You are about to release two Ed Wood-adaptations
[Ed Wood bio - click here] you directed on DVD soon, Devil
Girls and The Vampire's Tomb. Could you tell us a bit about Devil
From the youtube description, honk if you need more:
Restored! Revised! Soon to be Remaindered! COMING SOON! Finally! Really, this
time! We Swear! Ed Wood's pulp paperback was shot in a frenzied four and a
half days in 1999 on a mix of cheapo DV and film but the original Super-8/16mm
film elements lay undeveloped and untransferred for years ... last year they
were stitched in along with some more inserts that were shot for this and the The Vampire's Tomb to finally bring them in line with what was
originally planned for this insane trilogy of exploitation noir based on
unproduced Ed Wood Jr. screenplays and fiction...
... and the The Vampire's Tomb ?
(clears throat then screams at top volume through hands)
Available at last! The forgotten horror classic,
from beyond the grave - from beyond space and time.
Beyond anything your mind can conceive - from the muddled mind
of Edward D. Wood jr.
comes a tale to torment you...
Savage suspense - delirious despair!
Watch souls shredded in two
in the vortex of perpetual hell!
The wind screams for revenge,
the air stinks of death...
morbid fantasies of the damned
come to life in an orgy of madness...
The 64 Dollar question is of course, where will one be able to get these
Working on double feature DVD release this very second, should be good news
for restless mutants soon. Till then, sporadic screenings this year to sate
the ugly appetite.
Girls being based on a novel by Ed Wood, what can you
tell us about Wood the writer ?
I spent a few years tracking down his books and magazine stories, the best of
them were surrogates for the kind of strange exploitation movies he would've
been making if he could've scared up the financing. Without budget or
constraint, limited only by impending and overdue rent, liquor bills, and the
occasional fried chicken, Wood could let his ideas and fetishes flow freely
onto the page ... the same motifs turn up recycled in endless combinations -
the angora wearing film director, the transvestite named Shirley,
preoccupations with death and moldy graves ... constant coffins and macabre
obsessions even in a cheap sex story. It was always a fun moment when one of
his little quirks would turn up in the midst of some frenzied potboiler,
another key to his psyche, another autobiographical signpost for a man who
didn't get the chance to tell his story other than through his work. If you're
like me and really enjoy Wood's unique, purple prose style - that strange two am voice of
confusion - collecting Wood's books is like a constant parade of particular sleazy Christmases in your mailbox.
The Vampire's Tomb was originally intended for Bela Lugosi. How hard
was it to find an actor to take his place in the film ?
Oh, I agonized over it.
Obviously we weren't going to be getting some Martin
Landau to pull it off convincingly and not look like a weak imitation. So I
wondered what other angles I could hit it from ... early ideas involved David
Ossman in George Leroy Tirebiter mode ... then briefly it might've been Paul
Chaplin from Mystery Science Theater 3000. He had to work on popular internet
site timmy bighands tho, a wise decision on his part and possibly
a bullet dodged! We shot the dialogue sequences anyway with a bunch of
standins with their back to the camera and a hat and cape, intending on
sorting it out later. That later turned into years. Finally, it was obvious
that the only fitting way out was to go the chiropractor route and have
everybody from our fathers to our other fathers to do the closeups behind
capes, made more palatable since they were all shot on gorgeous, strangely
outdated Soviet filmstocks that flared and fucked up on their own accord, with no need for hours of phony filtering. We did end up getting another
Firesign to do voiceovers for the trailers and some subsequent productions,
the spectacular Philip Proctor ... a gracious, insanely amusing man. Working
and improvising with him was one of the proudest and most hysterical moments of my
rather pathetic career thus far toiling in the cellars of cinematic obscurity.
Did you take many liberties with Ed Wood's source material ?
Well, it had to be mangled a bit due to the miniscule budget. Far smaller than
anything Wood ever had, except for his later porn productions. Devil Girls was
set in Texas. I used Chicago and inexplicably mentioned my NJ small towns
instead to confuse things further. Devil Girls
had boats. I had stock footage
and railings at the lakefront in the rain with the weather somewhere around 20
Whenever I'd find an interesting bit of dialogue or quote in one of Wood's
books that related to the scene even vaguely, I'd make a note of it and see
where I could crowbar it in ... I wanted to refine it down to that pure resin
of Ed, that dense strangeness and dimestore poetry. Since we had so little
time to shoot the sync sound sequences, the actors would often slip in little
bits of business ... sometimes it worked, sometimes we all cringe and something
dies inside us all.
