Friday, April 25, 2014

Around the World in Widescreen by William O Donnell

Around The World in Widescreen

My good friend Gorehound Mike seems to have a lock on coverage and reviews of the US/Australian/

English speaking countries’ wild, weird, and wonderfully wacky films, so he asked me to do a column for

him about the world-wide weird and wonderfully wacky cinema masterpieces.

“The Deathless Devil/Tarkan Vs. The Vikings”

Mondo Macabro, those ever-reliable peddlers of cinematic oddities , provide us with this pop cinema

double feature straight out of Turkey for your viewing pleasure.

The Deathless Devil (1973) is based on a Turkish comic book series featuring the masked superhero

known as Copperhead, and his battles against the mysterious Doctor Satan. Copperhead closely

resembles a Mexican wrestler, and he seems a little glittery for a superhero, but maybe that’s a cultural

issue less accessible for Western movie viewers. The film is lovingly restored, and the action sequences

are competently staged and shot. Doctor Satan’s robot (after all, what megalomaniacal evil genius

doesn’t have a robot?) doesn’t look credible at all, but that’s fine. What’s not fine, however, is the

“comic relief” character Bitik. Cultural differences or no, the buffoon who’s inexplicably clad in Sherlock

Holmes drag for a long portion of the movie, supplies groans, not laughs.

Tarkan Vs. The Vikings (1971) is based on a comic series featuring a barbarian character evocative of

Robert E. Howard’s Conan. It‘s a wacky, way-out swords and sandals movie from a decidedly non-
Western perspective. The titular hero must take revenge on his slain dog and save Attila the Hun’s

daughter from the Vikings before they feed her to the not-even-close-to-authentic looking giant

octopus that follows them. Are the action sequences fun to watch? Yes, they are. Is the dialogue

clunky and tin-eared? Of course it is! Does the mighty Tarkan avenge his best friend, save the girl, and

kill the bad guys?

 Both of these are a great watch, relics from the ‘70s, a fun bit of Turkish Delight for the eyeballs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Film Class from Hell:Underrated Horror/Cult Cinema Part 4 What dirty little treasures you should be watching!

Hello Fiends Class is back in session so sit your ass`s down and hunt down these films that are required viewing!

Gingerdead Man 2:Passion of the Crust- While I wasn't thrilled about the stereotypical flaming gay guy in the film (come on guys really?) that aside this is a fun film that lovely mocks Full Moon with great cameos one of which is the legendary Kenneth J Hall of Puppet Master fame etc. I`m not gonna "sugar" coat it, the first one left a bad taste in my mouth, taking itself wayyy to serious. But fear not this is not the case in part 2!

Alucarda Switching gears from silly to serious is this nasty little flick. Sex,satanism and every inch of celluloid drenched in filth, this is a total mind bender of a film. A must.
Trivia: Fans of the band My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult will recognize song samples from "This is what the Devil Does"

The Devil Bat -Bela Lugosi plays a mad scientist in this low budget yet highly intoxicating Poverty Row flick. I know I often use the term so bad its good, but there no other way to describe my love for this film. But i`m not alone Kino has recently put this out on blu ray with commentary so I don't feel alone in my love for this often forgotten Lugosi classic- yes classic.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow-Best known for kicking off the whole "Scarecrow" horror sub genre, this made for tv movie is quiet well done. Cause lets face it, most scarecrow coming to life movies are shit, plain and simple. Dark night however has great actors and a rich story line that propels it further then a standard paint by number body count film.

Meet the Feebles- Muppets on Acid. Peter Jackson`s bizarre odyssey about show biz folks. So funny your sides will hurt. Fans of early Peter Jackson (Dead-Alive,Bad Taste) need to see this film. Way before Av.Q hit Broadway this is the original nasty puppets.

The films of Kenneth Anger- True lovers of underground film must seek out Anger`s films. Surreal beautiful bizarre and disturbing. Wanna see where Marilyn Manson got some of his ideas, look no further. Vol.1 and 2 of his short films are out on dvd.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Master of Horror Himself Mick Garris! Talks getting his start with Lucas,Working with Stephen King and More!!!

