Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Films in the Attic: Parents 1989




Title: Parents
Year: 1989
Directed by: Bob Balaban
Written by: Christopher Hawthorne

Randy Quaid ... With his media antics we learned that he is one insane guy, but in 1989s black comedy "Parents" he plays one too..Maybe he wasn't acting?

Parents is a film that seldom gets written or talked about which makes it perfect for Films in the Attic.

Plot: The year is 1954 and Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily Laemle (Mary Beth Hurt) move themselves and there ten year old son Michael (Bryan Madorsky) to there own little slice of suburban paradise. Things aren't so blissful for Michael who is introverted and seems to live in a world totally of his own. He has no friends expect for Shelia (Juno Mills-Cockell) a girl who is also odd. His strange behavior in school leads him to see a social worker Millie Dew (Sandy Dennis) who is a kind, free spirited type. Michael becoming more convinced something is rotten with his parents and the "left overs" they serve every night, which is never explained.  Is it all in his active imagination or is something more sinister cooking?

I can see where "Parents" would have a hard time finding an audience. Tone wise its all over the place. Keeping with the theme of the movie, one can look at it like movie stew. Take one parts dark comedy, season with 1950s food satire, mix in some art house flavor and finally a dash of tried and true horror show. The end result is one very dizzying movie experience but still its odd enough to keep you glued, even if the direction is all over the place.

Part of what pulls this movie stew is together is the amazing cast. As stated above Randy Quaid is just totally creepy as hell as Michael's father Nick. The things he can do with a simple look, coupled with some great mood lighting really gives you the shivers. Counter balancing this is Lily played by Mary Beth Hurt. Like Quaid she gives a performance that is subtle but you still get the sense there is something not quiet right with her. They really work well as a film couple. Character actor Sandy Dennis who is best known for "Whos Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" plays the social worker. Like the above mentioned her performance is layered and we get a real sense of who she is as a person without saying alot. There is some very funny bits with her and her smoking and she also seems to be a very free formed person by her clothes and big clunky bag. Its little touches that makes this film somehow work. The supporting cast is also very good. Bryan Madorsky who plays young Michael is good even with limited lines. Deborah Rush who you might know from the cult tv show "Strangers with Candy" and more recently "Orange in the New Black" plays a minor but funny role.


What works in the films favor are very basic even primal themes explored such as family, food, sex and death. Also the link between food and death which has been explored in many different films including Hitchcocks "Frenzy" I could go on and on more in depth but I think you get the picture.  The surreal images is something out of a David Lynch film , both sexual and sick. A perfect example is an early scene of Michael's nightmare. The boy is running, jumps on his bed and is engulfed in a sea of blood. When he tells his his Mother she asks if he took of his pj bottoms, because that's when he has nightmares..Its a perfect blending of the horror and sexual. I think my one complaint about this film is the sub plot between Michael and his little girlfriend Shelia. It really doesn't move the plot along or give us a deeper look in Michael and his inner workings. It would have been better to remove her and focus on him and his family.

Fans of the film "Society" (oddly enough released that same year) will find a rare gem here. In fact I would even say they would make a perfect double feature. Parents explores the idea that the rose colored glasses of the 50's family life might be deeply rotten at its core.While it may never get the kind of following as other horror films of that decade its a must see. With its psycho-sexual surreal nature it manages to be humorous as well as deeply disturbing. If your looking for a break from the usual slasher fare your in for a real tasty treat. You might even come back for seconds.....


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Face Offs Ricky Vitus Interview!


Gorehound Mike caught up make up artist and Face Off contestant Ricky Vitus who tells us about his passion for his art and what its like being on the hit reality show.

GM: Was there one film in particular that made you want to go into a career in make up?

RV: Honestly its hard to pick one film in particular, I had a blanket of films I watched as a kid. Most of them were the Universal Monster films and I really liked the Wolf Man and werewolves. I think "An American Werewolf In London" was a big one for me as far as creating monsters go because I wanted that one when I was alittle bit older not by much probably a little to young to watch it, probably about seven or eight years old. It really triggered in my head when I saw the creature that somebody created it and I really wanted to be the one to create it.

GM: What do your parents feel about your chosen profession?

RV: My Mother loves it. Shes a very free spirited, shes not an artist herself but she respects the arts. She is just wildly out of control happy that i`ve been perusing this as a career. Granite not that she was happy about this but at a certain point I started playing with paint and then moved on to couch cushions, cutting ears off and making them into creatures through the werewolf kits after watching special features on how one of the monsters were fabricated, so she wasn't quiet happy about that but I can guarantee shes happy now.

