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.

Jesus Christ Movie Star: The book and interview with author Phil Hall

A few months back, we interviewed Phil Hall, the author of The Weirdest Movie Ever Made: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film.

Now, BearManor Media has released Jesus Christ Movie Star, a new book by the author of The History of Independent Cinema and In Search of Lost Films and host of the award-winning podcast The Online Movie Show. This 176-page illustrated book is now available in a $22 paperback edition and a $32 hardcover edition.

It’s a great idea for a book, as Jesus Christ has challenged and inspired filmmakers from the very start of film and has seen so many different interpretations. I really enjoyed it as it unites everything from the silent film era through Old and New Hollywood, from blockbuster films to the world of the exploitation filmmaker, from movies by Hollywood royalty to movies made in the gutter.

From largely unseen oddities like Assassin 33 A.D and The Passover Plot to famous films such as The Last Temptation of ChristThe Greatest Story Ever Told and even Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the book gives a balanced overview of the many interpretations of the Son of God on screen. Even if you’re not religious, I recommend this book.

I had the opportunity to ask Hall some questions about the book and discover what went into making it, why Jesus appears in so many movies and what films do the best job of portraying Christ.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: What inspired you to write this book?

Phil Hall: During my youth, I considered the ministry for a career – my minor in college was religious studies – and my academic interest in the Christian faith never waned over the years. In the early 2010s, I had hoped at one point to do a book on Pilate’s wife, who is not identified by name in the Bible but is popularly known as Claudia Procula, but that project never moved forward. This new book comes from some of the research in the Claudia book’s section of cultural depictions of her place in the story of Jesus.

B&S: What makes Jesus such a uniquely filmable figure?

Hall: Jesus defies pigeonholing. His life story and message resonates differently with anyone who comes to the Gospels. This obviously includes filmmakers, which explains why there are so many different cinematic considerations of Jesus’ philosophy, actions and behavior. Griffth’s Jesus in Intolerance is worlds removed from Pasolini’s in The Gospel According to St. Matthew and Stuart Hazeltine’s in The Shack. There is no other historic figure who has been open to so many different interpretations, nor is there any that has been on the big screen from the dawn of silent film in the 1890s to today’s digital cinema.

What really struck me about your book is how the films of Jesus unite everything from highbrow features to the exploitation films of Sunn Classics and Larry Buchanan. Why do you think Jesus is so fascinating to filmmakers?

Hall: A crass answer would be the commercial viability of the subject – with relatively few exceptions, films about Jesus have consistently been profitable. It is also a story that can be molded to fit the times – consider the pacifist Jesus in Thomas Ince’s 1916 antiwar epic Civilization, the surly anti-authority Jesus of Pasolini’s 1964 film, and the hippie Jesus in the 1973 Godspell and the “bro” Jesus that we’ve seen in more recent films like Risen and The Shack.

B&S: It may be difficult, but what’s your favorite film in the book? Which do you think gets closest to translating Jesus (in your opinion)?

Hall: I believe Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew and the 2003 The Gospel of John come closest in terms of staying on topic, as both were adapted exclusively from their respective Gospels. Most Jesus-centric films take a buffet approach in borrowing some aspects from the four Gospels while omitting others.

For personal favorites, George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) is wildly imperfect, but among the epics I think it comes closest to being an act of cinematic reverence. The Johnny Cash-produced 1973 The Gospel Road is wonderfully idiosyncratic and represents a true work of sincerity – plus, it has a great country-gospel score that never shows up in this cinematic genre.

B&S: What actor did the best job? Which one surprised you?

Hall: Max Von Sydow’s presence in The Greatest Story Ever Told is my favorite – he resembles an Eastern Orthodox icon come to life and he possesses the right degree of otherworldliness that sets him apart from the rest of the cast.  As a surprise, Donald Sutherland took what could have been a one-dimensional caricature in Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (1971) and gave the role a degree of charisma and humor that helped to sell an interpretation of Jesus that some might have found offensive.

B&S: Are there any angles that have not been explored in Jesus films?

Hall: No. And if you ever see the 2000 short Jesus and Hutch with the Nazarene (played by Eric Stoltz) as a 70s’-style detective whose right hook gives criminals a new meaning of turning the other cheek, then you will realize the possibilities are infinite – if, perhaps, for the wrong reasons.

B&S: You’ve written about the movies that include Bigfoot and Jesus now. What historical figure, if any, is next?

Hall” I have no plans for new books at the moment, although outside of cinema studies I am writing a weekly series for the financial news site Benzinga called “Wall Street Crime and Punishment” about historic and contemporary figures who faced criminal charges for running amok with other people’s money. My next column is about Howard Hughes’ controversial acquisition of AirWest in the early 1970s, which I am writing after concluding this interview.

You can get your copy of Jesus Christ Movie Star at BearManor Media. They have the paperback, hardback and ebook versions available for sale. Thanks to Phil Hall for his time and great interview.

Interview with Ed Piskor, the creator of Red Room

Ed Piskor has created some of the most amazing comics of the last few years, including WizzywigHip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design. Now, his new book Red Room takes the Dark Web, slasher movies, snuff urban legend and so much more to create a book that is ready to tear a big bloody swath through the boredom of current comics.

We were lucky enough to talk to Piskor this week and found him checking out the comp copies of the first issue. Our rambling discussion covered everything from where Red Room came from, but also the influence of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, where comic book movies get it wrong, the change in media with the New Hollywood, snuff movies for real and, inevitably, Glenn Danzig.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: I heard an interesting theory today that while in comic books, you can do anything you want without a budget, when you turn that comic book into a movie, it’s like you’re immediately doing the remake.

ED PISKOR: Right. It’s like a second pass and a chance to tighten things up in the second draft.

B&S: It’s hard to read trades these days, because you can tell they’re trying to stretch things out to six issues every time so they just pad stuff.

PISKOR: That’s exactly why I’m doing Red Room the way I’m doing it. I’m so tired of that nonsense.

B&S: I guess you see it in the old collections, too. Like the 70s Marvel books have that Jim Shooter rule that every comic is someone’s first comic, so you have that recap.

PISKOR: That’s how the Frank Miller Daredevil issues are. Just skip the first page of every issue where we recap his origin and the rest works as a novel.

B&S: Doesn’t it seem weird that every comic movie needs to retell the origin? Don’t we just get it?

PISKOR: Morrison’s All-Star Superman did it right. One page, they got through it quick.

The problem is always whenever people try to make things too legit. It’s just stupid sometimes and that’s fine. Like Batman 1966 with Adam West and Burt Ward is a better Batman movie than any of these other ones, man. It’s just like, that movie knows what it is. Batman cannot work in any real world context, so let’s just go for it. Just be cornball. l

All you need to know about Superman in four panels.

B&S: The Tim Burton stuff works, though.

PISKOR: Yeah.

B&S: But then in Batman Returns, he just whips his mask off in front of the main bad guys.

PISKOR: They always do that shit!

B&S: Are you old enough to remember the worry about Michael Keaton playing Batman?

PISKOR: I never had any trouble with it because I was young. And I definitely drank the Kool-Aid. I was fully on board and so was every football player in my school. They had the Bat Signal shaved into their heads. And my parents took us, because we were so fucking relentlessly on them to take us to see that movie. So eventually, we hit the Greater Pittsburgh 5 in North Versailles.

That’s where we would see all our flicks. And it was huge to us, man. It was like a couple years, there was the year of Batman, then it was Rocketeer, then it was Dick Tracy

Now a Wal-Mart. RIP.

B&S: Isn’t it weird how Dick Tracy has kind of been forgotten now?

PISKOR: What’s crazy is it’s totally not forgotten by me. I have two shelves dedicated to the entire bibliography of Chester Gould from 1931 to 1977 in like thirty volumes. It’s my favorite comic strip and it’s impossible for me to be critical of it at all. I just totally buy everything he’s selling. And it’s like the only comic that I enjoy where I can have that suspension of just like, “Chester, whatever you say goes man. Like I’m not even going to harsh on you, dude.”

I even love when the moon stuff happened, which is a period that everybody hates but I love it so much. It speaks to his mania and neurosis. The whole moon period happens after America has already been to the moon. You know, we’re reasonably sure there were no moon people and stuff but Chester Gould didn’t get the memo, dude.

So there are civilizations on the moon and there are whole governments being set up. There e  these kinds of like, cars and species and shit like that. It’s one of my favorite periods of his work actually.

And then in the Sunday episodes, he would have the Crimestoppers Textbook. And at its height, it would be this great forensic stuff about fingerprints and how every bullet leaves a signature behind.

But then in the 60s, when he was doing the moon stuff, he was just such a crotchety old fuck, so he was anti-rock and roll and there’s a Crime Stoppers textbook about not crowding your boyfriend when driving in a car and there’s an American Graffiti-looking girl hugging up on some dude in a Cadillac. “The only fuzzy dice that should be on a vehicle,” and it’s the rearview mirror on a stroller, which is just so cranky. It gets so weird. Total Midwestern values.

B&S: So much of the pop culture law enforcement of that time is Dragnet and Dick Tracy and they’re the heroes. The square guys without any humor at all.

PISKOR: For sure. Because that would have been like, you know, mom and dad’s entertainment. You know, it’s totally that Mad Men era where there’s a paradigm shift happening. And people stopped responding to that square authority. Fucking Eisenhower and Perry Como bullshit. So then they had to start switching things up, man. Ain’t too much longer where you’re going to get Carroll O’Connor and shit like that. You know what I’m saying?

B&S: And in comics, it would be Hard Traveling Heroes, Green Lantern and Green Arrow?

PISKOR: Yeah, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And then you think about the film analog and that’s like, Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, right? Like the era of New Hollywood when you know this old Hollywood era of Cecil B. DeMille, Warner Brothers — like the actual Warner Brothers — are completely out of touch with the youth. Fully disengaged beyond belief. And then you have to have that young energy come in, man.

B&S: But then it falls apart. Easy Rider was big. They made all this money and they’re like, let’s make another Easy Rider was like trying to find another Nirvana.

PISKOR: Right? Do you remember the Captain America show where they took that Easy Rider reference from the movie and we end up with Cap on a motorcycle with a helmet and all that shit? How ridiculous.

B&S: I heard a kid walk out of the second Guardians of the Galaxy upset with it and I thought, “You should have grown up with 70s Marvel movies.”

PISKOR: But you know what, I love that shit. I have this one wall of my VHS tapes. And I just kept enough to kind of fill up this shelf. And one set of tapes is the Mighty Marvel Marathon and it would be on SyFy where they would just play every Marvel property for like a whole day. It would be that old Dr. Strange, all the Ferrigno Hulks, the Spider-Man series, the old Ralph Bakshi cartoons.

B&S: All of those old Marvel movies have actors who went on to do Italian movies, like Ferrigno is in the Cozzi Hercules, Peter Hooten from Dr. Strange is in a ton of them, Reb Brown too.

PISKOR: That’s funny, man. Who pops up in that stuff? Because you watch like Cannibal Apocalypse and John Saxon is in there. There was a line between TV and movie actors back then.

B&S: And then the Marvel movies and lots of TV movies got put together and released in Europe as actual movies.

