Daily Dead: WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE: Interview with MADRES Director Ryan Zaragoza

10/7/21 7:43 AM | JUSTINA BONILLA

Our fourth and final Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Television Welcome to the Blumhouse directorial interview series, interviews the director of Madres, a hauntingly disturbing tale from the 1970s, based on true events.

Madres, directed by Ryan Zaragoza, goes back in time to a small 1970s California migrant community, where Beto (Tenoch Huerta) and Diana (Ariana Guerra), a young Mexican American couple are planning to start their new family. However, as strange symptoms and blood-chilling visions haunt Diana, the couple is forced to face the possibility that they are the newest victims of a local curse, or something far more terrifying.

Zaragoza has directed/written multiple short films such as Bebé and The Painter. He has also directed for The CW television series All American and for the upcoming Disney+ series Just BeyondMadres is his directorial feature film debut.

What is your go-to Halloween movie?

The one that scares me the most is The Exorcist. I can’t watch. I’m shocked when people are just so blase about it and think it’s outdated. To me, it’s terrifying, bold, and just such a great film. So I try to watch that when I’m looking to get scared.

Which filmmakers influence you?

I’m a big Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg fan. Paul Thomas Anderson, I think he’s my guy right now. I’m always fascinated every time he has something to say.

What is your favorite Blumhouse horror movie?

I really like Get Out. That opened up the doors for everything. I think the risk they took on, allowed for a series like this to get made.

How did you become a part of the Welcome to Blumhouse series?

I’ve been talking with Blumhouse for a little while, and they knew the types of films that I want to make. I think the series is really amazing. The platform that they give to filmmakers who are just starting out in their feature careers. They sent the right script my way which piqued my interest. I attached myself as soon as I could.

What inspired you to choose this script for your directorial debut?

Two things, first, that it took place in the 1970s. I am just a huge fan of 70s filmmaking and 70s horror filmmaking. I saw it as a vehicle to help contribute to what those filmmakers were doing at the time and pay homage to that style.

Second, because the story itself dealt with the Mexican American community and population, which is my background. I’m Mexican American. It gave voice to a group of women who were affected by a real-life horror that isn’t really discussed. I saw it as a chance to shed light on the issue.

With Madres evaluating the cultural differences between Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans, how important was it for you to explore a topic like this, which we normally don’t see in films?

This was a huge part for me. I saw this story about a woman who speaks very little Spanish and her husband who is fluent, as it’s his first language. Language is often associated with culture. I saw that immediately as an opportunity for great conflict.

Also, I wanted to express my own ideas and my own feelings on the subject through this story. I found moments for these characters to have conversations that address the issues because they’re not black and white. They’re very complex. You can see one way or another, by taking those moments and leaning into the conflict.

How was your experience working with Tenoch Huerta?

Tenoch’s been on my radar for years. I am such a fan of his work and his ability to disappear into his roles. Honestly, I have made quite a few pitch decks and look books. If there is a Mexican male lead, he is the picture that I’m using. He’s just that guy for me.

When we first set out making this film, he wasn’t available. But then the pandemic happened, and we got shut down. By the time we went back up, he became available. So it just became this great moment of, “Oh, I get to finally work with this guy”. Tenoch lived up to every expectation. He’s just a wonderful person.

He’s got something coming up in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It’s a big deal. I’m so happy for him!

What was your favorite scene to film?

I have two. One of them is Diana and Beto having a big fight about speaking Spanish. Beto uses celery as a way of symbolism and communicating that he’s sorry, in his very sweet way. I feel like I put a lot of myself into that moment. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. So, I remember being very teary-eyed as we’re filming it. It just felt like a very raw thing for me to create.

Also, the chopping sequence, I really had fun shooting and making that. It was enjoyable. I could feel the tension building as we were shooting it.

Was there a scene that was the most challenging scene to film?

I think the most challenging scene to film for logistical reasons was on the farm. We were on such a tight schedule to create as much interesting and hopefully beautiful imagery as we could, we got rained out that day. And, we were constantly on the fly, just trying to film as much as we could.

Then it was super-hot. There were these love bugs that were all over everybody. It was really difficult, but everybody had great spirits. That was another beautiful thing. The cast was just so bright and cheerful. They made everything that was hard, much easier.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?

Hopefully, this is the start of a conversation with an audience that either feels like they aren’t spoken to, whether you’re of Latin background or you just like the style of filmmaking that I’m trying to do.

In the future, what type of projects do you hope to direct?

I’m looking to explore a lot of different genres like action, sci-fi, or drama-romance. I have quite a few projects that I’m ready to hop into. So we’ll see what happens next.

LINK: https://dailydead.com/welcome-to-the-blumhouse-interview-with-madres-director-ryan-zaragoza/

Daily Dead: WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE: Interview with THE MANOR Director Axelle Carolyn

10/5/21 11:02 PM | JUSTINA BONILLA

Part three of our Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Television Welcome to the Blumhouse directorial interview series interviews the director of The Manor, as she reveals the film’s horror roots and eerie happenings.

The Manor, directed by Axelle Carolyn, reveals the struggle that Judith (Barbara Hershey) has as she adjusts to the new life in a nursing home, while a supernatural force is terrorizing the elderly residents. Despite Judith’s pleas for help, it’s up to her to find out what is attacking her fellow residents before it’s too late.

Carolyn has a diverse writing and directorial horror track record, including directing and writing for the anthology movie Tales of Halloween and writing for the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Recently, she has directed multiple television and streaming series, such as The Haunting of Bly ManorCreepshow, and American Horror Story.

What is your favorite creepy house movie?

Oh, wow. There are so many. That’s definitely one of my favorite subgenres. In my bedroom, I have a collection of pictures of creepy houses from horror movies. The Haunting is a combination of a great house and a great movie.

Which films and filmmakers influence you?

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Tim Burton and David Cronenberg. I think that those have always stayed. Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow were really defining movies for me. The Fly for sure is amazing. West Craven and John Carpenter, the Greats of the genre. Then, looking back further, Terence Fisher.

I really love Hammer movies. I grew up watching a lot of Hammer movies because those were the ones that my parents thought were acceptable, which is funny because a lot of them have a lot of boobs and blood and stuff like that. They really shaped my view of horror, my aesthetic, and what I like about the genre.

I remember Tim Burton, in the interview once said that he loved horror movies. He always aims to make a horror movie, but it always kind of comes out as something else. He always ends up making a Tim Burton movie. I thought, “This is bullshit. If you love horror, you’ll just think really scary stuff.” Now, I realize growing into filmmaking, you can only make the stuff that’s inside of you. You can love horror as much as you like. But, if your taste is more towards something that’s slightly different, that’s what will come out when you make it.

How did you become a director for Welcome to the Blumhouse?

I wrote the script a little while ago. It was a bit of a journey to get this made. We shot this two years ago. And, before that, it went through a bunch of different iterations, because I was trying to figure out exactly what it was, then bringing it to people and companies.

It was very hard to get it set up, because of the fact that the protagonist is older than usual. Also, the fact that I’m presenting, a bunch of protagonists who are in their 70s. A lot of the feedback was, “We love the scripts, but could we make it about the grandson? Or can we change it and make it about the younger people?” No, that’s not the subject matter of this. Eventually, my reps send it to Amazon Studios.

Aldo Chang at Amazon Studios saw that this was a unique opportunity to do something different. And, to tap into talent, who hadn’t maybe been given the lead role in a while, or just really a chance to do something very different and very unique. He brought it to Blumhouse, because at the time, Amazon was just starting their deal on Welcome to the Blumhouse. This was actually the second movie to be shot in that series.

As the scriptwriter, what influenced the story?

I think it’s partly from visiting loved ones in nursing homes, what it does to you, how it affects you, and how scary those environments are already. And then places you can’t escape easily. It seemed ripe for that kind of movie. There’s a lot thematically to explore as well about the way we treat the elderly and the way we build those nursing homes. There was a lot of stuff about the way that society deals with age. The way that I see myself aging. A lot of anxieties went into that. It’s a way of channeling all that into a supernatural movie.

How was your experience filming at the iconic Stimson house?

I love that house so much. The fact that it was the opening house in House II: The Second Story makes it even better. It’s such a beautiful place. This is my dream home in so many ways. The interior is all this wood carving, all those stained-glass windows, everything feels like it has history, it has a smell, and everything feels rich and amazing.

We got to go in, remove all the furniture, add wallpaper in some places, and dress it the way we wanted. It really molded into what we wanted. It’s one of the biggest elements of the story. Finding the right house sets the tone for everything else. We were very lucky to get that.

What was your favorite scene to film?

Probably all the scenes with the creature, because I love working with prosthetics and practical effects. The point of the movie is not to be absolutely terrifying. We’re not making The Conjuring. But there was enough in the supernatural moments that I liked to put together. It was really fun seeing the monster come together, seeing that suit being put together. All those moments were really, really cool.

Also, directing Barbara with the monster. How great is that? Her reactions are so truthful and so perfectly calibrated.

Was there a scene that was the most challenging to film?

In some ways, everything is challenging. We don’t have unlimited resources or time. So everything is finding that certain pacing. I know that the more emotional scenes of the movie were difficult to shoot, but they’re also beautiful in their own way. There’s a couple of big emotional scenes that we shot early on in the movie that I wish we could have shot later in the schedule because Barbara and I learn to trust each other a little bit more closely. It would have been easier to do later in the day because it does require a lot of trust in your director to be that vulnerable on camera. But it turned out great. She’s fantastic.

Both leads, Barbara Hersey and Bruce Davison have been in memorable horror films. Do any of the other actors have a history with horror films?

