Your first movie as a director, The
Abomination, has only recently been released on Blu-ray - so in a
few words, what is it about?
first movie was actually an anthology movie called Tabloid! It
was a very expensive flop. The
was a direct response to that
experience. Distributors had told us really low budget gore films
were doing well -- things like Herschell Gordon Lewis [Herschell
Gordon Lewis bio - click here] had done back in the
60s. I did some research and noticed many of those releases were
low-quality transfers from terrible old prints. I figured if the end
product was VHS there was no reason not to shoot on Super 8mm home movie
film. I committed to shoot a movie in ten days for a budget of $10,000.
Basically, the film was nothing more than an excuse to deliver as many
scenes of gore as we possibly could. Everybody who worked on the film
performed functions as both cast and crew.
idea for the film evolved from recurring images I had in my mind. The
first was a bloody hand bursting from a man's chest. The second was a
vagina full of teeth. These two haunting images became the tentacle
bursting out of Cody and the big mouth in the cabinet. I knew the world
was not yet ready for a bloody vagina full of teeth -- at least none of
the distributors I knew then would have gone for it. I understand the idea
has been explored in other films since then.
the film, Cody's mother is obsessed with a television evangelist named
Brother Fogg. She watches him daily and sends him a lot of money despite
being pretty poor herself. Fogg has told her she has a tumor and that he
can heal her. She coughs up what seems to be a tumor the size of a goose
egg and the thing takes on a life of its own, a sort of twisted expression
of the power of faith.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing The
I was doing this quick and cheap, there was never a full blown script.
Just about twenty pages of scenes, suggested dialog, and ideas. We
improvised and added dialog and narration as needed all through the
process. There were a lot of very wealthy televangelists preying on the
gullible in the mid-80s, and there were a number of scandals involving
these men who had grown rich selling a commercialized version of the
gospel. Jimmy Swaggert and Robert Tilton come to mind. For better or worse
I wanted The
to be as different and memorable as possible
given our limited resources.
What made you choose the rather ambitious and
effects-heavy monster movie genre for this early effort of yours?
was a monster kid growing up. I'd purchased Dick Smith's book on
do-it-yourself monster makeup and had been doing little movies on a
regular basis since I was 12. I loved experimenting with effects. I knew
having the film populated by toothy creature puppets would be a bit more
respectable than the usual no-budget slasher or zombie flick. I really
enjoyed making the monsters, and I think all the other crew members had fun
bringing them to life for the camera. Oddly enough, Jim Henson was a major
influence on the movie, as I'd paid attention to all the articles and
documentaries about his Muppets and how they were made and operated.
talk about The
Abomination's special effects work for a bit!
major beast in the cabinet was a hinged plywood jaw covered with a sheet
of foam rubber (like upholsterers use), balsa wood teeth, a skin made of
paper towels dipped in liquid latex. My brother made the toothy tentacle
that bites Mom's hand off and ultimately bursts out of Cody's torso. I
really like the way the developing monster under Cody's bed played out on
camera. The pulsing tumors were white balloons textured with latex, color
and bits of paper, with tubing attached. A crew member would be off-camera
breathing into the tube to create the pulsing, throbbing effect.
Everything was super low-tech but I believe fairly ambitious for such a
low-budget production. I liked creating the pitchfork effect for Cody's
demise. We cut a hole in a piece of paneling through which Scott Davis
(Cody) could put his head and shoulders. We created a false torso out of
chicken wire and a bracket into which the tines of the pitchfork
could be inserted. The scene's a bit darker than I would have liked it to
be but I think it plays pretty well. It gets lots of groans of
disgust when people see it for the first time.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set
friend of my stepfather had given us free-run of his ranch in Poolville,
Texas and pretty much told us we could do anything we wanted. We were a
group of about 8 friends and family members so it was actually a fun labor
of love. Everyone worked well together and rose to the occasion whenever
we encountered a challenge. It was a lot more free and easy than most of
the productions I worked on.
Another film of yours that has recently been
re-released is Repligator
- now what's that one about? And how did that project
fall together in the first place?
I was always a huge fan of Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here]. He was the guy that gave a lot of
indie filmmakers hope. In 1995 I was trying to match his record of making
five films in one year. (Back then, that seemed like a big deal, but indie
directors make as many as ten films in a year these days!) Anyway, I had
produced an action flick called Takedown starring Chris Heldman and
Richard Lynch, I directed a time travel picture called Time Tracers
featuring Jeff Combs, I directed my first 35mm film, Biotech Warrior --
all of this by August. We had a refrigerator full of 35mm short ends left
over from Biotech Warrior and we had the sets from Time
Tracers. I asked Keith
Kjornes if he could write a script in a week after which we'd try to shoot
it in four days (because that was the rumored length of time Roger Corman
spent shooting Little Shop of
Horrors). Keith got together with T.G. Weems
and they came up with Repligator.
