Sometimes a horror movie is so much more than just a horror movie.  In 1967, a group of young ad men hot to break out of filming beer commercials decided it was time to make a feature film.  They chose to make a horror movie, with a small cast, a few key locations, and the simple notion that the dead would return to eat the living.  What they ended up making was one of the most important, influential, and in the end, one of the greatest movies of all time.  And I don’t just mean greatest horror films.  George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a classic for very good reasons, a masterpiece out of the gate for him and the rest of the forces involved.





The neighbors



It’s crucial to look at NOTLD in the context of its angry times.  The Vietnam conflict was raging, race relations were volatile, and the peace and love of Woodstock two years later would be balanced off by the rage and murder at Altamont.  Romero and co-writer John Russo channeled all that violent energy into their script.  Romero’s mentioned several times that the thrust of the film was a new generation eating the old, only this was literal.  The film’s ghouls were a progressive group about to turn the world into a living necropolis.  But with the world as it was in ’67, that may have been an improvement.  Romero certainly seems to state so in the film.  Government, the family unit and humanity in general will fail us, the film says, and left to our own devices, we’ll tear ourselves apart, when we could find salvation in working toward a common cause.





Johnny and Barbra, a disgruntled family unit



NOTLD’s first few minutes wouldn’t lead one to think it was the end of the world.  A car driving up an old country road passes a cemetery sign full of buckshot.  Johnny and his sister Barbra have come to place a foam cross with some flowers on their father’s grave.  Johnny is complaining about everything, as meek Barbra tries to avoid his antagonistic comments.  As he starts to tease her about her fear of the cemetery, another man approaches, and Johnny tries to draw him into the game.  What happens next sets the entire film, and in turn its world, into chaos, with Barbra fleeing to an empty farmhouse that will find itself under siege from the living dead as the night progresses.


She’s not in the house alone for long.  Soon enough, strong willed Ben arrives and takes charge.  He barricades it, fortifying it against the zombies.  Later, the two discover others, as Harry Cooper and local youth Tom emerge from the basement, where they’ve been hiding with Harry’s wife Helen and bitten daughter Karen.  With the imminent threat of the zombies outside, another threat arises within the house, as Ben wants to stay on the ground floor of the house, while Cooper wants them all to head down into the basement.





Harry Cooper at war with Ben



Plotwise, Romero sets up his conflict much as he would in many of his later efforts:  the zombies are a threat, but the real danger arises from the two men’s inability to work together.  Had the two been able to subdue their own egos and scratch out a cohesive plan, everybody in the farmhouse might have lived.  I still side with Ben, though.  Critics have espoused for years that, given the film’s ending, Cooper was right about the basement.  But I’ve never bought it, because as Ben states, it’s a death trap with only one way out.  Had they realized the zombies couldn’t climb, maybe they would have pitched in and gone upstairs, cutting the staircase off.  But this would have been too optimistic for Romero the nihilist, whose consistent message here is that in times of crisis, nobody handles anything well.  We’re more likely to devolve into bickering than to use our collective heads to save ourselves and each other.  Knowing how the film was put together, Romero’s outlook makes sense.  NOTLD was a group effort in which everybody pitched in ideas, energy and sweat equity.  Had Romero, Russo and company taken to the stubbornness of the film’s characters, it would have fallen apart early.


It’s nice to look at how Romero uses themes ideas he’ll touch upon in many of his later films.  The collapse of the family unit is there, not only in the battling Coopers, but early on with Johnny and Barbra.  An ineffective government, backed by a posse raging to shoot, cripples itself because it has no well-formed response.  Trying to protect the home front just for prevention’s sake will echo throughout the original trilogy, with the mall in DAWN OF THE DEAD and the underground silo in DAY OF THE DEAD.  But Romero’s most powerful theme in NIGHT is the one that, once I was old enough to understand it, has always scared the most.  With the family unit, government and the sanctity of the home offering no safety, the collapse of the social structure has begun.  The dead are coming to life and eating the living, and all the things we count on to provide us with a normal life have deteriorated in the course of one night, leaving us with total chaos in their place.  Romero’s scope would get larger with DAWN and DAY, but it’s never been more effective than it is here.


The film also sports Romero’s incredible editing techniques.  As a commercial director for many years, he understood the power of quick cuts, creating action through them rather than camera movement.  Romero rarely moves his camera in any of his films (DIARY OF THE DEAD being the exception, for obvious reasons), so unlike, say, John Carpenter, his action relies so much more on how the images are assembled.  He’s also got a few artistic shots here, as when the camera captures Barbra looking through the music box.  As for music, the film is entirely scored from library tracks, and some of them you will find in 1950s programmers.  But most horror fans associate them directly with NOTLD, which has made them its own.  It’s a powerful score, evocative of the terror throughout the night.





Duane Jones as Ben



The strength of the film rides more than anything on the performance of Duane Jones.  As Ben, he’s charismatic, a man forced to take the lead, and to make quick decisions to save seven people from a world that has been thrown into violent turmoil, literally overnight.  Interestingly, the original script had him as “The Truck Driver,” a working class guy who was much rougher around the edges.  When they hired the refined, intelligent Jones, Russo and Romero rewrote the dialogue for him;  thankfully, because had they left the character is, the film would not have been nearly as good.  Jones also brings a softer, reflective side to the character, for example when he gives the speech about Beekman’s Diner.  Some fans and critics come down on Ben for his decision making (many of the same who come down on Barbra for her inability to do anything), but he’s doing his best to be proactive and fight back.  It’s an unenviable position, and if I were in the farmhouse with him, I would trust Ben.





A night of total terror ends terribly



And then there’s the controversial ending.  It’s ironic, stunning, and absolutely powerful.  It’s a big part of why the film has become a classic, and why people still talk about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD today.  Romero, and all parties involved, to this day claims that Jones was the best actor they could find, and that any statement on race relations in the film’s final moments are unintentional.  But when he and Russ Streiner relate that the night they drove the film to New York to meet distributors, they heard Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, it’s impossible not to look at what happens to the film’s only black character in that light.  Even if it’s a mere coincidence, it makes for one powerful social commentary.  A look at the original script indicates that Barbra was to avoid her family reunion and survive the night.  That would have been too Hollywood, and diminished the film’s final moments.  I’ve often heard Romero say that the whole point of horror is to rock the apple cart;  to restore order ruins everything that has come before.  With NOTLD, he wisely decided to leave the world unbalanced, so audiences could question just how safe a world is even if the living are all we have to fear.


NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD began George Romero’s career as one of the most well-respected directors of film.  It changed the paradigm of what zombies do, as they’re no longer revived Caribbeans forced to work in salt mines, but flesh eaters who infect those around them and threaten the world’s living population.  It offered a new style in editing, that MTV would embrace in how music videos were cut.  It also made Pittsburgh a realistic location for filmmakers, as 40+ years later, the latest DARK KNIGHT is being filmed there on its $250 million dollar budget.  Most importantly, it proved that horror could go beyond the nerve endings, and provoke thought from an audience.  It is, perhaps, the most important horror film ever made, and is the definition of a classic.


-Phil Fasso


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EVIL DEAD 2 (Blu-Ray)




EVIL DEAD 2 Blu-Ray cover



I have a love/hate relationship with EVIL DEAD 2. The love part is obvious. Like thousands of other Dead Heads, the film blew me away when I first saw it and I’ve owned various incarnations on VHS, laserdisc, DVD and now Blu-ray. But over time I began to question the merits of the film. Is EVIL DEAD 2 a sequel or a re-make? What’s with all the goofy one-liners, green blood and slapstick pratfalls? Aren’t real horror movies supposed to be bleak and serious like the first EVIL DEAD, my favorite horror movie of all time? For whatever reason, all of the things I once loved about EVIL DEAD 2 came to annoy me and I simply stopped watching it.


So after about 10 years of being totally over EVIL DEAD 2, I decided to give the new EVIL DEAD 2- 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray from Lionsgate a spin. The first pleasant surprise with this edition is the newly minted high-def transfer. Colors are rich, blacks are inky, detail crisp and as a result, every sweaty, grimy, grue-soaked moment leaps from the screen. Some of the green screen gags don’t hold up as well but overall, Ash has never looked better carving up witches in the fruit cellar.





Sweaty, grue-covered Ash in high def



Another pleasant surprise is the sound. It’s not as deep and robust as I would’ve liked but for a 25 year old, low budget horror flick the surround mix is rather aggressive. Tons of great directional effects are deployed, especially towards the end when the cabin is under siege by evil spirits and the possessed trees make their presence known. The sound definitely gets a noticeable upgrade and it helps heighten the on screen mayhem.


Perhaps the greatest surprise on this Blu-ray is the boatload of bloody good bonus features. As a side note, I tend to ignore bonus features. I might watch a mini-documentary or another behind-the-scenes snippet with some films because they are quick and easy. Various commentaries and other extras seem like too much of a commitment, especially when all I want to do is watch the actual movie, uninterrupted.


But with this latest Blu-ray of EVIL DEAD 2 the bonus features are a real treasure trove, and hard to ignore. Some have been ported over from other EVIL DEAD 2 video editions. There’s also “Road to Wadesboro”, an all-new journey back to the original shooting location with property master and filmmaker Tony Elwood. All of these wonderfully produced cast and crew video segments are fascinating to behold and transported me back to 1986 when Raimi, Campbell, Tapert, Spiegel and the KNB boys were still honing their craft. After all of these years, their enthusiasm and passion for working on this game-changing horror film has not waned in the slightest and it’s turned me into a die-hard Dead Head all over again.


Groovy, indeed.


-T.D. Clark


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Gary Streiner- The Romero Retrospective (Text)



Ed. note- Gary Streiner is more than just someone who was involved with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to me, he’s a friend.  I met him at a Chiller a few years ago, and we became fast friends.  I did everything I could to promote the second annual LDF on Icons of Fright a few years back, and Gary was kind enough to set me up interviews with Charles Craig and his brother Russ Streiner.  We also spent over an hour on the phone together as I conducted this interview.  It first appeared on Icons of Fright, but as with the Charles Craig and Russ Streiner chats, it’s no longer available there, which makes Death Ensemble the only place to find all three.  As for the LDF, there hasn’t been another one since the 2nd, and NOTLD fans eagerly await for Gary to bring the show back to Evans City.- P.F.



