Monday, February 22, 2010

Whither thee, Alabama?

In the course of preparing my upcoming book on regional horror films, one of the most daunting tasks has been trying to prepare a relatively comprehensive state-by-state list of films that were made during the period I'm covering (1957 to 1990).

While I was hoping to find at least one film for each state, there were a few places where it seems there just weren't any low-budget, indie horror films made during the "classic" era of regional filmmaking.

So far, the no-shows are:

North Dakota
South Dakota

I also haven't turned up any independent horror films made entirely in the District of Columbia (although several movies in the book do include some location footage filmedthere). What about Puerto Rico and American Samoa? Should I include them? Have there even been any homegrown horror films made there (outside of runaway productions like Creature from the Haunted Sea)?

So I'm putting out a call to you, the viewing public: Have any of you turned up info on any regional horrors from those remaining states? Any monsters in Montana? Hellspawn in Hawaii? Remember, the films had to have been shot between 1957 and 1990 and produced independently. Shot-on-video films count, as long as they were distributed somewhere beyond the director's living room. I'm trying to avoid runaway productions made by otherwise California-based film crews. Rack your brains -- remember, the people of the great state of South Dakota are counting on you.

Feel free to post in the comments section, or shoot me an e-mail at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Buckeye Bloodbath

Columbus, Ohio

This Lovecraftian story about an inter-dimensional monster using a psychology student's dreams as a gateway to our world was filmed in Columbus, Ohio, by Ohio State University grad Jay Woelfel using members of the Ohio Community Theatre.

After making this movie, Woelfel relocated to California and went on to work as a director, editor and composer on dozens of films. He has, however, returned to his home state to film a number of projects, including Season of Darkness (2009), starring Richard Hatch and Tim Thomerson, and Closed for the Season (2009), which was filmed at the shuttered Chippewa Lake Amusement Park near Medina.

He also has a Web site, where you can see clips of his films and some of his other projects, and read about the making of his first feature here.

Below, I've pasted an article about Film Group II, a Columbus-based production company formed by one of the producers on Beyond Dream's Door, Dyrk Ashton.

It appears the Film Group II did shoot additional footage for Burson's film, First You Live, Then You Die, around Columbus. The movie featured diminutive "Twin Peaks" actor Michael J. Anderson (and a cameo by Jim VanBebber), and was completed in 1994 but never released. (There are some images from the film online here.) Dyrk Ashton wound up doing some acting and editing later, as well as teaching film studies at the University of Toledo. Colelli is part of a commercial film company called Sprocket Fuel.

From: The Toledo Blade, July 26, 1990

Movie Venture Betting On Ohio

By Ann Fisher

COLUMBUS -- This town is a far cry from Hollywood. From all appearances there are no stars, no elaborate movie sets, and few sources of creative and production talent.

Yet three Columbus-area men are betting they have everything they need to make high-quality, money-making films without the pricey accoutrements of Tinseltown.

Dyrk Ashton, a Perrysburg native, and his partners, Ralph Colelli and Mark Burson, have spent more than a year measuring the risk of independent film-making in Ohio.

While working on their venture, Film Group II, they have learned that Ohio has something else, too, an intangible élan in short supply in the bastions of celluloid, said Mr. Ashton, 27.

"The enthusiasm in Ohio is much higher than it is in L.A. or New York," he said. "Out there, it's old hat, it's business as usual. Here, it's much fresher; it's new."

Mr. Ashton, who has a master's degree in cinema production from Ohio Status University, produced the feature film "Beyond Dream's Door," a horror fantasy that has been screened at the Milan and Cannes film festivals and the American Film market.

Mr. Colelli, 43, also an OSU graduate, is an award-winning producer of several commercials and documentaries. He co-wrote and directed the feature-length film "The Second Degree," which has been released in theaters in Europe and other foreign markets.

Mr. Burson, 30, a graduate of Ohio University, recently was awarded a 1990 Oho Arts Council grant to help complete his feature-length film, "First You Live, Then You Die."

