Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 21: Fred Olen Ray

Without today’s contributor, the shelves of video store horror sections would have pretty much been bare.  If you are a fan of cult cinema, just think of all of the great moments, sights, and experiences Fred Olen Ray’s has enriched your life with.  I mean, look at this list…Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Evil Toons (my personal favorite Olen Ray flick), Evil Spawn, The Tomb, Biohazard, Scalps, Alien Dead, Haunting Fear, Scream Queen Hot Tub Party, Haunting Desires, Sideshow, 13 Erotic Ghosts, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, Bad Girls From Mars, Alienator… and that’s barely scratching the surface.  Some of my favorite movies of all time are on that list.  Need more convincing?  The guy has directed 2 Emmanuelle flicks, directed Paul Naschy’s last werewolf movie, and has made no less than 20 movies with “bikini” in the title.  He even directed the best documentary about the independent wrestling circuit ever made.  Need  one more piece of proof that this man is both a legend and a genius?  Ok…Shannon Tweed making Sandahl Bergman strip at gunpoint (and her body double pleasuring herself with the gun) while a brain in a jar (with an eyeball) watches and undulates in excitement in Possessed by the Night.  See?  I told you.  Pure genius!  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Anyway, I said all of that to say this; Fred Olen Ray is the undisputed master of the VHS age of horror, and today’s directors would do well to sit beneath his learning tree.  So Fred, what does Halloween mean to you?

“At my current age the Halloween season doesn't hold nearly the anticipation it did when I was a child; but then, neither does Christmas. Now it's a time for me to sit back and watch my children experience the thrill of pouring over the various costume options and loading up for our perennial screening of the original HALLOWEEN.

When I was a kid, you couldn't just pop in a DVD of whatever classic monster movie you wanted to watch. You had to wait patiently to see if the movie you were dying to see would even air, and if it didn't... tough luck. And even if it did there would always be a certain amount of antenna twisting going on trying to get a signal to come in that didn't contain more ghosting than a William Castle movie.

In the early 1960s, the Halloween season excited this young monster fan like no other because everything around me suddenly took on a delightfully spooky veneer. TV sitcoms devoted their weekly episodes to the macabre.  Horror icons like Vincent Price and Boris Karloff popped up on talk shows and even sang and performed comedy skits on TV Variety shows. The local stations dusted off its collection of aging horrors films. Dime stores were overflowing with creepy decorations and cool costumes. Ben Cooper was a God.

I lived for this moment and it couldn't come soon enough. In 1964, I never had any real money to spend as I came from fairly humble beginnings. My weekly allowance was 25 cents, but what I could lay my hands on became treasure. I had a Grandpa Munster doll, a LP called DRACULA'S GREATEST HITS and I had just discovered FAMOUS MONSTERS MAGAZINE. Life couldn't be better. It was the great monster revival of the mid-1960s. It was the time of THE MUNSTERS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Darrin Stevens turned into a Werewolf and Gilligan became a Vampire!

I remember using cellophane tape to twist and bend my facial features one year instead of wearing a mask. Forry said that Lon Chaney suffered for his art, and I certainly did that year. I got MARS ATTACKS cards in my Trick or Treat bag... individually wrapped... one card per wrapper. OUTER LIMITS gum cards? I walked down the train tracks a literal country mile to the only roadside store that sold them.

Then suddenly, it was over. That special night of Thrills and Chills came and went and without even blinking Thanksgiving was staring me square in the eye.  But hell, that just meant another Holiday was right around the corner and it was time to start jotting down my Christmas wish list of Aurora monster model kits. Life was good.”

6 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  6 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.  

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