Among those names made famous by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD some 41 years ago, Gary Streiner might not be the first to come to mind for the film’s many fans.  Though Gary was not as prominent as George Romero or Gary’s own brother Russ, he was part of a tight-knit team that produced what would become not only a classic horror film, but a classic film in general.  One of the ten original investors in NOTLD, his role as the film’s recording guy and sound mixer gave him an inside view of the movie.  He was kind enough recently to discuss some of his experiences on NOTLD with me, as well as his second annual Living Dead Festival, an autograph signing and showing of the movie which will include many first time guests, including Judith Ridley.


Phil Fasso:  How did you first get involved with George Romero?

Gary Streiner:  I got involved with George Romero through my brother Russ, who was studying to be an actor at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  George came there one night to see a performance that my brother was in, brought there by a mutual friend.


So George and Russ became friends and later partners, off doing their thing.  I was still in high school, not really working full time at all, and they were off doing a project called EXPOSTULATIONS, a 16 mm film that George was in the process of making.  So I came out one Sunday or Saturday, to be part of a crowd.  They had a quasi-company going, called The Latent Image, and at that point in time, they were just doing still photos, and nuts and bolts for industrial catalogues, I mean the most mundane stuff you can possibly imagine.  They rented a place over on the South Side of Pittsburgh, and George was living there;  it was a great space, because it had 3 sections to it:  the front space the office.  And I’m like a 15 year old kid at this time, and this is all like playing/work.  You go off to brother’s quasi-office, you know.


George was a chronic soda drinker, and he just couldn’t speak in the morning without a cigarette and a Mountain Dew.  So there were three sections to this building, the front was the office, and the middle section was used as a studio and it was literally filled with Mountain Dew bottles.  Because George was a chain smoker, he put all of his cigarettes out in the bottles.  So my first professional job was to get all the cigarette butts out of the pop bottles, so I could then take them up the street and return them for the 3 cent deposit, for my paycheck.  To kind of get an idea of how many pop bottles there were.  There were weeks when I made $50.



Gary Streiner toasts NOTLD's many fans




Phil:  What was the development process like on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?


Define “development process.” (laughs)  What area?  In the concept of it?  Or in the overall of it?


Phil:  How much were you involved in the back story, before the actual filming started?


Again, I was the kid, so I got to sit on the floor a lot and listen to these guys sort of thrash all this stuff out,  George and Jack Russo and my brother and Rudy Ricci and sometimes Richard Ricci, in those brainstorming sessions.  And we were also running a company, so I had other chores and duties to do, but the hardcore script development went on mostly after I went home.  You know, it was really a fun time, in contrast to most of today’s occupations.  Even though none of us was making much money, 99% of the time, we would’ve chosen to be there than be home.  That really made it fun, because the times that we were there were always exploratory.  There wasn’t a lot of meetings posted on schedules, that kind of thing.  The forum was extremely open,;  there were never like closed door meetings, they were all conference room chit chats rather than, “Okay, it’s 9:30 and I’d better be in Board Room B for the latest script revisions.”  It was much more organic, much more, “Well, we’re tired with what we’re doing over here, ” then we’d go have our meetings in a big conference room on the 5th floor.  It was carpeted, and there was a couch, and you know we could just sort of lounge around and meet.


And so that’s where most of the screenplay developed.  My involvement was limited, because I just truly couldn’t keep up with the big boys intellectually, I guess.  And that’s really the way I felt during that time.  I was like in awe of these guys, and I was so proud to be able to physically, and ultimately intellectually, able to help facilitate a lot of the things.  I was another strong, strapping young man that lugged gear around and really helped to execute other people’s ideas.


Phil:  NOTLD was somewhat of a family affair, with Russ and your mom involved.  How was it working with family?


During NOTLD it was totally comfortable, it was great.  Working with family, you knew the enemy, you knew where the skeletons were buried.  There was the overshadowing thing that I will always feel, the younger brother syndrome.  It’s not that it put me in a position of discomfort, by any means;  it was just a fact, that I was the younger brother, and 6 years less cultured.  George had been a Fine Arts major at Carnegie-Mellon, so he at least understood the concept of creativity, and again, I would say that my brother understood the creative aspects of the business a lot more.  He had been in much more creative endeavors.  But as a 15-year-old kid,  I hadn’t created any of those categories in my personality as of yet.




Gary on-set with George Romero in D.C.




Phil:  Some people give their all for art.  You nearly gave your life.  Can you share that story?


(Laughs)  Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  Our level of expertise was limited, and our level of naiveté was enormous.  We didn’t know a lot.  It was just like, “Okay, this chair was on fire a few minutes ago, I’ll check it out, make sure there’s no sparks.  Then I’ll take this plastic gallon jug of gasoline and dump it all over it and light it again.”  Not very bright, not hugely safety cautious, by any means.   So yeah, I did in fact catch myself on fire, and it was pretty terrifying, and considering everything, yes, I am hugely lucky.  I had a full gallon of gasoline in my hand, which was now being flung in the air and all over me, all up my arm.  And it could’ve hit my face, anything could’ve happened.  And thank Bill Hinzman (who played the Cemetery Ghoul), he probably was a volunteer fireman somewhere, he knew to tackle me to the ground and roll me on the ground.  The whole thing was over in like 30 seconds.


Phil:  What was George Romero like as a director?


Well, I think George by his own admission didn’t want to be the director.  The last thing he wanted to do was have to be the boss.  That was not something that he did naturally.  Later as I became a more accomplished producer working with many different directors, I learned that it’s the producers challenge to,  surround the director with as many creative people possible.  But at that time in Pittsburgh those people didn’t exist, so a lot more fell on George’s shoulders.  I don’t think the film that came out would’ve been the same if George wasn’t the person he was or at the professional level he was.  And that’s a compliment, because he wasn’t a film director at the point;  he’d never directed anything over 60 seconds prior to that.  He did a few other longer format films, maybe 10 minutes long, travelogues and things like that for Pennsylvania, but never had to carry dialogue, or carry a scene for a long period of time.


So sometimes he took a lot longer to figure it out, like a lot of young directors I’ve worked with since then.  They never know whether it’s really right or wrong until they see it.  They end up doing things a bunch more times than they have to, just to have the ability to see it more times and figure it out.  So I think George fell into that category as much as any real first time director would.


I think that one of George’s biggest asset is his creative mind, his ability to think mental pictures and conceptually, I think that’s what a fine artist does before he puts a brush to a canvas or a sketch pad.  He could develop a creative idea, certainly as he went on, George could see things artistically, which the rest of us didn’t necessarily have the ability to do.


Phil:  When  did you realize that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had become a classic?  And how did that feel?


I really felt it for the first real time last year.  You can’t live a life and go pretty much anywhere in the world that somebody doesn’t know about it, your signature as a film, “Gary Streiner, he was one of the people who made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.”  It’s pretty amazing, the various companies I’ve been in at times, to think that some pretty high powered tables could be brought to a halt by the mention of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  I would get spikes like that all through my life.


And then last year when I decided to do the first Living Dead Festival.  I hadn’t even been in Pittsburgh in 20 years, so it’d been a long time.  Meeting fans last year, I just started thinking, “Wow, this is a real thing, this isn’t just something like a blip, this happened in my life,” 40 years later, it’s still going on, and you have humans out there just so many people I’ve met over the last year who really care about this film.  The last year made me realize, not necessarily that the film was a classic, but what being a classic meant, and that’s a much bigger rush than the actual making of the film.


Phil:  Romero continued to make Dead movies after NOTLD.  Have you seen these other films?


I’m going to be very honest with you.  I’m not a big horror fan.  It’s like one of the last things I would put on my list.  I just happen to be a guy who made a film, and that same film happened to become real popular.  You know, I’ve seen… I couldn’t even tell you which ones I’ve seen.  I’ve seen THE CRAZIES, DAWN, DAY and LAND.  But it’s not like I was the guy hanging on the edge of the whatever, waiting for the next drop.


Phil:  One of the notorious issues with NOTLD is the copyright issue.  Your brother Russ is still fighting to get the copyright restored.  Do you think this will ever be resolved?


I doubt it.  I have to say, just for the pure ownership aspect of it, it would be nice, to get it restored, just for the historical accuracy of it.  Certainly, our potential to capitalize on the project that we actually created is more difficult.  But I’m finding that none of that really matters.  Everyone knows who made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. We can’t change it, it was a stupid mistake;  I can’t be sure at how many levels the mistake was made.  Obviously it was made on more than one level.   We were a bunch of naive kids, and we didn’t know all things we necessarily should’ve known.  Now if Russ were here with me, he might have a whole different point of view.  Which is why he and Jack, in particular, they’re the primary trustees of Image Ten (NOTLD’s production company), so they would.  But I’m sure it’ll be an ongoing project with Russ until he dies, to get it restored, at any opportunity possible.




Evans City, home of the LDF




Phil:  After 40 years, Night of the Living Dead finally got the documentary it deserved in Chris Roe’s ONE FOR THE FIRE, in which you participated.  What are your thoughts on that documentary?


I will be flat out honest in saying, when I saw it, I said, “Well, it’s not an embarrassment.”  Did I think it was certainly the definitive documentary of this film, or the makers of this film?  No.  I don’t think so at all.  I think it was a lot of passion, and a lot of labor that went into finding people and then interviewing them.  But I know I said more pertinent things than what actually got used in the film, and I think that just  about anybody who was interviewed for the film could say the same.


I did a film called COMEDIAN with Jerry Seinfeld, where we had 600 hours of material, and it took pretty close to 16 months to cut that into a film;  and I don’t think ONE FOR THE FIRE got that type of consideration.




