CINEMA CPR: THE FILMS OF STUART GORDON

Many of your films remain easy to find, such as “Re-Animator” (1985), which was released last year as a New Millennium special edition DVD by Elite Entertainment. Others, like “From Beyond,” seem more difficult to find…
I have good news about “From Beyond” (1986). MGM is putting it out on DVD, either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. The most exciting thing about it involves a call I got from them. They said, “We want you to take a look at some footage that we found.” I visited them, and they showed me this film can with a little note on it from my editor, Lee Percy, saying that inside were the trims that the MPA made us take out. We looked at them, and it was all the stuff that was cut out of the film. So there’s gonna be a director’s cut of “From Beyond.” I had been told years ago that this material had been lost. I was just thrilled. It was like a treasure trove for me. Now, I’m talking with MGM about the best way to put that material back into the movie. It wasn’t that many minutes – three or four, at the most. But I think it’s gonna make a big difference. It was some of the most shocking material in the film. I would love to be able to put it back in and get the effect that the movie originally had.

As I reflect back on the R-rated version, it had some pretty gruesome imagery in it to begin with, like an eyeball-sucking scene…
You will now be able to see the EXPANDED eyeball sucking scene, in which we actually see him actually suck out her eyeball, and spit it out!

That was Mrs. Gordon, wasn’t it?
Yeah – that was my wife (laughter).

Did you show her the additional footage?
She hasn’t seen it yet. But it was funny, because I was telling her about how we were trying to get the eyeball to land so that it would look at the camera, when he spits it out. It took us a while to get that scene. I got scolded for that scene, by the MPAA. They told us they were never gonna give the film an R-rating. They said, “You just keep pushing stuff into our faces.” There is another scene is which Barbara Crampton gets molested by Dr. Pretorious. One of her nudes scenes got trimmed a bit, so that will be extended now. When we shot “From Beyond” we thought we could get an R-rated because we weren’t using blood – we were using slime. But they said, “Well, it’s still disgusting! We don’t care!” The actors were always complaining that the slime was so cold and clammy. Poor Barbara was getting naked, covered with slime. She wasn’t too happy.

Are there other films of yours being re-released?
MGM is also re-releasing “Dolls,” another movie that has kind of gotten lost. They’re also re-releasing “Robot Jox.”

How did MGM get the rights to these movies? Didn’t Vestron originally release them on home video?
It’s kind of like those images of the little fish getting eaten by the bigger fish. Vestron went under, and I believe it was swallowed up by a company called Epic. Epic got swallowed up by Dino De Laurentis’ company, and that got swallowed up by MGM. So now, everything has ended up in the MGM library, which I think is the biggest film library in the world. That’s why it’s taken them a while to get to this.

Did you have to push them to re-release them, or did someone approach you, asking to put it back out?
I would go to horror conventions and film festivals, and the one they would always ask about was “From Beyond.” They would ask if there would ever be a director’s cut, and I would say no, there wouldn’t, because the material is lost. Eventually, I started contacting MGM and asked if they were putting the movie out, because I thought it would do well. What finally convinced them, I think, was the success of the new “Re-Animator” DVD. It did so well, that they realized they were sitting on something very commercial.

So “Dolls” (1987), hopefully, will also be ‘re-animated’ onto DVD?
Yeah. That’s a movie that I saw again recently, at a film festival in Switzerland that had a print of it. It was shown as part of a retrospective of my work. The audience reaction to it was really wonderful. It was very different than my other films. There’s a lot of heart in that film. It’s a sweet movie. Scary, but there’s a fairy tale quality as well. David Allen did the stop-motion animation in that one. He also did “Robot Jox.” He was a protégé of Ray Harryhausen. He became one of the top guys in the field of animation. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago. It’s interesting, because “Dolls” is actually my second film. “From Beyond” was released second, after “Re-Animator,” but “Dolls” was completed before. I shot both of them back to back, on the same set, in Rome. It was done Roger Corman style. We repainted the set, and shot both movies on it.

You’ve filmed several movies out of the country, haven’t you?
Yes. I’ve shot more movies outside of the United States than I have here, by a long shot. I’ve only done three movies in America.

Tell us about “Kid Safe: The Video” (1988).
It was a lot of fun. It was a safety video for children who are left alone, discussing what they should and shouldn’t do. I got Andrea Martin, from SCTV, to play a twelve year old girl in it. She wore braces. We set it up like a horror movie, where once her parents leave, the house becomes this very scary place. The video was done as a coupon give-away by a drug company. I can’t remember which one. Children’s aspirin, or something like that.

“Pit and the Pendulum” came out in 1990. Is it easily accessible on DVD?
I don’t know how easy it is to get now, but it had a pretty big release originally, on DVD. I’m very proud of that film. It was shot in the same castle that we shot “Castle Freak” in, in Italy. It’s set during the Spanish Inquisition. Lance Henricksen is in it, playing Torquemada, and he’s brilliant. Jeffrey Combs also stars, and Oliver Reed does a cameo.

“Daughter of Darkness” was a TV movie you directed, released in 1990…
There’s a funny story about that one. It was done for CBS television. The script was very bloody, with nudity and all sorts of stuff. They said, “We want you to shoot all of this.” Then, when it was time to show it on television, it all got cut out. It became the most anemic vampire movie ever made. About five years later, I was reading the trades, where they always list the movies that are being given ratings. There was a movie called “Daughter of Darkness” that was being given an “R” rating. I called up the company that was releasing it, and asked if it was my movie. They told me that it was an older film. But it was my movie! They had restored all the footage that had been cut out.

Kind of like a director’s cut done without the director’s permission!
Exactly. I had no idea it was being done. But it was done very well. They put everything in exactly as I had intended it. In that one, I had a chance to work with Anthony Perkins. He was fantastic in it. I don’t know if it’s out on DVD, but it is available on VHS.

I see “Robot Jox” (1990) around, at video stores. Like “Dolls,” that film included considerable stop motion animation and miniature work.
I notice that they’re showing that one on HBO. In fact, someone told me they had shown “Dolls” recently on HBO, as well. MGM will be putting out a DVD on “Robot Jox.” There was recently a Japanese DVD released of “Robot Jox.” A Japanese team recently came up to interview me, and we were able to find some of the models and miniatures that were used originally. Animator Dave Allen worked on the film for a year and a half. He shot it in the Mojave Desert. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. There were sandstorms, flooding, and sets getting destroyed by winds. He wanted to shoot it outside. Normally, you shoot miniature work in a very controlled environment, but Dave had this idea that he wanted to shoot it against real skies, and real mountains, and really give this thing a sense of reality. Because of the sunlight, the depth of field was such that you could fool the eye. He shot it in this dry lake bed. It was really flat, so you could not see that there were people standing a mile from the camera, while the miniatures were very close to the camera. Both of them were in focus, because of the sunlight. It was terrific work, but very, very difficult. And time consuming.

The story continues next week in the next edition of Cinema CPR…

KJ Doughton resurrects reels and breathes life back into films currently on life support and verging on extinction. Applying his “rave resuscitation” to movies at risk of fading into obscurity due to old age, faltering promotional systems, premature delivery, societal stigma, or a runty box-office take, he advocates a second chance for flat-lining films too important to die.




Posted on March 23, 2005 in Features by

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