Interview with Shock Festival author Stephen Romano
By Christopher Alo
Screenwriter, author and artist Stephen Romano just may be coolest people I have ever had the chance to interview, with a resume that reads like a laundry list of sheer awesomeness. Just a sampling of his brilliant body of work includes writing graphic novels based on classic films like Zombie and Phantasm, screenplays for Showtime’s Masters of Horror, painting movie posters, and writing movie novelizations, musical work on soundtracks, the list goes on and on. But Mr. Romano made his biggest splash in late 2008 with his award winning and heavily acclaimed book, Shock Festival.
Shock Festival is a fully illustrated tome filled with detailed information, interviews and plot points from over a hundred different horror and exploitation films. The 350 page coffee table hardback is filled with over 600 exclusive and never before seen movie posters, photographs and lobby cards for gruesome movie fare like Girlkiller, Dead Bugs on the Carpet, The Undertaker and his Wife, Universe of Bloody Zombies and others. But the catch is, none of these movies are real. All of these cinematic celluloid nightmares are non-existent; they reside only in Stephen Romano’s imaginative mind. While everything was invented, these envisioned movies were lovingly inspired by real films that the author grew up on.
Where did you get the imagination to come up with all the material in the Shock Festival book? Where did you get the idea? It just boggles my mind that you could create everything that’s in Shock Festival, it’s just amazing.
Thank you man, that’s a real compliment. Sometimes to quote Han Solo, I amaze even myself (laughs). I’ll sit around sometimes and go what the fuck? I spent two years working on Shock Festival. That was after a lifetime of creative gathering where I would just gorge myself on just one shitty movie after another and a lot of good ones too.
For those who don’t know, the book Shock Festival, is a fictional story about a bunch of exploitation film makers but a lot of it was inspired by things that were above the radar, like the Roger Corman pictures of the 80’s, a lot of which are really good. Some people just forget that Galaxy of Terror and Battle Beyond The Stars are basically James’ Cameron’s first movies. There was a director on Battle Beyond The Stars, who was a Japanese anime director who didn’t know how to direct actors. So guys like Cameron and Richard Thomas were coming in on the set and taking over.
The same thing happened on Galaxy of Terror, by many accounts, the director of that film was incompetent. James Cameron was the second unit guy and he just came in and did his own thing. If you watch Galaxy of Terror, it looks and feels a lot like The Terminator because a lot of it was directed by James Cameron.
A lot of my inspiration came from those places. Things that are real easy to track down in video stores. As a matter of fact, I just signed on with a company that is getting ready to re-release those films.
Yeah, I just read about the Roger Corman catalog coming out on DVD and Blu Ray from Shout! Factory. So you are working with them?
Yeah absolutely and the one that I’m contributing to is Star Crash, which really wasn’t a Roger Corman production, but he acquired the rights to it. It’s the Maserati Benz of Star Wars rip offs. That one and Battle Beyond The Stars are really the best ones. Battle Beyond The Stars is a lot more intelligent in certain ways, it’s written by John Sayles, so it’s pretty smart. Star Crash is absurd, it’s colorful and cheesy and it’s incredibly over the top. It’s an elegant, wonderful film that is also incredibly hilarious. It’s got David Hasselhoff fighting animated robot skeletons with a green light saber, what else could you want?
Star Crash was a big influence on my book. We did a big bash when the book came out here in Austin and we showed Star Crash at the Alamo Drafthouse to celebrate the arrived of Shock Festival. We showed hours worth of trailers before the film that had inspired my book, the real movies from the real world. That was why, when I was in the final stages of making the book, I decided to go ahead and do a DVD companion. I knew that people would enjoy Shock Festival for what it is, which is a This Is Spinal Tap style mock documentary about movies that don’t exist. If I did my job right, people would curse me for making these movies up. But there’s really no reason to be upset because this was all inspired by real stuff. So with the DVD I can point you towards those real movies. Go see Star Crash for God’s sake because that’s what inspired the movie in my book, Starfire Beyond The Galaxy in Shock Festival and there are many more like that. That’s what made the DVD really special for me and I wanted to give the uber value for the dollars. I’ve seen many trailer comp before and I wanted this to be the ultimate, 7 hours of this stuff, no sequel required (laughs).
I wanted to ask you about that. The Shock Festival DVD set has two DVD’s filled with real vintage trailers, and then you have the tribute trailers, two running commentaries, Easter eggs, etc. Not to mention the third disc which has MP3’s of hundreds of vintage movie radio spots, which I just love. I have a lot of trailer DVD’s, but yours is by far the mother of all trailer compilations. Were you worried that you’re almost giving too much away in this set?