Gary ready to meet the fans




Me:  Last year, Romero and a number of the others involved in Night did the convention circuit with the 40th Anniversary Night of the Living Dead Tour.  You didn’t take part in that.  Was that because of the Living Dead Fest?


No, I wasn’t asked.  Certainly Jack and Russ and Kyra Schon and Judy O’Dea, and to some degree Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman and George had been doing conventions for a lot longer than last year.  I think it just became a convenience, and a salable commodity to say, “All right, this is the group of people that have been out there doing it.  We’ll just commission them.”  The eight people that travelled became a neat little bundle.  I went to the Chiller show, this April, mainly because I just wanted to go and say hello to a lot of people that I’ve met online and also to meet a lot of people like you that are helping get the festival off the ground.  Now, with the Living Dead Festival,  I have the ability to have my own event, that I can partake in here in Evans City, and it’s not going to get any better anywhere else.




The Streiners at a Zombie Walk in Evans City




Phil:  You’re now gearing up for the 2nd annual LDF.  How did the Festival come about in the first place?

A guy named Rick Reifenstein was on the Evans City Historical Commission, and they were sitting around, having one of their meetings, saying, “What can they do to raise funds?”  So, one of the projects, or one of the things that got added to the list was the 40th anniversary of the NOTLD coming up, “Maybe we can do something.”  Rick had that idea, and then contacted me, I guess it was a year ago last February, and said they were thinking about doing it, would I be interested.  My circumstance was certainly open to it, and that’s how it all began.  Rick and I started yammering ideas, and we spent most of the year—creatively thinking of what we could do.  And then we got down around August, and said, “How are we gonna pay for this?”  And that could’ve been the end of it right there.


But finally, I just said, “Look.  We have a couple of opportunities, they won’t cost us anything;  we can be part of the Oktoberfest parade, that’s free;  we can be part of the Evans City Halloween parade, that’s free; and then we can have a screening at EDCO Park.”  And that’s really what happened.  And it was just such a magical little screening.  We had literally put out about 4,000  flyers, and probably did that no more than 3 weeks before the event.  And we got 300 people to show up for the screening.




LDF poster featuring Judith Ridley




Me:  NOTLD fans have been calling for Judith Ridley to do conventions for years, and this year’s Living Dead Fest.  How did you convince her to come?


I had to put a roof on my brother’s garage.  It wasn’t about negotiations, it wasn’t about money.  Russ has been talking to Judy for years about, “You really ought to think about coming out and doing one of these shows.  The fans would love to see you.  It would be financially rewarding.”  And she just really didn’t care to do it.  This wasn’t part of her life;  she certainly does not perceive herself as her role in the movie.  A little like me, she went on and had a life and did other things.  Judy is actually having a hard time understanding why anyone would show up to see her.  That’s a reality.  And that’s just the sweet, brilliant innocence of this whole thing.


Well, Russ and their two kids Rachael and Justin had been harping on her for a long time.  And so they finally wore her down;  she finally responded positively, to the notion of doing a show.  I was standing in his driveway, replacing a roof on his garage, and I just looked at him and said, “Do you know what this would mean, if she were to do our festival first?”


Judy is really happy that she can do her first show in the comforts of the family.  It’s not like she’s having to go out and thrust herself into some 35,000+ fans.  This’ll be a real nice way for her to enter into it.  And I’m hoping it’ll be really great for the fans, because I think they’ll have an opportunity to get more quality time with her, and in the end, that’s all people really want.  They don’t care about vendors tables.




Gary's actually driving the car in NOTLD's opening




Phil:  NOTLD has become a cultural phenomenon that has lasted more than 40 years.  As you prepare to meet fans this October, what are your reflections on the film now?


Paul McCartney was just on the Letterman show a couple of weeks ago.  And Letterman asked him some question like “How long before you came on The Ed Sullivan Show were you guys big?”  And Paul McCartney just stared at him with this blank stare and said, “Two days.”  He proceeded to say, ‘It’s kind of crazy, but the details of most of those years are a blur to me;  you get a much better answer to those kinds of questions from the fans.”  And I found that to be absolutely true.


I really want to meet them, the people who have given so much of their life to this film, and I guess I want to fulfill their expectations in whatever way I can.  My perceptions tell me that’s accessibility right now.  That’s the thing that the true hardcore fans want more than T-shirts or posters or vinyl stickers.  They just want to be able to meet and greet the people, and have access to the people who made the film.  Last year, there was a doctor who came up and introduced himself at the screening, who had his 12-year-old son with him, and he introduced his son.  And he said, “Thank you so much for putting this event on, because my son has never seen the movie, and now I can properly pass on the heritage, through this official screening.”  That near brings tears to your eyes.  Because it’s so real and so sincere.


I don’t profess to be anything more than the guy who recorded the sound for the film, and one of the original 10 investors, who now, through a quirky set of circumstances finds himself in the driver’s position to carve out the definitive NOTLD festival.  300 people came out to see this film on a freezing cold night in October in a park.  And all of them went away saying “thank you.”  When does that happen in America?

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Charles Craig- The Romero Retrospective (Text)



Ed. note- Another retro interview originally posted on Icons of Fright during the Living Dead festival promotion.  As with the Russell Streiner interview I posted tonight, they’re no longer available on Icons, so this is the place to find them.  Charles Craig may not be one of the big names from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but he plays an important role in the film, as his radio and TV reports narrate the action and inform the audience.  He was kind enough to spend some time discussing his background, and his role in the film.



Charles Craig, undead and reporting



Phil Fasso:  What was your role with Hardman Associates before you came to work on NOTLD?


Charles Craig:  I went to Hardman on staff as a writer and an actor.  I came to them out of WCKY Cincinatti, my previous radio job, where I had been doing radio and news primarily for many years.  My job at Hardman was to create radio commercials for the advertising agencies.  So that’s how I happened to be on premises.


PF:    How did you get involved with the film?


CC:  I was in my office one day, and Karl Hardman came in.  I knew there was a film underway, at least I was more or less aware of it.  And he came in and filled me in on the concept of the movie, and what was causing all the strange circumstances, premised by the movie.  And asked if I, as a newsman, could create what might be simulated news reports of the events going on.  That was right down my alley, so I changed the paper in my typewriter and went to work.


PF:  So you wrote those parts then.


CC:  Yes.




In the newsroom with Frank Doak




PF:  You play a radio broadcaster in the film, and later you show up on television newscasts.  How do you think the use of the news enhances the film?


CC:  My hope was that it would add a note of verisimilitude, a believability to the whole concept.  That was how I intended to present the news reports as they were coming into the news desk, to give it a sense of immediacy, a sense of, “Hey, this could really be happening.”


PF:    Not only did you play a broadcaster, but you also played a ghoul.  How did that come about?


I was on location out in Evans City, out in the farmhouse.  I went up initially out of curiosity.  Of course, the Hardman folks were up there too, so as long as I was there, I was not about to get out of there without getting into makeup.  So I did.


PF:    Did you prefer playing the broadcaster, or the voiceless ghoul?


The ghouls had very little to offer by way of voices.  So I think probably the most important contribution I made was as the newscaster.


PF:  Were you surprised by the success of NOTLD?


CC:  Well, yes, I was.  I had no idea of the audience response to this.  As a matter of fact, it was quite some time after it premiered in 1968 that I became aware of crowds were showing up for it.  And I thought, “Well, this took me by surprise.”  Very, very pleasantly.


PF:  You recently contributed to the documentary AUTOPSY OF THE DEAD.  How did it feel to take part in that?


CC:  That was a nostalgic trip for me, because I did my part of it in the former Hardman studios building, which has been totally remodeled since we were there.  But I can visualize the way it was when we were there, on Smithfield Street.  It was pleasant to be able to hearken back to those creative days.  I think where they filmed me, at one time, we were in what I could characterize as a rehearsal hall.  We were doing quite a lot of work in industrial films, live industrial shows.  And so we would rehearse music and our dance steps and our choreography and our moves in this rehearsal hall, which is now a series of partitioned offices.




Intrepid reporter, mic still in hand




PF:  You’ve recently hit the convention circuit with others from NOTLD, and you’ll be at the 2nd Annual Living Dead Festival this weekend.  What appeals to you about conventions?


CC:  Well, I think it’s marvelous!  I was not yet on the start of the convention circuit.  It became apparent to me by happenstance.  A friend of mine from New Jersey, Jim Cironella, let me know about it.  And I said, “Yes, I’d love to be part of that,” so I did, starting in the early part of last year.  It’s amazing to see the turnout of people who really, seriously enjoy the film, and to become aware of many of the things that viewers are reading into the story;  which, as I understand it, was never meant to convey any particular message.  I know George Romero has often said, “We didn’t set out to say that at all.”  But some people are reading into it some sociological implications.  And fine, that’s good.  It wasn’t meant to be that way.  It wasn’t put there for that purpose, but it turns out that’s probably one of the things that contributes to the life of the movie.


PF:  NOTLD has become a cultural phenomenon that has lasted more than 40 years.  As you prepare to meet fans at the LDF, what are your reflections on the film now?


CC:  As I say tongue-in-cheek, the movie is just like our ghouls;  it refuses to die.  It will go on, I think because it has definitely become a classic, and the timing of its release and its storyline was happenstance.  And happily so, because at that time, in 1968, the public was very much aware of space adventures.  The Russian Sputnik had been launched just a short time prior to that, and people were really interested in outer space, and what are these things bringing back to Earth.  So you had the premise of what’s causing our ghouls to come back to life.


PF:  And your voice will continue to be part of the legacy as the film goes on for many more generations to watch.


CC:  Well, thank you .  I am very, very fortunate to have been on the scene when the film was getting off the ground, and I just count my lucky stars that I was there to be able to work with this fine group of people.  Really not only good folks, but talented folks and they will always be cherished in my memory.

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Russell Streiner- The Romero Retrospective (Text)


Ed. note- After a brief hiatus, we’re back to our NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Retrospective, which started off as an Appreciation Week, but went far beyond seven days.  Picking it back up, here’s an interview I conducted with Russ Streiner, NOTLD’s producer and the actor who played Johnny.  This was a phone interview conducted as part of Icons of Fright’s promotion of the Living Dead Festival, and I apologize that I no longer have the audio, but it’s worth printing in text.  Enjoy.- P.F.