PISKOR: Right, like Spielberg’s Duel. You can see he already had a vision in that movie. It’s one of those great examples. It’s something we talk about on Cartoonist Kayfabe a lot where a guy’s given a shot and it’s a throwaway piece. Something a lot of other people just hack out. But then you see this person who’s just got a real vision, who put something together and that transcends. And in the medium of TV movies, which were schlock at best, and, you know, they can turn the lemons to lemonade.

B&S: There’s such a thin line between exploitation movies and TV movies, which is why I love them.

PISKOR: Yeah, that’s a good point, man. That’s something I’ve never really thought about. But you know, when you have these kinds of actors, you get a stage play delivery which adds to the camp of it. And that’s also how those old exploitation flicks feel.

B&S: Which is part of why I liked Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood.

PISKOR: Whenever the new Tarantino comes out, I gotta go see it. Day one, all that kind of stuff. After the flick in the bathroom, there were kids in there and had no idea about Charlie Manson. Zero. That’s the world we live in.

B&S: Meanwhile, they just saw a movie that had period-perfect Italian movies and art…

PISKOR: People got paid good money to make kayfabe Jack Davis TV Guide covers.

B&S: Was TV Guide important to you?

PISKOR: It’s a bit before my time, but now, I grab some of those. Sanford and Son covers. But when I was a kid, we used the Sunday newspaper TV listings, that was a big deal. You had to plan out your week. If Real Sex was going to be on, you have to plan a sleepover at a friend’s house who had HBO (laughs).

B&S: So after reading the first few issues of Red Room, I have a theory. You were really influenced by the video store experience.

PISKOR: Yeah, for sure, man. But the starting point is definitely comics. Also, the culture is very weak right now. People are really afraid to get roasted. They’re afraid to to get slammed on Twitter. So the comments are very placid. So I’m just trying to do the opposite of everything that I think is wack about comics. So it’s like, do something that’s a little hardcore. Everybody’s trying to pander for the young adult dollar. And what that really means has nothing to do with young adult readers and has everything to do with young adult librarians who buy these things and stock these books in the libraries. So fuck that, you know, I’m going to do some hardcore shit.

Dude, you go out to a comic shop. You go digging in the bins. And why is Red Room getting big orders and the best-selling Fantagraphics comic in a long time? Because people want to see some fly shit. People want to see some hardcore stuff now that we’ve all been sitting around for a while.

Let’s bring back some of that Faust energy. Let’s bring back some of that Deadworld energy. That James O’Barr The Crow kind of stuff.

B&S: I mean this as a compliment: it feels like an Aircel comic from 1985.

PISKOR: I’m down with that. It’s astonishing how much Aircel published. I thought that I had seen it all, then I found two or three series I didn’t even know existed.

That’s the stuff I buy. I buy the old black and black and whites from the 80s. The stuff that might only have one issue, the stuff might that might even be kind of region-based, because the creator never went beyond their local comic con.

And somehow, you know, the comic changed enough hands, so eventually, it comes to your local comic book store. I scoop up basically anything that’s odd that I never saw before. Usually, you know, it’s pretty crude, but I find so much charm in that artwork. And then I think I start to fantasize about the creator and the way like, why didn’t they just keep going? I feel like they were probably trying to measure themselves against George Perez or Barry Windsor Smith. And they didn’t realize that they kind of created their own kind of vernacular, but they didn’t respect it. You know, they were just like, I fell short. But you know, I love that stuff.

B&S: And there are movies a lot like that too.

PISKOR: Yeah. There’s a great YouTube channel called Power Comics that is into the very same thing I am. They get hold of, like weird black and white comics, exact stuff that we dig and do readings and track down the artists and interview them. It’s wild stuff.

B&S: Like Fat Ninja.

PISKOR: He was part of the Grips universe and I ended up liking him more than the main character. Gary Amaro is a great cartoonist. But then, you know, Faust comes along and blows away Grips.

You go from one claw to two claws and Tim Vigil changed his own career.

B&S: Can you imagine if they did a movie that went full-on Italian insanity with that story?

PISKOR: Yeah, I wish! Did you ever see Vigil’s Zero Tolerance? It’s Vigil, Tim Tyler and Amaro, such an outlaw comics team, drawing for First Comics in color. But it’s kind of like, once they did something in color that was more higher budget, it took away everything I loved about their work.

B&S: He’s like the Lucio Fulci of comics. You can’t be a casual fan of his stuff.

PISKOR: You can’t find his stuff in the wild. People hold on to it.

B&S: Who else is one of those guys that made it? Sam Keith?

PISKOR: James O’Barr. Guy Davis. Kevin O’Neill, whose artwork was not approved by the Comics Code. Not anything he did, but the vibe of his artwork. That seems like potentially BS, but if not, what a great sell job. It’s like William Castle. This movie might give you a heart attack!

Poltergeist is full of those stories and Heather O’Rourke dying helped that urban legend. But you know, I just watched the first episode of Freddy’s Nightmares where Tobe Hooper did the origin and hated it. Freddy just stands there while they burn him and there’s no storytelling or better way of presenting the imagery. It reminded me of how bad TV used to be.

B&S: I think Tobe Hooper just got beat up and was exhausted by then. Then again, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is great, even if people at the time didn’t like it.

PISKOR: It’s the Pittsburgh one, because Savini did the effects. He used to wear the Leatherface mask he did when they did the haunted house at Century III Mall. Chop Top is an amazing character and I like that Stretch has a dutch boy haircut. So that one is also near and dear to my heart.

Century III Mall, now dead.

B&S: Is it your Chainsaw?

PISKOR: The first one was mine. We had it on VHS, but I know that I was conceived at a double feature of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I’d like to think it was during the second movie, because it’s so boring.

B&S: Pittsburgh was a huge drive-in town.

PISKOR: We just went to the Dependable the other night. My girlfriend is from Hollywood and with Los Angeles real estate, they couldn’t have the big space that Dependable takes up out there. It was great.

B&S: As much as we love video stores, they kind of killed drive-ins.

PISKOR: And I can see that happening eventually with comic book stores. I try to promote them as much as I can.

B&S: So what was your video store?

PISKOR: I actually worked at Hollywood Home Entertainment. And then another one was called Best Video on Eighth Avenue in Homestead. But then we went to weird places like PharMor.

B&S: When did you go from just reading comics to knowing who made them?

PISKOR: I had this book about the fifty-year history of Marvel Comics. It talked about fandom and it had this letter sent in from a little boy, you know about his favorite comics. And when he was talking about fandom, it was describing how, you know, the discerning fan is able to look at an image and tell who drew it and sometimes could tell who penciled in and who inked it. And I couldn’t believe that.

It seemed insane to me that you could do that. But it was really that post-Jim Shooter era, when it’s the people with very, very distinct styles. Like when it sort of went anti-house style. When we had Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee. I became fans of specific artists and followed them around, like I was reading incredible McFarlane Spider-Man stuff, then anything Liefeld would do and then Jim Mee’s Punisher was sick as fuck.

So that’s when I really started paying attention to artists.

B&S: You had a big eureka moment when you came up with Hip Hop Family Tree. Was there one for Red Room?

PISKOR: This comic was swirling in my head for a long time. I had sold it right before I did X-Men Grand Design, which kind of popped up and it was an opportunity and my trajectory was diverted for three years. That gave me more time to ruminate on this comic and then get busy.

It was inspired in a big way by Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which taught me that the best of horror is part of the zeitgeist from which that material is created. It’s exploiting things that are really happening at that exact time. So what would a good modern day horror story that couldn’t have been made a decade ago? And playing with the Dark Net seemed perfect. It’s so mysterious to people and snuff has been an urban legend for a while. So let’s play around with it.

How I work is find this subject that interests me, then I watched a documentary about it, then I found Snuff, then I found Hardcore and I got inspired by all of it.

My conceit in the comic is that red rooms give agency to the 1% over life and death, the power to see atrocities as they wish. Like Caligula. This is an entertainment vocation for the men and women who have everything. I could see Epstein putting down some bitcoin to see this.

B&S: I liked how much of Wizzywig tied into this.

PISKOR: Wizzywig is playing it straight. Red Room is pure fiction, but that was many real-life stories all put into one character. I’ve always kept up with technology and been fascinated with the freaky nature of the Dark Web. One of the great compliments I get when someone reads this is when they ask, “Are Red Rooms real?”

B&S: So how deep did your research go?

PISKOR: Mostly reading cases of people that have been arrested, reading their indictments and VICE articles, which helps with the character stuff. It’s not that easy to get a motivation for them to be killers. It can’t be money every time. If you want to create some rich characters, I have to make some way that makes you want to see them become murders. I also used the bibliography of John Douglas and Mark Olshaker in their book that became Mindhunter. Yet real serial killers are almost always the same white guy in the profile.

B&S: So how much of an influence are slasher movies?

PISKOR: Huge. It’s also Mortal Kombat fatalities. Dude, we live in the town of Tom Savini. You know, I’ve learned a lot about anatomy, putting this comic together, and I remember Savini talking about his combat photography,and using some of the photos he took in Vietnam as reference material for some of his gore. I definitely I know what a pancreas looks like now.

B&S: Everyone else will after they read that issue!

PISKOR: That was one of my favorite pieces to draw. Let’s see what’s in that chest cavity. That actually was inspired by somebody that sent me some cartel footage. And these guys are vicious. They cut up this dude’s chest, cut open some holes in the ribs and then reached in, grabbed his heart and showed it to him before he died. That’s a real snuff movie and they film this shit as propaganda. They strike fear into their rivals and their own guys with them. I can’t unsee it, you know? It’s a direct inspiration and somehow, not the worst one I’ve seen.

An actual tape from Piskor’s collection.

B&S: Did you do tape trading? Like VHS mixtapes? Kind of like what people would post on the internet today, but way more underground.

PISKOR: Yeah, like the Heaven’s Gate Cult and GG Allin tapes. Bumfights and Banned from TV were big, but you could get those at Best Buy.

B&S: The best compliment I can give Red Room is that it feels like something that would have come out from Italy in 1977.

PISKOR: Thanks. That’s super cool. I think the rawness of the art style lends to it, because it has like, I wouldn’t say an amateurish finish to it, but it’s not Marvel or DC. Perfect anatomy. Like there are things that I can’t unlearn so it doesn’t have quite the psychotic look of some of the some of that stuff that I dig a lot. Like, I just can’t unlearn how to ride a bike. The rawness of the style, I think, lends to the aesthetic, which was kind of important to me.

B&S: I don’t know if anyone could draw like Fletcher Hanks today.

PISKOR: Well, you know, I think you could, but you can never go to art school because art school would fuck you up. Yeah, like art school would take all of that character out of your style and just like make you homogenous.

Then you have Paul Karasik, who uncovered Hanks’ real story and you realize that’s his id on the page. He was a real maniac and the term outsider art really is for someone like Fletcher Hanks. The guys from RAW found him and you wonder, are they laughing at him? But they uncovered a gem.

B&S: It feels like you always come back to 70s Marvel, with the copyright and last issue block.

PISKOR: Each issue is its own story and everything. But I’m following the Jim Shooter mandate dude. Yeah, every comic is somebody’s first comic so like, let me give you that little piece so that you know what this world is about if you’re just picking up this issue randomly.