GM: What was your first professional job and how did that come about?

RV: My first professional job I did was a film while I was at "The Tom Savini Makeup Academy" Outside of the school I worked on a independent film called "Alive and Unburied" an amazing short by Sean Perry, a great guy. It was one of my first professional gigs and I also while I was in school I did a commercial with Steve Johnson which was alot of fun, I did a wolf man for that and acouple other people did a nosterftue and Frankenstein, it was a lot of fun working with Steve Johnson.


GM:  Lets talk about "Face Off" now. How true is the show in terms of reality

RV: Unlike alot of reality show what you see is truly what is happening. There is very little that I could say is fabricated. Every thing we make on there is by us. Truly what your seeing is what actually happened. Obviously everything is condensed into an hour so some things aren't shown but thats just the real reality of editing. Generally true indeed.

GM: You made a lot of friends with the other constants?

RV: Yeah I`m not sure how the other casts work together but our cast ours really hit it off. When your staying, living and working with the same people everyday usually there is a lot of tension but I think we did really good about it. We were all very high into each other. Like we would go home and play games together (laugh) which relives the tension of the day. We never did actually play hide and seek but we wanted too. We played a lot of board games, card games and i`m still talking to a lot of them to this day. Definitely made some great friends.


GM: In between shooting did you have any interaction with the Westmores?

RV: When the Westmores would come in we have a lot of interaction with them. They were only able to show a mi nute  amount of it. However they would stay with us in groups or if we were doing a solo challenge. Up to about ten minutes when we would just I don't wanna say shoot the shit, but we sort of did (laugh) But yeah we got to interact with them a lot. The Westmores are great people.

GM:There must be a lot of pressure on the show, do you feel like you thrive on that?

RV: As far as the pressure goes on the show obviously there, there is going to be a lot of it. But on movies there is a lot of pressure especially if your working on a horror film that has shorter budgets. Granite we don't have the whole night on Face Off. We have a time limit (laugh) the clock is a real thing. I would say that they was a lot of pressure and I feel like I do good under it.

GM: What types of make ups pose the biggest challenge to you?

RV: As far as challenges that pose the biggest challenge I`d have to say group challenge because you have to make sure partners are on board with the designs but every team I was on we seem to mash really well but I think keeping to make sure were on the same track sculptural wise.

GM: Who do you think is your biggest competitor, like whose the one to beat?

RV: Everybody (laugh) Everyone this season I truly believe is talented. Mainly every season I watched and I hate to say but you can pin point who is going to be going home. But this season is everyone is so talented. I feel even the most talented people that are there had a fire under there butt. When they got there. we were all thinking we got this we got this and when you get there and saw everyone's skill set we were like Oh shit maybe we don't get this (laugh) So I feel my biggest competitor is everybody.

GM: So what do you have in the works?

RV: Right now i`m working at "Gateway Haunted Playhouse" Its a haunted house in Long Island, rated the best in Long Island. This is my second season here and we open in a month so we got a lot of work. The theme this year is a summer camp over run by inbred hill people, its very "Hills Have Eyes" Basically what happens is the inbred people take over the camp but they try and stay in role of the camp. Because they take over counselor positions, they imprison the children and i`m currently working on whole lotta hill bred people (laugh) and we also have a midway that is alittle bit detached from the haunt, its like a weird haunted carnival. I feel that if a haunted house is a strong strong midway that's not necessary a terrifying but more funny or spooky. So I have a lot of things in the works

Gorehound Mike would like to again thank Ricky Vitus for taking the time to chat with us. Watch Face Off 9pm Eastern Standard Time and root for him!

Monday, August 31, 2015

WES CRAVEN R.I.P

As i`m sure most of you know horror master Wes Craven died yesterday. I had a blog planned for today but I felt I wanted to in my small way honor him by posting it tomorrow and today just reflect on the man and his work. Oddly enough Sat I had done a special Films in the Attic on his film Deadly Blessing. So if you haven't read it please do.

Mr Craven you will be missed.


Aug 2 1939-Aug 30th 2015


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Films in the Attic Special Edition: Deadly Blessings with Exclusive Quote from star Jeff East and writer Glenn M Benest


Welcome to a very Special Edition of Films in the Attic.

Title: Deadly Blessing
Year:1981
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written By: Glenn M. Benest, Matt Barr and Wes Craven

Recently Quentin Tarantino publicly came out as shall we say not a fan of "Scream" the 90's film that re-sparked the horror genre. While I am a QT fan I gotta disagree here.