It’s safe to say that without the efforts of Russ Streiner, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD would have been a different film.  His onscreen presence as Johnny sets the tone for the film straight out, and his finesse as a producer helped to get the picture made and sold, and in turn, in front of audiences.  He’s also a genuinely nice guy, who was generous enough to spend some time on the phone with me for an interview.  During the course of our conversation, we discuss working with George Romero, his acting turn as Johnny, and casting Duane Jones.  He’s got some great perspective on the film, and was happy to share.



Johnny and Russ




Phil Fasso:  How did you first get involved with George Romero?

Russ Streiner:  I started off wanting to be an actor, which I pursued through high school.  And after high school, I went to the Pittsburgh Playhouse School of the Theatre, and graduated from their two-year acting program.  While I was there, I was working in stage shows at night, and at one of those, I was cast with another fellow.  His name was Rudy Ricci, and we shared a dressing room.  Rudy had been attending classes at Carnegie Mellon University  (back then it was called Carnegie Tech).  He was taking art classes there, and he met George Romero in an art class.  George was transplanted, from the Bronx to Pittsburgh, to go to Carnegie Tech’s School of Painting and Design. Rudy brought George over to one of our shows one night, and that’s how I first got to meet him.  Then, within maybe six or eight months, George called me and asked me if I would be willing to be an actor in a movie that he was putting together, called EXPOSTULATIONS.  And I told him I would.  I showed up for my very first day of production, and really became intrigued with the whole film production part of the business, which I knew nothing about.  I stuck with EXPOSTULATIONS as an actor, and then also helped out on the crew.  That’s how George and I first met.  And we went on to set up a business and worked together for about 10 years.


PF:  How did your experience in commercials and industrial films help you to put together a feature film?


RS:  Any time you get a chance to practice your craft, whether it’s in short form like TV commercials or longer form like industrials, all of that goes to help you refine your craft.  And that’s certainly how our whole group got helped out, all of which led up to 1967, when we did the actual filming of NOTLD.


PF:  What was the genesis of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?


RS:  Basically it started off when we first got together.  We always knew that we eventually wanted to do a feature film.  So during the early ‘60s, by doing TV commercials and industrial films and educational films, we were able to accumulate equipment—by the time NOTLD came around in 1967, we were actually a self-contained production unit; we had everything we needed: camera equipment, sound equipment, studio facilities, mixing equipment, editing equipment, lighting equipment.  Then all we needed was a script.  And in late ’66/early ’67, John Russo, who was working with us, and George Romero started to put together the beginnings of a script.  We all chipped in ideas.  John Russo took all of the good ideas and wove them into what became the shooting script.  And that’s how it got started.




Johnny and the famous gloves




PF:  What things did you bring to your role of Johnny?


RS:  Well, first of all, my body.  Secondly, I got the part of Johnny almost by default.  We had put together all of our pre-production efforts.  We had most of our casting done, but we didn’t have Johnny.  And the cemetery scene, coincidentally, was the very first scene we filmed, and we didn’t get finished with all of the filming that first day, so we had to relegate it to a second day of filming.  As it turned out, it was also the very last day of filming we had, so it was kind of an unusual circumstance.  But when it came to the first day of shooting, we still didn’t have a Johnny.  And the group said, “Well why don’t you just do Johnny?”  And so that’s how I got it.  So I’d like to say that it was some tough auditioning competition, but it was nothing like that.  I just happened to be around, had dark, horn rimmed glasses, and got the part.  I also had my background as an actor.  The fact that I was also a producer of the picture didn’t hurt my chances of getting to play “Johnny,” it was another actor that I didn’t have to pay because I was also an investor in the project.


When I got the part, I decided that I wanted to give him a couple of unique characteristics.  One of the things was how he taunted and tormented Barbra.  I wanted to make sure that he was always on the edge with Barbra, complaining about the time of day and how early they had to get up, one thing after another.  And one of the wardrobe elements, of course, were the driving gloves.  I wanted to make a big deal out of the driving gloves, which was my idea, because I knew when Johnny came back at the end of the film, I wanted to give him some sort of wardrobe signature that the audience would instantly know that it was him.  It would be nighttime, his glasses were gone, he would be surrounded by these other dead things.  So I wanted to give him a really instantaneously signature, and that turned out to be the driving gloves.  And it was a device that really worked.


PF:  Johnny seems like a very annoyed character.  What’s your view of him?


RS:  Well, I think underneath it typifies the kind of sibling relationship that a lot of brothers and sisters have.  Brothers especially get into taunting and tormenting their younger sisters.  And I think that comes through to the fans, and a lot of people comment on it, “Oh, that’s how my brother used to treat me,” and so forth.  So I wanted to keep it realistic on that level.  That plus the fact that we as actors knew what was coming, we knew that this was going to be the very first onset of the living dead things, and I just wanted to set the stage for the gloomy things to come.



Johnny and Barbra, a disgruntled family unit





PF:  A great part of the subtext of NOTLD is about family.  Johnny and Barbra don’t get along, and the Coopers argue as their daughter is dying.  Family was also behind the camera for you.  How was it working with your brother Gary and your mother?


RS:  Well, obviously, it was a very good experience for all of us.  My brother Gary worked with George Romero and myself since he was in high school.  When we filmed NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Gary was 21.  So he had been working with us for a few years and was pretty good at any number of tasks.  On NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in particular, he did an awful lot of the location audio work, and then ultimately the sound mixing work.


And as far as my mother, you have to understand, the way we were “constructed” at that time.  The company that George and I started was called the Latent Image.  And everybody’s family—George’s family, my family- became an extension of the Latent Image.  So when it came to filming NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, we recruited my mother, my aunt Norma and several other family members to be zombies and so forth.  And my mother provided one of the key props for the cemetery sequence, her car.  So all around, it was pretty much of a family effort.  Gary was also one of the 10 original investors in IMAGE TEN, INC. the company that owns NIGHT.  My mother was also one of the investors who put up money to help get the picture finished.


PF:  And of course there was the fortuitous car crash that George worked into the film.


RS:  Well it wasn’t so much fortuitous for my mother.  As I said earlier, the cemetery sequence was the first scene that we filmed, and it was also the last scene.  Now, we filmed NOTLD in 30 days, but we had a break in the middle so we could go back and do regular commercial work that was keeping groceries on the table.  But from the time we filmed the opening scene until we got around to the time we finished the closing scene, my mother was driving her car back and forth to work, and someone crashed into her car.  And I said, “Don’t get it fixed, because we need a way to stop the car when Judith O’Dea releases the handbrake in the cemetery to get away from Bill Hinzman (the film’s cemetery ghoul), and we’ll do something with it, we’ll crash it against a tree or something like that,” and that’s what we ended up doing.  We filmed it in a way to make it look as though the car actually crashed into the tree.  So we were very resourceful.  We had to take all the negatives and turn them to positives somehow.


PF:  What was George Romero like as a director?


RS:  Working with George was always a good experience.  But understand, we had a business that we started in 1961, when we incorporated it.  So George and I had been living together, literally like brothers, sharing apartments, sharing literally everything.  We were as close or closer than brothers for quite a few years heading up to NOTLD.  And it was always great working with him.  And I hope he feels the same way about working with me.


PF:  Casting a black man in the lead was a bold move, whether intentional or not.  What statement do you think it made, having Duane Jones in the lead?


RS:  Well, it became more of a statement than we had originally intended.  Quite simply, Duane Jones was the best person to audition for the part of Ben.  Up until we met Duane, our friend that I mentioned earlier, Rudy Ricci, was supposed to play the character of Ben.  The character was originally supposed to be a rough truck driver.  A mutual friend of George’s and mine was a woman by the name of Betty Ellen Haughey.  She grew up in Pittsburgh, but at that time she was living in New York, and she knew of Duane Jones. He’d started off in a suburb just outside of Pittsburgh, yet he was off in New York making a living as a teacher and an actor.  And she said to us, when NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was really developing in pre-production and building steam, “You should really meet this friend of mine from New York, his name is Duane Jones.”  Duane happened to be in Pittsburgh visiting his family for one of the holidays, and we auditioned him.  And immediately, everyone including Rudy Ricci said, “Hey, this is the guy that should be Ben.”


So that’s how we cast him, and we knew that there would be probably a bit of controversy, just from the fact that an African American man and a white woman are holed up in a farmhouse, being attacked by these living dead things outside, and they don’t really know what it’s all about.  So we thought there might be some element of controversy, but that it was worth going through that controversy to have Duane Jones as the lead.


PF:  When did you realize that Night had become a classic?  And how did that feel?


RS:  Well, we knew almost right away that it was going to be a popular film.  Classic is something that developed over the years.  We set out to make the best, scariest movie we could, with the relatively small amount of money that we had.  The fans made it a classic.  And of course, any time that happens to any type of work, it is incredibly flattering.



Johnny returns for a family reunion




PF:  One of the notorious issues with NIGHT is the copyright issue.  You’re still fighting to get the copyright restored.  Do you think this will ever be resolved?


RS:  I hope it will be.  But it is an issue.  The copyright was wrongfully taken from us in the first place by the Copyright Office.  And so it’s a battle that won’t end, and is going on to this day.  We never, ever, ever intended for that picture to be offered up into the public domain.  And this dispute has been going on with the Copyright Office ever since.  Curiously, since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, they’ve changed the copyright laws so the same kind of thing could not happen to a picture today.  So that’s the underpinning as to why we believe that our position is ultimately right.  And we just have to keep pursuing it, because it is rightfully our property, and there’s no other argument to be made.  It’s our property.


PF:  You’ve continued to work for several years both behind and in front of the camera with John Russo.  What draws you to working with him?

