Saturday, April 23, 2016

Outlaw: Gangster VIP Collection - Blu-ray Review - Arrow Video

The Saga of Goro Comes to High Definition in Arrow Video's 
Outlaw: Gangster VIP Limited Edition Blu-ray & DVD Collection

Outlaw Gangster VIP Collection Blu-ray cover

Released by: Arrow Video
Release Date: April 18, 2016 (UK) / April 19, 2016 (US) 
Production Year: 1968 - 1969
Region Code: ALL
Running Time: See individual title below
Audio: Japanese LPCM Mono
Video: 1080p (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: English

Outlaw: Gangster VIP Blu-ray screen capture

*NOTE: All screen caps were taken from the first film in the series

THE FILMS - [ 3 / 5 ]:

In 1968, acclaimed director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Tora! Tora! Tora!) and rising star Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) teamed up for Outlaw: Gangster VIP, a gritty yakuza yarn based on the writings of real life ex-gangster Goro Fujita.

The series offers up a depiction of the Japanese underworld that was unprecedented in its realism and its sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist as a man haunted by his past, unable to escape a life of crime. The success of the initial instalment spawned five sequels, continuing the story of the lone wolf “Slasher” Goro and his quest for redemption.

The films presented a new kind of realism and violence that would prefigure Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, with their winning combination of brutal violence, gang warfare and sweeping romance, these films make for a unique and unforgettable viewing experience.

The set includes six films in the Outlaw series released for the first time in the west: "Gangster VIP," "Gangster VIP 2," "Heartless," "Goro the Assassin," "Black Dagger," and "Kill!"

Plot details for the films were taken from the Nikkatsu website which you can visit for some additional information. Also be sure to visit the MVD Entertainment Group website, who handles Arrow Video's U.S. distribution.

Outlaw: Gangster VIP (1:33:26):

Goro (Tetsuya Watari) had grown up in the yakuza world. As an active member of the Mizuhara family crime syndicate, he expressed his loyalty by always putting himself in the forefront of every battle. Violence never bothered him. However, after being sentenced to three years in prison for stabbing a rival gang’s hit man, he becomes disenchanted with the Yakuza life style. Goro is determined to start anew, but karma catches up. His two closest friends are murdered by his ex-boss. He is left with two options: to kill or be killed.

Gangster VIP 2 (1:37:17):

Goro (Tetsuya Watari) wants to put his dark past behind. He heads to Hirosaki City to offer his condolences to Yumeko and to reunite with Yukiko (Chieko Matsubara), but finds that Yumeko is fatally ill. Although Yukiko was taking care of her, she is pressed for money. Goro wants to help and knows that there is only one way to come up with fast money.

Heartless (1:31:44):

Goro Fujikawa (Tetsuya Watari) was indebted to Mitsugimoto. Sawada, a low rank yakuza with a gambling problem, owed Mitsugimoto three million yen. This equation can only lead to one answer. Mitsugimoto needs to pay and Goro's coming to collect.

Goro the Assassin (1:27:11):

On a cold winter day, Goro Fujikawa (Tetsuya Watari) and Masahiko murder the mob boss of Meishin-Kai. The deed costs them time in prison, but Goro had no shred of regret. When Goro is released 2 years later, Masahiko is dying in prison hospital and entrusts his last wish; "find my sister and take care of her." Goro leaves as a free man with a mission, but soon finds that he might have been better off in jail.

Black Dagger (1:26:19):

A street war breaks loose between two rival gangs in the Kansai region of Japan. Goro (Tetsuya Watari) is in the middle of action. Through a knife fight against Sueo, a high profile gangster from Busou-kai, Goro notices a familiar face approaching him from amidst the chaos - his girlfriend, Yuri (Chieko Matsubara). Goro had sent her to safety, but she had returned, aching to see him. Caught between Goro and his enemy knife, she reunites with her love - the price was her life.

Kill! (1:25:57):

Goro (Tetsuya Watari) has always been a lone wolf. When he arrives at an industrial city in Keihin, there is certain restlessness in the air. The Iriezaki family and the Kanto Touyu-kai were in the midst of a territorial dispute. Goro was quick to notice, but had no intent to take sides. At a department store nearby, he sees an elevator lady being harassed by a couple of hoodlums. Goro decides to intervene. Unbeknownst to him, the hoodlums are Touyu-kai members – and the girl has strong ties with the opposing family.

Outlaw: Gangster VIP Blu-ray screen capture

AUDIO - [ 4 / 5 ]:

All of the films in the Outlaw series feature a Japanese LPCM Mono audio track with newly translated optional English subtitles. The audio sounded very good with perhaps the first film sounding the weakest of the six films. There were no noticeable issues with the sound on any of the films. 

Outlaw: Gangster VIP Blu-ray screen capture

VIDEO - [ 4 / 5 ]:

The six films come to Blu-ray, thanks to Arrow Video, in a really nice limited edition set with transfers taken from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation. The films are presented in 1080p with a 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio. Overall the films look very good. The first film looks the "worst" in terms of having more visible print damage in the form of white specks than the others in the series. But rest assured it is not heavily damaged. I just wanted to note that the rest of the films look even better. Colors are strong throughout with skin tones also having a pleasant and natural appearance. Film grain is generally fairly light. 

Outlaw: Gangster VIP Blu-ray screen capture

SPECIAL FEATURES - [ 2.5 / 5 ]:

Limited Edition Box Set (3000 copies) containing all six films in the Outlaw series, available with English subtitles for the first time on any home video format.

Exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic

Booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear

Audio commentary on "Outlaw: Gangster VIP" by Jasper Sharp (Disc One) - Mr. Sharp provides an immense amount of information in his commentary track. From details on members from the cast and crew to the history of the Nikkatsu Corporation, prepare for more information than you could possibly remember in several sittings. 

An Outlaw's Odyssey - Visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear (37:57) - As the spoiler warning states, you may want to watch this after you have seen all six films. A nice rundown of key plot points from the film series. 

Gangster VIP Trailer (3:09)

Gangster VIP Gallery

Gangster VIP 2 Trailer (2:35)

Gangster VIP 2 Gallery

Heartless Trailer (2:35)

Heartless Gallery

Goro the Assassin Trailer (2:57)

Goro the Assassin Gallery

Black Dagger Trailer (2:59)

Black Dagger Gallery

Kill! Trailer (3:15)

Kill! Gallery

OVERALL RATING - [ 3.5 / 5 ]


Outlaw: Gangster VIP Blu-ray screen capture
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Interview with Father of Transgressive Cinema, Nick Zedd of Penetration Films

I don’t open up to people. While I have many acquaintances, I have a very few real friends that truly know me, and while gregarious with cheerful smiles and girly giggles, I am tremendously guarded. I’ve been struggling with this interview for over a month and how to present it. I knew it would possibly be the most important thing I’ve ever written and I needed to honor Nick and his message. It occurred to me that to explain what Nick Zedd means to me I need to open up somewhat about who I am and why his message is so personal, so for the first part of this interview I’m going to be indulgent, but trust me, it will all tie together.

I was raised by two very different people. My mom was much younger than my dad and was from an entirely different generation. She taught me never to trust the government and to question everything. Don’t conform and don’t ever depend on any man to take care of you. You make your own way and the man you choose will be an equal partner. My dad, on the other hand, was one of those staunch “because I said so” guys who I would constantly battle growing up, as I was not supposed to oppose his authority. For years he wouldn’t let my mom get a job, but when she finally did she became a nurse and she changed lives. When they went to the polls to vote, they would just cancel each other out, secretly hoping the other person would forget or stay home. Nick's dad was a lawyer for the post office and was in charge of censoring and reporting items sent through the mail. I'm sure that's where his rebellion against censorship was borne. 

