This month, ICONS got the chance to speak with director Jeremy Kasten about his latest film THE WIZARD OF GORE, based upon the cult-classic 1970 Herschell Gordon Lewis movie of the same name. Jeremy's updated version boasts an impressive cast lead by Crispin Glover (in the role of Montag The Magnificent, reminiscent to Crispin's own stage performances), Kip Pardue, Bijou Phillips, Joshua Miller, Brad Dourif and Jeffrey Combs. On the basis of the beautiful bloody opening 5 minute scene of WIZARD OF GORE, which plays out to THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION song "The Old Kind Of Summer", we immediately knew that we had to talk to Jeremy. Read on for one of our all-time favorite ICONS chats! - By Robg. - 8/08
What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What do you remember as a kid being the first thing to open you up to the genre?
I was really young. When I was 4, I saw the 1923 Lon Chaney version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA... and it fucked me up! Because I wasn't old enough to make the distinction between black & white and color or silent film and sound, it just was a scary movie! And it got under my skin and gave me nightmares, and fucked me up! And about 6 months later, I was attacked by a dog and had my face virtually torn off, I almost died...
Oh my God!
It was a horrible, horrible incident. And... in my mind, that weird part of you that can already relate to the monster? It already existed for me. PHANTOM had that sympathetic Beauty & The Beast element to it. He was in love with the girl, but he was too ugly. And all I thought was 'now I'm the monster'. I remember waking up in the hospital and seeing my reflection for the first time. My face was covered in stitches. I had 550 stitches in my face. Just... seeing my reflection. 2 days after I turned 5, I was eaten by this dog! And something in my mind just snapped where I thought, I'm the monster. I'm going to be that scheming monster in the basement!
No wonder you make horror movies now!
That's quite a traumatic thing to go through, especially at that age. Because of that event, did you become a fan of the genre and continue to relate to the monster? Things like FRANKENSTEIN and the Universal monsters?
Absolutely. There's that, and also, growing up in the 70's - horror was really, in the same way it was in the 50's. It was everywhere and in a very acceptable kind of way. It didn't strike me as a kid as being movies for "weirdos" or "geeks" or whatever. It was just movies for young people. Young people saw horror movies. That's what it was in the 70's! And so I remember being, as I think we all were, fascinated by the films I couldn't see as much as the films I could. Sneaking in to see ALIEN in 7th grade, I remember thinking "I can't believe I'm seeing this movie." That movie messed with my head! Even the movie poster to ALIEN, remember that?
Oh yeah, the hovering egg!
Just the way it looked, and the font, and the way the title treatment was laid out with all the space between the letters! And the tagline, "In space no one can hear you scream." Just looking at that poster in those days scared me! They don't make horror movies like that anymore where you really don't know who's going to live and who's going to die. That's what's extraordinary about that movie. 45 minutes into that movie, you still have no idea who the protagonist is. That's amazing.
That'd be difficult to pull off now.
Oh, they wouldn't let you! They absolutely would not let you.
It's so funny, you just mentioned the poster to ALIEN and the impact it had on you. When I was a kid, I used to frequent the "mom & pop" video stores and just be so fascinated by the covers of all the horror VHS titles! I'd stare at them and just immediately imagine what the movie was like.
Same. Think about this - That's gone! And here's how to make a million dollars tomorrow. I love Netflix. And as much as I love Netflix, that experience that we had, at either looking in the newspaper for what was playing at the drive-in, or the sense of walking through the video store and looking at the shelves, that's gone, man! When I go to Netflix, I'm usually going off of a list of things people have recommended to me. I'm typing stuff in - But somebody has to invent whatever that is, that sense of discovery for on-line browsing.
What was the point that you developed your interest in the way films were made? What was it for you?
I had a best friend in first grade who's parents had a super 8 camera. And didn't have any connection before that that people could do that at home. Now, obviously any kid could use video cameras or iMovie - all those tools are everywhere. But back then, it was more like being a hem radio enthusiast in 1975. I finally thought, "Whoa! The film, I physically understand. Once you get back the cartridge, that you'd have to develop through your drug store! You'd get it a week later, and you'd have film." That physical manipulation of it I loved. I loved to draw and I loved to act and I did a lot of theater growing up, and I'd make music, but the way that film brought that all together, the way you could draw on film to make a monster, or if you could time the tape recorder just right when you would start the projector, you could add sound and your own music. All of that coming together in a really kind of basic rudimentary way was really appealing to me. So, I started making movies really young and I'm sure part of it was the make-up FX and making monsters and doing stop-motion, but I think psychologically I always had nightmares growing up, I still do!
