If you are a fan of Claudia Jennings, you will undoubtedly enjoy this well-researched, fascinating portrait by Eric Karell. I first spoke to Mr. Karell almost two years ago and immediately perceived his remarkable passion for horror and cult movies. His knowledge of Claudia Jennings and her place in the cinematic universe is unrivaled.
-Roger Corman, from his forward for Claudia Jennings, An Authorized Biography.
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The History of British Horror Cinema God Save the Queen!
I don't what it is about Great Britain, but for a relatively small country, they have produced a lion's share of authors, philosophers, poets and of most importance to us, a vibrant and intelligent cinema.
It did take some amount of time before Great Britain found its footing in horror and fantastic film. The film that changed British cinema for good was 1945s Dead of Night. This innovative movie might possibly be the first horror anthology and featured incredible photography and a circular ending. Startling images mixed with dream logic and true terror makes this a classic and an enduring tribute to Britain's film industry.
Though the silent era boasted many now-lost versions of blood and thunder warhorses like Maria Marten, Sweeney Todd and The Face at the Window, early British cinema did not embrace the macabre with the enthusiasm of Hollywood or Berlin, despite the fact that British authors like Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson were already much-adapted. When sound came and the horror film emerged as a distinct genre, transplanted directors like James Whale and actors like Boris Karloff, Lionel Atwill and Claude Rains ensured that even in America horror had a British accent.
Karloff was summoned home for The Ghoul (1933) and The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936), while his Hungarian rival Bela Lugosi was lured to these shores for The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (1935) - an early Hammer film - and Dark Eyes of London (1939). These are British attempts to imitate an American genre formed by European creatives, but more distinctively homegrown was a run of brisk, lurid, endearing shockers starring veteran barnstormer Tod Slaughter, from definitive films of Maria Marten (1935), Sweeney Todd (1936) and The Face at the Window (1939) to wilder efforts like Crimes at the Dark House (1940) and the Burke-and-Hare derived The Greed of William Hart (1948).
The genre truly flowered in Britain thanks to the tiny independent, Hammer Films, who essayed some overlooked post-Dead of Night efforts like Room to Let (1949) among varied B product, then had a science fiction success with Val Guest's TV-derived mutating-astronaut picture The Quatermass Xperiment (1956). The studio produced sequels (Quatermass 2, 1958) and spin-offs (X the Unknown, 1958), but also switched styles for Terence Fisher's The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), a lush colour gothic with Peter Cushing' s brisk Baron whipping up Christopher Lee's wounded animal creature. The team reunited for remakes of Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula, 1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) and The Mummy (1959). More remakes and variations, plus the inevitable sequels, followed, with Fisher sharing chores with the interesting likes of John Gilling (The Plague of the Zombies, 1964, The Reptile, 1964), Don Sharp (Kiss of the Vampire, 1964) and Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, 1964, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, 1967). Fisher remained with the cycle for such superior efforts as Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1967) and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). The Devil Rides Out continues to appear on many critic's top 10 horror films of all time lists.
Michael Powell's 1960 Peeping Tom, often compared to Psycho, is one of Britain's most controversial films. Critics hated it despite the fact Peeping Tom was a technical marvel. Perhaps they didn't appreciate Powell's not so subtle digs at movie criticism, the vicarious experience film has for many and cinema itself. Despite the fact Powell was a well-respected, successful and recognized director, Peeping Tom crushed his career.
In 1966 a rare adaptation of a television to film was seen in Dr. Who and the Daleks. Peter Cushing who at this point was Britain's penultimate figure of horror, starred as the Time Lord, and even the Tardis made an appearance. Unfortunately, the film couldn't capture the wonder and crispness of the TV show and it was not received well.
The Wicker Man is a 1973 British folk horror film directed by Robin Hardy and starring Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Christopher Lee. The screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, inspired by David Pinner's 1967 novel Ritual, centres on the visit of Police Sergeant Neil Howie to the isolated island of Summerisle, in search of a missing girl. Howie, a devout Christian, is appalled to find that the inhabitants of the island have abandoned Christianity and now practise a form of Celtic paganism. The cemented Lee's reputation as Cushing's equal in the pantheon of British horror.
The movie contains themes that run throughout British filmography. The notion of paganism versus Christianity, the occult as opposed to the rational and science in opposition to traditional beliefs are found throughout British film.
The late 1960s and early '70s saw the arrval of a youthful wave of new directors, most notably the short-lived Michael Reeves (The Sorcerers, 1967, Matthew Hopkins - Witchfinder General, 1968) but also Michael Armstrong (Haunted House of Horror, 1968), Gordon Hessler (Scream and Scream Again, 1969), Piers Haggard (Blood on Satan's Claw, 1971), Peter Sykes (Demons of the Mind, 1972), Brian Clemens (Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, 1973) and Robin Hardy (The Wicker Man, 1973). Though these creatives, often working with screenwriter Chris Wicking, shook up the creaky Hammer/Amicus formula, they tended to be passing through horror rather than intent on sticking with the genre. Nevertheless, these modish films - influenced by pop art, Hollywood action and European art cinema - are a distinctive bunch; the footprint of this style of cool chill can even be seen in the likes of Joseph Losey's Secret Ceremony (1968), Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966) and Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance (1970).
Hammer brought more sex into the mix with Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers (1970), with Ingrid Pitt as an often-naked bisexual vampire pawing topless nymphets, and this led, a few sequels down the line, to tamely disreputable efforts like Virgin Witch (1972). The crossover of horror and sexploitation also yielded Pete Walker, whose nasty psycho-thrillers (House of Whipcord, Frightmare, both 1974) often have distinctive ideas and bizarrely committed performances. Hammer showed a level of entertaining desperation with the likes of Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Modern British horror has embraced the anxiety of our century without ignoring classic themes. Writer Clive Barker introduced the Hellraiser series and Rawhead Rex, a fine film bringing together the pastoral English countryside with horrors from the past. 28 Days...Later , Kill List, The Descent, Lady in Black and the brilliant Shaun of the Dead show Britain can compete with any nation as variety and quality goes.