I tried to trim out most of these murderously camp
moments, lots of stuff that escaped into the world in the Devil Girls
rough cut have
been massaged and reformed back to the straightfaced Wood tone ... trying to
present the dialogue as straight as possible, the entertainment coming from
the sheer surrealism of the writing ... Wood's 50s mindset in a 60s piece shot
decades later in some limbo with anachronisms a-go-go added even more layers
While most (amateur) filmakers use the Ed Wood-tag just as an excuse to
make a really bad movie and not give a dam, you do seem to go to quite some
length to duplicate the feeling of a genuine Ed Wood-feature. How hard is it
to imitate Wood's rather unique style ?
I tried not to use it as an excuse for ineptitude. I attempted to cram in and
as many bits of visual schtick and references I could manage ... I loved used
hideously outdated surplus machine gun camera film to get that grainy, worn
look I foolishly thought could be had with video and filters during the
initial Chicago phase of production. I'm a big fan of odd handheld angles and
high contrast, expressionist lighting ... so some of that is in there since I
can't help myself. Wood did use that sort of style at times, especially in Glen or Glenda? Plus,
it's very cheap to shoot an actor against
black cloth. Some of those Wood-en touches come from the rushed schedule of
the location shoots. Not all of the day/night switches are cool, calculated
attempts to ape his continuity or disregard thereof.
Where does your fascination with Ed Wood come from in the first place ?
I grew up like any typical monster-obsessed kid, endlessly drawing the
Universal gang in different windows of the same house with the Monster Mash
playing ... loving Bela and hearing my father tell stories about seeing Plan 9
in a drive-in when he first came to this country from Poland in 1960, I kept
hearing about this movie all throughout my childhood and finally came upon a
copy from Goodtimes Video that was mind-expandingly strange. I tracked down
his other work, made little short videos and parodies as a teenager, even to
the extent of trying to make some crude feature luridly titled Space
Vampires from Dimension Zero. Of course, I gobbled up the incredible
Rudolph Gray book and it was the appendix of unproduced films that stuck in my
mind ... it lingered there throughout a few more years of artier experimentin',
and when I was back to plotting features, the lack of budget and my hobby of
collecting his pulp paperbacks collided.
What would you say that young (amateur) filmmakers can learn from Ed Wood ?
Never give up, don't let death, poverty, anxiety, perceived lack of talent, or
common sense get in your way of putting quirky dreams on film. When you can't
finish a movie, recycle the scraps elsewhere.
Your personal Ed Wood favourites ?
I love them all but I think get the most fun out of The Sinister
Urge and Night of the
Ghouls. And any dialogue from Orgy of the Dead, as it pleasures me.
You have also worked with Ed Wood-regular Conrad Brooks, who has in recent
years made a name for himself apprearing in B- and Z-grade productions
(sometimes even directing them). What can you tell us about him ?
He called me collect once while I was having sex with my girlfriend of the
time ... and I actually answered it. Sorry. He's a character - the bizzaro
world Mickey Rooney. I love that he's been cranking out stuff, spreading the
gospel of Ed in his own weird way, and turning up in cheap movies with that
black cap of his. He did a few cameos in my films on the same day and starred
opposite Ted V. Mikels in a 16mm short entitled To Kill a Saturday
Night based on a Wood story intended for John Carradine... all parties
involved deny involvement and remain embarassed, tho Conrad plugged it on his mySpace site. We shot it in an hour for lunch, basically.
Conrad called me cheap amidst other colorful insults, which I loved at the
time - here I was, a goofy kid too poor for even an Ed Wood utility player.
Moving away from Ed Wood for a while, you have also made some other films,
like two in the style of Mexican wrestling movies à la Santo
[Santo bio - click here], El Intoxico
and El Cerebro de Hitler. What can you tell us about these two ?
Frightening that those are a google away. I thought that was under a
pseudonym! Those were glorified camera tests, really. I dearly love Santo, but
that first one was a real train wreck ... mostly those were the product of
being in a bored gang of nonactors and musicians who shot little vignettes on
weekends with whomever was available, noticing that anybody could play the
same character with masks and we could dub it all later and ostensibly it even
may make sense! Originally it was a kodachrome sound super-8 half hour short,
but the camera trashed most of the footage. The surviving stuff was
inexplicably bloated out with video material after the purchase of some Sony
DV cam I was using for editing. We extended it to feature length for no reason
other than why not, and just let it slump to a stop at the end. It screened a
few times, often without anybody telling me about it. That probably saved me a
few panic attacks, thanks!
The sequel El Cerebro de Hitler
was a mystifying later attempt
to do justice to the genre properly. We shot that one mostly on glorious color
16mm in Chicago, NJ, and Burbank, CA. There's a half hour rough assembly, but
the whole feature has not been edited and awaits a rainy day. It'll come out
some day, it has some amusing stuff in it. There was even a THIRD sequel, Los
Monos Atomicos that can be glimpsed in partial form in The Lost
Program - minus the Mexican wrestling elements. Why we
shot two sequels to a film unwanted in the first place will be a lesson to
somebody out there, but apparently not us, because I'm still wondering if one
day I'm not going to finish off the Wood trilogy with The
Ghoul Goes West as originally intended.