And there was something in me about putting them on film, to try and show the weirdness of it? Before I did drugs (Laughs), showing the psychedelic experience that nightmares are. That was really appealing to me, and I made some weird films! Not like "art" films, but just trying to show what it was like to have dreams where you go into the back of your closet and it'd be a tunnel that led into something. I'm sure it's because of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!
Your latest film is WIZARD OF GORE. How'd you get involved with that film? Because I remember hearing about WIZARD OF GORE shortly after 2001 MANIACS, and both are remakes of Herschell Gordon Lewis movies.
Well, it's funny, you talked before about the VHS art and going to the video store. We had that "mom & pop" video shop in my town too, and there was a time when my mom had to go in and tell them "He walks like... 2 miles to get here? He has permission. Let him rent whatever. Stop making me come in." (Laughs) At the time, those shelves had like... 40 horror movies and a dozen Herschell Gordon Lewis movies. It seemed like everything of his came out all at once! I didn't make the distinction at all about what these (his) movies were as opposed to THE THING. They were just other horror movies. I also knew, because I'm from Baltimore, the John Waters connection to Herschell. So, I understood the kitsch factor of John Waters, but I also thought, "This is important! It influenced John Waters!" So, I always thought, even since I was a kid it'd be really cool to redo Herschell's movies. And in fact, I would've loved to have done what Tim (Sullivan) did (with 2001 MANIACS). Not in the same exact way, but the story of the Southerners getting revenge.
So, you were always a fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis's movies?
Grew up with his movies, loved his movies. And talked for a long time about doing different takes on a lot of his movies. I wanted to do 5 remakes of his movies! THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS was such a hard experience that we started thinking about how we could make a movie where the money would come together more easily, and the remakes seemed like a good idea. This is way before the rash of remakes. And doing a remake of a movie that I don't think anybody would get fussy about. It's not like it's PSYCHO. I don't know why they remake certain movies. Ok, AMITYVILLE HORROR? Fine. It's not a very good movie. It could be better. But TEXAS CHAINSAW? Why? But with Herschell's movies, and Herschell will be the first to admit this and he has, WIZARD deserved to be revisited. All of his movies have such a great germ of an idea that's unexplored in some ways.
WIZARD OF GORE the most, because it's so fucking strange! It doesn't ever really make sense! So, we talked about doing a bunch of remakes, and Zach Chassler, the screenwriter and I were already working on a couple of other projects together, and he came to us with 2 pitches, one of which was this post-punk neo-noir downtown LA loft district take on it with the magician in a kind of Iggy Pop mode.
Like that nasty icky David Blaine kind-of really cocky musician, which was great. And the other take he had was this Vegas, over-the-top homage to Siegfried and Roy illusionist kind of thing. And we went with the punk-rock version. And ironically when Crispin (Glover) came on board, he sort of brought back all that Siegfried and Roy stuff without even knowing that he was taking the 2 ideas and glomming them together. So, that's how it happened. Zach pitched us the idea, and we loved it. It made sense!
And it did everything I wanted it to do, which was take Herschell's movie, keep the germ of the idea and go someplace really different with it and be very contemporary about it. And it's my goal to try to make horror movies that have a regard for them as cinema and high art. I don't mean to sound pretentious! I spend a lot of time with dear friends lamenting about when you could make a movie like DON'T LOOK NOW. And that was a genre picture then!
That movie still scares the shit out of me.
It's a perfect film, perfect film.
That's not pretentious to say! I mean, look at how horror films are regarding in places like Spain. It's a well-respected genre elsewhere!
That's why movies like THE ORPHANAGE are not coming out of America. That's why the smart shit isn't ours at the moment. Nobody with the money, nobody with the real "studio" money want to think about genre pictures in those terms.
Let's talk about casting Crispin Glover in the movie, because you hear WIZARD OF GORE, you think, Ok, they're remaking that. Then you hear its Crispin playing the lead and immediately you have to see it! How'd he come on board? Was he a fan of Herschell's films?