However It got me to thinking about Wes Craven and his body of work. Maybe the most underrated is 1981's Deadly Blessing. Its gotten alot of criticism over the years but in this review i`ll hopefully help you see that its a classic just begging to be re-discovered.

Growing up in the country and living close to Lancaster Pa I can tell you this, the country is a beautiful place and is the closest thing to getting back to a time before the internet, phones and the countless things that distract us in our fast paced every day life. But it can also give you a feeling that underneath the surface of the picturesque landscape lurks something evil and even unholy. "Deadly Blessing" really taps into this.

Plot: Doting wife Martha (Maren Jenson) and Jim Schmidt (Doug Barr) are living the simple life on a farm and own a pretty house complete with white picket fence and a charming sign "Our Blessing" The dominate religion in these parts are the"Hittties" a strict religious sect "that makes the Amish look like swingers" Jim was once apart of this group until he broke away went to college and married Martha. The leader Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine) Schmidt and father of Jim shunned him for his actions. Now cut off from everyone in the community including brother John (Jeff East) he is known as the "Incubus"  a devil. Faith (Lisa Hartman) a young girl and her mother Lousia (Lois Nettleton) are also thought to be such devils as they too are outsiders. In fact William Glunz (Michael Berryman) constantly harasses Faith and smashes up her painting (which are very strange and foretelling) It seems anyone who is not in the Hittites are thought to be evil. Shortly after the couple celebrate there one year wedding anniversary tragedy strikes when a farming "accident" claims the life of Jim, leaving Martha a widow and the house and property. Friends  Lana Marcus (Sharon Stone in a early film role) Vicky Anderson (Susan Buckner) rush from the city to visit there grieving friend.

 After William is found murdered by person(s) unknown the blame is cast on the outsiders of the community and Martha isn't so sure that her late husband simply died from an accident. Its also a fact that Leader Isasih wants to house and the land for his people which she refuses to sell. Is it the community trying to drive her away or is there really a supernatural force at work?

The voice over at the beginning of the film gives it a grim fairy tale ton and indeed the hyper surreal nature supports this.

The year "Deadly Blessing" came out a host of knife wielding psychos were unleashed on a ticket paying public. But while mostly all went onto become classics among die hard horror fans sadly this more unique film got shunned. What sets this film apart from the countless others is the seamless blend of horror and slasher with religious zealous overtones which was a trend decades ahead of its time. Craven seems to have learned alot from his previous films and is really in his element of fright. It amazes me that some of the most tense scenes takes place in the day time. For example the scene with Sharon Stones character getting locked in the barn and the way he uses simple tricks to really ratchets up the tension and fear ending with the discovering of Williams body. Its a master class in directing a great scene in a horror film. This film also gets a huge boost from its beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup. He really captures the stark beauty contrasted with the eerie  which I had mentioned in my introduction. Famed award winning composer James Horner (Avatar, Titanic etc) does the score and you can really see the roots of his genius and why James Camoron would later use him on numerous films.



Another way this film stands above the rest is the strong female characters that are portrayed. When Martha is attacked by a snake, she doesn't run and hide or worse yet get a man to take care of it, no she takes a fire poker and kills it. Another scene that highlights this is when the girls are teaching themselves how to fire a weapon. Now i`m not saying this is the first horror film to feature strong women however its a refreshing change from all the women victims in the other films of the decade.

But whats a good film without a good cast, and Deadly Blessing has a great one indeed. Ernest Borgnine, Sharon Stone, Jeff East and with character actors like Michael Berryman and Lois Nettleton. Critics have sighted Borgnine for his over the top acting style and I agree its abit much but on the other hand it adds to the hyper surreal grim fairy tale element. Jeff East (Pumpkinhead,Superman The Movie ) is also great, and perfectly cast as John the sweet and shy brother of Jim. This movie is also well known for being a early film of Sharon Stone who would of course go on to mega stardom. She has pretty good range here and really takes this material seriously. The scene with her and the spider is classic. Lois Nettleton also gives a over the top performance that really works in the films favor.

Craven along with the writers really give you a sense of thick dread and religious delirium that has gripped this community.The film spirals into a fast paced fright fest with some tasty surprising twists.

Even if you don't like this film I think you should at least respect it for the fact that its different than the slashers that dominated the horror landscape in the 80s. Featuring a refreshingly interesting story in a very real and spooky location and with females who were much more than just fodder for the killers knife. A perfect film to watch alone in the dark.....