Jill Larson was in The Taking of Deborah Logan. She’s also the manacled woman in Shutter Island that goes, “Shhh”.And she’s this gorgeous blonde in real life. Then, Fran Bennett was in West Craven’s New Nightmare. She’d really scared me back in the day. She was playing the part that would be the nurse in The Manor.

Overall, what was your experience working with this cast?

Sometimes things are really hard when you’re trying to put a film together. Filmmaking is not easy. And sometimes, things come together so nicely that you can’t even believe the luck you have. Assembling the cast for this, seeing how the cast got along, and they built relationships the way that you hoped they will. It was such a joy. It was such a blessing.

What has been the best advice that you received from another director?

Directors are not good at giving good advice. However, there’s two that stick with me. One came from Tom Holland, of all people who said, “Don’t”. When I told him I was making my first feature, he said, “Everyone and their mothers are directing these days.” At first, I was very taken aback by that. But I think what he meant was, if you can let anything convince you not to become a director, it’s probably best to stop now. Because it’s going to be so hard, that if anything can get in your way and make you reconsider, it’s probably not for you. You get that door slammed in your face so much. I’ve been so lucky to work consistently in the past couple of years. Before that, it took 15 years of sometimes getting to make an indie movie, but not like not being able to get stuff, not being able to properly set up a career. Then, you have to deal with reviews.

The second one was John Carpenter, who I asked for advice before shooting. He told me, “Sit down. Sit a lot.” I do that a lot on set because my back does hurt. Those are long days.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I’m hoping to get a couple of features made. I have a script I’m finishing. I have another script that I’m attached to that I’m hoping will get made. I just finished shooting the season finale for American Horror Story. I also have an episode of Creepshow coming out soon. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming out right now. Also, I’ll have episodes for another show that comes out next year.

[Photo Credit: Kevin Estrada / Amazon]

LINK: https://dailydead.com/welcome-to-the-blumhouse-interview-with-the-manor-director-axelle-carolyn/

Daily Dead: WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE: Interview with BINGO HELL Director Gigi Saul Guerrero

10/1/21 10:04 AM | JUSTINA BONILLA

Part two of our Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Television Welcome to the Blumhouse directorial interview series interviews the director of Bingo Hell, who reveals just how blood-thirsty seniors can get over their beloved bingo game.

Bingo Hell, directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, shows the unwanted gentrification of the Oak Springs barrio on its older residents, especially Lupita (Adriana Barraza), who calls it home. Soon a mysterious force takes over their beloved bingo hall, thrusting into a battle for the soul of their beloved neighborhood.

Guerrero has made a name for herself in horror as the director of several Crypt TV shorts, most recently Mistress of Bones. She also has directed several projects for Blumhouse television, including The Purge series episode “Hail Mary” and the Into the Dark: Culture Shock.

If you were a character in your movie, what would be your weapon of choice?

After the movie was made, I thought, “What if Lupita, used a chancla (Mexican slang for a sandal)?” That thing is deadly. I should have just done that. Honestly. That, or a flame thrower would have been great.

Recognizing that Bingo Hell has such a badass leading lady, who is your favorite cinematic leading badass lady?

I love Ripley. I think she’s so strong, in all the Alien films. She’s the best example of a survivor.

How were you selected for Welcome to the Blumhouse?

After the success of Culture Shock, Blumhouse trusted me enough to ask, “So what is next?” That, to me, was amazing, because they really are open to hearing new voices, and taking risks on such wacky stories. So, it felt the right time and place to introduce to them the idea of Bingo Hell.

As co-writer of the script, what influenced the story of the script?

I was catching up with co-writer Shane McKenzie. He shared to me, “Gigi, you’re not gonna believe where I was last night. I went to visit my mother-in-law and went to her bingo hall. And boy, it was terrifying.” He continued, “It was crazy to see all these older folks be so competitive at the game and be so into it. I didn’t want to mess with any of them.” I also shared, “Listen, my grandma loves Loteria (Mexican Bingo). And it’s the same thing. You don’t want to take that away from her.”

Shane asked, “What would happen if we took it away from them?” Right away, we were both realized that’s going to be the movie. We got so inspired by the people that we know, his mother-in-law and my grandma. The characters in this film are based on people we know. And yes, they are that stubborn.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

At the very end of the movie when the whole community comes together for the fight. The big fight was a blast to shoot. I don’t think these actors were acting. They were beating the crap out of the stunt double. I felt very sorry for him. I had to yell at them, “Cut! Cut! Pace yourselves!”

A lot of the dialogue in that scene we didn’t write. All that swearing, like “Who’s Your Mama now?” and “Fight me now!”, were not us.

What was the most challenging scene to film?

The most challenging to shoot was, Clarence in the auto shop when he’s going from reality to fantasy. That was also day one of shooting. It was an exciting challenge.

Grover Colson was the wonderful actor who played Clarence. He had never worked with fake blood and didn’t know what it’s like to be near fake blood. He’s worked in this industry for forty-plus years. He admitted to me, “Mam, I don’t know what it’s like to have blood on me.”

I assured him, “Well, we’re about to make up 30 years of that. So, the moment you feel blood Grover, close your eyes.” And, sure enough, he had fun. He even asked us to, “Take my pictures.” It was a good time.

How was your experience as a director working with Adrianna Barraza?

Before I speak about just Adrianna, this entire cast was a dream come true. They’re all such seasoned actors. That to me, as a filmmaker, has always been a dream. As a new director, I needed to really take into account that I had amazing actors. They have a lot of emotional scenes and a lot of banter. So, I had to just stretch out those scenes for them to play with. That was awesome.

Working with Adrianna was unbelievably great. She’s such a ray of sunshine, always so happy, always so lovely. But the moment she had any of those weapons in her hand, you need to be six feet apart, because she was into it.

That enthusiasm was so contagious. She never had done a role like this, despite working in the industry for so long. She mentioned how, “This is the first time I feel that I’m playing a character that allows me to do everything, from comedic to emotional, to just chingona (Spanish slang for a badass woman).” I could tell in the movie that she’s having a blast. So that trust was set from the beginning with her.

What is your favorite Blumhouse horror film?

That’s a tough one because there are so many good ones, but I feel that the best Blumhouse film is The Invisible Man. It’s a very solid movie, well-acted, well-executed, and a super scary film. It’s one of the best reimaginings I’ve ever seen to.

Currently, what are your top five favorite horror films?

Oh, that’s a list of 100, but I love The Devil’s RejectsRECFrom Dusk till Dawn, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Also, I can’t help but say I’m a sucker for Gremlins. That is definitely the best horror and holiday movie ever made. These films inspire me, so much.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?

For directing, I’m excited that Blumhouse and I are still working on a few more scripts. So hopefully something gets made in the next year. It’s one of those moments in a career that you’re hustling, rewriting, developing, and hopefully, someone says, “Yes”. So I’m excited to see which egg is going to hatch first.

For appearances, there’s going to be two animated shows that I do the lead voice for. That will get announced at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. These are the two biggest roles I’ve ever booked. My parents can watch these. I’m excited that people can enjoy my work, now through my voice. So, I look forward to sharing those very, very soon.

Bingo Hell premieres on Amazon Prime on October 1, 2021.

LINK: https://dailydead.com/welcome-to-the-blumhouse-interview-with-bingo-hell-director-gigi-saul-guerrero/

Daily Dead: Welcome to the Blumhouse: Interview with BLACK AS NIGHT Director Marritte Lee Go

9/29/21 9:46 AM | JUSTINA BONILLA

Welcome to the Blumhouse, the thrilling horror film series from Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Television makes its highly anticipated part two debut for the Halloween 2021 season.

In this four-part interview series, we interview the four directors of part two, who put the bloody in bloody good time. They share their passion for filmmaking, along with the gory details of creating horror cinema.

Black as Night, directed by Maritte Lee Go, follows the 15-year-old Shawna (Asjha Cooper), and her best friend Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), as they spend the summer together in New Orleans slaying vampires. The deeper they explore the secret underworld of the vampires of the Big Easy, Shawna also discovers an unlikely path of self-discovery and finds the inner strength to fight back against her biggest fears.

Maritte, who is an assistant director, producer, writer, and actor, makes her directorial feature horror film debut with Black as Night. She has previously directed the short films Illipino and Remittance. In horror, Maritte wrote and directed the “Vehophobia” segment of the 2021 horror anthology film Phobias.

What is your favorite vampire movie?

Maritte Lee Go: 30 Days of Night and Interview with a Vampire. I have watched both of those movies way too much.

Which films and filmmakers influence your directing style?

Maritte Lee Go: Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro Iñárritu. I love everything they do. I watch their movies over and over, like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. They’re really grounded in movies that explore humanity, the pain of humanity, the obsession with perfection, and just being greater than then who you think you are or where you come from. And I really analyze their work a lot. I take a lot of inspiration from their movies.

What drew you to the script for Black as Night?

Maritte Lee Go: I was immediately drawn to it. I love horror films. I’d never seen a movie like this, with a black female lead. I’d never seen anything tonally like this either. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a similar tone. The script was also very original.

So it kind of added that other layer, combining so many of my loves. I was able to explore, comedy, drama, horror, and put all these loves together in one script. It’s a well-rounded, deep movie that is also super fun.

How did you become a director for part two of Welcome to the Blumhouse?

Maritte Lee Go: I was pitching another film to Amazon that I had been developing. And luckily, the execs really liked how I pitched. They didn’t buy the project. But they really liked the way that I thought. So, I was able to pitch this movie. I had previously done another horror anthology, so I was already in the horror space.

