Kool Kat of the Week: Holy Gut Punch! Producer Kendall Keeling Screens Her First Feature THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE at Buried Alive Film Festival 2019

Posted on: Nov 13th, 2019 By:

Kendall Keeling and the poster for THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE. All photos are provided by Kendall Keeling and used with permission.

From festival judge to producer screening her first feature, Kendall Keeling is no stranger to Buried Alive Film Festival, Nov. 13-17, 2019, at 7 Stages. The ‘60s giallo-fueled THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE screens Sunday Nov. 17 at noon. Based on a novella by Thomas de Quincey (CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER) and written and directed by Kool Kat Bret Wood (THE UNWANTED [2014]), this incessant thriller subverts the formula of the revenge film, its “hero” Jonathan (Joe Sikes) enacting brutal crimes in the name of justice goaded by the cold-hearted spirit of his dead ten-year-old sister Berenice (Alice Lewis [MALICE OF ALICE photo series]) and also features scream queen Lynn Lowry (THE CRAZIES [1973], SHIVERS [1975] in a key villain role.

A longtime aficionado of horror film of the most vicious variety, Kendall Keeling cut her producing teeth with the extreme zombie short film ABED (2012), from director Ryan Lieske, who she met at Buried Alive 2010, and Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Elizabeth Massie. Next, she co-produced the horrific CRAZY2CRAZY, written and directed by Greg Daniel (currently in post-production). Keeling acquired a taste for producing, and then applied her lessons learned on these films (#1: don’t be afraid to show it, squeamish people can look away if they need to) on THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE. She also contributes movie reviews for new horror releases to STOMP AND STAMMER magazine.

So basically Kendall is a natural/unnatural ATLRetro Kool Kat of the Week, and we were dying to ask her how she discovered horror, why she has a special fondness for Buried Alive, go behind the bloody curtains of THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE, her recent recommended films, and what’s next for this cutting edge horror movie producer!

ATLRetro: What’s the secret origin story of how little Kendall got hooked on horror movies and what are a few films that had an early impact on you?

Kendall Keeling: As far back as I can remember, I have always loved horror movies and scary things. When I was about 6 or 7, I watched Friday Night Frights every week on [Atlanta’s] Channel 17. They played tons of Hammer and AIP films. I remember being obsessed with HOUSE OF USHER [1960] and the other Roger Corman Poe movies. About a year later, my dad found out that Vincent Price was going to be speaking at Emory University. He took me to see Price speak and then took me backstage to meet him after the show. He was just the most wonderful person. After that, the horror compulsion just continued to gain steam.

Kendall Keeling and Bret Wood at Buried Alive Film Festival.

You’ve attended a lot of Buried Alives and even been a festival judge. What stands out about this festival and why should horror fans be sure to attend?

I think of BAFF as family, almost. The horror community in Atlanta is just fantastic and everyone is really supportive of each other. Buried Alive is like the Christmas Dinner of horror. I have met so many amazing people at the festival over the years, most who have become friends. Blake [Myers] and Luke [Godfrey] really have a passion for the subject matter and it shows. They work very hard to keep the line-up fresh and interesting.

We’ll get to your film in a moment, but what else are you most excited about in this year’s festival line-up? Anything you think readers should definitely not miss?

What I look forward to the most every year are the shorts blocks. They are, without a doubt, my favorite thing about Buried Alive. There are always one or two that really stick with me. The features are always badass, but there is something special about seeing a 7-minute film that blows you away.

You’ve said that you only work on “films that leave you feeling gut-punched.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

I watch a lot of horror movies. I like about 70% of what I see. The 10% that I adore are the ones that stun me in some way. If I find myself saying “holy shit!” at any point in a movie, that’s a keeper. A great example of that would be Gaspar Noé‘s work. For all of the work that goes into filmmaking, I wouldn’t want to bother with something that doesn’t at least aspire to disturb or upset people.

Bret now has a number of features under his belt. Did you particularly want to work with him on a project?

Definitely. I first met Bret at a Splatter Cinema screening of Takashi Miike‘s ICHI THE KILLER [2001]. A few months later, we both ended up on the jury for BAFF. We became friends, and it was clear that we shared a taste for subversive films. We first discussed working together when he was beginning THE UNWANTED [2014]. It just wasn’t the right time or fit, so we decided to do something else once that was completed. We talked about a number of different ideas and themes, and then he showed up with a script! And here we are!

Alice Lewis and Joe Sikes in THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE (2019).

The giallo aspects of the movie (cinematography, bloodletting, music!) imbue it with that retro quality that we love while also being very contemporary, delving into returning vet Jonathan’s memories of the Iraq War and Middle East terrorism. Can you talk a little about that aspect and balancing then and now in the film? 

Well, the revenge facet of the story lends itself perfectly to the giallo style. But Bret did a great job weaving in Jonathan’s war memories and their role in the obligation he has to fulfill to his sister. Jonathan wrestles with both his decisions during the war and his inability to resolve his family crisis.

The casting also was spot on—especially Alice Lewis and ‘70s horror demi-goddess Lynn Lowry in the pivotal roles of mercurial little girl Berenice and aging, bitter Justice Merrill. Any anecdotes about how they got cast and working with them on set? 

This was Alice’s first real acting role. Bret found her a on a casting website and she was the only young girl who was scowling, so that was exactly what he was looking for in Berenice. With Lynn, that was a decision made after we started the film. In fact, the role was originally written for a man. Bret decided to rewrite the character for Lynn after meeting her during an interview, if I remember correctly. They were both fantastic to work with. On set, Alice would be laughing and playing cards with Joe (who plays Jonathan) one minute, and then snap right into Berenice and be creepy as hell the next minute. She never got tired or bored or complained. Totally professional out of the gate. Lynn really brought it for every scene she performed. She delivered a nasty, unlikeable villian and I can’t even imagine that role being filled by anyone but her now. And Lynn is so nice in real life that it makes it even more impressive.

Lynn Lowry and Kendall Keeling on the set of THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE (2019).

Loved your cameo. How did you keep your cool, sipping wine casually in the foreground while the film’s two young…er…protagonists…get to know each other?  

I was totally unprepared for that, as you can probably tell from what I am wearing. We had shot the scene with Joe and Rachel a couple of times already when Bret said he needed something in the foreground. That something ended up being me. He handed me his phone to read and I remember being appalled that he had 1000 unread emails—I am pretty neurotic, so that drives me crazy! I also remember that I drank almost two glasses of wine before he was happy with the shot.

How was the film funded and what’s next after it plays Buried Alive?

Most of it was funded through Bret’s company Illustrated Films, LLC. We also raised about $10k through Kickstarter to complete it. We are submitting it to festivals through next spring and then expect a commercial release next summer, if everything goes as planned.

You’re also a film reviewer and you watch an astounding number of horror films annually. What trends and directors are pushing the envelope now, in your opinion? A few film recommendations for our readers?

I mentioned Gaspar Noé earlier, and his film CLIMAX was my favorite one so far this year. And although it was released last year, I have gotten a lot of traction out of Coralie Fargeat‘s REVENGE. I have shown it to a ton of my friends and everyone is always cheering before it’s over. It has a lot of “holy shit!” moments. I still really like anything that smells like French Extreme, but I have also enjoyed some domestic films this year. CRAWL by Alexandre Aja was so much fun. Well, he is French, but the film isn’t.

Kendall Keeling and Angus Scrimm.