Star Jeff East And co-writer Glenn M Benest were kind enough to take time and give us an exclusive quote about the film.

Jeff EastBest experience with three gorgeous women and terrific supporting actors.Susan Buckners a doll Sharon Stone is a cool lady! Loved working with all the actresses and Wes Craven is very kind

Co-Writer Glenn M Benest:
"Deadly Blessing" was the first feature I wrote with my writing partner, Matt Barr. We went through a number of directors before we met Wes Craven, who directed a TV movie I adapted from a novel, "Summer of Fear." It was titled for NBC: "A Stranger In Our House." Once we hooked up with Wes everything went well. He wasn't well known at that time, but he was on the way up. Once he was attached, we got the film made. Wes is the great master of horror, along with John Carpenter. He taught me a lot about how to create scares. There is really no one better.

This blog is dedicated to James Horner who did the music for this and went on to do many other wonderful films. He passed away earlier this summer.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blood Splattered Blu: Cannibal Ferox

Cannibal Ferox review by William O' Donnell


Cannibal Ferox
Company: Grindhouse Releasing
Directed by:Umberto Lenzi

(1981) Director/Script - Umberto Lenzi, Starring Giovanni Lombardo Radice (as John Morghen), Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei (as Bryan Redford), Zora Kerova (as Zora Kerowa), Walter Lucchini (as Walter Lloyd), Fiamma Maglione (as Meg Fleming), Robert Kerman

Here is is, a classic of grindhouse sleaze, and who better but Grindhouse Releasing to lovingly bring it to the horror collector. A classic of the Italian horror subgenre of cannibal films, this movie works that template for all its worth, after a New York City-set beginning in which we see mobsters looking for Mike (Radice) and his friend Joe (Lucchini), who stiffed the mobsters and headed for the Amazon River. The police (led by Robert Kerman) begin tracking down the missing dealers. Intercut with the NYC scenes is the *ahem* meat of the story, in which anthropology students, Gloria (De Selle), Rudy (Mattei), and Pat (Kerova) have made a trip to the Amazon to prove Gloria's thesis that cannibalism doesn't exist. From the moment in which a native eats grubs, it's clear that the audience's sensibilities aren't safe by any means. Once the anthropologists and the drug dealers meet, it doesn't take much time for the gut-munching to begin, ratcheting up full-bore after Mike and Pat have sex, do cocaine, and mess with the natives. Some excellent practical special makeup effects displayed here thanks to Gino De Rossi, including a castration (yikes!) and a woman's being hung by her breasts from hooks (well, at least the sexual violence is equal opportunity!). Like its spiritual "cousin" Cannibal Holocaust, this film features real-life animal cruelty, which is indefensible, but blends almost seamlessly into the simulated carnage for a most disturbing experience.

The film itself benefits from an absolutely eye-catching 2K transfer scanned from the original film negative's aspect ratio of 1.85.1 at 1080 resolution to an aspect ratio of 1.78.1. The 2.0 DTS-HD master audio mix will pop your ears with its clarity.

Extras aplenty include interviews with principal cast and crew, as well as a highly informative documentary Eaten Alive: The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film. A commentary track featuring Lenzi and Radice, a stills gallery, trailers for current and upcoming Grindhouse Releases, a glossy 12-page booklet of liner notes by Times Square grindhouse historian Bill Landis and horror filmmaker Eli Roth. Included with the two Blu-Ray discs is a CD containing the full soundtrack by Roberto Donati (Budy) and Fiamma Maglione, remastered in 24 bit/96 kHz sound from the original master tapes, which is still creepy and atmospheric when listened to on its own.

This release is a more-than-worthwhile addition to any horror/grindhouse connoisseur's Blu-Ray collection.

--William O'Donnell is an aging goth and horror enthusiast whose short fiction has been published in the anthologies Bell, Book, and Beyond and Travel Guide to the Haunted Mid-Atlantic Region, and whose music reviews appeared approximately bzillion years ago on Gothic.net.  He's also a vegetarian.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Confessions of a Monster Kid: C.Courtney Joyner Interview Part 2 Class of 1999 and Beyond!



Welcome to the second and final part of my interview with C.Courtney Joyner. Class of 1999 and beyond!



GM: Class of 1999 how did you get that job?