When I read the script for Black as Night, fell in love with it, put together a pitch packet, and a pitch reel. I pitched my heart out, telling them my vision of how I saw the movie and they loved it.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

Maritte Lee Go: My favorite scene to shoot is the death of the mother. We had to do this in several parts because, of course we can’t just throw the actress out of a window. But we did throw a stunt woman out the window. We also got to light her on fire.

We had to film it in three different locations. It was the actual apartment, where we did that scene. Then, we had to build a separate stage to lite the stunt woman on fire. Finally, we went to another building that looks like the projects where she’s jumping out of the window. It was just so exciting, so scary.

Lighting someone on fire is no joke. There was this thing that ignites so fast, and she’s running around screaming in the process. We had to protect her hair and her skin. It takes a long time. So it was a very dangerous act.

And then, jumping out of the window of the building. It was on the fourth floor, and she landed in over 200 boxes. It’s crazy because she really jumped out of a window and landed in boxes. It was awesome. It’s a huge adrenaline rush. And I just love that it looks so good.

What was the most challenging scene to film?

Maritte Lee Go: The challenge was being stopped by COVID. Then, shooting through COVID. This is a small-budget film. We didn’t get more days to shoot, it was just reduced hours, reduced crew. And then, we were into another season where lightning storms were happening. So with reduced hours, less crew, and trying to do a vampire movie where people can’t touch or breathe on each other is very hard.

People are coughing in the movie. That’s the most terrifying thing you can do nowadays is cough public. So, we had people covering their mouths and moving their shoulders like they’re coughing, but they’re not actually coughing. And for the bites, people had to just position their heads to make it look like they’re biting. We had to digitally remove all of their masks.

We were shooting through storms. It rained for like three hours at the beginning of the day. So a lot of the scenes were done in one to two takes because there was really no time to get it done. We realized, “If we don’t get this, then we won’t be able to tell the rest of this scene, which will affect the story”. There was a lot of trying to figure out how to do everything very fast. But, huge challenges, with such a huge payoff. I mean, what an opportunity and how lucky we are to be able to work through a pandemic.

What was it like to work with horror icon Keith David?

Maritte Lee Go: Keith’s amazing. He’s a very intimidating, powerful person in real life. He just has so much power. He has this booming voice that everybody stops to listen to. He’s extremely knowledgeable and talented. I was able to hear his life story before he started shooting.

Keith really vibed with so much of his character in the movie. He could relate to it and understand why people could get a certain way. He’s a very talented person. It was such an honor to work with him and I can’t wait to work with him on another project.

If you were a character in Black as Night, how would you kill a vampire?

Maritte Lee Go: I would love to be a Japanese Samurai is with a giant sword. And I would just slice their head off and blood spraying everywhere. Kill Bill is on my mind right now. But that’s such a badass way.

What is your favorite Blumhouse horror film?

Maritte Lee Go: I’ve probably seen Insidious the most. The tension in Insidious is insane. So I watch every scene over and over, to figure out the sound design and the editing. There are other films where they hold tension in silence for so long, I’m yawning. But, for some reason, director James Wan is such a master of tension. He’s brilliant.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Maritte Lee Go: Yes, I’m taking a slight departure from horror on my next film, exploring genres. I’m set to direct a Miramax film. It’s a musical. And I’m really, really, really excited for that. We’ve been prepping for the last few months and we’re set to shoot next year.

Black as Night premieres on Amazon Prime on October 1, 2021.

LINK: https://dailydead.com/welcome-to-the-blumhouse-interview-with-black-as-night-director-maritte-lee-go/

Latin Horror: Fright Favorites: Interview with author DAVID J. SKAL

‘Monster Show’ historian on his latest literary contribution

LATIN HORROR With Halloween quickly approaching, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), is gearing up its classic horror film lineup, with thrills and chills. A book accompanying this popular spooky programming is the celebrated horror film history book Fright Favorites: 31 Moves to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond.

Fright Favorites author David J. Skal, who is a highly regarded horror history author and authority of classic horror cinema, shares with us his history as an author, the creative process of creating Fright Favorites, and advice for aspiring writers.

Justina Bonilla: What inspired you to write non-fiction horror?

David J. Skal: I started as a science fiction writer. I had done a number of novels and they got good reviews. They didn’t make a lot of money for me. So, my agent suggested doing nonfiction. With a novel, especially if you’re not a bestselling novelist, you must complete the book and shop the whole thing around. But, with nonfiction, you can do a proposal, with sample chapters. 

“When I was a kid, I was just fascinated with that old movie Dracula. I couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve never read a story about the behind-the-scenes”.

– David J. Skal

I said to my agent, “When I was a kid, I was just fascinated with that old movie Dracula. I couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve never read a story about the behind-the-scenes”. By that time, I had been working in the theater and had quite a bit of entertainment industry experience. Whatever is on the screen, or the stage, there is an equally interesting backstory. I didn’t know what was there with Dracula.

Since I was going on vacation at the time, my agent said, “Write up a one-page description, and I’ll talk to you when you’re back”. Then, my agent had 20 New York publishers that wanted to talk to me about my book Hollywood Gothic. I went with W.W. Norton. I’m still doing books for W. W. Norton, one of the last great independently owned New York publishers. 

I thought my book Hollywood Gothic was a one-shot. Then W. W. Norton came back and asked, “What’s next?” After the whole history of horror movies and The Monster Show books, I did a biography of Tod Browning. It just snowballed. I didn’t expect any kind of a career as a film historian.

I’ve also co-edited the Second Norton Critical Edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is kind of my bestselling book. And, years later, there’s always a new audience.

Bonilla: Would you consider writing fiction again?

Skal: Yes. I’m returning to my fiction writing. There are a number of unfinished novels and ideas for novels that have just been on the back burner, while I’ve been playing Mr. Monster for the world. Until they pound a stake into me, I’ll write. I love books. I’ve always loved books. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Bonilla: How did you decide on the idea of Fright Favorites?

Skal: I was commissioned to do this. I came up with the idea of 31 films to look at. It’s a format that’s very flexible and will lend itself to a series whether I do it, or somebody else takes it over. 

Bonilla: Were you able to get in a few of your favorite films? 

Skal: I’ve got all my favorites in. However, it isn’t just my taste. There are a lot of cooks involved in this stew. Originally, we were going to do 31 films and it was clearly apparent we couldn’t accommodate everybody’s taste. I offered, “What if we have a, ‘If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy this’ spotlight section and effectively spotlight 62 films”. That seems to have worked. We can very easily turn this into a series. The feedback I’ve gotten has been very positive. 

I think it’s a very nice assortment of films. There’s nothing in the book I don’t like.

Bonilla: Was there any film that was repeatedly requested?

Skal: Of all the films, Hocus Pocus was the most requested from TCM and my publisher. I didn’t realize that there had been such a cult that grew up with that film. It’s certainly a unique film. Director Mick Garris (who wrote the Hocus Pocus screenplay) later thanked me for putting Hocus Pocus in the book.

TCM wanted to be sure we had family-friendly films in the book. That was at the very top of their list. 

Bonilla: With the inclusion of sci-fi films Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Them in the book, how important was it to include that sub-genre

Skal: In terms of how Hollywood approaches horror and science fiction, they don’t really make a distinction. Hollywood uses all the tried-and-true horror tropes in science fiction. Alien is set in a spaceship, but it’s a haunted house picture, where something jumps out at you. Science fiction purists very often don’t like film adaptations of their favorite books, because of that. 

Aliens and other extraterrestrial phenomena are just as useful for eliciting scares and screams as crypts and cobwebs. People go to these kinds of movies for the same reason. They go for a thrill and to see something they’ve never seen before. Horror and science fiction do equally deliver the goods. People are still debating whether Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein is a horror novel or one of the first science fiction novels. That ambiguity you know has persisted especially in the world of horror and science fiction films.

Bonilla: Though TCM is known for classic films, what lead to the decision to have modern horror films a part of this book, such as Hereditary and Get Out

Skal: Get Out was such a popular and breakthrough film. It’s one of the first big mainstream Black horror movies. Black horror had been in short supply. This success was amazing. Director Jordan Peele was wonderful. 

Hereditary is a family film, about the dynamics of the family, and how a family deals with grief and loss. It pushes the family all the way over the edge into horror. The extreme emotions are more extreme in that film than in many other things we’ve seen recently. It’s a bravura effect. I thought leading lady Toni Collette really deserved an Oscar. It was such an amazing performance. But the scream queen doesn’t usually get the Oscar. Maybe someday.

“I always knew these movies were important. People made fun of me for it. But, you prove that they were important.”

– David J. Skal

Bonilla: How have readers reacted to the book?

Skal: I was surprised how many people were excited by it. I thought, “Why haven’t I done this sort of thing before?”. 

There’s one kind of fan letter I keep getting from people, saying, “I always knew these movies were important. People made fun of me for it. But, you prove that they were important.”. That’s one of the nicest things that I hear over and over again over the years. That I give validation to this freaky interest that those of us had as kids and people thought we were we were crazy. Maybe, we were crazy. But, it’s a special kind of crazy. 

We recognize each other across a crowded room all the time. When I’m around people who have nothing to do with the industry or horror movies, and I’m introduced and somebody says what I do for a living, suddenly somebody talks about seeing Dracula and Frankenstein for the first time. It’s just these wonderful touchstones in people’s lives.

Bonilla: Is there a chance for a volume two?

Skal: I’m ready to do it. We are giving the book another push this year because it’s tied to the 31 days of October on TCM. After this coming year, I think there’s a good chance. And, certainly, let TCM know that. Write a fan letter to TCM. 

Bonilla: What upcoming projects do you have?

Skal: I’m in this third season of Eli Roth’s History of Horror. We already shot it under distance conditions. It was quite elaborate to see what television production is like these days. 