Night of the Demon
1957- Directed by Jacques Tourneur Starring Dana Andrews,Peggy Cummings, Niall MacGuinnis
One of the Best Horror Films of All Time
First of all, don't take my word for it. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a100%. Time Out conducted a poll with horror writers, directors, actors and critics to vote for their top 100 films. Night of the Demon came in at #52. Martin Scorsese rated it as one of the scariest movies of all time.
Tourneur was a genius of mastering light and shadow in his films, such as Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and the non-horror Out of the Past. One of his many talents was capturing menace and terror in familiar environments. Night of the Demon encompassed all of these techniques along with a truly solid cast and a brilliant screenplay pitting rational thought and science versus the occult.
Dr. John Holden (Andrews) arrives in England from America to attend a conference on parapsychology. The man he was supposed to met with was found dead, supposedly due to an automobile accident involving power lines. Very untidy.
The dear departed doctor's niece (Cummings) gives Holden her uncle's diary which implies a mysterious Dr. Karswell (MacGuinnis) is a Satanist and a murderer. Even while evidence of supernatural interference piles up, Holden is unconvinced and believes everything is just superstition and coincidence.
When Holden visits Karswell (who is entertaining as a clown at a children's party) to ask him questions about the recent killings. Karswell says he will show him an example of his power. He summons a spell and a minute later, a violent windstorm drives the party inside. Holden is still unconvinced and mocks Karswell who then tells the doctor he has three days to live.
The movie has remarkable set-pieces featuring a seance, a scene where Andrews is stalked by a black panther which changes mysteriously into a house cat, and a marvellous terror inducing sequence where Dr. Holden is chased through a dark, brooding woods by a ball of mist and fire.
The notion that no one is safe from the power of evil, whether in a home, a shop or in a train station permeates the film and Tourneur captures each nuance perfectly.
I won't give away any spoilers, but will mention Tourneur and the writers had severe disagreements with the producer over showing the titular demon or not, on-screen. I'll let you guess who won. To me the film is a compact, cinematic achievement, one of the best of British horror from any era.
Noted film critic and author David Thomson contrived one of the most bizarre uses of Claudia’s name. Mr. Thomson is widely r
A Not So Funny April Fools Joke
While researching my biography of Claudia Jennings, I came upon an article that popped up on my google search titled "The Best Movies You've Never Seen". Claudia's name was attached to one of the films. so I read on. I then discovered after a moderate amount of research, the so-called movie was a fraud.
Noted film historian and lauded author David Thomson contrived one of the most bizarre uses of Claudia’s name. Mr. Thomson is widely recognized as one our most accomplished authors and experts in film study, making his adventure even stranger.
In 1991, he created a fictional director, Perkins Cobb, who made a non-existent film called My Sweet Dread, as an April Fool’s joke. Mr. Thomson’s scheme was to poke fun at over-serious film critics and movie buffs. The joke certainly succeeded, as it had many knowledgeable and respected members of the film community following blind leads in an effort to track down the missing film. I among them. The piece is imaginative, skillfully written and shows Mr. Thomson is a fine writer and film historian.
There was just one very large problem. The cast he chose for the film—Warren Oates, Jean Seberg and Claudia—all died under very unpleasant circumstances. All died very young, giving the faux-film a dimension of tragedy and morbidity that perhaps Mr. Thomson did not intend.
Warren Oates died of a sudden heart attack at 53, leaving behind a family and a group of ex-wives. Oates, although not as recognized as some of his contemporaries, was a tremendous actor capable of any type of role. The film community mourned him as one of the best .
Jean Seberg, who became the face of new wave cinema in Jean -Luc Godard's Breathless, was found in the back seat of a car, her body badly decomposed, with a bottle of pills, a suicide note and an empty bottle of mineral water. Her case, originally ruled a suicide, was later investigated in further detail. It is now officially an unsolved murder. After living a somewhat tormented life, which included being the subject of U.S. government harassment, this beautiful and gifted actress was only 40 years old and left behind two young children. I was glad when a biopic was released telling her story, but I felt it glossed over the controversy surrounding her death.
Of course, we know what Claudia’s fate was, killed in the prime of life in an automobile accident.
Still the article would not have been so offensive had Mr. Thomson not written this about the non-existent film:
“Thus [My Sweet Dread’s] legend grew more lurid, fed by extant tales of fights, fucks, spur-of-the-moment improvs and relentless off-camera melodrama on its Mexican locations.”
In Mr. Thomson’s defense, we must consider his intent. It is inconceivable that he meant any harm to the reputations or memories of these actors. Perhaps he thought enough time had passed since their deaths. Still, he did show questionable judgment in his choices for the cast and the language describing their adventures on the set. Choosing Claudia to be his trope was insensitive, to say the least, especially in light of what others had implied about her private life.
I corresponded with Mr. Thomson about his article and he first assured me it was indeed a hoax but was not meant maliciously. He indicated it was an inside joke within the film community. When asked about the cast and the somewhat salacious comments, Mr. Thomson avoided the question.
The whole somewhat sordid mess just reinforced my belief that a more balanced look at Claudia's life and career was needed.
The Renaissance of Horror on Streaming and the Small Screen
When does a fad become a fashion? Horror has been churning up momentum for quite a while. Movies which big time studios and, smaller producers such as Lionsgate and Blumhouse not to mention indie films, horror has been raking in receipts at the box office. But TV had been lagging behind because of censorship issues, except on cable. Some shows such as Tales From the Darkside kept non-cable subscribers tuned in but the sea change came with The Walking Dead. This gory, scary and pretty exploitation laden program benefited from great SFX , excellent acting and for many years, great stories.