RS:  John Russo and I have a long work history together.  Although there were several years when we did not work together because we were doing different kinds of projects and had different goals.  Over the last several years however we have worked closely on any number of projects including one project we are most proud of and that is the John Russo Movie Making Program at DuBois Business College in DuBois, PA.  We are co-directors of that program and if I do say so myself, this is one of the most unique and best filmmaking programs anywhere.  This is a true hands-on filmmaking and master mentoring film program.  John and I and our senior instructor, Ephraim Stockwell, work side-by-side with our students.  We share our years of filmmaking experience with them to hopefully make them into mature filmmakers more quickly.  “Song of the Dead,” a 20 minute film, which will have its premier screening next Saturday night at the Evans City Living Dead Festival, is a film example of how John and I lead our filmmaking students through the various steps of actually making a movie.


Another project John Russo and I are working on is ESCAPE OF THE LIVING DEAD.  This promises to be a film that stays true to the roots of what makes a good zombie film- GOOD!  We will be able to say more about this project in the next month.



PF:  You make many appearances at conventions.  What appeals to you about the convention circuit?


RS:  The key thing would have to be coming face-to-face with fans, and understanding that this is a property that is now 41 years old, and it is quite phenomenal.  It doesn’t happen to a whole lot of movies that 41 years after the fact, the fans are showing up, they still want to meet you, still want to shake your hand, get an autograph.  And that is most flattering.  I can’t say that I understand it, but I certainly do appreciate it.


PF:  Your appearing at your brother Gary’s Living Dead Festival next week.  What are you looking forward to with that?


RS:  Well, it’s the same kind of thing, except the Evans City Living Dead Festival has a separate, special ingredient in that Evans City is the hometown of NIGHT OF THE LVIVING DEAD.  Practically all of the film was filmed in and around Evans City.  (The only exceptions were all of the basements scenes in the film; they were filmed in the basement of our office building in downtown Pittsburgh.  And then we’d set off one weekend to go to Washington, D.C. to shoot the sequence with the reporters and scientists and so forth). Aside from that, everything else was filmed in Evans City.  So Evans City is truly the hometown of NOTLD.


PF:  NOTLD has become a cultural phenomenon that has lasted more than 40 years.  As you prepare to meet fans at the LDF, what are your reflections on the film now?


RS:  Well, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has taken on a life of its own, so to speak.  How that happened is, new audiences are constantly being introduced to it.  And that has perpetuated this film, and apparently, enough people think it’s a good picture, they find different things they like about it.  But this common creative effort that we all put together as a team, people are still sensing that there’s something good and valuable in the story itself.  And so, coming up to the 2nd Annual Living Dead Festival in Evans City is another opportunity to meet fans.  But these fans are even a little more special, because they make the trek in from wherever they are into Evans City to celebrate the film where it was made.  And that’s a really good feeling for any creative endeavor.


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A Call to Writers: Death Ensemble Seeks New Staffers




Four years ago, I walked into Hot Topic to buy a Slayer shirt and my life changed.  It turns out Mike Cucinotta was the store’s manager and, aside from that, the founder of Icons of Fright, a popular horror website.  Striking up a conversation with him, I asked if I could write a convention report for the upcoming Monster Bash.  The moment he said yes changed my life.  A few months later, Mike emailed me and asked me to be Icons of Fright’s main DVD reviewer.  For three years, I wrote for Icons, and served as the site’s editor-in-chief for the last year and a half of that stint.  The opportunities kept coming, all because I wrote one piece.


And now the opportunities are here for you.


Death Ensemble is looking to expand our staff.  We’d like to get some fresh new voices involved, with interesting perspectives about the genre we all love so much.  This is an opportunity for talented writers to become staffers for a popular website.  Though we can’t pay, there’s the prospect to be read by thousands of fans worldwide, and this could of course lead to other things down the line.



If you’re interested, please send a writing sample to [email protected].  We’ll read every email we get, and respond to those we deem the best.  You can write a review of your favorite horror movie or book, your take on a horror convention, a piece about some aspect of the genre that’s important to you, or anything that excites you about horror.  If you consider yourself a talented writer who would like a chance at being published on a popular website, this is for you.



My work at Icons of Fright has translated to the Death Ensemble, and four years of writing has contributed to the site’s success.  I’ve gotten to cover conventions all over the country, rode a mechanical bull in Texas, and interviewed the stars of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, all because of my writing.  There’s no pay in this position, but if this sounds like it interests you, send us a sample.  We’re waiting for you to join in the ensemble.




Death Ensemble Editor-in-Chief, Phil Fasso


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Face the Slayer- Who We’ve Met


I’ve been attending conventions since April 2004, and in that time, I’ve met a lot of celebrities, most of whom I was fortunate enough to sit next to for a photo.  I’ve also made friends with a number of other fans, some of whom have kindly contributed their photos, and even their own convention reports.  Though we’re usually locked away and kept restrained, when we get out it’s time for the celebs to face the slayer.  Now it’s your opportunity to get a look at who we’ve met.


So join us on the trail of dismembered destiny, and come back frequently, as we’re always meeting new people at cons, and this page is constantly under destruction.



Death Ensemble Editor-in-Chief, Big Evil Phil Fasso



Bruce Abbott


Me and Dr. Dan himself, Bruce Abbott


I met Bruce a few year back at a Chiller show.  I felt bad for him, because he was stuck in that one corner where other celebs’ lines block off fans from even knowing a guest is there.  He’s a very nice guy, with interesting stories, and was kind enough to let me interview him at Monster-Mania. He signed my RE-ANIMATOR 8×10 with a glowing green marker.


Terry Alexander


They're being punished by the Creator



This is one cool guy.  He smiled when I asked him to write, “Phil, You’re being punished by the creator.”  Another great grab from the Romero universe.



John Amplas


Me and Amplas at MM



What can I say that I haven’t already said during John Amplas Week?  John Amplas is a great guy, a teacher and an underrated actor who’s always kind to his fans.  I’ve met him several times, and look forward to seeing him again soon.



Charles Band


Chadworth and Full Moon founder Charles Band



In 2009, I had the thrill of attending the Full Moon Road Show in Silver Spring, MD (right outside Washington, DC) hosted by, Charles Band. It was a blast and a half. I even got to participate in the “Boobie Monster” and fried in an electric chair! Afterwards Charles stayed around and signed everything his fans had, including my program and a lot of VHS covers. We also discussed my love for ROBOT JOX and PIT AND THE PENDULUM. Charles is definitely one of the all time best, and I later got to meet him in 2010 at Monster-Mania.- Chadworth


Michelle Bauer


Goddamn Michelle Bauer is sexy!



20 years ago, I saw HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS for the first time.  Michelle Bauer instantly became my favorite scream queen.  All these years later, I got the chance to meet her at the Chiller October 2011 show, and she’s sexy as ever.  And she spends a lot of time with her fans.



Linda Blair


Me and Linda Blair



I’m not an EXORCIST fan.  But I’m a huge fan of Linda Blair’s work, in that film and others.  I’ve heard Linda can be difficult, but she was good to me at the October ’05 Chiller.  The real story, though, I owe to X.  A few cons later, when we were waiting on her line, two guys in front of us were ready to break out into a fistfight.  Linda stepped out from behind her table and defused the situation before it erupted into a donnybrook.  Pazuzu couldn’t have done it better than the pint sized Blair.



Chilly Billy Cardille


Me and Chilly Billy Cardille



I’ve only seen Chilly Billy of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD a few times, and two of them were in the Pittsburgh area.  I passed on him at the Chiller where I met George Romero for the first time, but met him at the Monster Bash ’07.  The next year at that same con, I got him to sign my NOTLD banner.  A very kind guy who appreciates his place in the Romero universe.  His daughter Lori made up the 8×10 I purchased from him.



Lori Cardille


A nice DAY with Lori Cardille



When I first started attending conventions, I wasn’t a big DAY OF THE DEAD fan.  The film’s stars were making frequent appearances, but I passed on Lori Cardille every time.  When I took interest in the film, she went off the trail.  I’m grateful she’s doing shows again, as I finally met her at the Chiller April 2011 convention, and subsequently interviewed her.  She’s incredibly nice, and has a great spread of photos on her table.



Al Cliver


Fasso and Fulci favorite Al Cliver



Al Cliver is my favorite actor from the Fulci canon.  I loved every time I would watch one of the director’s flicks, and Cliver would pop up.  He’s great in all those films, and even better in person.  Happy to meet his fans, he’s a joy.


Jeffrey Combs


Fasso and Herbert West himself, Jeffrey Combs



Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West, one of horror’s iconic characters.  He’s a great actor, and a nice guy to meet.  I’ve met him 3 times, each with different 8x10s from the RE-ANIMATOR movies, and he wrote an awesome line from the flicks on each.



Don Coscarelli


Don Coscarelli likes that I think he directs European art films



I met Don Coscarelli not long after I reviewed PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION for Icons of Fright.  He was very flattered when I told him the PHANTASM flicks were more European art films than American horror.  A genuinely nice guy, and a rare find on the circuit.



Charles Craig


Me and Charles Craig



Charles Craig’s voice provides much of the information about the outbreak of the undead in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  He also shows up on the television in the farmhouse in much the same role.  I had a chance to interview him in promotion for the Living Dead Festival, and he shared some interesting anecdotes.  I’ve met him a few times, and he’s always got his prop microphone on hand, as you’ll see in the picture above.



Sybil Danning


Sexy Sybil Danning, happy Phil Fasso



It took one cancelled appearance and a few years before I met Sybil Danning, but I finally got my chance.  And I get her autograph every time I attend a con she’s at.  I’ve got 8×10′s from a bunch of  films, and she writes some new sexy thing on every one.



Joe Dante


For 4 years, my top get, Joe Dante




For four years, Joe Dante was my most sought after celeb.  Dee Wallace spoke highly of him, and THE HOWLING is one of my favorite horror flicks.  At HorrorHound Indy in August ’08, I finally got my chance to meet him, and he lived up to my every expectation.  And Dee introduced us.  I can’t beat that.



