Kool Kats of the Week: Monster Movie Madness Ensues as Mark Maddox and Jim Adams Let Loose the Creatures of the Night, Sending Chills Down Your Spine with MONSTER ATTACK!

Posted on: Feb 3rd, 2016 By:

by Melanie CrewSaucermen800-730x548
Managing Editor

Award-winning illustrator, Mark Maddox teams up with jack-of-all creative trades, Jim Adams (actor, radio personality, NERDVANA podcast co-host, Project iRadio PR liaison), to let loose upon the unsuspecting public a monstrous creation, their podcast MONSTER ATTACK! via Project iRadio! Their beastly baby aired its first episode on January 11, 2016 (catch it here), diving head first into the monster madness that started it all for these two monster kids [William Castle’s spine-chilling, THE TINGLER (1959), starring Vincent Price, and Douglas Hickox/Eugene Lourie’s THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959)]. MONSTER ATTACK! airs weekly and covers topics that run a gory-fying gamut from scary creatures that go bump in the night, to old-school sci-fi, to radioactive monsters, mad scientists and more! Take a listen, get your bones a rattlin’ and catch the craze that is, MONSTER ATTACK!

Jim Adams and Mark Maddox

Jim Adams and Mark Maddox

Maddox, monster kid, artiste extraordinaire and recipient of a Rondo Award (2011’s Artist of the Year) and Pulp Factory’s “Cover of the Year” award, hails from Tallahassee, FL and his artistic seed has spread like wildfire! He’s illustrated many a magazine cover [SCREEM MAGAZINE (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”; “Universal Monsters”; MST3K’s 25th Anniversary Issue; “American Horror Story”); HORRORHOUND MAGAZINE; LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS; UNDYING MONSTERS; MAD SCIENTIST MAGAZINE, just to name a few], book covers, films [Warner Brothers’ 3D Blu-ray of HOUSE OF WAX, Cortlandt Hull’s DVD THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA UNMASKING THE MASTERPIECE] and so much more! Maddox has also become an officially licensed artist through the Vincent Price estate, having illustrated a vast library of Vincent Price book and magazine covers. If you haven’t caught a glimpse of Maddox’s artistic endeavors, you may want to haunt on down to your local purveyor of monsterific lit, or catch him at one of many classic monster conventions, including Atlanta’s own Monsterama, Louisville, KY’s Wonderfest and more!HH copy

Adams, New Yorker by birth and Atlantan at heart, began co-hosting Project iRadio’s “Nerdvana Interviews” in 2014. He has been a professional actor for 30-plus years, was a morning wake-up show radio personality for twenty years, and dabbled in newspaper reporting. Adams is a fixture in the metro Atlanta theatre scene, having served on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Theatre Conference and served as the Senior Artistic Director for the Canton Professional Theatre. He is a devout monster movie matinee fanatic and is a true monster kid, boasting having once owned a collection of classic and modern monster/horror films that exceeded 1,500 titles. Adams can also be found lurking around classic monster and horror conventions, camera and microphone in hand, seeking his prey as the next charming victim for his Project iRadio interviews.

ATLRetro caught up with Adams and Maddox for a quick interview about their love of classic monster movies, their take on classic and modern special effects and tales from their monster kid childhoods. While you’re reeling in on our little Q&A, catch MONSTER ATTACK!’s second episode, “The Werewolfhere!

Jim Adams and Veronica Carlson

Jim Adams and Veronica Carlson

ATLRetro: Congratulations on “The Premiere” episode of your new Project iRadio podcast, MONSTER ATTACK!, which aired January 11, 2016. Classic monsters and “monster movies” in general are right up ATLRetro’s alley and we’re pretty excited to have a podcast devoted to old school monster flicks and those who dreamed them up. Can you tell our readers how you two partnered up to put together this show?