Mick Garris, most people know him for his work with Stephen King on such classics as The Stand and The Shining (97) and the creator of the wildly successful series "Masters of Horror"

 But few know that Mick was at the fore front of the new golden age of horror cinema, going behind the scenes for such classics as The Howling,Videodrome The Fog etc. The Master of horror himself has granted Gorehound Mikes an Exclusive interview to talk about his epic career and what horrific things he has in the works.

GM: What films scared you as a child?

MG: Horror films never really scared me as a kid, they filled me with a sense of excitement and joy.Of 
course, the ones they showed on television back then were not really as intense as the stuff you get 
today.It was all broadcast television, there was no uncensored pay-TV. I grew up on the Universal classics and a bunch of the 1950s cheapies that were broadcast on channels 5 and 11 in Los Angeles. But there were moments of fear: the stitched-mouth shrunken head in the FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE comes to mind. But the first really scary movie experience had to be PSYCHO, which we saw as a family in the 1957 Chevy station wagon at a drive-in in the San Fernando Valley when it first came out.

GM: One of your first huge breaks was being a receptionist for STAR WARS CORP. A job a friend had suggested to you. What kind of calls did you take? Any from the stars of the film?

MG:Everything! Everybody! Charlie Lippincott was the genius behind the marketing and publicity for that film, and all the Star Wars stuff that that entailed was handled by that office. I do remember one guy coming in to speak to Charlie, a bit scruffy, jeans, work shirt, stubble, and I asked for his name. “Harrison Ford,” he told me! He was unrecognizable then. Lucas himself came in a few times when he was visiting from his office up north.

GM: While working for STAR WARS COPR. You were trained in marketing. Do you think having a prior background in this field has given you a leg up when it came to you making your own films?

MG:Not really. I don’t think I was ever really good at that part of the business, and it really did not enthrall me. Obviously it gave me some insight, and I try to put it to use whenever I can, but the networks and studios pretty much do what they want in that regard. I think my work as a music and film journalist was much more useful.

GM: Not many people know this but after working as a receptionist for STAR WARS CORP. you got into managing R2-D2. One of your gigs was operating him at the Oscars. Tell me about that night?

MG: Pretty amazing. He was a remote control robot, with a tape recording with his whistles and sounds and the like on a cassette inside the robot. I was in a rented van, taking R2 from my office to the Shrine Auditorium, where the awards were held (maybe it was the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, not sure), and it was too tall to pass under the water pipes at the top of the parking structure. So I ended up just pushing through anyway, gritting my teeth as it scraped underneath, hoping the rental company wouldn’t check the top of the van until too late.At the Oscar rehearsal dinner, I was seated next to Frank Capra, which was an amazing honor. And I was in a tuxedo with my remote control device, right off to the side of the stage during the awards, off-camera. It was a remarkable experience, and one that I will never experience again. Just a kid, really, and thrust into the highest level of the business.

GM:Get any humorous feedback that evening with the other Oscar attendees? 

Everybody was fascinated with the robot at rehearsal and at the awards. While the show was going on, I was in the Green Room with the luminaries of the time—Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton. Olivia Newton-John was wearing something diaphanous and standing in front of a lamp, which make her impressive body completely visible to those who sneaked a peek. Jack Nicholson was staring, quite openly at this vision, and I asked him if he liked what he saw. He never looked away from her, and with his patented leer, replied, “You bet!”

GM: You also were involved in the now infamous STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL, any behind the sense stories you can share?

MG:Not really. It was fun being surrounded by a real production, but it was not like a movie at all. It was very bizarre, but exciting, as I was never on the STAR WARS set, but here we were on a soundstage with a giant tree and treehouse set, surrounded by Wookiees and Mark Hamill and this bizarre collection of 
out-of-place TV stars. It just seemed like a total, out-of-control culture clash. Musical numbers with Bea 
Arthur and the like? Nuts.

