LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Director Jeff Burr - Part 1
By James Whittington, Sunday 16th May 2010
Writer, producer, director Jeff Burr has been behind some of the most inventive horror movies from the last twenty years. He gained notoriety in 1990 when he unleashed (well tried to anyway) Leatherface, the third instalment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. Recently on Horror you may have caught his movies Werewolf Reborn and Devil's Den. Jeff has also made memorable contributions to the long running Puppet Master franchise and produced some pretty cool kids TV shows so we thought it was time we tracked this man from Georgia down to see exactly what inspires him to make such a diverse range of movies. In this, the first part of an exclusive interview, Jeff talks about his early career and his time with Vincent Price.
HC: Were you a horror fan when you were growing up?
JB: Yes, I was a big horror fan growing up. I totally got into the genre through Shock Theater, which aired on Channel 9 out of Chattanooga, TN and featured Dr. Shock and his pet bat Dingbat. Dr. Shock was a guy named Tommy Reynolds, and Dingbat was a puppet operated and voiced by Dan East. They showed all the Universal 30's and 40's horror package, and I fell in love with those films. They also showed stuff like The Thing, The Giant Claw, and stuff from the 60's like the Philippines John Ashley Blood Island movies, etc. I also would seek out any horror/Sci-Fi film in the theatre, and saw many many films at the Wink Theater, the Capri Theater and the Cherokee Drive-In. It was a great experience going to films in those days, as you knew that if you didn’t see the film in the theatre, you might not get a chance again for years, and then it would be on TV, cut up! Some horror/Sci-Fi stuff that made a big impression on me were Phantom Of The Paradise, Phase IV, Equinox, Land That Time Forgot, 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (which I saw in the '75 reissue) King Kong (which I saw in the '76 reissue before the DeLaurentis version came out) Silent Running, 2001 and on TV, Five Million Years To Earth, The Time Machine, The Conqueror Worm, too many to mention! And one of the most evocative theatre experiences I had was in early 1979, when I was in high school, the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga showed Citizen Kane, and I went nuts. I had read about that film, but had never seen it, and then seeing a great print in a big theatre was magical. Other guys who really influenced me were Jerry Lewis, because I loved his films, but also because his book on filmmaking (The Total Filmmaker) was the first book on filmmaking I ever read, and it was magical (in the pre-internet days) to actually see what a real script looked like, etc etc!
HC: Did you have a favourite director?
JB: I don’t know if I had a favourite director when I was growing up, but certainly I loved all the James Bond films, all the Clint Eastwood westerns and action films, Burt Reynolds films from the 70's probably just what you'd expect a boy from Dalton, Georgia to like! The town I grew up in was about 20,000 population, so we didn’t get some of the more "prestige" movies sometimes, but Chattanooga was about 30 miles away, and on very rare occasions, Atlanta was about 100 miles away. Even though I loved horror and Sci-Fi films, I also loved almost any other genre too...but I do remember suffering when my mom told me to come with her to see A Star Is Born with Barbara Streisand... I read about all the directors in magazines (when I could find them) like Castle Of Frankenstein and The Monster Times, which I always preferred to Famous Monsters. Although Famous Monsters always had the best covers! So, I certainly knew who Roger Corman was, I loved his Poe movies and Little Shop Of Horrors, I of course knew who Stanley Kubrick was, as I saw 2001 as a very little kid and it totally has burned itself on my brain for the rest of my life. That is one movie that I will drop everything to see on a big screen!!! But of course in those days (the 70's) it was a lot harder to find out things about movies if you lived in a small town, nothing like today. And I would have to say that I knew and loved Spielberg's work, because I saw Duel when it first aired, and it riveted me, and of course I loved Jaws and Close Encounters too.
HC: Were your family supportive of your decision to go into the movie business?