Those credentials, combined with what one Ohio industry observer called "considerable connections" in the industry, and the increasing call for films for markets such as video rentals and cable television, provide most of what's needed to compete in the multi-billion dollar movie market, Mr. Ashton said.

He describes their company as a "very small independent," that will target special audiences, making films for about $750,000 to $1.2 million "that will look like they cost $3 to $5 million."

The missing element now is financial backing. Hoping to fill that need, the partners are hosting a party here tonight to introduce their new venture to local media and potential investors.

"It's a very difficult for an independent without a lot of backing, and not more than one picture, to really make it," said Robert W. Wagner, a professor emeritus at the Ohio statue university, and a member of the board of directors of Film Group II.

But R.J. Cavallaro, president of Columbus-based stepping stone entertainment, a sort-of branch office for west coast producers seeking Midwest talent, said film group II's plan is doable.

"I think it's a realistic goal," Mr. Cavallaro said. "But I think it's going to be tough for them… they're going to have to have good story ideas and they're going to have to have good distribution."

Ms. Lapolla, director of the Ohio Film Bureau, said her agency, part of he state Department of Development, tries to help projects like Film Group II.

"A good percentage of these are low-budge, independent producers and they need our assistance … with cutting red tape, or help with finding a location," she said.

Since 1976, when the bureau opened, outside film companies have spent about $65 to $70 million in Ohio and have created some 40,000 temporary jobs, she said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow Day!

In honor of the record snowfall here in the midwest, here is a selection of winter-themed regional horror film trailers:

First, from the wilds of Massachusetts and New Hampshire comes Winterbeast, filmed in 1986 and released on video in 1992 by Ohio-based Tempe Entertainment:

Next, coming at you from the snowy climes of upstate New York, the fevered imagination of the screenwriter of Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972) and the warped cinematic sensibilities of pornographers Michael and Roberta Findlay, I present Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). In addition to a fluffy white yeti mauling college students, it has a funny song about bigfoot, a lengthy party sequence set to the song "Popcorn" by Hot Butter, and the best non-sequitor-death-by-electric-carving-knife sequence ever. Ever.

Finally, we have Bill Rebane's Wisconsin-set The Capture of Bigfoot (1979). Like almost every other entry in the short-lived but memorable sub-genre of albino bigfoot movies, this one features a ridiculous dance sequence. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your ears on the haunting strains of "Sensuous Tiger" by "The Friends."

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Little Old Ladies from Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio

Kicking off our month-long tribute to Ohio-made horror films is the peculiar and obscure Homebodies, about homicidal seniors taking on the developers that want to evict them from their apartment building.

The film was directed by Larry Yust, who had a long career before and after Homebodies making documentaries and educational films, many of them for the Encyclopedia Britannica (his father Walter was the Britannica editor). He continues to work as a photographer, and you can see some of his work here.

I found TIME magazine's review online, and I've pasted a number of related articles below. I was especially impressed with the elaborate local premiere (free prunes!), particularly since the film appears to have had a somewhat limited distribution run upon its initial release. I have seen notices for screenings of the film as late as 1978 or 1979, though, and it had a VHS release. I couldn't find a trailer, but you can watch the whole film (in segments) on YouTube.

From: Boxoffice, Aug. 5, 1974

Actress Frances Fuller in Avco's 'Homebodies'

NEW YORK -- Frances Fuller, veteran character actress and director of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts since 1954, makes a rare film appearance in Avco Embassy Pictures' "Homebodies." She plays a member of a "grey power" hit gang violently resisting eviction form an old brownstone house being demolished to make way for a high rise office complex.

Miss Fuller is married to producer Worthington Miner, co-director of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, with whom she appeared in the film "They Might be Giants" (1971). Not to be confused with the late Frances Farmer, Miss Fuller was a Paramount star in the '30s opposite Gary Cooper in "One Sunday Afternoon" (1933) and George Bancroft in "Elmer and Elsie" (1934).