GM: A big turning point in your career was working on CHANNEL Z`s cable show you hosted called FANTASY FILM FESTIVLE which you interviewed many notable guests who would later shape your future such as Stephen Spielberg John Landis etc. How did you land that job?

MG: I was writing for the Z Channel magazine, and I suggested the show to the editor of the magazine, Hall Kaufman, who was also the program director for the channel, which was LA’s first pay-TV channel. I told him movies that I wanted and guests I thought I could get, and holy shit, it worked out! I get a grand total of $100 per show, and it first it was on every six weeks, but became more popular, and we started to do new shows every couple of weeks. When Hal was usurped by Jerry Harvey, who had worked under Hal and got him fired, he dropped the show. Tragically, Harvey killed his wife and himself a couple years later.

GM: With your background in marketing you went on to your next phase of your career, that of working for Avco Embassy on such films as THE FOG SCANNERS THE HOWLING ESCAPE FROM NY etc. What was it like working on such exciting genre films at what is now known as the golden age of horror cinema?

MG:Well, it was certainly being in the right place at the right time. Avco-Embassy was putting out movies by Carpenter, Cronenberg, Dante, Coscarelli, all guys who have been good friends ever since. It’s where the explosion of great, creative directors in the horror genre ended up making their movies in the early eighties. The studio was run by a guy named Bob Rehme, who had been with Corman’s New World previously, and he was smart enough to see who the up-and-comers were, and was a big genre fan, as far as the business goes. It was a great time, and I kind of invented the job of genre publicity specialist at that time. There were no others doing that job then.

GM: Another break in your career came writing a few episodes for Amazing Stories. How did that come about?

MG: I was doing a “making of” documentary for THE GOONIES. On the first day of shooting, I was setting up to interview Steven Spielberg, and we were just chatting, small talk. He had been a guest on FANTASY 
FILM FESTIVAL, and we were friendly. He said, “you must do a lot of these things,” (meaning “making ofs”, and I had, including THE FOG and THE HOWLING and GREMLINS”). I was trying to make a go of it as a writer, and told him that I was trying to phase out of publicity and work toward being a writer full time. He said, “Oh, we’re looking for writers now for this series I’m doing called AMAZING STORIES.” My agent had sent him a writing sample, and it got really good coverage. So it was just a matter of great timing. They liked the script they’d read as a sample, and Steven said, “Let’s give Mick a try,” and it was my first real job as a paid screenwriter. My own amazing story.

GM: You and Spielberg came up with “batteries not included” which came from a purposed episode of A.S 

MG: Yes, he had written the script for the series, but liked it and the ideas it offered as a feature. He asked 
me to choose from two AMAZING STORIES ideas he’d had that were going to be developed as features, 
“Gramps and Grammy and Company” (which became *BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED) and “Ghost Kid”, which became GHOST DAD with Bill Cosby. I wrote the first couple of drafts of BATTERIES, and when Matthew Robbins was signed as director, he did rewrites with the wonderful Brad Bird. I was to share story credit with Steven, but he quite generously gave it to me alone, even though the initial idea was his for AMAZING STORIES.

GM: You wrote the story for “Hocus Pocus” in your version the characters were younger and yours was scarier, tell us what some other differences between your story and the final script?

MG: Well, you hit upon the two main differences. Those issues ran throughout. That’s not to say that they were wrong and I was right. The studio made the choice, and the movie has become a perennial, hasn’t 
it? So maybe someone knew better than I did. 

GM: I heard you were not happy with the final results, why?

MG: I’ve become more sanguine with it over the years. It became much more of a broad comedy than I had intended. It always had humor, but I wanted it be be scary, too. Also, I think Halloween has much more of an impact on a 12-year-old than a 16-year old. You’re really in a state of change at 12 that seems 
more momentous, and these situations have more potency then. But that said, older teens were the target audience, and the studio felt that teenagers would not go see a movie about 12-year-olds. So in strictly commercial terms, they were probably right. When people tell me they love the movie, I have learned to just say “thank you”.