I didn’t realize it was gonna be a six-day commitment. I had to commit to self-quarantine for a number of days, take a COVID-19 test, and wait several days for the results. It’s like working in a straitjacket in some ways, but it’s one of the best series out there. 

Eli Roth’s History of Horror has been one of the best-edited compilation series that I’ve ever seen. It’s fun to be involved in. They’re going to have a lot of great people in season three. I only saw my segment. I’m as eager as everybody else to see it. AMC has had great success with the show. Anything that keeps monsters alive, I’m happy to be a part of.

I’ve been writing a brand new, massively expanded version of my Browning’s biography, which will be out later this year. It’s a limited-edition art book with much more to learn about Browning.

Also, this fall, I’m going out on the fan convention circuit, meeting people who read my books.

Bonilla: How does it feel to be writing horror all these years?

Skal: I never thought I would be writing this long about horror movies. That I’d still be doing it, with people paying me to do it, and appreciating it. 

Bonilla: What advice do you give to those interested in a writing career?

Skal: This often happens. Students and fans will ask about doing exactly what I do or planning a career as a film historian. Whatever you do, keep your day job. You also have to have a real thick hide. 

If you want to write about movies, it’s got to be the most important thing in the world to you. To have some bottomless fascination that you can’t even explain, or get to the bottom of yourself. 

Also, discipline, because you have to get into a regular pattern to write. When something clicks and it’s working, you have to give yourself a daily quota. You have to be at your computer at the same time, same hours every day, no matter how much you turn out. Even if it’s only one page at the end of 12 months, you’re going to have a heck of a lot of stuff to work with. Don’t procrastinate. It’s still one of my biggest problems. After all these years, you think I know better. But it’s easy to not start. And you’ll just regret it later. So, write. Write. Write. Write. Write.

LINK: https://latinhorror.com/fright-favorites-interview-with-author-david-j-skal/

The Frida Cinema: History of Horror Interview

Kurt Sayenga
Photo by Bret Curry

The critically praised and fan-favorite horror documentary series Eli Roth’s History of Horror, from AMC, made its season three premiere on October 1, 2021.

The showrunner for Eli Roth’s History of Horror, Kurt Sayenga, is an established television documentary series director, writer, and executive producer, who’s best known for the science television documentary programs Through the WormholeMicrokillers, Origins: The Journey of Mankind, and Breakthrough. Sayenga is a film buff and dedicated horror film fan, who, combined with the talents of horror master Eli Roth, created a program delighting both staunch horror movie fans and casual viewers.

Sayenga shares with us what it takes to develop a horror documentary series, the films that make the series, and the impact of horror cinema.

Bonilla: When you’re developing the episodes, is it the film topics, or the films of interest that come first?

Sayenga: It’s a little of both. We come up with general topics that fit into the template that we’ve established with the network, then think of films that will appeal both to film buffs and casual viewers, who mostly know newer or the most famous horror films. Then, we run about a dozen potential episodes past the network, and they tell us what works for them. We have a very long list of films we love and want to cover, and we’re steadily working our way through it.

Several episodes this season lean into relatively newer films, like the “Holiday Horror” episode, which has a lot of slashers. That genre did not exist until Black Christmas and Halloween.

The “Mad Scientists” episode has more classic horror and traces certain themes across time. For instance, you see that it’s a straight line from The Island of Lost Souls to Ex Machina. And in the case of Frankenstein, we focus on the doctor and not so much the monster, which right off the bat makes it unusual in the pantheon of horror documentaries. The Colin Clive Dr. Frankenstein is a very different man than Dr. Frankenstein played by Peter Cushing, in the Hammer films. Cushing is the star of those movies, and in many ways, he’s the real monster.

Bonilla: How did you pick the topics for the series, such as “Vampires” and “Nine Nightmares”?

Sayenga: The “Nine Nightmares” episode happened because somebody at the network had the idea of making an “Eli’s Top 10” episode. That was a problem because we had already covered a number of Eli’s favorite films in season one. And Eli, was not thrilled with the idea of doing a top 10 for many other reasons, partly because it’s very reductive. Ask him to just name his top 50 Italian horror films and he’d be frustrated because he loves so many of them.

We wound up putting together a bunch of films that he likes that would be hard to fit in any other category, like Cannibal Holocaust. There’s no way in hell you’re gonna get an entire cannibal episode on AMC, which takes advertising, but we could smuggle it in by making it part of the broader category.

Bonilla: What was one of the biggest challenges of filming during COVID?

Sayenga: Conducting the interviews. I thought that with COVID, nobody would come out. And then, if we were lucky, we’d get remotes. Before the vaccine when we started shooting, there was maximum fear, justifiable fear. But we were able to get a lot of great people as it went along, and things got slightly better. Most of the interviews were conducted on set under very strict COVID protocols, and several others were remote interviews, which is something I would ordinarily not condone. But went along with this season because there was no other choice since people weren’t flying and the borders were closed.

There is an element of the person-to-person interview that just gets lost when we’re communicating through Zoom. I was fortunate that I had already interviewed a number of these people, like Edgar Wright, who I talked to at a great length in season one and great length this season. Though he was in London at the time, Edgar and I had met before. So, we already had a connection. It helps to meet someone and sit there sharing some space. Overall, the interviews came out much better than I expected, despite the weirdness of COVID.

Bonilla: How are guests selected for the interviews?

Sayenga: We reach out to all the key creatives in front of and behind the camera, if they’re still alive, and we try to work it out with their managers and their schedules. That is a very challenging process, particularly with actors. We can usually get directors and writers on board for the show with no problem – if they’ve seen the show, they know we’re approaching it from the creator’s point of view. Once we’ve made those connections, the actors are more inclined to come in. For instance, Christopher Landon, who directed Happy Death Day, was one of the first people we lined up this season, and that helped get us Jessica Rothe, the star of Happy Death Day.

I’m not sure why, but we had trouble getting women, especially actresses, for interviews. This season was just the opposite – it’s very gender-balanced. Fortunately, Eli’s making a movie with Cate Blanchett and Jamie Curtis in it. Thus, we were able to get Cate and Jamie.

Bonilla: How do you decide which films to interview guests?

Sayenga: I interviewed 60 people this season and have a bed of another 160 interviews done for the first two seasons. There’s some material I can use from the earlier interviews, but not a lot. We cover about 80 or 90 films a season, and there are very few people who can talk about everything. We break it up – and usually, I will run the list of films past the interviewees, and they can tell me what interests them. I also have a group of people like Joe DanteMick GarrisRob ZombieRebekah McKendry, and Quentin Tarantino, who has seen every film you can think of and can talk about them at length.

I am particularly happy when I run across actors who are also film enthusiasts. You would be surprised at how many of them aren’t.

I also listen to a bunch of podcasts to hear like who’s good at interviews. So, I poach a lot from the Trailers from Hell podcast, The Movies That Made Me podcast, and Mick Garris’s Postmortem podcast. They get a lot of good people on their shows.

Bonilla: What inspired the episode topics for this season?

Sayenga: The “Mad Scientist” episode is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve made a lot of science films in my career, and I think part of came from watching mad scientist movies in my childhood. I was fascinated by the figure of the genius rebel going their own way, no matter the consequences, perhaps going too far in their pursuit of truth.

“Infections” is a great episode, and I’m sure the inspiration for that is fairly obvious. Besides, where else would we get a chance to cut from Dustin Hoffman throwing his coffee against a whiteboard in Outbreak to Kate Winslet poking her finger at a whiteboard in Contagion?

“Psychics” gave us a good way to dive into some of the better Stephen King adaptations, Doctor Sleep and The Shining. That’s an all-star director episode with films like ScannersThe Dead Zone, The Fury, Beetlejuice, and The Frighteners. Also included, is The Gift, an underappreciated movie directed by Sam Raimi, starring Cate Blanchett.

“Sequels (That Don’t Suck)”, was an idea that Eli and I were banging around for a while. It starts with Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and ends with Gremlins 2: The New Batch. There is much mayhem in between. I think that will be very popular and so does the network. They made it the season premiere episode.

“Holiday Horror” is another idea we’ve been wanting to do for a while. It runs from the low-budget holiday-themed slashers like Black ChristmasSilent Night Deadly Night, Terror Train, My Bloody Valentine, and Mother’s Day to slick modern movies like Halloween 2018Happy Death Day, and Krampus.

“Apocalyptic Horror” gave us a way to cover some zombie films we couldn’t get into back in the season one “Zombie” episode, like Zombieland and Train to Busan. But it also has some of my favorite films, like War of the Worlds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m particularly fond of a segment on The Last Man on EarthThe Omega Man and I Am Legend, which stars Vincent PriceCharlton Heston, and Will Smith. These films were all based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It’s one of the most influential horror stories ever written, even though it’s never been faithfully adapted.

Bonilla: What is your favorite episode this season?

Sayenga: It’s tough to choose, but I’ll go with “Mad Scientists”. It’s probably the darkest of the six episodes.

Bonilla: After ‘History of Horror’, would you consider writing, producing, or possibly directing your own horror content? 

Sayenga: Yes, of course. I’d love to do that.

Bonilla: What are your current go-to horror films? 

Sayenga: Rosemary’s Baby, RepulsionPsychoThe HauntingDead RingersAudition, John Carpenter’s The ThingBride of FrankensteinThe Silence of the Lambs, Cat People (1942), The Cabin in the Woods, Train to Busan, Godzilla (original Japanese version, 1954), and Quatermass II.

Bonilla: When you watch a horror movie, how does it engage you?