JB: My parents were supportive...both of them had a creative side to them, and they both appeared in community theater in Dalton. I vividly remember the thrill of being around backstage on a play when it was in rehearsal, and seeing the sets built, etc. So that had to have an influence on me, and all the people in my family, my grandparents, my uncles, etc were good storytellers and when we got to see them at Christmas or whenever it was always fascinating to hear their stories, of World War 1-2, etc. My mom also had a radio show in Dalton called Coffee Time, and she would interview all kinds of people. As a matter of fact, I got to interview Robert Vaughn and James Francicus because of her. She set it up through her station, and Robert Vaughn was doing a play in Atlanta, and I was a huge fan of his, so I got to interview him backstage. And Francicus was in Chattanooga doing a celebrity golf tournament. Of course I bent his ear about Valley Of The Gwangi! Also, with most people, when you have a hobby as a kid, the enthusiasm dissipates as you get older, but with me, when I started making little Regular 8mm movies in the backyard, with neighbourhood kids and my brother, it only got more intense the more I did it. So, I am one of the lucky people that found out very early in life what he wanted to do, and was able to pursue it. Of course there have been many bumps in the road, but I owe a lot to my parents early support...by that I mean that they never once said "Oh, that is a ridiculous idea...a film director? From Dalton? Get serious!" Or anything like that. And, my brother was always supportive too, he was a movie fan and could figure out great ways to rig certain things for special effects in my Super 8mm movies, he would act in some of the films, he would turn me on to films I hadn’t seen (he was a few years older), etc.
HC: Your first directing job was on the movie Divided We Fall which you co-directed with Kevin Meyer. Were you nervous and did you have any artistic differences?
JB: Well, Divided We Fall started as a student project at the University of Southern California. It was made in the winter/spring/summer of 1982, and premiered at USC Norris Theater in November of 1982. It was an incredibly ambitious, epic Civil War tale, running about 30 minutes long, shot in black and white with no sync dialogue. Kevin Meyer was an incredibly talented guy who I met in a class at school in fall of 1981. We teamed up to make this film, and I have to say it was a great partnership all the way, and in many ways it still might be both of our best films! We did everything...write, produce, direct, edit, photograph, etc. Certainly one of my best experiences making a film. The film won many awards around the world, and a clip from it can be seen on the American DVD of Straight Into Darkness, in the documentary made by Dave Parker. The film featured John Agar, who was a joy to work with, (and he hung in with the project over several months) Nick Guest, who was a blast (and I worked with him again on Puppet Master 5) David Cloud, who was a really talented guy who is now a teacher, Willard Pugh (who I worked with many times later and he also did The Color Purple, Robocop 2, etc) and two future "Leatherface" alumni...R.A. Mihailoff and Michael Shamus Wiles. Courtney Joyner did special effects makeup (he was the co-writer of From A Whisper To A Scream) and Will Huston and Mike Malone were production assistants (they were integral parts of the production of from a whisper). Kevin Meyer went on to do some thrillers for the producer Bruce Cohn Curtis, and he wrote the studio film A Smile Like Yours with Greg Kinnear. Of course we had some differences, and we have somewhat different sensibilities, but we meshed on that film and as I say, it may be the best film with our names on it so far! We worked from January 1982 to November 1982 on the film, and dropped out of school to finish it. We broke a lot of rules, and pretty much did what John Carpenter had done with the short film Dark Star, i.e. do things your way and alienate most of the faculty! The only difference is that he had the foresight to expand it into a feature, and that is what we should have done! Of course you realize this in retrospect. But I have great memories and feelings on the making of that movie, and want to repeat that experience, meaning how the film was made. In a lot of ways, Straight Into Darkness was a very similar experience. But, Divided We Fall won a lot of awards, but it really didn’t do that much for our careers right away. It did a little later, as it was a great thing to show potential investors for my first feature.
HC: The next project you directed was the anthology movie The Offspring starring the legendary Vincent Price. How did you get him involved?
JB: We got Vincent Price involved with the film by first going to his house (we got his address from a celebrity address service, such services don’t exist anymore in the wake of anti-stalking laws). We knocked on his door, he answered, he actually invited us in, and we talked for a bit and gave him the script. All true. He had every right to throw us off his property, tell us to submit the script to his agent, or that he wasn’t interested! But he was truly gracious and charming. So, he read the script, thought it was good but it was the type of film he was avoiding at that time in his life, and that was that, or so we thought! Months later, we had shot the stories of the film and were preparing to do the linking sequence, which was always planned to do in Los Angeles. I thought that it would be great to have Max von Sydow in the film, so I tracked down his agent, and his agent Walter Kohner reads the script and says Max won’t do it but he has the perfect client for me...VINCENT PRICE!!!! So, that's how we get Vincent! Totally a coincidence that he had the same agent, and his agent liked the script and recommended it to Vincent again. I think Vincent probably thought that this project was stalking him, so he better do the film or be harassed forever!
HC: Did Vincent talk about his career to you and was he an easy person to direct? He must have had a lot of presence on set, how did the rest of the cast react to him and was it an enjoyable experience?