The next generation of TV terror came by way of American Horror Story, an uneven but welcome addition to the genre.
However, the dawn of streaming services brought horror into our living rooms and PCs. An entire service, Shudder, is horror based and offers a array of films not generally available, except for those who wished to purchase the DVDs. Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix also offer high quality transfers of older films , many of them in HD.
But I want to focus on two examples to show that the genre has staying power and has broadened its audience.
What We Do in the Shadows went from a cult classic to a TV series, now in its second season. Plans for a third season have just been announced. The program attracts a variety of viewers, fans of the original movie of course, but many people who have never seen the film are flocking to series. Men and women embrace the show as the characters, though monsters, are quite flawed and in many ways, lovable.
The other phenomenon is on Shudder, The Last Drive-In, hosted by Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl. Joe Bob (born John Irving Bloom) has done just about everything. A noted author, newspaper columnist, movie critic, actor and host of now his third television show. His character is an unrepentant Texas redneck. He guzzles Lone Star beer while explaining audiences about background information on the films The Last Drive-In are showing. He has worked many now famous shticks into his routine as the "Drive-In Totals" and the tendency to say "now back to the movie" then speak for a few more minutes.
His observations are on point, his sense of humor flawless. It's also obvious Joe Bob has a love of the genre and the people who produce, direct and act in it. His guests have included Barbara Crampton, Lloyd Kaufman, Tom Savini and many others.
Darcy the Mailgirl complements Joe Bob with her imaginative cosplay outfits, all handmade. She is also a serious fan of the genre in addition to professional wrestling, video games and comic books. As witty as she is attractive, Darcy and Joe Bob have a wonderful rapport on camera. As a team, they enhance the experience of movie watching not detract from it.
The show's popularity is reflected by the fact Shudder's live streaming server has crashed on occasion because of the sheer volume of users tuning in.
Let us hope that the trend in cult, horror and the weird continue in all media. Recently, Creepshow has appeared as a new episodic TV show and shows great promise. In the meantime, I'll be a faithful viewer of What We Do in the Shadows and The Last Drive-In.
The BEST SCREEN ADAPTATIONS OF
THE NOVELLAS AND WORKS BY hOWARD pHILLIPS lOVECRAFT HAVE ALWAYS PROVIDED FERTILE GROUND FOR FILM ADAPTATIONS. iT MAY COME AS A SURPRISE THAT QUITE A FEW ATTEMPTS WERE MADE IN THE 1960'S BUT BECAUSE OF LOW-BUDGETS AND LIMITED sfx CAPABILITIES THE FILMS, THOUGH WELL MADE DID NOT PROVIDE A FULL COSMIC HORROR PUNCH.
mANY FILM VERSIONS OF LOVECRAFT'S WORKS TOOK GREAT LIBERTIES WITH HIS ORIGINAL STORIES. tHE WRITER'S GREAT THEMES WERE COSMIC HORROR, MANKIND'S INABILITY TO COPE WITH HIS RELATIVELY WORTHLESS PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE, MISCEGENATION AND DREAD OF THE UNKNOWN.MOST MODERN TREATMENTS OF HIS STORIES HAVE INCORPORATED EXTREME BODY HORROR AND GORE TO PROPEL THE NARRATIVES, MUCH TO THE DELIGHT OF TODAY'S AUDIENCES.
i DON'T FEEL A 100% FAITHFUL ADAPTATION OF ONE OF LOVECRAFT's stories is necessary, as long as the film is well produced such as director stuart gordon's long list of horror hits.
with said, here are my personal favorites, in no particular order
1. The Resurrected-1991
2. The Whisperer in the darkness-2011
3. From Beyond-1986
4. In the Mouth of madness-1994
5.Necronomicon- Book of the Dead-1993
8.The haunted palace-1963
9. the curse-1987
10. The Dunwich horror-1970
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
Directed by Russ Meyer
Written by Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert
Starring- Dolly Reid, Cynthia Myers, John Lazar, Edy Williams, Erica Gavin, Phyllis Davis
It would not be an exaggeration to call Beyond the Valley of the Dolls one of the strangest movies ever produced. Looking to cash in on Jacqueline Susann’s deliciously trashy novel (and subsequent trashy big studio film) the movie is by turns funny, amateurish, gross, distasteful, misogynistic, exploitative and brilliant.
There are so many back-stories and interesting behind the camera plot-lines that Meyers himself would be hard pressed to invent similar tales. Distinguished film critic Roger Ebert helped write the screenplay (in addition to two other films by Meyer), surprising because, while Ebert would praise an occasional exploitation film (The Last House on the Left) he generally held a dim view of horror and slasher cinema.
Ms. Susanne was not pleased with the appropriation of her novel’s title and sued 20th Century Fox for damaging her reputation. The case wasn’t settled until well after the author’s death, and resulted in a $2million judgment against the studio.
Originally intended as a sequel to Valley of the Dolls, Suzann was asked by 20th Century Fox to write a screenplay but declined. Meyer and novice screenwriter Roger Ebert then put together a script in six weeks. The pair wanted movie that would be a farcical look at Hollywood , genres, situations, dialogue, characters, and success formulas, heavily overlaid with such shocking violence that some critics and audiences didn't know whether the movie 'knew' it was a comedy”. Meyer’s intention was for the film to "simultaneously be a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick, and a morality tale ( the movie debuting soon after the Sharon Tate murders) of what the opening called 'the oft-times nightmarish world of Show Business".
The plot is more or less a classic tale of the innocent girl going to the big city, where, corruption, depravity and death await. In this particular case, we have three damsels, Kelly (Dolly Reid), Casey (Cynthia Myers) and Petronella (Marcia McBroom). Reid and Myers were Playboy centerfolds, with Myers having the distinction of the first Playmate born in the 1950s. Her original photos were taken when she was only 17, so Playboy had to wait until Myers was 18 to publish the pictorial. Reid would later marry famed American comedian Dick Martin (star of the hit comedy show Laugh-In) divorce and remarry him.