You’ve attended a lot of horror cons and met so many of the actors and filmmakers behind horror classics. What one or two encounters stand out and surprised or delighted you the most?

I love going to horror cons and I am a total fangirl. Two of the absolute sweetest guests I have met are [actor] Angus Scrimm (PHANTASM[1979]) and [director] George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD[1968]). Angus had each person he met sit down with him and just talk for about 10 minutes. It was so lovely and so wonderful seeing him enjoy all the fans. Romero is such a legend that I was about to pass out by the time I met him. He said that I had a great name and that I should be an anchorwoman. I don’t remember anything else about our conversation, but I was floating on air after that.

George Romero and Kendall Keeling.

What’s next for Kendall Keeling, film producer?

I am currently working on a screenplay for an idea I have had hanging around for about a decade now. I am also thinking about directing a music video for a kind of a horror song I wrote. I play survival horror video games whenever I can, so I am trying to work on these other things when I get the chance.

 

 

Find the full schedule and purchase tickets to Buried Alive Film Festival 2019 here.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: From Whispers to Screams, Director Jeff Burr Becomes One with the Monsters as a Fangtastic Guest at the 5th Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Oct 2nd, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Jeff Burr, local award-winning independent filmmaker, will be joining a sinister line-up of horrorific guests Monsterama Convention’s fifth frightening year, co-chaired by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and Kool Kat Anthony Taylor, creeping into the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta this weekend, Friday – Sunday (Oct. 5-7)! Prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulish proportions including a guest list filled to the blood-curdling brim with chillers like Luciana Paluzzi (THUNDERBALL; THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN); Rachel Talalay (FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE; TANK GIRL); Ken Sagoes (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3); creaturific artist Kool Kat Mark Maddox; Victorian chamber metal musicians Valentine Wolfe; Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so many more! So why not get wicked and haunt on down to MONSTERAMA for a weekend of monster madness!

Burr’s film career spans 30+ years as writer, director, producer and actor. His love of filmmaking spawned as a child growing up in Dalton, GA, with the production of Super 8 films with his neighborhood friends, and became full-on reality when he was a student at the University of Southern California. He and classmate Kevin Meyer produced their student film, a Civil War drama, DIVIDED WE FALL in 1982, which gained a lot of attention from film festival goers and jurors, taking home over a dozen awards world-wide. His first feature film, horror anthology FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM released in 1987 under the title THE OFFSPRING, starring the Godfather of Horror, Vincent Price, alongside a strong cast of actors and actresses. On April 28, 2015, Shout Factory released their Blu-ray of WHISPER, containing bonus features produced by local horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures [RETURN TO OLDFIELD, and A DECADE UNDER THE INNOCENCE]. Burr continued to delve deep into the abyss of horror as the director of STEPFATHER II (1989), LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (1990), PUPPET MASTER 4 (1993), PUPPET MASTER 5 (1994), PUMPKINHEAD II (1993) and he will continue to play in the filmmaker fire as long as he is able!

ATLRetro caught up with Jeff Burr for a quick interview about his love of film; his first ever feature-length film, FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM; his experiences with the one-and-only Vincent Price and this year’s maniacal MONSTERAMA madness!

From A Whisper to a Scream Set – Vincent Price, Jeff Burr

ATLRetro: As a visual storyteller and filmmaker, you’ve played the roles of director, writer, producer and actor for the last 30-plus years. What drew you to become a filmmaker and what keeps you playing the game?

Jeff Burr: I grew up in Dalton, GA and for whatever reason always loved movies. My mom worked for a radio station and had a pass from the local theaters to see any movie for 50 cents, so I saw quite a few movies from a young age. Both of my parents were active in community theater in Dalton, and I always loved going backstage, etc. to see how the sets were built and behind the scenes. I started making Super 8 films with my friends and it grew from there. It is a calling, or an obsession, or an addiction…pick your label. It is one of the most frustrating, heartbreaking, crazy endeavors to make a film – the only thing worse is not doing it! If you will permit a shameless plug, on the Scream Factory Blu-ray of my first feature film FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, there is a documentary by Daniel Griffith called A DECADE UNDER THE INNOCENCE, and that is truly my origin story.

Is there a film you have always wanted to make? Or still plan to make?

Heck yes! I have several films that I want to make. One is a comedy/drama, another is a period adventure film in the vein of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, albeit lower-budget and messy, not unlike AGUIRRE in scale. I am also working with a talented writer from Florida, Jonathan Dornellas, on a horror script about a subject that affects everyone.

You co-directed your final student film for USC, DIVIDED WE FALL (1982), with Kevin Meyer, winning over a dozen awards at film festivals world-wide. Can you tell us a little about the film, and what it felt like to win so many awards as a student filmmaker? And most importantly, how can our readers access the film, if possible?

DIVIDED WE FALL was a period Civil War action/drama that kind of became our own version of APOCALYPSE NOW. The film grew and grew in scale and took close to a year to make. John Agar (a name Monsterama fans would hopefully know and love), Nicholas Guest and David Cloud starred. Future “Leatherface,” R.A. Mihailoff and veteran character actor Mike Shamus Wiles had major supporting parts. Kevin Meyer and I did everything on it – writing, directing, photographing, editing, producing, etc. We dropped out of school to finish it and had a big premiere in November of 1982. The film went on to win awards, etc., but the gates of the Hollywood Studios didn’t magically open for us, as we probably naively thought! I am hoping the film will be included on the upcoming Turbine (germany) release of FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM.

Your first feature film and horror anthology, FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1987) [a.k.a. THE OFFSPRING], which was shot mostly in Dalton, Georgia, just a few short hours north, became a huge cult hit amongst genre lovers. Any fun/scandalous behind-the-scenes stories you’d like to share with our readers?

The making of FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM is full of stories, and if you’ll permit me one more shameless plug I would suggest that if you have any interest in the making of a very low-budget regional film in the 1980s there is an amazing documentary on the Scream Factory Blu-ray from Daniel Griffith and Ballyhoo Productions entitled RETURN TO OLDFIELD. WHISPER was my first feature film, and in many ways it felt like an extension of my Super 8 films. I was happy and lucky to have my brother William as one of the producers, and my great and talented friend from college Darin Scott as the other producer and co-writer – not to mention another great college friend C. Courtney Joyner as the other co-writer. The crew was a mix of amateur and professional, and it was an amazing experience. The cast was a dream come true, and getting to work with actors such as Vincent Price, Clu Gulager, Cameron Mitchell, Terry Kiser, Harry Caesar, Rosalind Cash, Angelo Rossitto, Susan Tyrrell and Martine Beswicke was pure artistic bliss. As far as scandalous stories go, you’ll have to see the documentary and hear the commentaries!

Speaking of WHISPER, in your opinion, what are the pros and cons of directing an independent “regional” film vs. a Hollywood studio production?

Well the obvious “con” about doing a regional low-budget film is that you don’t have money to throw at problems that invariably rise up, but the good thing is that you can solve those problems with imagination. It might lead down a different and better path. What was wonderful about making the film was that I had complete creative control, and didn’t have to justify every artistic decision to some producer or executive. I am an independent filmmaker at heart, and that is where I belong. It has only taken me 30+ years to figure out what I knew at age 17! And for the record, I really have never directed a real “studio” film.  I would say I made it to the triple A ballpark but never really took a swing in the major leagues.

What were the advantages of revisiting the neighborhood backlot of your childhood?

