Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Outfield of Gore

February 28, 2006

A year or so back, I went to see a no-budget horror film called THE WIZARD OF GORE for my horror website. It was really bad (I described it then as "as dull as an economics lecture in a language you do not speak"), but even more cheap, directed by famed shlockmeister Hershel Gordon Lewis. I wasn't born in the era of drive-ins, so I don't really understand the tolerance people had in the Seventies for really, really bad movies, but then, I still paid to go see WIZARD OF GORE and you didn't.

Well, they're remaking it--since it's a little-known California law that ALL horror films made between 1969 and 1981 must be remade before 2009 or the lower half of the state will revert to Mexico--and on Monday, I got to work a day on it. I had been out of town over the weekend, so I only heard that we were shooting at a club and that we weren't to wear black, red, or white. With the little experience I have at clubbing (baby seals don't count), I dressed in nice slacks, a button-up shirt, and a tie.

When I got to set, I realised with horror, that I was the only one so dressed. Everyone else had shredded jeans, fishnet shirts and stockings, dresses with blood on them, patchy army jackets, faded t-shirts written over with marker, rainslickers with hoods, studs in their ears, noses, lips and anuses, grey flannel underwear with shorts over them, black MATRIX-style trenchcoats (even though we weren't to wear black), leather jackets and pants, fake furs, and the like. One girl even had a torn up Batman costume on over lingerie!

We were supposed to be at a secret underground club ("the first rule of Gore Club is . . .") where young people gather to see Montog the Magician's revolting illusions (or "illusions," if you've already seen the first film). Well, I stood out among the extras like real breasts on a "Deal or No Deal" model, and while they should have sent me home (after all, what was I thinking wearing a tie?), they didn't. Josh, the A.D. on DARK STREETS, was cool then and cool now and told me I'd be alright with Wardrobe. The wardrobe guy told me to loosen my tie and that was it. I was mocked quite a bit, with the most kind remark I received being that I looked like I just got off work.

We shot it at the Plaza Park Hotel, a huge, ornate structure built by corrupt, cigar-smoking men's clubbers in the Forties. It was impressive to me, as all buildings seem to be, having grown up on a farm in a town the size of a postage stamp. The hotel was decorated with lots of marble, mini-posters of the movies that had been shot there (most notably, THE MASK), and tons of Greek and Roman designs, murals, and sculpture, as well as astrological signs (were the Zodiac signs Greek? Or were they also invented by the Sumerians, along with the written word, the concept of hours and minutes, geometry, human sacrifice, astronomy, surgery, and boy bands?) covered the walls and ceilings. It also had a smell that reminded me of my grandparents' house.

We were playing two different nights' worth of clubgoers, who are disgusted when a geek eats maggots, cockroaches, and bites the head off a rat, and then are even more appalled when Montog slaughters a volunteer from the audience before our eyes (one with a broomstick and one with swords), only to have them turn out okay when the lights come up. An unusual number of the extras were African-American, and I asked a group of them, "Would black guys really go to something like this? This strikes me as more of a white guy thing." They laughed at that.

Also working was my pal John the Ladykiller. And sure enough, the hottest of the extras, a svelte, chain-smoking blonde, gravitated right toward him, spending the entire day and night by his side. Amazing. He didn't even try.

Interestingly, he asked me what I thought of the girl at "Deal or No Deal," the one that was hugging and leaning on him. He asked if I wanted him to set me up with her. I suppose that's the sort of thing that happens to real people, but not me.

The big, cold meeting hall was where we were shooting the club scenes. It had been decorated with crates, garbage, bottles, plastic sheets and graffiti, as well as severed mannequin limbs and torsos. It was pretty impressive, though the entire 1970 film could have been made on what they spent on just that one day of shooting, no joke.

The film stars Jeffrey Combs, Kip Pardue, and the always delightful Bijou Phillips (who I complained in this blog about last month). The lead actor of the film, playing the evil Montog the Magnificent (how I remember that, I'll never know) is Crispin Glover, who they say is the most eccentric actor in the business. He was wearing a white tuxedo that looked more like a fencing outfit, along with an over the top Ace Ventura pompadour and an even more over the top baseball mitt-sized bulge in the crotch of his costume. I mean, you could lose an eye, kids.

Apparently, Brad Douriff is also in the film. Hearing that, I took along my BRIDE OF CHUCKY DVD in case I ran into him. My niece--being (sadly) related to me and (even more sadly) having red hair--is obsessed with Chucky, and it would have been cool to tell her I met the man behind the murderous doll, but he wasn't working that day.*

We've all heard the Crispin Glover stories--how he is certifiably insane, how he screwed himself out of the BACK TO THE FUTURE sequels, how he tends to believe he's his characters, how he bites and murders crewmembers on the films he does, etc. And yes, he was strange, but not unprofessionally so. I said hello to him, but that was it. I wanted to have him sign my BTTF poster, but the vibe was wrong and I didn't ask.

Jeffrey Combs was 97% unrecognisable in his role as the Geek (is "geek" capitalised when it's an occupation?), complete with dirty, raggedy clothes, long grey dreadlocks, and a Gandalf-length beard. As a Horror/Sci-Fi fan, I have a tremendous respect for Combs. His "Star Trek" work alone is incomparable, and I've never seen him deliver a bad performance (even in bad movies), and called him "Mister Combs" when I spoke to him. He said to call him Jeff and shook my hand.**

At the end of the shoot, I sat down toward the front (on Night One, I was in the back and on Night Two, we were told to switch), beside a friendly girl I met on the set of "Boston Legal." She calls me Mushu, for some reason, he being the dragon in MULAN. To make me feel a little less out of place in my improper clothes, she put lipstick on me (not that it helped me look less dorky, but who was I to refuse?). Many of the dudes there had makeup, but on me, it only looked weird. We probably should've put tons on. At one point, she held up her mp3 player and said, "Guess what group I just discovered?" I shrugged and said, "Electric Light Orchestra?" since that was the one I most recently liked. And, of all bands in the world, that was the one she had just discovered. She freaked out at my psychic powers.

A few minutes later, after the stand-ins got up, I found myself sitting next to Bijou Phillips. By pure chance, I suppose. I'm sort of what you would call the opposite of a fan of hers. She's got a high, squeeeky voice, an evil temper, and is seldom quiet for long. "What do you call a blonde with two brain cells?" Phillips asked. "Pregnant," was the response, though she sort of screwed up the punchline.

In the scene, the evil Montog calls Bijou up as a "volunteer," using his hypnotic mind powers to get her to go up, then proceeds to skewer her before our shocked eyes. I've seen some directors who yelled--not a lot, though--but I've only ever seen an actor yell at the director or crew. That was Bijou Phillips, and she did it on DARK STREETS as well as on WIZARD OF GORE. Apparently, she doesn't like having a director tell her how to say her lines. The poor dear.

The shoot didn't go too late--we were wrapped around eleven-thirty--and though it had been raining all day and all night, I made it home before midnight. February, besides being the shortest month, has also been my least profitable. I'd better work extra hard (no pun intended) in March to make up for it.

Speaking of March, I should be starting out the new month working on an Anthony Hopkins picture. Not too shabby.

Rish "The Warlock of Gore" Outfield

*Did you know that in Latin America, CHILD'S PLAY is known as CHUCKY: EL MUñECO DIABOLICO?

**He may also have signed my RE-ANIMATOR and written "You're next!" on it. I'll never tell.

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