I agree with that part of Jim Shooter. Like fuck, that idea of every comic is somebody’s first comic becausewhy not try to create new readership? Why push people away?

B&S: It’s so funny because we went from the Marvel guys that hated Shooter to people realizing that he may have had a point.

PISKOR: I actually don’t think that people disagreed with shit like that. I think it was just that his approach was bad. You know? Like he wasn’t a magnanimous character. And people have bad feelings about him because he was maybe too harsh or whatever. Artists are fucking sensitive people. So like, he might have told them some like hard truths. But you know, they’re salty.

B&S: It’s like when a wrestler becomes the booker and he’s no longer one of the boys.

PISKOR: He’s office now. He’s big ponytail daddy now who sold out.

B&S: And man, after he left, people went after him.

PISKOR: John Byrne did The Pitt and destroyed Pittsburgh and wiped out Star Brand just because Jim Shooter was from here! They blew up our hometown!

B&S: Is there a great comic book movie?

PISKOR: I don’t see the movies.

B&S: Really?

PISKOR: Yeah, a lot of times in like, I just have no interest in comic book movies. Like I think comics are so fucking rad. Fuck the movie. Like that’s just for like, my cousins or something. It doesn’t generate new readership. So they’re really irrelevant to me.

B&S: But for posterity, how messed up was it that Bob the Goon died immediately in Batman?

PISKOR: You think he’s going to be a major character because there are three toys: Batman, The Joker and Bob the Goon. It’s so funny because we all know his name is Bob the Goon. You had him for two seconds and he’s dead!

B&S: Isn’t it weird that other than a few movies, there’s more of a cross-over between metal and horror than hip hop and horror?

PISKOR: I’m happy with the metal thing. I’m a Danzig fan. He’s a big dork. There’s a Pushead interview and he turns the camera around in Glenn’s room and he’s living with his mom in Lodi, New Jersey and the entire room is packed with comics and Godaikin robots.

Even in his first home video, he’s reading an issue of Wolverine. when he’s reading that. First off, it’s his own video. He’s producing it. So the guy’s asking you what are you doing? And he’s pretending like he’s annoyed. And he’s like, I’m reading. What are you reading? “A Wolverine comic. It’s heavy.”

Like I have that shit memorized. Because you never saw comics on TV.

B&S: The comic looks huge in his hands.

PISKOR: Glenn is short, so regular size comics are Treasury editions in his hands.

Red Room is out today, so make sure to grab your copy. You can get order it from Fantagraphics or at your local comic book store. Thanks to Ed for spending so much time with us.

Interview with Bill Oberst Jr. — star of Painkiller!

We had the opportunity to have a few moments with Bill Oberst, Jr., the star of the recent release Painkiller. He has a great resume of theater and film parts, but most know him from his horror appearances in movies like Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies3 From Hell and Lifechanger. We had a blast connecting with him and came away with even more respect for the man and his acting ability.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: You’ve played some amazing roles. If you think about it, you’ve pretty much played some of the most important people in history between JFK, Lincoln, Jesus, General Sherman and Lewis Grizzard. What kind of head trip is it to play those major historical roles?

BILL OBERST JR.: It’s pretty tough. What I learned to do to play these people is that some of them still have objects in this world. Their families or their estates will give me shoes or glasses or a notebook or some part of the person. So I look at this stuff and I realized, that’s all we leave behind. Stuff. And, of course, ideas, words and the emotions that move on through the people we love.

These people are really famous and those emotions run through a much larger group of people. The way I approach their struggles is through their words, particularly people like Lincoln and Kennedy and Twain. Even Jesus, without the words that they left behind, it’s just a faint memory.

All of that makes me really careful about the words that I say and what I’m leaving behind. And then, if you have a script, you may have words to say. But when there’s no script and I’m just playing these famous roles, you have to be really careful and really intentional.

And that makes me think about my life. I want to be really intentional about what I say and leave behind!

B&S: Amongst these famous roles, what’s your favorite?

Bill: There are two, one on stage and one on screen. The one on stage is Jesus because of that experience of being in churches of every denomination, and in theaters, where some people who have no religious beliefs and still listen to the words of Jesus, and they say, “Wow. It’s kind of cool.”  It cuts across all those and that was astounding.

My favorite thing I’ve ever done on screen was Criminal Minds*. Because the makeup artist** had worked with Tarantino and he was even the groom in Kill Bill. And he got it, he said to me, “Let’s make your character something like Lon Chaney Sr. would have played, the wounded monster.” And the director was into it as well, so they let me create this beautiful but dangerous monster who had been made that way by the way people treated him. I had the prosthetics and a hunchback and got to do the character like a classic horror villain. Plus, I got to put barbed wire around Adrienne Barbeau’s neck!

B&S: Every actor has their dream role. What’s yours?

BILL: Phantom of the Opera, but it doesn’t have to be at the opera! The base dynamic of that role and what I like about it so much is that Eric was born that way. I hate it when movies have to have an excuse that his face is that way. Someone threw acid in his face and thats why he’s like this or he was burned. And the point of the novel is, he was born a monster, he was a freak at birth and his father would never look at him. His mother turned her face and they have him a mask before selling him to a traveling carnival. That’s how he became what he was, a magician and an outcast from society.

So I really want to play that role. I keep telling young directors that the story is in the public domain and it doesn’t have to be set at the opera. Just take the dynamic and put it somewhere.

B&S: I mean, they did it in a mall once!

Bill: Exactly! Chaney is the only one who did it with Eric being created that way. And the original ending of the 1925 film had Eric die of a broken heart and they find his skeleton slumped over the pipe organ years later. They played that for audiences and they hated it! You can’t feel sympathy for the monster! So they made the new ending where he acts like he has a grenade and they launch him into the river and everybody’s happy. But that original ending is much closer to what I’d like to do.

B&S: Did you like the Robert Englund take on it? He claims that he didn’t get to do the full vision that he had for the film.

Bill: Yes, I did. And that’s always the case with independent film. You have to make some version of the movie you think you’re gonna make. Because you know, you always run out of money. And you always run out of time. You just do the best you can.

B&S: What’s it like being in a Rob Zombie movie?

Bill: Great. He’s the coolest guy ever because he is really aware of his public persona, but he’s not like that at all. It’s not fake, you know? It’s who he is, but he sets it aside to do his film work.

He was a great director to work with because I wanted to adjust my acting to the way he wanted the role. We were on the way to the set and I asked what he wanted and shared what I thought he was looking for. And he said, “I hired you because I like what you do. I like the wounded animals that you play and that’s what I want you to do. So just take what’s written here and pour it through you. And it’ll be alright.”

I was like, “This guy is brilliant.” He just made me want to please him and give it everything. He’s great with actors.

B&S: Isn’t that why people hire actors? For what they are known for being able to do? It’s like hiring a voiceover artist and making them change their register or read when you hired them for a specific reason.

Bill: I actually started doing animated movie voiceovers during COVID-19, so that’s been fun. And they always want a higher register.

I was talking to my dad and he asked how work was. I said, “Well, yeah, you know, I got this animated thing and I’m a donkey.” He asked me for a bit of it and said, “Well, that was predictable.”

(Laughs) That’s the life of an actor! Everybody tells you what to do. But when it comes from your dad, you need to listen.

B&S: Tell us about Painkiller.

Bill: Painkiller comes from a real-life tragedy. Tom Cornell is the co-writer and executive producer. Plus, he’s one of Florida’s largest accident and insurance attorneys. You can see his face on billboards all over the state. His son was 21 and accidentally overdosed from opioids. So this script comes from trying to work through the pain and it ended up being a revenge fantasy.

It reminds me of Death Wish, the Charles Bronson-type stories, where Bronson does what you would never do but wish you could when you’re angry. Injustice has been done and someone has to pay.

My character has lost a child to accidental opioid death and he’s determined that since the government cannot do anything about it — nobody is doing anything about it — he’s going to do something about it.

It’s a revenge fantasy, just like the other one I’ve done, Stressed to Kill. In that one, the same character is killing people to keep his blood pressure down. If you think about it, when you get upset, you want to kill people and you watch these movies and you’re on the side of the vigilante. And then you think, “This is murder.” But then you get stressed out again and want people to just shut up. So you’re torn. (Laughs)

B&S: What was it like to work with Michael Paré?

Bill: Intense! He’s intense! I’m glad I didn’t have a fight scene. He would have beaten the crap out of me. He’s just I mean, he’s got the eyes. He’s got the presence. And he’s so experienced, he even tells the effects guys where to put the squibs on. It was great to work with such a powerful actor.

B&S: It sounds pretty exciting.

Bill: I want to entertain people, but I want to make them think about how long this opioid crisis has been going on and how it started. How did doctors decide to prescribe something that they knew was addictive to kids who had sports injuries? And then they ended up dying, how did we get to this point?

I hope that the movie makes people think about it and talk about it. And you know, think about what we could do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Thanks to Bill for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. You can check him out on Twitter and don’t forget to watch Painkiller.

*Oberst appeared in “Blood Relations,” which was episode 12 of season 9.

**Christopher Allen Nelson

An interview with Christopher Bickel, director of The Theta Girl and Bad Girls

I watched both The Theta Girl and Bad Girls in the same day and they both repeatedly punched me in the brain. Seeing as how their director, Christopher Bickel, sent me them to review, I obviously knew how to track him down. And I was ready to learn more about what inspired these films. His time and great answers were really appreciated.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: What’s the point where you go from “I watch movies” to “I make movies?”

CHRISTOPHER BICKLE: I’ve always wanted to make movies but it wasn’t really a possibility for me until cheap technology brought the means of production into an affordable realm. Once the technology was there it was only a matter of being able to make the time. If you are producing, directing, editing, and a little bit of everything else, it will suck every bit of time you have — especially if you are, like me, doing it on top of working a 40-hour day job. No one should be willing to make that kind of time commitment unless they are 100% sure it’s what they want to do, and — hopefully — sure that other people are going to have some interest in the end product.

B&S: Beyond the influences that people expect, what drives you beyond those? Is there someone who inspired you that would surprise viewers?

CB: The 70s and 80s genre influences are all pretty apparent. I’m inspired by anyone working in impossibly low budgets where they attempted to make something better than their budget should allow. I avoid “Troma” type movies that are self-aware and trying to “make a bad movie” intentionally. Tommy Faircloth (Family Possessions) and Paul Talbot (Hellblock 13) were huge influences on me simply because they are local guys that I know who demonstrated that “anyone” can do this.

B&S: Both of your movies feature female protagonists. Is this a choice or just what the story seemed to dictate? Did the actresses themselves lend any of their own voice to the roles?

CB: Working in micro-micro budgets you have to be able to offer the audience some eye candy to distract from the other rough edges. So I do like to have actors with a commanding screen presence. But that’s not the only reason. I’ve always gravitated toward movies with strong women leads. In both features I’ve produced, the women have certainly made the characters their own — usually in a far different way than I imagined before shooting. Working in a relatively small town, most talented performers tend to leave as soon as possible after graduating high school, so it is a real trick to find the talented ones who stuck around. I’ve been really lucky with who I’ve been able to cast — but it was hard work to find them. I won’t go forward with a project unless I have someone perfect for it. I have an entire scrapped movie script, Sister Vengeance, because I couldn’t find the right person. I may go back to it one day.