And what about your martial arts flick A Belly Full of Anger ?
Christopher Roy and I wrote the screenplay in 1995, an insanely over the top
tribute to shitty kung fu movies on VHS ... the ones in the big clamshell boxes
that seldom live up to their awe-inspiring titles. More Godfrey Ho [Godfrey
Ho bio - click here] than Jackie
Chan ... more Robert Tai than Jet Li. Whenever I hear news of a kung fu
parody, I tense up and get worried that somebody else is beating us to it.
Inevitably they get released and fail on every level. Belly will
be the distilled eau de kung fu - the tropes and cliches magnified and mutated
a million times over to deliver the goods, hi-fi image meal you can shoot up
into your eyeballs and enjoy for days.... well, the stuff we enjoy anyway: not
so much the endless 20 minute fight sequences as the melodramatic dialogue,
isolated and vaguely Aussie/British accents, in-camera tricks, and clumsy
zooms to the eyes. We finally shot it in 2007 and its being edited now. I
managed to rope Phil Proctor and Trace Beaulieu in to
contribute voices, and am still tinkering with the soundtrack and hope to
have it making the rounds in late 2008. It has pears killing people, I don't
think you need much else for a night out. After a decade wondering if we
should tackle out, we did it at the right time and all the elements came into
Any other films I forgot to mention ?
I was a Teenage Beatnik and/or Monster!
Huge 1950s retro semi-autobiographical garage band monster movie - with lotsa
underground musicians, Dick Contino slapping a bagel out of my hand, Neil
Innes, Ted V. Mikels, Ray Dennis Steckler as Cash Flagg damning me to death, Residents' collaborator Schwump, twisted noise pop from the
Farmingdale Sound Machine, stopmotion puppets, sickness, strangeness, and
Pappa Oom Mow Mow
crossed with Ice Ice Baby extolling the virtues of William Burroughs and Brion
Gysin's cut-up system. You know, good family fun. My private joy, personal
baby, and weird vehicle for wish/curse fulfillment.
Program and The Paranoia Show
Consult youtube.com/terminalpictures for excerpts from these endless short
film and sketch projects and television experiments. Beyond
strange. Some cameoage from Janeane Garofalo and David Cross. Program is the
comedy, Paranoia Show is the endless insane melted brain reaction
to the George Bush Years and the Era of Homeland Security. May be gladly dated
at time of viewing. Praise be and damn you, Dick Cheney.
What can you tell us about your approach to filmmaking and low budget
filmmaking in general ?
I sneak up on filmmaking and stab it in its fat filmmaking neck. Buy a camera,
grab a friend, start. Don't spend years talking abut it first, don't succumb
to fear. Buy some film and borrow a camera. Steal a camcorder. Do whatever you
have to do to get it done. Give false witness. All for a good cause, right?
Ostensibly. Hopefully. Who knows, maybe the jury will believe it and applaud
Your main influences as a director, apart from Ed Wood ?
Takeshi Kitano, David Lynch, John Cassavetes, Timothy Carey, John Waters,
Billy Wilder, Spike Milligan, Terry Gilliam, Guy Maddin, Mike Jittlov, the
Kuchar brothers, Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here], the Coen brothers, Jan Svankmajer, The
Residents, Antony Balch.
Your favourite movies, both recent films and all time favourites ?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The Ray Dennis Steckler/Hall Familia epic Wild
Guitar [Arch Hall jr bio -
click here]. The sheer
meanness of Kiss Me Deadly. I adore Alphaville and
Eraserhead and have written for days with them playing in the
background on endless loops. Explains a lot, really. I adore 70s era Bunuel -
Discrete Charm, Milky Way, The Phantom of Liberty. Watching
Greatest Sinner at the Egytian Theatre what appeared to be the Cramps in
front of me was a life-changing experience. I will never get tired of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and yearn to
not to mention the part of getting behind it. I can't explain my love of Jack
Smith properly but can't live without Normal Love or Blonde Cobra. The icy strangeness of David Cronenberg keeps me warm at night
and I still try to figure out his two eerie student films completely, Stereo and
Crimes of the Future.
Some movies you really don't like ?
I don't like singling out anybody, it takes so much work to make any kind of
film that you just have to nod benignly and appreciate the effort. Taste is
so weird, there's plenty of room for all sorts of dubious entertainment in
this world ... I hope to find a warm niche somewhere to curl up for the winter,
even if I have to slice through the fat belly of the industry and pull out its
steaming entrails first. So be it.
Any future projects ?
Endless documentary on low budget filmmaking featuring everybody I ever
namedropped ever entitled Lights, Camera, Foodstamps.
Many more hidden features and weird productions. Watch the skies at night
whispering my name. Please? Send money and lawyers.
Thanks for the interview.