Meet The Men Behind Celluloid Bloodbath: More Prevues From Hell
From left to right: Fred Pomerleau, Dan Kaminski, Jim Murray,Happy The Zombie,April Burril,Jim Monaco,Chris Monaco
Ever wonder what it takes to make a video from conception to the finished product? Well, just talk to the creative nucleus behind such a project and you'll discover the nuts and bolts of film production. Which is exactly what I, your intrepid reporter, did recently on a Saturday afternoon at a diner in Springfield, Pa.
I sat down with Jim Murray, Dan Kaminski, Fred Pomerleau, Anthony Bruno and ventriloquist Nick Pawlow at the Springfield Diner for lunch and to gain some insight into the making of Celluloid Bath: More Prevues From Hell. Because I've know both Jim and Dan for more than a few years ,the meeting was more of a spirited conversation ranging from their latest video endeavor to our favorite films than an actual interview. At one point during our lunch, a total stranger came up to us(obviously a regular at the diner) to regale us with a joke. Such was the jovial atmosphere on that Saturday afternoon.
Since the interview, Celluloid Bloodbath has garnered both critical and commercial success. The audience response had been nothing short of tremendous. The blood,sweat and tears these guys shed to bring their idea to life has proven to be well worth the effort. Kudos to them for a job well done. And if you haven't seen Celluloid Bloodbath yet, what in the hell are you waiting for?
JV: Let me start by asking you what was the inspiration for Celluloid Bloodbath?
Jim Murray: The inspiration for this was money.(laughter) No, we just wanted to do a sequel and initially we were going to do one that was going to be twenty years later and the zombies were still in the theatre.The fact that they're renovating the theater(The Lansdowne) now,the theater is basically in the same condition it was when we shot the film in 1987. So we were still going to have the zombies still in there ,but we were going to have the makeup crew and guys making up zombies again. We weren't going to get the good deal that Jordu Schell( whose most recent credits include working as a designer on movies like Avatar and Cowboys and Aliens, among many other projects.) gave us in 1987,which was $400.00 to do a theatre full of zombies plus the effects.So Nick(ventriloquist/ comedian Nick Pawlow) one day came up with the idea ,"Let's get John Zacherle in the film." Then me and Danny were talking and it was like the light bulb went off in our heads," Let's get actors and people we know from conventions to introduce the trailers." And the idea was born. We put together an idea of who we were trying to get between conventions and Face book and we just started knocking them out. As soon as I got in touch with people, most of the people said they would do it. A lot of them did it for nothing,some of them did it for a ridiculously low amount of money; going up to Caroline Munro and asking her if she'll introduce Psycho's. She wanted fifty bucks.
JV: Did this film cost more to make than Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell?
Jim Murray: Prevues from Hell cost me $13,000, this cost me $8,600. I was calling in a lot of favors. We got lucky. A lot of people did their bits for nothing and I just squeezed every dime out of the money I had to use. And we got it done. I had a lot of help,a lot of these guys helped out. Anthony (film editor Anthony Bruno) came in and took over with the editing and then did the close captioning which we would have had to pay for if he didn't do it. So a lot of people chipped in and we were able to bring it in for a really low amount.
JV: If I may ask,how many units of the DVDs did Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell sell?
Jim Murray: I don't know. We're trying to get that info from Virgil Films,so I can't give you that info right now. The video tapes we made a thousand .There's only a half a dozen left. So figure there's a thousand VHS's out there.
Dan Kaminski: How many bootlegs?
Jim Murray: Bootlegs I don't know. We ran into a lot of those at conventions. And it was cool because I got to the point where I was bringing my copyright papers with me to show them, with my drivers licence and say," Hey you're selling my film" and I loved doing that. I'd go up to the table, I'd show the guy the paper work and they'd hand me all the disks. It's like," I feel so official".(laughter)
JV : Like George Lucas,right?
Jim Murray:( laughs)Yeah,right. Or more like Frank Sinatra. You remember the stories about him? Going to conventions and just grabbing posters off of peoples tables saying," That's my film." Because all those films he did he owned. He figured he owned the paper material, too. He didn't want anyone making money and him not getting a cut of it, I guess.
JV: Nick, tell me about the origins of your creation Happy The Zombie.