B&S: What’s a perfect movie? Is there one?
The perfect movie both moves you emotionally and entertains you — it has memorable characters and scenes. There’s nothing boring about it. You can’t stop thinking about it after you leave the theater. A week later you are still thinking about it. That’s all my criteria, so, to me, there are a lot of perfect movies. I don’t care all that much about technical refinements. I just want to be moved and entertained.

B&S: If you could pick a few movies that you consider perfect, even if they are imperfect, what would they be?

CB: My top 5 favorite movies of all time are:
1. Taxi Driver
2. Harold and Maude
3. The Shining
4. The Exorcist
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

So, I’d say those are all perfect movies.

B&S: What’s the difference between arthouse and exploitation? Is there one?

CB: One would be considered “high brow” and one would be considered “low brow” — I love both extremes and I generally don’t care much about the stuff that exists between the two extremes. I think just as much thought goes into most exploitation movies as goes into most arthouse movies — it’s just to a different end. The best movies, to me, are the ones that can combine elements of the two. I love the term “artsploitation” and I apply it to my own work.

B&S: You’ve assembled some great casts that people may not know. Is there a dream actor you’d like to work with?

CB: I would like to work with Crispin Glover or Wynona Rider. I’d love to cast Neil Breen and Derek Savage in bit parts in a movie together.

B&S: You referred to Bad Girls as “a punk rock demo tape of a movie, made for people who love punk rock demo tapes and movies.” The music in your films is perfect. Did you write to those scenes, did it happen organically or is that just luck how well they work?

CB: Usually the music is written after the scenes are cut and I will fine-tune the edit after the music is finished. In a few cases the music is already there and I will cut to it. Working on no-budget films, the music is sometimes the most important part to get right. It’s the easiest way to elevate the perception of quality.

B&S: What religious upbringing, if any, did you have? And how did it manifest itself in your work in your own words?

CB: I was raised Catholic in a fairly strict house. I’m certain it informs my work. There’s a story in Bad Girls that’s based on a true story from Catholic school.

B&S: What’s a movie that more people should know, other than your own?

CB: Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41It’s the perfect blend of arthouse and exploitation.

B&S: Generally, our site gives more of a pass to regional era drive-in movies and SOV VHS era stuff than modern digital point and shoot movies that are all over Amazon. Do you feel a kinship to those older eras?

CB: Yes, for sure. Not that I’m trying to make “grindhouse throwback” movies, but my favorite stuff is 70s and 80s genre pictures and it comes through in my films — even if it’s sometimes unintentional. I know what I want shots to look like and I know what I want the editing to be paced like, and it’s all informed by the stuff I love. I color grade something to my taste and it ends up looking like 1982 16mm film. It’s not an “effect” I’m putting on anything, it’s just the culmination of my (cheap) lighting and the color palettes I gravitate toward.

B&S: What’s next?

CB: I’m definitely going to do a horror film next. Bad Girls is a “road movie” — which is a difficult “sell.” There are 10,000 blogs dedicated to writing about and promoting new horror films. I don’t know of any “Road Movie Blogs.” So I think horror will be easier for me to market and promote — but also, it’s my favorite genre, I wanna do something truly scary, but with quirks and lots of practicals. I’m putting ideas together now.

B&S: What’s the best way for our readers to find your films?

CB: The Theta Girl is on Amazon, blu rays and streaming. Right now Bad Girls is only available through our Indiegogo page. Blu rays will be out in a month or so and digital copies are available right now.

B&S: So how about Danzig making a zombie western, huh?

CB: It can’t be any worse than Verotika.

Photo credit: Cover photo from Sean Rayford, Post and Courier Free Times.

Joshua Reale: An Interview with the Director of Necropath

In the second week of February, we received a screener of the feature film debut by New York-based filmmaker Joshua Reale. Hopefully, you not only read our review for Necropath, but took a chance on Reale’s debut film and streamed it. It’s a stellar debut from a filmmaker to watch.

We recently sat down with Joshua Reale to discuss his journey as a budding filmmaker and seeing his first feature film receiving worldwide distribution on digital streaming platforms. You can also watch the short version of Necropath, as part of Empire State of the Dead, a 2014 anthology film.


B&S: Many of the indie-streaming filmmakers we review at B&S About Movies are born from one of two camps: The first, courtesy of the accessibility of digital filmmaking, they’ve eschewed a traditional, film school educational queue and are self-made filmmakers. In the second camp, they were able to convince their parents to pay to send them to film school. Which one is Joshua Reale?

J.R: For film school-wise, I went to a couple trade schools, but nothing fancy. A lot of my filmmaking I learned — I went to this place in Boston that lasted for a couple of weeks — but most of my filmmaking that I learned was, ironically, from watching (the AMC series) Breaking Bad. And also working with my friend, Geoff Orlowksi, who also produced Necropath, as well; he came to my Halloween attraction and asked to shoot a scene for his independent film, The Vampire (2013). I just stood on the sidelines watching him because that’s something I always wanted to get into. I wrote scripts but never knew how to approach filmmaking. Watching him do his thing, I asked if he’d would like to meet up. So we met at a cafe and starting discussing film stuff and we made Necropath.

B&S: We had a recent sit down with writer-director Eric Eichelberger of Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre and we came to learn that he made his first movie at 8 years old, out in the cornfields of Indiana. How old were you when you made your first movie and what was that first movie? Did you take photography or film classes in high school or were your film endeavors strictly extracurricular outside of school?

J.R: The first film I made, obviously, we made stuff when we were little kids, but the first stuff that counted was after high school, since my high school didn’t really didn’t offer anything — I graduated in 1999 — to do with filmmaking. Plus, living somewhere where filmmaking isn’t a big deal, like upstate New York; if you lived more on the West Coast they would probably offer stuff [in high school]. So, after high school, I started doing it on my own and just bought a camera and did the most you can do as an 18 year old with a camera.

B&S: But no cornfields — or any country fields, since you were in upstate New York — in your past?

J.R: No, I was in a more of an urban-kind of setting. I created a horror-icon character (Scag) when I got out of high school that I wanted to develop and I’ve been focused on making these short scripts; so we shot one and then we did another one. They were so low-budget; we just kind of winged it to just get into filmmaking, as our kind of practice.

A new horror icon is born: Moe Issac as Scag

B&S: In an interview, music producer Steve Albini, most notable to mainstream audiences for his work with Nirvana, discussed the issues with digital vs. analog recording. He explained, as result of the ever-changing digital realms creating software incompatibilities, he feels it’s best to record in an analog format for archival purposes, and then transfer those reels into a digital editing suite to create the final product. However, it seems the new guard of indie-digital filmmakers can’t work within the constraints of the tight shoots, with days laid out beforehand, working with less coverage, and finding crews that possess the extremely different skill sets to work with film stock vs. digital. What are your impressions and opinions on working in a digital format vs. working in 16 or 35 mm stocks? 35mm is, of course, more difficult to scan, but what about in terms of depth of field and lighting issues? What cameras were used in the making of Necropath?

J.R: We used the DSLR, the Mark III on our shoot. I used 16mm in one of my week-long film courses in New York City that had a 16mm class — and it’s a total pain. There’s a lot of limitations: you didn’t have the view finder, for one. But I guess that’s the beauty of using [a] 16mm [camera]: you get a whole different product in the end and the overall quality of film, after. But with the technology now, you can, basically, shoot something extremely well on a DSLR camera. We shot Necropath [on a DSLR] and I think it came out fantastic.

B&S: For Necropath, you eschewed a tradition music soundtrack for what’s best described, more as a subjective sound pallet of perpetual, atmospheric hums, screeches, buzzes, and distorted, disembodied voices, which, I assume, are to put the viewer inside the head of your chief antagonist, Scag. Then there’s those wailing emergency alert clarions throughout the film. If it was your intention to induce nausea in the viewer, it certainly worked on me. The first thought I had: Joshua O.D’d on New French Extreme films or, at the very least, is a fan of Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible.

J.R: As a far as the style of filmmaking that I did: it’s my first film, making Necropath. I just wanted to make a film the way I felt a movie should be made. It just got put together the way it did, in a very nontraditional way of making a movie, with our shots and style of the audio. You hit it right on the head when you said you felt like you were in the mind of the antagonist and what he feels. We achieved that with the audio and the droning in various scenes and made it more of an entrancing kind of tone throughout the movie. So, with that, and the shots and everything, we made Necropath. It’s a unique kind of film that might catch a lot of people off guard; whether they like it or not like it: it’s just what we did. We wanted to do something different; a different approach on zombie films and I think [Joshua and Geoff] achieved it well.

B&S: Did you conceive Necropath prior to its entry in the 2014 Scare-a-con Film Festival or was your narrative born by the festival’s Empire State of Dead short film contest? What was the purpose of the contest and what were the rules contestants had to adhere to for submission?

J.R: The purpose and rules were that you had to make a zombie film and it has to be short and not over this-many-minutes and it has to be shot in New York, hence the Empire State of the Dead. So, my friend, Geoff, when he came to my Halloween attraction (learn more at Cayo Industrial) and shot [The Vampire] there, he mentioned the contest. We decided we can do the contest together; we met and got an idea for working together, you know, do a short film that’s nothing long and drawn out. And that was Empire State of the Dead. So we ended up working together on each other’s films: I made Necropath and I helped him with his film, Occupied. His won 2nd place and Necropath won 1st place.

B&S: While Necropath — the feature film — isn’t an anthology film, it’s actually three award-winning shorts edited together to create an hour and a half narrative. What were those other two films? Based on the seamless nature of the feature film version Necropath, I’m assuming they’re pseudo-sequels to each other. How much newer footage, if any, was shot as connective material to thread the shorts into a fluid narrative?

J.R: In 2014 we shot the first 15 minutes of the movie; the short that was in Empire State of the Dead. After that success, I couldn’t stop thinking of the idea and the Scag character, the main horror-icon character of the film, and just the different ideas I had. So I decided to make another one. So I wrote the next one, which was the next 30 minutes of the film (aka Necropath II). We shot that one a year later. We shot the third sequence, the third short, which starts when we see the man walking with his family [on a bombed-out city street], two years later. So the whole film was shot over the course of 2014 to 2018. We just complied it all together and the whole film is out of those shorts.

B&S: As I watched Necropath, aside from the New French Extreme, I saw the psychedelic, ambiguous influences of Bigas Luna, Alejandro Jodoroswky, and José Mojica Marins. I know those references are dated for some, but how far am I off the mark with that analysis? The directors of the Italian-zom ’80s in our post-George Romero world is a foregone conclusion. What filmmakers are behind your narrative vision?

J.R: My biggest influence, ironically, has nothing to do with, well, I don’t want to say nothing to do with horror, but James Cameron was a big influence, as I grew up with The Terminator and T2. It was how he emphasized all of his shots, and his action scenes, and the realism; in Terminator he used Stan Winston Studios. But [Cameron] was probably the biggest influence on me. And just growing up, watching random horror movies. I’m more of an ’80s kind of horror guy. I’m not really into new, new horror movies with the CGI ghosts and stuff like that. Those [horror films] also had an influence in my approach to filmmaking.