The three ladies perform in a rock band, The Kelly Affair, managed by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), Kelly's boyfriend. The four travel to Los Angeles to find Kelly's estranged aunt, Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis), heiress to a family fortune.
Susan welcomes Kelly and her friends, promising a portion of her inheritance to her niece, but Susan's sleazy financial advisor Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod) discredits them as dirty hippies “who probably smoke grass” in an attempt to embezzle her fortune himself. Undeterred, Susan introduces The Kelly Affair to a bizarre, well-connected rock producer, Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (LaZar), who coaxes them into an impromptu performance at one of his outrageous parties, after a set by real-life band The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Kelly’s band is so well-received that Z-Man becomes their Svengali-style manager, changing their name to The Carrie Nations and starting a long-feud with Harris.
Z-man is an odd character in a movie full of odd characters. His speech is a strange mixture of faux-Shakespearean blank verse, mixed with hip 60s lingo. He also has a Nazi-admiring man servant (a theme in some of Meyer’s films) who Z-man reminds to “turn off the ovens” as the man servant leaves for the evening.
Kelly drifts away from Harris and takes up with Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett) a gigolo who wants Kelly’s inheritance for himself. Harris at first fends off the advances of porn star Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams, one-time Meyer’s wife) but after losing Kelly, he allows Ashley to seduce him. Ashley soon tires of his conventional nature and inability to perform sexually due to increasing drug and alcohol intake. Harris descends further into heavy drug and alcohol use, leading to a fistfight with Lance and a drug-fueled one night snuggle with Casey which results in her being knocked up. Kelly ends her affair with Lance after he severely beats Harris. Casey, distraught at getting pregnant then has a lesbian affair with clothes designer Roxanne (Erica Gavin), who pressures her to have an abortion. Are you still with me?
Meanwhile, Petronella has a seemingly enchanted romance with law student Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page). After a romance style novel meeting at Z-Man's party, they are shown running slow-motion through golden fields and frolicking in a haystack. Their fairy-tale love affair frays when Pet sleeps with Randy Black (James Inglehart), a violent prize fighter, supposedly based on Mohammed Ali, who beats up Emerson and tries to run him down with a car.
His self-destructive behavior finally catches up to him and Harris does a swan dive off the rafters in a TV studio where the Carrie Nations are performing. Some say it was a cry for help but I just saw it as a means of getting attention. Anyway, Harris survives but is a paraplegic as a result of his injuries. Kelly devotes her life to his recovery, pretty much giving Harris what he wanted all along.
Emerson eventually forgives Petronella for her dalliance with the pugilist. Casey and Roxanne have a steamy, intimate romance, but their happy Sapphic love fest ends when Z-Man invites Casey, Roxanne, and Lance to a psychedelic-fueled party at his house. After Z-Man tries to seduce Lance, who spurns him, he reveals that he has female breasts, meaning he is really a Z-Woman. Z-Man then goes on a murderous rampage: he beheads Lance with a sword, stabs his servant Otto (Henry Rowland) to death, and shoots Roxanne and Casey, killing them.
Harris, Kelly and Petronella arrive at the house and see the carnage, then dispatch Z-Woman. A happy result is that Harris can now move his feet, meaning he is on the way to recovery. Could happen.
A prologue shows everyone has a happy ending except Porter.
Looking at the film as a whole it is a curious work. Billing itself as a satire, the actors appear to have taken a different approach resulting in a convoluted narrative. Some script changes made at the last minute made the narrative incongruous if not unnecessary, such as Z-Man’s exposure (no pun intended) as a woman.
The film also has an uneven cinematic style. Some scenes are shot with great care and atmosphere, such as when Z-Man sticks a gun down Roxanne’s gullet, who fellates the weapon in her sleep, before her brains are blown out. Then again, some of the interior scenes appear like cheapo TV shows in their quality and camera work.
Looking back at the film in 1980 Roger Ebert said to Film Comment
“I think of it as an essay on our generic expectations. It's an anthology of stock situations, characters, dialogue, clichés and stereotypes, set to music and manipulated to work as exposition and satire at the same time; it's cause and effect, a wind-up machine to generate emotions, pure movie without message.”
In the ironic world of Hollywood the movie was a tremendous financial success. Not only that, the distinguished newspaper, The Village Voice named it one of the top 100 films of all time. The work deserves its place in cult film lore, although I find a host of similar films more worthy.
So, if you enjoy your sleazy cinema with lots of gratuitous violence, naked female anatomy and over the top misogyny (all hallmarks of Meyer’s film catalogue) heaven awaits.
However, if you’re the type of film watcher who needs intentional humor to ameliorate the brutality, Hitlerian fetishes, and violence which seemed to make light of the Sharon Tate murders, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, might not be your cup of herbal tea.
Interview with Fred Olen Ray
If you are not familiar with Fred Olen Ray then your cinematic education is in need of a good lesson.
Fred is one of the last great auteurs in cinema today, having come full circle from making cheapie horror flics to making Christmas movies for network television.
I had the great honor and pleasure to interview him last Fall. I originally wanted to interview him for my biography of Claudia Jennings, since he was close with one of her former boyfriends, Gary Graver. That meeting never happened due to his busy schedule, but I later caught up with him.
Mr. Ray has made every type of genre film and worked with a startling number of awesome actors from Barbara Steele, Cameron Mitchell, Martine Bestwick, Dick Miller, Jeffrey Combs, Sid Haig, Martin Landau, Robert Quarry, Paul Naschy, Lee Van Cleef, David Carradine, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Gunnar Hansen and scores of others.
Among his achievements are Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, The Tomb, Evil Toons, Deep Space, Armed Response and Attack of the 60-foot Centerfold.