Not at all, because, believe it or not, that was only the smallest portion of what I really wanted to do. I wanted it to be a five disc set and basically Mike Raso at Alternative Cinema, in his infinite, sage-like wisdom, said look, let’s hold back and if it does well, we’ll release some of the other stuff. I mean, 7 hours is pretty fuckin’ good. So, in addition to that, Paige Davis also in her sage-like wisdom suggested that we produce a few original things that attribute to the book itself, the actual fake movie titles.
The interesting thing about that is that we didn’t have any money to commission these works. Oddly enough, right around the same time, Sam contacted me about wanting to do trailers based on my book and also, I just started talking to people at conventions and friends of mine, who are weekend warrior filmmakers and also some guys who are real professionals. Guys who are really established as film directors and production designers and musicians, such as Dave Neabore of Dog Eat Dog, Dave Hartman who works for Rob Zombie doing music videos. These guys are pros. They went out on the weekend and shot some crazy shit and I even did one myself which you know production-wise isn’t all that great, but it’s very funny, ya know? Our intention in doing that was to give you a little bit extra to kind of plug you into what the book itself is. It’s not really the main event of the set. The main event of the set is the real stuff. I wanted people who had enjoyed the book for what it was to be able to trace some of the origins of it. That way they could have the best of both worlds, the fake trailers and also the real stuff.
In fact, the only negative review that I ever read of the book, which again is a mock documentary, like This is Spinal Tap, was some asshole that completely missed the point of what I was trying to do. He wasn’t blasting it because of what it was. It wasn’t like he said; I went to see Spinal Tap and it wasn’t funny. He was basically saying, what’s the point of this fucking shit, because it isn’t real? You know, that’s like saying, you didn’t like Spinal Tap because the band isn’t real (laughs). That’s not the point. It’s a novel, it’s a work of fiction, and it’s not supposed to replace the real thing. Again, I am all about negative criticism. Say you don’t like what I am doing all day long, but really honestly, not to be an ego-maniac, but it doesn’t really happen that often, because I’m a fuckin’ badass and everything I do is fucking awesome (big laughs). Obviously, I am only kidding a little bit. I get negative reviews sometimes, but I am always OK with it. It’s like going up to a guy in a wheel chair and telling dude, you should really walk around more (laughs).
The only negative that I ever read about Shock Festival, that I even semi-thought of myself, was just that, these movies sound so cool, I wish they were all real.
Exactly, and so that’s why we have the DVD. So everybody can see the films that inspired titles like the Underground Toxic Waste Mutants, which is inspired by the Roger Corman films of the 1980s. Things like Little Sister’s Faceless Nightmare, which is inspired by the great Giallo films and Italian horror films that were so cheaply made, like Gates of Hell and the rest of the Lucio Fulci movies. So there are a billion characters in that book and they are all inspired in some form or another by the real deal.
In some cases, like in the case of the character Chuck Music, these movies are based on dream things that I always wanted to see a man like Charles Band do. Like when I was a kid, I came up with a title that I thought would be perfect for an Empire Pictures movie from Charles Band because he had that company Empire Pictures in the 80s and they were doing everything. They did all kinds of strange, weird shit with really cool titles like Trancers, which is really a great title for a movie. I thought of Geneticator, which is the coolest pre-sold title ever. You put that on a poster and take it to Cannes you will make a billion dollars on presales money. People will want to know what the hell that is. That was one of the first things that I even came up with. That is where the project started actually, me just dreaming up one cool flashy movie after another. Some people have speculated that a lot of these are unproduced scripts that I just had lying around. They are only half right. Actually, they may be only a tenth right, because I had like 6 or 7 unproduced screenplay ideas that I ended up working in.
No, most of the stuff I had written is either out there, or has been optioned or I did for hire or whatever. For instance, Incident On and Off A Mountain Road for example, ironically is one of the only really high profile produced things that I have out there currently. I’ve written a lot of other movies, a few of them have been made been made and not released. A bunch of them haven’t been made yet like Bubba Nosteratu: Curse of the She-Vampires.
I wanted to ask you about that. What is the status of Bubba Nosteratu: Curse of the She-Vampires?
The thing is in Hollywood, the best laid plans Of Mice and Men often blow right to shit in your face, you know? That’s the problem, when you work on these independent productions, even with a guy like Paul Giamatti who is the co-star and the producer of Bubba Nosferatu backing up your plays, it’s all about getting the money. I think when Bruce Campbell walked from Bubba Nosferatu, it was a big blow to the film and it took years for us to find another guy who was good enough and wanted to really, really enthusiastically to come on and help us make the movie and that’s Ron Perlman. So the movie is still in development. They’re still going to make it; it’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen.