Jim Adams: Mark and I met at the first Monsterama convention in Atlanta two years ago. His table was located next to Veronica Carlson‘s table and I was heading to speak with her when I spotted a print from the movie INVASION OF THE SAUCERMEN. As a kid, it was one of my favorite films, and I stopped to purchase the print. As we talked about the film and many others, it became pretty clear that Mark and I grew up appreciating most of the same monster movies. A few weeks later, Mark was a guest on my podcast, NERDVANA, and we blasted through the entire hour without taking a breath, talking about our favorite films. But it was the following year at the next Monsterama convention that we began talking about doing a podcast together. The idea took form and we recorded our first show 1959_1028_tinglerjust before Christmas.

Mark Maddox: Jim and I had met at a couple of conventions and realized we had a rapport when it came to talking about films. He had a common affinity for classic horror films and the idea to do a podcast came from that. We seemed to work well together talking about them.

In the premiere episode, you both discussed your first taste of monsters in film land, with Mark’s being William Castle’s spine-chilling THE TINGLER (1959), starring Vincent Price, and Jim’s being Douglas Hickox/Eugene Lourie’s tale of a giant dinosaur radiating London in THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959). Although these were your first tantalizing tastes of terror, can you fill us in on your favorite classic monsters and why?

J: For me, my favorites have always been the classics – vampires and werewolves. I loved THE WOLF MAN with Lon Chaney Jr., and it still remains one of my all-time favorites. Fred F. SearsTHE WEREWOLF (1956) is also one I really enjoy and it is the subject of our second MONSTER ATTACK! affiche-la-bete-geante-qui-s-abat-sur-londres-the-giant-behemoth-1959-2podcast. Vampires have always been favorites as well. I am a huge fan of the Hammer films featuring Christopher Lee, although the best vampire film, in my opinion was THE BRIDES OF DRACULA with David Peel playing the vampire. The Count Yorga films are also ones I enjoy watching very much. Bela Lugosi’s DRACULA (1931) has a warm place in my heart. I don’t have much use for some the contemporary takes offered like the TWILIGHT series. I think they sometimes forget that vampires are monsters, not love interests. I am not a fan of what I call “90210 with fangs.”

M: My first favorite monster as a child had to be Frankenstein’s Monster, by far – the film version. The flat head and makeup along with his strength just captivated me. I first saw him on the cover of a magazine fighting The Wolfman and my love for monsters was set. From there, it spread to King Kong, Dracula and on and on.

Which classic monster and/or movie would you say is the most neglected and what do you think makes them worthymummy-poster of attention?

J: The original THE MUMMY with Boris Karloff is a work of absolute genius. The horror is very subtle, but powerful. I love the lighting and set design and Karloff‘s performance the very best of his illustrious career. To many folks, the film may be too “talky” compared to the action-packed horror films of today, but true film lovers should be able to appreciate the incredible artistry The scene where the Mummy first reveals himself to one of the archaeologists is absolutely one of the best horror scenes I have ever witnessed.

M: I think Bela Lugosi‘s DRACULA and Boris Karloff‘s THE MUMMY are both neglected. A lot of people would say they are both slow and not much happens. Bull! They are just incorporating the same kind of techniques that would later be used by Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch – the kind of pacing that brings its own tension. The settings for Dracula and Lugosi’s portrayal are both so weird that it’s like a broken arm that’s been set. Everything looks all right, but there is just something that feels wrong. I think the film has been dismissed too quickly by people.

frankensteinCan you tell us a little about some of your favorite “monster kid” memories?

J: The one I tell a lot is one that happened watching an OUTER LIMITS episode entitled “The Architects of Fear.” I was eight years old and the monster was the most frightening thing I had ever seen. My bedroom at the time had several maps on the walls. I loved maps as a kid, and during the night a fly got stuck one of them. The sound it made was exactly like the sound the creature made on the show, and I was panic-stricken. It was about four or five years later before I dared watch that episode again, but I decided to take a chance. When the monster appeared, my body physically shook. It was almost 20 years before I saw “Architects” again. I purchased the episode on VHS and when I watched it, it still bothered me a bit. I cannot think of anything that affected me quite as powerfully as that one did.