CJ: I got hired to do "Class of 1999" directly because of "Prison" Mark Lester actually went to a screening of Prison and of course he and Irwin are very good friends forever and Mark mentioned the project and he needed to hire somebody for it and so Irwin recommended it to me. I went in there and Mark was co-producing the movie with writer Stanley Mann. It was a long process on that. I wrote acouple of drafts and other writers came in and they wrote drafts and they were discarded, Mark came back to me and I worked again and I left (laughs) it was a back and forth a whole bunch but ultimately it came back to me and my old script but it was alittle frustrating but I think that's the way Vestron would do it. They had a long development process and than when we got back to Seattle I said Oh my gosh this really is my old script, it had been tinkered with and improved like some of the dialog but then I rewrote the final shooting draft when we were in Seattle and what was wonderful about that was when I was there we knew who our cast was. So I rewrote the teacher roles for Pam Grier etc. because they had been cast. It allowed me to reshape the roles for them. It took a long time for that movie to shape.



The biggest thing on that film that I regret was we had a great special effects man on that show named Eric Allard (Spider Man,MI:3) and of course the Burmans worked on it which was great because they worked on "The Offspring" (From a Whisper to a Scream) but I came up with this idea at the end, because I didn't want to do the terminator teacher thing, what I wanted to do was each one of the robot teachers had a specialized equipment, like Pam has the flame thrower Kirkpatrick has the rocket off his arm and originally what was going to happen was the individual pieces of there skeletons came together to create this new creature that was really more like an insect rather than humanoid. I`m sorry we couldn't do that they thought it would be to expensive and Mark said about possibly doing it with stop motion but it was beyond what Vestron wanted to spend and so they built that full scale robot, that was the real deal. It was suspended from a track on wires above it sort of like a extremely heavy complex puppet. It was a wonderful creation.

GM: Its a great movie that has a lot of fans.

CJ: The movies cult reputation has grown over the years, we had such a wonderful cast. I loved John P Ryan and Pam Grier they were so terrific and Malcolm and Stacy Keach that was cool, that was a wonderful experience once we got going. And of course Eric had done "The Blob" so when we wanted to do that thing with the kid being folded in half and being pulled into the wall that was a great gag and he did all that stuff, he was terrific.

GM: Any word on a blu release of this film?

CJ: Mark has talked to me a few times about doing a blu ray with it but I don't know if maybe "Scream Factory" (Shout Factory) decides to do it. For all I know the blu is coming out tomorrow (laugh)

GM: Speaking of blu, are you happy with how your films look on the format?

CJ:David DeCoteau and I did the commentary for Puppet Master 3 and I was stunned when we were recording that how great it looked, it was fantastic. One of the saddest things which Renny and I have discussed when we saw the blu of "Prison" and the fact that Mac Ahlberg hadn't lived long enough to see it because I think it looks just superb and he was an incredible DP. To me the great thing for us to re-discover your own work and you look at these things with fresh eyes because I don't sit and watch my own movies for hours on end then suddenly your seeing things brand new and its neat and when its in this great format and it looks so far beyond quality upgrade even when we made it (laugh)

GM: Lately you`ve done a lot of interviews for various documentaries, would you call yourself a film historian?

CJ: I`ve always done film journalism and before it was journalism it was just me being a pain in the ass to all these guys. When I was in High School I was writing letters to Don Siegl and all these guys. I have a letter from Don Siegl which is one of my great treasures and I got to know Don abit later on when I came to California. I had the unbelievable gull to write to him and ask for a summer job. His note was so great. He had just finished doing Telethon with Charles Bronson and he was getting ready to direct a movie called I.Horn starring Steve McQueen and I still have the letter, it says he's sorry he cant hire me because Steve McQueens entourage was so large (Laugh) OH MY GOD Steve McQueen is stopping Don Siegl from giving me a summer job and that is like the coolest thing of all time. But I was always doing that and I came to California to go to college and that's what I would do, the thing is back in those days, (laugh) well those days, not that long ago but I guess it is movie directors and guys like that did not consider themselves celebrities they were wealthy of course and well paid and they had there own degree of fame and cult status but they still considered themselves anonymous people. And if they got attention or met a fan they were flattered because they wanted to stay out of the spotlight and put guys like John Wayne in it. Times were very different and they were very open to fans like me who would come and bug them etc. I liked tracking down the Universal guys. I just loved that, tracking these guys down and hearing old Hollywood stories and what have you. Then when I started really applying myself with the film journalism that kind of took more of a shape with me with the Westerns and I got very involved with that and continue to be involved with that genre. That kind of up things especially when I got to know people like Sam Peckinpah Warren Oats and L.Q Jones  and the whole gang and I was kind of there mascot and that lead me down a new path way.

GM: You just did an interview for the Empire documentary?