Sometimes these things take years and years. It took 8 or 9 years to make Phantasm II. I have all the faith in the world that Don Coscarelli is going to come through and do it. I was paid to write the script and I wrote it and had a really good time. So, my commitment to the project is finished. It’s just a matter of them doing it. Actually, someone leaked the script on the internet sometime last year. It got a few interesting reviews from people before we got it yanked. That’s not a good thing, especially when it hasn’t been made yet. My observation on the project is one of those things. I’ve worked with Don Coscarelli on many, many projects. Most of which haven’t seen the light of a movie camera, unfortunately. But, they’ve all been a great honor to do.
Yeah, it was originally a 4 issue cycle.
Wasn’t there like an ashcan preview issue? I think I have that too.
The ashcan that you have is a mini-comic story that was contained in a program book for an event that I did in 2000 called Phantasmania. That was actually the project that Don Coscarelli saw and was very interested in and basically said to me do you want to do a real full color comic book series? We didn’t really work together per say on that, so much as he just approved what I was doing. He went off and did Bubba Ho-Tep while I did that and we actually finished the first 3 issues of that one. Only the first one was allowed to come out for reasons that I am not allowed to speak about. You know, some lucky fans got to see the other two issues and there is a fourth one as well that never got illustrated. By then, well, if we’re not going to come out with it, we might as well not bother doing the artwork. I’m pretty happy with what it was. You know, a lot of people made the observation that the first issue had so much in it that it needed more real estate to move around. The truth is that that first issue is full of a lot of stuff, but it’s the set up for the rest of what comes on in that story. You know, which is something that I always wanted to do, with the Phantasm story. And Don impressed me and honored me by writing this incredible afterword for it and then inviting me to be his writing partner for ten years on a lot of stuff. That of course led to Incident On And Off A Mountain Road, which was a very formative experience for me as a screenwriter. I had a lot of fun.
Mike Gingold is a great guy, who isn’t friends with that guy?
Yeah, Mike is a great guy. He lives like 10 minutes from me and he comes over and we watch bad movies a lot. But, I actually think that Girlkiller was my favorite of the tribute trailers. Do you have a favorite one?
I like Girlkiller an awful lot. I think that one is really great and I love that he got Ian McCullough of Zombie to be in it. But my heart really belongs to Dark Night of the Demon House. That one to me and Evolver are really my favorite ones because they play more realistic and authentic as actual trailers than any of those other ones do, I think. There are only a few moments in either one of those where it tips you off that it’s kind of postmodern. Richard Griffin is a guy who really knows his shit and really based that trailer model on the International Independent Pictures trailer model. International Independent Pictures was a huge inspiration for Shock Festival. As a matter of fact, they had a program that went out in the 70s called the Blood-O-Rama Shock Festival. Originally, that was going to be the name of my book. It was going to be called Stephen Romano’s Late Night Thrill-O-Rama Shock Festival and I realized well, I took the Thrill-O-Rama out and it just ended up being Stephen Romano’s Shock Festival. So Richard did that great trailer. Now, Evolver is short and sweet and it’s by Dave Hartman who really has a great sense of humor. I actually worked with him on that. I wrote the narration on that trailer.
Yeah, Evolver was a great trailer too.
Yeah, I liked that one a lot too. I liked that an awful lot. You know, I’m not a film director and don’t want to be a film director. It’s always kind of wincey whenever I do something. I recently did a documentary about the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
Sure, I saw that on the DVD.
Yeah, it was on the 42nd St. Forever Part 5 DVD, and I was so squirmy in my seat about looking at my own work as a film director of any sort whether it was a narrative feature or documentary that I took my name off the credits. It’s the first thing I’ve taken a pseudonym for in 15 or 20 years. The first thing I ever took a pseudonym for was when I did Maxximum Sound, which was an audio comic based on Sam Kieth’s million selling comic series The Maxx, which was made an animated cartoon series on MTV.
Oh yeah, I remember that, I’ve got some of the comics and the action figure too.
I directed this audio book that was based on the first 3 issues of the comic book. Because I was wearing so many hats on that, I did the voice of the Maxx too, so I took the name of Allister Slokill as the name of the actor. I didn’t want anyone to think I was playing in a one man band, which essential I was. So when I did the documentary for 42nd Street Forever, I used that name again, Allister Slokill. Also on the producing credit, it says produced by Rock Benson. Anyone who has read Shock Festival knows that Rock Benson is one of the main characters. Lots of little winks to those who know.