Sayenga: I’ve seen so many horror films and films in general that it’s difficult to watch them purely as entertainment. I’m very conscious of the craft, or lack of craft that’s going into the film. I am way too conscious of how special effects are created. Any movie that can get me past that is a movie I will return to because it made me put my dispassionate technical brain to the side.

But to be honest, a lot of horror films frustrate me, because the characters are rock-stupid and blind to their situation. I watch how people act in horror films, and think, “Don’t do that. Don’t walk into that room. Why are you not turning on the lights? What’s wrong with the lights in this house? Why are you staying in this creepy house where the lights don’t work? Why do you not pick up a weapon of some sort just in case a serial killer is on the loose?” I’m not a fearful person, but I am a person who believes in being prepared for the worst.

Bonilla: In Psychology Today, they are suggesting that Horror (horror) fans are coping better with the pandemic. Why do you think?

Sayenga: Yeah, horror fans are coping better with this. Anyone paying attention to horror films saw all this coming. If anything, horror fans were prepared for a much more worst-case scenario than what we just lived through. For some people, me included, horror is rehearsal and preparation. And ultimately, horror addresses our fear of dying and coming to grips with that.

I’ve made several films about pandemic diseases for National Geographic, including one that had a “what if” fiction component. It conjured up the crazy idea that there could be a zoonotic transmission of disease from a bat to a pig to a human in a pig market in China. We shot this with an actress in Hong Kong who then flies to London, and along the way spreads this highly contagious airborne virus everywhere she goes.

Contagion of course tells a similar story in a masterful way that tracks closely to reality. Things were worse in Contagion, as far as rioting and stuff like that. I’m surprised that it wasn’t worse here. But the virus in Contagion had a higher lethality rate, so that makes a difference in how people respond to it.

Bonilla: What can audiences expect for season three?

Sayenga: Season three is a big crowd-pleaser. It has a lot of ‘80s horror, classic horror, and modern horror. It has movie stars, brilliant writers, directors, and a new batch of film scholars with fresh takes on the genre.

By season three of anything, usually, everybody’s in the groove. They know what the series is and know how to make it work. That’s certainly been the case with season three. People seem to really like the second season and this season is very much in the vein of the second season. We know what we’re doing and we’re having a good time doing it.

LINK: https://thefridacinema.org/history-of-horror/

Latin Horror: Dracula: A 90th Anniversary Interview with Monster Historian David J Skal

On February 14, 1931, the film Dracula was released, with Bela Lugosi creating one of the most famous characters and iconic roles in cinematic history, Count Dracula. This groundbreaking horror film forever changed Hollywood and international cinema.

Over the last 90-years, Dracula has become the most popular monster from the Universal Studios classic monster series. His fang marks can be seen throughout a variety of films from America’s, Interview with a Vampire and Twilight to England’s Horror of Dracula, Mexico’s El Vampiro, and Korea’s Thirst.

The fascinating story of Dracula from stage to screen and beyond is shared in this extensive interview with American cultural historian and author David J. Skal.

Skal is highly regarded as a Dracula and vampire authority. He’s written multiple books on these topics such as The Monster Show: A Cultural History of HorrorHollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage and ScreenV is for VampireRomancing the Vampire: From Past to Present, and Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula.

Horror historian, critic, writer, and commentator, DAVID J. SKAL, and friend.

Dracula Before Universal:

Justina Bonilla: Is there truth in the story that Bram Stroker did not properly copyright Dracula?

David J. Skal: That’s true. Bram Stoker messed up his copyright registration in the United States. And, in fact, it was never copyrighted here. Anybody could have made a film. However, they couldn’t distribute it overseas because there was the Berne Convention. Copyright took care of it in Europe and around the world.

Bonilla: The film Nosferatu is known for committing copyright infringement against Dracula. How did Stroker’s estate react to this?

Skal: Stoker’s widow, Florence Balcombe Stroker staged an amazing war that lasted years against the German producers of Nosferatu, who essentially pirated the book, got the German courts to declare it plagiarism, and have all prints and negatives destroyed. Which fortunately for us, never happened.

It’s funny because Nosferatu is one of the most artistically acclaimed adaptations of Dracula. And as far as I could determine, Florence had captured a copy of the Nosferatu print that was being shown in London and refused to see it. She missed out on quite an event and spent her time selling it to Universal Studios.

Bonilla: How did Florence sell the rights to her husband’s novel to Universal Studios?

Skal: She was really selling the rights to the Dracula stage play, written by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane to Universal Studios. That was very different from the novel. It was a big hit on Broadway. Dracula traveled around the country and broke records city after city.

 Bonilla: What was Bela Lugosi’s experience in the Broadway production of Dracula?

Skal: Lugosi didn’t start taking English lessons until the late 1920s, around the time he did Dracula on Broadway.

The producers of the Dracula Broadway show ended up directing him in French because it was a language they both could understand. He often learned his roles phonetically, deliberate by syllable at a time. That’s where his very deliberate spooky voice came from. It’s a Hungarian speaking English phonetically.

Onstage, Lugosi would sometimes be thrown off guard by somebody throwing him or a different line or flubbing up. Then, he suddenly would be on a different track.

Universal Studios gets bit by Dracula:

Bonilla: Before Dracula, were there any previous supernatural Hollywood films?

Skal: In the history of Hollywood, there had never been a supernatural horror film. There have been scary movies in the silent era. If something spooky, unnatural, or paranormal seems to take place, it always was explained away. It was a plot to steal somebody’s inheritance or that kind of thing. It’s a formula that came from the stage. Dracula was different. Universal Studios was attracted to it when it was founded in 1915.

Bonilla: What was Universal Studios status as a studio at that time?

Skal: Universal Studios was not the big deal it is today. It was very much a second-tier Hollywood studio. It made its bread and butter doing Western serials and programs that would enable a dependable supplier of programming to theaters all over the country. Their film All Quiet on the Western Front was an unexpected success.

Nobody thought Universal Studios could do anything on the level of Dracula. It’s still a remarkable achievement. Dracula was going to follow it as another “Universals super-production”, based on a famous novel. Then the stock market crash hit.

Bonilla: Who at Universal Studios was keen on making Dracula into a film?

Skal: Universal Studios lavished attention on Dracula for a very interesting reason that I tell in my book, Hollywood GothicPaul Kohner, who came from Czechoslovakia, was Carl Lemley Sr.’s protégé. Lemley Sr. himself was from Germany. Kohner was kind of a second son to Lemley.

Kohner expected that he was going to take over the reins of the Universal Studios when Lemley Sr. retired. And, low and behold, Lemley Sr. pulled a switcheroo and gave the studio to his 21-year-old son, Carl Lemley Jr.

We must credit Lemley Jr.’s enthusiasm for horror movies, which made all the Universal Studios classic horror films happen. His father didn’t want to have anything to do with it really. But they had their eye on Dracula for a long time, and Kohner was initially going to produce and direct it.

Bonilla: Is it true that Lon Chaney was considered a choice for the lead role of Dracula?

Skal: Yes, when Universal Studios bought the rights to the novel and the stage play of Dracula, they did it with the understanding that they needed Lon Chaney Sr. “The man of 1000 faces”, one of the biggest, bankable stars in Hollywood, to take this on.

That was one of the reasons that Lemley Sr. finally agreed to do it. The play had a track record, and that Chaney Sr. would star in it. They made overtures to Cheney Sr., who was under contract to MGM, so they’d have to get a loan out contract from him. What MGM didn’t know or was keeping secret that Cheney Sr. was suffering from lung cancer. He died suddenly right in the middle of the negotiations.

It’s unlikely he would have done it, because his last outing with Universal, The Phantom of the Opera, even though it was a huge worldwide success, it was one of the most embattled and difficult productions Universal had ever done. They went through multiple directors, and then Cheney Sr. essentially was directing himself, and I think he was very happy to go back to MGM.

Bonilla: Was anyone else considered for Dracula?

Skal: Kohner had planned to use Conrad Veidt, the great German silent actor, in what would be his first talking role. However, Veidt got cold feet about doing a talkie. So, he fell by the wayside.

Bonilla: How did The Great Depression influence the production of Dracula?

Skal: All the studios were just teetering on the edge, including Universal Studios. They had the Dracula rights and were committed to going ahead with it. But the budget was suddenly dwindling. You can see this in Dracula.

Dracula opens and some of the first sequences that were filmed are in Transylvania, in Dracula’s castle. They’re very atmospheric and quite cinematic. Then, the film becomes more like a stage play because that was the most economical way to do it. That’s always been one of the main criticisms of the film.

Dracula’s Production:

Bonilla: How was Todd Browning as a director?

Skal: From what I’ve learned about the filming of Dracula, it was a film that really got away from Todd Browning. He was a great silent director, but talkies really threw him off. He couldn’t keep up the steady stream of conversation.

Browning was involved in all aspects of the story, writing the final intertitles for silent film, and editing. With talkies also came in the trade unions and one person like him, couldn’t do it all anymore.

As Browning was described to me by David Manners, who played John Harker, he said, “He didn’t direct any scene that I was in. He was a figure sitting back, in the shadows all the time. It was Karl Freund, the cinematographer, who directed any scene that I was in, in Dracula”.

Some people don’t believe me and say, “Oh, Manners must have been senile by that point”. He was not. Manners was absolutely lucid. It was a wonderful conversation I had with him. It was very surprising to hear that.

Bonilla: How did Karl Freund’s camera style influence Dracula?

Skal: Freund used a mobile camera to great effect at the beginning of Dracula. Then, the camera became more pedestrian.

Freund is also credited with inventing the three-camera technique for television sitcoms. He also was the director of photography for I Love Lucy.