B&S: Where did you find all of your amazing actors? Moe Isaac and Natalie Colvin are absolutely outstanding in their zombie roles, as you feel Scag’s mental anguish and Crack Hag’s pre-zom longing for a child of her own. I, myself, have worked on a couple shorts where, the child was cast, and in need of an adult actor, the parent rose to the challenge to fill out the cast. Did you cast Lillian first, and then her mother, Natalie, came along, or you got them at the same time as a pair?

J.R: Pretty much the same time. Lillian was actually in a couple of videos that I made for my Halloween attraction. I think she was like 6 years old at time. When she did Necropath, she was 11 or 12. When I was doing the casting, I asked Geoff if we could cast Natalie, too, so they could work together. The other actors in the film: Moe Issac, who played Scag, the main character; he was a friend of Geoff’s when I was helping him out on [Occupied] for Empire State of the Dead. Moe was on set helping me string lights; as I put up a light, the ladder shook. I look down and Moe was holding the ladder. He grabs at his face and ends up pulling his teeth out: I didn’t realize that he had dentures! And I was like, ‘Oh, my god, you want to be Scag, the main character in my film?’ and we ended up casting him right on the spot.

Crack Hag to the set! Natalie Colvin

B&S: How did you manage to get the most notable members of your cast, Nathan Faudree and Cassandra Hayes?

J.R: Yeah, I have to give Geoff Orlowski credit for casting those two actors who act professionally (Faudree has appeared in the Law and Order franchise; Hayes in the low-budget Amityville-verse). They both helped Geoff out with scenes in [The Vampire] that he was shooting. When I was writing Necropath III: I couldn’t help but picture Nathan Faudree as the father-figure. We were trying to cast it with other people [unsuccessfully] and Geoff was telling me that I wasn’t happy with anybody because I wrote this scene specifically for Nathan, which I did: 100%. I was so glad that Nathan came up from New York City to be in [Necropath].

Nice now . . . post-apoc a-hole later. Nathan Faudree, with cast member Brandy Cihocki

B&S: Your newest film as a producer is Planewalker, which is written and directed by Geoffrey Orlowksi, your producer on Necropath. Can you share with our readers the plot of that sci-fi film?

J.R: Yeah, Planewalker is Geoff’s film. That is kind of hard to explain, the concept behind it. We did that shoot in 2017. I’m not entirely sure of [what inspired] the concept behind the film that Geoff wrote.

B&S: Science fiction is not an easy genre to create on an indie low-budget. And since that genre, in most cases, requires CGI work, it’s difficult for the indie guy to create convincing CGI. Since you’re on a budget, are you and Geoffrey eschewing CGI for more traditional, in-camera effects?

J.R: Well, you can do mapping now. Say, if you do a shoot in a warehouse district, you can add all of these different elements to it. I believe Geoff was going to go that route with the various scenes that he has.

B&S: Before we go, how is Necropath doing in the streaming-verse? Are horror fans discovering the film and what are their responses?

J.R: We’ve get a lot of personable people who say they love the film. I know it’s new to a lot of people, for the style of what Necropath is. I know people are looking to see a more traditional kind of movie. We made Necropath, not to pave the way to a new kind of horror style; we just wanted to do to our own thing. Obviously, there’s people who appreciate it and people that don’t appreciate it. And people that are caught of guard and people who are in love with the new look of it.

B&S: Joshua, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. And I really enjoyed your film. A lot. It was a real pleasure to review. I wish you the best with Planewalker. Please keep us posted on the film so we can review it at B&S About Movies.

J.R: At the moment, I am not sure if Geoff is on hiatus with that particular film. We set it aside to [concentrate] on Necropath, but we will let you know.


Necropath is currently available on all digital platforms from Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight. You also can learn more about the career of Joshua Reale at Cayo Industrial Horror Realm’s official Facebook page and website. You can also visit the film’s official Facebook and Instagram pages for more photo stills.

You can read our full review of Necropath at B&S About Movies.

Our thanks to Gravitas Ventures and October Coast for their coordination of this interview.

* All images courtesy of Joshua Real/Cayo Industrial.

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

Eric Eichelberger: An Interview with the Director of Exploit This! The Complete History of Exploitation Cinema in America

Be it the films of yore or films from the new turks on the scene, low-budget and independent cinema is our jam at B&S About Movies. And one of those movies by one of those new turks who tickled our “brains” was writer and director Eric Eichelberger with the comedic horror Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre. His feature film debut, it paid a dual homage to ’70s grindhouse and exploitation flicks and ’80s Italian zombie flicks.

So it makes sense that Eric’s next feature film would be a documentary to honor the filmmakers and films that lead to the creation of GSZM. And when he announced the kickoff of his Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign to fiance the project, we knew we had to do our part to get the word out to you, the lovers of the same movies we love.

Exploit This! The Complete History of Exploitation Cinema in America is a currently-in-development documentary that will explore the history of the exploitation film from its development with the birth of cinema itself, to its golden age in the 1940s and 1950s, its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, its death and then makeover in the 1980s, and ultimately, to its revitalization in the present. Exploit This! features interviews with all the major players in the exploitation film business, as well as film experts, Hollywood directors and actors, and those of what is now known as “adult cinema.”

We had the opportunity to sit down with Eric to discuss his latest project — and understand how a nice kid from Northwest Indiana who graduated from Chicago’s Columbia College ended up making movies about zombified girl scouts giving birth to ravenous zombie babies.


B&S: To prepare for the interview, I re-watched Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre, this afternoon. Eric, you’ve got problems, man. You’re damaged. Just one too many viewings of Basket Case and Brain Damage.

E.E: I think you’ve understood the movie more than any [reviewer] I’ve seen write about the film. I appreciate that.

B&S: That’s the one thing that perturbs me when I watch a movie: I read the reviews and wonder if the commenter actually watched the movie. I think the issues with streamers today is that they’re younger than you and I, so they don’t have the same reference points that we do. They’ve probably never seen Basket Case and can’t make the connections. Your film requires a deeper set of film references.

E.E: Yeah, the people that have reviewed it, just didn’t understand it [for those reasons], mostly. They’re looking for a more ‘traditional’ horror film.

B&S: So, it all started at the age of 8 in a cornfield? I can hear your mom, ‘What’s Eric doing all day in those cornfields?’ I am hoping life didn’t imitate art. Anything you want to clear off your chest, Eric?

E.E: No, no. There’s no bodies out there. There was just nothing to do [as kids], so we just played in the cornfields, you know hide-and-seek, in the cornfields of Indiana. That’s what we’re known for: cornfields, Axl Rose, Kurt Vonnegut, and Larry Bird. Yeah, there wasn’t a lot do out there, except play in the cornfields.

B&S: But those cornfields inspired your filmmaking, to make movies out there?

E.E: Not so much the cornfields, but I was just attracted to films that were spooky, since I was born on Halloween. So, at age four, I was watching movies like Poltergeist and getting spooked. And I like that: watching scary movies. My parents weren’t concerned, so I could watch what I wanted. By the time I was in my preteens, I watched most of the Jason and Freddy movies, Hellraiser, and all the major horror films. When I got a little older as a teenager, I became interested in [Alejandro Jodorowsky’s] El Topo and those weird art movies, like Peter Jackson’s movies at the time, with Meet the Feebles and Bad Taste.

B&S: And what about the J-Horror cycle?

E.E: Yeah, I liked The Eye, The Ring series, and Takashi Miike with Visitor Q, and Battle Royale. There was a guy I knew — I grew up an hour and change from Chicago — that I’d see at Cons and he got me into all of these horror movies; he had a Starlight Video bootleg catalog with everything off Japanese laser discs that he duped onto video tapes. So I would find stuff through him and buy it. In fact, I spent all of my paper route money on it.

B&S: You continued to make films in high school. Did you take photography classes in high school or did they have a film program? What were the titles of some of those films?

E.E: When I was in middle school, my friend and I made films; we were making comedic films, shorts really. In freshman year of high school, I made a film in a class called Freshman Seminar. It was a class where you were allowed to explore what you wanted to do for a career: I wanted to make horror films. So I made a little horror short called Flesh and a little horror documentary.

Through a friend, I met someone who had and a [Commodore] Amiga 2000 which ran the NewTek Video Toaster, which is a very early film editor before Final Cut. He put together these clips [for the documentary] that I taped-to-tape on video tape, then he allowed me to put my voice-over on them. One of the girls in my class was a very serious Christian and she was so offended by the clips; there were clips from Faces from Death, as there was a whole section on Mondo Films. The teacher gave me an ‘F’ on the assignment. And since the film was the whole purpose of the class, I failed the class. I thought I did something really cool: this little short-form documentary about cult and exploitation movies, sort of what I am doing now [with Exploit This!]. But the grade was based on the [offensive] content and not the work itself. But I went on and made more, anyway, on my own.

B&S: And how did you handle your home-grown gore effects? Back in the day, I learned from the master, Tom Savini: All you needed was Elmer’s Glue, Wheaties, Karo Syrup, and red food coloring. Oh, the memories of Mom banging on the bathroom door, ‘Richard, what are you doing?’ ‘Nothing Mom! Making blood.

E.E: Yes. We used Karo Syrup and red food coloring. For the guts we’d use spaghetti. I had a friend back in high school who was a very serious special effects fan; he wanted to get into that for a career, and he helped out with the more complicated stuff.

B&S: Then, at the age of 18, off you went to Chicago’s Columbia College to study film, which lead to your first feature film, the shot-on-video Cannibal Teenage Riot. Did you shoot-on-video out of financial necessity or was the format in homage to the SOV format that born such direct-to-VHS classics such as Blood Cult and Spine?

E.E: I have seen some of those films. I didn’t see Spine until later and I really liked that a lot. But I did see SOV films like Boarding House and Gourmet Zombie Chef from Hell, so I knew I could shoot on video. But yeah, it was also out of necessity. We didn’t have a budget, we just had a Hi-8 camera, you know, before Mini-DV, but after Super-8. It was the first, sort of, video format after VHS, you know, the real big, blocky cameras. Hi-8s were a little bit smaller. So we shot on that.

But that inspired me to expand on the six-minute short Flesh I made in freshman year. The idea behind [Cannibal Teenage Riot] is that there’s a town of cannibals. Everyone in this town are cannibals and it’s a known secret. So a family moves into the town and there’s a high-school peer pressure situation for the girl to become part of the cannibals. Initially, I wrote a short story called Dinner Party and adapted that into Flesh. Then, when we made Cannibal Teenage Riot and expanded on that, we made it more funny and sort of campy. Someday, I’d like to make a more serious, a more dark-comedy version of [Cannibal Teenage Riot], that will be more, sort of like The Night of the Living Dead.

B&S: Are there any other ideas or concepts that went unfinished that you may also bring back?

E.E: I have a couple of concepts. I wrote another movie in high school, more of an idea for a movie, based on an urban legend in our town called Old Man Dewey. He went crazy — like in The Crazies — and kills his family with an axe; then the whole movie is about high school kids, again. They dare each other to spend a night in the Dewey House. But these kids take psychedelics and go to the house to spend the night and things start happening. You’re not quite sure if Old Man Dewey is back or is it a copy cat killer or is it hallucinations. But that’s the film, Old Man Dewey.