Nick Pawlow: I started doing stand up comedy about 1985 and I was doing an act where I was doing impressions,working with props; it was pretty much of a scatter brain act. It had no beginning, it had no end and I wanted to stand out from the other comics in the crowd,so I decided, "Well, wouldn't it be fun to just have a ventriloquist act?" So I had an old rubber zombie head that I made years ago, made a body for it,went to the library,got a couple books on ventriloquism, a couple of weeks later there I am on stage with a zombie puppet. It was kind of crude; a really, really bad act actually. One of the effects I had was one of the eyes would pop out and the act scored big. The owner of the club said," Get rid of your regular act with the props,focus on this because it's unique and original" and that's how Happy The Zombie got started. What happened, I did that act for about a year and a half or so when Jim contacted me about working on Prevues from Hell. Jim and I both agreed that the Happy puppet I that had was kind of tacky looking, not really scary, so we decided if we're going to do this video to maybe get Happy redone for more like a polished look,more of a scary look,more of a professional look. When we started putting everything together luckily we found Jodu Schell and he's the one who designed the puppet. The one that you see in both Prevues from Hell and Celluloid Bloodbath is what a call The Green Happy. The character's remained the same, the voice has remained the same; it's just that the puppet has a different look to it. When I do my regular stand up act it's the old style puppet. The green puppet didn't really score well with audiences. It was too scary actually.
JV: How does one go about finding trailers, especially the trailer to a film like Alabama's Ghost, which is a pretty obscure movie?
Jim Murray: Trailers were difficult. We started out with Fred's collection( associate producer Fred Pomerleau) and his collection was basically TV spots which would have been 60 second and 30 second spots. What did that run ,like about thirty five minutes?
Fred Pomerleau: Yeah,like a half hour; around there.
Jim Murray: A little bit better than a half an hour and it wasn't enough. We could've padded out a lot of interviews, but there wouldn't have been enough trailers. So I was wracking my brain trying to figure out who still had trailers left; all the collectors I've known over the years. And apparently there was nobody. The only guy I know that physically had the trailers was Mad Ron and since he's not part of this project, it wasn't an option. I had to use my brain a little bit and decided to contact George Stover to see if he still had the film from the trailers I knew he was selling on VHS and he said no he had sold them all. But, he still had the three quarter inch master tapes. So I'm like," It'll probably work with those." He sent me a few and we tried it. He sent us the mini DV tapes made off of a quarter inch and they looked like shit.
Dan Kaminski: Actually, they weren't bad, but it was the digital part. They were so digitized that you could see all the lines and things like that. But it I guess everyone that buys it from him doesn't care,they just want the trailers. We wanted something maybe a little bit better. We just didn't want to use 'em. That's when you went to get the three quarter inch tapes.
Jim Murray: So,we ended up getting the whole collection of tapes which was twenty five. Anthony and I went through them all, pulled out the ones I wanted to use and got 'em transferred.And then in the editing process,Anthony, do you want to take over as far as the color correction?
Anthony Bruno: After Jim chose which ones we were going to use, I was using Avid and Danny was using Final Cut.I used Avid to color correct all the trailers.Actually most of the film was color corrected through Avid Media Composer. We tried our best to get a lot of the scratches out of it and tried to clean them up a little bit. I mean, it was quite a tedious process ,but I think we did a pretty good job of cleaning the trailers up. I mean, we're happy with it.
JV: If someone else wanted to do a similar trailer compilation tape would you recommend it as a money maker?
Jim Murray: That's a touchy question. There are a lot of compilations out there like 42nd Street Forever and of course our original film. It's just a matter of whether or not you can come up a decent enough selection of trailers that might not have been used before. That's why we were going through stuff in ours that anybody else has like Psycho from Texas,which is Linea Quigley's first film, Alabama's Ghost which virtually nobody's ever heard of and things along that line. So actually coming up with enough trailers to do a third one would be difficult.
Dan Kaminsky: But you know on top of that,it's coming up with the stuff in between. That's the key. It's the storyline in between that makes it. Because without that it's just some trailers.
Jim Murray: A lot of these, like 42 Street Forever, that's all they are,are trailers and in no sequential order;they're just thrown together. The only thing that those guys got going for them is good box art.
Dan Kaminsky: We've got great box art,too.
JV: You said great. Okey, I'll quote you one that one. (laughter) Now let's talk to Associate Producer Fred Pomerleau. What was your job on Celluloid Bloodbath?
Fred Pomerleau: Anything they asked me to do. I took pictures. When Nick wasn't around I watched Happy,took care of Happy and operated Happy once or twice. If Nick had to work Happy and we were going to use another puppet,I'd do that. Whatever they asked me to do.
JV: Is this your first movie?
Fred Pomerleau: I'm in Prevues from Hell. I get my throat cut in Prevues. I just hang out with these guys. I haven't worked on anything else much.
JV: Now Dan, what did you do on this film?