Griffin Dunne


Griffin Dunne warns, "Beware the deer, X"



Griffin Dunne was the highlight of X’s trip to Monroeville, PA for the HorrorHound show, which was unfortunately ruined by the deer accident.  Hitting a large woodland creature will sour any trip, but I hope Dunne made it at least a little better for X.  This was Dunne’s only convention appearance, but X has carried on to other shows.



David Early and David Crawford


Fasso flocked by Early and Crawford



I met David Early and David Crawford at a Chiller show during a down period.  Though I was burnt out on the convention circuit, I acknowledge these two were great guys who took their parts in the Romero universe seriously.  More recently, I got to watch them perform their debate live at the Saturday Nightmares 2011 show, and it was impressive.  I complimented them at their table, where they told me it was their first time doing it since they filmed it.  Crawford was getting some guff from fans for forgetting a line, but for me, it couldn’t have been better, or more surreal.



Erin Gray and Gil Gerard


Wilma Dearing and Buck Rogers



I met Erin Gray at a Horrorfind a few years before I met Gil Gerard at Super Mega Show in NJ.  Gray was very pleasant, and Gerard was a nice enough guy, but he didn’t have proper change.  I said he could keep it if I could pose with him and Gray, who charges a nominal fee for a picture that goes to a charity.  They both agreed, and I was happy.  Not so happy when I went back a few months ago and watched most of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY on Netflix Instant.  Some things are better left to childhood memories…


Linda Hamilton


X and Linda Hamilton, post- lip lock



Linda Hamilton made out with every guy on line in front of us.  Honest to God.  X got his lip lock in turn.  Notice his smile.  Fortunately, he didn’t get a cold sore a few days later.



Gunnar Hansen


Me and Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen



Gunnar Hansen played Leatherface in the very first TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.  This gives him the honor of being the alpha movie maniac, over Freddy, Jason and even Michael Myers.  He’s also a good guy to meet. He sells these neat blinking chainsaw pins, but sadly has no HOLLYWOOD CHANINSAW HOOKERS pics on his table.  And he signs, “You’re next!” inducting you into his number of victims.



Bill Hinzman


Bill Hinzman Is Coming to Get You, Phil!



I passed on Bill Hinzman for a number of cons before I finally got him at a Chiller show.  Given I just did a whole retrospective on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, that surprises me.  I met him at a Chiller a few years into attending cons, but I was only really inspired when I saw someone else’s picture with him online in black-and-white.  He was in full Cemetery Ghoul garb at the Monster Bash in Pittsburgh, PA, where we posed for this awesome shot.  Bill brings along copies of his play version of NOTLD, and FLESH EATER for sale at his table.  Buy them to see how much mileage he gets out of his iconic role.



William Katt


Me and Greatest American Hero William Katt



Meeting Michael Pare at Chiller recently made me question why he didn’t have any Greatest American Hero pics on his table.  It also reminded me that I’d met the show’s star, William Katt, a few years ago at the awful New York Comic-Con.  Katt was discussing a script for a comic (don’t ask me) based on the show, and so I came back later.  Though a little unkempt, he was a nice guy.  NOTE: I also met Robert Culp at this show, shortly before he died.  Culp was charging for a pic, and so I have none with him.


Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team


The Troma Team greets the Generalissimo and Fasso



I’d seen Lloyd at a ton of cons- he’s always on the road promoting Troma- but never had any real reason to meet him.  That is, until he inspired me to write a zombie comedy that could very well be the fourth CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH flick.  By dint of fate, he was appearing at Monster-Mania just a few weeks after X and I completed DEADTENTION.  It sucks for X that he wasn’t there to see me put the script in Lloyd’s hands, but that’s not my problem.  I was giddy on account that it’s not every day I get to hand a script to the president of a studio.  As for Lloyd’s hands, notice they’re pointing directly at Nicole’s huge chest, which Lloyd spent more time eyeing than my script.


Together Again



A few weeks later, X and I met Lloyd at the Strand Bookstore, in NYC.  As he signed my copy of Direct Your Own Damn Movie, he told us how much he loved the script, but didn’t have a dime to make it.  That hasn’t discouraged us yet, and Lloyd’s still willing to play Principal Clark.


Horrified by my clean shave!



Our time with Lloyd wasn’t over yet.  In August 2010, I won a low budget lunch with Lloyd.  I brought cheese sandwiches with us, as I was sure Lloyd would make us pay for lunch.  But to my surprise, Lloyd took us to a nice diner around the corner from the Troma studios.  I hate to bust Kaufman’s cover, but he didn’t live up to his reputation as a cheapo at all.  X and I had a blast, and it was a day I’ll always remember.  Especially since it was a horrifying, rare clean shave day for me.



Charlotte Kemp


X with Lorinz, Charlotte Kemp dressed like an Oscar



See X’s huge smile?  That’s because:  he’s in a picture with James Lorinz, standing next to the beautiful Charlotte Kemp, and she’s dressed like an Oscar.



Zora Kerowa


Me and Zora Kerowa



Zora Kerowa was born for one specific purpose in life: to die violently in Lucio Fulci movies.  She was great to meet, though she spoke broken English.  I applaud her choice of loud tie.


Kathleen Kinmont


Me and the beautiful Kathleen Kinmont



All I have to say is this:  I don’t show the women I date this photo.  Any woman interested in me doesn’t like this pic.  Which makes me love my meeting Kathleen Kinmont even more!



Kristina Klebe


Klebe and Fasso Reign in Blood!



I met Kristina Klebe twice, which is a shock, considering how much I despise Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN movies.  First at TFW, where she was seated with Danielle Harris and Scout Taylor Compton, and they signed a mockup of the three girls on the steps from Carpenter’s version.  Then at Monster-Mania.  I was actually on line with Nicole and Jonathan Yuhas, who was waiting to get a poster signed.  I noticed she was missing an 8×10 of her and Slayer guitarist Kerry King that I’d seen in Texas.  She had one last copy tucked away, and explained to me he was on set to present the special Reign in Blood shirt he’d designed for her.  Klebe rocks, and she’s a solid up-and-comer, even if Rob Zombie is a hack.



John Landis


ADD kid John Landis and X



John Landis has a serious case of ADD.  He’s hyper and it’s impossible to pin him down to a point.  X and I had met him back at the Chiller Oct ’05 con, as part of the MASTERS OF HORROR contingent.  He was part of the draw with the AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON contingent at the fateful HorrorHound Pittsburgh show that involved us hitting a deer.  He signed X’s AWIL artwork.  This picture catches them both in good spirits.


James Lorinz

X and madman James Lorinz



X is in love with Frank Henenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER, so it was a true joy for him to meet its star, James Lorinz.  Lorinz is a comic madman, always on point, and outright hilarious to meet.  He and X recently spent time together at the Cinema Wasteland con discussing DEADTENTION, in which Lorinz wants a lead role.  This shot is from their first meeting, at Chiller some years back.




Kevin McCarthy


Fasso and the handsome Kevin McCarthy



Dashing and handsome even in his 90s, Kevin McCarthy was the main reason I went to that very first show.  My first inductee into the Hell of Fame, Kevin will always be my favorite guest meet.  There are a handful of celebs I meet every time I see them, and Kevin tops that list.  I hope he’s in Heaven, and doesn’t have to outrun pod people in the afterlife.



Catriona MacColl


Me and Catriona MacColl



Catriona MacColl is a classy lady.  Still very beautiful, and absolutely elegant.  I met her first at a Chiller show, and she was the highlight of the con.  Through my connection with Mike Baronas, I interviewed her at the Rock and Shock ’09 show, and she gave me my best interview to date.  One moment sums up just what a lady she is:  When we sat down for the interview in the green room, she offered to get me coffee.  I told you she was classy.



Ian McCulloch


Fasso and ZOMBIE star Ian McCulloch


I’m not a huge fan of Italian zombies (I fall squarely in the Romero camp), but Ian McCulloch is the lead in a movie where a zombie fights a shark.  I enjoy that.  I was fortunate to interview Ian through email a few months before I met him, thanks to my friend Mike Baronas.  If you love Fulci, meeting Ian is a no-brainer.



Derek Mears


Me and a very appreciative Derek Mears



I have never seen a guest as hyped about meeting fans as Derek Mears.  Just about a month after the release of the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, he was flying high at Monster-Mania, appreciative to the hilt that people would be so interested in meeting him.  I met him on Sunday morning, when he was so tired he started to write F13 stuff on the HILLS HAVE EYES 2 8×10 I’d chosen.  He then scribbled, “I’m an idiot,” before starting fresh on a new pic.  A testament to just how great a guy Derek is:  he posed for pics at the bar with any fan who stopped him that Saturday night, and didn’t charge a penny.



Dick Miller

Dick Miller, Walter Paisley himself



Dick Miller is an old pro from the Roger Corman school, and Joe Dante’s good luck charm.  He appears in THE HOWLING, and that was reason enough for me to meet him.  He’s a little pricey, but a nice guy.  And he’s got one killer beard in this pic.



Bill Moseley


Me and Bill Moseley



Bill Moseley is easier to find at a convention than a Big Gulp at 7-11.  He does scores of shows, and is a popular draw.  He’s also a cool guy, if a little offbeat.  I met him twice.  The first time, I bought a Chop Top 8×10, and had him sign the “Lick my plate” line.  The second time was much more recently, where I bought a NOTLD 90 pic of him as Johnny just so X and I could try to get him a script for DEADTENTION.  A good union man, he wouldn’t accept it.  That’s cool.  He probably couldn’t fit filming into his con schedule anyway.


Caroline Munro


Finally a pic of me and Caroline Munro



Caroline Munro was one of three guests I met at that first Chiller.  I was starstruck the first time, especially when we talked about MANIAC, and her work with Joe Spinell.  Back then I didn’t yet have a digital camera.  So I was thrilled to meet her at my most recent con, have her sign a MANIAC piece already signed by Savini and William Lustig, and get that picture with the still beautiful star.



David Naughton


Phil howls at David Naughton



Okay, I admit it.  I zinged David Naughton.  He’d skipped out or left early on a few cons in a row when I was going to meet him.  So I decided to wear one of my many HOWLING shirts, which he instantly made note of.  I also chose an 8×10 off his table that’s not actually of him, but a Rick Baker special effect.  David was in good spirits about the whole thing, as the photo shows.  We’ve met him since, and he’s a nice guy.