I have a collection of 35mm film trailers myself; they are not cheap or easy to come by. One of the things that I really liked about the Shock Festival DVD was that besides it being totally loaded with vintage trailers, there were many I hadn’t seen and there were many that were not duplicated on other trailer DVD’s I have. Was that something that you were striving for?
Sure, yeah as a matter of fact some asshole recently accused us of repeating stuff from the 42nd Street Forever series. That’s just not true at all. We went to great lengths to make sure we weren’t repeating anything especially from the most recently released stuff especially. One thing is I’m friends with the guys that work at Synapse Films.
Right didn’t you do the artwork for the last couple DVD’s that Synapse released in the 42nd Street Forever series?
Yeah I did the last two and I do other stuff for them too. I did Header and Sick Girl and a few others as well. I’m friends with Don and Jerry and so I didn’t want to compromise their business or anyone else’s. I figured there is plenty of room for people in this sort of trailer business who are putting out these things, as long as they are high quality. We actually went to a lab and remastered this stuff and it took a lot of time and attention. Plus we used some titles that are available from other video companies, but you won’t find them compiled anywhere else. That’s good too because then people can track these movies down at Blue Underground or wherever. But the 42nd Street Forever stuff does that too, they put a lot of trailers on there that are available from their own company too. You’ve got that title and then you’ve got the really obscure shit that you get when you network with other 35mm film collectors like yourself. I have a bunch of stuff in my own library. But then I got in touch with a guy by the name of Matt Pennachi who is just insane.
I’m on Matt’s e-mail list; he has quite an amazing collection of 35mm trailers and features, he has just awesome stuff.
A lot of the stuff that we found was from Matt, he has some really rare items. He had the trailer for Raw Force, which was just really, really rare. The movie is I don’t even think available anywhere. Then there was the Titillation trailer, which is just mind blowing. It’s really not even a trailer, it’s just Little Oral Annie fingering herself while going, hey, do you want to put your girlfriend in my next movie? Then there is the Pieces teaser which is probably my favorite piece on the whole set, and there is only like three images from the entire movie. Right now I’m writing a novelization for that.
Yeah it’s coming out through Grindhouse Releasing. Grindhouse Releasing who is run by Bob Fucking Murawski, who won an Oscar for the Hurt Locker, has just hired me to do a novelization for Pieces, which is a film that he owns the rights to. This has been a great year for geeks like us; it’s been a great few years actually. Bob is a major Hollywood operator, he edited all the Spiderman films, he’s Sam Raimi’s boy. He uses that money to restore films like Gone With The Pope, which you were just talking about, which I did the poster for. That is really some of my best work
I love Massacre Mafia Style; I can’t wait to see Gone With The Pope.
That movie is a real labor of love. As you know, I’m sure you read about that movie was lost for 30 years Sage Stallone, who is the son of Sylvester Stallone, has completely gone the other way as far as what you thought he would have done as far as his father’s legacy and is restoring these movies. Gone With The Pope is about a bunch of Catholic guys who kidnap the pope and ransom him for a dollar from every catholic in the world. That is the most awesome thing ever (laughs).
It really is such a simple, but brilliant plot.
Sign me the fuck up (laughs). Stuff like Pieces and most of the trailers on the Shock Festival DVD horror reel is stuff that you really wouldn’t find anywhere. There is a trailer for Pranks, which is the original title for The Dorm That Dripped Blood, which came out in the 80’s. Then there is Beyond the Gate which is actually Human Experiments, so there are a few things that had different titles. Some people aren’t even aware of that, like Blood Sucking Freaks, which was not the original title of that film.
I love how the voiceover in that trailer totally gives it away that they re-titled it.
Yeah the voice is totally different that shouts out Blood Sucking Freaks (laughs)! But the rest of the narration on that trailer is from Adolph Caesar who was a famous actor that did trailers for Nightmare on Elm and a whole bunch of other horror films and blaxploitation films too. He was nominated for an Oscar for A Soliders Story. So again, I don’t think there is any difference between high art and low art. Especially when Bob Murawski fights the good fight on the Hollywood front lines. Not for the irony of it but because he really believes in sleaze, for the absolute pure joy of what it is.
I was criticized for my commentary tracks on the Shock Festival DVD for being a little too mocking. I tried to maintain a delicate balance; someone said I was kind of dissing some of the movies. But a lot of these movies are indescribably awful, but that’s the whole reason why they are the greatest movies ever made. I don’t think it even comes down to the saying; it’s so bad it’s good. I hate that (laughs). That’s a simple evaluation. Once a movie is made it achieves a certain status or whatever. Either by how it’s made or the aspect of what it is, it stops being good or bad, it achieves this kind of lunatic magic. Its lunacy, it’s magic, and it’s all of the above. Like Treasure of the Four Crowns.