M: One of my favorites was the night that I found out the local TV station was going to show a double-feature of FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) because I had never seen either one. Another was my mom letting me stay up on a Wednesday night to watch KING KONG (1933) and I was ecstatic. A couple memories that Jim and I have in common are one, checking out the new TV UM2CoverFinalGUIDE every week and looking to see what “Monster Movies” were going to come on that weekend. The other was going to the newsstand and seeing the latest copy of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. (Note: One of Jim’s also included going to the neighborhood drug store and watching for the latest Monster Model releases by Aurora and Revell.)

Despite the invasion of modernized and extreme terror tactics, what do you think it is that keeps generation after generation returning to classic monster movies? What is it about these films that continue to draw you to them?

J: There is true artistry to them. I love that we can do so much today with special effects, but sometimes having that luxury creates lazy or sloppy filmmaking. I believe anyone who looks at these classic monsters – even the low-budget ones – cannot help but be blown away by the love the filmmakers poured into them. But, on another note, even the bad ones are just so damn entertaining to watch. Even today, watching the old films I grew up with for our podcast, I find myself re-experiencing those wonderful times growing up with optimism and youthful exuberance from my childhood.

black-scorpionM: Classic films have a lot of dedicated people working for them – writers, directors, actors, technicians, etc. I think that quality is what makes people return to them. With modern horror films, the ones that say something new (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, CABIN IN THE WOODS, and HOSTEL) were all different than their predecessors and that’s why they succeeded. The old films always had the backing of the major studios which helped with the quality. Even the “B” pictures were of high quality

In “The Premiere” episode you discuss the special effects in films like Edward Ludwig’s THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) (Willis H. O’Brien – special effects supervisor) and Eugene Lourie’s THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) (Willis Cook/special effects; Ray Harryhausen/animation). The techniques and art of “old school” special effects has influenced many modern SPFX artists. What do you consider the pros and cons of the advent of computerized SPFX and the more Screem25finalhands off approach to filmmaking? And what is your favorite “old-school” special effect that you think should be used more often in modern film-making?

J: As I said earlier, sometimes I find that filmmakers get a little sloppy and lazy with access to CGI and other computerized effects. I love practical effects because they seem more realistic and I think using those effects helps the performers deliver a better performance. I also believe that the best “scary” movies leave something to the imagination. The human brain will fill the gaps with far more frightening imagery than any effect can. Films like ALIEN (1979), the original THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), and IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958) have shown that. I also miss really good stop-action effects. Done well, I believe they can really sell a film. Films like MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) and any of the other Ray Harryhausen films are still favorites of mine and are always enjoyable.

M: I think that if it is handled well, you should use whatever tool in the toolbox you have to get the job done. That does not mean you use that tool when it is not necessary. Filmmaking is still about storytelling. JURASSIC PARK (1993) needed its special effects to make the dinosaurs seem alive. Some films overuse computerized effects at the expense of the story.

MAD SCIENTIST 29 FRONT CVR MARK MADDOXMark, it’s no secret that your artistic resume and portfolio is quite prolific with your art spanning the covers of SCREEM MAGAZINE; HORRORHOUND MAGAZINE; LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS; MAD SCIENTIST MAGAZINE (and so many more!); your illustrations being used for Warner Brothers Blu-ray releases; and your Vincent Price magazine and book covers leading you to becoming an officially licensed artist through the Vincent Price estate. Can you tell our readers what drew you to your art and why this particular subject matter? And who would you say is your greatest inspiration/influence and why?

M: I loved comic books, monster movies and science fiction. I would draw the things I loved, and the things I loved were my muses. The muse fed the wish to draw, to create more of what I loved. When it came to films, the love of films made me want to draw and the drawing made me love films even more. As far as my influences, the first person who made me want to draw was Dr. Seuss. But the person who really made me want to become an artist, because I loved their work tremendously and still do to this day, was Jack Kirby. That moved me from comic book art to realistic art, portraits and realism with people like James Bama, who did the Doc Savage covers and stills does great Western art to this day.

Jim, we see that you’ve been in radio for quite some time, having been a radio personality in the metro-Atlanta area

Jim Adams

Jim Adams

for a couple decades and now with the invent of podcasts, began co-hosting Project iRadio’s “Nerdvana Interviews” in 2014. Project iRadio not only has brought underrated and almost unknown subjects to light with its podcasts, but it’s made it easier for fans to access knowledge and information delivered by a wide range of industry professionals. What do you hope to achieve with MONSTER ATTACK! and what do you want our readers and your audience to take away from the show?