I’ve never been a big fan of the news. It was on at 5:00 PM everyday during dinner while I was growing up. It was terrible and dismal, filled with tales of woe and devastation. It was so much worse than the horror films I wasn’t allowed to watch. At least horror films are art, and the violence is not real. The gore is a product of painstaking hours and hours of setting up and framing a scene, a perfect succession of squibs and other practical effects, until the storyboard comes to life. Horror films are perfectly planned and executed to give the viewer an experience of horrific proportions without any of the actual trauma of believing it could be real. Then one day I realized the news was also fake. 

Being designated as “gifted” in school I always have had a high IQ. In 2nd grade I had my stories published, and was published multiple times in college for my poetry. In high school the faculty sent me to science and music symposiums, and I was even offered the opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France. Of course my parents declined, stating the French people would molest me. I’m only telling you this because those with a high IQ do have a tendency to internalize struggles within society, and if they can’t change the world they suffer greatly. Some even fall into madness. I say that as an aside, because this is a state where Nick Zedd teeters, constantly on the cusp of madness. I can empathize, but was not there myself, instead choosing to join my college student government and host the first ever voter awareness day where I brought in the candidates to the college. I tutored fellow students and volunteered at the hospital. I was determined to make a change, and I thought it would come from the inside. I would become part of the system. I see now that being part of a flawed system with the intent on change is a fallacy. 

One day, while in college, I came over to visit my parents and as usual they were watching the news. The reporter came on with her background green screen flashing the Dow icon. She reported that Midland Dow did their own research and came to the conclusion that their workers don’t have a significantly higher cancer rate than anywhere else in the country. I was furious. And no one ever questioned this? First of all, a company worth anything will hire an outside researcher to combat research bias. Science and research can be swayed. Maybe you tamper with sample size, location, or constitution, or a t-value when running the stats. It’s unethical, sure, but then so is conducting your own research on your own organization. It was obvious Dow had everything to gain here. Their research probably meant that they couldn’t get sued by the workers suffering from cancer, and they would state the cancer was not related to the work they did at the chemical plant. I never watched the news again. I felt it was deliberate misinformation, or at the very least ignorance and carelessness in what was being reported. 

I went to school with plans to be a doctor. While attending the University of Michigan I did a pre-med internship through Michigan State University in conjunction with the local hospital. My first assignment was to work with doctors on a non-small cell lung cancer research project. I was elated. I wanted to work with the cells under the microscope and could not wait to get started. Reality hit when they stuck me in medical records, researching and entering statistical data. They were looking at the effects of an “experimental” drug on the deadly cancer. Blue Cross/ Blue Shield would pay for the drug and those who received it survived. The people on government subsidized healthcare were the lab rats. They didn’t get the drug, not because the doctors didn’t want to give it, but because the insurance company wouldn’t pay for it. They called it “experimental”. Sadly the patients were the experiment. 

This rocked my world and my earth was thrown entirely off its axis. How could doctors take a Hippocratic Oath to do no harm knowing there are treatments out there they are not offering? Couldn’t this act of negation be complete and utter deception, going against that good they swore to do? So my senior year of college I was lost and depressed. My eyes were open and my life plan was failed. I graduated and aced the internship, but decided I could not be a slave to the insurance companies’ decisions as to who they would dictate as worthy of treatment. I did not take the MCATs and I did not apply to medical school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so much to my parents’ disdain, I worked retail.

A couple years later, I met a man at the mall, who as a stranger, confided way too much for me to consider it a coincidence. He said he was a physician with a private practice and he found a loophole in the system to allow his patients to receive the treatment they needed. He had his office staff falsify the DRGs (diagnostically related groupings) or the code for your ailment when you go to the doctor. He found that if he put in a certain code, even if you don’t have that illness you can get the appropriate treatment for the illness you do have and the insurance companies would pay for it. He said he was investigated and busted for it too. He was on his last free days before he most likely would be sent to jail. I knew I made the right decision at that point. I would have done the same thing. 

Instead I choose to teach. Actually I was recruited at the mall by a teacher and then I choose to teach. After subbing, being observed by the administration and getting my feet wet, the high school asked me to come on full time as a certified teacher. I taught biology, chemistry and research and I had the most amazing students anyone could ask for. They went on as a whole to be superstars in life, so I know I taught them well. We still keep in touch. They’re all in their late 20’s now. There are two things I hope they always remember: be ever alert of research bias and be skeptical of everything that the media, science or any other industry presents.

When I moved to Las Vegas the first person I met (while I happened to be lounging in the pool) was a teacher. He told me horror stories of low pay, gangs and classroom sizes large enough to make your head spin. He told me not to apply, and I didn’t. Instead I went into marketing and was paid a lot more than teaching, plus I absolutely loved it. 

Overall teachers are not paid well, yet we lament poorly educated youth as a society. Yeah, I hear people say you don’t teach for the money. You teach for the love of teaching. Highly intelligent people can also value their fiscal worth. At one point when I was teaching I worked three jobs to make ends meet. Never again. If you want quality teachers, invest in them, otherwise they’ll find a different industry and you’ll be left with what’s left. These children are growing up and making major decisions in life that may some day affect your life, and well, you get what you pay for. Wake up.

So that brings me to today, and this interview, and Zedd’s message. For decades Nick Zedd has used film, publications and the canvas as his media for screaming his message at the top of his lungs to the masses. What is his message? Wake up. Wake up! WAKE UP! Your government officials are betraying you and we live in a police state with a false sense of freedom. We are being given the information the government and mainstream media want us to hear and everything else is censored. Be critical. Question everything. That’s the message of this prolific artist, overly simplified in a nutshell.

Immersed in the heart of the punk rock movement, the philosophic enigma and King of the Underground, Nick Zedd, has been an innovator and pioneer, pushing artistic and social boundaries since the 70’s. The idea of being engaged or even pleasured by visuals that should repulse is at the core of “xenomorphosis”, a theory that Zedd published in his publication, “The Underground Film Bulletin”, and which is cunningly personified in his films. It is this quality that makes Zedd’s films both breakthrough and fundamentally subversive in their “cognitive dissonance”.
“Amos Vogel has said “The essence of cinema is not light, but a secret compact between light and darkness”. Half the time we spend viewing movies is spent in total darkness. With the psychological complicity of the viewer, persistence of vision occurs. The initially demoralizing effect of xenomorphosis, wherein alienation and transformation occurs, can be frightening, infuriating, and shocking to those who have been indoctrinated by an exploitative and hierarchical system. But it is only through this experience of transformation wherein one’s cultural conditioning is subverted, that mutation occurs. Xenomorphosis, triggered during persistence of vision by the use of diametrically opposing variables; ie: libido excitation versus mutilation revulsion, results in a form of cognitive dissonance.” –Nick Zedd, “Theory of Xenomorphosis”
Body Count Rising: In 1984 you first brought us “The Underground Film Bulletin” and you wrote under the name Orion Jeriko. You’ve been open about the fact that this was actually you. Have you published under any other pseudonyms that the public still is completely unaware of to this day?

Nick Zedd: Yes, but I won't say who.

Nick started making films when he was twelve using his father’s Super 8. As an adult, books by the likes of Burroughs, Bukowski and DeSade were inspiration for films that he would unleash on the New York underground scene. “They Eat Scum”, “Thrust in Me”, “Police State” and “War is Menstrual Envy” are some of the more popular Zedd films. And if you’re a filmmaker, you need to see these to really appreciate where film has evolved to today. Collaborating with the likes of Richard Kern, Jack Smith, Lydia Lunch and Lung Leg, the Cinema of Transgression guerrilla, no-budget, fringe filmmaking pushed the limits of taste, with pornography, luridity, amorality, shock, violence and basically anything else that a modern horror fan holds dear.
“Pre-Video Age welfare filmmaking at its very, very best. Zedd’s first feature is likely the most ambitious Super 8 film ever shot, and is certainly the most wildly entertaining of the New York’s independent cinema output of that time.” -Zack Carlson, Destroy all Movies (Discussing Nick Zedd’s “They Eat Scum”)

Body Count Rising: Your love for classic horror is apparent through your work, with various monsters as a recurrent theme and horror sound clips positioned strategically in your films. And I’m sure you grew up glued to “The Outer Limits” just like I did. What horror film makes you really nostalgic, where you just have to smile when you see the title?