GM:Let’s talk about a favorite of mine Psycho IV:The Beginning Were you hired first or was screen writer Joseph Stefano?

Oh, Joe was first. He had written the script for Hitchcock’s original PSYCHO. I did a little bit of tweaking, but it was really Joe’s script.

GM: Did Mr.Stefano also act as sort of technical advisor as well?

MG: We shot the film in Orlando, Florida, at the same time that Joe was producing the SWAMP THING TV show there. So Joe was certainly a fount of knowledge. But remember, we had Anthony Perkins there most days. He was the greatest source of information possible. And our Executive Producer, the  wonderful Hilton Green, was Hitch’s first assistant director on the original.

GM: An important role was that of young Norman Bates. Like Oliva did you always have Henry Thomas in mind or were other actors auditioned and if so what notables tried out for the role?

MG: We did interview other actors, but loved the idea of Henry Thomas. Enough to take the trip to see him in San Antonio, Texas, where he lived at the time. Once we met him, there was no other choice. We all just thought he was perfect for the part.

GM:You stated that Tony Perkins was the most difficult actor you ever worked with; can you give me one story that pretty much sums up what he was like to work with?

MG: First, I have to say that nobody knew Norman Bates better than Tony did. Here I was, a new young director whose previous film was CRITTERS 2. He had worked with Hitchcock, Orson Welles, a ton of great Hollywood directors, and had directed the previous PSYCHO film, which had not been successful. He wanted to direct IV, but the studio wouldn’t let him. So I don’t blame him for his wariness. But it was just his character, his personality that was difficult. He liked to worry over words used, go over things repeatedly while the crew would be standing around waiting to work. He was brilliant but eccentric. It was a great experience, and a great education, but it wasn’t easy. Even though we had discussed every page of the script, it would be a daily occurrence to go over things over and over and over, in front of the crew, and put a big strain on a film with a very short schedule and tight budget.

Did you use any original props/set dressings from Psycho 1960?

We did. Almost everything in Norma Bates’s bedroom was from the original film, and was shipped from Hollywood to Orlando. The bed alone was insured for $100,000. Even the candy corn bags were made from the same printing plate as the originals were.

GM: I`m sure your fans are curious, have you seen Bates Motel series and if so what do you think of it?

MG: I enjoy it, but it took a while for me to get used to their reinvention of the Bates family history. It’s something completely new, and not really a part of the Hitchcock/Bloch/Stefano/Perkins family tree. If you see it as something completely new, it’s easier to enjoy it. But it took some time to get that much distance from it.

GM:Would you direct an episode if asked?

MG: If I were asked. But I was told that they are intentionally NOT using anyone who was involved in any of the PSYCHO movies.

GM: It was on Sleepwalkers that you first worked with Stephen King whom you would go on to work with a lot. Tell us about how you got the job and your first impressions of Mr.King?

MG: Well, the studio met with me and liked me, then hired another director! But that director started to take the film far away from what King had planned, so they came back to me, and asked me to take the script back to where King had left it, and to help address some notes that the studio had. I didn’t really meet with King until the day he shot his cameo. We would talk on the phone and he would fax me pages of ideas we discussed. We had a great phone friendship, and when we finally did meet on the set, it was the same day I had broken a tooth at breakfast, and had to rush off to get an emergency crown. Sheesh! But we discovered we had a lot in common, and had lots of fun when I screened it for him and Tabby at a room in New York. He’s a great, funny, generous guy, but we really became close friends on THE STAND afterward, which came about because he liked what we did together on SLEEPWALKERS.

Was working with the cats on Sleepwalkers a challenge? I`m assuming there was some sort of animal trainer on set. 