J: I am so excited about the future of Project iRadio, especially with the incredible hosts we have. After seeing the success of horror writers like Brian Keene, James Moore, Jonathan Mayberry and the others on the network, it appeared there was a need for a look at old horror as well as the new, and that’s where Mark and I fit in. I would love to see MONSTER ATTACK! open up that world to a new generation of fans. Jess Roberts, founder of Project iRadio, is about half my age and he recalls how he fell in love with the older films when he first watched THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954). There are several generations who have never watched any of these magnificent films and maybe listening to the podcast will help whet their appetites to try them out.

30e2e9be532710c523aff1387ccc1381We hear that you were going to initiate a Patreon for subscribers and funding for Project iRadio. Can you tell us a little about that effort?

J: I’m a rookie at Patreon, but from what I have been told, it is a terrific vehicle for helping the network grow and expand. Right now, we are all doing what we do out of love, but bills have to paid and the overhead of maintaining a large podcast network has to be met. Patreon allows those who love what we do help take some ownership in this incredible adventure. I’m still being educated about some of the incentives we will be offering in the near future. You can visit our Patreon site here.

Can you both tell our readers something about yourself that they don’t know already?

J: Wow, that’s a tough one. There is not too much I am private about except my beliefs. I consider myself a very spiritual person – not religious, spiritual. I believe this is one incredible adventure that will set the table for the next adventure to follow after I physically leave this planet. I do believe that energy will come back for another round, and I am a big believer in the concept of “soul families.”

M: I’m taller than Jim. No, seriously I am an artist first, and then I’m a motivational person. I believe that somehow I would be involved in motivational speaking or therapy if I weren’t an artist.

And of course we want to know what’s up next for both of you. Any exciting plans in the near future?

J: If MONSTER ATTACK! succeeds, we would love to launch another podcast where we can talk about all of our other favorite films and TV shows  that don’t fit into the category of old monster movies.

M: A lot more art, a lot more podcasts – even ones that will cover films that are not horror films and hopefully a lot of conventions. You never really know where life is going to take you, but it’s going to be exciting!

 

All photographs are courtesy of Mark Maddox and Jim Adams and used with permission.

 

 

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One of Us! One of Us!: Monsterama Celebrates the Monster Kid Aug 1-3 in Atlanta!

Posted on: Jul 31st, 2014 By:

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

For some poor souls, the term “monster kid” means nothing more than a particularly destructive toddler, or one of those teens raising hell on daytime talk show stages.

For the enlightened, however, there’s Monsterama.

Monster kids of all ages will soon descend onto Monsterama, a new horror and fantasy convention launching this weekend under the care of some of Atlanta’s most stalwart champions of the horrific and the macabre. And although the city may at times seem infested with horror-themed gatherings, Monsterama is aiming to capture more than just a piece of the action. “Though there were conventions that had horror-related programming, there wasn’t a show here that fully embraced the ‘monster kid’ aesthetic,” says Monsterama co-founder Anthony Taylor. Shane Morton, another key voice behind the convention and alter-ego of con guest Professor Morte, agrees. “Having attended the greatest cons ever conceived—Forry’s [Fantastic Monster] Cons of the mid-90s—I find it hard to be impressed by any recent horror, sci-fi, or fantasy shows. We have tried very hard to capture the feel of those shows, albeit on a smaller scale, and to provide a family friendly alternative to the current debauched cons.”

“Forry,” for the uninitiated, is Forrest J. Ackerman, the late founder of the seminal monster movie magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Ackerman’s impact on American horror and science-fiction fandom is surprisingly easy to quantify—it wouldn’t be out of line to say he’s the father of it all. Ackerman and his partner James Warren created Famous Monsters in 1958 in response to a glut of horror movies beaming into American living rooms. Because horror and sci-fi films were considered disposable and unimportant in the shadow of studio prestige pictures, these old programmers were cheap to acquire and broadcast for television stations, exposing them an entire generation of new fans. Through the magazine, conventions and other outreach, Ackerman helped these kids find one another in the days before chat rooms and sub-reddits, when the world was truly a lonely place for a kid who knew more about rubber suits than car engines or home economics.