We went to him. We offered him the role, we sent him the script. He was one of the first people we went to, because it was a lynch-pin to the project kind of casting. And Crispin read it and then watched the original and called me and wanted to talk about it. His thing was he felt the movie was very different from the original, but it was important for him to have the "mind-fuck" element from the original, which was strangely completely at odds with what I wanted to do, which was make a complicated mind-fuck movie where you absolutely know what happened at the end.
Because I had gotten so much shit for THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS, I really want to make mind-fuck movies, but I don't want to make mind-fuck movies that piss people off. It's a hard line to walk. I understand JACOB'S LADDER, but it seems like a lot of people get very angry when they watch JACOB'S LADDER, so I have to account for the fact that I don't mind it, but some people do. That was one of the hardest things to balance. Crispin's desire to make the movie Crispin-ish and my desire to make the movie satisfying. That's not to say he couldn't have made it a satisfying movie, but I had to balance that.
Well, Crispin has a very different kind of sensibility if you've seen his movies like WHAT IS IT. But regardless, great casting and I'm glad Crispin is in it. But dude... fucking Joshua Miller! I was so pleasantly surprised to see him in this movie! I love NEAR DARK and RIVER'S EDGE. How'd he get involved?
Joshua came in and auditioned, which is amazing, right? I have no idea how that happened because I don't think that he's out there auditioning for much. I think that Erin Griffin, the casting director probably thought of him, called and asked if he was available and Joshua was willing and able to come in and read. And I was floored! I mean, dude, his dad's Jason Miller! Plus, he's directed a feature of his own. He's written a novel. He's a really dialed in, smart guy. And also kind of Hollywood royalty in the way that interests me, you know what I mean?
I'm still blown away by how good he was in NEAR DARK.
Unreal, right? To answer your question, he came in and auditioned. I had seen more people for that role and he was the last person at the end of 5 days after reading people for that role. I had seen so many people and really knew that I wanted something different, but I didn't know what. I tried everybody that was a "character" and then Josh came in and he's not any of those things, he's just Josh. But that's what makes him so interesting. Him and Zach Chassler, the writer, hung out a bunch. So that he could spend time with Zach and Zach's got a laconic New Yorker quality to him that I think Josh picked up on.
What about Kip Pardue? Is the tattoo on his neck real?
No! That's so funny! Herschell called me after he watched the movie and that was his only question.
His only thought was "What's up with the neck tattoo?" (Laughs)
It was like my dad being like "All your friends have tattoos?" and being confused by that! No, it was make-up. We applied that to Kip everyday. Kip was Erin's suggestion as well. I'd never seen much of his stuff. He's pretty and a good actor, but there was initially nothing about him that made me think, "Oh I have to work with Kip Pardue." But then I went out to dinner with him and he's an incredibly intelligent, really, really interesting guy. And he's got a darkness to him.
Sometimes you meet people and you can just see their soul a little bit. Look, I'm a director going out to dinner with an actor. He'd read the script. He knows what I'm about, I know what he's about. I'm sure he wanted me to know that about him somehow. That he had something interesting and dark. He understood the movie in a way that very few people would have, and that really appealed to me. Nobody sees this kind of character, it's a hard thing to do. Someone who wears vintage suits all the time!
I love that about your movie though. Yes, it takes place now, it's very contemporary, but there's something very vintage feeling about it. It feels very "noir". Was that a conscience thing for you?
Yes. Absolutely. LA is where "noir" is so grounded and born in so many ways, and I think there's such a deep tie with downtown being the link. I was inspired by people moving back to downtown Los Angeles, and the tie between the "noir" of the 40's and the post-punk world of now with people taking back the city. I wish I could say something very flowery about the political climate then and now and how there's a parallel, I'm not sure that's so, but there's definitely something to be said for people taking this city back and how weird that is. How weird to a city that was once so vibrant with department stores, and now these department stores have sat abandoned for 75 years, up until recently when they started becoming lofts or places where people would put on punk rock shows. That's what downtown was about for a long time.
What about Bijou Phillips? She's got a genre history with HOSTEL: PART II and she did IT'S ALIVE.