CJ: The Empire documentary is going to have a big big launch but I don't know when that will happen but again that Daniel Griffins work and holy smoke hes talked to everybody its going to be an incredible.

GM: I know you`ve done conventions in the past, is it humbling to meet fans of your work?

CJ: I haven't done one in a very long time, when I would do them a million years ago it was always in conjunction with Full Moon. Charles Band was very convention savoy and he was of course great with his promotions, when I started writing a bunch of Full Moon and directed a few times he always wanted to have a presents at the convention and he liked it to be the actors plus the behind the scenes people which was very nice. So that was really fun. I guess the wonderful thing about when you do that is you sometimes you don't realize the how much exposure the stuff actually gets. These are horror flicks there not the Godfather (laugh) so your not sure how many homes these things go into or what.

GM: Still hear from fans?

CJ: Oh gosh I still get stuff through the mail and that's always a great kick.

GM: So what projects do you currently have in the works?

CJ: I have the sequel my western Shotgun which comes out from Pinnacle like a year from now called Shotgun 2: Bleeding Ground. I started a new action/adventure series which I cant disclose. I`m writing a western shortly which i`m very excited about actually for a tv pilot also looks like i`m going to be doing some work in the UK for a Ileen Maisel who produced "The Golden Compass" and i`m writing a tv pilot for her company.

I want to extend my thanks to C.Courtney Joyner for taking the time to talk about his amazing career.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Confessions of a Monster Kid: C Courtney Joyner Interview! Talks From a Whisper to a Scream, Prison and More!! Part 1



When I got in touch with Mr.Joyner I was already a huge fan of his work both in screenwriting as well as his novels. I also shared his love and passion for Universal horror and B-films. But I gotta say he is a hell of a nice guy and he really knows his stuff. Many people have seen him before being interviewed for various documentaries. Recently he has taken the time out of his hectic schedule to talk to me about his work on such cult classics as Prison, Class of 1999 and From a Whisper to a Scream which was just re-released from Scream Factory with mind blowing extras that are sure to put it on the short list for a Rondo for best release of the year.

Confessions of a Monster Kid Part 1

GM: Always been a monster kid?

CJ: Well you know I was bitten by the bug, I was always just a movie person. That was also when the monster boom was going on and alot of fantastic stuff so going on like the Universal Horror movies were on television and Hammer films were coming out, Aurora model kits and Famous Monsters of Film land etc Everything was coming up monsters and I was lucky to be at the right age to be totally swallowed alive by all that so it was wonderful. So it was right from the get go that I loved these kind of movies.

GM: You worked with Virgil Vogel (The Mole People, Land Unknown etc) What was it like working with such a legend?

CJ: He was terrific! A friend of mine back in college turned me on to a really interesting article about Rondo Hatton. I didn't know about Hattons life before the movies and the disease he had, which was a result  from mustard gas attack in World World I. I was fascinated by this and the Elephant man was big at that time and he was like the Hollywood Elephant man and thought it would be a great thing to write a screenplay about about Hattons life. So I was doing a lot of research on Hattons life and I got ahold of some interesting personal items such as his death certificate and I wanted to contact someone who had contact with. David Del Valle got me in touch with Gale Sondergaard (she worked with him on Spider Woman Strikes Back) I talked to her, very lovely and elderly by this time. It was shortly before she passed away. She said something very interesting, she thought that his face was a Jack Pierce makeup and she had no idea this was how he really looked. She felt dismissive of him and thought that was telling.



So i was gearing up for this and I thought it would be great to contact one of the guys that worked with Jack Pierce like a makeup assistant so I called up the head of Universal Makeup department and he couldn't have been nicer. The first thing out of his mouth was are you working on this thing with Virgil Vogel and I was like oh my god are they actually doing this, he said just call him. I was like oh my god the director of The Mole People and The Big Valley etc. I got up my courage and called him, told him who I was and what I was doing and I had Hattons death certificate etc and he couldn't have been nicer. He said "What are you doing tomorrow come here and lets have lunch!" so I went out to Universal and had lunch with Virgil that day and there was a writer who was working on this project it was called "Hollywoods Strangest Love Story" and his name was Robert Heverly. Bob Heverly had been Sam Peckinpals writing partner on television show "The Westerner" and he had worked with Virgil alot on "The FBI" etc. I had a few finished screenplays and Virgil read one of those and passed it on to Bob and he generously asked me to collaborate with him, I was still in college and suddenly I was writing with these guys. Virgil was primarily directing "Magnum P.I" at the time jumping back and forth from "Miami Vice"and I worked with Bob Heverly and we wrote this script it never that never went anywhere but thats how Virgil and I got together. When I graduated from college he brought me over to Universal and I worked with him on assessing scripts and when he was doing episodic s we would bat ideas around  and pitch to producers and we sold a few things such as a spec "Air Wolf" and "Magnum P.I" to Universal.