JB: Vincent was a total pro, and was a total dream to direct. He made it clear to me that he WANTED to be directed, and trusted my guidance. So, I must say, that after maybe one-half day (we had two days of shooting with him) I talked to him director to actor, as opposed to say, fan to legend! But that was his doing, and his grace and professionalism. He was incredibly open on and off the set, and it was a great moment when Roger Corman came down and had a little reunion with him. We were shooting at Roger's studio in Venice, CA. The rest of the cast came down for photo shoots with Vincent...there is a lovely picture that I treasure of Rosalind Cash and Vincent, taken by the very talented photographer Dan Golden. Clu Gulager and Miriam came down, Martine Beswicke was there, and Hazel Court came by to see Vincent...so it was a great time. I am telling you that Vincent never stopped talking from the time he came on the set to the time he left. Everyone I had ever met called me and asked to come to the set to meet him! And also, Otto Preminger had just passed away, and he gave a lovely interview to Entertainment Tonight on our set, talking about Laura. Vincent loved talking about his career, but he was bored with mundane questions and certainly blanched at being referred to as a horror actor. Of course we know that he was so much more, and the longer it is since he has gone, the gap he has left gets wider. So, overall, I can only say that it was a total honour, and I don’t use that word loosely, an honour to get to direct a bonafide cinema legend like Vincent.
In the next part of this exclusive interview Jeff talks about Stepfather 2 and horror movie remakes.
MORE ARTICLES Alien invasion, English style!
Posted in News, Sunday 31st May 2020
The deadliest plague has come from above!In a rural English town, two police officers begin their normal shift but soon realise something is wrong. With residents behaving strangely and horrific events unfolding before their eyes, they learn they are under attack from terrifying alien creatures and must fight to defend their town and community.
Starring Katherine Drake and Ritchie Crane, written and directed by award-winning VFX artist and filmmaker Neil Rowe (Robot World), Alien Outbreak will be available to own on DVD and Digital from 20th July from Dazzler Media.... SHARE: READ MORE There's a new reason to be afraid of the dark... Pitch Black in 4K
Posted in News, Saturday 30th May 2020
A sci-fi/horror sleeper hit that birthed a franchise and launched the career of a new action movie icon, Pitch Black holds its own today as a nerve-shredding creature-feature in which the monsters outside finally meet their match against a monster within.
When an intergalactic transport ship crashes on a remote desert planet with no sign of help on the horizon, the survivors, led by Fry (Radha Mitchell), band together to find a way back home. Among the passengers is Riddick (Vin Diesel), a convicted murderer being transported by marshal Johns (Cole Hauser) - and now freed of his chains and on the loose. But as a solar eclipse plunges the planet into total darkness, a threat eve...SHARE: READ MORE Creepshow 2 coming soon to HD
Posted in News, Saturday 30th May 2020
Titans of terror George A. Romero and Stephen King deliver yet another selection of blood-curdling tales in Creepshow 2, the follow-up to the 1982 horror classic. Arrow Video will be giving this classic the release it deserves on Blu-ray on 13th July.
In "Old Chief Wood'nhead", a group of young hoodlums face retribution from an unlikely source after looting a local hardware store. Meanwhile, "The Raft" sees a group of horny teens wishing they'd read the warning signs first before taking a dip in a remote lake. Finally, an uptight businesswoman finds herself with some unwanted company following a hit-and-run incident in "The Hitch-hiker".
Retaining the same EC comic book flav...SHARE: READ MORE You're going to need a bigger sofa... Doctor Who - The Monster Vault opening soon
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th May 2020
Doctor Who's biggest and most comprehensive monster guide yet, The Monster Vault takes you on the ultimate tour of the Whoniverse, discovering and cataloguing every wonderful and terrifying creature the Doctor has ever encountered.
From the notorious Daleks, to the evil Stenza warrior T'zim-Sha and the ancient Thijarians, The Monster Vault features in-depth profiles on each monster, showing the Doctor's most dangerous enemies in their natural habitat and unveiling their secret histories. You will also discover how monsters were created and designed, through exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, anecdotes, case studies and unseen artwork.
This lavish and visually stunnin...SHARE: READ MORE Influential and genre bending horror-comedy receives a new 2K restoration
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th May 2020
Eureka Entertainment to release Ricky Lau's influential Mr. Vampire, a genre bending horror-comedy, presented from a brand new 2K restoration making its worldwide debut on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics range from 20 July. The first print-run of 2000 copies will feature a Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase and Collector's Booklet.