Bijou is definitely a lot to maintain on a set, but what you get in exchange for that is that when you're rolling, she is so there and so present as an actor. Look, making movies is hard work and it's hard for everybody. I don't pretend to understand how actors brain's work. I try! And I care deeply about their process. There are moments when people ask you things on a set like, "Why do I go over here?" But... that's my job! My job is to answer those questions. And answering "Because I said so" isn't a good enough answer to get someone to commit to that performance. So for people on the set - the DP, the other actors, the Suicide Girls, it looks exhausting.
Because everyone's standing around while you're explaining to Bijou why you want her to put her purse there and walk over there. Because you already shot the other part of the scene 2 days before. I don't really mind, even if it's exhausting because it's my job. A harder thing though - and I'm just being perfectly honest here. I never really knew if she or Crispin had read the script. I know that Crispin never read anything other then his words. There were things that Crispin couldn't know about what was happening in the movie!
(Spoiler) He was very clear that he couldn't be the person who wasn't pulling the strings. There was a whole lot more where Jeffrey (Combs) and Crispin shared the stage, and Jeffrey would wheel things out for Crispin and turn things on and be the assistant to the magician. Crispin couldn't do that. Crispin did not want to share that space, which I understand now seeing the movie. It's not an ego thing. It's a Crispin thing, a movie thing, and a good instinct.
But, there was a lot of stuff where Crispin explained the movie at the end a little bit more, and that all had to be written out. There was a scene where Kip goes backstage and find Crispin held together by braces and he's huffing on the tetro, and he can barely move and he's falling apart. And you realize he's an addict to the tetro and somebody else is behind it, and Crispin trying to get himself together to do his show. At that moment, there was this "sympathetic monster" thing that really appealed to me. All this interesting stuff, and it also made the movie make a lot more sense. Crispin could not do that scene.
So, a lot of stuff got written out that he couldn't do that would've maybe grounded the film a little bit more. When he'd ask questions about things, I'd have to be really careful not to say "because the geek is in charge" or "because you're being manipulated" because he would short circuit. He had to be in charge! It's not that I was lying to him, he just didn't want to know. He was sort of saying 'I'm giving you the tools for directing me, but don't tell me what's behind the curtain, because I can't perform that way'. So, it made it difficult to direct him.(End Spoiler)
Similar with Bijou - I don’t think she understood that her character was a whore! Because... I'd start to say it and she'd get her back up. Well, because Bijou doesn't want to do those kind of roles anymore! You're making a genre movie, no matter how big it may feel to the fans, it's a tiny movie. There's not enough money, nobody's fed. Nobody's making their rate, you're begging people to do you favors, all that! It took me years to get the movie made! While you're making the movie, it all feels like this precarious balance like it could all shut down and go away at any moment! Bijou could freak out, walk off the set and suddenly your movie would just stop! And yeah, you can sue them or something, but the movies over! It just ends. So you constantly have to keep things in line. That was hard for me, that level of vague manipulation where she'd say, "Well, how do we know each other?" And I'd have to say, "Well, you know, you knew each other because you were... his sex partner... but in a way... kind of like... a prostitute... a little bit!" And she'd be like, "But I'm not a prostitute! I'll tell you right now, Maggie is not a prostitute." And I'd go "Ohhh K."
She had to be able to put it all together when she's getting punched and abused by Kip's character!
Here's the funny part about that. If you watch that scene, and I don't mean to blow it for you, but that's not Bijou! She answers the door, and then she swaps out. By that point, her and Kip could barely be in the room together. To be perfectly honest, they did not get along. So, I didn't even want to put them in that situation! It's one shot, she answers the door, and then she's done. Then, the double comes in and gets beat up.
So, until she went to the premiere, I don't know if she knew what the movie was about. But she likes it! Big supporter and she's been really good about it. She wouldn't lie, she has no reason to and she's very clear when she says things, but she really loved the movie. But I don't know if she got it until she saw it. But then again, maybe this was like one of those Crispin things, where she could only know certain things. Who knows? Actors are so complicated!
(Laughs) It's funny, you mentioned Jeffrey Combs before and I didn't recognize him in the movie until the very, very end! Which is a testament to what a great actor he is...
Really? You really didn't?
I really didn't know it was him! In fact, was it him? Or another actor for most of it?
