What are some of your favorite parts of the book, and what do you think will surprise readers the most?
Some of the most rewarding parts for me came in tracing the backgrounds of filmmakers I’d only previously known for one or two films, like John Hayes, Norman Vane, or James Bryan, and then discovering they’d made many more that I’d never even heard of. I loved working on the James Bryan chapter because when I started it I had literally seen just one film of his, “Don’t Go in the Woods,” and even IMDB [Internet Movie Database] at the time didn’t list his early work. Then I made contact with Jim. He sent me his first three films and wow — I was bowled over. His first, “The Dirtiest Game in the World,” is really something else. Sexy and twisted and satirical and druggy.
I don’t know about surprises. I wouldn’t want to jinx anything by saying it’ll be a surprise, but there’s a hell of a lot in here that hasn’t been revealed in print before in any form, so I’m confident that readers will find themselves treading some unbroken snow with me! In several cases, with the help of those concerned, I’ve been able to link together pseudonyms revealing connections between a director’s “legit” productions and his forays into the adult film arena, which adds extra luster to the story, I think, because the adult film scene of the Seventies is in some ways as fascinating as the horror film world.
What, besides the sheer size, makes your book different than other books on exploitation films?
Well, there have been some great books on exploitation films. I love “For One Week Only” by Richard Meyers. I love the freewheeling quality of that one. The structure’s all over the place, but that’s perfect because it’s like the movies themselves. Dave Szulkin did an amazing job with his “Last House on the Left” book. There’s not a lot left to say about that movie! And after reading “The Ghastly One,” Jimmy McDonough’s Andy Milligan book, I felt this intense mixture of joy and absolute green-eyed jealousy! That was a great book. If I have something to offer I think it’s a sort of energy and style. I think I can write fairly entertainingly, and I hope I can offer some insights that you maybe don’t always get from genre criticism. And believe me, I’ve really put in the hours! You’re not going to agree with everything I say, but I don’t think anyone’s going to find it superficially researched. And I think you get a strong sense of the characters behind the films. For reasons beyond my control, this didn’t pan out in the Fulci book, and I had to veer off somewhere else with it. But many of the interviewees in “Nightmare USA” have been wonderfully frank and and forthright with me. I defy anyone to read the David Durston chapter and not want to meet this guy and have a drink with him. He’s a brilliant raconteur and a truly warm and funny individual. Fred Hobbs (“Godmonster of Indian Flats”) is a genuine eccentric, but a genuine artist, too, and he’s a fascinating man who plows his own furrow. Bob Endelson (“Fight For Your Life”) and Joe Ellison (“Don’t Go in the House”) are both very dry and witty and shed a lot of light on the New York independent movie scene in the Seventies. Tony Malanowski is such a charming, enthusiastic guy I swear you’ll want to watch both his zombie epics back to back after reading his chapter, no matter how much others (including the cast) may warn you off them.
Did it take a lot of work to convince that powers-that-be at FAB Press to publish your book? It seems like it has such a niche audience (with its subject matter, size and price) that it would almost scare casual readers. (Not that FAB Press is known for catering to the general audience, but it is a business after all.)
Well, we’re hoping the niche will turn out to be quite roomy! I’m not sure how many casual readers this book will attract, but it covers so much ground I think there’s something to interest quite a broad church of horror fans, whether it’s those who love fun monster flicks like “The Deadly Spawn,” or those who get off on nihilistic hate marathons like “Last House on Dead End Street.” FAB Press did well with my other books “Beyond Terror” and “The Eyeball Compendium,” and I have a very good working relationship with Harvey Fenton [FAB publisher]. You’re dealing with genuine “labor of love” types at FAB, and that’s an unbeatable quality. Nothing gets done on the cheap, no corners are cut, and you don’t get ripped off.
How long did it take you to compile all the interviews and reviews in your book? What percentage of the content has never before been published?
It’s taken me six years to compile the material. I’d say roughly 18 of the 23 featured directors have never spoken to the press about their work before, and the remaining five have never done so in such detail. None of the material I’ve written has been published before, and none of my interviews have appeared in magazines beforehand.
Are there any current films you’ve enjoyed?
The best films I’ve seen in years were “Irreversible” by Gaspar Noe (I came out of that with my knees trembling) and Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” (which sucked me in with its sweet mystery fantasy aura then completely chopped me down with the ending). “Pan’s Labyrinth” was sad and horrific and beautiful, although I don’t usually like Del Toro. “Wolf Creek” had problems, but it shook me up a bit as well. The new wave of Seventies-inspired horror hasn’t really grabbed me. I’ve enjoyed the “Final Destination” films as pure wind-it-up-and-watch-it-go mechanical exploitation. Great fun. I was really into “Haute Tension” until the terrible last reel. That was a great no-nonsense psycho horror flick for an hour or so, and then suddenly it was all nonsense! I love Frederick Friedel’s recent feature, “Bloody Brothers,” which will be getting its world premiere at my book launch film festival here in May. How could I not love it? It’s made from two fantastic 1970s Friedel films (“Axe” and “Kidnapped Coed”) cut together to make a third new movie, and I got to write the last line of dialogue, which Frederick overdubbed on the soundtrack!
Here’s a more lighthearted question. What are three movies you have in your collection that people would be surprised to know you own?
How about “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl”? I’ve always been a sucker for any old rubbish if it’s in 3-D, but that nearly killed me. In fact, thanks for reminding me to get rid of it. Do boxed sets count as one choice? If so, how about the “Nightmare on Elm Street” [box set]? I must have bitched about the Freddy movies a lot in “Eyeball” and elsewhere, but I watched one of the later ones for the first time the other night and kind of enjoyed it, God help me. If you ever see me at a convention with a “Freddy For President” t-shirt, though, you have my permission to shoot me. And Woody Allen — great director, but do I have to buy all the hopeless cases? I have “Hollywood Ending” and it’s not even hidden away.
What next? Where do you go after this? Do you have an idea for another book? A sequel?
The sequel is already purring in the wings! The contents list (or about half of it at least) is on the back page of Volume One. I haven’t finished with this area yet; there are so many more stories to be told, and perhaps more stories from the business/production angle next time.
“Nightmare USA” is due out in May and is available from FAB Press and other retailers.