Whisper – Roger Corman and Vincent Price unite!

The advantage of shooting a film in Dalton was that I knew some pretty interesting locations and was able to shoot them, and the town itself was incredibly cooperative and enthusiastic. No film had ever been shot there, and of course the process of making a film was very different then. Now there are films made in every small town in America! But Dalton really was a supporting character in the movie, and it could not have been made anywhere else. In a very literal sense, I owe whatever career I have and had to the town of Dalton.

What was it like to work with the “Merchant of Menace,” Vincent Price, a.k.a. Julian White, the historian and thread that tied the terrifying tales together in WHISPER?

Working with Vincent was heaven. Getting Vincent to do the movie was hell. He was just as you would probably expect – generous, funny, so intelligent, warm, and so damn talented. It was an honor, and I do mean an honor, to be able to direct him. But in the process of getting him to do the movie, man oh man there were a few moments I will never forget. Watch the documentary! (And come talk to me at Monsterama – I will tell the whole story!)

In true Price fashion, his character says, “One thing I’ve learned, my dear, is that one is never too old for nightmares.” As a purveyor of horror [TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III; PUPPET MASTER 4 & 5; PUMPKINHEAD II, etc.], would you agree with this statement? Can one be too old for spooky, nightmarish fun?

No one is ever too old for nightmares. What makes you have nightmares might change, but there will always be delicious dread certain nights when you lay your head on your pillow. And one thing that horror fans (of which I am proud to be one) have is a sense of wonder and humor that keeps you young. I don’t like the phrase “They never grow up.” Better, “They never grow old!” To have a sense of wonder about the world, and an amusement, or bemusement, even of the worst of the world is a great quality to possess.

Do you think you’ll ever return to Dalton to make another feature film?

LET US PREY (early Super 8 film starring Bobby Pike)

I absolutely intend on making more films in Dalton! There is an amazing talent pool in North Georgia, one that is growing as I type this! And the filmmaking infrastructure in GA is here to stay. GODZILLA, KING OF MONSTERS shot for one day in Dalton. I would have fainted if that had happened when I was 14!

Who would you say are the filmmakers or films that inspired you the most and what was it about those particular filmmakers/films that inspired you?

I have been inspired by many films and filmmakers. In the horror genre, David Cronenberg, George Romero, John Carpenter, James Whale, Michael Reeves, Roger Corman – way too many to mention!  Certain fairly obscure films that I saw as a kid and always stuck with me are PHASE IV, EQUINOX, SHOCK WAVES, THE TERRORNAUTS. However, I would say the most influential movie that I have seen is 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I saw it as a kid, and I have seen it many, many times since on the big screen. Just saw it twice in the 50 year anniversary edition.  I don’t know why that film hooked onto me, but it did and it has stayed with me for 50 years. Other directors/films I love are Jerry Lewis, William Friedkin, Orson Welles, Sam Peckinpah, Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky – again too many to mention. To be a filmmaker, you have to be a lover of film, of all film, from all countries.

Can you tell us a little about working for the king of B-films, Roger Corman, at New World Pictures?

I worked in the advertising department with Jim Wynorski, and it was as crazy and as educational as you could imagine. My crowning glory was that my tagline was used for the newspaper ads for SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE – “He’s dressed to drill!” And a few years later, I had a meeting with Roger about directing Vincent Price, and he came to the set to have a reunion with Vincent!

Would you agree that independent filmmakers have come to rely on the popularization of smaller and more local film festivals, especially genre filmmakers? Why do you feel that film festivals are so important to independent filmmakers?

Film festivals are essential to low-budget indie filmmakers, as it can be the only theatrical exposure that they have. To see a film with an audience and to hear the reactions is uplifting and incredibly educational for filmmakers.  And it is a way to break through the white noise of so many films out there, with word of mouth, reviews, etc. I hope that the theatrical experience for smaller films doesn’t go away!

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

The 50th anniversary reissue of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; the reissue of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT in Burt’s memory; waiting for Don Coscarelli‘s book on independent filmmaking, TREE OF LIFE Criterion Blu-ray; and waiting for the (soon to be released) TALES FROM THE HOOD 2 from my good pals Darin Scott and Rusty Cundieff!

Any advice for up and coming filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

The most obvious piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers is get out there and make a film. Make one, learn from it, apply the lessons to the next one, and on and on in a never-ending cycle. Two more things – don’t be more excited about the gear you have to make the film than the story you are telling. Love your actors and cast very, very carefully. A wrong casting decision cannot be fixed in post. In the scripting, shooting, and post processes, take your time so you don’t waste the audience’s. And as quickly as you can, learn that the most important thing to photograph is the human face.

What’s next for Jeff Burr? Anything exciting coming down the pike?

William Burr doubles as Cameron Mitchell (Whisper)

There’s always something exciting coming down the pike! I’ve got projects I am working on, and who knows what lurks down an unknown road?

And last but not least, what are you looking forward to most at MONSTERAMA, one of our favorite local classic monster conventions around!? Anything exciting planned for attendees?

I think I will be on a panel, and there will be full disclosure about any area of my checkered career that anyone wants to know about. I am just looking forward to talking to people that have the same love of movies that I do, and I always learn of films that fell under my radar that I will then seek out, etc. I look forward to seeing Sam Irvin again – he is a great guy and a talented and dedicated filmmaker. And of course to meet Mark Goddard, Luciana Paluzzi, etc.  Meeting and talking to actors you have admired since childhood is a great thrill.  And I have some THE KLANSMAN questions for Luciana!!!

 

All photos courtesy of Jeff Burr and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: The Legendary Ricou Browning and the Man Beneath the Suit, a.k.a. “The Gill-Man” Dives into the History of the Black Lagoon and Terrifies Monster Kids of All Ages at Monsterama 2015

Posted on: Sep 29th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew9.2
Managing Editor  

Ricou Browning, “The Creature”/ “The Gill-Man” extraordinaire and legendary underwater stuntman, director, actor and screenwriter will be lurking amongst the monsters at the second annual Monsterama Convention, founded by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and ATLRetro contributing writer, Anthony Taylor! Monsterama creeps into town at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center this weekend, Oct. 2-4! Browning will be joined by a guest list filled to the blood-curdling brim with classic horror connoisseurs like independent filmmaker Larry Blamire (THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA); horror history aficionado and documentarian, Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures [July 2014; See ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Daniel here]; Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte [June 2011; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Shane, here]; Victoria Price (daughter of the legendary Vincent Price); spooktacular actresses, Lynn Lowry (THE CRAZIES; SHIVERS) and Candy Clark (AMERICAN GRAFFITI; THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH); glamour ghoul Madeline Brumby [October 2011; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Madeline, here] and so much more! So, haunt on down to Monsterama this weekend and prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulishly maniacal mayhem!

CFBL-1
Browning, the last of the original Universal Monsters is best known for his portrayal of “The Gill-Man” (underwater scenes) in Jack Arnold’s monster classics, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954); REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955); and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956). He began his cinematic career at Wakulla Springs performing in underwater sports newsreels (alligator wrestling and more!) with Grantland Rice Films, and even played a role in bringing to life, with his “hose breathing technique,” the famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids, whose shows he later produced. Browning’s cinematic career spans many decades and genres, including underwater sequence work for Richard Fleischer’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954); Terence Young’s THUNDERBALL (1965); Harold RamisCADDYSHACK (1980); and an episode of BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2010). He is also co-creator, with Jack Cowden, of the beloved ‘60s television series (and films) FLIPPER, and so much more! In 2006, Browning was awarded Film Florida’s first Florida Legends Award, followed by his induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2012 for his wide range of cinematic accomplishments.