A friend of mine met Freund at some trade event back in the 1960s. I believe it was in Cleveland. My friend approached him, asking about Dracula. Freund said, “Why do you want to ask me about that?”

Bonilla: What was the cast experience on set?

Skal: Nobody had a good memory of working on Dracula. Manners said that he and his costar Helen Chandler, who played Nina, would just snicker among themselves when they were off-camera. It’s interesting, that the two of them were not having the greatest time doing Dracula. They thought it was a disorganized and crazy production. They also saw Lugosi as a very odd man. In Dracula, neither of them really looks pleased.

Dracula’s Impact on Cast:

Bonilla: What do you see as the impact of Bela Lugosi’s interpretation of Dracula?

Skal: It’s so iconic. No matter how good the other versions of Dracula are, or how technically innovative they are, they always raise the memory of Dracula.

Bonilla: How did this film impact Dwight Frye’s career?

Skal: After DraculaDwight Frye kind of typecast himself and did a number of these kinds of films. Toward the end of his life, wasn’t even doing full-time acting work. He died young in the early 1940s.

Bonilla: Were you able to connect with any living cast members of Dracula?

Skal: When I started researching for my book Hollywood Gothic, I was approaching people who were at the limits of living human memory. I was lucky to get to know three people who appeared on screen, Lupita Tovar Kohner, from the Spanish-language Dracula, Manners, and Carla Lemley, the niece of Lemley Sr., who became a close friend.

Bonilla: What was Carla Lemley’s role in Dracula?

Skal: Carla speaks the first lines of dialogue in Dracula, “Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass are crumbling castles are found of a bygone age”.

Bonilla: What did Carla remember about filming her part in Dracula?Skal: When I first contacted Carla, I told her I was doing research for my book Hollywood Gothic. She said, “Dracula? No, I don’t remember Dracula. I was in The Phantom of the Opera”.

I recognized her voice immediately on the telephone. Carla had been dragged in one day by the casting office and was told, “We need you to do a bit part. Go to costume, and here’s your dialogue”. Her dialogue was written on the back of that travel brochure she reads in the film. She just read the part cold and never met Browning or Lugosi.

Bonilla: Did Carla ever get an opportunity to interact with fans?

Skal: Yes. When Carla was the last living Lemley, I took her to fan conventions around the country. People would come and have her autograph pictures of Boris Karloff and Lugosi because she was this living link.

Bonilla: What was Lugosi’s life like in later years?

Skal: Lugosi was the first major star to come out with an addiction problem publicly. He had suffered injuries in World War I that gave him excruciating sciatica pain in his legs. He became addicted to Morphine and later Demerol.

He did get clean a year before he died and thought it was going to be the beginning of a resurrection of his career, which sadly never happened.

Bonilla: Since Lugosi never finished filming Plan Nine from Outer Space, how was his role completed? 

Skal: Lugosi died before they could shoot all his scenes for his last film Plan Nine from Outer Space. The director, Ed Wood’s chiropractor, would hold up the cape in front of his face and pretend to be Lugosi.

Dracula’s Influence:

Bonilla: How much of an impact has Dracula had on those involved with the book, play, or film?

Skal: Going back to the time when Stoker wrote it. Everybody who has crossed the path of Dracula has gotten involved in its peculiar energy. Dracula possesses you. It just brings out the most possessive and predatory instincts. The agent who negotiated the Broadway rights for many years told me, “I dread having to negotiate a new production of Dracula because it brings out the worst negotiating instincts in everybody involved. Everybody wants to possess it, control it”.

A lot of the people who’ve tried to control Dracula have not had happy careers. Lugosi, perhaps most among them, became so typecast in the role of Dracula, because he did such a good job, could do almost nothing else. He didn’t have special makeup. That was his voice, his face. Though he was a trained classical actor from Europe, all people could see or hear was Dracula. It limited his opportunities. He went to the grave in his Dracula costume.

Bonilla: What lead Lugosi’s son, Bela Lugosi Jr., to sue Universal Studios?

Skal: Lugosi thought that the role of Dracula was his and didn’t negotiate very well. He was paid less than other actors in the film. He made $3,500 total. A lot in the Depression era, but not what big stars in Hollywood were making. He never saw another dime from Universal Studios, no residuals, nothing.

Lugosi’s son, Bela Lugosi Jr. had to sue Universal Studios in the great tradition of Florence Stoker, for his father’s image used for marketing and merchandising. It went on for years and years. Again, another chapter in Dracula’s ability to bring out the most combative instincts.

Bonilla: What makes Dracula a classic film?

Skal: Dracula is a classic film because it changed American moviemaking. It set in motion this whole imaginative current in American cinema, the outright fantastic without any explanation, or apologies.

Without Dracula, the whole history of Hollywood would have gone in different directions. Maybe a supernatural movie would have come along in Hollywood at some point, I suppose, but nothing like Dracula.

Bonilla: How did Dracula and the other monster films influence other film genres?

Skal: The Universal Studios cycle of classic horror movies, set in motion the science fiction films of the 1950s. Without those monster films, some of the biggest blockbusters of all time would never have been made.

Dracula and The Monster Kids:

Bonilla: How did Dracula and the other Universal monsters influence “The Monster Kids”?

Skal: For a lot of us, we were inspired as kids by these pictures. I was one of those kids. We became “The Monster Kids” of the 1960s when the Universal Studios monster movies were showing up on television. We made our own eight-millimeter versions of Dracula and Frankenstein in the backyard and basement. And some turned out to be filmmakers like Steven Spielberg.

Bonilla: As a Monster Kid, what is your favorite scene in Dracula?

Skal: Renfield’s arrival at Castle Dracula. 

Bonilla: And your favorite Dracula line?

Skal: “I never drink…wine.”

Many people believe the line originated in Stoker, but it’s original to the 1931 film. I’ve always believed it was one of Browning’s personal contributions to the script. Interestingly enough, the line was added to the stage version starring Frank Langella in 1977, and ever since, theatre companies have found ways to squeeze it back in. It has never actually been part of the Deane/Balderston published script.

Bonilla: Why do people love monsters, especially Dracula?

Skal: You get a piece of these monsters on you anywhere, and they stick to you. It’s not easy to brush off. People are going to remember. On some level, monsters are so important to us all. There are oldest and best and most reliable imaginary friends. 

Bonilla: Do you think the film would have been as successful without Lugosi?

Skal: It would not have been as successful without Lugosi, even if a major star like Chaney Sr. had played the part. Of all the actors considered for the part, only Veidt might have achieved a screen characterization comparable to Lugosi.

Bonilla: What do you think has led to the long life of Dracula?

Skal: The main reason, almost certainly, is Lugosi’s riveting, iconic presence. It was an indelible star turn, instantly recognizable today even to people who have never seen the original film. Few screen performances have ever had that kind of longevity and impact.

LINK: https://latinhorror.com/dracula-90th-anniversary-david-j-skal/

Daily Dead: 10 Must-See Contemporary Mexican Horror Films

8/25/21 11:40 AM | JUSTINA BONILLA

Since 1933, Mexico has been a major pioneering force in Latin American horror cinema. In contemporary times, Mexican horror has blossomed into a diverse array of horror subgenres including paranormal, art house, independent, social-political, and extreme.

For those inspired to explore what Mexican horror has to offer, this film list is a beginner’s guide to contemporary Mexican horror, featuring films by art-house cinema icon Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Oscar-winning monster maker Guillermo del Toro and Mexico’s tiger queen Issa Lopez.

10. El Gigante

Though the only short film on this list, it’s a bold mix of Mexican wrestling, Rob Zombie, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with lots of blood and gore. While attempting to cross the American/Mexican border at night via a “coyote”, Armando is attacked and awakens in a dirty blood-splattered room. He is forced to wrestle for the entertainment of a sadistic family with the blood-thirsty wrestler El Gigante.

With the success of this and other short horror films, director Gigi Saul Guerrero has gone on to film movies with Blumhouse Television, including Into the Dark: Culture Shock and the upcoming Bingo Hell.

9. The Similars (Los Parecidos)

Heavily influenced by the sci-fi films and television of the 1950s and 1960s, this love letter to the genre combines fantasy and surrealism, with the unimaginable. Set on the night of the tragic day of October 2, 1968, eight people are stranded by a massive rainstorm, at an isolated bus station, desperate to get to Mexico City. As the hours go by, a strange phenomenon sends everyone into fear and paranoia, as horrific seizures create unbelievable reactions.

October 2, 1986 was the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City, where over 1,000 peaceful student protestors were injured and an estimated 350-400 protestors were killed by the heavily armed federal Mexican Armed Forces. The Mexican government held the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, to boast about economic growth, which didn’t benefit the poor. Students protested this inequality and the corrupt Mexican government, in front of international media. This tragedy led to more student protests advocating for government change.

8. New Order (Nuevo Orden)

This recent controversial political horror examines social class, wealth, corruption, and the exploitation of political power. Two families, one lavishly rich and the other, the poor family who works for the rich family, have their lives turned upside down when violent class warfare breaks out nationally. When the Mexican government is taken over by a military coup, the families each face consequences beyond their worst nightmares.

New Order was the 2020 Venice Film Festival prize winner.

7. The Zone (La Zona)

A chilling commentary of the Mexican social class system and how the power of the privileged classes influences political corruption. In an isolated and guarded upper-class suburb called The Zone, a botched robbery by three teenagers throws the residents into a blood-thirsty manhunt to find the surviving teenage thief. As people from the outside and a Zone teenage resident try to search for answers, the wealthy Zone adults push their influence and bribes to put an end to the questions, so they can dispense their own bloody justice.

In 2007, The Zone received the Best Debut Feature award at the Vince Film Festival.