Nick Zedd: “Geek Maggot Bingo”.

Note: “Geek Maggot Bingo” also know as “The Freak from Suckweasel Mountain” stars Zacherle and with performances by Richard Hell, Fangoria’s “Uncle Creepy” Bob Martin, and the disorderly ex-girlfriend of Zedd, Donna Death, it’s the die-hard retro horror fan’s must see. Ed French was one of the effects artists and Zedd’s monsters are absolutely to die for. Zedd also gives homage to films of the 40’s-60’s through the scoring. Here’s a “Geek Maggot Bingo” quotable: “If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it and trample on it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off.”

Beyond the discordant aesthetic of his films, Zedd has a strong social commentary that he has been screaming since he could pick up a camera. I once joked to him that he will be properly celebrated once he’s dead. To which he replied, “I already died once, and it didn’t happen.” Of course he was referring to the vicious rumor spread by Richard Kern and that was given homage in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”. Believe me though, Zedd’s not dead baby. Zedd’s not dead.

Body Count Rising: In New York you played your films projected on the sides of buildings for the homeless, an otherwise forgotten and ignored part of humanity, and were attacked for it by society. Is it safe to say that you give the same respect or consideration to all people regardless of race, religion or status?

Nick Zedd: I projected movies onto the sides of buildings for everyone to see until agents from NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs showed up to kill the culture. They must have resented the democratic nature of what I was doing. As usual, no government agency or municipal entity has ever supported me.
“Our movies were a means of asserting our autonomy while the masses were being immersed in an alien Zeitgeist.” –Nick Zedd, White Hot Magazine, Dec. 2011

Body Count Rising: Through struggle and personal torment you have survived because you are driven. Is your message to all of us what has always driven you?

Nick Zedd: Yes.

Body Count Rising: Do you consider yourself a political activist?

Nick Zedd: No. Politics is a fleeting distraction. In the 21st century, politics is a farcical simulation of class war programmed for the masses by think tanks who control everything. Controlled corporate media pushes political struggles as a form of reality TV. No mention is made of touch-screen voting machines with no paper trails that are used to steal elections. I have found that individual human creativity has more lasting value than so-called politics yet is completely ignored, avoided and discouraged by those who control the flow of information around the world. That being said, I support the grassroots political revolution represented by the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. We need socialist answers to today's problems.

Body Count Rising: Through the Cinema of Transgression you’ve torn down boundaries and mocked taboos to extremes. Is there a line you would not cross to get your message out?

Nick Zedd: I couldn't say.
“Ironically one of the things in the van that got through was a .45 caliber revolver used in a performance. I guess customs thought it was less dangerous than my movies.” –Nick Zedd, “Totem of the Depraved” (On having his films confiscated by Canadian customs)

Body Count Rising: You use film, art and subversity as a medium to communicate strong warnings with a call to action associated in an almost Orwellian sense. You have been harassed in America and completely banned from other countries. Do you feel America listening yet?

Nick Zedd: No.
“All values must be challenged. Nothing is sacred. Everything must be questioned and reassessed in order to free our minds from the faith of tradition. Intellectual growth demands that risks be taken and changes occur in political, sexual and aesthetic alignments no matter who disapproves.” –Nick Zedd, “The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto”
Body Count Rising: With accessibility regarding the onset of the internet, has your voice grown more diligent as you are reaching the masses so quickly and efficiently?

Nick Zedd: It's just a different platform.

Body Count Rising: Besides being directly harassed by the police, which inspired your film “Police State” have you been persecuted or monitored by the American government for being so outspoken, or in your words “threatening the status quo”?

Nick Zedd: Yes, like everyone else who uses a computer I am monitored. I wouldn't say that I'm persecuted. I doubt that I'm important enough for anyone in the government to notice me.

Note: At this point I was moved and wept. As a poignant voice that has spanned generations, this broke my heart. His importance is unparalleled.

Body Count Rising: I'm sure you're being cynical, and if not, please understand that I consider you one of the most important voices of our generation. You have pushed boundaries and broken barriers. You have changed the face of what we now know as modern film and have spoken out fearlessly against political oppressors. I don't take this lightly at all.

Nick Zedd: It means a lot, what you said.

Body Count Rising: What are your feelings about the current political landscape?

Nick Zedd: I consider the current political landscape to be a mine field populated by clowns and charlatans with occasional exceptions to the rule. Politics as usual has failed miserably and the level of unrest and dissatisfaction among the masses whose lives have been adversely affected by 15 years of national recession has reached a critical mass which explains the rise of anti-establishment candidates like Sanders and Trump whose appeal lies in their refusal to follow conventional narratives prescribed by the puppet masters of the corporate global elite. The lies and myths disseminated on a daily basis by clueless pundits and experts in media internalizing the agenda of a malignant oligarchy no longer convince anyone. Their propaganda is failing and the illegitimate policies of predatory capitalists and their puppets in government are finally being exposed and rejected by a majority of the people, despite the lies being peddled by controlled corporate media.

Body Count Rising: You had stated in a previous interview that you moved to Mexico City basically because you became disillusioned with the gentrification of New York City and the overall shunning of true artists. You did not mention American politics. Did that also play a role in your decision to leave the country?

Nick Zedd: American politics played no role in my decision to leave the country. Such things are far removed from my life. 

Body Count Rising: You also indicated that like America, Mexico caters to the least common denominator to maximize profit regarding mass promotion of the arts, yet you have been able to find your audience there. What unique challenges have you encountered with presenting your art in Mexico, and how did you overcome these?

Nick Zedd: They are the same challenges that exist in the USA; near total dominance of all channels of communication by property owners, gatekeepers and compromised directors of institutional structures. Rampant conservatism and timidity is everywhere. But when one venue or forum collapses, another arises to take its place. Such is the nature of being an "outsider" in our world. The fact that 99% of the people I've encountered in Mexico are liars hasn't helped. Lying is now the norm everywhere, including in the United Snakes of Amerika. Being honest is a unique challenge in a world full of liars. I overcome obstacles by going around them or ignoring them until I find somebody who knows what they're doing. When such people make themselves useful, change becomes possible.

Body Count Rising: Has becoming a father and ultimately the thought of your own mortality increased the urgency of your message?

Nick Zedd: No. When I was younger there was a greater sense of urgency because I hadn't done anything yet.

Body Count Rising: It’s clear that your child has inspired your art. Is the fact that you use your own bodily fluids in the creation of your art pieces analogous with giving birth to the piece so that in effect it is a part of you?

Nick Zedd: Indubitably.

Note: Zedd lives in Mexico City with his amazingly talented artist wife, Monica and his quirky little prodigy. May they always continue to inspire each other, changing lives, history and waking-up society as a whole. Zedd continues to show his formidable works at galleries and in clubs while DJing sets. He is vibrant, opinionated and accessible. If you don’t hear his message you’re deliberately not listening.

Body Count Rising: “Mutant Disco”, “Death Rock”, “Ordeal Art” and even your name. These were all coined by you, but stolen from you throughout your life. When you hear that there are multiple DJs out there carrying some permutation of your name, do you take it as an homage, or are you disgusted?

Nick Zedd:
Disgusted. I hate copycats. Doesn't everyone?

Body Count Rising: Do you have any interest in doing a definitive Nick Zedd collection on Blu-ray?