No! It is him! That was him the whole time!
Because I saw his name on the box and kept thinking, 'Where the hell is Jeffrey Combs in this movie?!' It was not until he speaks in that one scene that I realized it was him.
Wow. That's great! I'm done! (Laughs) I feel like I did what I was supposed to do in the genre! I made Jeffrey Combs unrecognizable! That was the goal! This was our 3rd film together. As long as I have something to give to Jeffrey, I will always work with him. The only reason he's not in THE THIRST is because Mark Altman didn't want Jeffrey in the movie. When we were developing this script, I went to Jeffrey, and Dan (Gold) and Dan (Griffiths) and Zach and I all sat down and had lunch with Jeffrey, and I think we were just developing the idea, we hadn't written it yet. Jeffrey and I talked already about him doing roles where no one knows it's him, and really letting him go in directions no one's seen him do.
I think he's so immensely talented, and that people sometimes pigeonhole him. He could've been an actor in a whole different way, but... he's a genre actor. And one of the most important lessons he taught me on my first movie, and then I'm perfectly happy to live with it because all I've ever wanted to do was make horror movies, is you dance with the wind you came with. And he's ok with that. But again, by the same token, after that first movie, I promised him I'd never make him play a "mad doctor" again.
I had to do that on my first film, but I'll never ask him to don a lab coat in one of my movies again. (Laughs) So, he and I and Zach really conceptualized the character of "the geek" together, and Jeffrey's idea was that he wouldn't speak until the end, and he'd be unrecognizable. He designed the costume and the look. I think it's the 3rd movie he did AUTONOMOUS, the FX guys. They had a rapport with him and got together early on to start sketching ideas. Designing noses, and the beard and just going over every detail. Him and I have a short hand. It's easy, because it's Jeffrey.
We get on the set and its more like playing. I don't have that weight of 'how is this going to go south?' Look, if I made another movie with Bijou, it'd be a totally different experience. My first movie with Jeffrey was a lot harder because he was the star! He was the big guy on that movie. And so it was just a different vibe afterwards. By our 3rd movie, I could say 3 words to him and it's a half hour's worth of attention I'd need to give Bijou.
Another interesting thing is that the "Suicide Girls" appear in this and it's their first movie appearance ever. How'd they get incorporated into the world of THE WIZARD OF GORE?
When Zach finished the first draft of the script, it had the victims just like in Herschell's movie that were all female, but in Zach's movie apropos to modern exploitation film, they're stripped naked and Montag does whatever he does...
And they're all from JUMBO'S! (* We're talking about the strip club 'JUMBOS Clown Room' on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles) I literally just went there for the first time the other night.
How great is that?! For me, as someone who's from the East Coast but who's fallen in love with the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, to have JUMBO's give me the rights to use the name and the logo, it's just so cool!
It is, and it's funny, I literally was there the night before I sat down to watch the movie! So, hearing the mention of it was surreal for me having just been there!
It's a magical place! So, yeah - I should mention, it doesn't seem like a big deal now (having the Suicide Girls) and post what Eli Roth did last summer, but I've been making this movie for a long time, and the idea of having nudity and violence in the same frame when we were trying to finance this movie seemed like a much bigger deal. But the "Suicide Girls" seemed like such a great tie to that. I had just discovered the site, it was 2004 and I thought it was awesome! It was the hot girl that you wanted to see naked from across the room at a punk rock show! There she is! She's naked on the internet! It's just a brilliant business and I got it right away and I thought these are the girls I wanted. This is how I'm going to do this.
Plus, they added to that perfect "noir"-punk rock meld that the movie has.
Totally, it seems like it gives it a backbone in a way. Now, we're on the verge of it seeming like... 'Oh God, the suicide girls?' If we waited another year for this thing to come out, people would've written it off. Like the Pussycat Dolls now versus 3 years ago. You think, oh that's kind of intriguing, that sounds dirty! Now they do fucking ads for Bally's Fitness, ya know? So, I joined the site with the plan to get them to do the movie, but I really had to become a part of that world and that community. My assistant editor who's one of my best friends now was head of the SGA, the Los Angeles group where you meet up. Over the course of this very Macavelian manipulation, it became my world. I would say a good portion of my friends now I met on a "porn" site! That's so fucked up! But it's great!