These days Mr. Ray concentrates his efforts on Christmas holiday films such as the popular One Fine Christmas, A Baking Christmas, A Wedding for Christmas and A Christmas in Vermont.
A kind and gracious gentleman, it was an honor and pleasure to interview him.
Eric: Thank you again for agreeing to the interview, Mr. Ray. I suppose my first question is the one I would have asked when I writing Claudia’s biography. How did you meet Gary Graver?
FOR: I met Gary when we were working on Commando Squad. And Gary was so easy to work with. If I wanted a shot with a certain amount of sunlight or a particular angle, he would instinctively deliver it. And if the sun was going down or something else was happening Gary would always deliver the shot. I watched the documentary on Orson Welles’ last film the other week and you know he did almost all the cinematography for it.
Eric: Gary was multitalented, wasn’t he?
FOR: Yes, he was an actor, a director, obviously a fine cinematographer, but he was also a great writer. And there’s no way to know how many films and projects he was involved with because he used different names and was sometimes uncredited. He was one of the most generous people I’ve ever met in Hollywood. And he and Orson were long time associates and friends. Gary did everything for Welles from go-fer, to cinematographer.
Eric: Weren’t you and he going to make a film with Oja Kodar?
ROR: Yes, and I was very excited to be a part of the project. Oja was Orson’s mistress and when he passed away, she wanted Gary to shoot the film. It was called Jaded and was going to feature footage from Orson’s unfinished movie of The Merchant of Venice. Somewhere, somehow the film disappeared which was a shame. I believe Gary also shot some scenes with her in Croatia as part of another film. I am also a distant relative of Orson’s. But Gary did a lot of second unit work for films such as The Howling, Enter the Dragon and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Eric: Did you ever get a chance to meet Claudia Jennings?
FOR: No, she died about three years before I moved to L.A. But Gary was a player. Besides Claudia, he dated Erica Gavin, Barbara Luna and then dated Jillian Kestner. Sad to say he didn’t marry Jillian until the day before he died. And she tragically died almost a year to the day after Gary passed away. It was stunning to all of us. They were such a sweet couple. All of our families were close,
Eric: Can you tell me about your influences growing that made you want to be a director?
FOR: Well I grew up in the era of the monster renaissance, with the Munsters, Famous Monsters of Filmland and those movies by Roger Corman and others. When I was a kid you were either into surfing, hot rods or monsters. I was into monsters. And kids were into making their own movies because of the availability of the 8mm cameras. So, I got one, around 1967 and started making my own movies. I never wanted to make short movies. I always wanted to make features. Because I wanted to make money, there’s no money in shorts. I did one a few years ago and it won a shitload of awards. But I lost every dollar I put into it.
Eric: Please tell me about the first movie I saw of yours, Scalps. I felt it had the quality look of more ballyhooed films like The Hills Have Eyes.
FOR: Well we had no budget for that film. The budget was $15,000 and we came in under. One note on Scalps, it never appeared anywhere in the world in its entirety uncut, except for the original US theatrical release.
Eric: Which actors do you remember the most?
FOR: Well a lot of it depended on the budget we had. The bigger the picture the bigger names we could attract. Actors like Lee Van Cleef, Martin Landau, Shelley Long, Dennis Weaver, Telly Savalas, Cliff Robertson and so on. For a film fan like me it was heaven. In fact, I used to try and drive as many of them to the set each day just to have that one-on-one time. People like Barbara Steele, Van Cleef and John Carradine. Because there’s no time once you get to the set. It’s a 12-hour day and all business. But in the drive over I could ask them about their life and careers and get to know them a bit.
Eric: Michelle Bauer seems to have been your muse, appearing in a number of features. When did you meet her?
FOR: It was on the set of The Tomb. She was very talented and very beautiful. She also had a great sense of humor. She appeared in that film and then a few others I directed and we gradually became friends. I still see her a couple times a month out here.
Eric: Could you tell me about your experience with Robert Quarry?
FOR: Well Bob was retired when I convinced him to do a movie for me. Same with Sid Haig who I had to convince to shave his head for a role, But next time I saw him he had his full “Sid Haig” beard grown out. But Robert came in and became a part of the family. He was living in a small apartment, hadn’t worked for a while and existed on social security and a modest pension. So, we immediately hit off to the point where he house sat for my son when I was out of town. We would have breakfast every Sunday. He did great work for me. And he even did the voice work for the monster in Evil Toons. He became the Uncle I never had.
Eric: Tell about your relationship with Quentin Tarantino
FOR: You know that’s funny. A guy named Clifton and Tarantino came to the set where I was filming Bad Girls from Mars. They wanted to borrow a synchronized 16 mm movie camera that actually plugged into a wall socket. I had lent this camera out to several directors who ended up becoming pretty famous. Anyway, Tarantino comes back and returns the camera saying it didn’t synchronize properly. Well it had for everyone else. So, it came as bit of a surprise when I saw an interview with him, where he said I was instrumental in getting him started in the film business. Which was nice, even if it wasn’t very true.
Eric: Mr. Ray, please tell me a little about the Retromedia Entertainment Group you started.
FOR: It’s a hobby, just a lark. It started when someone wanted to license Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers for DVD and I said wait a minute…I’ve got all these other titles, why should I let someone cherry-pick my films. We started converting many of the films to DVD, which was a great learning experience, since I knew very little about DVD’s at the time. We did the cover art and found enough distributors to make the Group a worthwhile project. And I only license films that I would like to watch personally. But I’m enjoying it, I’ve had a good time, and it's making money.
Eric: Is there any chance of finding some of your lost films through Retromedia?