Judith O’Dea


Phil and Judith O'Dea defend Barbra



I met Judith O’Dea seconds after my first awesome meet with George Romero.  She’s an eloquent lady, and was thrilled at how geeked-out I am over NOTLD.  She signed the 8×10 I’d gotten from Russ Streiner at Horrorfind and had just gotten Romero to sign.


We met again at TFW ’08, where I had her sign my poster.  We had a lively discussion in defense of Barbra, which inspired my recent Piece By Piece article.  I hope to see Judith again, as I’d love to interview her and get her to sign more stuff.  A must-get for any NOTLD fan.



George Romero


Phil and George Romero, a god


I’m a disciple of George Romero.  It’s not often in life that I get to meet someone who’s a legend.  I’ve met him several times, and I still get giddy like a schoolgirl every time.  For a while in ’04/’05, he was cancelling out on conventions right and left, but at Chiller’s October ’05 show, he was there, and provided my greatest convention story.


Phil and Romero at TFW


X and I hop on line as soon as we got to the con, and there are maybe only 15 people in front of us.  We still wait about an hour, because Romero is spending plenty of time with each fan.  We’re down to one guy in front of us, when some autograph seller comes over and cuts the line.  He’s got a deal worked out with Romero’s agent Chris Roe, so George agrees to sign some stuff.  The whole line starts to groan.  This seller pulls out a book with about 1,000 photos in it.  Romero starts to sign, and this guy has Post Its all over the 8×10′s.  He wants Romero to sign some of these pics in 4 different spots, in specific marker colors.  People on line are getting vocal with their annoyance.  Romero then says, ” Look, this is gonna have to wait.  We can do this after the show tonight, in my room.  I’m here to meet the fans, and signs things for them, not you.”  The guy pushes the book of pics toward Romero, who barks:  ”If you don’t get that book out of my face I’m going to get up and shove it up your ass!”  The line erupts into wild applause.  With that one gesture, I acknowledge that Romero is a god.



Kyra Schon


Fasso and Kyra Schon



I’d passed on Kyra at a few earlier conventions, but she was one of the reasons I made my inaugural trip to Pittsburgh, so I could meet her at the Monster Bash ’07.  She was really cool, and wrote “I hurt” on one of the two 8×10′s I bought from her.  A must get for any NOTLD fan.



Tracy Scoggins


Phil and Tracy Scoggins



Another beauty who’s held onto her looks.  I met Tracy at the I-Con at my alma mater, SUNY Stony Brook.  She had an assortment of cheesecake shots, which is probably why I can’t remember if she had any DEMONIC TOYS pics.  I got one of her on a sandy beach.  Pretty hot.



Harvey Stephens


The Anti-Christ and Fasso finally meet



My favorite horror flick has always been THE OMEN.  Meeting the Anti-Christ himself was the main reason I went to the TFW in Dallas.  Harvey was an absolute flirt with Kristina Klebe, and signed “666″ within the “D” in “Damien” for me.  But not for X, because he didn’t make the trip.  I hail Satan even more.


Thumbs up from a demonic kid


Harvey was kind enough to be my first interview, which I wrote out in text for Icons of Fright, and I thank him kindly.



Amy Steel


F13 Part 2's Amy Steel


Amy Steel is the “final girl” in my favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH film, PART 2.  Though I don’t dig the Jason flicks nearly as much as I did in my teenage years, this entry is the best, and Amy was great in it.  She’s even better in person, and if you love Vorhees, you’ll want to meet her.


Gary Streiner


Gary Streiner with Phil and his NOTLD banner



My gig as an internet horror writer has privileged me with the opportunity to support some causes over the years, one of which was the second Living Dead Festival, in Evans City, PA.  I met Gary Streiner at Chiller, when he was promoting the con.  He wasn’t in the same room with the rest of the NOTLD people, so when X and I asked his brother Russ where he was, Russ called his cell and found out for us.


Gary is more than just a convention guest to me;  he’s a friend.  The Streiners are a great family, not a bad apple in the bunch, and Gary is an extraordinary human.  His invite to the LDF provided my first visit to Evans City, where NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was filmed, and he got every guest at the show who I hadn’t already met to sign my banner, which I’m holding in the picture above.  I thank Gary for being my friend.



Russell Streiner


My first meeting with Russ Streiner



Russ Streiner was the very first NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD celebrity I ever met.  I thought it was the coolest thing at the Horrorfind Weekend in 2005 when he wrote “They’re coming to get you, Phil!” on the 8×10 he’s holding, which is my favorite of all my 8x10s.  It was even more awesome when Judith O’Dea signed the same pic and wrote, “They got you, Phil!”


Russ and I at the LDF


I interviewed Russ over the phone to promote the Living Dead Festival, and he was very happy to see me at the con.  When I told him the story about how he and Judith signed, he kindly offered me a complimentary 8×10.  This time, he wrote: “They’re still after you, Phil!”


Posing with the Streiners, one classy family


Russ’ kindest act of all came at Saturday Nightmares 2010.  When Russ read on Icons of Fright about my mom’s NOTLD story, he offered to toast in her honor.  He, Gary and I raised Diet Cokes in Mom’s memory, and this was the most meaningful thing that’s ever happened to me at a convention.  I love the Streiners, and with good reason.



Kiefer Sutherland


Chadworth encounters very lost boy Kiefer Sutherland



In 2011, I ventured from MD into the Big Apple to meet one of my all time favorite villains. None other than Kiefer Sutherland, David from THE LOST BOYS. It was gamble whether or not the crew and I would get him. Street meets usually are, but it worked out. He crossed the corner and my heart started to skip a beat. He said 1 item only, and signed my photo already signed by Brooke McCarter and Billy Wirth (later completed by Alex Winter). We took a photo and I told him I made the trip just for him, he shook my hand and said “Cheers mate, thank you!”. Definitely a moment I’ll never forget.- Chadworth


Mark “Beef Treats” Tierno


Me and Beef Treats



While X was off being interviewed for some reality show by a guy he graduated college with, I was in my glory meeting yet another Romero alumnus, Mark “Beef Treats” Tierno.  He signed my 8×10 “Nice hat, asshole!”  He also took a DEADTENTION script from X and me, which he was extremely apologetic for not having finished when we met him again at Saturday Nightmares 2011.  I forgive him.



Tom Towles


Towles and Fasso, two handsome bald men



Me:  Tom, don’t take this the wrong way, but you did a great job (in NOTLD 90) of playing a prick.

Tom:  Actually, that’s the highest praise you could give me.  When you play the villain in a movie, you want people to hate you.  Thank you, Phil.

Now that’s a real man.



Dee Wallace


The lovely Dee Wallace



It was hard for me to choose which pic for Dee, as she’s one of the few celebs on the “meet every time” list.  She’s not on the list just because she’s in so many movies I love, though that’s true.  It’s because she’s one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.



Fred “The Hammer” Williamson


Fasso and Hammer




Hammer was one of those people I always wanted to meet, given my love of blaxploitation.  But for a time, he was with an agent who was overcharging, and wanted money for a photo.  Then I went to meet Richard Roundtree and found out what real gouging was.  Fortunately, at that same Chiller, Hammer was charging $20 for an 8×10 and nothing for the picture.  I’m now even a bigger fan of Fred “The Appropriately Priced Hammer” Williamson.  He’s a fun guy to chat with, and what you see is what you get.


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Full Maniac Chainsaw Moon II over Parsippany


Chiller Theatre, Parsippany, NJ

October 28, 2011 at the  Hilton Parsippany




Years ago, I convinced X that we should go to Chiller on a Friday night.  My rationale was that people would just be getting off work by the time the show started, and the crowd would probably be light.  This particular show would be my first time meeting George Romero, and I envisioned waiting 4-6 hours on line if we went on Saturday, or even Sunday.  X was leery about guests not showing up because of late flights and the like, but I convinced him to give it a shot.  It turned out to be the greatest decision I ever made regarding attending conventions.  So when at all possible, I go on Friday.  This Chiller was much the same, but an anomaly in a number of others.  It would be my first Chiller without X, and it carried a vibe I’d never felt at any past Chiller.  All in all it was a very good show, but it still leaves an odd taste in my mouth.


A week prior on the phone with X, I casually mentioned our upcoming trip.  He had not only totally forgotten, but had made other arrangements.  Over the next few days, he tried to clear things out; but in the end, Halloween weekend parties took priority over a show where X said, “I’m only going for one guest, and let’s face it, it’s Reb Brown.”  This left me in a bind.  I would have to take my Rav 4, vintage 1996 with 276 billion miles on it.  And though I’d started working two jobs, the two months between my last (crummy) job and these left me broke.  Briefly, I actually considered not going.  But I’ve got a proud streak of making every Chiller since April ’04, and I really wanted to meet Michelle Bauer.  Plus, I had scheduled interviews, and I don’t like cancelling appointments when people are kind enough to dedicate their time and efforts to Death Ensemble.  I would find a way to make the show.  There was no way in Hell I was going to miss it.


Things took a good turn the last few days leading up to the show.  A windfall of money came my way from three different places, and a lot more than I had expected.  A quick oil change where the attendant told me my truck was running better than it had any right to, and I was on my way.  The trip wasn’t even so bad, as the usual 67 hour delay on the Cross Bronx Expressway was much shorter.  I arrived to the hotel a little bit past 4 pm, and my hopes of getting a free bracelet through back channels failed, but given how well everything else went, I didn’t mind a bit.


While other people stood on line out in the cold, waiting to buy regular entry tickets for the night, I sat on a padded bench inside and watched the crowd.  One observation:  it’s definitely not worth it to spend extra money on early entry passes.  The problem is, too many of the guests don’t respect that the fans laid down their hard earned cash to meet them before the throngs head in, and so they don’t arrive at their tables until the regular starting time.  This is an insult on their part, and a rip off on the show’s, and I’ll never pay for early entry again.