"Homebodies," described as a heart-warming horror story, world premieres in Cincinnati this month prior to its national release. Marshall Backlar and James Levitt produced for their Cinema Entertainment Corporation, with Larry Yust as director.

From: Boxoffice, Aug. 26, 1974

Homebodies Debut Follows Offbeat Gala

CINCINNATI -- The world premiere of Avco Embassy's "Homebodies" was held here with a two-day gala, the like of which never has been seen before anywhere, Monday and Tuesday nights (12, 13). Have you ever been to a "hard hat" cocktail party held in a deserted area of abandoned buildings, with dirt and rubbish all around? Of course not! But it happened here, Monday (12), with guests wearing hard hats, the same type worn by construction workers.

A buffet supper was served under a canopy (similar to a scene in "Homebodies") at the Queengate site for invited guests, including city officials, members of the press and radio-TV personalities. Fortunately, the weather was good, with no dusty swirls of wind to discomfort those attending or to spoil the food.

And the entertainment? Knocking down buildings was the piece de resistance. Guests were invited to try their luck up on the cranes at breaking windows or dislodging a brick or two. Those who tired included Cincinnati Mayor Theodore M. Berry; a member of the redevelopment program; chiefs of the police and fire department; Bob Braun, WLW-TV star, and Don Wirtz, Mid States Theatres, who planned the stunt. Paula Trueman, the star of "Homebodies," stood by to cheer them on!

At the Skywalk Cinemas Tuesday night (13) there were fireworks, a parade led by the famed Roger Bacon Band and Paula Trueman, star; Marshall Backlar, producer; Larry Yust, director, and James Levitt, executive producer. They arrived, not in limousines, but in cleaned-up dump trucks. There was a combo on the elevated stairway leading to the Skywalk Cinemas, red carpets, proclamations, wine, flowers, and free prunes -- and finally the showing of "Homebodies" before an enthusiastic audience.

"Homebodies" is a film about elderly people being evicted from their homes to make way for urban renewal and their futile efforts to defy progress. Most of the exterior scenes were filmed here in the Queengate area, now being developed in the city's renewal program. The motion picture contains some shots of the Fountain Square Plaza, Burnet Woods and the Western Viaduct.

Starring Paula Trueman, "Homebodies" currently is playing the Skywalk Cinemas and the Princeton Cinemas.

From: Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio, July 27, 1974

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February Odds and Ends

We're only a few weeks into the month, and it's already time to do a little housecleaning around the crypt. Here are some random bits of news and updates that have been piling up on my already cluttered desk:

* The Al Adamson Channel: Independent-International Pictures's founder and president Sam Sherman called us a few months back to let us know that he had launched a free YouTube channel called iipAlAdamsonMania. While a good many of late director Al Adamson's exploitation pix are available there, Sherman has also posted a number or rarities from the IIP and Hemisphere libraries, everything from THE ALFRED NOBEL STORY to FIGHTING RATS OF TOBRUK.

And, of course, there are a few regional titles in there as well, including John Russo's MIDNIGHT (filmed in Pennsylvania) and the oddball 1961 Barry Mahon flick BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE (shot in New Orleans). You can watch the full-length films online (there's a brief commercial) and access all of the trailers.

* Big Changes at Fangoria: A number of blogs and message boards have been buzzing about this for a few weeks, but word on the street is that longtime Fangoria editor Tony Timpone has stepped down (after an astounding 20-plus-year tenure), and former Rue Morgue writer Chris Alexander has been tapped as his replacement. Timpone will apparently continue working with the mag in some capacity, and managing editor Mike Gingold is still on board. The mgaazine's Web site, however, is has been down for awhile.