Nick Zedd: I don't care. I'm focused on other things. If anybody stepped forward with an offer to put out such a thing I might be interested.

If you’re that person, here is Nick’s GoFundMe, and thanks in advance. Keep up with Nick’s projects on his official website, check out information on his films on his IMDb profile or follow him on Facebook.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Interview with 'Reichsfuhrer SS' Director, David B. Stewart III and Producer / DP, John Martineau

What do you get when two horror fans mind meld during some raucous summer fun? Nazisploitation / horror flicks of course! Following “Operation: Nazi Zombies”, David B. Stewart and John Martineau have teamed up once more for the anticipated “Reichsfuhrer SS” and we were fortunate to speak with them about the origins of this throwback film centering on Heinrich Himmler’s journey into Hell.

Body Count Rising: David, in 1992 you founded S&H Productions with Sean Hutcheon. Why was the transition to Dapper Cat Pictures necessary in 2011?

David B. Stewart III: Sean and I were very good friends all through school. In 1995 we made our first feature a fan film “Friday the 13th Part X – To Hell and Back” which has developed its own cult following. After high school we made “Maplewoods” aka “Operation: Nazi Zombies” together, but in our early 20’s we all went off in our own directions just because, well, that’s life right?

Regarding "Dapper Cat", in 2008 I got a very young kitten that I had to take over mothering, bottle feeding it every day for weeks. This kitten grew up to be the best cat I ever owned. He was truly special. When he was about two-years-old he developed asthma. Over time his condition grew worse and the attacks were more frequent and longer lasting. By 2013 he was struggling to for every breath and the medicine was no longer working. My heart was broken. I stayed with him until the very end. Anyway, sad stories aside, being a tuxedo cat I decided to honor him as my mascot and settled on Dapper Cat Pictures.

Body Count Rising: That’s so sad, and beautiful. What a wonderful way to honor your feline companion. You and John must have some interesting stories leading up to the release of the film “Operation: Nazi Zombies”…

David B. Stewart III: Well, I met John working on the hayride at the Bucks County Haunted Woods back in 98’. I was one of the crew and set designers. John was an actor, and I think he was working as an executioner in one of the scenes. This hayride was AWESOME! It was almost 75 minutes and over three miles of trails along the Delaware River in Upper Black Eddy, PA.

John Martineau: 1998! Holy shit I feel old! We got to talking and he told me about this idea he had for this film called “Maplewoods”. A few months later he held auditions and the rest is history!

David B. Stewart III: Oh yeah, we had A LOT of parties that year and John and I talked a lot about movies and stuff. I think we really became close friends during the shooting of “Maplewoods”. Between filming and the release we hung out at bars a lot, shooting pool and chasing girls. (laughing)

John Martineau: As far as chasing girls, I think I do remember most running in the opposite direction. (laughing)

Body Count Rising: So who originally came up with the plan to make a Nazi zombie film?

John Martineau: It was 100% Dave’s creation.

David B. Stewart III: “Maplewoods” became “Operation: Nazi Zombies” because Brain Damage Films wanted to change the name from “Maplewoods” to something more catchy. I thought of “Operation: Nazi Zombies” because of the plot’s back story; the keyword being “Operation”, and as with most military campaign names, it was just catchy. The reality is quite different. Anyway I still call it “Maplewoods”. 

Body Count Rising: Did you know what you wanted to do right away, or did the vision evolve over time?

David B. Stewart III: I wrote “Maplewoods” during the summer of 98’ on my days off while working at Bucks County Haunted Woods. I lived at the Indian Rock Inn in Upper Black Eddy in this neat old 1700’s building with fourteen bedrooms that employees used as a dormitory. Actually it was more like a co-ed fraternity with an old restaurant and bar downstairs. I put the team together that fall. John became part of the project first as an actor, then as a cameraman. He earned a producer credit during post-production and was a huge help throughout that whole process.

Body Count Rising: So John, you produced both “Maplewoods” and now the latest of your Nazi horror films, “Reichsfuhrer SS”. You also worked in front of the camera and behind the scenes. How did your role differ for each film?

John Martineau: Both were actually quite similar as far as the work was concerned. In both cases I spent much more time running the camera. I shot most of “Reichsfuhrer SS” myself with the exception of the “Eastern Front” scene and the “Hell” scenes. I implored the help of the only other camera man I could trust to shoot things the same: Christian Jude Grillo (“Deer Crossing”, “Apocalypse Kiss”).

Body Count Rising: David, you pay homage to “Maplewoods” in the new “Reichsfuhrer SS”, but this is a very different film. Why did you feel this story needed to be told?

David B. Stewart III: I am intrigued by the human psyche. It is shocking to me what human beings choose to do to one another in the names of politics, religion, etc... I wrote about Heinrich Himmler because as the Reichsfuhrer-SS he orchestrated the whole machine that was behind the Holocaust and some of the worst war crimes in human history. The scary thing was he was more “normal” than most people think, at least before he became a Nazi. Power made him a psychopath. I believe the story of Heinrich Himmler could be applied to many people. It’s easy for power to go to ones head. I think it’s something that could happen again should the wrong person gain that power. In a way it’s a cautionary tale.

Body Count Rising: Of course you took liberties with the historical aspect…

David B. Stewart III: Yes. “Reichsfuhrer SS” is a mixture of historical fact and my own fiction. There is no evidence that Heinrich Himmler actually ever killed a single living person with his own hands. Angelina Leigh’s character “Danuta” is representative of the victims of the holocaust. Now the story about Himmler getting sick at the execution was true. This intrigued me. It’s also fun to think about a Nazi leader in Hell. It is fascinating to think of what Hell would be like for Heinrich Himmler. In the case of “Reichsfuhrer SS”, the audience would be rooting for the demons, who in most movies are the “evil” ones, but in “Reichsfuhrer SS” Himmler is the “evil” and the demons are representative as the triumph of good over evil, or in this case evil over more evil.

Body Count Rising: What types of films inspired the style of “Reichsfuhrer SS”?

David B. Stewart III: I am a fan of the Nazisploitation films from the 1960s and 70s. I drew a lot of inspiration from those films. There are a ton of Easter eggs where we pay homage to films of that time and history itself. I am also inspired by the monster movies of the 30s. I think 20th century monsters can be made into their screen monster personas much like the 1930s movies did for Vlad Dracula, Jack the Ripper, etc… In that sense I like to think of “Reichsfuhrer SS” as a monster movie.

Body Count Rising: With the hint of Nazi zombies in the credits of “Reichsfuhrer SS”, it almost seems like a setup for the next film. Should these two films be considered related, or are these films that should stand on their own?

John Martineau: Totally stand alone films.

David B. Stewart III: Yes, “Maplewoods” and “Reichsfuhrer SS” are by far stand alone movies. At one time there was some discussion or remaking “Maplewoods” and having a trilogy where the experiments of the Nazis in WWII would be shown, but those were scrapped because we just don’t have the money for such an elaborate set up and especially now where I believe movie making on our level is pretty much over.

Body Count Rising: Are there any plans for another film?

David B. Stewart III: Even if there is a future film in the realm of possibilities I’m “retired” as of now. However, if I get the filmmaking “bug” again, I want to make a Vietnam movie a story I’ve been working on that’s a mix of “Apocalypse Now”, “Platoon” and “The Devil’s Rejects”.

Body Count Rising: So what’s the scoop on the end credits zombies?

David B. Stewart III: The zombies in the end credit scene were mostly put in there to pay tribute to Bill Hinzman, a man who both John and I befriended around the time we were making our rounds at the horror conventions promoting “Maplewoods” in 2003. He was a great filmmaker whose impact is forever woven into the indie horror scene. How can anyone not appreciate “Flesh Eater”? The footage was originally shot for one of the nightmare sequences but deemed too cool for just a quick cut scene.