GM: And did he talk much about making "The Mole People" etc

CJ: Oh god yes I bugged him all the time about everything (laugh) At the time Virgil was Universals top editor. He did such films as "Touch of Evil" "This Island Earth" etc but he really wanted to direct. They (Universal) wanted some new guys and Virgil always thought he got the chance  to do "The Mole People" because he knew a good portion of the movie would be stock footage. They wanted someone that not only knew how to assemble that footage but to shoot the building scenes between that footage and make it all seamless. Hammer films was starting to make an impact and Universal was going through a lot of management changes and the division of those kind of programmer pictures were slowing down and the budgets were being reduced so he found his chance to jump on and direct this, later going on to do "The Land Unknown"


GM: You worked with another legend Vincent Price on the film "From A Whisper to a Scream" How much interaction did you have with Mr.Price on that shoot?

Also I heard he was not a big fan of the film.

CJ: (Laugh) well that's your answer. Quiet abit actually. When Jeff Burr, Darren and I approached him originally, Jeff had gotten his address from a mail order outfit that provided address of people for a fee. Jeff really wanted Vincent Price for the movie and he couldn't have been nicer and more gracious, we were two knuckleheads at his door. He let us in and we talked about the film and discussed the film. But he was really not into doing it, he just did a mystery series with Diane Rigg and did "The Monster Club" with John Carradine in the connecting devices and he wasn't a big fan of that movie, I think it was just tiresome for him because he had done plenty of those kinds of movies.



We got him to agree to let us go head and do the stories and then see if he wanted to do the connecting device. So we went to Dalton Georgia and shoot the movie, Jeff did a great job directing it and Darren produced it and pulled it in for the cash, it was really remarkable. When we got back to L.A we arranged a screening for Price and his agent at the time Walter Coner. We struck a deal with Vincent and we shoot his stuff over at Venice. What had happened was (we were young guys, inexperienced) once Vincent had agreed to do the movie he went away and while we were busy building sets and he off on one of his art cruises. We decided to re write the script thinking Oh my gosh we got Vincent Price lets really take advantage of it and we came up with all these ideas that were pretty wild and frankly beyond our budget. He was sent that new material and he got pretty upset.We weren't trying to do anything (to upset him) we were just inexperienced and he was most upset was besides the content was the fact he hadn't been consulted. I think he thought we were trying to pull a fast one on him.

We got him to agree to come down to Venice lumber yard to see what we were doing and to come and talk to us in person it was fine, he agreed to do script as it was written. David Del Valle who was doing our publicity did something really wonderful. We were shooting at Roger Cormans studio so David had Roger and Hazel both come down on the set while we were filming. So they had a mini reunion it was just wonderful.I remember Roger standing there looking at the old decaying library set (where Vincent sits and has all his scenes) he goes "You know I believe I made this movie about forty times" (Laugh) It wasnt his favorite film but ultimately he was very nice to us. One thing that was very specific was at the end of the movie Susan Tyrrell stabs him in the throat with a switchblade knife. We were being a little cautious or at least I was, the way we had it written was he was poisoned so he can just slump over his chair and die and that was it. He didn't want to do that, the knife in the throat was actually his idea. I was really glad he got into the spirit of it. I recall him saying "Oh she should stab me in the throat, that's much nastier." Again it wasn't his favorite project, we weren't Tim Burton or any of those things he crowned his amazing career with we were alittle hiccup in the road. It was our first movie star and he schooled us a little bit and we needed to be schooled. It was Vincent Price, the big leagues but it worked out very well.


GM: Your second feature was the cult hit "Prison" Originally they wanted it to be slasher correct?


CJ: That's correct. I was hired to do Prison because I had already written a treatment for a friend of mine named Michael Barkus whom I went to UFC. Mikes dad had been an investor in a movie that Irwin Yablans produced called "Hell Night" starring Linda Blair and Mike was working for Irwin and Bruce and Irwin had a project that they tried to develop called "Horror in the Big house" it was a haunted prison movie and of course he had already done "Halloween" (1978) etc. He had this property and they were trying to make it fly and Mike recommended me, I had written a spec script called "The Night Crawlers" that I had written for Jeff (Burr) to direct and nothing really happened with it. But I used that as my writing demo piece Bruce had read it and passed it onto Irwin and he said lets give it a shot. I went in there and Irwin told me the history of "Horror in the Big house" and he gave me the script and I read it right away. Renny Harlin had already been hired, I had never met him yet.


