Another is Robert Duvall, one of my favorite actors. I got to work with him in Colors which was a big deal for me. I was watching him like a hawk. We had the last day of shooting which is also where he passes away after he gets shot. I was within four feet of the guy and they call him in to do the scene. This big death scene, they lay him down in the dirt and they’re not ready. And then Dennis Hopper comes in and says, “Hey, we have a lighting problem and it’s going to be 45 minutes.”

Now for an actor, you’re emotionally prepared for this scene and now, to have to sit there and wait 45 minutes is not easy. That can really throw your throw you off, you could burn out, you know?

He just laid there. Cool as a cucumber. And I was just sort of shocked they would do this to someone of the caliber of Robert Duvall.

They finally come in and ask, “Are you ready” And then he blew the lid off. It was the best performance I’ve personally seen. And I had to come up afterward and tell him — I’m one of the many actors on this set and he knows me but it’s not like we hang out — that it was awesome. And he said, “Well, I wish that was my close-up. Because I don’t have another one like that.”

He blew it out on the first one. And what they did, if you look at the film, you’ll see that the close-up of him is really kind of a little grainy. And kind of at a weird angle. I believe what they did was blow up the wide shot because the performance in that take was just exceptional.

What I learned from Robert Duvall was that he had humility. If he had let his ego get in the way at that moment, it would  have stopped the flow of that performance. He had to put his ego completely in check and just stay calm. And it allowed that performance to come through.

He taught me that you can get caught up in the BS, but if you do, it’s gonna cost you your work, you know? What a class act.

B&S: When I saw that scene in the theater, it destroyed the audience, who came in for an action movie and weren’t ready for that dramatic performance.

CG: If you watch it again, you’ll see he has three lines: “Let me catch my breath. I’ll get back on my feet. Call my wife, I’m going to be okay.”

Those are the three lines that were written, but what you watch happen as he keeps repeating them is that he’s sort of fading away, right? Well, he’s a Meisner guy, you know, Sanford Meisner technique. And one of the techniques they have is a thing called repetitions where people repeat back and forth to each other to in a listening/reacting drill. And that’s basically what he was doing.

He was doing  that repetition. He kept saying the same things over and over. It was genius that he did that because those, you sort of watch like this guy dying. He just kept saying the same things. But if you didn’t know that, if you didn’t know the technique — the Meisner technique — you wouldn’t realize what he was doing.

I studied all the methods. And so that was, you know, again, one of the things you file away and maybe you could use someday.

Thanks to Courtney for his time, energy and sharing in this interview. If you can’t tell, we had an absolutely incredible time. Also we really appreciate Rachel Michelle from October Coast for setting up the interview and, as with everyone there, being incredibly easy to work with.

*Gains appeared in the 1993 episode “The Smelly Car” as a video store clerk.

**Gains played on the song “Suzy Greenberg” on Phish’s 12/06/1996 Las Vegas show.

Interview with Suzanne DeLaurentiis from Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares

Suzanne DeLaurentiis, whose credits include producing Rocky V, Mannequin 2, 10th & Wolf, D-Railed and many more has a new series. Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares is your opportunity to watch a wide range of classic horror films with Suzanne providing wrap-arounds that explain more about the movie while sharing fun facts and tidbits from behind the scenes. Plus, Suzanne brings in guests like Morgan Fairchild and Lara Parker of Dark Shadows to add more to each episode.

We had the opportunity to discuss the new series with Suzanne as well as her career.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: We’re really excited about your new show and loved getting to watch the first two episodes. What led you to want to do the show?

SUZANNE DELAURENTIIS: I’ve always loved horror. I’ve always been a fan, even though my company does so many different types of movies. We do comedies, musicals, drama, a little bit of everything. I was trying to think of something that was low stress and fun.

My friend Lee Turner hosts a show called After Hours Cinema and it’s a very successful show. We spoke and I said, “Hey, I want to do something like you’re doing but with a different spin. So we shot the first couple of episodes and now we’re really anxious to start shooting more.”

B&S: It’s exciting that Messiah of Evil was one of the first ones you’ve shown.

SUZANNE: I think it’s really awesome and well done. We have probably 70 or 80 movies that we’re going to be showing. So I’ve got some really great ones in the lineup that I think everyone will enjoy.

B&S: Any that you can give us some spoilers for?

SUZANNE: Not too many, because we want to keep it kind of a surprise to the audience. But I can tell you the next one we’re doing is Nightmare Castle with Barbara Steele.

B&S: The first movie that we saw your name on was D-Railed. I really loved it because it jumped, pardon the pun, from track to track in the story and was filled with surprises*.

SUZANNE: I had people criticize me for that. They said, “What is this? Is it a murder mystery? Is that a monster movie? What is it?” I said, “Well, it’s kind of a little bit of everything.”

B&S: It was unexpected. And you had a great cast!

SUZANNE: It was a tough one. We shot half in LA and all the water stuff on a set in Philadelphia. So we pretty much moved the company from LA to Philadelphia. I had a great group of people that were working back there to help us. We actually have a lot of veterans that worked on the crew. I have a program at my company called Operation Hollywood. And we train veterans to work on movie sets. It’s really rewarding to give back.

B&S: What other productions should our readers look out for?

SUZANNE: We have a movie in post-production right now called Reed’s Point, which is our version of the Jersey Devil. And we’ve got another movie called It Crawls Beneath about a guy that’s working in his garage and there’s an earthquake and he gets trapped under his car and then creatures come out of the cracks…it’s really fun.

B&S: So I have to ask, you were in the cast and crew of Mannequin 2

SUZANNE: Stewart Raffill, the director, was a good friend of mine and I had a small part in it**. And we were actually shooting that during the day and then working on Rocky V at night. Mannequin 2 was a lot of fun to work on and Stewart is a really talented director. He actually ended up directing a movie for me not long after that called A Month of Sundays with Rod Steiger.

B&S: You’ve really been all over the place with the films you’ve produced — in the best of ways.

SUZANNE: I have to say my most favorite of all was the mafia drama that I shot in Pittsburgh in 2015 called 10th and Wolf. Pittsburgh is an interesting town to shoot in, because it can also double for Philly or New York City.

We really appreciate the time that Suzanne spent with us and hope that everyone checks out her series Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares. You can watch the first episode, Sisters of Death, on Apple TV and Amazon Prime. The second episode, Messiah of Evil is also on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Want to learn more about Ms. DeLaurentiis? Check out her official site.

*You can watch the film on Tubi.

**Suzanne is the nightclub waitress during the dancing in the club scene.