ATLRetro caught up with Ricou Browning for a quick interview about the birth of and morphing into “The Gill-Man”; about his expansive experience in the land of film; and his take on special effects and monster kids of all ages! And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Browning, catch “The Creature” in action here!

ATLRetro: As the only actor to portray “The Creature” more than once, you will forever be known as “The Gill-Man” to monster kids worldwide. And of course, we at ATLRetro are “Creature” fanatics! Can you tell our readers a little about how Jack Arnold discovered you for the role of “The Gill-Man,” and what kept you swimming back for more?

Ricou Browning: I was attending Florida State University when I got a phone call from the general manager of the hotel at Wakulla Springs and a friend of mine, Newt Perry. He said that he had some people from California coming to the Springs to look at it as a location to make a movie. He asked me if I would pick them up at the airport and take them to the Springs and show them around since he would be out of town. I said sure. So I did. After they arrived at the Springs, they loved it: the beautiful river and the wildlife; the clear water of the spring. The cameramen Scotty

Ricou Browning and Ginger Stanley

Ricou Browning and Ginger Stanley

Welbourne asked me if I would swim in front of the camera so he could get some perspective of the size of a human being compared to the fish, the grass, the logs, etc. So I did. They enjoyed the Springs and they enjoyed the river. Afterwards I took them back to the airport and they left.

About a week later I got a call from Newt Perry again, and he said that they were trying to get a hold of me from California and that he gave them my phone number. That same day I got a call from Jack Arnold, who turned out to be the director of the film. He said, “We saw the photo footage that Scotty shot. We like the way you swim. How’d you like to play the part of an underwater monster?” I said, “sure, why not?” So I went to California and spent a number of weeks building the costume, and it turned out to be a bad one. So they remade the suit, and I came back to Florida and we started shooting the underwater sequences for the film.

Any special behind the scenes experiences you’ like to share with our readers?

One experience that I had is that while filming we shot in the wintertime and even though the water temperature was 71 degrees while the air temperature was around 49 degrees, we worked from a barge down in the middle of the spring and I was in and out of the water all day. After coming out of the water, they would take the head off my suit and my hands and my feet and I would be sitting there waiting to go over the next scene. I was shivering and the crew felt sorry for me. So every now and then somebody would come back to give me a little shot of brandy. After a few shots of brandy The Creature couldn’t swim very well, so they had stop that.

18s3mkqkk4g3mjpgYou got the joy of terrifying generations of unsuspecting audiences as a classic Universal monster, which of course spawned fan-driven conventions, such as Monsterama Con. What do you think it is that keeps generation after generation returning to classic monster movies? Tell us a little about your fans over the years.

I didn’t start getting requests for photographs until about 20 years after the film was made. I only had a few at that time, so I would mail them to the fans and then I’d get more requests. I gradually built up a large number of pictures and started attending shows signing autographs.

What do you think about the advent of computerized special effects and the more hands-off approach to filmmaking?

They talk about making a remake of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Whether they will or not, I don’t know. But I hope they make it very similar to the way we did it, with human beings and not just computer special effects, because they overdo that. I think if it were done sparingly, it would be okay.

When you were growing up, did you dream of working on films? Or did the chance just happen upon you? Can you tell our readers a little about your introduction to the industry?MPW-10605

The first time that I worked underwater on films, it was for Grantland Rice Sports Films. They did crazy things at the Wakulla Springs like underwater picnics, underwater prize fights, etc.  They made a bunch of different crazy things that were used as short subjects at the end of movies in a theater.

Who were your favorite monsters as a kid?

My favorite monster was “The WolfmanLon Chaney Junior.

You have proven over many decades to be a well-sought after jack of all trades (underwater cinematographer, stuntman, actor, producer, director, screenwriter, etc.), and you’re still at it! What project would you say is your favorite?

I think one of my favorite movies that I worked on was FLIPPER. Jack Cowden and I created the television show FLIPPER, on air for four years (’64-’67), and then we made the two features (1963; 1996).

We read that you and your team were chosen over Jacques Cousteau to provide your services for several James Bond films, including THUNDERBALL (1966). Did you enjoy working on the Bond films?

I really enjoyed working on the James Bond films, THUNDERBALL and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Stan Bowman, a.k.a. “Stan the Zombie” Gets Reanimated in a Starring Role with STAN THE ZOMBIE: THE MOVIE, While Staggering Through Atlanta’s Undead Horror Scene Devouring the Locals One Rotting Piece of Flesh at a Time

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crewstan the zombie promo
Managing Editor

Stan Bowman, a.k.a. “Stan the Zombie”, has become a local legend within Atlanta’s homegrown bloody fangtastic horror scene, staggering his way through cons and events donning rotting flesh while reeking of the undead. He’s been dressing up in bloody-gore-filled costumes since he was a teen and has made dining on the flesh of locals his go-to thing. So much so, that in 2010, he trade-marked “Stan the Zombie” and has been cast as such in several film and television productions, including his first taste of the biz, Giles Shepherd’s ACE THE ZOMBIE: THE MOTION PICTURE (2012). “Stan the Zombie” has also made appearances on the talk-show SCARY TIMES in 2014, and has had roles in AJ Caruso’s horror short, Z.14.12 (2014); a comedy TV series, ZOMBIE SOCKS in 2014; Jason Lumberjack Johnson’s video short, SUPERMANN TREE SERVICE (2015) and more! “Stan the Zombie” will even have his own stand-alone film, STAN THE ZOMBIE: THE MOVIE, which is currently in pre-production and will take viewers down his deep dark path of his hellishly undead past. For a sneak peek teaser and fleshy taste of the upcoming film, grab a copy of the comic book, STAN THE ZOMBIE!

Although Bowman is largely known as one of Atlanta’s favorite reanimated human corpses, he’s been busy working on non-zombie productions as a professionally trained actor as well. Stan_the_Zombie_comic_jpgPresently, he’s playing a role in Keith Bailey’s TEST GROUP, which is currently filming. He’s also played “Dr. Acula” in Giles Shepherd’s comedy-horror film ATLANTA VAMPIRE MOVIE (post-production); “Mastermind” in the fan web-series UNCANNY X-MEN in 2012; and plays the role of “Detective Mike Jordan” in Naz Pankey’s action-horror film I THOUGHT YOU WERE A NICE MAN (post-production). So, if you haven’t had the chance to experience “Stan the Zombie” and/or Stan Bowman the actor, you’ll want to haunt on down to one of Atlanta’s many conventions and horror events for a fleshy taste of the undead!

ATLRetro caught up with Stan Bowman for a quick interview about the history of “Stan the Zombie”; George Romero; his immersion into Atlanta’ horror film scene; and his current film shenanigans! And while you’re takin’ a peek at our little Q&A with Bowman, listen to his interview with Project IRadio’s “Nerdvanahere, as well as an interview with “Stan the Zombie” and John Farris of Dead, Buried and Back at Comic Con 2013 here.

ATLRetro: “Stan the Zombie” causes quite a rotting ruckus across Atlanta! Can you tell our readers a little bit about your undead back story?