One of the most genre-defining (not to mention genre-defying!) horror-comedies imaginable, and one of the key Hong Kong blockbuster hits of the 1980s, the popularity and influence of Mr. Vampire cannot be overstated. Spawning at least four sequels and countless spin-offs and imitations, this Hong Kong horror-comedy to end them all was ...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel brings shocks aplenty in June with star-studded Spine-Chiller Season
Posted in Features, News, Thursday 21st May 2020
There are star-studded shocks aplenty on Horror Channel in June, courtesy of the Spine-Chiller Season - a selection of supernatural mysteries to get your summer off to a very scary start. Scheduled for Saturday nights at 9pm, the season is headed by the Channel premiere of the moody and violent chiller Gothika, starring Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr. and Penelope Cruz. Other titles include Kevin Bacon's career launcher Stir of Echoes, the gripping US-remake of The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the terrifying supernatural thriller Pay the Ghost, starring Nicholas Cage.
There are also UK TV premieres for the sharply eerie Nails, starring Shauna Macdonald and Ross Noble and the deadly Viral, ...SHARE: READ MORE Vin Diesel comes back to life in Bloodshot
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
Vin Diesel stars in the thrilling action movie Bloodshot, available to buy on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on June 8 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Based on the bestselling comic book "Valiant" by Jeff Wadlow, Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation. With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he's an unstoppable force - stronger than ever and able to heal instantly.
But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too. Now, Ray doesn't know what's real and what's not - but he's on a mission to find out.
Directed by David S. ...SHARE: READ MORE Exploitation classic Inferno of Torture to be released on Blu-ray
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
Exploitation legend Teruo Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men, Orgies of Edo) delivers one of his most extreme visions of violent eroticism in this, the sixth in his abnormal love series. Tattoos and torture await women forced into servitude in Ishii's Inferno of Torture which is being released 6th July by Arrow Video.
Unable to repay a local lender, Yumi (Yumika Katayama) takes up an offer to serve as a geisha for two years with a promise of freedom once her debt is repaid. She quickly realises that this is less a house of geishas than an extremely cruel brothel specialising in supplying western visitors with tattooed playthings. Taken under the wing of one of th...SHARE: READ MORE Dirk Gently to do his detecting on vinyl in July
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
'Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable.'
Presented in triple gatefold vinyl for the very first time, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency stars Harry Enfield as the singular detective in this full-cast BBC radio dramatisation of the novel by Douglas Adams. First broadcast on Radio 4 in 2007, these fantastically entertaining comedy sci-fi dramas are adapted and directed by Dirk Maggs, acclaimed for his dramatisations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Good Omens, Neverwhere and many others.
Dirk Gently has an unshakeable faith in the interconnectedness of all things. His Holistic Detective Agency mainly succeeds in...SHARE: READ MORE A trio of Lugosi classics coming to Blu-ray for the first time
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
Eureka Entertainment to release Murders in the Rue Morgue/The Black Cat/The Raven: Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations starring Bela Lugosi, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK. Presented in a 2-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray set (2000 copies only) as part of The Masters of Cinema Series, available from 20 July.
This trio of classic 1930s horror films-Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, and The Raven-is also distinguished by a trio of factors regarding their production. Most notably, each film is based on a work by master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe. Part of the legendary wave of horror films made by Universal Pictures in the 30s, all three fe...SHARE: READ MORE Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious from BBC Books
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
BBC Books has revealed that it will be publishing two novels to tie into BBC Studios multi-platform Doctor Who story, Time Lord Victorious.
Time Lord Victorious will tell a new and untold story, set within the Dark Times at the start of the universe, when even the Eternals were young. Following several Doctors across space and time as they defend their home planet from a terrible race, this is a story like no other.
Time Lord Victorious will feature the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctor characters, companion Rose Tyler and monsters including the Daleks and the Ood, with more to be revealed over the coming months as products are ann...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Adam Green, director of Victor Crowley
Posted in Doctor Who, Interviews, Wednesday 13th May 2020
Ahead of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Adam Green's Victor Crowley, the great director shares his personal tragedies, George Romero's inspirational words, the importance of genre comedy and hints that the Bayou Butcher may rise again...
HC: Adam, you're back on Horror Channel with your latest Hatchet instalment, Victor Crowley. Excited?
AG: I'm always thrilled to hear that another one of my films will be playing on the UK's Horror Channel! It's crazy to think that the US hasn't had a horror specific television channel in 6 years now, only horror themed subscription platforms like Shudder. Then again - look at the real life horror we're dealing with here as far as our current President goes...SHARE: READ MORE Articles Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Friday 12th June
Saturday 6th June
Thursday 4th June