* DVD Updates: Watch out for the Jack Weis-Herbert Janneke Jr. film QUADROON (1972) from Code Red in March. The Louisiana-lensed plantation pic stars frequent S.F. Brownrigg actor Bill McGhee. Code Red also recently released the previously unheard of Canadian picture NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER (1990) from Jack Bravman, who was (I think) the same guy who made JANIE (1970) and who helped Ed Adlum come up with the idea for INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS. Alpha Video, meanwhile, is having a half-off anniversary sale, so you can get that KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN DVD even cheaper now.

* Exploitation Movies in L.A.: My friends over at the Temple of Schlock have teamed up with Cultra DVD to present "The Art of Exploitation" at the Cinefamily theater in Los Angeles. They kicked things off with the Georgia oddity POOR PRETTY EDDIE (along with THE LONERS).

This week (Friday, Feb. 12) they're playing two films from New York director Andy Milligan, FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET and THE BODY BENEATH. You can see the rest of the schedule here.

* Hello, Chesty: Mark Nelson posted a link over at AvManiacs to a article profiling former burlesque performer and Doris Wishman collaborator Chesty Morgan. It's fascinating reading -- as are the accompanying reader comments.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wait a minute, who did you say won the Super Bowl?

We're not very big sports fans here at The Dead Next Door, but we DID attend a Super Bowl party on Sunday, and we even paid attention to the game for the last fifteen minutes or so. In honor of the Saints' win against Indianapolis, here's a bevy of trailers for regional horror flicks from the Big Sleazy:

Ed Ragozzino, director of Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot, dies

I was sad to learn (via threads over at the AvManiacs and Classic Horror Film Board) of the passing of Ed Ragozzino, who directed one of the better regional Bigfoot docu-dramas, Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot (1976). Rather than rehash what's already been posted elsewhere about the film and Ragozzino, I've collected some links that you can peruse on your own:

You can see CryptoMundo’s announcement here, and see the official obit in The Register-Guard here.

Dave Coleman interviewed Ragozzino about the film a few years ago, and you can see that article over at Bijou Café.

Ragozzino was also a prolific voice talent on radio and TV, and you can hear some samples at his Web page.

Sasquatch was written and produced by Bigfoot researcher and Eugene, Oregon, resident Ronald D. Olson, who four-walled the film (there was even a soundtrack released). I plan to post some more info on Olson in the future, but for now I’ve pasted a short news item about the film’s premiere below, along with the original intro.

From: The Bulletin, Bend County, Oregon, Feb. 2, 1976

Bend theater schedules four-day run for Bigfoot

“Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot,” a movie which was filmed in the Todd Lake area southwest of Bend last summer, opens Wednesday evening for a four-day run at the Bend Tower theater.

The film’s plot involves a seven-man, modern-day expedition team and its search for the legendary Bigfoot in northern British Columbia. A real expedition much like the movie version is being planned this spring, according to Ron Olson, author of the screenplay and executive producer of the movie.

Sasquatch is an old Indian word for giant. The creature, also called Bigfoot, has been sighted by hundreds of person throughout the Northwest starting about 200 years ago.

Sasquatch has been described as gorilla-like. It reportedly walks upright, leaves huge footprints and is from seven to ten feet tall. It has been sighted in Central Oregon as well as in many other parts of the Northwest.

In 1942, for instance, a man and his wife who were visiting Todd Lake in late summer reported seeing a tall, upright figure running with giant strides across a meadow into the trees. The man reported the incident to the Sisters Ranger Station.

In the movie, Sasquatch will appear in the only film footage that has ever been taken of him-her. The footage, shot by Roger Patterson in Northern California in 1967, has been spliced into the film. It shows a hairy, heavy-set creature walking upright.

In addition to the Patterson footage, the film includes scenes of a human in Bigfoot makeup and costume.

North American Productions of Eugene made the movie at a cost of about $300,000 put up by 134 investors, primarily from Eugene.

The producer is John Fabian and the director is Ed Ragozzino, both of Eugene. Ragozzino is head of the theater department at Lane Community College, and “Sasquatch” is his first movie.