The plot concerns a secret military project in which a transporter, something
like the device in Star
Trek, is created. The thing works. It transports
people but has the unfortunate side effect of turning hardened soldiers
into horny women. I take no responsibility for whatever subtext you see in
that scenario! LOL!
of nudity, comedy and making use of everything we had on hand, like the
reptile masks from Time Tracers, sets, etc.
film is definitely not politically correct in today's climate. Maybe it
never was. But Shawn Freeburg, our cinematographer, gave it a very nice
look for a no-budget four-day feature. Audiences respond very well to it.
and Repligator are very polarizing. People either
love them or hate them.
After shooting Repligator
I reached out to Roger Corman and told him I was
trying to emulate his busy year of five films. To my delight, he responded
immediately and gave me a movie called Rumble in the Streets to shoot
before 1995 ended.
What can you tell us
screenwriter Keith Kjornes, and what was your collaboration like?
Kjornes was a video editor when I met him. He was very talented as both a
performer and a writer. He finally moved out to Los Angeles in later life
and scripted a few interesting projects, including The Devil's Tomb
starring Cuba Gooding Jr. I miss Keith. He was an over-the-top,
enthusiastic, creative force.
talk about Repligator's
brand of humour for a bit, and to what extent can you personally identify
I been the one responding to the challenge to write a screenplay in a
week, I don't think I ever could've come up with Repligator. Not then,
especially. I think it's funny and delivers a lot of laughs and production
value for the budget. The world today is more liberal in some ways and
less liberal in some ways. I'm a big proponent of free speech in all its
forms. I do not agree with 'cancel culture' politics or any form of
censorship. If something offends you, the obvious choice is to turn away
from it. Nobody is going to force you to watch Repligator
or any movie for
that matter. Demonetizing people who express ideas you disagree with is a
political abuse of power. I honestly have no idea what some people may
think of the movie. But I feel no compulsion to cater to specific
demographics of any description. The movie is there for people who can
appreciate it. Hope I didn't get too serious with that response. Not sure
what you were looking for.
Again, do talk about the actual shoot for a
only were we trying to get this thing done in four days but in the midst
of it all a German TV crew showed up to do a news feature on what we were
up to. The way that came about is this -- the TV crew was doing a feature
on Troma, Lloyd Kaufman's company. They wanted a production company that
seemed to be a step down from Troma. Initially, they contacted Fred Olen
Ray. With his ego, he was never going to agree to be cast in Troma's
shadow that way. But Fred contacted me and put the Germans in touch with
me. We had nothing to lose. We were grateful for any publicity. And I can
honestly say, Repligator
is better than anything I've ever seen from Troma. LOL.
How did the re-releases of The
Abomination and Repligator
come into being in the first place, and what can you tell us about
audience and critical recception to these re-released movies?
friend, Glen Coburn, put out a DVD version of Repligator
on his Whacked
Movies label sometime around 2010 or 2012 maybe. It got a little bit of a
buzz going. When Rob Hauschild of Wild Eye Releasing decided to start a
second 'retro' label called Visual Vengeance, he contacted me and asked me
to participate in special features. I did and I think he has given these
movies very nice releases. He says he's a fan of The
have to believe it considering the amount of effort he put into the five
hours of special features. I'm grateful that someone wanted to give these
old movies a new life. It is not something I ever imagined happening.
far, critical reception has been pretty positive. Again, as I said before,
these films are polarizing -- you either like them or you don't.
Abomination and Repligator
being horror/monster movies, is that a genre you're at all fond of, and
I always dreamed of making nothing but horror films as a filmmaker. The
reality of the business end of the equation was that most of the
distributors I dealt with wanted bland action movies that they could sell
in as many foreign territories as possible. For a good many countries in
the VHS era, horror movies were simply not an option. Even in the UK The
was labeled a 'video nasty'. The only strong markets for
horror in the mid-80s were the USA and Japan. I made other sorts of films
out of the financial necessity of providing for my family with whatever
work was available to me.
Abomination and Repligator
now, how does that make you feel, and how do you think you've evolved as a
director, both between the two films and since?
enjoy seeing Repligator a lot more than
Abomination. They both have
their place, both have their fans, but at the end of the day they are
films that were made for very little in an attempt to cash in on the
exploitation elements. They hold up very well compared to works by Troma,
Fred Olen Ray, Al Adamson [Al
Adamson bio - click here], Jerry Gross and a host of other
schlockmeisters. I loved making them. I'm gratified that there are people
who still want to watch them. I
think there's a huge difference between Repligator
Any future projects you'd like to share?