FOR: I don’t know maybe. There’s a company in Florida that specializes in finding lost works. I grew up near Sarasota and my parents were totally opposed to my career choice- a middle class kid with smarts wanting to make monster movies. And they were half-right. There’s a big difference between shooting a film with your own camera, in your backyard to making big budget movies on network TV, in theaters or on HBO and Cinemax. It’s a different kind of person who can do that. Some people have it, some people don’t. There were also a ton of Florida made films that were tax dodges. Producers could write off twice the amount of money the film lost and still make a profit. It was like the film The Producers, Mel Brooks' first movie. There was a movie made in Ft. Lauderdale called The Great Balloon Race with a huge, all-star cast, I don’t know if it ever got released. When I read about it, I immediately thought this was a tax dodge.
Eric: Just a few more questions before we run out of time. I read an interview where you were less than sanguine about the current state of the horror genre and didn’t think much of the new wave of directors. Was that accurate?
FOR: Well horror will always be an enduring genre, no doubt. But my answers in that interview were strictly personal. There aren’t any current films that interest me as an individual. Besides going to the movies today is an iffy proposition. Why should I pay exorbitant prices for what probably be a disappointment? I can stay home, sit in a comfortable chair and watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or The Fall of the House of Usher and have a great time. To me its better than going to a theater and wasting a couple hours of my life that I will never get back (laughing). But I’ve always lived my life as I wanted. I raised two kids as a single parent, don’t owe anybody child support or alimony. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do with my family life and professional life. A lot of actresses used to come up to me and tell me they were scream queens. I told them, unless they were half-dressed, in waist high swamp water in a Roger Corman film, freezing to death at night, they weren’t scream queens. We made a few of so-called Scream Queen movies, which were good, then we made one more called Little Devils, but the timing was wrong and it didn’t do very well at the box office. But today, a lot of films call themselves Scream Queen movies, but I don’t feel they qualify. And so many times the contemporary actresses who are self-styled scream queens are just standing on the shoulders of the ladies who pioneered the trope in the Corman films. These girls want to latch onto the fame without doing the work or busting their ass like the real scream queens did.
Eric: I suppose the modern version of the scream queen is now “final girl”?
FOR: I’m not sure what that is.
Eric: It’s the name given in horror films to the last female character left alive.
FOR: Well I’m a bit unfamiliar with the modern horror genre. I don’t visit any horror webzine sites and things like that. These days I’m a director, that’s my job, just like someone going to work at K-Mart. I get up at 5 AM and it’s a job. Don’t get me wrong it’s a job but a well paying one and I only have to work 2-3 times a year. It’s a profession. It would be a hobby if I wasn’t working so much. They say no one’s happy with their job unless they would do it for free. That’s the way I feel about film-making- I’d do it for free if I could afford to.
Eric: Last question. Are their any circumstances under which you’d return to the horror and adventure genres?
FOR: Well I go where the money is and right now, TV movies like women’s thrillers and Christmas films are in demand. But I’m a director for hire, I’ll go where the budget dictates. At this moment, though, the TV movies are where the interest is. But there are things I won’t film. I won’t film drug abuse or women being abused. I’m not a person who would direct a film with a lot of rapes- it turns my stomach. Oh, one last thing. Gary shot a film with Claudia for Roger Corman called Deathsport.
Eric: Yes, they’d actually met before on the set of Moonshine County Express
FOR: I had worked with David Carradine (one of the starts of Deathsport) and he told me the director of Deathsport had gotten upset with Claudia and slapped her. David told me he “roughed him up”. Apparently, the next day the director showed with a pistol on his hip. Carradine called Corman and said I can’t work like this. One thing I was always good about was keeping my temper on the set. It never made anything better, in fact it would make things worse.
Eric: Eventually Corman fired the original director and brought in another to finish the film. Mr. Ray I want to thank you so much for your time and recollections. I wish we had more time to explore your wrestling career and talk more in-depth about some of your films. Your reputation as a stand-up guy and gentleman is well deserved. Best of luck to you on your future projects.
FOR: No problem, my pleasure.
directed by Uwe Boll, starring Michael Pare, and Will Anderson
" Bolled Over"
I've spent a great amount of time and effort watching and studying extreme cinema. Much of it is amateurish, such as the August Underground films. Uwe Boll represents a select group of European directors and auteurs that specialize in body destruction, extreme cruelty and a sense of perversity not often found in mainstream cinema. These gentleman include Lars von Trier, Tom Six, Alexandre Aja and Olaf Ittenbach, who worked with Boll on a few projects.
Boll is considered one of the most controversial, because of his films and his outrageous comments to the media, calling some of his contemporaries and critics "retards".
I found Seed one of the most offensive films I've ever watched. The first few minutes of running time consist of a PETA documentary that shows graphic mutilations and murders of live dogs. Where PETA's use of the footage may have to been to raise sympathy for their cause ( a dubious proposition) Boll's use of it is strictly for exploitation and the subversive nature of his film. He also cynically disclosed he was going to donate some of the profits for the film to various charities, a transparent and disingenuous move.
The movie is of the slasher/serial killer genre. It is especially heartless as animals, women, children and men are all tortured and murdered by the main character Max Seed. As a boy he was disfigured when his schoolbus caught fire, so naturally he turned out to be a psychotic killer. After accumulating 666 murders he is caught. The authorities try to execute him, but after two attempts to fry him on old sparky, the warden, executioner, the police detective who caught him and prison doctor are afraid a third attempt would not put him down, triggering an old law stipulating he can go free. They decide, unwisely, to bury him alive in a sealed coffin, where they hope the maniac will just quietly into the night. Fat fucking chance.
Max digs himself out and goes on a rampage. In one loathsome scene he ties a woman to a chair and chops at her head with a small axe until the walls of the room are drenched in blood . After 30 or so whacks, her head is considerably diminished.