John Martineau: That footage was too cool to be so short and the credits seemed to be the best place for them. That shit was fun and dirty to shoot!

Body Count Rising: It was fun to view too! You actually dedicated the film to the memory of S. William Hinzman (Known for work in “Night of the Living Dead”, “FleshEater” and “The Crazies”)…

David B. Stewart III: He was originally going to play an aged Nazi General / Satanist in a movie entitled “Cult of the Dragon”. Unfortunately that production fell apart so we never did get to work with him, but I and a couple others did spend Halloween weekend with him and his family on his farm. It was funny. I was asleep on his couch when I awoke to sounds of groaning and moaning first thing in the morning. Of course it was Bill going through his morning routine and making some coffee. I laughed and said “Bill I don’t know if you know this but you sound just like your zombie first thing in the morning.He laughed and said, “That’s just being old, you’ll sound like a zombie too someday. Want some coffee?

John Martineau: He was a great friend and mentor to me. I miss him. He used to crack me up. He always had stories and he was hilarious! I do have some footage of Bill that hopefully one day I will be able to share. There is something in the works… RIP Bill.

Body Count Rising: When I initially started watching “Reichsfuhrer SS”, I thought it would be very similar to the Ilsa films of the 70’s, especially since it featured adult film star, Angelina Leigh. It is not. In fact it felt deliberately reserved, and only toward the end became more graphic. Why did you decide to hold back with regards to sex? For instance, during a felatio scene we only see Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s face contorting instead of Danuta’s head bobbing…

David B. Stewart III: It’s funny. There’s a photo of Angelina and Dyanne Thorne when they met at a convention, and they have a very striking resemblance. We had initially entertained the idea of remaking “Ilsa” with Angelina and Dyanne making a cameo. But for the most part I didn’t want the movie to be all about sex. The movie that inspired a lot of this one was Bruno Mattei’s “Private House of the SS” aka “SS Girls”. The character of “Shellenberg” is kind of how I geared the Heinrich Himmler character. Heinrich Himmler, and as far as I know, wasn’t a rapist, so I didn’t want to take the movie in that direction. That’s where Chuck Maher’s character comes in. I let his character do all the “dirty work.” And I liked the idea of Heinrich Himmler being the voyeuristic type of pervert. The whole Danuta dancing on the bed scene toward the end was a total unscripted add in for the exploitation fans.

Body Count Rising: Much like the sex, the violence escalated toward the end, becoming gradually more graphic. What was the most difficult effect or interaction to pull off and why?

David B. Stewart III: As this was our first time making this kind of movie, it wasn’t difficult but more awkward during some parts, especially shooting the rape scene between Angelina and Chuck. I have to say Angelina made it much easier because she is so open and wasn’t afraid of anything we asked her to do, or that we asked Chuck to do to her.

John Martineau: I have to agree with Dave I think the most awkward situation was the rape scene too. I was actually dreading shooting that until we talked to Angelina and she made everyone a lot more comfortable. Then I shot the hell out of it!

David B. Stewart III: Yes you did! We actually shot a lot of footage of that scene mainly because I wanted options as to how we could cut it together and what would work better. As for my interactions the most difficult was the dinner scene as a whole. It was one of the first scenes we shot at the cabin and directing and acting in that scene shot over three days was grueling. Not to mention hot, especially in that wool uniform!

Body Count Rising: Most of the cast spoke English with an American accent, but one of the soldiers spoke with what sounded like a British accent. You had German, Russian and British soldiers represented. Why not diversify the accents to match?

David B. Stewart III: Wow Suzie, you don’t pull any punches! (laughing) It was a tribute to the over dubbed European Nazisploitation films from the 70s as the mix of accents.

Body Count Rising: Oh that makes sense! How much did you allow the cast to improvise, or did they stick strictly to the script?

David B. Stewart III: I am very loose when it comes to improv. I tell the cast all the time, if you think something will work, try it. If it doesn’t we’ll just shoot it again. I love it when someone comes up with something original and it sounds great. I wrote it but I’m always loose so I can’t be a stickler. Some of my best lines are off the cuff. Ask John.

John Martineau: Absolutely! 

Body Count Rising: Did you use entirely practical effects, or did you use CG in the hell scenes in addition?

David B. Stewart III: I definitely wanted all the effects to be practical. For this I called upon an old friend from the Haunted Woods days, Heather McCook. She had always done makeup for the hayrides and for years said if I ever made another movie that she wanted to help out. She and Kat Pepe worked together to create all the practical effects for the movie, and needless to say I was very pleased with the results. For the demons in the “Hell” scenes I wanted to pay homage to the movie “Mausoleum”. I love to use lots of fake blood because I feel when the actors get “bloody” they can really put more into the performance. When I put together a team I want it to be a collaborative effort. I don’t feel it is right to dictate every single little detail because I believe the artists involved should have creative license. The only CG was enhancements to the atmosphere and color correction those effects were done by David Gechman who works a lot with Christian Grillo. He’s extremely talented and put a lot of time in on those.

Body Count Rising: Were multiple shots required, or were you able to do much of the filming in one take?

John Martineau: We never ever do anything in just one take no matter how good that first one was. There is always a safety. I would say we averaged about four takes per camera angle. Sometimes you get that one take that is gold, and other times you get the other take that has a better line in it. Options are the best thing to have! There were times I was running two cameras at the same time. The “Dinner” scene for instance was a two camera set up on the initial dialogue between Himmler and Danuta.

Body Count Rising: Do you have any fun or crazy stories from behind the scenes?

David B. Stewart III: The two weeks up at the cabin was interesting. We had no internet, no cell phones, no cable TV and the nearest place to get a decent cup of coffee was a 45 minute drive into town. So the first two weeks there some of us were struggling with the seclusion. Now I can do two months without any communication, no problem. I love the middle of nowhere, but it can be trying for some people, so there was a bit of drama the first few days of shooting.

John Martineau: Middle of nowhere was glorious! I do remember making one trip ten minutes away to get one bar of cell service that didn't hold just to check up on my kids, who also appear in the film. Morgan Elyse is my daughter.

David B. Stewart III: There were a lot of pranks, jokes, hot dogs, beer drinking, and your all around collegiate-style humor in our off hours. We usually shot all night and slept until 12:00 or 1:00 PM. So if we got four hours of sleep, we got a lot. This makes people very punchy. By the end of our shoot we were probably only two days away from murder-suicide but we got home OK. The funny stuff was in the details of the jokes, most of which were highly inappropriate, so I’ll leave those out. (laughing) I’m sure you can imagine. Maybe John will tell a few stories since he was the brunt of some of the jokes as well as a major roaster.

John Martineau: My one rule in life is to always have fun! Let’s put it this way. If we were a major corporation we would have been very HR inappropriate. There were tons of pranks and jokes. David reenacting Schwarzenegger in Predator drunk of his ass and almost setting himself on fire was just about the funniest, dumbest thing I ever saw! Deflating Ben Wesler’s air mattress in the morning almost became ritual! (laughing)

Body Count Rising: (laughing) What was your biggest challenge while working on “Reichsfuhrer SS”, and how did you overcome it?

David B. Stewart III: The biggest challenge for me was to direct and play the main part. It was tough at times to not be behind the camera and direct different aspects, but I guess that’s true of most people who have a foot on both sides. It was also challenging keeping things rolling during the breaks. We started shooting in September through October 2012 then had a break until the cabin shoot in May of 2013 then another break until we shot the “Hell” scenes in September 2013. The breaks were rough. I just wanted to get it done! It was great having John and Chris Grillo to help take up the reigns as AD’s when I just wanted to focus on the acting. Chris is great to work with, and he really knows what he wants when he shoots. I was totally comfortable having him direct the “Hell” sequences.