Stan Bowman: Well, I’ve been a zombie fan since I was a kid, a big George Romero fan. I started dressing up like a zombie when I was teenager for

Project IRadio

Project IRadio

Halloween. Then in 2007, a friend brought me to Dragon Con. I saw a lot of people dressed up in costume, so I came back the next day in zombie, and was a hit! Every year I would try something and work on making it better. In 2010 I decided to coin the name “Stan the Zombie.”

What brought you to the deep dark underbelly of Atlanta’s monstrous film community and what keeps you coming back for more?

Pure luck? Nah, just going out there and doing my thing with one thing leading to another. After being discovered at Dragon Con for ACE THE ZOMBIE, some SCAD students tracked me down and asked me to be in a short movie with them. It just kept growing from there.

We’ve read that your “Stan the Zombie” character is highly inspired by George Romero films. Which would you say had the most influence and why?

Yes, like I mentioned, George Romero inspired me. It was the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the black and white one. My sister and I used to beg our parents to let us stay up late and watch it. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched it!

Ace_The_Zombie_Movie_Poster_%20Clown_BLOGCan you tell our readers a little about your first film, 2010’s ACE THE ZOMBIE, directed by Giles Shepherd, and how you landed the role? Any behind-the-scenes shenanigans you’d like to share?

Well, the cameraman approached me at Dragon Con and asked if I wanted to be in a movie. Of course, I agreed. When I showed up on set in Milledgeville GA, no one recognized me without makeup. So they cast me as a ZCF Doctor. The second time I was on set, the AD asked me to come in my zombie makeup. When I showed up, everyone recognized me. Ha! It was a fun crew to work with, but with long days and nights on set. We had to be a little crazy to make it though. Ha!

Which other films, directors or actors have inspired you the most? If you could choose your favorite old-school director (besides Romero), who would it be and why?

If you’re referring to horror and zombie films, I would say Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and Alfred Hitchcock. My favorite would be Wes Craven, because I’m also a big fan of THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies.

Atlanta’s independent horror film scene seems to be thriving!  What do you think draws the crowds to the lower budget independent films? And why?

Stan Bowman - The man behind the rotting flesh.

Stan Bowman – The man behind the rotting flesh.

I guess I would have to say the original stories, the hard work everyone puts in. And THE WALKING DEAD being filmed here doesn’t hurt. Atlanta has a lot of horror film fans. We took over being the zombie capital of the US from Seattle several years ago.

You’ve recently branched out beyond the rotting undead and have played some non-zombie roles, including comedy-horror flick, ATLANTA VAMPIRE MOVIE, also directed by Giles Shepherd, where you play “Dr. Acula.” Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about this production, which is set to release in October 2015?

It’s basically a spoof of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, but it’s very original in its own right. Everyone put a lot of time and energy into it, and we had an excellent writer. As far as a release date? Not sure, it’s still in post-production right now.

We hear there’s a STAN THE ZOMBIE: THE MOVIE in the making. Can you tell us a little about that and the comic which came out in May 2014?

Well, a Hollywood producer recommended that I come out with a comic book to add more legitimacy to my character. So I contacted a friend of mine, Zak Vaudo, and we began working on it. Zak was already half-way through the script for the movie, so we just borrowed scenes from it for the book. And Alison Cundiff did the illustrations for the comic.

You do a lot of guest appearances at horror events across town. Can you tell us a little about those? Which is your favorite annual event and why?

That’s a tough one, because I like them all; Dragon Con and Walker Stalker, of course. But the smaller ones like Days of the Dead, Twisted Fears and now Wizard World are nice, too. My favorite is still Dragon Con. It’s crowded, but that’s where STZ got his start.

i-thought-you-were-a-nice-man-posterYour first speaking role without makeup was in the web-series, the UNCANNY X-MEN in 2012, where you played “Mastermind.” How did that experience differ from your usual zombified performances?

It was a little unnerving. When you’re in makeup, it’s like a mask. But, without it and having to hear your own voice, well, that’s why I started working with a coach afterwards. Ha! But I liked it. It was a challenge and I look forward to more. It’s fun! But I’ll keep doing zombie as long has my body holds out. Ha!

You’ve also played a few detective roles, including “Detective Mike Jordan” in I THOUGHT YOU WERE A NICE MAN, which is in post-production. Can you fill our readers in a bit on this role?

Well, I’m under a nondisclosure agreement, so I can’t say too much. I play a homicide detective protecting his fiancé’s daughter. Sadly, can’t say more. But, you’ll have to see it when it comes out!

If you could put together a monster movie with all your favorite actors/actresses (alive or not), who would you choose and why?

Hmm. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Having “The Terminator” is always cool!), Kevin Spacey (I love his acting and dry sense of humor.), Kathy Bates (A great actress and she can play the creepy roles.), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Because she’s hot!), Debby Ryan (Because she’s hot and I met her..lol), Sid Haig (He can scare you too death. Ha!). I can go on and on, but those are some who come to mind.

So, what’s next for Stan Bowman? For “Stan the Zombie”?

Well, we are presently in the budget/script editing/shot list phase of STAN THE ZOMBIE: THE MOVIE. Putting together a feature isn’t as easy as people think. It’s a lot of work. We are hoping to start shooting before the end of the year, but that’s a long shot. You never know. In the mean time, I have more non-zombie roles on the docket, and hope to show that I’m more than just another pretty zombie. Ha!

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?Stan the zombie headshot doctor (2)

Let’s see, I have always been a big time apocalyptic movie fan, and post-civilization (PLANET OF THE APES, OMEGA MAN, etc). I’m a big history buff and love to explore other cultures. And, I’m actually a pretty private person when I’m not doing conventions or on set.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Ok, I’ve been asked most through the years, but no one asked me if I could live anywhere I wanted, where would it be? Answer: In the country with three big dogs, off the grid and completely self-sufficient. Can you tell I’m an apocalyptic movie fan? Ha!

All photos courtesy of Stan Bowman and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Goddess, Giallo & Gorezone: Jeremy Morris Conjures Up a Twisted Fears Weekend to Kick Off a Hellacious Halloween Season for Atlanta Horror Fans

Posted on: Sep 25th, 2013 By:

Ruggero Deodato and Jeremy Morris. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

Ultimate Scream Queen Barbara Steele! Italian giallo director Lamberto Bava (DEMONS), son of Mario Bava! Ruggero Deodato, as in the original DJANGO (1966) and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979)! These names are simply legend among cult cinephiles, and they all will be in Atlanta for Twisted Fears Weekend, a three-day horror convention Sept. 27-29 at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center. And that’s just the terrifying tip of a Retro-tastic guest line-up that also includes Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), a SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE  (1982) cast reunion, Tony Todd (CANDYMAN ), Fred “The Hammer” Williamson  (BLACK CAESAR , FROM DUSK TILL DAWN ), Geretta Geretta  (DEMONS ), Lynn Lowry (original THE CRAZIES ), and more.

The eerie event also will celebrate the worldwide re-launch of Gorezone, the even more splattery sister magazine of Fangoria . Needless to say, ATLRetro couldn’t help but declare con organizer Jeremy Morris Kool Kat of the Week to find out all the deadly details.

ATLRetro: I’ve heard so many local horror fans express absolute surprise and delight about Twisted Fears. Did it get started with the Gorezone anniversary or was something else the catalyst?

Jeremy Morris: Twisted Fears was formed a year ago by my twisted imagination. I have been in the convention scene nearly 20 years. I have met a lot of great people along the way. The true reasoning of the creation of Twisted Fears was a part of my true love of the horror genre. I have lived in Atlanta all of my life and I felt it was time to do a show with a twist, something different than what fans may be accustomed too.