6. The Untamed (La región salvaje)

Following in the footsteps of Possession, mixed with an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired creature, this sci-fi sexual horror, evaluates relationships and the hypocritical views that society has of them. Alejandra is a young and unhappy wife, in a broken marriage, with little hope. In all her turmoil, she is introduced to a mysterious being who brings her ultimate pleasure, but also horrific destruction.

The unique concept of The Untamed was inspired by Possession and dedicated to its director Andrzej Zulawski.

5. We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay)

Intertwining the heartache of a family melodrama, with bloody cannibalism, shows how far some will go protect and provide for their family. After the death of a family’s patriarch and sole provider, the heartbroken widow mother and her three teenage children struggle to establish who will be the head of the family and continue their ritual cannibalism. As the tension increases in the household, they grapple to find their next meal.

In a cameo, paying homage to Guillermo del Toro’s first Mexican film Cronos, with the Cronos actors Daniel Giménez Cacho as Tito the mortician and Juan Carlos Colombo the funeral director, acting in similar roles, in a morgue.

4. Under the Salt (Bajo la sal)

A crime drama, where everyone has dark secrets to hide. Commander Trujillo arrives in a small Mexican town to investigate a series of unsolved murders of young women. As the investigation intensifies, Victor, a misfit teenager who works at his father’s funeral home, falls in love with Isabel, a local waitress, who he wants to protect at any cost.

The use of stop motion animation throughout Under the Salt creates a unique visual, giving the audiences an in-depth look at Victor’s emotional evolution throughout the film.

3. Tigers are Not Afraid (Vuelven)

The international breakthrough for telenovela writer and comedic film director, turned horror director Issa Lopez, brought a children’s perspective to the contemporary Mexican Drug War. Estrella, a young girl whose mother has disappeared without a trace, joins a group of young and orphaned boys for protection. Together the children face an array of tragic and supernatural events, as they are chased by the local cartel.

Adding to the strength of the film was featuring children as the main cast with no previous acting experience, creating more authentic reactions from them.

2. Santa Sangre (Holy Blood)

This arthouse film by groundbreaking Chilian filmmaker, artist, and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the most regarded modern Mexican horror films. Escaping from a mental institution, Fenix, a former circus performer reunites with his controlling, armless mother. Using her son as her arms, they go on a killing spree of jealously and revenge.

It’s a breathtaking and trailblazing film, which also pays homage to classic horror films, such as Universal’s The Invisible Man and the Mexican wrestler films.

1. The Del Toro Mexican Trilogy

No list of modern Mexican horror would be complete without a del Toro film. Each of del Toro’s three Mexican films, CronosDevil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth, possess their own individual haunting artistic beauty, while paying homage to classic tales and fables. These films have brought both del Toro international fame and a new appreciation by audiences for Mexican horror and Latino horror filmmakers.


The first full-length film of del Toro taking an innovative, yet tragic interpretation of vampire folklore. Jesus, a Mexican antique dealer accidentally discovers the Cronos, a scarab that grants the recipient youth and eternal life, with the unknown price of an uncontrollable need for blood. Wanting to maintain his new vitality and immortality, Jesus must fend off others in search of the Cronos, as he struggles to protect his wife and young orphaned granddaughter.

Influenced by his relationship with his own grandmother, del Toro uses the perspective of child heavily, which would become a signature trait in his horror films, adds depth and heartbreaking tragedy to this and the rest of his Mexican horror films.

Devil’s Backbone (El espinazo del diablo)

Del Toro’s first cinematic co-collaboration with Spain, using the supernatural to address the pain and suffering war causes society, especially children. Set in 1939, during the last year of The Spanish Civil War, Carlos, a young boy, is sent to an isolated all-boys orphanage, where he comes across a spirit of a murder orphan haunting the facility. Carlos and the other orphans suffer at the hands of the violent caretaker, while the lies and corruption within the walls of the orphanage crumble around them.

This film is considered the brother film to its sister film set a few years in 1944, Pan’s Labyrinth,continuing to supernaturally evaluate one of the darkest periods of 20th century Spanish history.

Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno)

The most critically acclaimed of del Toro’s Mexican films, winning three Oscars, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Art Direction. Ofelia, a young girl is forced to live in an isolated estate with her sickly mother and sadistic control freak army officer stepfather. As the lines between reality and fantasy blur, Ofelia pursuers three dangerous tasks to fulfill her destiny as the princess of the underworld.

Pan’s Labyrinth is part of a small group of fantasy and horror films that have been nominated for Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score at the Oscars.

Bonus Films:

If you are interested in extreme horror, We Are the Flesh (Tenemos la carne) and Atroz (Atrocious) are the most notable Mexican extreme horror films.

We Are the Flesh is a visually striking yet disturbing surreal arthouse film. Two siblings, Lucio and Fauna, are searching for food and shelter in a post-apocalyptic world until they find these necessities with a strange man. His bizarre, manipulative, and extreme demands of the siblings lead all three down a path of madness, violence, incest, murder, and cannibalism.

Atroz is considered the most violent film in Mexican cinema is so controversial, it was only released to home video and streaming. During a police investigation, two police officers find a handheld camera, with videos of two young men going on a demented rampage filled with torture and murder. Among the film’s associate producers is the controversial Italian director of Cannibal Holocaust Ruggero Deodato.

Exclusive Interview: ROGER CORMAN on 60th Anniversary of ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’

August 12, 2021 marked the 60th anniversary of the release of The Pit and the Pendulum, one of the most popular films directed by the iconic and groundbreaking 95-year-old filmmaker Roger Corman.

Among the many ways to describe Corman and his impact on film, Kurt Sayenga, the showrunner of Eli Roth’s History of Horror described him best, “Roger Corman is a living legend who has inspired and promoted new filmmakers for more than six decades. There’s no one else like him. From horror to science fiction to outlaw bikers and women-in-prison films, Roger’s filmography has spanned the genres – and, as he says, he never lost a dime.  He’s the most successful independent producer in film history; the ultimate avatar of DIY filmmaking. As a director, Roger’s career highlight was the series of films he made in the 1960s based on the gothic horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe.”

Legendary genre icon Roger Corman.

Sayenga continues: “Roger often had great scripts but given a slightly better budget and stronger actors, his work went from “fun” and “interesting” to “great.” The Poe films are lushly colorful explorations of the nature of evil, laced with a macabre sense of humor. Like Roger himself, there is a lot going on beneath their smooth and shiny surfaces.”

Corman shared exclusively, his memories about The Pit and the Pendulum. He also shares his upcoming projects and fond memories of other past projects.

Justina Bonilla: What is your favorite Poe story?

Roger Corman: It would be “The Fall of the House of Usher”. That was the one I did first because it was the one that was actually more complete than many of the others. For instance, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, which we’re talking about, was just a couple of pages long. And we had to elaborate it to make it a full-length picture. But “The Fall of the House of Usher” was a complete story. And I think it encapsulated much of Poe’s thinking.

Bonilla: Do you have a favorite Poe poem?

Corman: Possibly “Annabel Lee”.

Bonilla: What inspired you to pursue your first Poe themed movie House of Usher, which you based on the story “The Fall the House of Usher”?

Corman: Well, first, I read “The Fall of the House of Usher” when I was in school, and I loved it. I asked my parents for Christmas for the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. They were happy to give it to me because I might have asked for a shotgun or something. I read everything Poe had written that was available at that time.

The reason I made the picture of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” as the House of Usher was that I was making some pictures for American International Pictures. They had a way of distributing which was to make two about $60,000 to $70,000 black and white films and send them out together in the theatres for the price of one. They wanted me to make two horror films. I felt I’d done this sort of thing too many times and wanted to move on.

So, I said, which I think was correct, “This has been a great advertising concept for you. But I think it’s growing old. It would be better to spend a little bit more money and make one picture”.

American International asked me what I wanted to make. I said I wanted to make House of UsherSamuel Z. Arkoff, who was vice president of American International Pictures knew the story. He said, “Roger, that’s a good idea, but your movies always had a monster. There’s no monster in “The Fall of the House of Usher”. And thinking fairly quickly, I said, “Sam, the house is the monster”. Sam said, “Okay, we’ll make the picture”. That’s how I got to make House of Usher.

Author/screenwriter, Richard “Dick” Matheson.

Bonilla: How were you able to get Richard “Dick” Matheson to write not only that script, but all the Poe film scripts?

Corman: I had read a number of his stories. I knew he was writing also for The Twilight Zone. I simply contacted him through his agent and told him what I wanted to do. I gave him some of my thoughts, and he agreed with that. We simply went forward and made House of Usher.

House of Usher was very successful. American International Pictures wanted me to make another one. Since I was very friendly with Dick Matheson, and Dick said, “Yes, whatever you want to do”. My second actual choice was “The Mask of the Red Death”. But, Ingmar Bergman made a picture about the Middle Ages, The Seventh Seal.

The Seventh Seal had some elements that were similar to “The Mask of the Red Death”. I thought, if I make “The Mask of the Red Death”, everybody will say, I’m simply copying Ingmar Bergman. So, my second choice was “The Pit and the Pendulum”. The reason it was a second choice was that both “The Fall the House of Usher”, and “the Masque of the Red Death”, were pretty much complete stories. Whereas “The Pit and the Pendulum”, was just a couple of pages.

Dick and I had to try to figure out how to translate this into a picture. We did this with several of the Poe pictures, taking Poe’s story, and using it as the third act, if you were to think of it as a play. We created the first and second acts, hopefully in the style of Poe, leading us to the third act. That’s how we handled The Pit the Pendulum.