John Martineau: The hardest thing for me is always giving up the camera, but I had Christian Jude Grillo to take those reigns for me and I knew I had absolutely zero to worry about. Those “Hell” scenes are pretty bad ass! Thank you Christian!

David B. Stewart III: Yes, thanks to you both! You know, nothing ever goes as planned. One of our main characters quit. I re-wrote a lot of the story to accommodate the changes, but I realized we had already shot so much with him that we would have to get creative in our editing. This also included a total ADR of that character’s voice by someone else. (Easter egg spoiler)

John Martineau: I don’t think anyone ever has a film go as planned. Some things are just out of your control. People, budget, time etc... Like Dave said, we did have an issue where we had to do a complete rewrite on the fly. I kind of saw it coming so I had shot a ton more footage the night before then needed just in case and it paid off. The change itself was ultimately for the best. Thus the character of Kline was born.

Body Count Rising: Did you receive any backlash due to the topic of your film?

John Martineau: No backlash as of yet but it is still early in its release. Both the DVD and Blu-ray are already available Best Buy, Amazon, etc... The Blu-ray is gorgeous and has two cuts of the film on it. I’m sure once it hits the VoD market the haters are gonna hate, but we have been very lucky and grateful so far and have had quite a good bit of positive feedback.

Body Count Rising: Oh yeah, Evan Stone is going to be in an upcoming mainstream WWII film where he plays a German soldier and someone reported his timeline photos from the film where he is in Nazi uniform. He said Facebook actually removed the photos!

David B. Stewart III: I haven’t gotten any backlash about the content. I find that the “backlash” is usually some miserable S.O.B. who just enjoys trashing movies in general.

Body Count Rising: I guess some people just like to complain…

John Martineau:
There are those out there that this is not their kind of movie no matter how good or bad it is. In this business it’s going to happen. Just can’t worry about it. You can’t take it personally.

Body Count Rising: Has it been especially controversial as you are dealing with a supernatural portion of a real person’s life?

David B. Stewart III: I think enough time has passed for this whole Nazi subject that most people are OK with it being addressed. 

Body Count Rising: Did playing Himmler take a toll on you?

David B. Stewart III: It sure did. The first time I put on that dreadful costume I felt dirty, evil and loathed. After the first day shooting I wasn’t even sure I wanted to continue. The only way I found in coping with the heavy feeling of playing such a criminal was to have a great sense of humor. I joked and laughed in between scenes as much as possible. I wanted to make sure everyone else felt comfortable. The important thing to me was that I was playing the character in a way that would be obvious to the viewer that I was not painting him in a sympathetic light. There is a clear arch to the character but not a good one.

Body Count Rising: You resemble him. Are you German as well?

David B. Stewart III: Actually looking like him was the only reason I wanted to play the part. It was creepy and uncanny how much I could resemble him. I can’t believe how different I look in that roll. It’s totally not me. I rock a beard and dress like Larry David. I am half German. Und Ich kann sprechen ein kleine Deutsch.

Body Count Rising: I’m half German too! Was it difficult to step out of character at the end of the day?

David B. Stewart III: It was totally difficult to step out of character, just ask the crew! Just kidding of course. RIGHT JOHN?! (laughing) As long as I had a beer at the end of shooting I was good.

John Martineau: Right! (laughing)

Body Count Rising: How much or your own military experience in played into the creation of the script, clothing and props?

David B. Stewart III: Well back in WWII when I was in the SS our uniforms were a little more starched and polished. (Kidding!) No, I’ve studied a lot of history and watch a lot of movies so when I set out to make this movie I really wanted to make sure the costumes were authentic looking. It was pricey but well worth it. It’s actually scary how much reproduction Nazi regalia is out there and easy to buy in bulk. I think there’s more of that stuff now than there ever was. If I had more budget I would have liked to have a couple old Mercedes cars in it and maybe a tank or two.

Body Count Rising: What is the most gratifying part about seeing your films made?

David B. Stewart III: I just enjoy the whole process of telling a visual story. I always did. I enjoy the idea that someday long after I’m gone, love it or hate it my movies will still be around for people to enjoy and get high to. It’s a bit of immortality that we can enjoy. I like the idea that it all starts with words in my head, then paper, then acted, then watched. It’s a great art form and like it or hate it, I love it.

John Martineau: Word for word what Dave said! My most gratifying thing is to be able to share with those who busted there asses to help us make it. Watch their eyes, their reactions and be able to talk about it afterwards.

Body Count Rising:
Would you consider this a horror film, Nazisploitation, or both?

David B. Stewart III: I consider “Reichsfuhrer SS” more of a Psychological Thriller with hints of horror and Nazislpoitation. I can’t really call it either one as a whole because there are elements of both. It’s a modern interpretation of a lot of different influences.

Body Count Rising: Tina Krause played the sadistic and sensual Greta, snapping her whip at her hapless victims as they quivered in her wake. Is there any chance we could see the Greta character reprised in future films?

David B. Stewart III: I would love to make a film around Tina’s “Greta” that would be great, maybe her and Angelina as “Ilsa”! Tina is great, I have followed her movies since the 1990s and always wanted to work with her. When she agreed to play the part I was elated. Though if I could go back I would have had her dress tailored to accent her figure a bit more. She was great though wasn’t she? And Anthony really took those lashes through several takes.

John Martineau: I love Tina! She is 100% professional and a pleasure to work with. I had contacted her just before shooting and she was available. I would love to have her in another film. There is a possibility. Whether Greta or not I would cast Tina again in a heartbeat!

Body Count Rising: Between these two films you’ve been working steadily with still photography and behind the movie camera. What’s next for you?

John Martineau: As of right now I have actually been getting more back into acting. It was something I always enjoyed. I do have my own photography business as well which has been keeping me nice and busy. Dave had mentioned “Cult of the Dragon” which is a film we had planned to shoot twice. “Cult of the Dragon” may happen. It’s just a matter of when. And let me tell you, that script is intense!

Body Count Rising: Sounds great! Hey, I’ve heard of filmmakers presenting art shows of their films as still photography. Is that something you would consider doing?

John Martineau: I’ve not done that and I think both should be separate.

Body Count Rising: What’s the most valuable advice you could give to a filmmaker interested in filming the Nazi-horror genre?

David B. Stewart III:
If you’re going to film a Nazi-themed movie spend a little time on the costumes and props. You can never have enough swastikas or eagles around. Gaudy is good. Everything seen in our frames was on purpose. Even the fact that the cabin had oak paneled walls was a reason it was chosen. Also don’t do what they do in a lot of sci-fi channel movies and give the Nazis plain uniforms with no insignia, medals or swastika bands. Do some research and try to be accurate. The frame is more than just the actor or actress. It is costume, set, etc... If we don’t care what the frame looks like why are we shooting movies?

John Martineau: Nazi genre is tough and a niche audience. First of all uniforms and props… get your history right! Do the research. If you are going to do it, do it right or wait till you can! It’s all in the details!

David B. Stewart III: Hey, if anyone needs some Nazi props or costumes I have a lot left that I can’t sell on eBay. They won’t allow it so they are just sitting in bins in my garage.

John Martineau: Don’t let Dave kid you. Those uniforms are in his closet upstairs. He is a sexy son of a bitch in that uniform. (laughing)

Keep up with David and John one their IMDb accounts, or follow John on Facebook.

Check out the film’s Facebook or official site too!

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Interview with Actor and Producer, Dan Ellis

There's a lot of buzz and excitement around Dan Ellis these days. With the second film in the American Guinea Pig series coming out and a new contract recently signed with his agent, Dan is emanating some pretty positive vibes. He's more than a talented thespian though. He's a full-fledged horror fan and his authenticity is reflected in his work. 

Body Count Rising: You were born in Ohio, but you live in Canada now. What made you decide to move to Canada after serving in the US Navy?