But what really made Ackerman’s brand of horror fandom so special was his unabashed, undiminishing love of the genre and all of its tropes. No matter how many monsters wreaked havoc on the screen, Ackerman and his monster kids never lost their “gee-whiz” enthusiasm, which in turn bred more enthusiasm. It’s this atmosphere in particular that Taylor and Morton hope to recreate.

“I’ve been a monster fan all my life, and I knew Atlanta was full of folks like me,” writes Taylor. “I’d see them at Silver Scream Spook Show screenings, DragonCon and other events.” Monsterama aims to capture that audience by filling the con with irresistible programming for the monster-initiated. The guest list is populated with names from all eras of horror cinema, including Veronica Carlson of Hammer Films fame; Larry Blamire, creator of the contemporary throwback cult favorite THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, and author and public speaker Victoria Price, daughter of Hollywood icon Vincent Price. On the literature side, writers like Brian Keene (THE RISING), James R. Tuck (DEACON CHALK) and comics author Dan Jolley (FIRESTORM) will shed some light on the author’s process. Rounding out the guest list are filmmakers like this week’s Kool Kat Daniel Griffith (LET THERE BE LIGHT), Atlanta voice talent C. Martin Croker (Adult Swim), artist Mark Maddox and professional ghost hunter Scott Tepperman. Check out the full guest list here.

[Full disclosure: ATL Retro editor Anya Martin is also a writer guest and may be found on a number of spooky panels throughout the con.]

For classic movie buffs, the events are possibly even more compelling. The convention boasts a selection of horror films screening in—oh, happy day!—16mm, which is where you’ll be likely to find this author if you need him at any point during the weekend. Other events include author Gordon Shriver performing his one-man show as Boris Karloff, local comedy troupe Cineprov riffing on the cult oddity EQUINOX, and the glorious return of the Silver Scream Spook Show as Professor Morte and his crew introduce the cowboys vs. dinosaurs classic, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. And that’s in addition to a museum of “rare monster and kaiju artifacts,” filmmaking panels, and photo ops. The full schedule of panels and events can be yours by clicking here.

Monsterama hasn’t forgotten that “gee-whiz” spirit that lies at the heart of every monster kid. Even Taylor himself can’t help but name some genre cornerstones when describing the show. “I hope that everyone who grew up loving KING KONG, GODZILLA, FRANKENSTEIN or the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON will come out and have a grand time celebrating with us,” says Taylor. Morton chooses to invoke another iconic figure. “I can guarantee that you will feel the ghost of Uncle Forry hovering over our haunted hotel this weekend! Don’t miss this show, it’s gonna be legendary!!!”

Monsterama begins on August 1 at 4:00 at the Holiday Inn Perimeter. Three day badges are $55. Single day badges for Friday or Sunday are $25, and Saturday single-day badges are $30. CHILDREN 12 AND UNDER ARE FREE.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Daniel Griffith, Local Filmmaker and Purveyor of All Things Cinematic and Obscure, Ballyhoos it up at Monsterama 2014

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

Daniel Griffith, local award-winning filmmaker and founder of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, will be joining a sinister line-up of horrorific guests at the inaugural Monsterama Convention, founded by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and ATLRetro contributing writer, AnthonyTaylor, which will be creeping into the Holiday Inn Perimeter in Dunwoody this weekend, August 1-3! So, prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulish proportions!  Griffith will be joined by a guest list filled to the bloodcurdling brim with chillers like Victoria Price, daughter of Vincent; Hammer scream queen Veronica Carlson, director Jeff Burr, filmmaker Larry Blamire (LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA), Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Brian Keene, ATLRetro’s very own “Chiller-ess in Charge”, Anya Martin, Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. Professor Morte [see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Shane here], Kool Kat Madeline Brumby [see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Madeline, here] and so many more!  So, haunt on down to Monsterama this weekend and get your bones a’rattlin and your classic monster fix!