The DVD version that's out now, the "unrated director's cut" is your definitive version of the film. For starters, I love the opening. Love the piece of music that plays over the opening and the credits, and I love that it kind of comes up as a score element through out the rest of the film. How'd you find that song?
When Zach was writing the script and I was tossing off ideas, I'd say things like "Don't forget that this location should be a department store, because I'd been to a punk rock show at a department store when I first moved to LA!" Someone had put together a stack of CD's, so I was constantly listening to early goth and sorta punk stuff, but with a certain vibe I was looking for. I knew someone who was really into music, so I told them 'Here's the vibe of my movie, make me a stack of CDs'. And there was one song I kept coming back to and I thought it was so, so amazing!
And I listened to it everyday on the way to the set. It's called "The Old Kind Of Summer" by a band called THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION. It's just an amazing song.I kept thinking "I'm going to use this somewhere, it's got to open the film." But then as an editor, your instinct is to go against what the director wants to show him something new, but I was cutting the film myself. So I cut the main titles to a different piece of music. And as soon as I was through my first assembly, I thought it was pretty good. I then tried a different piece and yeah, it was cool too.
I tried 5 or 6 other really good opening pieces of music. They were all good, but I put on that song, "The Old Kind Of Summer" and it was as if the film came alive to me. It was tragic and heavy and mind-fucky and muddled and intense! All these things that I wanted the movie to be. It set it up so well. Then when we finished that cut, I sort of got removed from the process of editing the film, and gotten the cut taken away. And had it manipulated and just got marginalized towards the end.
It was all I could do to not speak my mind, because I felt one misstep and I was going to be cut out completely! It was this horrible feeling! Like, your baby is being torn from you and so you put up with it so you can be around the baby still! It's really hard to explain if you haven't been through the experience, but it sounds like you understand completely...
Well, when producers get involved... You know, here's the analogy I'd say it's like. It's like going through a divorce, but you don't want to say the wrong thing to piss of your wife/soon-to-be ex because you still want to see your baby!
That's exactly what it's like!
You know you're not going to get along, but you bare with it for the kid. (Laughs)
And you think, oh my God. She's crazy! She's really crazy! (Laughs) I just have to wait for everyone else to figure it out and I'll just not say anything for now! I mean, I remember at one point standing in the (editing) room and saying, "Well, we should at least just call about that (BLACK HEART PROCESSION) song. It might be inexpensive. We haven't even tried!" And the guy looked me in the eye and said, "We're not using that song. I don't like that song." And it was poking at me! He knew it was going to get at me! It was so weird. So, there was no money to do this director's cut. We did it on a borrowed Final Cut Pro with borrowed drives. It was like so surreal! The movie's huge and there's a hundred people on the set! And anything you need - cup of coffee, press your shirt, whatever to like... 2 dudes in a depressing room, eating Taco Bell. (Laughs) Pick up shots and inserts are like that too. Where the movie is huge and then it goes to 2 people with one light and a flashlight trying to get that shot of the hand unlocking the door or whatever! And with the post on this movie, it was totally that.
So, with THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION song, I had to track down the band! A friend of a friend, his brother is friends with the lead singer. So, I went to a show, introduced myself, handed him the DVD and said it would mean the world to me if I could use it. I just wanted him to see that it was meant to be in the film...
And it really is.
Hear the song we're talking about - "The Old Kind Of Summer" by THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION
The opening with that music is so awesome.
In the end, I became friends with THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION and I'm directing a music video for them, so it all worked out beautifully.
So, what else is in the "director's cut" DVD that's different from the original festival cut? What can fans look forward to on your DVD cut of THE WIZARD OF GORE?
I'm going to tell this story as succinctly as possible. When I got to the point where the film was taken away, the argument was that this movie does not need to be gory. "Stop trying to make it gory, Jeremy!"