Twisted Fears has an amazing guest line-up, including a lot of celebrities known for their European horror work, making it very different from Days of the Dead, Dragoncon, or even most horror cons around the country. Why take that the con in that direction?

This question is very easy to answer. As a long-time fan of this convention scene, I have always wished to see more international guests at shows because there are a lot of films [that are] forgotten. I chose to bring in guests that you may have not seen in a long time or possibly never, which gives the fans a fresh new roster of celebrities.

GOBLIN’s playing a few days later on Tuesday Oct. 1. Their shows are selling out across the country, and Fabio Frizzi  also is doing a Halloween concert  in London. AMERICAN HORROR STORY  has a clear giallo influence, which many think will be even more so this fall with its “Coven” storyline. Why do you think there’s such a resurgence of interest in giallo right now?

In my opinion, some of the greatest horror films originated from the Italian genre. People are craving fresh, new ideas while sometimes new ideas consist of rejuvenating past genres of films and the Italians are one of them.

Fangoria ad for Twisted Fears. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

We are just privileged and honored that Barbara and Lamberto have chosen to join us for the inaugural year of Twisted Fears. I consider them legends in their own right. They have influenced some of the greatest films that we know of to date.They will be participating in a Q&A panel on Saturday.

I am sure you don’t want to play favorites, but is there anyone you are particularly excited you were able to book?

I am truly excited for all of my guests I was able to book because I took great pride in the guest selection as a fan first. If I had to choose one that made me giggle it would be Ruggero Deodato because he is so rarely seen, but I consider him the master of Italian horror.

Jeremy Morris. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

Did you grow up reading Fango and Gorezone? What impact did these two magazines have on you?

Yes, I grew up reading Fango, I actually own the first issue. I have considered it the Godfather of all horror publications. I am truly honored that we were hand chosen to re-launch Gorezone after so many years of absence. It makes me giddy inside to think Fangoria wanted to be a part of this show.

One of the anniversary treats is a virtual interview with Fango Editor Chris Alexander, who’s based in Toronto. Can you talk a little about that

It is an anniversary treat so you need to be there to find out!!!

A lot of folks might think about just coming on Saturday. Why should they buy a full weekend pass instead? Or kick in the extra bucks for a VIP pass?

We have a lot of panels, events, night-time parties scheduled. The signature event is the first of it’s kind, our own Twisted Feast Dinner Party, with a very intimate setting for all fans to have a quiet dinner with all of the guests in attendance. This is a chance to truly have an experience of meeting the guests like no other.

What else do you want horror fans to know about Twisted Fears Weekend?

I want the fans to know that Twisted Fears will continue to be a show of firsts on every level as we continue to grow. Most importantly I am a fan and always will be a fan first. And I will see you in May 2014 for the sequel.

Hours for Twisted Fears Weekend are Friday Sept. 27, 4-10 p.m., Sat. Sept. 28, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sun. Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info and to purchase advance VIP and general admission tickets, visit http://www.twistedfears.com/.

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Retro Review: If the Dead Come, Can We Learn to Live with Them?! Splatter Cinema Presents DAY OF THE DEAD at The Plaza

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 By:

DAY OF THE DEAD (1985); Dir. George Romero; Starring Lori Cardille and Joe Pilato; Tuesday, May 14, 9:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here. Presented by Splatter Cinema.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

George A. Romero’s 1968 classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD warned audiences that when there was no more room in Hell, the dead would walk the earth. It was a strong and resonating nightmare for Americans who, after a decade of unrest and war, had begun to wonder if Hell was truly spilling over. Romero’s 1985 film DAY OF THE DEAD has an entirely different thought for people living through the last days of the Cold War: if the dead come, can we learn to live with them? Can we learn to live with ourselves?

DAY OF THE DEAD, which arrives at the Plaza Theatre on Tuesday night for the Splatter Cinema series, is the third film in Romero’s Dead trilogy, following the nihilistic NIGHT and 1978’s satirical classic DAWN OF THE DEAD. Unlike most movie franchises, the films in Romero’s Dead series have no direct connections to one another. Each film is an isolated story located within the same world where a plague of zombies has destroyed civilization and where the best and worst instincts of the human race clash against each other in the last, desperate clutch for survival. Fans of THE WALKING DEAD may recognize that world, and may or may not know that they owe a debt to Romero: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD invented the modern concept of the zombie, and Romero perfected using the dead to explore the dark side of the living. In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, racial tensions and domestic violence tears at a small band of survivors; DAWN OF THE DEAD skewers the lure of commerce and capitalism as zombies descend on a shopping mall; 2005’s LAND OF THE DEAD shows a group of wealthy survivors crawling to safety on the backs of the poor.

DAY OF THE DEAD is more of a closed system, a bottle episode that puts two opposing ideologies into an tight space and shakes them up. Sarah (Lori Cardille) is part of a dwindling team of scientists in an underground military compound charged with finding a cure for the zombie plague. The soldiers assigned to protect them are led by Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato), who barks orders and grows increasingly hostile to the science team as the hopelessness of their situation becomes clear. The fuse in the powderkeg is the cache of zombies the scientists are drawing from for their experiments, especially a dead guy named “Bub” who may be learning to be human again.

Always considered something of a problem child in the Romero series because it compares unfavorably to the (let’s admit it) superior DAWN, fans and critics initially kicked DAY OF THE DEAD down the street, leading to an agonizing 20-year delay before Romero returned to zombies in LAND. But DAY has been picking up attention from critics lately and the signs point to what could eventually be a complete rehabilitation. Yes, the movie’s problems are hard to ignore—for an apocalyptic movie, it sure feels very small, and the performances are grating—but Romero crafts the story and stages his world with his trademark critic’s eye. The signature conflict between progress and aggression, between building and destroying, is slathered on pretty thick, but the film is also an intriguing analogy about forming camps to shoot at one another when the enemy is, quite literally, at the gates. The movie could be about climate change or a financial collapse—all that really matters is the struggle about who gets to be leader on a sinking ship.

But DAY OF THE DEAD is a zombie horror movie, let’s not forget, and it’s the visuals that really help the film pop next to the rest of the b-horror crowd. This is a Splatter Cinema screening, which means there’s plenty of outrageous gore and some of the best of Tom Savini’s famous zombie effects. Romero has a particular gift for encouraging great monster makeup and then finding inventive and iconic ways to shoot it. DAY OF THE DEAD has plenty of munchy, crunchy effects, but it also has one of the most infamous disembowelings in movie history. And here I sit, 10 years after I first saw the film, never able to shake the opening image, where a zombie walks past sporting only the least-useful half of its jaw while an old rotting newspaper declares in its headline that “THE DEAD WALK!”

The NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was a literal evening of horrors, but the DAWN of its sequel was more of a metaphor, a way to describe the gradual realization that the world had changed and would never be the same. DAY OF THE DEAD continues that metaphor. The long day is here and the survivors have only the bleak reality that arrives and lingers—we’re all alone, on our own, and fodder for the cold inevitable.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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Retro Review: WHITE ZOMBIE Walks Again in the World Premiere of an All-New Restoration at Atlanta’s Historic Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Jan 16th, 2013 By:

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932); Dir. Victor Halperin; Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, John Harron and Robert Frazer; World premiere Friday, Jan. 18 @ 8:00 p.m. hosted by Prof. Morte (scary details at end of story), and Jan. 25-31; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Long before George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD forever redefined “zombie” in the public mind as “undead, flesh-eating ghoul,” the Halperin Brothers first brought the Haitian legend of the zombie to the screen with 1932’s WHITE ZOMBIE.