Vincent Price about to bring the pain in ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’

Bonilla: The story was a collaboration between you and Richard?

Corman: I have to give Dick most of the credit. He and I came up with the idea of the first two acts, and he wrote a little outline. I gave him my notes on the outline. We went from that to screenplay.

Bonilla: The drama in The Pit and the Pendulum film is very Shakespearean, like Othello and Hamlet. Was that or any other Shakespeare play an influence on the script?

Corman: It probably was, but it would be unconscious. I wasn’t thinking specifically, and neither was Dick. We’re all influenced by Shakespeare.

Director Roger Corman with Actor Vincent Price on the set of ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’

Bonilla: Did you always have Vincent Price in mind for the role of Nicholas?

Corman: Yes, Vincent was my choice for House of Usher. He was really very good at it. We got along very well. I simply said, “I will go with Vincent again”.

Bonilla: What was it like working with Vincent?

Corman: It was very good working with Vincent on all these Poe pictures. He was a highly intelligent man and had been a leading man when he was younger. But he had never played the handsome, romantic leading man. There was always a little quirk, a little neurosis within him. I thought that little offbeat quality that he had of being both intelligent, and maybe just a little bit off.

Bonilla: Do you have a favorite memory of working with Vincent?

Corman: My favorite memory of working with Vincent was not on The Pit and the Pendulum, it was on The Raven, which we interpreted very freely, into a horror-comedy. At that time, we’d made so many Poe films, I felt we’re starting to repeat ourselves. How can we change it? So, it became a horror-comedy.

We got Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre to work with Vincent. The three stars in the picture. The first day of shooting was a little bit difficult because Boris did not seem to get along well with Peter.

On the second day, as he came out of makeup, Boris came to me and said, “I am a trained classical actor. I learn my lines, I come in, and I’m ready to give the performance. Peter comes in, and he starts making up lines. I don’t know when to speak or what to say, because he’s not really saying what’s in the script”. I said to Boris, “Well, that’s because you come from the traditional English classical acting. Peter comes from the Berliner Ensemble with Bertolt Brecht, who emphasized improvisation. He’s improvising. And actually, I thought he was very funny”. Peter added all kinds of things to The Raven.

Vincent was very cooperative. He really helped me there because he knew how to work both ways. Finally, it was decided. I said to Boris, “Understand that Peter is going to improvise a little bit, and you have to adjust to this”. I said to Peter, “I love what you’re doing. It’s really good, continue doing that. But stay a little closer to the script. And Vincent said, “Yes, that’s the way we should do it”.

Boris reluctantly agreed. After a couple of days, he began to enjoy it. He started improvising a little bit too.

Barbara Steele and John Kerr.

Bonilla: How did you select John Kerr for Francis?

Corman: I simply chose him because he was very good. In South Pacific, he was the handsome young leading man. He had the look, and he was a good actor. He had a little bit of name and that would add to the picture. I knew that he’d been doing TV. In a number of his TV performances, he showed a different quality. I thought it was very good.

Bonilla: Since Barbara Steele was so young and new to acting, what influenced the decision to cast her as Elizabeth?

Corman: I had seen the Italian horror film Black Sunday directed by Mario Bava. I thought she was wonderful in it. I hired her simply off the performance in Black Sunday. Barbara was a good actress and very beautiful. There was also a dark tone to her just as Vincent was a leading man with a little quirkiness. I thought there was sort of a dark mysterious quality behind Barbara’s performance.

Bonilla: What was your experience working with Barbara Steele?

Corman: It was very good. She was very cooperative and a good actress.

A problem came up that I didn’t realize. I knew Barbara was English, so I thought, “Okay, she can play this role”. She’d been dubbed into Italian in Black Sunday. Barbara had a working-class British accent, which I had not anticipated. All of the characters in The Pit and the Pendulum were aristocrats or upper class. So, I brought in a dialogue coach. He worked with her for the picture, to get the accent I was looking for.

The one-sheet for ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’

Bonilla: Barbara and Vincent, what was their relationship like on set?

Corman: They got along very well. It was a very friendly set. Because I’d worked with Luana Anders before, and I knew she was a good actress. The three of them were essentially the leads. It was a very pleasant, good picture to work on.

Bonilla: Did any issues arise on set?

Corman: There was one problem that came up. It was the pendulum. We had constructed a large pendulum with a blade that was blunted. It hung from the top of the studio, and it swung back and forth, as it was getting lower and lower. It was going to eventually cut John, who was lying on the platform.

As they were rehearsing it, John said to me, “Roger, do you think that thing is really safe? That looks a little dangerous”. I thought, “Gee, I don’t want a leading man who’s playing the key seen in the picture, worried about being hurt by the pendulum”. I said to John, “John, we’re going to go for the final rehearsal. I’ll show you, so don’t worry about it. I’ll get in there”.

So, I laid on the platform, looked up, and saw this pendulum swinging back and forth, coming closer and closer to me. I thought, “Maybe John is right. Maybe this thing is a little dangerous”. Then I emerged alive.

John Kerr, Vincent Price and the Pendulum.

Bonilla: In the film, I noticed that there was a heavy emphasis on colors like blue, black, and gray. Was there importance to these colors?

Corman: It was important, but it wasn’t crucial. For instance, in Masque of the Red Death, red obviously was crucial to the picture. I was looking for a dark, somber palette, but I didn’t want it to be all black. So, I chose those colors with Danny Haller, the art director to whom I give a great deal of credit for these films. We were able to get a darker look, but vary it between different colors that could blend.

Bonilla: There appeared to be a lot of visual influences from DraculaThe Bride of Frankenstein, and The Uninvited. Was that intentional, or by coincidence?

Corman: By coincidence, or possibly out of my unconscious mind. You absorb everything you see. It’s very possible. I saw these films, and maybe they influenced me without even being aware of it.

Bonilla: How surprised were you that the movie became the most financially successful out of the whole Poe series?

Corman: I think it was really the final scene. It’s one of the things added that was not in the script, and not in my shot plan. I diagram my shots very carefully in advance. We had finished the picture and had about 20 or 30 minutes left for the crew without having to pay them anything extra in overtime. I thought, “Well, I want to use this set. What can I do?”. I said to Floyd Crosby, the cameraman, “Let’s put the camera on a boom, and I’ll set up there with the camera. We’ll move back and forth along the wall and photograph all those images, just to use up the 20 minutes”. When I had those shots, they look very good, and I use them inner cutting with the pendulum itself. I thought they added to the scene.

Filming a scene on the set of ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’

Bonilla: I love that shot on Barbara steel in the Ironmen.

Corman: Yes, I remember we zoomed in and on that.

Bonilla: Was there ever a Poe story that you wanted to make into a film but never could?

Corman: Not really. The reason I finally made The Masque of the Red Death, because it had now been a number of years since Bergman’s film, and it was one I wanted to make all along. I just chose to finally make The Masque of the Red Death. I thought if somebody wants to say it’s a little bit like Bergman then Okay, let them say it.

Bonilla: Are there any new projects that you’re working on that you’re allowed to talk about?

Corman: Yes, I’m allowed to talk about anything.

I’m preparing three screenplays at the moment. I don’t want to shoot because of the Corona Virus and the difficulty in shooting because you have to be careful where you go. You have to check the crew every morning.

My thought is by fall 2021, there will be enough people vaccinated. So, I’ll be able to put together a regular crew, all of whom are fully vaccinated, and we can just go ahead and shoot the way we always did.

I’m working on three pictures. One, it’s a remake of my old picture The Unborn.

Two is a picture called Crime City, which is a low-budget picture. Because there was a terrible hurricane in the Caribbean, particularly in the Bahamas, a year and a half, or so ago. Therefore, I arranged to photograph all the damaged villages and everything about this, I thought, this gives me a great background. So, Crime City is written to fit the footage I’ve already shot in Nassau, Bahamas.

The third to me is my most important. I made a picture in the 1970s called Death Race 2000, which was a futuristic science fiction picture. Universal Studios remade it four times [as the Death Race franchise]. I told Universal, “What you’re doing is good. But you’ve missed some elements in it”. They said, “Well, Roger, why don’t you make the next one”.

I think there’s something in here that clearly has resonated with the audience. I think Death Race has run its course, so, I’ve come up with a new story that takes some of the elements from Death Race, and it’s called Death Games. That’s a picture I hope to shoot first in the fall.

Bonilla: With the popularity of The Fast in the Furious franchise, I’m sure Death Games is going to be fine.

Corman: The Fast and the Furious was very strange. Neil Moritz had made this car racing picture, but he didn’t like the title. And his father was Milt Moritz, who was the head of advertising for American International Pictures. They were having dinner, and Milt said to Neal, “You know, Roger made a picture a long time ago, in the 1950s called The Fast and the Furious. What do you think of that title?”. Neil liked that title. So, Neil and I had lunch, and he bought the title from me, but not the story. The story is entirely different.

Roger Corman and Justina Bonilla during their virtual interview.

Bonilla: This year is also the 40th anniversary of The Howling from one of your students of “The Comoran Film School”, Joe Dante. What was it like for you to have Dante direct to when you appeared in your phone booth cameo in The Howling?

Corman: It was great! A number of the directors who started with me, have me play little roles. For instance, in The Godfather Part II, I was a senator on the senate crime committee. With one of Jonathan Demme‘s pictures, I was the ex-President of the United States. I kept playing sort of governors, Senators, lawyers, and business executives.

Joe called me and said, “You play all these distinguished people, how would you like to be a bum on Skid Row?”. I said, “Great, Joe, I’ll play it”. Since I’m known a little bit for using what little money I have, after the first take, Joe said, “Roger, put your finger in the coin slot and see if you can get your coin back”.