That is one of my favorite trailers on the whole set, which is just loony, loony stuff man (laughs).
I admit with the massive amount of films that I’ve seen, this one has always escaped me.
It’s amazing and I would like to say, with the 3D craze as big as it is, there is a website everyone should check out called Underground 3D (www.underground3dmovies.com). They have an actual DVD print of this movie that you can plug in to a really awesome home 3D system which makes them beautiful on your TV. It’s amazing. You can get Treasure from them, as far as the 3D goes, it’s just amazing. Like I said on the commentary track for Shock Festival, there is a scene where a kitchen sink literally flies out into your lap.
That makes it a must see.
There is a scene in the beginning with the obligatory opening sequence where they get the Indiana Jones style hero to go out on this quest and he is totally un-interested. He’s like I don’t want to do this, fuck you guys. The main guy who is trying to convince him is Gene Quintano, who is also the producer and one of the most unlikely movie actors you would ever come across. He says, come on man, we got diagrams, come on (laughs). I really do genuinely love this stuff. I think Stephen King once said, it’s kind of like developing a taste for sauerkraut.
Your love for this stuff truly does show. I don’t think you could do what you have done if you didn’t have that love for films like this.
I think that it tends to inform certain artists about their own career and their own work. It keeps us un-pretentious and keeps us from being snobby jerks. Like my good friend Tom Piccirilli for example. He’s best known as being a brilliant novelist, most known for being a horror novelist. When I first met him, he told one of his favorite movies was Massacre at Central High. I was like, fucking A, damn straight! That is one of the greatest movies ever made.
Yeah, it’s this sleazy horror flick, but the one thing about that movie, that I never noticed the first time I ever watched it, is that there are no adults in the movie at all. I don’t know that much about the film makers or if that was a cognoscente decision, but you couldn’t have not thought about that.
Really? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it; I guess I never noticed that either.
There are no teachers, there are no parents, and so many horrible things happen to those kids in that movie. They are on each other like gang members, but there are no adults anywhere near that movie, even at the big huge climax of the film. It is a really amazing film, it’s not a slasher film like the title would suggest.
I read somewhere that there was some kind of hardcore sex footage shot for that film. I don’t remember details, but I read it recently.
I don’t know, that seems a little odd to me because it’s a pretty classy movie on a lot of other levels. It’s not a guy with a knife movie at all. It’s the story of a kid who kind of gets revenge on the upper class.
But turns out to turn into a monster himself.
Yeah, yeah and then there is a really poetic ending. It’s neat. But yeah, I have no idea about any hardcore footage. Maybe I should? I’ll have to look into that (laughs).
Yeah it’s like the rumored missing porn sequences for Last House on the Left.
You know those rumors get started all the time; you never know how real any of that shit is.
Totally, like the two endings from King Kong vs. Godzilla. I mean I read it in Famous Monsters when I was a kid, so I thought it was real, but it was just rumor.
Yeah, is that true or not? Did they film an ending in which King Kong actually won?
No, there is only the one ending. Both Kong and Godzilla fall into the water off the mountain, King Kong gets up out of the ocean and swims away. But many, many years ago, Famous Monsters Magazine reported that there were two different endings. I read it and believed it; apparently a lot of other people did as well.
Wow, amazing. That brings me to an interesting subject of my own. I wrote a book a few years ago about the making of Star Crash. I researched it for about 7 or 8 years and I worked on it really hard. It became kind of a tell-all book about the low budget movie industry. I realized at one point that I was never ever going to be able to publish it. Star Crash was really a high profile film at the time, it made a lot of money and a lot of major players were involved with it including Patrick Wachsberger who is now a really famous and much respected Hollywood operator. I was thinking, well, I better not put this out.
A lot of it had to with that I fact checked a few things and I found out that a lot of the people I was talking to were just full of shit. I was thinking, well, do I want to put this book with slanted views and inaccuracies out? If you read Shock Festival you will see that I very much deal that that them in the book. I have the foreword for the book written by one of the fictional characters and he totally blasts me for getting everything wrong (laughs). Fuck this guy, you read lies! This guy is a deranged lunatic who should be ignored (laughs). That’s the kind of book that I’m interested in (laughs). Film journalism of any sort is kind of a joke. I’ve been on sets and it’s really impossible to know about any of it, unless you witness the craziness first hand. It is a crazy business and it’s probably a lot more insane than you think it is (laughs).