MG:Yes, a challenge, but the trainers were great. We never really lost any shooting time, because the cats were so great! There were 126 cats in the movie, and 9 cats just to play the various moods of Clovis. It turns out that we didn’t use the other 8, because one of them was so great, he could do it all. They were great.

GM:Was Stephen King on the set a lot for Sleepwalkers?

MG:He was on the set for a total of 2 hours while we shot his cameo with Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper.

GM:Like your previous miniseries “The Stand” “The Shining” was on done on a epic scale to match the brilliance of the source material. What was the most technically challenging aspect of that shoot? 

MG:THE SHINING was the smoothest, least problematic shoot I’ve ever had. The challenges were creative and emotional. Because there are so few characters and locations, it was about creating the building tension and isolation and its effect on the characters, particularly Jack Torrance. Snow was a technical challenge, because the Stanley Hotel was built in a “snow shadow”, where little snow falls. We shot in a disappointingly snow-free zone, but we had one really great dump, which allowed me to reshoot the scene with Danny and the topiary animals in its entirety.

GM:I applaud you for the bold casting of Steve Weber as Jack. Did Weber have fears of being in the very large shadow that Nicholson role cast?

MG:We had a TERRIBLE time casting Jack Torrance. I was na├»ve at first, and asked Gary Sinise if he wouldbe interested, and he said to me, “I’m not so sure I’d want to step into Jack Nicholson’s shoes.” I just assumed any good actor would want a great role, and that we were going back to the book. But no, everybody was gun shy about it. We met with a couple of British actors who said yes, including Colin Firth, but they fell out at the last minute. LITERALLY the last minute. Three days before shooting was to begin, when King was ready to cancel the production, we all met with Weber, who read with Rebecca DeMornay, and we were all blown away. He’s a very bold and brilliant actor, and he made the character entirely his own. He’s the greatest.

GM: When you work with Stephen on an adaption of one of his films, how hands on is he creatively? 

MG:It depends. He never tells me how something should be shot, but he always has incredible helpful and valuable input. He was around for about half of the shoot of THE STAND, and about ¾ of THE SHINING shoot, but not at all on DESPERATION or RIDING THE BULLET or BAG OF BONES.

GM: Let’s talk the wildly successful “Masters of Horror” Is it true this idea sprang from informal dinners you would have with the main ten “masters of horror”? 

MG: Yes. We still have the dinners. There were 30 horror directors at the last one about a month ago.

GM: Can I ask if any directors were offered and declined? I`d always wondered what Frank Henenlotter would have done or Roger Corman (bringing him out of retirement director wise)

MG: Roger was scheduled to do one, but he backed out, deciding he didn’t want to be out in a rainy Vancouver graveyard at 3 a.m. at the age of 80. George A. Romero was supposed to do one, but we could never get the schedule to work. We tried to get Kathryn Bigelow, but she was having health issues. We got most of the people we went for.

GM: What was your reaction to “Imprint” being banned shortly after it airing?

MG: Kind of surprised, but not shocked. It actually made it sell more on DVD! I was there in Japan when it was being made, and I was fascinated by the process. You should have seen the first cut, which was 8 minutes longer, all of it in the torture scenes!

GM: Did Stephen King ever say which his favorites were? Was King ever asked to director one himself?

MG: I asked him, but he’s not interested in directing anymore. I still keep trying to talk him into it.

GM: Are you able to say why Season three of Masters never happened?

 MG: The show was sold to Lionsgate, and it became FEAR ITSELF.

GM: Since FEAR ITSELF was on NBC did you feel restricted because of being on a more family friendly network?

MG: Yes. I knew we couldn’t offer the filmmakers the creative freedom that was the whole point of their doing MASTERS OF HORROR. And it came true. The studio and the network all had input, and there were commercials and censorship that all had a negative impact on the show. I left the show before they began shooting them.

GM: Are you currently developing any other television projects?

MG:Yes. Going to direct an episode of a TV series called WITCHES OF EAST END this summer, and creating a series for a famous actress now, writing the pilot and outlining the first series. We’ll see what happens with that one, but for now it’s a secret.