B&S: Then, after college, you came to work with the author and director of Hellraiser and Nightbreed, Clive Barker, and Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame. How did you come to work on Gordon’s King of the Ants (2003), and what was the project that you worked on with Clive Barker?

E.E: I met Clive Barker while I was still in college when I was around 20 or 21. I was a huge fan of his and read all of his comics and his books and saw his movies. I went to this convention in Atlanta called Dragon Con. One year they decided to do a Barker Con. Clive was there for the three-day affair. So I went to that while still in college. I met Clive there and had him sign things, like at a regular convention. There was one night where Clive and Doug Bradley, and a few of us from the convention, went to a nightclub with a BDSM theme. What was funny is that Doug Bradley got really squeamish about the blood, considering he’s Pinhead from Hellraiser.

But I got to know Clive and his producer, at the time, Rob. So, when I took a road trip out to L.A., I went to see The Cult [in concert] with Rob and just got to know the guy a little bit and stayed in touch. When I moved to L.A. from Chicago, I took a meeting with Rob and asked to intern with Clive’s company. So I ended up being Clive’s assistant, going out on photo shoots and production meetings and stuff. I was helping him setting up his paints, anything he needed. Though Clive, I began to make connections with fans within his fan-based community, and got involved in festivals of his work.

That’s how I got in touch with Stuart Gordon: I had a friend from that world who knew Stuart and I requested a showing of Re-Animator. Stuart ended up coming to the festival. The next year, he came back and showed Dagon, which he was promoting at the time. After Dagon, I stayed in touch with Stuart and asked what his next project was and that I would love to work on one of his projects. The next project he had in the pipeline was King of the Ants. It’s a great film, an underrated one. It stars George Wendt, you know, Norm from Cheers and House. It’s a $500,000 movie and Stuart’s wife made sandwiches. Daniel Baldwin (Stealing Candy, Trees Lounge) was in it and he, I think felt bad we were eating these grilled cheese sandwiches, so he bought Starbucks for the cast and crew.

B&S: In December 2019, when Walt Disney Studios announced director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner trilogy film series) was hired to direct an untitled fourth film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, we did an “Ape Week” blowout reviewing all of the official ape movies and all of the knockoffs and ripoffs. And one of the films we reviewed was Lou Vockell’s Planet of Erotic Ape (2002), where you worked as the Second Unit Director. How did you end up in Cincinnati and come to work with Lou?

E.E: That’s an interesting film, a piece-together. You know how Al Adamson would make these movies where he’s putting in other footage and gives it a new title. There was a guy who I worked for several times, named Mike Roscoe, who ran a company, EI Independent Cinema. Now they’re called Alternative Cinema. I worked for those guys several times making a number of different films. Well, they had a production that was short and they wanted to stretch out the time. So I went to San Francisco and filmed some actors, where we filmed these little vignettes to include in the film. So it was one of those weird ‘Al Adamson’ type of things.

B&S: The great Jim Wynorski is, of course, royalty at the B&S offices — and by working with Lou Vockell, you were one degree away from the man who made Chopping Mall. So cool! How amazing was it to work with Julie Strain (Psycho Cop Returns, Naked Gun 33 1/3, Beverly Hills Cop II, Battle Queen 2020) and Monique Gabrielle (Jim Wynorski’s Transylvania Twist, 976-Evil II, Munchie) on Planet of Erotic Ape?

E.E: I worked with Julie Strain, but not on that. I worked on a movie, Blood Gnome (2004), and she was in that movie that shot in L.A. I also have a scene in the movie with my wife, who was acting at the time. I met Julie for the first time, there. I was writing for a website at the time, B-Movie Girls.com, where we had different stories and articles each month about a particular Scream Queen. We were going to do a whole spread on her, so I went to her house. She was so nice. She was living at the time with Kevin Eastman who created the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. And he was so nice, as well. So we went into her backyard, I had a professional photographer with me, and she just took her clothes off. I was in shock. Later, recently [for Exploit This!], when I interviewed Debbie Rochon, I mentioned working with Julie Stain and the interview. She told me that Julie just wants to be naked all the time! At the Shock-a-Go Go Festival that I did, we ended up showing Blood Gnome. But, yeah. That’s how I ended up working with Julie. Babes in Kong Land was the title [at the time], but it had alternate titles.

B&S: Then you followed up Cannibal Teenage Riot with your second feature film, Fear of a Limp Planet. What year was that shot and released? Did you shoot on video or 16mm or 35mm? Could you tell our readers about the plot?

E.E: It was shot in 2002 and it had a very small, festival release and played in Indianapolis and L.A. a few times. It was shot on Mini-DV, as we couldn’t afford 16 or 35. It was funded by William Hellfire and his company, Factory 2000. He has several movies, but I met him because I was a huge fan of his movie Caress of the Vampire 2 (1996). I found his contact on an old video tape that I had and called the number and they put me into contact with him. I told him that if he came to Los Angeles I’d love co-directing a movie with him; that I wrote a sequel to his movie. He ended up flying out to work on a different movie; but we worked on [Fear of a Limp Planet], as it was meant to be part of the Caress of the Vampire series. EI Cinema, that is, Alternative Cinema, bought the film. So the film ends up with a distribution deal at Walmart [with other EI titles]. A huge deal. So Walmart made these promises they didn’t keep and returned all of this product and almost bankrupted SRS Cinema, the distributor.

So, I’ve got this movie. And I reached back out to Mike Roscoe, who initially didn’t want the film. So he took the movie and gave it a small release, a self-release. Things went down hill from there, as [the studio] went into hardcore and got away from B-Movies. So [Fear of a Limp Planet] basically sat on the shelf. They bought it and didn’t release it, at least not in a wide release. So that movie is still owned by them, as they bought the rights in perpetuity. Unless they go out of business, I really can’t do anything with the movie.

B&S: Then, starting in 2010, we’re assuming to pay the bills and ‘work’ as a filmmaker, you moved into the world of reality TV, where you worked in the suites as an assistant editor. Two of the series you worked on was Steven Seagal: Lawman and UFC Ultimate Insider. You usually don’t rub elbows with the talent or celebrities in the suites, but did you get lucky and meet any UFC fighters? Is there a Seagal-Eichelberger selfie you Smartphone-sling to impress your friends?

E.E: No, not really. Steven did come, once, to the office. That was a weird show. Steven was accused of human trafficking and they had to shut down the show in the second season — and they had worked up a whole third season. There was a giant scandal. It was huge at the time, with TMZ and all. But, yeah, around the time [my wife and I] had kids. I had been working on sets a lot and I needed to so something in the industry that wasn’t so crazy with the hours; many of the jobs I’ve had, like in the art department, I was working 18 hour days — long days — all the time. It took its toll and I needed something that wasn’t so crazy now that we had a kid. So I got into editing and have done a lot of post-production work in the last ten years. But Steven’s Lawman show was really the first show I worked on in post and I basically learned AVID on that show. It was a fun experience and fun show to work and those people are still my friends. But I didn’t really interact with Steven and there’s no selfies. To tell you to truth: he was kind of a jerk. He’d say some pretty outrageous stuff. And he was mic’d 24/7 and it was my job to go through all of that footage and edit it down.

But I still do editing. I just worked on a pretty fun film, a horror film last year: Dolly Deadly 2: Run, Dolly, Run (read our “Ten Evil Dolls” featurette). Its about a kid who grows up playing with dolls and becomes a drag queen serial killer. It was a whole lot of fun to edit. I do editing as a day job and I also teach. I’m a film professor, but not a full professor, yet. And I make movies.

B&S: Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre seems to have taken forever to make and get into the streaming-verse. I am sure your actors, as well as yourself, are ecstatic — and relieved — over the film’s reception.

E.E: Yeah, it took about nine years from the time of the idea, to the script, to the casting, and then raising funds, which we did with a trailer to promote the film. A lot of it was post-issues. We finished the principal photography in 2012, so it was a long time in post, it was mainly a post nightmare. And there’s the issue of finding the right distribution and the right fit and festivals. We started releasing the movie to festivals in 2018, so that’s why, on some platforms, you see the date of 2018, because that’s when it played festivals.

Ghoul Scout played in a lot of festivals. There were a couple in India and one in the Amazon Rainforest. There was one in Wisconsin. One in New York. We had a big premiere in New York at a theater in Brooklyn and Lloyd Kaufman came. He never made an offer, but shortly after that premiere, I was contacted by the guy who handled the festival distribution. And that got me in touch with Boobs and Blood, which runs a festival and also a distribution platform. They’ve been really great getting it out on all of the streaming platforms and brick-and-mortar stores with physical media. And they’re going to expand onto pay cable platforms, like Comcast. And iTunes is next, along with Blu-ray. (Another B&B release we’ve recently reviewed is Blood Freaks.)

B&S: Now it’s time to the complete history of exploitation cinema in America through the lens of the people who lived that history. And for the past 13 years, between your various projects, you’ve complied interviews with the movers and shakers of exploitation cinema. The cast of filmmakers you’ve secured is impressive: Roger Corman, Hershell Gordon Lewis, Jack Hill, Fred Olen Ray, Joel M. Reed, David F. Freidman, Larry Cohen, Ted V. Mikels. Then there’s the actors: Mary Woronov, Rhonda Shear, Debra De Liso, Brinke Stevens, and Debbie Rochon. How difficult is it to get a sit down with all of those celluloid icons. From the looks of your fundraiser trailer, they all certainly seem welcoming to your vision.

E.E: It really started out with these festivals that I worked on from 2001 to 2004. We filmed Clive Barker back then. I became friends with Joel M. Reed. When we showed Blood Feast 2, I met Hershel Gordon Lewis. When I was in Florida vacationing with my family, I traveled three hours from Orlando to Hershell’s condo to film. David F. Friedman came to the festival when we showed She Freak. We we went out to Las Vegas to film Ted V. Mikels. At the time, Ray Dennis Steckler owned a little video store in Vegas and we filmed him.

B&S: So, then you’re looking at a late 2022 release.

E.E: Yeah, with the editing and all, definitely 2022.

B&S: Well, hopefully, when we post this interview — with the Kickstarter link — and with your B-Movie pedigree, I believe readers will say, ‘This guy’s really cool,’ and will want to support the film and make a contribution.

E.E: Yeah, our goal is $12,500. The Kickstarter journey has been a crazy ride. Just yesterday, we had a stranger donate $7000 and then, hours later, retract the donation and disappear. It felt like a roller coaster: one minute, we’re funded, we made it!? And the next minute: it’s back to the drawing board. It’s an emotional journey because this project is all or nothing. So, please if anyone can donate and share our dream. We are almost at $8000 and our goal is $12,500 and we have 6 more days.

I really appreciate how you looked at the [Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre], R.D. You really understood it and you’re the ‘audience’ of the film, for sure. And I think you’ll be the audience for the documentary, too. I feel it’s going to be the most interesting and most comprehensive documentary on the subject of cult movies and grindhouse movies. I can say that with an almost certainty.


Many thanks to Eric Eichelberger for sitting down with us and giving B&S About Movies the opportunity to spread the word about his exciting project. And when Exploit This! hits the streaming-verse, you’ll hear about it first at B&S.