Well you told many crazy stories on the DVD commentary for Shock Festival.
A lot of them were true too (laughs).
Like the Laserblast story.
Yeah, that whole thing with the director of Laserblast (Michael Rae) showing up as a grip on the set of a McDonald’s commercial was 100% true. That is absolutely 100% true. It’s really weird, ya know? That and Jack Nicholson being drunk on the set of Terms of Endearment, those are things that I saw with my own eyes. I can definitely vouch for them and it informs so many other things, like the Alligator story.
Yeah, hearing that story about John Sayles typing the script for Alligator on the back of the Piranha 2 script was amazing. Alligator is definitely another favorite of mine.
That is a great movie. Quentin Tarantino came down to Austin for his third annual film Quentin Tarantino Fest and he brought a print of Alligator and we were like Quentin, you didn’t! Alligator is like the coolest fucking movie ever. Alligator and Piranha are from the same coin. Alligator has the gritty tough guy from New York playing it straight in a monster movie. Piranha has the over the top mad scientist tongue and cheek thing. Both are really great, really scary movies. They both knocked me on my ass when I was a kid. When Piranha came out, I was living in the woods in Arkansas, which is kind of like where the movie was set. It was set in Texas, and it was filmed in Texas, but I wouldn’t go in the river for like a year after that (laughs).
Speaking of Alligator and Piranha that reminds me of something I wanted to ask you about. On your running commentary you mention that you collect film novelizations.
Yeah I have a lot of them in storage, but the crown jewels of the collection; those are here in my house. I don’t just collect genre stuff, I collect everything. I have movie novels for everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Benji, if there is a movie novel, I’ll take it. There is one place I go to in Dallas that every other year has 200 or 300 movie books and I go and just stock up.
Oh yeah, there sure as hell is.
OK well now I’m on the hunt, so you’ll have to tell me at least who wrote it.
Good luck, it’s like the Evil Dead novel, it’s impossible to find. I’ll have to look on the shelf; I think his name is Roger White. I’m pretty sure that’s not his name. The novelization for Grizzly was written by Will Collins, but I’ve never seen a book with that name since. Either it was was somebody who was really hungry. It might have been the same guy who might have written Great White.
I’ve got Great White posters from all over the world; I have been looking for the inflatable shark for some time.
They did a lot of stuff. At one point, they were thinking of doing a comic book, but they never did it. Film Ventures International really spent a lot of money advertising Great White.
I loved the trailer for Great White that you have on the DVD. Were you worried about using that for legal reasons?
It’s funny, we weren’t even sure if we were going to put that trailer on the Shock Festival DVD because of the weird film entanglement that the film has been in. But we figured, what the fuck, it’s only a trailer, it’s in public domain. But they hit the public hard. If you were around and cognoscente in 1982 you saw a lot of press on Great White. It was very well promoted.
It came and went so quick because of the lawsuit, I missed it in the theaters and then it took me years to just track down a VHS.
I don’t think it ever came out on VHS in the US, did it?
Oh no, it was a bootleg copy.
Yeah it was completely banned from American movie theaters. I only saw it in 2003; I was doing a Fango show in Burbank. Some guy had it at a collector’s table under the original title, The Last Shark. I got it and I was amazed. I didn’t get to see it in the theaters because it came and went so quick. That was in 1982 and I was 12 years old. I wasn’t quite so into horror movies that year. But that was the year that we got John Carpenter’s The Thing and Conan the Barbarian and so many other hardcore movies, even Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, which a lot of people forget is full of some really violent stuff.
Yeah that bug in Chekov’s ear is great.
When it comes out of Chekov’s ear and it’s all squishy and gross, it’s like a gore movie (laughs). That flipped me the fuck out when I saw that. That sort of helped flip me over to the dark side. I caught Dawn of the Dead a year later at a midnight movie and that was it (laughs). That was it. Dawn of the Dead was the movie that really knocked me out as a 13 year old. Like a lot of kids my age, I was really impressed by the special effects by Tom Savini; I wanted to know how it was done. It didn’t hurt too that it’s a really, really well done film. It’s not just a horror movie; it’s about a lot of other things. It’s an action movie, its an adventure film, it’s a movie about people and it still holds up really, really well to this day It’s still so much better than so many other films that come out today that have so many rules attached to them.
I just really wish that people would think a little more outside of the box when making films. Who is going to make a movie about a bunch of guys who run from the living dead for 45 minutes and then they are hold up in a shopping mall and decide just to stop running? That’s it. Of course, your remake has got to have a guy going, well; we’ve got to make a last minute desperate escape against 3,000 screaming ghouls. That way we can have an awesome action sequence with an exploding gas tank (laughs). And they all end up dying anyway (laughs).