After I read the script Renny and I got together for a hamburger or something and we were talking about it. Irwin had given me instructions that he wanted to do "Halloween" in prison and i`ve said this many times it was ridiculous you got a guy with a knife killing prisoners and everyone has a knife you know thats no threat. So I said it has to be supernatural like "Poltergeist" in jail.  Thats what put i through the hoop. Bruce hired me and I wrote the script and it took awhile before it actual found its home because the company split up and we ended up going to Empire Pictures with Charlie Band.

GM: You kept in touch with Mr. Yablans?

CJ: Irwin and I are still really good friends he was my mentor and had a huge impact on what I was doing. He really want to the floor for me many times. He was directly responsible Mark Lester hiring me for "Class of 1999" and going to TWE and working on there action projects there. He had a big big impact on my life.


GM: Tell me about the casting of character actor Lane Smith

CJ: He was wonderful in the movie but we went through quiet a casting process to get him. John Casstavettes came in to talk to us but he had some health issues and he was not considered insurable.So unfortunately that didn't happen. Lane had just done the Richard Nixon mini series and Irwin got him to come in. Boy was he a nice man, I think hes wonderful in the movie.

GM: Speaking of casting I find it interesting that Viggo did "Prison" and later went on to do Jeff Burr's film (Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) was it pure consequence or was it through your connection having worked with him previously?

CJ: Just a consequence. Viggo was bouncing from independent movies and then he went in for "Chainsaw" (Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) and Jeff called me and said "Guess what Viggo came in and were going to hire him." he was really getting bigger and bigger. He just done doing "Fresh Horses" and other movies and he was really gaining his reputation. I think hes wonderful in Jeff's film. For all his good looks I think hes always considered himself a character actor, not some preening leading man. I went out on the set and Viggo and I had a lovely reunion, hes really a nice fellow.

GM: Still keep in touch with him?

CJ: A ran into him a couple years ago in a restaurant, in fact he flagged me down, it was great like no time had past.

GM: Prior to the blu release"Prison" sadly became hard to find, why is that?

CJ: We were very lucky because Charlie had done Re-Animator and had a good foot hold theatrically. We planned in theaters but than Empire was absorbed by another company and "Prison" ended up getting another theatrical release from "New World Pictures" so it was weird it was put into theaters by two different companies and the video rights were sold and re-sold so we were out there and then gone. Our big bench mark achievement was Jay Leno whose kind of a horror movie nut actually showed the one sheet on the  "Tonight Show" The tag line was "Horror has a new home" and Jay Leno holds up the poster and yes (in Joyners best Leno voice) "Yeah I`ve always considered prison home."(laugh) Charlie was really good with the movie and pushed on it. We had the cover of International Box Office Magazine that year, the movie had a huge presents but then it kinda came and went very quickly. Because the rights were constantly being sold and re sold it didn't have a big life on cable though one afternoon it ended up on the channel five Afternoon Movie here in L.A which I don't know how that happened but it was kinda fun. Prison has always had a great reputation and of course Renny went onto amazing success and he did a beautiful job on the film. What we accomplished with the amount of money we had, i`m very proud of that movie and i`m proud of the fact that people have really given it some credit and due and seem to really enjoy it and i`m very pleased about that. At the time we were writing it Renny and I were house mates.  

GM: You worked around actual prisons, correct?

CJ: Well we did and we didn't. The real prisoners that were extra's from the actual Rowling's State Pen. that was down the road. Most of the those guys were trustees and they were fine, they didn't misbehave they were they and got a kick out of it. The guy who played Mickey's cellmate, big man with a beard and ends up getting a pick axe through his back through a door, he was in jail for murder. But the interesting thing about him was his was a prisoner there but he had his SAG card. He had been working on the mini series "Centennial" ironically directed by Virgin Vogel, he had gotten into a fight in a bar and the guy ended up dying from his injuries and ends up going to jail. We hired him and I thought he was great in the movie but when the cameras stopped rolling he was in cuffs and shackles and there were guards with sniper rifles at all times.

GM: It must have been beyond surreal.

CJ: It was, it really was. It was definitely added a whole new dimension to that film.

This was Part 1 of the interview. Stay Tuned for the final part next week.