Then Max goes after everyone who had anything to do with his almost electrocution and premature burial. They are dispatched in various gory ways until no one is left but the police detective. He puts four cops to guard his family and tries to track down Max. Well, I guess he doesn't watch too many horror movies. He gets a note from the killer and speeds over to his house, only to find the four cops chopped into pieces and carefully stacked in the bathtub. The detective (played by Pare-oh Michael, we mourn for the days of Streets of Fire) is lured to the house where Seed is holding his family hostage. A predictable downbeat ending concludes this outrage before the final credits roll.
So let's add up the positives of the film. The SFX are good. Other than that, the dialogue is perfunctory and lame, the direction aimless, the tension is limp and even the music is lame. The camera work is middling and the set design looks like it came from an infomercial. Boll who did make some laudable films such as Rampage, missed the boat on this one. Boll is also able to convince high quality actors to appear in his films and then makes them into bad ones. No easy thing to do.
All of things could be excused except for the animal atrocities in the beginning of the movie. We've seen critters being killed before-Cannibal Holocaust is an notorious example. The art in film however derives from transcending a "documentary" experience into something hyper-natural. Other than a few genuine weirdos, would we want to watch actual concentration camp horrors and snuff films? Watching a gory, visceral horror film should be a transcendent experience. The characters should make us care about them, the movie should have a much larger vision and it should be fun, even if its of the roller-coaster variety. I often compare extreme films to those of Herschell Gordon Lewis' sadistic romps. Lewis at least had a tongue in cheek sensibility so the audience didn't have to take his films too seriously. Unfortunately, Boll made a bad movie worse with his careless use of sadistic dog killing footage. I understand he no longer makes films, but owns some successful restaurants in Vancouver. Next time I'm there I must visit one. Hopefully, the images of the poor dogs being butchered will have been erased from my memory.
Movie Review- The Reflecting Skin- 1990
Imagine walking into any of the fine Metropolitan Museums of Art in our country, say San Francisco, Chicago or New York. Then imagine a gallery with just one painting, a work so vast that it takes two hours to see all of it. Every part of the painting bears careful examination because it would be a shame to miss any nuance, symbol or emotion the masterpiece elicits.
The Reflecting Skin, directed by Phillip Ridley, is not so much a horror film but an art film that explores the horrors, and fears of childhood depicted as a nightmarish descent into adolescent hell. As I see it, if Ingmar Bergman was born and raised in the Midwest, this would be his contribution to the horror genre. It is one of the finest American Gothic horrors to be filmed, all the more miraculous since its director is British.
The story is viewed through the eyes of young Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper, in a bravura performance), who lives on remote farm, in the middle of a bucolic paradise, somewhere in the Midwest. He and his friends delight in tormenting a young English widow, Dolphin Blue (Lindsey Duncan) for no apparent reason except childish cruelty. The opening scene is one you will never forget.
Seth lives with a domineering mother and detached, withdrawn father, who run a gas station. One day a group of black leather clad punks drive up in a black Cadillac needing some petrol. These are no singing, dancing hoods from Grease as we will discover. They make Seth a promise that someday soon, they will return for him.
Forced to go Dolphin Blue's home to apologize for a vicious prank, Seth is fascinated by her family's whaling artifacts. He also learns her backstory, how her husband committed suicide a week after their marriage. Dolphin Blue then mentions her depression and how she feels "two hundred years old.". Because Seth had heard his father discussing vampires because of a novel he's reading, so the lad starts to believe Dolphin is a real vampire.
When one of Seth's friends goes missing, he and another friend ransack Dolphin's house, but run in terror when they spy her masturbating. Seth later finds his friend dead in an isolated cistern. The police suspect Seth's dad, owing to a previous homosexual incident in his past. The father, overcome with despair and believing the police will not leave him in peace, pours gas over himself and becomes a human s'mores.
Cameron (Viggo Mortensen), Seth's brother, comes home to look after the boy, as the mother has become comatose. While visiting their father's grave site, Cameron meets Dolphin and find they have a mutual attraction. To Seth's horror the two begin a passionate affair. Cameron confesses to Dolphin he was part of the government's atomic bomb experiments. Seth and his friend then witness the two making love which repels them.
As the boys run away, the black Cadillac appears and the leather gang kidnaps Seth's friend, who is found dead the next day.
Cameron we discover is dying from radiation sickness. Seth interpret this as a sign of Dolphin's vampirism as she is slowly sucking the life out of him. He decides not to warn her of the black Cadillac and Dolphin happily accepts a ride from the men. Later on, when Dolphin's body is found, Cameron melts down in front of his brother. Seth, finally realizing what he has done, screams into the setting sun, a cry that is simultaneously filled with anger, shame, despair and sorrow.
One can describe this film in many ways. A work of great beauty, it is reminiscent of the films of David Lynch (Blue Velvet in particular) that even a sunny, All-American setting can hide real decay and terror. Sometimes the horrors happen in broad daylight. The use of shadow in nighttime and interior shots are striking, especially when Seth's father erupts in a ball of flame in the middle of the night.
There is no doubt The Reflecting Skin is a morbid, over-the-top and disturbing work. It takes time to unfold so if you're looking for a roller coaster type horror romp, this is not that film. Instead it is a door few of us want to enter; a world of nightmares, unspeakable acts, unknown antagonists and a downbeat ending so profound that it's controlled and visionary qualities cut through the heart like a broadsword. Ridley is one of the most talented individuals in the world. He is a distinguished writer, lyricist, and director. A man for all seasons, it seems. Between the acting, photography, story and a general sense of uneasiness, I feel this is his Magnum Opus.
Many of you are aware of my biography of Claudia, inspired by what I thought was unfair treatment of her memory.
Most of you are probably unaware of my novel, Mimi, my first published work. I tried to throw everything in to this very adult, paranormal, quirky, funny, tragic story of two lovers. The most important elements (besides seeing if I could write realistic sex scenes) were character development and dialogue. I think I succeeded. Mimi is sold just about everywhere and is also available on Kindle.