Griffith, purveyor of all things cinematic and obscure, and no rookie to the B-movie and classic horror genre, has produced and directed over 45 documentaries, with his company, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, spanning a wide-range of film history, genres and subjects.  His documentary library is far too prolific to list them all, but in a nutshell he has directed and produced: THE BLOODIEST SHOW ON EARTH: MAKING VAMPIRE CIRCUS (2010), THIS ISLAND EARTH: 2 ½ YEARS IN THE MAKING (2013), [both will be screened at Monsterama this weekend], RETURN TO EDEN PRAIRIE: 25 YEARS OF MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 (2013) and THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL (2012).  Griffith is currently in production on CELLULOID WIZARDS IN THE VIDEO WASTELAND: THE SAGA OF EMPIRE PICTURES, the official feature-length documentary delving into the rise and fall of Charles Band’s legendary Empire Pictures studio, known for cult films such as RE-ANIMATOR (1985), ZONE TROOPERS (1985) and GHOULIES (1985). His documentaries have gained him not only notoriety in the cult film arena, but also the 2012 Rondo Award for “Best DVD Bonus Feature” for his documentary biopic on Universal B-movie actor, RondoHatton, TRAIL OF THE CREEPER: MAKING THE BRUTE MAN (2011) and the 2013 Forrest J. Ackerman Lifetime Achievement Award.  Griffith is also the official documentarian for the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” DVD releases.

ATLRetro caught up with Daniel Griffith for a quick interview about his devotion to film history, from the greats to the barely-knowns, his desire to set a story to film and his trek into the deep dark cavernous minds of long ago filmmakers, plotting the map of film history.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Griffith, take a sneak peek at an excerpt from his documentary, PSYCHO’S SISTER: MAKING THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL! (2013), delving into the history of the 1968 drive-in thriller!

ATLRetro: As a documentary filmmaker, you are foremost a film historian and avid preservationist, which is clearly evidenced in the wide variety of documentaries you’ve produced with your company, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. In the grand scheme of things, why do you feel it is important to not only preserve, but also to share these stories?

Daniel Griffith: The media of the past serves as a type of looking glass or time capsule. It is the definitive visual representation of artistic achievement and human frailty. Therefore, it is important to have a documented record of how those works were created, if only to build awareness and preserve its shelf life. Selfishly, I became a documentary filmmaker to further understand the medium of cinema and television. To me, the film artisans of the past are the direct link to the motion pictures of the future. Studying and understanding their contributions was the BEST film school. But, as I moved from project to project, I began to recognize how many films and television series have drifted into obscurity. I guess I made it my responsibility to tell the story behind those works.

You seem to give a lot of love and respect to the underdogs, to the films and projects of yesteryear that never quite reached the level of success in the industry that the majority set out to achieve. What is it about these films, these filmmakers that magnetize you? That compels you to tell their story?

I never compartmentalize the films I document. To me, the least successful motion picture can have just as much value to an individual as the most revered or noteworthy. It is my duty as a film and television documentarian to change the way we look at the works of the past; to give each production an equal opportunity to share the spotlight. Who knows? A viewer may discover that the best stories of human triumph and creativity come in the cheapest, most misunderstood packages.

You’ve produced many bonus features and documentaries for Shout! Factory, Synapse Films and VCI Entertainment, etc. over the years, which has included a comprehensive peek into your fans’ favorite sci-fi, horror and ‘80s B-movies, westerns and a variety of retro filmmakers and film companies. Can you tell our readers how you became a documentary filmmaker?

It began with a simple challenge; to singlehandedly create a narrative and follow through with its execution. About eight years ago, I was developing one motion picture script after another. Slowly, a case of cabin fever set in. I was restless. I wanted to get out into the field and visualize a story on film. While discouraged, I revisited a wacky holiday episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000, entitled “SANTA CLAUS.” During the opening credits, a title card reading “K. Gordon Murray Presents” appeared on the screen. I thought to myself, “Who is this K. Gordon Murray guy, and why did he choose to distribute this surreal, Mexican children’s film?” In that moment, a documentary concept was born, and simultaneously the seed that would eventually become Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

The name “Ballyhoo” draws to mind a long list of whimsical, colorful and raucous shenanigans of the circus variety. What’s the story behind the name?