Dan Ellis: I met a girl… I was living in San Francisco and decided I didn’t want to do the long distance relationship. So I moved out to Canada. A child, marriage and another child later I’m still here.

Body Count Rising: Right on! That’s romantic. Do you have dual citizenship?

Dan Ellis: I don’t have dual citizenship yet but I’m working on that. So right now I’m just a permanent resident.

Body Count Rising: Your IMDb profile said you “took a culinary journey” after serving in the Navy. Were you a chef in the Navy? What’s the scoop?

Dan Ellis: When I joined the Navy I operated radar and did navigation, working with radio, tactical signals and stuff. I served as a liaison between the captain and the other ships that were traveling in our group and was responsible for notifying of any potential threats. They originally offered me the job of cooking when I joined, but I read the description and thought there is no way I’m waking up at 4:00 AM every morning and making powdered eggs for 600 guys. Then I saw the description for Operations Specialist and felt that was something that not only would challenge me intellectually, but it was something I decided I really wanted to do.

Once I got out, I didn’t have many options as far as transferring what I had learned in the Navy into the civilian world as it was so specialized. Maybe I could have been an air traffic controller or served in the Merchant Marines, but I had enough of the sea at that point, so a friend got me a job washing dishes in a kitchen. It wasn’t long until they moved me up to the line and after a few months they had me running the line. Now, people steal people from other kitchens all the time when they open new restaurants and so I moved around a lot. I worked my up to sous chef and eventually I became executive chef at a couple different places. Growing up, my mom had exposed me to different foods and cooking techniques and this was something I really enjoyed. I moved away from that profession, but it's always been a dream of mine to open a pub or a restaurant at a later time.

Body Count Rising: You should do a cooking show!

Dan Ellis: Well I thought about doing that and getting people on board from horror movies. “Tonight’s episode: Making chili with Elvira” (laughing)

Body Count Rising: Oh yeah! If you could get some gore effects in there, THAT would be awesome. (laughing) Prior to acting in films, you did theater work. Which type of work is more stressful and why?

Dan Ellis: I would say theater because it's live. You can see the crowd and it’s wonderful because you get instant feedback and gratification when you really nail an emotion or deliver a line properly. You can feel the energy in the crowd. When everybody applauds it’s a really good feeling. But, there’s also the chance of “Oh my God I just fucked up my line.” The trick is to not let anyone know except the people that you’re working with. A professional cast will help you recover. You can also look out into the crowd and hear cell phones going off or other distractions so that can drive you nuts.

When you’re on set, it’s not live. You’re in front of a crew and nobody else in the world exists except the people you’re acting with. The only stress in film, for me, is that time between when you wrap and when you finally get to see it. Trying to keep your lines and your character together… that’s a piece of cake compared to the problems that are dealt with by the director, the DP and the rest of the crew, those guys get most of the stress.

Body Count Rising: Have you gone to any of the “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock” screenings?

Dan Ellis: No, I haven’t. I was set to go to Texas Frightmare, but had a family emergency and had to cancel.
Body Count Rising: I heard the crowds are loving it. Were you able to see the movie yet?

Dan Ellis: Yes, I saw a couple rough cuts and Marcus (Koch) prepared a finished version for me. Marcus and I have been friends since we met a Fangoria Convention in 2006 or 2007. We always wanted to work together. We started to once but there was this horrid blizzard and things kind of fell through. So he called me up and said “Hey do you want to make a movie?” and I said “Sure!” He said “Don’t you want to know what it’s about?” and I said “I don’t care. I want to work with you!

Marcus needs to be recognized not just for his effects, but his directing too. He has a definite signature that he puts on things. I mean if you watch “100 Tears”, “Fell” and “Bloodshock” you know those are Marcus Koch films.

Body Count Rising: Oh yeah- and “Rot” too.

Dan Ellis: I’m really excited for him and Stephen Biro. Both stellar dudes and they have done a fantastic job with the film.

Body Count Rising: So, you’ve been a film actor since 2003 and your first film was “Monsturd”, which was hilarious. I saw that and laughed a lot. What about this sealed the deal to make you decide to begin acting in films?

Dan Ellis: When I was a young pup, my mom used to take me to these really bizarre movies in the 70’s. It’s probably something that a kid shouldn’t go to, but at the drive-in, they had this playground up front. All the parents would go to see “Rosemary’s Baby” or “Amityville Horror” and they’d send the kids off to the playground assuming they’d all just go off and play. But I was the one just sort of sitting back, looking up at the screen and watching the movie. I would rather watch the movie than play on the swings. Swings just weren’t as interesting to me like those films were.

I became fascinated with the movies and I grew up wanting to do creature effects and make-up. But as I started wearing the prosthetics and make-up I realized I enjoyed it more than applying it to others. That drive got me into the drama department in school, but there were politics and it seemed like those who had parents who were more active in the school got preference for the best roles. Seemed like it was a game of “favorites” and it was discouraging. I put that part of my life on hold, never been much for bullshit or playing games...

In San Francisco following “my culinary adventure”, I had the opportunity to become active in the theater again and I felt that passion for acting once more. San Francisco had a great scene for comedy and theater. While I was working I met a guy named Dan Burr who had friends that he introduced me to, Dan West and Rick Popko. I didn’t know they were working on a movie at the time, but soon they offered me a part.

After I did it, I had this epiphany... It was like “What the fuck am I doing?” This is what I’ve always wanted to do! So at that point I decided that film in any capacity would be my career. I mean I love theater and would do it again in a heartbeat, but I just really enjoyed film. The lights, camaraderie, outtakes… and just having a good time… I can't explain the feeling of being “on set” and how good it makes me feel. That was the wake up call I needed to help me toward the path I’m on today.

Body Count Rising: How do you prepare for your roles?

Dan Ellis: I wouldn’t say I’m completely a method actor, but I do practice it to an extent in my technique. I do develop back stories for my characters. I give them personalities so that it is more than just lines. When I learn the lines, I develop mannerisms to keep it appropriate to the character. I spend a lot of time in the garage. That is my work space. It’s my place where I can get quiet. I do also work with the director for his vision of the character, but I have been given a lot of liberties as well over the years. It’s a lot of communication back and forth, but I also I'm in my own head quite a bit.

Body Count Rising: What about improvisation?

Dan Ellis: That all depends on the director. I’m getting ready to work with Vince D’Amato on “Valley of the Rats”. Vince is open to ideas, but he has written the script a certain way for a reason. He creates his art through actors as his medium and I stick closely to what he has laid out. Now with Marcus, it’s a lot more organic. With “Bloodshock” it was more of an outline with direction and I didn’t have that dialogue to lean on. I had to act non-verbally through my mannerisms and facial expressions. That especially attracted me to this part. I would be given direction to look in a certain direction and it was up to me to act and react accordingly with each situation using nonverbal cues, so it was directed improv.

Body Count Rising:
You were in “The Profane Exhibit” which ran the festival circuit in 2013-2014 then fell off the map. What can you tell me about this film?

Dan Ellis: Ryan (Nicholson) and I did a segment called “Goodwife” and Monique Parent played my wife. It’s a twisted love story. I think to this day it’s the best thing he’s ever done. The writing was exceptional, the shots were great. We had a guy named Matt Leaf who was the DP and he did a fantastic job with the look of the film. There’s a lot of controversy around that movie and I’ve tried to keep my finger on the pulse as much as possible, and all I can say is that it’s not dead.

Body Count Rising: Yay! So, is it currently in litigation then?

Dan Ellis: No, but I can’t confirm or deny what may be the hold up because I simply don't know. But, I do know it’s going to happen.

Body Count Rising: OK. I heard something about a film called “The Murder Mack” you were working on with Plotdigger Films that you were producing and starring in. Is that project still in the works?

Dan Ellis: As of now, no. The last Ryan and I talked we discussed another “Gutterballs”. The idea is still kicking around, but it’s on hold for now. It’s a pretty good story. It’s pretty fucked up, so it’s right up our alleys.

