STUART GORDON: BODY OF WORK

What are your thoughts on the Millenium-edition DVD of “Re-Animator”, which came out in April? ^ It’s a two-disc set with a lot of additional material. I think the best thing about it is that they re-mastered the sound. When “Re-Animator” was first released, it was not even in stereo. It was a mono release. Now, it has THX sound and a beautiful re-mastering of it all. Richard Band is interviewed on the DVD, and talks about the various cues for the film. It shows sections of the movie with only the music so you can get a sense of what he was working for. Richard really picked up on the humor in the film, and his music really helped the audience to know that it was OK to laugh at this movie – that there were comedic sections.

Before the film was scored, I told Richard that I was a big fan of Bernard Hermann, and he kind of went with that. Originally, we had put a credit in the beginning that said, “Our apologies to Bernard Hermann,” and it got left out, so Richard has been paying the price for that ever since. He got a letter from the Bernard Herman estate that said, “if Mr. Hermann were alive, we’d be suing you right now.” He meant it in a very loving way. He wasn’t trying to steal anything. We acknowledge that Bernard Hermann is The Master of film scores. But Richard’s score is really fun and lively. Now you can hear the score in stereo (on the new DVD).

There is an additional interview with myself and Brian Yuzna, the producer, and an interview with Dennis Daly, one of the writers. The original storyboards are also shown within the film, so that you can click back and forth between the boards and the actual shots.

Are there other DVD versions of “Re-Animator” floating around? ^ There was one done as a laser disc that was converted to DVD, about five years ago. But the new version is far superior.

“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond,” and Dagon are all based on the works of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Are they meant as a kind of trilogy? ^ Actually, there is a forth film of mine in the Lovecraft groove, called “Castle Freak” (1995, available on VHS and DVD). It is loosely adapted from the Lovecraft story, The Outsider. Originally, I tried to convince them that they should re-name the movie “The Outsider,” but Charles Band, who runs Full Moon (the film’s production company), is the guy who creates the titles first.

The movie got started during a meeting I was having in his office, where I noticed a poster on his wall that said, “Castle Freak.” It had a picture of a guy who looks like Quasimodo whipping some poor girl that’s chained to the wall. I asked him, “What’s this movie about, Charlie?” He told me, “Well, there’s a castle and there’s a freak.” He had already sold the film, on the basis of the title and the artwork alone. He said, “As long as you have a castle in this film, and there’s a freak inside of the castle, you can direct it.”

We did the movie pretty quickly. It was filmed in a castle owned by Charles Band. Make sure you get the director’s cut, because a few things have been taken out in the R-rated version.

Similar to what happened with “Re-Animator”? ^ The R-rated version of “Re-Animator” was done without my involvement. I was working on “From Beyond”, shooting in Italy, and when I came back to the States, I found that the only version of “Re-Animator” available was the R-rated version. Once a movie is rated, that’s the only one that you’re allowed to distribute. We were very upset about it because we had no involvement in making these cuts and changes. We went back to the MPAA and asked them if they would take back the R-rating. They said that was the first time anyone had ever requested that! (Laughter)

But they did it. They took back the R and let us release the unrated version.

Is it true that when you attended the University of Wisconsin as a college student, you took heat from authorities for staging a psychedelic version of Peter Pan? ^ Unfortunately, it’s true. I was also arrested for that production. So if any one tells you I can’t get arrested, they’re wrong (laughter).

I was arrested on obscenity charges back in 1968. We did the production as a satire of the 68th democratic convention, happening in Chicago. I turned it into a political allegory. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys became hippies, the pirates became the Chicago Police Department, and Captain Hook became the original Mayor Daly of Chicago. After they all went off to Never Land, they dropped acid. That scene got us into trouble, because it was a psychedelic dance sequence and we had a light show projected onto the naked bodies of seven female dancers. We were told that we had to shut the production down. We felt that was a violation of our free speech, so we performed it again, and got arrested.

I’ve always thought it might be fun to do a movie of the event, ‘cause it was so crazy. We’ve even talked of the idea of doing “Re-Animator” as a musical, which would be really strange, with severed heads singing and dancing.

In 1969, you formed Chicago’s Organic Theater, and oversaw several productions, including those written by David Mamet. Can you elaborate on this experience? ^ It was an experimental theater, an ensemble of actors, designers and writers. We created original plays and adaptations. We toured, performed, and brought productions to other places, including New York. We had some wonderful members of the ensemble. Joe Mantegna (“House of Games,”) and Dennis Franz (“NYPD Blue”) were with us. It was a great time. We produced David Mamet’s first play, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.”

Dennis Franz was seen in “Cops”, a production we did. He and Mantegna played undercover policemen, and a casting director for Brian De Palma was there. He cast Dennis as a policeman in a movie called “The Fury”, and he’s been playing cops ever since.

Eventually, in 1984, you took on filmmaking with “Re-Animator”. ^ I took a leave of absence from the theatre to direct it, then I went back to work after shooting wrapped. It was during that time that the movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The reaction was great. The company that had distributed it offered me a three-picture deal. Empire Pictures released it, Charles Band’s company that has since become Full Moon. We moved to LA. As soon as we got there, he said, yeah, we’re gonna make three pictures, but we’re shooting them in Italy (laughter).

Alongside Empire/Full Moon guru Charles Band, another name that has long been associated with your movies is producer BrianYuzna. How did he become involved in the mix? ^ A mutual friend named Bob Greenberg, who brought Brian to Chicago to see the Organic Theatre Company, introduced him to me. We were doing a play then called “ER”, about an emergency room. Brian had read the script for “Re-Animator”, and thought we were able to handle medical emergencies pretty well (laughter).

Get the next section of the interview in part three of STUART GORDON: BODY OF WORK>>>




Posted on July 17, 2002 in Interviews by
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