My company name and logo are comprised of several unique personal events. The logo itself dates back to my first exposure to the works of the cinematic showman, William Castle, and his film, HOUSE ON HAUNTEDHILL. The scream that accompanies the logo is the first scream you hear prior to the opening credits of that film. It was the scream that woke me up as a child when the film played on television. Utilizing it in the context is my way of saying to the viewer, “WAKE UP! The show is about to begin and you don’t want to miss it!” And the name Ballyhoo represents two of my passions; the energy found on the midway of any traveling carnival and the promotional tactics used on the motion pictures of the past.

As a guest on several panels at the first ever Monsterama Convention, including a Q&A session with Victoria Price, Vincent Price’s daughter, and a panel discussing documentary filmmaking, what do you hope to pass on to the eager ears of the convention-goers?

Well, for one, this is a great opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest actors of our time. Vincent Price was not only a celebrated actor in film and television, but he was also an accomplished cook, author, painter and art critic. While he is remembered for his chilling performances in the DR. PHIBES films, as well as William Castle’s, THE TINGLER and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, there was much more to him than the horror genre that sustained him.

Additionally, two of your documentaries [“The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus” (2010) and “This Island Earth: 2-½ Years in the Making” (2013)] will be screened throughout the weekend; two very different documentaries, but both created with the same amount of respect and enthusiasm for the subject matter. Can you tell our readers what your favorite experience was while making each and what you would do different, if you could go back and change anything?

Well, one of the greatest experiences I had working on all the Hammer documentaries, including VAMPIRE CIRCUS, was visiting the renowned Pinewood Studios in England. Filmmaker John Hough, who previously directed Hammer’s TWINS OF EVIL, gave me a private tour of the entire back-lot. This is the studio where most of the James Bond films where shot, the 1978 version of SUPERMAN, the first ALIEN film and Stanley Kubrick’s, FULL METAL JACKET, just to name a few. It was astonishing!

As a filmmaker, you are getting the chance to live out your dream every time you create and release your work into the world, a dream you’ve had since your early childhood. Any advice for the next generation of Kool Kids who long to dive head first into the land of imagination and cinematic storytelling?

Watch as many films as you can! Don’t be afraid to take chances on viewing films that are outside your comfort zone. Just because it’s black and white, or subtitled, doesn’t mean you will not enjoy it. Like an author with a library card, watching films is your first, best education.

Who would you say are the filmmakers that inspired you most?

There are simply too many to count. I continue to be amazed by filmmakers, past and present. I have always admired the way Orson Welles demands more out of everyone, including himself. I deeply admire the poetry found in every frame of a Sergio Leone film. Being a child of the ‘80s, I have always responded to the childlike sentiments found in almost every Spielberg film. On a more obscure note, I find the offerings of director Joseph H. Lewis strangely addictive. This list could go on and on and on…

In such a short amount of time, you’ve got 45-plus credits under your belt, releasing shorts to full-length documentaries, and have gained a following in the MST3K, B-horror and sci-fi circles, with a promise of more to come! Can you give our readers a hint of what’s next for Daniel Griffith and Ballyhoo Motion Pictures?

In a perversion of Al Jolson’s famous line, I’ll have to say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” More Mystery Science Theater 3000 productions, for sure. I am currently in post-production on an epic documentary about the history of television’s most iconic series! However, unfortunately, I cannot divulge the title at this time. But, if you find me at Monsterama, I just may be persuaded to tell you.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

While attending the Monsterama Convention, you’ll have the opportunity to stop by the Ballyhoo Motion Pictures table to view original props from various B-movies of the past, as well as purchase EXCLUSIVE retro movie items!

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

From the offices of Warren Beatty: “Will you produce a documentary on the history of Dick Tracy?” The answer is, “I’m on my way!”

 

All photographs are courtesy of Daniel Griffith and used with permission.

 

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