I'm currently retired and have a lot of free time. Thanks to the accessibility
of digital technology I can dabble in filmmaking and not spend a lot of
money doing it. That is one major difference between the 80s and 90s and
today. I'm hoping to shoot a no-budget horror film later this month. I
want to try to give it a sort of 'giallo' flavor. We'll see how it turns
out. My old time collaborator, Randy Clower, has agreed to play the
lead. Brett Piper [Brett Piper interview
- click here] has agreed to create the monster, so I think we're on
solid ground there! I love Brett's monsters. I've been a fan of his work
since the early 80s.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
I read an article in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine about some boys in
New York who were making their own monster movie using 8mm home movie
gear. Lightning struck! I knew I could do that and I wondered why I'd
never thought of it before.
I studied film production under Andy Anderson at UT Arlington. Andy had a
brief period of fame as a filmmaker after producing a movie called
Positive ID. Later I took a year-long course in film production at Brooks
Institute in Santa Barbara, California.
question makes me want to address an issue I've often confronted -- just
because someone makes a movie like The
Abomination doesn't mean they don't
know how to do a 'real movie' or a slicker production. More likely it
means they are compelled to create something and they are using whatever
means are at their disposal to satisfy that creative urge.
am compulsively creative. I write books and short stories, I paint and I
dabble in video production. Always what I produce is at least partially
shaped by resources. When I don't have canvas, I paint on scraps of
plywood or even cardboard. Writing requires few resources other than a
vivid imagination, so I do a lot of that. My latest anthology, Crimes of
Hate, was just released by Hellbound Books. My movies, such as they are,
display whatever resources were available. I think Mark Polonia put it
very aptly when he said, "Give me 40 million Dollars and I can make a
movie just like anybody in Hollywood. But give George Lucas or Francis
Ford Coppola three thousand dollars and they can't do anything."
What can you tell us about your past
filmwork besides The
Abomination and Repligator?
did a lot of movies between 1984 and 1996, including a couple of Dallas
productions I put together for Fred Williamson. The list of my work on IMDb is fairly accurate -- although the other Max Raven, the guy who
was in Casino, is not me. This has created some confusion. Max Raven is a
pseudonym I've been using since high school. I had no idea there was an
actor named Max Raven until IMDb. Incidentally, I've never contributed to
the data on IMDb. Didn't know the site existed until Fred Olen Ray told me I
was on there after I made Macon County War for him. How my data ended up
there is something of a mystery to me since I never instigated any of it.
Vengeance is putting out several of my old movies, especially on streaming
venues like Tubi. I think they've got Highway to Hell, Ozone - Attack of
the Redneck Mutants, Tabloid!, Time Tracers, Biotech Warrior and
Reanimator Academy (sigh). A couple of films I did for David Winters at
Action International Pictures, Armed for Action and Blood on the
are available on Tubi from FilmRise.
years I had a bit of mystique surrounding my work because there was a lot
of it but it was hard to find. Now it's all pretty much readily available.
No more mystique. Everyone can judge for themselves.
would you describe yourself as a director?
a very laid back director. People who work with me have alluded to my
Zen-like approach. My films were all done on terribly low budgets. Some of
them work better than others. In many ways my career mirrors that of Larry
Buchanan. I set the ball rolling and trust my accomplices to contribute to
the best of their abilities.
who inspire you?
was inspired by Larry Buchanan, Fred Olen Ray, Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here] -- these were
the guys who showed me something I felt might be attainable for a young
filmmaker in Fort Worth. Tobe Hooper inspired me but I knew from the
start I was not the genius Hooper was. Sergio Leone, Mario Bava [Mario
Bava bio - click here], Ridley
Scott and many others inspired me in the sense that they kept me in love
with films and the craft of filmmaking.
Your favourite movies?
two favorite movies of all time are The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (I've
watched it something like 30 times) and Michael Clayton (starring George
Clooney, which I've seen like 5 times so far). These are examples of
movies I can watch and rewatch without ever growing tired of them.
Naturally, there are hundreds of movies I view favorably but for most of
those a single viewing is enough.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I am like a swine when it comes to movies. Put it in my trough and I'll
devour it. I pretty much like everything. The only time I 'deplore'
anything is when I see movies being used in a jingoistic fashion to make
the public feel good about abuses like the war in Vietnam or to promote
conservative ideology (examples: The Green Berets with John Wayne or that
atrocious movie with Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner about the guys who
killed Bonnie and
Clyde. They played so loose with the facts in that thing
that it just made me groan. During the Great Depression, your average man
on the street was more inclined to cheer for a bank robber than to side
with bankers and law enforcement. The main reason shows like Dragnet were
promoted so heavily on radio and TV in the 50s and 60s is because ordinary
people like my forebears had really bad experiences with police in the 30s
and did not trust them).
movies' website, social media, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
have a simple little WordPress webpage for people who want to buy signed
books and DVDs directly from me. That site is https://texasschlock.com/
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
you, Michael, for helping us get the word out about these Visual Vengeance
releases of my work from decades ago. I love your site and the wealth of
information I find there. I admire your dedication to providing the data
for which film fans like myself are so hungry!
for the interview!