If you love the films that Eric loves, you can help him make the film a reality, with a target release date sometime in 2022. You can learn more on how to pledge to fiance the film’s post-production by visiting the film’s official Kickstarter page — which features a preliminary trailer and more information about the production. You can learn more about Exploit This!, Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre, and Eric’s other works at Anxiety Films. There’s more information about the film — and the gifts you can receive for donating to the production — at the film’s official Facebook page.

And don’t forget to check out our review of Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre.

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

Volcanic UFO Mysteries (2021) plus an interview with Darcy Weir and Stephen Bassett

Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) sightings didn’t start with Kenneth Arnold in 1947. They’ve been part of our history as long as it has been recorded. Yet they’ve always been top secret at best and ridiculed at worst.

As the Pentagon released declassified information and videos about potential alien craft visiting our planet — yes, this happened and it was buried amongst all the other insanity that was 2020 — are we closer to disclosure than ever before?

We had the opportunity to spend some time with Volcanic UFO Mysteries director Darcy Weir and Stephen Bassett to discuss the film, UFOs in pop culture and exactly what Jackie Gleason has to do with alien lifeforms.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: What was the impetus behind me making this movie?

DARCY WEIR: The subject matter of UFOs showing up around active volcanoes is underrepresented. Furthermore, UFO sightings in Latin America are both pretty prevalent and very much under-represented. I wanted to share that story and bring Stephen in with me to talk about his work on ending the truth embargo and the disclosure of the UFO presence from the government to the public.

I find him to be a fascinating subject. All the work he’s been doing in terms of UFO reporting and journalism for over 40 years is very interesting to me.

B&S: It’s intriguing because you always see footage of UFOs around military bases or nuclear power plants.

DARCY: Let’s take the Pentagon’s release of the videos that came out. They were first revealed through the To The Stars Academy (editor’s note: the group formed by Tom DeLonge, Harold E. Puthoff and Jim Semivan) in 2017. The “Gimbal” video or the “Tic Tac” video, which was fully unclassified and confirmed by the Pentagon in April 2020.

Those videos are recorded on aircraft, you know, state of the art military aircraft, in infrared light, in a light spectrum we can see and they are recorded with state of the art cameras that basically are supposed to track objects that move really, really fast.

When when you see a video like that come out, and you hear pilots say, “That’s not one of ours,” and then eventually the government confirms that suspicion. You look, you listen, you learn and you take it seriously.

With the UFO videos that we’re capturing around volcanoes in Latin America, these volcanoes are active. And you, for example, can see a UFO that flies through an ash cloud slowly,. It just hovers through and then it waits by a volcanic crater as erupting pyroclastic molten lava shoots rocks into the air, with the environment at probably 1000s of degrees Fahrenheit. And this object just flies through it. No civilian or military aircraft that we know of can perform in that environment.

What is it? Is it ours? What’s it doing there? And that’s a really strange mystery.

The UFO phenomenon is just not limited to the United States. But the United States has some of the most incredible cases. I’ve made a documentary about UFOs in space, you know, that NASA has recorded. I’ve made documentaries with events that have happened in Australia, China and Latin America. And I kind of want to tell even more of those stories that people haven’t heard as much here in the United States.

B&S: Stephen, what do you feel the importance of this movie is?

STEPHEN BASSETT: Darcy is what I call a content provider. In the UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon)/E.T./research activist journalism genre, the government has been denying the truth of this issue now for 74 years. And so the people were on their own.

They had to do the research, create and write their own books, magazines, documentaries, podcasts, broadcasts and so forth. In spite of the fact that the government said, “No, there’s nothing to this.”

These content providers have kept the issue alive, expanded public awareness worldwide and helped to ensure that ultimately we will get a confirmation from the government of this E.T. presence.

Darcy, of late, has been quite prolific* creating documentaries. I’ve been wanting to do a documentary for twelve years and I haven’t gotten to it yet. He’s made seven or eight in the last two years.

And so I’m here to support. I’m supporting that and happy to join him. Because these docs are critical to people getting a reasonable understanding of this issue. But also, I should mention — given you are all obviously cinephiles you may or may not know this — but I did a research project in 2013. Essentially, I researched every great high grossing film. In fact, I basically researched the top, I don’t know 5-800 films in terms of their gross international take and then converted that to today’s inflation.

Anyway, the upshot is that the most lucrative genre in all of film — in terms of gross revenue — is films with E.T.s in them. Not just science fiction. Just films with E.T.s in them. That tells you a lot, doesn’t it? Think of all the billions of people that have watched films with extraterrestrials in them over the last 50 years. Obviously, the idea of them existing does not seem particularly striking at all anymore, does it?

B&S: I remember first hearing the theory — probably around the first or second season of The X-Files — that alien-related mass media is all about preparing and opening people’s minds up to eventual contact. How do you feel about that theory?

DARCY: I think that, well, whether it was intended or not all of the sci-fi films about extraterrestrials, in one form or another, have helped to acclimate the world to the idea of extraterrestrials. Plus, as you know, the film’s got better the CGI got better.

These movies, for some time now, all the way back to Star Wars, literally take us out into space. They take us to other planets with strange beings. We’ve all been there. Now it’s being done with virtual reality on Oculus. So yeah, it’s acclimatization.

Was it intentional? I think most of it was Hollywood producers making money.

Again, it’s the most lucrative genre and all of film. You’re going to make lots of these movies and you’re going to spend more and more money on them. In fact, the two top-grossing movies of all time, maybe three are Avatar and the two Avengers movies. So yeah (laughs). You’re gonna make money.

Now, it’s possible that the government has somehow encouraged something. The government has been cooperative on some of these movies. And there’s been a CIA Film Industry Liaison for a long time.

To be honest with you, there have been other efforts in which the government has given this field information, some of which was in fact intended to bump things along and some of it was disinformation. By and large, the acclimation comes from the creative geniuses of Hollywood and the desire to make lots of money.

A lot of Hollywood writers are very in touch with the theories, the sort of conspiracy theories and possible facts that are surrounding this subject. You know, I was talking on another podcast the other day. I was asked, what one documentary or one fictional science fiction film do you think gets the closest to reality?

For sure, Fire In the Sky. It’s based on the book that’s about his encounter. That said, it got turned more into a horror movie with the case of how he was abducted, and them shoving things and stuff into him, strapping him down to a table in the movie version. But in the book and his lectures, none of that happened. He was not dragged by his feet around a dirty alien ship by these monstrous fiendish looking things. They looked like humans, a group of them that he saw, and another group looks like grey aliens.

That’s an example of a real tale that has manifested in Hollywood. Another one is Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the French character that is represented as one of the head scientists, hunting down abductees or experiencers, The French character, that scientist is, he’s based on Jacques Vallée. He was doing the real thing for different government groups and NATO trying to figure out the UFO issue.

Noy everything in that film is based on reality. But there are hints and elements here that prove that Steven Spielberg is very interested in the UFO question.

If you look at his film resume, obviously, he’s been gearing for disclosure in some way or another by bringing out so many films that are based on extraterrestrial science fiction.

He’s been in touch with generals and pilots and all kinds of things, met so many different people to have his films be closer to real things that have happened in this history.

Fire in the Sky

STEPHEN: There are no theatrical films — there are documentaries — that are that significant to this subject in my opinion. There’s the Paul Davids’ Roswell: The UFO Cover-Up where there was very little embellishment. It played it straight with history and it got very close. But by and large, the movies that are true to an actual extraterrestrial experience are few.

The reason is — and this is cool — is that the phenomena as it’s been recorded and researched, the truth is that it’s not interesting enough.

In other words, if you made a straight film about a particular case, pick Rendlesham Forest, you would really struggle to make it that kind of compelling, dramatic thing. And so they don’t do it.

There’s this thought with the E.T. issue, they think that everybody is afraid and going to panic when the truth is known. But the real truth is that the fundamental elements and aspects of the actual E.T. reality, including most contact and abductions, is that the truth is not interesting enough or dramatic enough for Hollywood.

So that tells you something, doesn’t it? And another reason why the truth embargo** really has become quite absurd.

B&S: You brought up Spielberg. E.T. started as a much darker script called Night Skies. And the sequel would have been even darker. But for some reason, Spielberg went to the lighter side, telling us that the aliens would be our friends. And that hanged a lot of mass media after that.

DARCY: Yeah, absolutely. E.T. was supposed to be much darker. And there was also going to be a Man In Black that worked for the government who wanted to capture him and his craft.

That’s the biggest secret fact about the UFO issue. We have captured crafts, we have possibly captured entities and found dead bodies. And all of that is Steven Spielberg writing reality.

He’s trying to put that into the cinema because it’s a little-known fact that he wants to expose people to something that’s stranger than fiction. Sometimes that can be fact, you know?

Obviously, he went for the happy family movie, right? You don’t want to make people’s stomachs churn and question reality and not want to go to work the next day after they watch the dark version.

Rick Baker’s abandoned Night Skies alien makeup.

B&S: Speaking of the truth, your documentary is about the truth being unveiled. What do you think the next step is?

DARCY: I’ll leave that one for Mr. Bassett. He has 74 years and thousands of books magazine articles, research reports, hundreds and hundreds of documentaries, hundreds of thousands of millions of websites. And so many articles, probably as many as 40,000 articles in the English language. So he’s got some great insights into where disclosure may go from here.

STEPHEN: I think the truth embargo is about to end.

That’s based upon developments of the last three years which I’m following pretty closely. Let me alert your readers. Watch very carefully for any new developments in the media on the E.T. issue involving politicians and scientists.

The craziness of the last four years is not over yet. After the Trump trial in the Senate is over — that’s going to completely preoccupy the Congress, along with obviously some of the early actions to the Biden administration — I would have expected this to happen already.

I believe the stage has been set in advance now for hearings to finally take place in the U.S. Congress, on the extraterrestrial and UAP issue. And these would be the real thing, not not like the last hearing that we had in 1968 that lasted one day.

These will be extensive hearings and multiple committees, the witnesses will almost exclusively be military, either active or retired personnel, discussing a range of encounters and phenomena, primarily from the context of national security. Once this series has been underway for a while — and they will be viewed by countless millions of people around the world — I think the situation will be such as the President can finally confirm the E.T. presence to the American people and the world.

It is very possible that we’re going to have disclosure and final confirmation of E.T. presence this spring, which I’m pretty sure is going to generate a rather substantial number of scripts pouring into producers all over Hollywood. And we will hit the golden age of extraterrestrial cinema.

When I did that research on the highest-grossing movies, that was just English language movies. I did not include foreign language films related to E.T. subjects. So the total number that these movies have made in profit is billions of dollars.

These films are in the consciousness. Everything is there. And they have been pouring into the human consciousness for pretty much every developed country. Actually, even less developed countries, given the availability of TV and video so forth for decades.

So to me, the idea that people are going to be shocked when they’re told that extraterrestrials exist, that the real ones are here and have been since the beginning, well…it was silly. Now it’s absolutely ludicrous.

It’s time for the people to know.

By the way, let me add that the big shots in Hollywood, particularly the science fiction ones like George Lucas and Christ Carter and Spielberg, they’re the ones that are informed. They have people lined up outside their office all day to tell them things. They mix with high-level politicians.