My Favorite 103 Films of All-time
2. The Godfather (1972)
3. Vertigo (1958)
4. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
5. Raging Bull (1980)
6. Citizen Kane (1941)
7. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
8. Singing in the Rain (1952)
9. La Jete'e (1962)
10. Fargo ( 1976)
11. City Lights (1931)
12. Schindler's List (1993)
13. The Searchers (1956)
14. Unforgiven (1992)
15. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
16. Potempkin ( 1925)
17. The General (1927)
18. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
19. Treasure of the Sierre Madre (1948)
20. Lawrence of Arabia ( 1962)
21.Miller's Crossing (1990)
22. On the Waterfront (1954)
23. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
24. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
25. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
26. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
27. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
28. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
29. The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
30. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
31. The Grapes of Wrath ( 1940)
32. Double Indemnity (1944)
33. Intolerance (1916)
34. West Side Story (1961)
35. Taxi Driver ( 1976)
36.Duck Soup (1933)
37. Cabaret (1972)
38. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
39. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
40. Chinatown (1974)
41. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
42. Gone with the Wind (1939)
43. Come and See (1985)
44. Dr. Strangelove ( 1962)
45. The Sound of Music (1965)
46. Mary Poppins (1964)
47. The Thing (1954)
48. Goodfellas (1990)
49. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
50. Rashamon (1950)
51. Michael Clayton (2007)
52. The Exterminating Angel (1962)
53. No Country for Old Men (2007)
54. The Tree of Life (2011)
55. Performance (1970)
56. Ran (1985)
57. Breathless (1960)
58. Annie Hall (1977)
59. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
60. Rear Window (1954)
61. King of Hearts (1966)
62. Jaws (1975)
63. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
64. The Third Man (1949)
65.The Long Good Friday (1979)
66. La Strada (1954)
67. Haxan (1922)
68. Solaris (1972)
69. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
70. Stalker ( 1979)
71. Little Big Man (1970)
72. L'Avventura (1960)
73. Casino (1995)
74. The Dark Knight (2008)
75. Orphee (1950)
76. The Vanishing (1988)
77. Un Chien Andalou (1929)
78. The Wild Bunch (1969)
79. 12 Angry Men (1957)
80. Wings of Desire ( 1987)
81. Spartacus ( 1960)
82. Blade Runner (1982)
83. Knife in the Water (1962)
85. Star Wars (1977)
86. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
87. Closely Watched Trains (1966)
88. Grande Illusion (1937)
89. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
90. The Seventh Seal (1957)
91. Taxi Driver (1976)
92. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966)
93. Metropolis (1927)
94. The French Connection (1971)
95. Aguirre Wrath of God (1972)
96. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
97. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001)
98. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
99. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
100. Fail Safe (1964)
Unlike many GOAT lists, mine spans all genres and directing philosophies.
101. Anatomy of a Murder
102. Reservoir Dogs
103. King Kong
10 Great Adventure Films You Must Watch- and have probably never seen
1.The Man Who Would Be King
2. Gunga Din
4. Valhalla Rising
6. Moby Dick
7.Last of the Mohicans
8.The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
9. Robin Hood
10. Ulzana's Raid
My Current Top 100 Films in Cinema History
All-American Banana Bread
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (80g) plain yogurt or sour cream (I use Greek yogurt)
2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 large ripe bananas)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
optional: 3/4 cup (100g) chopped pecans or walnuts
Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan or coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the yogurt, mashed bananas, and vanilla extract on medium speed until combined. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no flour pockets remain. Do not overmix. Fold in the nuts, if using.
Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil after 30 minutes to help prevent the top and sides from getting too brown. A toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf will come out clean when the bread is done. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
Cover and store banana bread at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Banana bread tastes best on day 2 after the flavors have settled together. See post above for freezing instructions.
Cla The Sinful Dwarf-1974
s Director- Vidal Raski
Writers- Harlan Asquith, William Mayo
Starring-Anne Sparrow, Tony Eades,Clara Keller and Torben as the Dwarf
Did Somebody Order Danish?
Denmark is generally recognized as one of the more passive of the group of passive nations known as the Nordic States. Excellent baked goods, superb butter, Hans Christian Andersen, you know, the whole schmear. Who would have thought that in the sinful 1970s Denmark produced some impressive pornographic films. Then The Sinful Dwarf came along. This beauty combines sexploitation with a "roughie" sensibility borrowed from the bowels of porn to give the viewer a bath of decadent sleaze.
At the heart of the story is Olaf (the Dwarf) and his dear old mum, who run a boarding house which is a front for a white slavery, prostitution, heroin smuggling and all kinds of nastiness.
The movie opens with Olaf luring a young girl (her pigtails suggest she's a teen but her body confesses the lady is at least 25) to the house, where he knocks her unconscious with his cane and strips her. The poor thing is then made a junkie and forced to service gentlemen callers.
A recently married couple has the misfortunate to rent a room at , as Popeye would say it "a house of ill-re-pukes". They settle in where their love-making is watched by the very horny and voyeuristic little person. One day Olaf makes his move. The little sprite clubs the husband senseless, violates the wife with his handy cane then rapes her.
Torben makes a frightening presence with a maniacal grin and a distorted face that would give munchkins nightmares for weeks. And no, it's not an adolescent Jack Black in the title role. His mother, an alcoholic former cabaret singer, entertains by doing Carmen Miranda and Marlene Dietrich numbers in costume- actually quite effective given the budget of the film.
The film perfectly captures the sleazy atmosphere. In the room where the women lay stoned and used on dirty mattresses, you can almost smell the sweat and sex oozing from the screen.
In a universe where Dwarf sexploitation rarely lives up to its promise, this movie delivers and then some. If you appreciate beautiful women in peril, sex, drug use, abuse, mechanical animals and nudity, take a bite of this Scandinavian smorgasbord of sleaze.