An hour later, as I walked outside, who do I see walking in, but special effects makeup man Tom Savini.  I’ll get back to him later.  Plunking down my money, I got my bracelet and was on my way.  Figuring out the layout at Chiller is always Step 1 since the show moved to Parsippany.  First, I found my way toward the cluster of rooms off the side, where I hooked a right and discovered Michelle Bauer and Caroline Munro in the same room.  I’d met Munro back at my very first Chiller, and didn’t have a digital camera at the time.  So it was high time I got a picture with her, and have her sign my MANIAC piece already signed by William Lustig, Savini and two of the cast members.  I have no idea why I was so tentative at the start of this show.  I was exhausted from all the hours of work and the trip, but I think it was the lack of X’s company.  After several minutes of hovering around, I decided it was time to start getting autographs.




Finally a pic of me and Caroline Munro




Caroline Munro is a class act, and still a very attractive woman.  She was impressed with the 8×10, and even more so when I described how I had met Lustig at a local theatre for a showing of MANIAC.  She had a ton of great shots from all her movies, including the SINBAD show, but as money was limited, I only grabbed the one sig and a photo.  During my wait, Savini was skulking around and stopped in on Munro to rekindle their MANIAC connection, as the guy he was with met Richard Kiel.


Still feeling a little skittish, I ogled Bauer as she met with other fans.  She was giving quality time and quality hugs in the pics she was taking, so I decided to check out the other rooms.  I found my friend Dominic Mancini, who was repping Ted Nicolaou and Denice Duff, both of whom I was to interview.  Attendance was still light at this point;  maybe the fans were distracted by Santa, who was out in the hall.  I assured them it was early on Friday, but I had no idea what a bad omen this would be for business for just about every guest this weekend.



The Full Moon crew and Dom




Bauer was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had meeting a guest.  She’s is just as beautiful 20 years later, and we spent about 5 minutes discussing HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS and her upcoming project with David DeCoteau.  I got someone to take our photo, and my face says it better than any of my words ever could.  This was a sheer joy, and meeting her made the trip and the expense worth it.  She’s still sexy as ever, and I hope to meet her again now that Mike Baronas is repping her.





Goddamn Michelle Bauer is sexy!



Across the main hallway, to meet Giovanni Lombardo Radice, the one Italian Invasion guest I wanted for the show.  CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is my favorite Fulci film, and his role in it is sleazy awesome, as is his death.  He suggested an 8×10 for me, and was a generally affable guy.  And for those deviants out there, he’s got a post-penis removal shot from CANNIBAL FEROX.  Gross.




Baronas assured me Giovanni Lombardo Radice still has his penis attached




Then I was off to find Pam Grier.  I had gathered her prices would be through the roof, and that I would sadly end up taking a pass.  But fate made the decision for me, as she was nowhere to be found.  Chiller has this terrible way of not listing last minute cancellations on their site, and I’d been burned by this at their last show with Chris Sarandon.  I’m not sure if this was the same case, but she wasn’t on any of the location signs in the body, so it’s a safe bet.


The most fascinating phenomenon of this trip was the pit.  The sunken in area just past the main hall is where the con places its main attractions, so it’s packed to the gills.  Once you’re in, best to get all your business done before you get out; because it may be hours before you can get back, and once you do, the individual lines are maddening.  That’s always been the way, but not at this Chiller.  Granted, it was Friday night, but I’d already popped down there a few times, without any wait.  Because of her supposed “last East Coast appearance” (yeah, right), Elvira’s line was even more massive than usual, with fans wanting to get a picture with her in full costume.  But as this was a con full of oddities, mainstream actress Dominique Swain had nobody at her table during any of my visits.  It was nice to see Traci Lords nearby in costume as Little Red Riding Hood (Julie McCullough of Growing Pains was also in holiday spirit as a Playboy Bunny in one of the side rooms).  I was more than a little surprised to see Burt Young of AMITYVILLE HORROR 2 and ROCKY doing vigorous business, as was Valerie Perrine of SUPERMAN.  Old school ruled the pit on Friday.





Insert Mike Cucinotta next to Louise Fletcher




This trip down there, I scoped out Louise Fletcher’s table.  Louise is most famous for her Oscar winning role as Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUC KOO’S NEST, but I had something else in mind.  Mike Cucinotta loves EXORCIST II, and lo and behold, she had two different 8×10’s from John Boorman’s disastrous sequel.  A few texts back and forth, and Mike asked me to pick one up for him.  Sadly, I informed him her line was way too long—one of only three long lines in the pit –so I went to wander.  Ten minutes later, I came back and found to my surprise that her line was now only a few people long.  I was running low on funds, but I took a chance that with the light crowd the ATM wouldn’t be empty quite yet.  So I hopped on line behind a nice Australian lady, who was griping about Lou Gossett Jr.’s insane pricing.  Once we got Fletcher’s prices, I made a quirky decision:  if Mike was there, I would have paid for him to get the pic with her, despite my disdain for paying for pics;  I’d already decided to buy him the auto as an early Christmas present, and because he wasn’t there, I would take the pic with her and fill in for Mike.  Fortunately, Louise was a gracious old lady, and her handler was good with a camera.  A lot of money I didn’t intend to pay out, but worth it later in the night, when I dropped by Mike’s house and saw the sheer glory on his face when I handed him his first piece of EXORCIST II memorabilia.


And a bonus, Michael Paré was stationed next to Louise.  So I briefly chatted with him about co-starring with Death Ensemble fave Brooke Lewis.  He smiled when I said how complimentary she spoke of him (I didn’t mention how disappointing it was that he had no Greatest American Hero shots on his table).  Another nice guy, and he still looks good.


I had gambled correctly on the ATM.  What I hadn’t banked on was that, two people ahead of me, Tom Savini and his crew were hitting it up for cash.  I’ve seen Savini act as a fan at plenty of cons, and I know his patterns.  He moved off to the left, stood there looking around, chatting with his clan.  He’d be there for a while, so I patiently got my cash, and then made my move.  Showering Savini in praise, I let him know of the Savini Retrospective here on DE, to which he said, “I’d like to see that.”  Pressing business card into his hand, I thanked him greatly.  Sadly, he informed me the Romero remake of CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS has stalled in search of funds.  Shaking hands and thanking him profusely, I left knowing my unholy mission had been accomplished.





Me and Ted Nicolaou



Now it was time to get back to Ted and Denice.  Interviewing is my absolute favorite part of running Death Ensemble.  People are so generous with their time, and I’m always honored when they’re willing to chat and give the fans the inside stories to some of horror’s favorites.  This was the most pleasant time I’d ever had interviewing.  Denice and Ted are class acts both, and they gave honest reflections on their work and experiences in film.  Ted was kind enough to  chat for nearly a half-hour, with sporadic breaks to sign for fans.  Full Moon fanatics should love Denice’s interview and Ted’s.  But even if you just have a general interest in horror, you should find something of interest.  I got them to sign some 8x10s for me, and bought Denice’s film VAMPIRE RESURRECTION.





Me and sexy Full Moon starlet Denice Duff



Saying good-bye to Dom and my new friends Denice and Ted, I was ready to head out.  It was about 20 minutes shy of closing hour.  By chance, I ended up with more money than I expected.  And Reb Brown was just off to the other side of the hallway.  X’s words echoed in my ears, and I decided to pick him up a gift too.  Reb was a nice guy, but he was overcharging at $25 for an 8×10.  I informed him X was a big comic movie fan, and that I  had tried to sway him into a HOWLING II autograph (Reb only had one 8×10 from that werewolf disaster, and it was a black-and-white of him and the dwarf with the holy earplugs.  Memo to Reb:  get better 8x10s).  I also informed him Nicole would be coming on Sunday just for him.  I shook hands with the beefy actor, and headed off into the night.





Nicole plays it up with Reb Brown



Though there were two lengthy traffic delays, I was blessed that there was no October snow on my trip home,.  The next day, Long Island and Parsippany got blanketed, and I’d heard many fans at the show tell the celebs they were only there for the one day because of the impending storm.  I never thought I would see such a light Chiller crowd, as it’s always got robust business.  But so many factors go into the success of a show, and weather is one of them.  I’ve spoken to a number of sources, including Nicole who was there on Sunday, and everyone told me the attendance was down.  I predict a bigger crowd in April, when the weather will be better.





Denice goes in for the kill



I’m sure after some reflection, I’ll have a much better take on this October Chiller.  It will always stand out for a number of oddities, but I’ll remember the pleasantries of meeting Michelle Bauer and interviewing Ted and Denice in equal measure.  Let’s see if the April show is back on track, or if more anomalies await me.


-Phil Fasso

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Ted Nicolaou- Full Moon Fanaticism (Audio)



In the weird and wonderful world of Charles Band’s Full Moon studios, director Ted Nicolaou is one of the crown princes. Writer/ director of TERRORVISION and the SUBSPECIES franchise, Ted brings an outside-the-box perspective to his films, and an appreciation for good horror.  Last weekend, Ted was kind enough to grant Phil Fasso a rare interview at the October 2011 Chiller show.  The two discussed the unique challenges of filming in Romania, creating a keystone franchise of films, the challenges of horror comedy, and his dreadful experience with PUPPET MASTER vs. DEMONIC TOYS.  We at Death Ensemble thank Ted for kindly granting us the chance to chat with him.



Ted Nicolaou directs a Death Ensemble conversation


Ted Nicolaou

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Denice Duff- Full Moon Fanaticism (Audio)



Ask Full Moon fans who their favorite female lead is and many of them will say Denice Duff.  Her role in SUBSPECIES II led to two more sequels, and her prominence in the roster of Charles Band’s stars.  Denice was kind enough to grant Phil Fasso a rare interview at the October 2011 Chiller show.  The two discussed the perils of filming in Romania, what she brought to her role in the SUBSPECIES series, her directorial debut, and whether or not she’s a scream queen.  We at Death Ensemble thank Denice for kindly granting us the chance to chat with her.


Listen under a Full Moon with Denice




The very fetching Denice Duff

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