Not to get on horror remakes, but the sad thing is that the Dawn of the Dead remake wasn’t that bad at all when you compare it to all of the other remakes that were just so god awful.
Oh yeah, I liked the new Dawn of the Dead a lot. I liked it because they were like, we know. We understand and we are not going to even try. We are going to try a new kind of zombie like the guys from 28 Days Later, who aren’t even zombies anyway, they are just infected people. And we are going to have them move real fast and we’ll shoot them in the head in slow motion and people will love it and they did. But when you start playing around with something that is peculiar to history as Snake Plissken, that’s when I get pissed. Dawn is my favorite movie of all time, go ahead and remake it, see if I give a shit. There is nothing involved with that movie that couldn’t be slightly re-envisioned, it doesn’t matter to me. But when you are fucking around with Snake Plissken, I get pissed. When you are fucking around with Ray Harryhausen, I get pissed. Whenever I would see that trailer for that new Clash of the Titans remake on TV, I would avert my eyes like I’m going to turn to stone (laughs). That’s how quirky and weird I am when it comes to that stuff. I was giving a lot of these remakes their fare due until Friday the 13th, I’m just like fuck this, I’m too old (laughs).
The really sad thing is that many younger people I’m sure don’t even know that half of these movies are remakes.
It’s amazing to me. I really don’t rail on these things on message boards because you can’t really win. Most of these people aren’t really smart; they will just call you asshole. But I can’t resist and I do my personal blogging on Myspace, where I do all of my blogging. It’s like the new Indiana Jones movie.
Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull was just fucking terrible.
I walked out on it after 15 minutes when they made the Ark of the Covenant a throwaway joke. I was just like; I’m not going to take it! I’m not even going to be one of those people who go; you ruined my childhood, because in my mind, it doesn’t exist (laughs).
So I write this tirade about the new Friday the 13th movie and one of my fans, who is a great supporter of me, posts my review on a message board devoted to really diehard Friday the 13th fans. And this review was scathing, to be kind. And almost all of them were under 20 years old (laughs). They were saying; well fuck this guy (laughs). I said they were to remake the Breakfast Club I would fucking kill myself and one of them is like I’ll remake the Breakfast Club if it will shut this asshole up (laughs). I weep for them. Oh forgive them for they know not what they do (laughs).
You mentioned being a big music fan, especially for 80’s metal bands. What bands do you listen to?
Well Motley Crue is one of my all time favorite bands. Not only did they make some great music in the 80s but they wrote a kick ass tell all book about rock and roll, The Dirt. It really is a great book, even for people who don’t like Motley Crue. It’s just a great book. I understand who they are; they are a dumbass rock band. But they are one of the greatest dumb ass rock bands that ever lived in the post modern era. Their last album Saints of Los Angeles, that thing rocks serious ass man that was a great fucking album. It’s certainly dated, it’s made by a bunch of guys from a completely other world. It’s not death metal or dark metal or whatever. But that’s the time capsule that I’m in. I listen to a lot of Dokken, that guy has a really great voice. I listen to a lot of Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy, and Tesla. I’m a big Queensryche fan. But it’s not a narrow fixation either. I listen to a lot of music from the 90’s too or whatever. I listen to the new Stereo album in the same rotation as Randy Rhoads.
That is awesome (laughs). That is just awesome, that sounds so cool. I own a 35mm print of Zombie myself. I think it’s so cool, but no one is going to be fooled because they are very post modern (laughs). They aren’t as authentic as the ones in Grindhouse, but those guys had millions of dollars. Some of the shoots weren’t very elaborate, but they had a lot of finishing funds to make them look really elaborate. Our stuff is a lot more humble, we’ll just say. I think it’s a great, I think a lot of people can really plug right in with them. I’m sure a lot of people in your audience are going to wonder where they can get those movies; some of them do play like real movies like Devil’s Sister. I had a couple of guys call me and ask me, where can I get that movie? It actually does look like it could have been made by someone recently and it was. It was literally a series of scenes that Paige Davis put together and then she cut the trailer out of those scenes. But yeah, I think it’s a real honor to be shown in the room with guys like that. It’s amazing. It’s always a great honor to be involved with Grindhouse Releasing, those guys are great.
I’ve known Bob for almost 15 years; we’ve been working together since the mid 90’s when he started that company with Sage Stallone. I did the Cannibal Ferox Zombie soundtrack CD. I produced the whole thing, I co wrote all of the tribute tracks, that’s my old band, Rok Opera Inc.
I didn’t even know that.