When Spielberg’s Taken miniseries premiered in 2002, it was at the Ronald Regan Building in Washington, DC. I was there — it was an event with white-gloved waiters and fantastic hors d’oeuvres.

I can say with high confidence that every one of the people I’ve just mentioned and others absolutely know. Now, I’m not suggesting that they were taken to the Pentagon and shown bodies or anything. I’m simply saying they were tipped. But it’s not in their interest to challenge the government’s embargo. But it is in their interest to make movies about the E.T. issue.

One of the reasons that these movies generate so much money is because there are some people who are convinced already that the E.T. presence is real or that it would be cool if it was. So Guardians of the Galaxy comes out and they have to see it.

On the other hand, contrast that with the E.T.-related journalists who have been working so hard for seventy years who make no money doing this and pay a heavy sacrifice. It hasn’t been a picnic for these people. Yet their work has generated a mindset that Hollywood has turned into an industry that makes billions.

How much has Hollywood invested in the disclosure activism? How much have they paid into the cause to end this embargo and bring the truth to the American people? To my knowledge? Nothing.

B&S: I think the first celebrity I ever heard that was interested in it, strangely enough, as Jackie Gleason, who early on was really pushing to learn more from politicians.

STEPHEN:  I don’t think he pushed. But it’s a great story. It’s a wonderful story.

He told the story to his wife, who told it to Shirley MacLaine, who told me and put it out in her book.

Gleason was a legend back then and he was a good friend of Nixon. I imagine he supported him politically. I’m not positive, but I think he did. And  Nixon was a Florida guy. He would visit Florida all of the time, where Gleason lived and they would play golf together. So one night after they played, he called him up and said,  “Hey Jackie. Come with me.” And he picked him up! Nixon is driving, he must have slipped his Secret Service and they went to an Air Force Base*** to see the bodies.

He knew that Jackie had a huge interest on this subject, he had one of the largest private libraries of books on this subject****

It was a way of showing off to his buddy a little bit. He knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t talk about it. And basically, he didn’t, but eventually, it came out.

It’s a fantastic story. So that confirms that Nixon was pretty much briefed. He knew about the E.T. issue. He was probably given substantial inside classified information. And they knew Nixon would never go public, because Dick was a statesman. He was a pure politician as well. The Cold War was still underway. The embargo was in place, primarily because of that Cold War. He had a good relationship with the military. And so he had plenty of things on his plate, China and everything else.

Of course, then he got embroiled in some pretty awful scandals. And so the idea that he would suddenly decide, I think I’m gonna engage the E.T. issue, well, absolutely not. He would have viewed it as another huge negative on his legacy, which he desperately wanted to rebuild.

But as President, he got brief. We know some Presidents got briefed and some didn’t. Some got nothing at all. Some were actually denied and stonewalled information, which by the way, is not Constitutional. It violates the norms of the way our government is supposed to run, but it was all justified on the basis of national security as so much else was.

Footage from Volcanic UFO Mysteries.

B&S: So often conspiracy theory and UFO theories go hand-in-hand just because of the way that the media treats them. We’ve had a crazy last four years where conspiracy has dominated the news. So how do you think people are going to truly react to disclosure? Are they going to believe it? Are they going to think it’s just fake news?

DARCY: That’s a really important question. Because, as you know, we have flat earthers that are now a huge thing. I’ve spoken about this and Steve says, “Leave the flat earthers alone.”

But you know, I believe the flat earthers and Q on those two examples of stupid conspiracies. They are a byproduct of the distrust that’s at an all-time high with the governments of the world and their citizens. People are watching everything that’s going on right now. And they’re saying, you know, I’ve got a story. I think this is more true than what’s going on in reality, but the fact is that there’s too much noise. There’s too much disinformation out there, like Q-Anon.

Don’t get me wrong. People like Jeffrey Epstein are real. They did have their pedophile rings. But Q-Anon extends into this grand and crazy conspiracy. And with flat earth, there are so many things that disprove that.

If UFOs are coming here and are piloted by extraterrestrials, then they have to come from another planet just like ours, another spherical planetoid.

Yet people are super paranoid and these ideas run rampant. They allow their imaginations to get away from them too much.

The truth embargo issue is already enough to deal with. And that requires some imagination for many people. And I think with disclosure, that will actually allow for some trust and an opening for the government to buy back some goodwill.

They’re investing in a future where the public can trust them a bit more . And disclosure is a good starting point. It’s going to be a place where they can say, “Look, we have kept this quiet for a long time. We weren’t sure fully sure about it. But here’s what we can tell you.” And that will be nice, you know, that will vindicate a lot of people out there that have been studying this for their whole lives.

Stephen Bassett, he’s seventy-four years old. I’m thirty-six. And he wants to see this in his lifetime. So do I. I think it’s a hopeful thing.

If it comes from the government, I think it’s going to be something for people to look at, listen and learn about more. So as things develop, as we become a spacefaring nation and as we start going into the stars and trying to colonize other planets in our solar system, we’re going to be learning about what’s actually out there waiting for us. And there’s some hope surrounding that. There are some great advantages to the possible technologies that we will eventually have that will make our lives easier, healthier and safer.

STEPHEN: The last twenty-five years have been interesting to say the least. But there has been a very significant confluence of two very important trends.

One trend has been going on for some time getting all the way back to the 60s. And that’s the erosion of trust in the United States government, which eventually started spreading to other institutions outside of government. It’s reached a point where it’s actually threatening the country, it’s threatening the republic. It’s a real problem.

But then you have the onset of the Internet, and then even bulletin boards and email, and then ultimately, social media. And so the combination of this diminishing trust in government, combined with the ability of virtually everybody in the developed world to interact with everybody else in the developed world in real-time and give their opinion about anything — or create something out of nothing — while operating behind anonymous handles has created the golden age of populist driven — or citizen-driven — propaganda.

We’ve always had corporate propaganda and government propaganda. Now we have a situation where everybody can be a propagandist. And as a result, the internet has become a polluted river.

It’s a massive river of information, which is significantly polluted. And it’s polluted to the point where if you just drink the water and don’t filter it, it’ll kill you. And this is a huge problem, right?

It isn’t going to be solved anytime soon.

But the good news is that the extraterrestrial reality, the truth embargo itself is not a conspiracy. So don’t worry about Q-Anon pushing it. It’s not. It’s simply a legal policy of the United States government, instituted and formulated between 1947 and 1952, and carried forward to this day for national security reasons.

It’s not illegal. So it’s not a conspiracy. I always try to object to this — whenever conspiracy theories are attached to the E.T. issue — I try to correct them that the government conspired with some illegality to fake a moon landing or the moon landings. That would be a conspiracy, though not an awful one. But it would be a conspiracy.

However, that might have been justified by national security, of course. So all I can say is, folks if you want to get away from misinformation, disinformation and a whole lot of nonsense on the internet and focus on the extraterrestrial issue…and the high-end authors, researchers and so forth on this, well, there’s a hell of a lot of truth there. And while there is some silliness to be sure, as things go these days, it’s some of the better water in that river.

B&S: Finally, how much stock should we put into Whitley Strieber?

STEPHEN: I’ll answer that quickly, but his story is a very complex story. Very complex. He’s a brilliant man and he was a highly successful New York Times bestselling author in the genre of, I guess you could say paranormal. And he’s a contactee, of which I have no doubt whatsoever.

So here you have an example, and this is one of the interesting things about the contact phenomenon, of the fact that E.T.s pretty democratic. They directly interact in these encounters we call contacts. And some of those contacts take the form of what people would probably justifiably call abductions.

They don’t take a general. They’ll take a cashier at Denny’s. And they’ll have a politician, a writer, a guy working on a shrimp boat. Whatever their agenda is, it’s fairly democratic. So imagine that you are somebody who is just a basic person, maybe you’re a garage mechanic, and you’ve been taken by E.T.s since you were five years old. Imagine how that might unfold in your life, how it manifests.

Now, imagine if you’re a nuclear physicist.

Now imagine if you’re a brilliant writer, maybe even a fantasy writer. And so one of the things people don’t take into account is that the way it worked the way it manifests and the way then is reported by people who have gone through this.

There is an enormous spectrum of reports and interpretations.

Whitley’s was extremely complex and very literary. And for that reason, a lot of people say, wait a minute, that’s just wildly crazy. I mean, this, this nice waitress that I know is a contactee and she told me a story. And it was pretty basic.

Hey, Whitley is Whitley. So I think you have to respect all contactees in their stories before challenging their veracity. And that Whitley’s, the problem was that his complex accounts of what happened to him, they challenge people. And so they push back.

Now, that doesn’t mean that as a contact that he’s not capable of misinterpreting what happened to him. Remember, these are extraordinary events. In most people, their memories are actually blocked by the E.T.s themselves.

They’re able to do that and suppress it. For many people, they never even know that they were contactees. Something comes out in dreams, sometimes it comes out in flashes or something. And so this idea that they might misinterpret what’s happened to them. Obviously, that could happen. Nothing surprising there. But because of the truth embargo, and the fact that the government has denied, there’s no there there. The contactees have had a rough time. They’ve been ridiculed.

It’s been getting better, but you go back 20-30 years and it was brutal. They’re victims of the government truth embargo. There have been many. So I always defer to their stories and am very respectful. And unless I’m confronted with some really compelling evidence that something’s being made up…

Look, I realize there have been some, they want attention. But until I realize they’re lying — and I’m given compelling evidence that they are — I feel that I have to be very respectful of their stories and I’m prepared to take them at face value.

As for the movie, it features director Weir helping Jaime Maussan to uncover the truth behind a series of UFO sightings at active volcanos throughout Latin America, as well as Mr. Bassett as he works to break through the truth embargo.

This film has some astounding footage of the volcano UFO visitations. It also raises the question if these same interplanetary craft have been visiting and depleting nuclear weapon stockpiles around the globe.

Between the believer side that is Maussan and Bassett’s more political take on the reason why UFOs have remained part of our hidden history, it’s a fascinating watch. And I have to state for the record how truly honored I was to get to speak to both of these experts.

*We reviewed his movie Sasquatch Among the Wildmen last year.

**The “truth embargo” is a term that Stephen Bassett uses to refer to the government silence in regards to extraterrestrial visitation.

***According to the National Enquirer article that came out in 1983, the base would be Homestead Air Force Base. Supposedly, Gleason only told his ex-wife Beverly, who told the tabloid before a planned book, and Larry Warren, who was an eyewitness to the Rendlesham Forest UFO and a subject of some controversy. And even he didn’t spill the beans. Instead, the story started because of Timothy Green Beckley and this article.

****He really did. It’s part of the University of Miami’s Jackie Gleason Collection, which “consists of approximately 1,700 volumes of books, journals, proceedings, pamphlets and publications in the field of parapsychology.”

To watch the movie:

Volcanic UFO Mysteries is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Video On-Demand.

More information: 

Follow Darcy Weir on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

For more about Stephen Basset and his quest to end the truth embargo, visit Paradigm Research Group and listen to his new podcast The Disclosure Wire. That new show also has a Facebook page that has even more info.

Keep an open mind and watch the skies.