Even though... it's called THE WIZARD OF GORE? (Laughs)
I mean it's not called THE WIZARD OF CREEPING DREAD, dude! (Laughs) That's so weird! They knew what they were financing! No, come on! You aren't the ones the fans are going to tear apart on the internet! If you don't see the bad guy get killed in an at least mildly gory way, you fucked up! Making a movie is such an exhausting experience. The money runs out. I'm sure that the financial considerations were such that they didn't want to try anything anymore, they just wanted to get it done, which is what happened. Look, we opened at the LA Film Festival and it's not like (the original cut of) the movie couldn't have stood on its own. To a large extent, people liked it, it got good reviews. But I always felt there were these critical parts missing. I would say 60 percent of the music is new in the movie (on the DVD). The score was never right and I was never given the opportunity to make it right. And by way of example, and this is really important, someone was getting made fun of for releasing a "director's cut" that was only a minute different if you look at the total running time, but it was a point of pride with me to release a movie that was not 30 minutes longer then their movie. Its 30 seconds (length-wise) difference, but my cut I extracted scenes that didn't work and pieces that were boring.
And it's just a more paced, more exciting thing. And what they did was just take little pieces out and made the movie kind of flat. So anytime Crispin or Jeffrey or Brad Dourif laughs maniacally or has a crazy look or does something that's a great moment, they'd be like "Well, nobody's talking here, we can take that out." But what you end up with is a flat movie. You need those moments! Those moments are the moments that make the movie! So, it's a more special movie. It's got more Crispin and less Kip. It's got more gore. There were FX shots that were never completed...
It's got wonderful music and a great score!
Thank you! The first score was good! He did a great job. There just wasn't the time given to it to finesse it the rest of the way. I was lucky, Steve Porcaro did the score, and then a composer came on named Eric Powell from a band called 16 VOLT that Joe Bishara hooked me up with. Eric came on and what he essentially did was took the score that was 2/3rds of the movie, essentially the last 2 reels has a lot of new music. For the beginning of the movie, the score would be good, but it just wouldn't go along with what was happening. So, Eric would score on top of the score and shape it to the movie, and it helps enormously.
You mentioned talking to Herschell Gordon Lewis before, so he has seen the movie. What does he think of your take on WIZARD OF GORE?
He was really nice about it. I think he was surprised at how "artsy" it is, at the risk of scaring anybody off? (Laughs) Because it's not an art film, it's a horror movie. Herschell's movies are somewhat campy, but retroactively so. At the time, they were not meant to make you laugh, they were meant to make the girl sitting next to you scared and cuddle up to you, that's what drive-ins are for! Tim's approach (for 2001 MANIACS) was to play on how campy they are now. Very much the opposite direction I went in and I think Herschell was very surprised by our movie. Um, I couldn't quite tell what he thought! Because he's such a polite, lovely man. He's just a great human being, he really is and awe-inspiring in every way. And so, everything he said to me was incredibly sweet, but I also wasn't sure if he was maybe surprised by how different it was, and maybe as the creator of these characters and of this world, a little bit disappointed that it's not beat for beat his movie, just modernized. It's really a different story, its just got the elements of the source material.
You have to figure that he gets a kick out of the fact that these young kids that were fans of his are now getting the chance to redo his movies.
That's for sure. And he's been a huge supporter of that from the beginning. I met him in 97 at a FANGORIA convention in New York.
I was there!
Were you? I was in the middle of making THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS and we were still raising money for it, and Tony (Timpone) was so cool and let me come to do a presentation for it. I was a kid and doing anything I could to raise financing for that movie. And I met Herschell at that con, and I said "Look, someday I want to remake one of your movies." And he said, "Well... I wish you all the luck in the world with that!" Because he doesn't own any of them, so to him it's more of an ego boast, I'm sure.
I love your movie and I love Tim Sullivan's film 2001 MANIACS. I love them both for different reason, but I really think they would both make for a great double feature.
I would love to see THE WIZARD OF GORE and 2001 MANIACS on the big screen, double feature...
I don't think anyone would like that more then me and Tim! (Laughs) If you can imagine the two of us doing the Q & A afterwards?! That sounds like the most fun I could have... ever! I would love that! And to be clear, I feel the same way about Tim's movie. I respect the hell out of him. I'm in no way saying that there's a right way and a wrong way to tackle Herschell's stuff. Thank goodness there's 2 different approaches! If we were just doing the same thing, it'd be boring! Hopefully the next person that does a Herschell remake goes in a totally different direction, that’s what it should be!
It's great that your movies exist, but hopefully people reading this will also go back and rediscover Herschell's movies as well. They're definitely worth rediscovering.