The movie finds young couple Madeline Short (Madge Bellamy) and Neil Parker (John Harron) reuniting in Haiti to be wed at the plantation of their friend Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer). Beaumont’s secret love for Madeline drives him to visit local voodoo master Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi) in order to enlist his help in winning Madeline’s hand. Legendre provides Beaumont with a potion that will transform her into a zombie, robbed of her will and love for Parker. He complies with Legendre’s instructions, but soon finds that the villainous voodoo master has plans of his own for the young beauty.

In 1932, America was in the midst of a newfound fascination with voodoo due to New Orleans’ emergence as a tourist destination. Interest was further fueled by authors such as William Buehler Seabrook. Seabrook was a well-traveled journalist, explorer, occultist and Georgia resident who had gained renown by documenting occult practices across the globe, including some of the only objective contemporaneous reporting on Aleister Crowley. Seabrook’s interest in the occult led him to spend considerable time in Haiti researching voodoo and the Culte des Morts. This adventure resulted in his 1929 book THE MAGIC ISLAND, which introduced the concept of the “zombie” to American audiences.

Producer Edward Halperin and his brother, director Victor Halperin (along with screenwriter Garnett Weston) capitalized on the nation’s interest in voodoo by borrowing liberally from both Seabrook’s work and Kenneth Webb’s 1932 Broadway play, ZOMBIE, and crafted an atmospheric masterpiece. The Halperins enlisted Bela Lugosi, fresh off his success in Universal’s 1931 smash DRACULA. It’s unclear as to Lugosi’s reasons for choosing to immediately follow a major studio hit with a micro-budgeted independent film, but he may have seen it as a way to stretch his creative muscles in a low-risk venture. Although he was paid little for his role (reports vary from $500 to $5000), his co-star Clarence Muse reported that Lugosi rewrote portions of the script, restaged some of the scenes and even directed portions of the film. His personal investment in the end results may be why Lugosi considered WHITE ZOMBIE a favorites among his own movies.

It could also be because it’s just a damned fine film.

The film deftly balances the legendary with the actual. While Legendre’s zombies are the reanimated corpses of Haitian lore (their look provided by Universal’s maestro of makeup, Jack Pierce), the film also depicts his use of a poison that emulates death and results in the victim’s deathlike trance and subsequent subservience to a bokor or sorcerer. Though this method had long been suspected, a pharmacological explanation for the zombie phenomenon wouldn’t be confirmed until ethnobiologist Wade Davis’ explorations into Haiti in the 1980s.

Beyond the film’s knowing mixture of fact and fiction, it benefits from the collaboration of Victor Halperin, cinematographer Arthur Martinelli and music superviser Abe Meyer. Together, they take what may have read on the page as stagebound and stodgy and create a dreamlike vision that mirrors Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR (also 1932), echoes elements of contemporaneous Universal horrors and anticipates Val Lewton’s exercises in atmosphere and sound design. Constantly inventive staging and camera work—taking place on sets borrowed from DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME—operate in sync with native drumming, chants, ambient noise, eerie rearrangements of classical works and original music by Xavier Cugat to deliver a palpable sense of creeping death under the oppressive hand of Murder Legendre.

And in the role of Legendre, Lugosi becomes the embodiment of evil itself. No other role—not even Dracula—fully utilizes his mesmeric power and hypnotic presence. From the opening scene, when his eyes are superimposed on the landscape of Haiti, his presence is felt in every frame of film; this is the power of his performance as Murder Legendre. The Halperins attempted to recapture the magic of this film with a sequel, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES, but made the mistake of attempting to replace Bela with Dean Jagger. It’s no small wonder that the subsequent film failed.

For years, WHITE ZOMBIE only circulated on washed-out transfers of faded 16mm prints, mastered for public domain VHS and TV broadcast. In 1999, two rare 35mm prints were used to create the restored version released on DVD by the Roan Group. However, those prints were hardly in pristine condition, displaying evident damage and dropped frames.

Left to right: Bela Lugosi as voodoo master Legendre, a mesmerized Madge Bellamy and a concerned John Harron in WHITE ZOMBIE (1932).

In recent years, Los Angeles-based Holland Releasing had heard that a previously unknown complete 35mm print was rumored to be in the possession of an aged film collector. Thomas W. Holland (a previous resident of Roswell and Marietta) spoke about the efforts to track down this elusive print and its owner. “I heard a rumor about an old fellow who claimed to have a superb, original 35mm print and that began a worldwide search to find this aging, eccentric film lover and convince him to let us acquire the film for a full restoration.  People think I’m joking when I say I had to go through a friend of a friend of a friend to contact this man.” When the print was found, Holland was stunned at its overall condition. “It must have been removed from theatrical service early on, or been set aside as a special studio print.” The Holland Releasing group then set about restoring the film.

AlgoSoft-Tech USA, based in Bishop, Georgia, was hired to return WHITE ZOMBIE’s image quality to its original standards. AlgoSoft’s president, Dr. Inna Kozlov, a famed mathematician in her native Russia, took on the project with great excitement. “We arranged to have the vintage 35mm print scanned, frame-by-frame, at a very high resolution so as not to lose any information.” From that point, Dr. Koslov and her technology developer, Dr. Alexander Petukhov wrote customized software to correct any imperfections in each frame. “Our goal was to return the film’s visuals to how they looked in 1932, the way a vintage carbon arc light source would have glistened through a silver nitrate print of the era.”

Another Atlanta firm, Crawford Media Services, was chosen to do the final re-assembly of the motion picture which included intensely detailed color-correction. “Being a black-and-white film, WHITE ZOMBIE required far more expertise and patience than a typical color feature to get the light levels correct,” says producer Holland. “This film is a gothic masterpiece, and we wanted it to look exactly the way it did when audiences first saw it.”

Once the Georgia image work was completed, the master was sent to Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California. Using a variety of sources, Chace remastered the film’s faded audio tracks to restore the sound to match the quality of the restored image. “Early sound films had a tremendous amount of inherent hiss, clicks and pops,” Holland says, “but Chace was able to give us a new audio track that greatly reduced this. We weren’t looking to make a hi-fi version of the WHITE ZOMBIE track, just a cleaner, clearer representation of how the movie originally sounded in theaters of the ’30s.”

Of course, any restoration invites an amount of controversy, and WHITE ZOMBIE is no exception to this rule. The Holland restoration, which has been licensed for use on an upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release by Kino/Fox Lorber, is already attracting its share of debate from advance reviews. (The release offers two viewing options for comparison: the Holland restoration and a “raw” transfer of the print used prior to AlgoSoft’s restorative work.) However, without actually being able to see an arc light-projected silver nitrate print of WHITE ZOMBIE, it’s impossible to say that the Holland restoration is an inaccurate representation of how the film looked in 1932.