Dan Kaminski: Nothing. (laughter) No, I'm producing it. The pre- production, the shooting, the sound, the set up,editing, getting some of the celebrities and just basically doing all the stuff producers do. Getting it all together.
JV: One question I have to ask you guys is,what was the toughest interview that you did?
Jim Murray: Without question Conrad Brooks. We only wanted to pay him a hundred dollars to do the bit. He introduces the section called Really Bad Movie Prevues. I figured Conrad introducing that was perfect. So he's like," No,I want two hundred dollars." Danny was the one talking to him and Danny was like," No Conrad,we have a hundred dollars for you and that's all you're going to get." He says,"Alright, well, one seventy five." Danny's like," No,no, a hundred dollars." He comes down to one fifty,so that's when I cut in and I said, 'Dan,let's just go middle ground between one hundred and one fifty and give him a hundred and a quarter. I said, "Conrad,we can give you one and a quarter." And he said," No, no,I want one fifty." So we pulled the money out.
Dan Kaminsky: And I said no again. (laughs)
Jim Murray: And Danny's still saying no 'cause he didn't want to have to give him the one and a quarter and I'm telling him," Yeah ,give him the one and a quarter." Conrad plucks the money out of Danny's hand and puts it in his pocket. And I immediately thought," If he doesn't give us this interview, I gonna leap across that table and get that money out of his pocket."
Dan Kaminsky: I thought he did it for one twenty five.
Jim Murray: Yeah,he did end up taking the one twenty five. I had cue cards made. The camera was here, the cue card was here and he's sitting where Fred is,so all he had to do was look at the cue card and the camera was right there. He's looking all around and wouldn't get the line right.When he reads the title his moniker in this thing is," I'm Conrad Brooks, I starred in Ed Wood's sci-fi classic Plan Nine(pause)From Outer Space.",like he's got to read the title. He doesn't know the title after fifty years?
Dan Kaminsky: A lot of that was dramatic pause. (laughter)
JV: Dramatic pause. I'll put that in the interview.
Jim Murray: No, he was a pain in the butt.
Dan Kaminsky: I was taking video behind the scenes and it was funny,because there was a lot of it,all the tension between Jim getting frustrated and Conrad just saying," I'm trying my best."
JV: Are we ever going to see the behind the scenes stuff?
Dan Kaminsky: It's on the DVD.
Jim Murray: There's a bit where I'm yelling at Conrad. I'm telling Conrad,"All you gotta do is read the cue card." I'm off camera and you see my hand. I'm like,"Read the cue card,'cause the camera's right here." He go's," Oh,okay." and you hear Jim Monaco in the background," Take four."
Dan Kaminsky: Tell him about William Forsythe.
Jim Murray: Getting William Forsythe was really cool. He was at Cinema Wasteland and I didn't know what we were going to have him say. I went up and told him what we were doing,this thing about horror movie prevues and he said," Yeah I'll do it. Just come back when my table isn't crowded.",because he had people and was signing autographs. So we came back and went up to him and said," Okay,we'll do it." He just started talking. Fortunately the guys had the camera and the mike on him. He didn't give us a chance to set up or anything. So he just started talking saying how much he dosen't like horror films. Which I had no idea how I was going to use that. But anyway, at the end of the interview I said, " Mr. Forsythe, can I compensate you for your time?" And he just paused and looked at me,and I was like,"Oh,here it comes." He had the release, ready to sign it and I figured he probably wasn't going to sign it. So he goes," You guys couldn't afford me." He signs it and hands it to me and says," Here". That was very,very cool. The other thing was,I didn't know how I was going to use the bit because everybody else's bit introduces either a section or a trailer. In his,he talks about he doesn't like horror movies. Well, when we interviewed Kyra Schon, she did the same thing only she talks about how much she loves horror movies. So in the the film it's a great contrast.William Forsythe, he's facing this way talking about how he doesn't like horror films and we cut right to her facing this way;it's like they're talking to each other and she's saying how she loves horror films. So in the film it worked great. It's right near the end,so I'm curious to know what you think of it.
JV: Any last thoughts, Jim?
Jim Murray: What was the coolest thing for me putting this film together was making friends with some of the people I made friends with because of the film like Johnny Legend who calls me occasionally. He's a really super guy. And other people like Debra Lamb,who became a close, personal friend of mine and I'm ecstatic about that. Other people that I talked to who I thought were just awesome like April Burril,Chainsaw Sally,she was just so cool. I mean, she let us come into her house and shoot her whole bit in her bedroom while the husband,her daughter and her father were out in the living room watching cartoons. And then going to all the conventions was a lot of fun. It was work for all of us,but it was cool kind of work.