GM: What projects are you currently working on?

MG:Doing more fiction, creating two TV series, and, most high profile, I am Executive Producer on UNBROKEN, a huge movie about Lou Zamperini, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book with a script by the Coen Brothers. Angelina Jolie is the director, and it’s coming out on Christmas Day from Universal.

GM:Finally what piece of advice would you have to aspiring film makers that may be reading this?

MG:You have more opportunities than I did. You can make professional quality films with home equipment. But the main thing, as far as I’m concerned, is writing. Hone your storytelling skills. And use the best people you can find for your cast and crew. If you can find a better cameraman than you are, use him.Don’t use your friends as actors unless they are the best ones for the part. Your work is being compared to professional feature films, not to other amateur work. You can’t run a disclaimer in the titles on how the film would have been better if you had more time or money. Make your film to fit the means you  have to tell it.

A Huge thanks goes out to Mr.Garris for his wonderful candor. He truly is a wonderful guy and a class act. Hope you enjoyed the interview and stay tuned for more great reviews interviews etc. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Around The World in Widescreen: By William O Donnell

Around The World in Widescreen
My good friend Gorehound Mike seems to have a lock on coverage and reviews of the US/Asutralian/English speaking countries’ wild, weird, and wonderfully wacky films, so he asked me to do a column for him about the  world-wide weird and wonderfully wacky cinema masterpieces
“For Your Height Only/Challenger of the Tiger”
Mondo Macabro. those renowned purveyors of cinematic strangeness, strike again with this double feature—
Sorry, had to get that out there right away.  Weng Weng is, of course, the star of For Your Height Only.  A Flipino/US co-production that shamelessly rips off a James Bond movie title (from the same release year!) to tell the story of a diminutive secret agent (Agent 00) and his attempt to save the world from the megalomaniacal Mr. Giant and his gang of ruthless thugs from blowing up the Earth… or something.  Of course, he has an array of trial-size gadgets (X-ray specs!  The tiniest sniper rifle ever!  A jetpack!) to aid him in his mission, which seems to consist of dick-punching every villain he comes across and seducing a woman or two, even managing to win over a woman who describes him as “cute, like a little potato.”  Love finds a way, of course, because how can the ladies resist a line like “Well, shall we get it on?”  Action sequences, and chases of some sort or another abound, and Agent 00 even has time to cut loose on the damcefoor at a disco.   It doesn’t matter that Weng Weng gets the drop on all the henchmen he encounters (after all, the dick-punch is the great equalizer), or that the wires on the jetpack can be easily visible, or that the theme is just different enough from the James Bond theme that this film’s makers don’t get sued.   What does matter, is that this is pure, unabashed, escapist fun from start to finish. 

It’s a pity Weng Weng wasn’t present in the next movie to dick-punch the bad guys into submision.  “Challenge of the Tiger” begins with scientists who have just invented a serum to sterilize every man in the world.  Bypassing the obvious question (“Why?”), these scientists fret and wring their hands over the possibility of their invention “falling into the wrong hands.”  From there, we cut to the leads:  Bruce Le, who also choreographed the martial arts/co-wrote/directed (and went for coffee, too, for all I know), and also looks for all the world like an Asian Joey Ramone, and Richard Harrison, who resembles Timothy Dalton with lighter hair.  The division of labor becomes clear pretty quickly, with Bruce Le’s character establishing himself as the ass-kicking part of the duo, and Richard Harrison’s character is the “smooth talking” ladies’ man.  This movie is at its best when it keeps to Le’s chop-socky action sequences.  Scenes in which Harrison does the fighting are sadly lackluster.  The henchmen are the sorriest looking bunch.  The skeevy thugs of “For Your Height Only” are more convincing.  If this were more quirky, or better yet, if Weng Weng were present, or even better, both, this movie would be much more entertaining.  As it is, you might want to fast forward through this to find out whether Le and Harrison succeed in preventing the world from shooting blanks.