Body Count Rising: Is this based on Bittaker and Norris since that is what they called their van?

Dan Ellis: Yes, loosely.

Body Count Rising: So, you’ve been in Ryan's films (“Gutterballs”, “Hanger”, “Star Vehicle”) and now you’re in the new American Guinea Pig series. What attracts you to such graphic and gritty gore films?

Dan Ellis: I think the fact that they’re so much fun to make. If you’re making something like a drama, it’s a different dynamic. But horror… the fans are like nothing else in the world. People will volunteer to just come on set and help out because they want to see the movie made and they love it! And the kind of people that make horror movies are a different breed all together. You can have a beer with anyone but these guys are just more fun. You get bloody and it’s a blast. Plus I just love horror.

Body Count Rising: Now there’s a difference between mainstream horror and the kind of horror Ryan Nicholson, Marcus Koch and Stephen Biro are doing though…

Dan Ellis: OK, touché. (laughing) But people always bring up that since you watch horror films you want to go chop people up. That’s not the case at all. It’s just how I like to be entertained. There’s horror, there’s extreme gore, there’s faux snuff… with a horror fan there’s so many sub genres. This is what I love. You really get the chance to go to extremes with different emotions and a broad spectrum of characters. You can do camp, or truly serious stuff. It allows you to exorcise your personal demons a times also.

When I was small I watched “Phantom of the Opera” and I was terrified. I hid under the chair the whole time, but I still watched because I wanted to see what he looked like without the mask. And when he took it off, I was floored. I asked my mom if he was a real guy. I wanted to know everything. She explained that he was a regular guy that just had on make-up and it was all fake. I was enamored and Lon Chaney has been one of my idols ever since. I’ll do anything, appearance-wise, as long as it's right for the part. Why wear a wig or a fake mustache? Do it for real if you have the time, it looks better and really helps to get into character. I probably always will be active in horror but not limited to it. I'd like to do a lot of different roles, genres and work with as many different people as possible.

Body Count Rising: What’s the most challenging role you’ve had to play and why?

Dan Ellis: I think “Bloodshock” is up there because what they needed from the character. Sometimes a script can be a crutch. You can use words to get you to a place where you need to be but in “Bloodshock” I had to express myself without words, I really had to take myself to some dark places I forgot I had inside. Besides that, there was the physical toll it took on me and the place we were filming in Florida was like a sauna. 

After I got home, for about two weeks, I was pretty bad off. I was sore from what I put my body through plus I was depressed. That non-stop intensity with lack of decompression really did a number on me, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. In the same vein it was therapeutic, and I had to come to terms with the memories that came up and why. I also get really attached to a production, you spend so much time with people and when it's time to say good bye it's really sad for me. I know, big softie. (laughing)

Body Count Rising: So you said Lon Chaney was one of your favorite actors…

Dan Ellis: He is!

Body Count Rising: I know he would put hard celluloid in his mouth for some of his roles to achieve the correct level of misery. Is this also something like you do to properly convey agony?

Dan Ellis: Not intentionally. I just wind up getting hurt in most everything I do. (laughing) When we filmed “Star Vehicle” I was buried alive and I ended up getting hypothermia from being in the shallow grave of mud. When I came out they rushed me to a car, turned on the heat and wrapped me in blankets to help adjust my body temperature. It was the middle of the summer too. I’m not proud of that and I don’t tell people, “Well you can go beat the shit out of me because I’m a MAN!” You just get so involved in what you’re doing that if you get hurt, you shake it off and just continue on. Like in “Bloodshock”; that’s really me getting those spiked wheels run up my back.

Like I said, I'm not bragging but you sometimes have to go places most people would rather not. My safety has always been of the utmost importance with everyone I've worked with. It's mostly been my decision on what I'm willing to put myself through. People think most horror directors are sadists but that couldn't be father from the truth. They are some of the most considerate and caring people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Stephen Biro and Marcus really went out of their way to make me comfortable, putting me up, keeping me fed and a genuine concern for my well being. Top notch guys, those two!

Body Count Rising: In American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock you’re extensively tortured. Was it difficult having so many practical effects while you were acting?

Dan Ellis: No, not at all and I find it really helps with the performance. Marcus is really good at what he does. And working with Ryan, I’m no stranger to prosthetics and effects. I enjoy it. A lot of actors don’t like to wear prosthetics. They just don’t get it. That’s the fun part. Some of the gore was actually inserted after I left. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I loved it.

Body Count Rising: Was this the most effect-heavy role that you’ve played?

Dan Ellis: No, that was probably “Hanger”. I had to wear prosthetics through the whole shoot, almost everyone did. It took about an hour and a half to apply and then there was constant maintenance. Taking it off is not much fun though because it’s an adhesive and probably the reason most people don't like wearing it. Your face gets red and irritated and you have little bits of goo on your face that you’re picking off on the way home. (laughing)

Body Count Rising: Did you get a rash?

Dan Ellis: No, I haven't had a reaction yet.

Body Count Rising: Any great stories you can share from behind the scenes?

Dan Ellis: Well, I almost caused a wreck. Towards the end of “Bloodshock” I looked pretty bad and I had shaved my head and my eyebrows. We were filming but, when there was a break between scenes, we’d go out front and smoke and cool off. Now, I’ve got on a hospital gown and bandages on a busy Friday night in Ybor City. I’m standing there barefoot and bruised with blood all over my gown. I have a big scar across my head and I’m out there with a guy dressed like a doctor and we’re just smoking. I heard a few people stop short.

It was such a tight shoot that there wasn’t enough time for mischief. Now the last night was fun because I was completely covered in blood from head to toe. I’m bald and naked in the back of Marcus’ car talking to people as we pass. He put one of those plastic tarps down so I wouldn’t get blood all over. We had shot 16-18 hours and we were all exhausted. Now I don’t know if you’ve been covered in movie blood before, but it’s REALLY sticky. And when you’re in dried sticky blood naked sitting on a plastic tarp it especially hurts to move. So every now and then they would hear me moaning in the back seat and they would just laugh their asses off.

Body Count Rising: Oh! I just figured out what got stuck to the tarp! (laughing)

Dan Ellis: Yeah. It was not good. (laughing)

Body Count Rising: What can we expect from you next besides “Valley of the Rats”? Vince went to Italy awhile ago and he’s really been into giallos since he came back. I went to the Vancouver Badass Film Festival and met up with him. His next film is a great story with what will be some solid visuals. I’ll be playing a detective to help unravel the murder mystery. Tristan Risk was just cast as well and I've heard good things about her. Vince is fun to work with, focused guy but also fun. I also worked with him on “Hard Cut” where I was able to play two completely different characters. I played Jonas, who’s a sleazy film producer and then I also got to play a religious zealot with a mullet. I hope to work with Stephen and Marcus in the future. The whole experience with “Bloodshock” was just amazing and I am and will continue to be eternally grateful to them for allowing me to be part of this amazing series.

Body Count Rising: Any advice for anyone considering acting as a career?

Dan Ellis: Oh yeah I have tons of advice (laughing). Get a thick skin. Take a good look at your life and if it's really what you want to do then go full force. Don’t do anything half-assed or try to bullshit people. Listen to those who have been there before and pay attention but take everything with a grain of salt. Headshots are important, keep those current. Don’t take “No” for an answer when it comes to your dreams. Don’t leave the audition and be crushed because you didn't get a call back. Rejection hurts because you’re human, but learn to take rejection, maintain humility and learn as much as possible from it. It's not always about you. Don’t ever act for a “job” or because you want fame or money. I've met those kinds of actors and most of them are hard to work with. Do it because you love everything about acting or don’t do it at all.

Keep up with Dan’s projects on his IMDb or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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