What is most exciting, though, is the chance to see WHITE ZOMBIE on the big screen once again as the restoration makes its world premiere at the Plaza Theatre. The Plaza is making this night a grand event. Hosted by Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow (aka Shane Morton) and Blake Myers (Atlanta effects artist, filmmaker, Buried Alive Film Festival programmer and ATLRetro Kool Kat, whose credits include THE WALKING DEAD and V/H/S), the film will be preceded by the vintage Betty Boop cartoon “Is My Palm Read?” and followed by the 1932 short subject “An Intimate Interview with Bela Lugosi.” Following the filmed entertainment, the team behind WHITE ZOMBIE’s restoration will take part in a question-and-answer session. And attendees will have a chance to win a lifetime all-inclusive ticket to the Plaza, original Plaza seats and T-shirts and monster masks from event sponsor Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse.

Following its premiere on January 18, the film will be showing at the Plaza for a full week, running from January 25-31, and will be shown on a one-time-only basis in theaters across the Unites States and Canada. But you can be there first and see WHITE ZOMBIE brought back to life at its world premiere in Atlanta.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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30 Days of the Plaza, Day 28: TRICK ‘R TREAT and the Grand Tradition of the Anthology Horror Film

Posted on: Oct 24th, 2012 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007/2009); Dir: Michael Dougherty; Starring Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin; Tues. Oct. 30 7:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; $10; Trailer here; Advance tickets here.

Michael Dougherty’s TRICK ‘R TREAT is more than simply a great horror movie (though that alone should have been enough to save it from having been shelved by Warner Brothers for 2 years). Beyond its well-crafted story, inspired performances and cleverly-executed direction, the film is also a loving tribute to both Halloween and a staple of horror cinema throughout the 20th century: the anthology film.

Though other genres have tackled the anthology to varying degrees of success, the anthology format has long been perfectly suited for horror. At the dawn of the previous century, there was the celebrated Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol. Parisian audiences taking in an unpleasant night at the theater would experience five or six short and brutally horrific plays per show, and success kept the blood flowing for 65 years. It made sense, then, that the emerging art form of cinema would take some cues from the Grand Guignol. The first anthology horror film popped up in 1919 with Germany’s UNCANNY STORIES, and filmmakers returned to the well again and again, resulting in classics like 1924’s WAXWORKS and 1945’s DEAD OF NIGHT.

It was during the 1960s and ‘70s that the genre really took off, however, thanks to the efforts of Great Britain’s Amicus Productions. Their series of anthology horror pictures began with DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1964) and continued through to THE MONSTER CLUB (1980). Frequently directed by British horror veterans Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker, and often written by American horror legend Robert Bloch, the movies were extremely successful on both sides of the pond and rivaled the popularity of Amicus’ chief competitor, Hammer Films (it helped that many of Hammer’s stars—including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee—were featured in many of the films).

The emergence of the slasher genre as horror’s chief moneymaker shuffled the by-now quaint anthology film to the backburner in the 1980s. Few major studios took the risk on helming them, and as a result, those that emerged were often cash-strapped and threadbare productions with few real “stars” to pull in crowds. Sure, there were exceptions, such as the George Romero / Stephen King collaboration CREEPSHOW (1982) and Stephen King’s CAT’S EYE (1985), but by and large the anthology films that have emerged since the genre’s heyday have been either conceived or promoted as throwbacks rather than as part of a viable tradition.

And while you could say that TRICK ‘R TREAT does just that—present itself as a tribute—it also pushes forward by taking storytelling risks that are rare in the anthology genre itself. Rather than just presenting a handful of stories connected by a framing device (which is typically how these films are structured), Dougherty threads all of the stories together over the course of a single Halloween night. Characters cross paths continually and their stories intersect, while each story reveals details about events that have transpired elsewhere by presenting different perspectives.

A scene from TRICK R TREAT. Warner Brothers, 2007.

The stories themselves are short and simple. A serial killing principal (Dylan Baker) just can’t get rid of a body. Pranks centering around a decades-old massacre turn on the pranksters. A party in the woods turns bloody. A curmudgeonly, Halloween-hating old man (Brian Cox) gets his comeuppance from Sam, the living embodiment of the spirit of Halloween. (Sam appears in each segment.) But it’s how the stories are fleshed out, and how they interact with each other, that takes the film to another level. It’s like the horror film equivalent of Robert Altman’s SHORT CUTS or Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION. Just a hell of a lot more fun.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

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Retro Review: Splatter Cinema Opens the Gory Gates of Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD

Posted on: Aug 8th, 2011 By:

US poster for CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, released here as THE GATES OF HELL.

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (Paura nella città dei morti viventi) (aka THE GATES OF HELL) (1980); Dir: Lucio Fulci; Screenplay by Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti; Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl; Tues. Aug. 9; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Regurgitated guts. A drill bit to the head. A pick axe in the eye…

Welcome to Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, one of the most memorable – and shocking – “gore” films of the 1980s, presented in all its uncut, gruesome glory this Tuesday night at The Plaza Theatre, brought to you by those celluloid-lovin’ maniacs known to Atlanta residents as Splatter Cinema.

This may look like Christopher Lee, but it's actually the suicidal priest in THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, now available also on Bluray DVD from Blue Underground.

For this month’s gut-wrenching, retro bloodbath, it’s spaghetti splatter with lots of weirdness on top. The late Italian director has been variously reviled by film fans as either one of the worst movie-makers of all time (he’s definitely not) or hailed a horror visionary and unique director. Honestly, there was no one quite like Lucio, but he would never have won an Oscar or its Italian equivalent. A distinctive director, yes; talentless, exploitive hack, NO!

For ATL Retro readers who only know his name in regards to his pasta horror flicks of the late ‘70s through the mid-‘90s (Fulci died of a heart attack in 1996), it should be noted that he made dozens of films over a 30-plus year career, which spanned comedies, costume dramas, spaghetti westerns, giallo thrillers and many more. Like acclaimed director Roman Polanski, who started out making absurdist dramas, weird thrillers (KNIFE IN THE WATER [1960]), became known as a “horror” director because of REPULSION (1965), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) and ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) before making one of the greatest movies of all time, the retro noir CHINATOWN (1974), Fulci escapes classification; he is sui generis.

One of the LIVING DEAD in Fulcio's zombie classic.

But splatter and zombies, and madness and more zombies and splatter (and the disgusting THE NEW YORK RIPPER [1982]) are what have seemingly become Fulci’s legacy. That said, he made two of my favorite Italian movies, the sprawling, hysterical historical costume drama, BEATRICE CENCI [1969]) and the insane psycho-thriller, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING [1972].

The story, with a vague nod to H.P. Lovecraft, starts in the small New England town of Dunwich, where a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in the church cemetery which somehow opens the gates of hell, allowing the dead to rise. Peter (Christopher George), a New York City reporter, teams up with a young psychic, Mary (Catriona MacColl), to travel to the town where they team up with another couple, psychiatrist Jerry and patient Sandra, to find a way to close the gates before All Saints Day or the dead all over the world will rise up and kill the living.

Bleeding eyes were the tamest effect in Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD>

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD was Fulci’s second foray into “undead” territory after 1979’s ZOMBI 2, a quick cash-in on the success of Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). The first of his unofficial “undead” trilogy (CITY was followed by THE BEYOND and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY in 1981), this is one of the director’s best horror films. According to the fine folks at The Plaza, the print also is one of the most complete, good quality prints you’ll see on the big screen at this time – uncut, with all the infamous scenes intact. A must-see for all lovers of ‘80s horror and spaghetti splatter, and a primer for would-be filmmakers, CITY is loaded with atmosphere, shocking moments and typical Italian weirdness which unfolds like a fever dream. In other words,  park your left, logical brain hemisphere at the door and just go with the demented flow…You have been warned!

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