Yeah that was an interesting. Then we did a 45″ for Cannibal Ferox
That was great. I got one that came with the laser disc for Cannibal Ferox and then I just picked up another one over the weekend.
I don’t even have one of those (laughs). I’ve got the Great White novelization, but I don’t have my own fucking single (laughs). I did the Beyond CD soundtrack album and a lot of those things were co-produced by Shawn Lewis.
I’m the key point man on all of their advertising man for Black Devil Doll. Anytime someone can get that in your face with something that politically incorrect, I have to be involved with it. I wound up writing the novelizaton for Black Devil Doll.
Yeah I heard you mention that on the running commentary. I knew you did the Black Devil Doll poster, but as far as the novel, I didn’t even know such a thing existed.
Yeah, who knew, right? Some people thought I was very offensive, some people thought I was a terrible person for writing that stuff. As a mater of fact I was working on a book project which shall remain nameless last year. This editor essentially confused fact with fiction let’s say (laughs). He read my novelization and said, he must really hate women (laughs). He got so mad, I was like, come on.
At the end of the second DVD for Shock Festival you mentioned possibilities of maybe a movie or a TV series or at least a second volume on DVD?
Well Shock Festival has taken a 3 year bite out of my life. Last year I got together with my buddy Thomas Jane, who was the co-publisher of the book. We wrote a pilot script and went running around Hollywood with some very important people trying to make Shock Festival into a TV show. The idea was that every week you would see 5 or 6 of the movies from Shock Festival done up as fake trailers and then behind the scenes footage. Sort of like a TV version of the book, kind of like Forgotten Silver, but with B movies this time. Don Coscarelli thinks that the project was too good and that’s why nobody wanted it (laughs). But there wasn’t a lot of interest in the project unfortunately. It never flew, but we tried really hard.
Have you thought about a film version?
I have been talking to Richard Griffin about possibly doing a low budget feature version of the book, which would be along the lines of the trailer compilation, just a little more consistent. But honestly, I’m more interested in moving on and doing other things. I have the novelization of Pieces coming out in a few months; I have another original book coming out called Face In The Woods. It’s a crime thriller with in your face splatter porn kind of stuff. It’s also a crime thriller which in my end comes up with the best solution ever for how a gangster gets away with it. There are hints in the title with how he does it. The theme of the book is how far would you go to be safe? It’s about this crazy criminal in Austin, Texas that had some hard knocks. He gets in a bit of a shit pickle and he stumbles across this conspiracy. There is that, there will be a very limited edition hardback version that I am self publishing myself. But that’s just the first edition. I had a bigger deal going, but I refused to compromise the graphic nature of what it was. My hero of the book has a lot of moral ambiguity. But I like stuff like that, I think even the best of us have problems. I had a major publishing company tell me that they didn’t think it would sell enough copies in hardback. Which is interesting because Shock Festival was released in hardback, full color, 378 pages with practically no compromise whatsoever. It makes you wonder if anybody was even paying attention.
What else are you working on?
I’ve got some movie things in development, which I can’t even talk about right now. But you haven’t heard the last of Stephen Romano, there will be a lot of cool stuff this year. But sales of the Shock Festival DVD have been pretty good from what I’ve heard, so at the least you’ll probably see another compilation of that. I don’t know if I’m ever going to do a sequel to the book though. I did a lot of that myself. It was illustrated with 600 pieces of memorabilia which don’t exist; I’m very interested in moving on to the next activity.
I also want to remind everybody that the Star Crash DVD is coming out in September. I am co producing it and they were really packing it. If you thought that my commentaries for Shock Festival were cool, wait until you hear the two that I am recording for Star Crash.
Wait, so you are recording two separate commentaries for the same disc yourself?
Yeah that is going to be one of the bigger attractions on the disc. There is going to be one commentary where I speak historically about the film and all the people involved, because I wrote that book that never came out. The second commentary is where I am going to be very scene specific. I am going to mention little trivia bits and things to look out for. That’s going to be a lot of fun. But those are just two things for a totally packed set.
Will Star Crash be on Blu Ray and DVD?
I don’t know. I heard that Star Crash was coming out on Blu Ray besides the DVD, but I can’t be too sure just yet. But I know it’s going to be super deluxe, but this is official, it’s not some bootleg like that one that came out in France. It’s going to look better than ever. A lot of people don’t remember that Star Crash was a big movie at the time and it was released in Dolby Stereo. It’s going to be great.
Shock Festival, the book, is available from Amazon.com:
The Shock Festival DVD is available right from Alternative Cinema:
To keep up on Stephen Romano and the latest with Shock Festival go to: