45 Years of the Time Warp: A Conversation with Barry Bostwick

(Illustration by Kaelin Richardson)
"It was great when it all began..." THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is turning 45, and it is still guaranteed to thrill you, chill you, and fulfill you! As a brand new limited edition Blu-ray™ SteelBook® is being released and Fright-Rags celebrates the anniversary with newly designed merchandise, I thought it would be a good time to ask Barry Bostwick if he would be interested in expanding upon our original interview to discuss his starring role in the only film to ever continuously screen in select theaters for forty-five consecutive years. This cult classic musical/science fiction/comedy/horror phenomenon is far from the only unforgettable picture Mr. Bostwick has brought his incredible talents to - in today's conversation we deep-dive a rich career that spans decades and includes collaborations with Stanley Donen, Hal Needham, Michael J. Fox, and Rob Zombie on both the big and small screen. The living legend himself was kind enough to talk everything from Pixar to his most obscure indie films, and what set life is like for an actor in the days of COVID-19. 

Jason Anders: You mentioned you've been filming and I'm wondering how big of an impact COVID-19 has had on the production experience.  

Barry Bostwick: It's a totally different atmosphere. Before we showed up on the set, the cast and crew all had to get COVID tests and if any of them tested positive we couldn't start the production. Every three days into shooting we all had to have the tests done again. We shot for five weeks in Riverside for a show called The Potwins, a series about three generations of guys in a family. I play the old hippie father who is always throwing in 60's analogies and points of view and the youngest one is a fifteen-year-old conservative shit heel who drives everyone crazy. Kevin Sorbo plays the father who tries to keep everyone communicating. It could be a very fun show, we'll see. 

Getting back to your question - I was talking to the producer and at the end of five weeks he had put in an additional $120,000 just in testing, hiring the nurses, and COVID monitors on the set - more than he had ever budgeted for. You would show up in makeup and hair, they'd take your temperature and ask you questions, and you would have to keep your mask on, even through rehearsals. At the last minute, just before the cameras rolled, a COVID person would come by and take your mask off and put it in a special bag with your name on it and you'd do the scene, immediately putting your mask back on right after. It was a miracle that no one tested positive for five weeks because it was a young crew who were mostly away from home. But we did it and it's going to be good, it's just not as much fun making movies this way. I still don't know what the first and second director, or the camera guys, looked like because they never took their masks off.
Jason Anders and Barry Bostwick
(Jason Anders and Barry Bostwick)
Did you film the entire first season or just the pilot?

We filmed a pilot about two years ago and we just made the first season, eight half-hour episodes, and they're already talking about doing a second season. There hasn't been much press on it yet because they are waiting to see where it lands. 

Something else that has changed in the world is that Disney now owns The Rocky Horror Picture Show...

Yeah and I don't know what they are going to do with it, whether they'll stay interested in it or just let it go. It's our 45th Anniversary this year and I know that the producer, Lou Adler, is trying to do something for it like a simultaneous screening at a hundred theaters around the country, but it's just a piss poor time to celebrate anything like that. For instance, I had one-nighters during Halloween where I would go around to theaters with a shadow cast and give a Q&A. I did four or five of them and they're a lot of fun, but you have to go to a theater where people sit side by side - but the theater owners just can't do it if they don't sell out. I do it just because I want to keep the film out there and going. I'm not sure that the suits have the drive or ingenuity for it. 

It's a phenomenon and I don't know how it's lasted this long, other than the fact that it has affected the lives of the kids who love it. We are now on our third generation of people seeing it.  The last few screenings I've been at... when they asked for virgins I swear at least a third of the audience all under the age of twenty-five came up on stage, all there to have the same kind of fun evening that we did forty-five years ago. This whole new generation is falling into it. While working on The Potwins there were several twenty-somethings who were gaga over it, showing me pictures of themselves when they first went to see a screening dressed up as the characters - these are kids who are either just out of college or still in college.

Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, Meatloaf, and myself are still out there hustling, as is Tim Curry. I'm doing a drive-in gig in Middletown, New York later this month - that's about the only way we've been able to organize it is through a drive-in. People can still dress up and dance, and we'll have a shadow cast doing a show in front of the screen, it'll be fun and something new. 

I have a feeling that Rocky Horror is going to be around for quite a bit longer. 
(Best Buy's Blu-ray™ SteelBook®)
Has your perspective on The Rocky Horror Picture Show changed over the course of 45 years?

I've always loved the movie. I've always thought that it was strange and trendsetting, and that it spoke to subjects that need to be talked about. I just think that it's a damn good film. If you look at it frame-by-frame you'll see the extremely innovative approach they took to making a stylistic musical. The entire cast and crew were at the top of their game in trying to push the envelope. I appreciate it not only for the themes, but as a piece of film history. 

That movie is still, to this day, unlike anything else. 

I believed in it, and I also think that when we were doing it that we had no idea the repercussions. We were just trying to make a one-off goofball send up of all these film genres. I don't think that Richard O'Brien or Jim Sharman thought that deeply about the psychosexual meaning, because back in 1975 everything that's in the movie was done on the street, it's not like it was anything totally new - look at David Bowie and Queen who were both pushing the sexuality of rock & roll. The film was simply a reflection of that time as a garage band musical. Get six guys who can almost play their instruments and they can all do Rocky Horror

Our first conversation took place at Spooky Empire in Orlando, where you were flooded with fans of all ages. Do you do a lot of conventions like that one?

I've done maybe three or four over the years. It's always fun to see that the fans are so adamant about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though I find I'm signing a lot more pictures now where they're saying, "Would you sign this for my mom?" There are ten-year-olds coming up to me saying, "My parents took me when I was seven," to which I respond, "Your parents should be arrested." The wide range of ages for that movie is one of the reasons why I really love it. 
(The Rocky Horror Picture Show - 1975)
Would you say that you're more recognized for The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Spin City?

It depends on the age group, really. If you're between your 50s and 70s, unless you have many tattoos and body piercings, then it's usually Spin City. The Rocky Horror Picture Show being forty-five years ago... it's incredible that people still know me from that. 

Even Universal Orlando has midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show during Halloween Horror Nights on AMC CityWalk. 

The problem with doing it live is that people feel the need to talk back at the stage. As an actor that's pretty disconcerting, it's hard to say your lines when the audience is screaming at you. I saw it in New York a few years ago when they did it like that. I'd much rather perform it on film and know that I'm not going to be bothered. 

This movie is referenced in so many other films and TV shows, from Fame (1980) to The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and from The Simpsons to Glee

Me and Meatloaf were in that episode, The Rocky Horror Glee Show... Meatloaf and I... Mr. Loaf & Mr. Bostwick. I think it's an honor. It's a wonderful, iconic film. I'll never get tired of watching it because it's a great movie with a lot of color, style, and great music. It's such an original one-off movie. I'm proud of it. 
(Barry Bostwick photographed by Mary Bluhm)
What originally sparked your interest in becoming an actor?

It was probably a girl, I'm sure. I think it was. In high school my girlfriend was a cheerleader, singer, and dancer and I did this dance studio thing with her. I was always a singer, I sang folk music and stuff. We sang together in high school plays and then community theatre. After four years of college I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from a school in San Diego (Allianz International University) then went to New York University's Graduate Acting Program to work on my Master's and started working in the city doing a lot of theatre. So, women

Do you have a favorite actor or performance? 

Probably anything that Jimmy Stewart has done. I just think he's so genuine. 

You're very Jimmy Stewart-esque. 

I probably am. But then Tom Hanks came into the picture and now he gets all the Jimmy Stewart parts. I get them on television and he gets them in the movies. 

But you also land pictures like Rob Zombie's 3  from Hell (2019). 

That man has very particular tastes. He's a nice guy, I really like him. He's one of those guys who has a certain public persona but in reality he's not that at all. He's very down to earth. He has that fandom quality about him for everything he does. He does it for the love of the genre, not just to make money.   
(Fantastic Planet - 1973)
One of your films recently had a beautiful 2K Blu-ray™ restoration on The Criterion Collection, Fantastic Planet (1973). 

It was so long ago and all I did was the voice over for the lead character. I came in and dubbed it for the U.S. release because it was a French film. I was blown away by the artwork, it is beautiful and disturbing at the same time. It was a huge step forward in animated feature films in exploring those themes and concepts. 

You've done a lot of iconic voice work, from the series Phineas and Ferb to The Incredibles 2 (2018). What do you enjoy most about voicing animation? 

You don't work very hard for the money. (laughs) But that work is so hard to get, you have to know people and you need to have had a history with it. I have a fully lined, soundproof booth here at my house in Florida, and within a week's time I will audition three or four times for animated series and games, and I don't land them... just like most actors. The people that land them are the handful who do it all the time and are trusted. It is the hardest part of show business to ever break into. I have been trying to find steady voice work for almost twenty years. Most actors who work in voice overs, that's their profession separate from us, unless you're talking about one of the big guys. If I can land a couple per year I'm happy.

Are you ever approached by fans about your movie Megaforce (1982)?

Yeah, there's a lot of fans for it out there. The general attitude about it is that it's over the top and silly, laughable in all the wrong ways. I like it because it's tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously. I think the people who take it seriously are the ones who make those other comments. 
(Megaforce - 1982)
From the standpoint of an action movie, I think that Hal Needham did a brilliant job with all the cars and military equipment. The only thing he didn't think about was the story. We ended up writing the script in the car going to the set every day where he was blowing something up, which I think was the only problem with it. A lot of the funny iconic lines came from the actors asking, "Well, what do I say now?" Meanwhile, Hal is off riding a motorcycle across the desert. 

It's a movie that if you were twelve-years-old and you saw it on the big screen with your dad, you'd go home and outfit your bike to make it look like a flying motorcycle. It was a moment that you could go see something that was G-rated yet a lot of fun, one that I constantly hear, "It's a movie my father and I watch all the time because it reminds us of our relationship when it came out." It's just one of those movies that if you got to it at the right time, before you got too jaded, I think you'd really enjoy it. 

It's so cool that you got your very own video game from it. 

I have a copy of that, I just don't have the console to play it on. There's a beautiful LaserDisc of it out there, too. 

We're actually making a documentary about that film. We've worked for two years interviewing everyone involved and we're calling it "The Documentary That Nobody Asked For". It's a fun film because it's not just about the movie, it's about this guy who was so affected by it when he was twelve-years-old that as he grew up he started collecting everything that had to do with Megaforce. Now he owns three of the cars, three of the motorcycles, and every prop he could find. And he's not crazy! He's in the special effects business. He came to me with the idea of making a film, and it became more about him being this super fan and getting into all these other people's heads who made this thing who were so interesting and life-changing for him. By the end of the film he thinks he is my character - he grows the beard, and he and I ride off on matching motorcycles into the sky.  

Is there a plan for releasing this documentary yet?

Not yet. It's being produced by Spare Change Films, the people who made Life After Flash (2017). 
(Movie Movie - 1978)
Tell me about being directed by Stanley Donen for Movie Movie (1978). 

He was a tough director. It was two movies in one, one in color and one in black and white, and we shot the color one first and in-between the two he fired everyone because he didn't think they were doing a good enough job. Ultimately a sweet man, but he wanted it totally his way.

I got the part out of the blue because somebody had suggested my name to him when I was just off of Broadway. He offered me the part without my having to audition. He peopled the thing with very interesting actors, it was the first time that I had worked with so many old stars in something - Red Buttons, George C. Scott, Art Carney... the list goes on and on. Was I intimidated? Yeah, I sure was. I was young but he treated me well. My one disappointment is that we had a long dance number on a roof called "Just Shows to Go Ya" which was a seven-minute number. We spent weeks on it, and when the final movie came out it was cut down significantly with no dancing, it was just around the piano. I was disappointed in that because had worked so hard on it. I heard a rumor it was left on the cutting room floor, I hope it's not true but if it is... goodbye

That's happened with every musical I've been in, including Rocky Horror. My song "Once In A While" was cut from the bedroom scene. I know that things are normally cut because they are slowing the movie down, so I don't begrudge. I just would like to have seen the final product to see what it was like and maybe have some of that film on my reel way back when. We were young bucks trying hard.

Movie Movie was strange but I think it's an excellent film that was just released in the wrong season and they didn't put enough money into it. I think it was just a little too ahead of its time in terms of its tongue-in-cheek attitude. It was sending up, in very subtle ways, those two genres of film - the Broadway musical and the gritty boxing movies of John Garfield. People who are movie aficionados and interested in the history of film will always mention it to me. I don't think it's been released on Blu-ray, but if they ask me about it I'll mention your name and say, "Come on, he wants it! Give it to him."
(Some Guy Who Kills People - 2011)
Since we last spoke I watched a picture for which you were nominated for Fangoria's Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actor, Some Guy Who Kills People (2012). Was that film as much fun to make as it is to watch?

Oh yeah, it was. You can make those movies in ten days. The writer Ryan Levin and I became good friends, and the director Jack Perez and I have done three films together since then. It was such an interesting balance of realistic family stuff and mystery - it's sort of a genre-busting movie. I thought my character was interesting because he didn't belong in the police department. There was something more philosophical about him, he was distracted and detached, which I liked. I liked his sermonizing about things.

Did you interact with John Landis on that film at all?

Never met him. He was the Executive Producer but he wasn't around. I did another movie with the same director called Blast Vegas (2013) with Frankie Muniz where Landis and Joe Dante played the opening scene. 

Perez and Levin should be making major films - they haven't quite reached that point yet, but I recognize their talent. They started with The Asylum films, which we've all done, but Jack Perez now teaches directing classes at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and I think Ryan Levin has been working in animation. 

I love The Asylum...

I did a real interesting one called 2010: Moby Dick (2010) - the cheesiest Moby Dick you could ever see, it is as bad as those stupid sharks falling out of the sky. Some of the performances in it are quite good, and then unfortunately they'll cut to this giant whale jumping over an island and you'll think, "Well, there goes my Academy Award." It's worth seeing just for shits and giggles. 
(Spin City - ABC Series)
Let's talk about being a part of the cast of Spin City...

Spin City was such a good, deep bench of actors. They could throw a storyline to any one of the cast members in an A-story and they would carry the whole show. That's what was wonderful about the show, you never felt like you had to make up for somebody else. You were always on par with everybody. 

They were all such brilliant comedians. Each character was unique unto themselves. You never felt that you were overlapping somebody in comedy or character, like so many of those sitcoms do - you know, the three guys in an office who's lines could be interchangeable. Each character on this show had a unique point of view. 

I grew up watching Spin City with my family on Tuesday nights, so it is surreal to be standing here talking to Mr. Mayor. Does it ever really register that you were in so many homes every week?

Not really. It's hard to get on the other side of the tube and see it from that standpoint. I'm able to pretty much divorce myself from the characters that I play - even with Spin City I probably couldn't even tell you more than five episodes of what happened. Television just moves so fast that by the time you finish one and are onto the next, you forget what happened the previous week. 

But what was it like being in people's homes each week? With that particular show, the problem was that people always thought I was as stupid as the character. I tried to explain to them that the character wasn't really stupid, he was just entitled. He was rich. Everybody had been doing everything for him. Occasionally he would solve the problem, but if you didn't see that episode you'd say that the guy is just a ditzy, incapable character. I always tried to make sure every five-to-ten episodes that they made you believe the guy could actually be the mayor of a major city and that it wasn't just totally being run by the Deputy Mayor. I don't know if I was successful at it, but we were successful at getting laughs. 
(Barry Bostwick photographed by Mary Bluhm)
I personally think Mayor Randall Winston is one of the funniest television characters of all time. 

Oh really? Neat! Thank you.

I noticed that there is an actual Randall Winston in the credits of the show...

He was one of the producers on it, the Associate Producer, and they named me after him. He became the producer on Scrubs and then on Cougar Town. He's a tall Black guy and I love him. He's one of my good friends, just a neat guy and very sweet. In terms of character types we were so different but, still, I am so happy to have been his namesake. 

What was it like filming the iconic episode, Radio Daze, where you and Michael J. Fox jumped into the Hudson?

That was a tough episode because Michael was sick and nobody really knew it, and I had just had an operation for prostate cancer about a month earlier and nobody really knew that. When he said, "Let's do it again!" I said, "No, Mike. I don't wanna jump of this pier again!" He was gung ho for it. 

The problem with that scene, if there was a problem, was that we looked at the survey the day before we went out to film it and when we showed up the day of filming, the tide was down about ten feet from where it had been before. So all of a sudden the jump was huge, like we're jumping off the top of a building! They had scuba divers down there ready to get us. I was a little scared taking that jump - when we jumped we needed to hold each other's hand.
(Barry Bostwick photographed by Mary Bluhm)
What advice do you have for all of the actors who are currently out of work due to COVID-19. 

I think the most important thing is that you need to have a good hobby. Let this be a warning that show business goes in and out, and you don't want to be hanging by the phone during these times waiting on someone to call. You want to use your creativity for something else - whether it's ceramics, painting, or building cars. Use this time creatively to establish something in your life that you have more control over. You don't have any control over show business unless you're the producer/director. You may give the best performance in the world but it won't always cut that way. You can't put your whole life into what you do. You have to find something in your life that's going to feed you in other ways. 

I've found that in ceramics and pottery, and before that it was sculpting. I have a really nice outlet with ceramics and I've been doing it for twenty-something years. I have a studio at the house and whenever I'm not acting I'm creating stuff there. I can create and destroy my pots, there's nobody telling me how I should be making things, or what shape and color. It's been a lifesaver over the last thirty years of my life because I have something to fall back on that gives me energy and fulfills that creative side of my soul.

So that's what I do - I say get a hobby! A good hobby. Don't take it too seriously. Another thing you can do is read as many books as you can and watch as many YouTube videos about acting that you can. Or spend the time learning dialect. Take six weeks and work on a different dialect. Look in the mirror and see how somebody would cast you. Have the ability to portray different characters in your back pocket. This is the time to learn it, not the night before the audition. 
(Jason Anders and Barry Bostwick)
What happens with your pottery once a piece is completed?  

Some of the bigger ones I will give to charity. I have sold them in the past, but I've never been able to sit down and get a whole production. We were supposed to have an art tour a few months ago here in Florida but that was canceled. I think eventually I will come up with some designs that are a little different, but I'm not much of a salesman. Maybe I'll get an online store. I live in an artsy town called Mount Dora and there's all kinds of studios and art fairs here, but I don't see myself standing underneath a tent on Saturdays and Sundays selling things. Right now I'm just working on new shapes, I just got my kiln up and running, and I'm experimenting and relaxing through the process. 

What future projects do you currently have in the works? 

I just shot another pilot called Snow Birds, but I haven't seen any of the edits yet. I'm also working on a one-man show about Oscar Hammerstein that I might do a production of in a local theatre called Oscar. So there's a lot of little things, but what I really want to do right now is make pots. 

How would you sum up your life so far with only three words?

Not over yet.

*Interview conducted October 9, 2011 & September 3, 2020.   

Inside Severin Films: A Conversation with Co-Founder David Gregory

(Illustration by Kaelin Richardson)
Devoted to rescuing and releasing the most controversial and provocative films from around the world, Severin Films was co-founded by today's guest, David Gregory, in 2006 with Carl Daft and John Cregan as an answer to our home entertainment prayers for physical media that would honor the love and admiration we collectors and lovers of cinema have for our cult classics. What a time for cinephiles to be alive, when we can load our checkout carts with Lina Romay pins, Laura Gemser t-shirts, Al Adamson box sets, and Severin nipple pasties - we're not worthy! But how does one find themselves at the epicenter of bringing obscure, rare, forgotten pictures to their fully restored Blu-ray glory for future generations of film fans devour, accompanied by thoughtfully and beautifully produced bonus features such as the brand new feature-length documentary, Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson? The director of this and several other wonderful films discusses his journey on the road to co-founding Severin, and what the mouth-watering future of this badass boutique label has in store for us.
Jason Anders:
What initially sparked your interest in pursuing a career in home entertainment, and which aspects of the job have kept you invested after all this time?

David Gregory: Carl Daft and I went to school together and always shared a passion for horror films, much to the chagrin of our mothers, not helped by the fact that horror was considered the source of all society's ills during that period in the U.K. according to the press, the moral do-gooders, and the government. 

Once films started to be banned in the mid-80s and hard to come by through legal channels, we started trading tapes with similarly minded horror fans up and down the country through a network surreptitiously enabled by fanzines like Shock Xpress and Samhain and all-night festivals like Shock Around the Clock and Black Sunday. We would scour video shops for banned films that the owners would often have hidden in the back and buy them. One day this search took me to a small distributor called VPM in Nottingham, where we lived. I got along with the owner, Andrew Clarke, and he saw that I was passionate about movies and how the business side of it worked. I started working there as a summer job. It was there that I learned about rights and labels and such. At the time, there was so much bootlegging going on because all of the labels had gone out of business after the Video Recordings Act 1984 was introduced by Parliament because they couldn't afford to get all of their product rated and make the cuts required, so the old masters were passed around being retitled and repackaged. There were a lot of budget releases at every gas station, every liquor store... wherever you could get tapes. 

Andrew had shitty, cut masters of things like The Beyond (1981), Eaten Alive! (1980), Blood Bath of Dr. Jekyll (1981), and Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972), repackaging and selling them in bulk for cheap. I wanted to give them proper covers with original artwork and market them as the horror classics they were, but Andrew said if I wanted to do that I should actually buy the rights and put them out properly. Before long I was talking to rights holders. Eventually Carl and I pooled our resources and started our company, Blue Underground, and its subsidiary label, Exploited, on which we released 14 titles or so. It was tough going because the U.K. was still very censorious and the BBFC did not see eye to eye with us on the merit of the movies we were putting out. We also started putting extras on our VHS releases such as interviews with filmmakers at the end of the movie. This is what led us to doing our first feature documentary, Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000), which in turn led to me being hired by Bill Lustig to do extras for the Anchor Bay special edition DVDs that he was producing in the early 2000s. I moved to the U.S. and Lustig formed Blue Underground US. I was with him there as disc producer for the first four or five years - then Carl, John Cregan and I formed our own label, Severin. 
Walk me through the process of how a Severin Blu-ray is produced once the rights for a film has been secured. 

Once we license a title I'll let the team know that it's in the pipeline. The Severin team is nine people including me, plus a bunch of additional people we work with regularly for editing, design, authoring, and shooting. Between us we come up with who can be approached for interviews and we decide how deep we want to go. If it's an Italian film we consult with our longtime featurette co-producer, Federico Caddeo at Freak-O-Rama Video Productions in Italy, and he will let us know who he can approach. 

The mastering is different for every film. Sometimes we get the raw scan in from the territory where the negative resides. Other times the negative, or best element, will be shipped to the office where we will scan it on our 4K scanner, which we purchased a couple of years ago and has enabled us to do a lot more projects than when we had to rely on outside scanning for cost and time reasons. But it's often not as simple as getting access to the negative. Sometimes the negative is lost or unavailable for some reason. So we then have to go on a hunt for the best possible element in existence. In some cases this might be a release print, but we do try and access a pre-print element, at the very least, where possible. Once we have the raw scan files we send to one of our three colorists and restorationists and the sound goes to a sound professional for clean-up. Were it that simple, though - we have to compare our master to all existing releases because so many of these films were released in different versions around the world. There are a lot of very vocal trolls out there who demand you be hanged in the town square if you dare to be missing a sound effect or seconds of a car driving by, so we try to be as thorough as possible in checking we have everything on there in the feature and give the best presentation we can. 

And of course the extras are particularly important to us. The feature is the main draw, but as we are preserving exploitation cinema history we are passionate about getting firsthand recollections on record while we still can. We treat our featurettes like mini-productions, or sometimes massive productions, because it is thoroughly unacceptable the quality of some of the extras on a lot of labels' otherwise terrific discs. Extras are always essential for us and treated with care. 
Tell me about the conception of the Severin logo. 

John Cregan, our third partner, and I were still working at Blue Underground when we were spitballing for a company name. I had come up with Blue Underground as a combination of Blue Velvet (1986) and Velvet Underground. John and I, both big fans of Velvet Underground, decided to go through their catalog to find inspiration. We got as far as "Venus in Furs" from their debut album and "Severin" was the standout word, it was also the name of the protagonist in the original masochist text, so it seemed ideal. He found a designer, a lady named Wanna Cam Cam, and we told her the name and source of inspiration (and what it is we do), and she came back with a bunch of comps - the Severin lady is immediately the one that grabbed us. Then my good friend Mark Raskin, who scores most the films I make, composed the accompanying jingle and Bob's your uncle. 

What are the three Severin titles you are most proud of?

Santa Sangre (1989)
Combat Shock (1986)
Threads (1984)

How has COVID-19 affected Severin?

The biggest hit we took was the cancelation of conventions. We do a lot of them and they provide a decent chunk of income, but they also allow us to meet likeminded people face to face. We chat about what's coming up, spread the good word, get ideas of titles to go after or merch to do, and they're really the only place where fans of the movies we put out can browse our stuff all in one place, check out the covers, learn about the movies, and then pick up what they want. Other things have slowed down such as manufacturing of boxes, shipping discs from overseas, and getting scans done in Rome... so there's been quite a few hurdles and some delays. But overall we had so much in-house already that we've been able to continue with production. The team has been working harder than ever to keep our products moving towards delivery so that we can continue to release as much as possible. Everyone has been working from home, which many of the team do anyway because we are spread all over. Only Zach and I work out of the Severin office in L.A. on a full-time basis. Nicole is the Production Manager/Coordinator, she ties all the pieces together logistically. Carl in the UK handles contracts and accounts. Andrew is the Post Supervisor, coordinating elements between the various people who edit, quality control, color correct, restore, and author. Josh handles our social media and public relations and also produces some special features. Zach edits and is quality control. 

Kier-La produces special features and is working on a documentary feature on folk horror. Jamie edits. Jason and Amanda, who run the web store (www.Severin-Films.com) and oversee physical packaging and shipping for our direct order customers, have been working nonstop so that we can keep things going, even if the outside world is in turmoil. Jim Kunz authors and handles any technical panics we may have. Johnnie Buell and Marc Morris author, too. Crystal and Earl design. Warren and Lannie color. Everyone has been plowing forth and being more productive than ever. During this time, we released our most ambitious project ever in Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection, as well as a box set of Umberto Lenzi/Carroll Baker gialli and a bunch of single discs which come with merch items and whatnot. I am very proud to be working with all these wonderful and dedicated people. 
Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson is easily, along with Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau, one of the most fascinating documentaries I've ever seen on a filmmaker. Do you plan to direct more Severin documentaries moving forward?

Well thank you, my biggest passion is filmmaking and the documentary on filmmaking has turned out to be my thing. Didn't plan it that way, but I've been at it pretty much nonstop since Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000). After doing many, many short featurettes I was always looking for a subject which would be worthy of the feature-length treatment. It couldn't just be your common or garden 'making of' story, it had to be something that would stand on its own and justify that length. I'd done The Godfathers of Mondo (2003) for Blue Underground's The Mondo Cane Collection, which I was very happy with but which didn't get any play outside of the set, really. We also should have done The Joe Spinell Story (2001) as its own feature, as he was a fascinating subject. That 50-minute piece for the Anchor Bay Maniac (1980) release is still one of my favorites. Anyway, the point being that there were some warm up projects - Ban the Sadist Videos! (2005) was another that I thought could play separately from the films they were accompanying. 

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) was the first one we took out to festivals as its own documentary feature, the response to it was very positive and it subsequently went far and wide. I was looking for the next subject that could match that in filmmaking insanity, and once Al Adamson came into my orbit it was pretty clear this would be it. So began a three and a half year process of tracking everyone down for interview, finding all the films and scanning them - it was a very rewarding process. One advantage of doing docs like this as opposed to narrative features is that they're not a sprint, they're a long-distance run. You can take the time to get everything you need and, as was the case here, reshoot some elements and make sure you get what you want over time. I was making three documentary features concurrently while shooting Blood & Flesh. I also did Master of Dark Shadows (2019) for MPI Media Group as a work for hire, which was completed first, and I also shot Enter the Clones of Bruce (2020) about the decade of faux Bruce Lee movies which hit the market worldwide after Lee died, starring the likes of Bruce Li, Bruce Le, and Dragon Lee. That one is now deep in post and should be done by the end of this year. 

What are three movies you love to recommend?

Bitter Moon (1992)
Bad Boy Bubby (1993)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

For those interested in working in the world of home entertainment in some capacity, what is your advice on skills and education they should acquire to pursue that career path?

If you want to be in the boutique label world and consider yourself a filmmaker, make a featurette or two, or documentary, on a subject you're passionate about. There's a lot of people out there who are "scholars" or can stick a phone in front of some actor or director and ask them to talk about a given film, but there are very few who can actually deliver a well produced, informative piece on that given film. I'm always looking for filmmakers who can do something with what may seem like a basic assignment. If you're thinking of starting a label, know that it's not a quick way to make a lot of money. We all do it because we can make a living doing what we love, and for the most part fans of the movies we put out get a kick out of what we do. It may seem like there is a lot of negativity, but that's usually because the eunuchs from the harem in forums have very loud voices, a lot of free time, and a whole lot to say on the internet. If you're a self-appointed expert, better to go out and do it rather than moan in a vacuum that you could do better. 
Which upcoming Severin titles are you most excited for?

Oh man, so many - but quite a lot not announced yet. The Andy Milligan box set is finally coming together after a few years of work. The first proper U.S. disc release of the batshit unofficial sequel, Nosferatu in Venice (1988) starring crazy-as-ever Klaus Kinski, accompanied by a documentary on the last years of Kinski. The remasters and first U.S. disc releases of Álex de la Iglesia's Perdita Durango (1997) and The Day of the Beast (1995) are so close now - the nightmare we had on those with elements paid off because Perdita Durango in particular not only looks better than ever, it's also a few seconds longer than any previous disc release anywhere. More Italian classics well overdue for the Blu-ray treatment, some Christopher Lee rarities well overdue for an upgrade, our own movie The Theatre Bizarre (2011) is finally coming home, along with accompanying releases of features made by some of the directors. Some French, Czech, South African, British, Spanish and plenty more U.S. films in the works. 

Follow Severin Films on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and visit www.Severin-Films.com for exciting release announcements and special offers.

Oh My Debut Darling, CLEMENTINE: A Conversation with Writer/Director Lara Jean Gallagher

(Illustration by Kaelin Richardson)
Clementine, the incredible debut feature film from writer/director Lara Jean Gallagher, premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and is the newest release from the most intriguing and risk-taking distributor out there, Oscilloscope Laboratories. Gallagher, originally from rural Pennsylvania, describes herself as being "raised on a steady stream of television, polka, processed food, and wooded warfare" with her three sisters. Her first feature immediately became one of my favorite pictures of 2020, even the trailer left me thinking, "how did she do that?" Thankfully, she was kind enough to let me ask her all about the movie and more...

Jason Anders: Do you recall what first inspired you to put pen to paper on Clementine

Lara Jean Gallagher: I really wanted to make a feature film and thought that a way to be able to shoot it no matter what budget we had would be to keep the cast small and limit the locations. I wanted to explore a complicated female relationship - one where the dynamic shifted almost constantly. This is something that I think is true about female relationships (sexual and otherwise) and something that I really hadn't seen on screen very much. That motivated me to start writing and using my personal experiences to anchor the emotions to something otherwise fictional.

You've mentioned before that television and books had more of an influence on you growing up than movies. Did any of these influence your style?

Yes! I watched an incredible amount of television growing up. I wouldn't say that any of the shows I loved inspired my style for this film, but I think they definitely inspired me to pursue creating my own stories. TV with female and kid characters seemed more accessible to me than movies and helped me to believe that I could do it too. One of my favorite shows growing up was The Adventures of Pete & Pete on Nickelodeon. Sometimes I think the show's oddness and dryness inspired much of my humor and way I think and am inspired by  mundane, suburban experiences, though I can't say that that necessarily seeped into Clementine. Maybe on the next one! 
Was there ever a doubt in your mind that this was the first story you wanted to tell as a feature?

I was actually developing another script that I thought was going to be my first feature. It is a feature version of a short film that I made that is semi-autobiographical about two young sisters dealing with the death of a neighborhood bully in tandem with a scary medical diagnosis of their own. I realized that this story was a bit too big to tackle as a first feature for budget reasons, which is the main reason why I challenged myself to write Clementine - something decidedly contained and with way less characters.

What was the biggest challenge of writing Clementine?

Dealing with the aftermath of a breakup that happens entirely offscreen before the movie begins was a definite challenge. I wanted this unseen thing to feel like a giant weight and something that the entire film hinges on, yet I didn't want to get into scenes that tried to explain something that I wanted to feel one-sided and confusing to my main character. Dealing with the emotional aftermath of something is a hard thing to do since showing is way better than telling in movies. 

Are the any directors who you look to for inspiration?

So many! Contemporary directors that I love are Jane Campion, Lucrecia Martel, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Kelly Reichardt. I have also been incredibly saddened to hear of Lynn Shelton's passing last week. She was a huge inspiration as someone who made the movies she wanted to make, where she wanted to make them, but still managed to engage with the industry by directing TV as well. Losing her is a huge loss for the independent film community and especially for female directors always looking for examples of women who have been able to find sustainability in this business.
Once you completed the script, what were your immediate next steps?

I applied for the Venice Biennale College Cinema program with the treatment for the project and was thrilled to be one of twelve projects selected to attend this ten day, rigorous lab for micro-budget films in Venice, Italy. That was a great experience and really solidified my belief that this movie could and should be made. It was for that lab that I completed the first draft of the script. Getting into that program was great for the project in that it validated it, in a sense, and helped to get key members of my team involved. 

What has your experience with Oscilloscope Laboratories been like? They are, in my opinion, distributing the best independent features out there right now.

My thoughts exactly! I am thrilled to be partnering with Oscilloscope Laboratories on the release of this film. They have been incredibly collaborative and respectful to me and my team throughout the process. This has been especially appreciated as we had to pivot from our initial theatrical distribution plan to instead release the film virtually because of COVID-19. I'm really grateful to be working with a small and dedicated team to be able to respond quickly to the situation at hand but still be able to be moving forward with getting this film out into the world. A list of all our virtual theatrical partners can be found here: clementine.oscilloscope.net

How did you go about finding your cast and crew? You also have the greatest trailer I've seen in a long time. 

Thanks! My key crew members were a mix of people that I had worked with before in Portland, Oregon - like my main producer, Aimee Lynn Barneburg and people who I was introduced to from other filmmaker friends, like my DP, Andres Karu. We worked with an amazing casting director in Los Angeles, Nicole Arbusto, to cast the film remotely. We were introduced to her through a filmmaker friend who had previously worked with her as well. The trailer was all O-Scope! They worked on it internally and were able to do it very quickly once we decided to pursue a virtual release. 
List five films that you love.

1.) Sweetie (1989, Dir. Jane Campion) 
2.) Morvern Callar (2002, Dir. Lynn Ramsey)
3.) The Holy Girl (2004, Dir. Lucretia Martel)
4.) Persona (1966, Dir. Ingmar Bergman)
5.) Fat Girl (2001, Dir. Catherine Breillat) 

What advice do you have for future filmmakers currently working on their first screenplay?

Try not to let the uncertainty of this time affect what you're writing. We'll never have a crystal ball to predict what kind of stories are going to matter most in the future, but the thing that matters most to you is always going to be the thing that motivates you to get up every day and do the hard work of putting it on the page. Keep going!

Visit the official Clementine website here: ClementineMovie.com

"VOTE!" A Message from John Landis

"Anyone who has watched this corrupt administration and the consistent behavior of President Trump and still supports him is either a fool, or someone not to be trusted. To support such an obvious fascist, racist, criminal and the constant abuse of power and disregard for the law by this narcissistic, cowardly pathological liar reveals extraordinary ignorance and/or some deeply creepy close held beliefs of their own. It is essential to vote these bastards out of power. 


- John Landis 
(Video provided by John Landis from an unknown source)

Fülle Circle's SUPER MARIO MAKER 2 Levels!

(Illustration by Kaelin Richardson)
Hey, paisanos! We're taking a field trip to the Mushroom Kingdom to interview Mario, Luigi, and even Bowser in our very own Super Mario Maker 2 levels! Since you as the player control the characters, you are the ones able to answer the interview questions as you adventure through three Fülle stages, and your answers will remain visible in-game to all future players! I decided to make "three" levels as a tribute to my favorite video game of all time, Super Mario Bros. 3. If you're a fan of that NES classic, check out Alyse Knorr's incredible book about the game's phenomenon. 

Below are the Course IDs for each level. You will need both Super Mario Maker 2 for Nintendo Switch and a Nintendo Switch Online subscription in order to access these levels. So what are you waiting for? Let's-a-go! 

Fülle Circle's Conversation with Mario (Course ID: W03-069-LVG)

Fülle Circle's Conversation with Luigi (Course ID: W0Y-M9H-5KG)

Fülle Circle's Conversation with Bowser (Course ID: F7G-2NH-XXG)

Eat Dirt!: A Conversation with Earthworm Jim Creator Doug TenNapel

(Illustration by Kaelin Richardson)
Animator. Writer. Cartoonist. Video Game Designer. Comic Book Artist. Doug TenNapel is all of these things, and in 1994 his many talents funneled into one project when he created the critically acclaimed video game, Earthworm Jim. Originally released on the Sega Genesis, the story follows Jim, a normal earthworm until a "special suit" falls out of the sky and allows him to operate much like a human, at which point he is tasked to rescue and protect Princess What's-Her-Name. Earthworm Jim stood out in the midst of all other titles as being a unique, wildly rebellious dark comedy that played as a parody of other games. The television commercial, which featured an elderly woman eating live worms, was pulled from multiple networks due to complaints from nauseated viewers. However, that did not stop the game from becoming a hit and earning itself a sequel, toy line, and animated series. Today we take a nostalgic look back with the man who told us to "eat dirt" in the 90s...

Jason Anders: Long before creating Earthworm Jim you worked in television animation. What led to your job as an animator on Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and what was your experience on that series like?

Doug TenNapel: That first job was a big one for me. I was like many artists who graduated from college and asked, “How am I going to ever get paid for what I love doing?” I had been a freelance illustrator for just over two years when that opportunity opened up and I lucked out to get it. 
My animation skill was clunky at best, but I figured my workaholism would make up for my lack of skill. 

After a year at that job I learned so much about how television animation worked. I learned how to read an exposure sheet, how to make sure my shots hooked up to the previous and following content, and how to work with others on a large crew. Many of the friends I met on that project in 1991 are still dear friends of mine today and we are dispersed throughout the entertainment industry working for feature, television, and video game animation companies.
Did you meet John Astin while working on that show?

I did not meet John Astin, but our crew was far stranger than his role on The Addams Family! I did get a chance to meet his son, Sean Astin, a few years ago. He's a nice guy.

In 1993 you were an animator on the Sega Genesis adaptation of Jurassic Park. 

After leaving Attack of the Killer Tomatoes I went right back into unemployment despair. I was in San Diego and discovered that many of my co-workers on Killer Tomatoes were getting animation jobs in video games. This was news to me because for some reason I assumed all video games were made in Japan. There were a number of small gaming companies that were alive and well in San Diego. I started contracting on little-known titles and I quickly got a reputation for being able to animate really fast. Due to the limitations of the cartridges at the time, I could do all of the animation for a game in two weeks. That saved the developers a lot of money and I found enough work to keep me busy around the clock. I had a decent amount of animation to show other video game companies that were exploding at the time due to the sheer amount of games being made in the early 90s.

My first real job was at BlueSky Software. They hired me and paid a little extra to not do any side freelance work. I became a company man and got to work as an animator on a number of titles at the same time. Within the first year they landed the Jurassic Park game and I was offered the lead position. I got to visit the Jurassic Park set and meet two of my heroes who were working on the movie, Stan Winston and Phil Tippet. The latter just found out that the movie wouldn’t be using his stop-motion work because they decided to go with computer animation on the dinosaurs.
There are moments were I’m just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. On the day that I visited Phil Tippet, he was so upset at losing the Jurassic Park gig that he threw a stop-motion puppet of one of the Velociraptors into the chair right next to where I was sitting! I picked up the puppet and it felt absolutely amazing in my hands. This was the most high-end puppet I’ve ever touched. The machining of the armature was the best that money could buy, and the foam work on top of the armature felt like real skin. It moved like a dream. I looked at Phil and asked if I could shoot the puppet and digitize the images for the video game. He put us in contact with the studio lawyers and they agreed to let us use it if we took out a $75,000 insurance policy on the puppet.

Like my work on Killer Tomatoes, I wasn’t the greatest animator to inherit such a great project, but I worked long hours to get my stop-motion skills to some level using that puppet. I had done a lot of stop-motion puppet animation on my dad's 8mm camera starting when I was in 4th grade. The game was finished on time and on budget. While I find the gameplay a little clunky, that project taught me a lot about gaming and opened up an opportunity to work for Virgin Interactive where my career was about to step up far beyond what I could have imagined.

Was it fun to animate Sega's Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy's Invention?

I remember that we had to slam that game out pretty quick. My animation wasn’t great, but I really love Ren & Stimpy. We made the game really silly and just wanted the players to be able to get together and have a good time. That’s back when studios didn’t get too involved in our work because they considered video games voodoo. Games are, of course, voodoo. That may be the first time the studios were right about something.

Let's talk about the origins of Earthworm Jim...

That whole game happened because I met David Perry, Mike Dietz, and Ed Schofield when I got hired at Virgin Games. I didn’t do well when I landed at that company. I inherited the Super Nintendo version of The Jungle Book game, and the crew and I didn’t click very well. Within a few months I felt like I made a big mistake leaving BlueSky, but David Perry and his crew had made so many hits for Virgin Games that they decided to leave the company to start Shiny Entertainment under direct funding of Playmates Toys. They were looking for an animator, and I had become friends with Mike and Ed, so I was begging them to put in a good word for me. I was super desperate and not sure if Virgin Games would ever pan out for me. That unemployment knot in my gut was rearing its ugly head on the horizon.

Mike Dietz was also interviewing Larry Ahern (Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island) and he didn’t get back to Shiny because he was on vacation in Hawaii. Shiny said they knew I could animate, but wanted to know if I could be creative. They asked me to come up with a character that weekend and bring it in. I sat down and came up with Earthworm Jim and most of the bad guys. It was one of the easiest things I’ve created, but I was mostly just terrified of not getting the job. When I presented the characters to them, they hired me.

Once I landed at Shiny we started to goof around with Earthworm Jim as a game idea. We put together a pitch for Playmates, but still weren’t certain they would let us do the game. We were entertaining doing the Beavis and Butt-Head game instead, but once Playmates saw our pitch they agreed to make the game. That’s just another instance of how lucky I am. It’s hard to believe that something like that would happen, especially when life doesn’t seem to go the way I want it to when I really need it. But those first three years in animation took me from Killer Tomatoes to working on my own character who became a smash hit thanks to the Shiny team.

Do you have a favorite element that made its way into the Earthworm Jim games?

My favorite part of the game was that the lead character is just a total idiot who does his best and ends up saving the world. He has become a symbol of my whole career! I like how he is a moron but has just enough competence and heart to be a hero. He’s a vulnerable worm that fell into a super suit that cannot be destroyed.

How did the idea of your sequel, Earthworm Jim 2, come about?

While working at Shiny we always overdeveloped our games, so there would be a lot of ideas that didn’t make it in. We didn’t come up with great stuff, we came up with a lot of stuff and threw out the things that were too stupid or too difficult to make. What’s left over becomes the game! We knew we would make a sequel because the game did so well with the gaming press. They went ape for it. I think we needed to just capitalize on the game engine and see if we could squeak out another one. Some of our ideas were a little too aggressive and the game suffered for it, but most people still respected what we were trying to do. I liked having that kind of support. This was at a time when gamers were more about playing and having fun than being professional critics. It was different back then.

Earthworm Jim was soon brought to life as an animated series...

That was a surreal moment. The Simpsons had only been on the air for three years back then, and Dan Castellaneta was a real catch for us. I remember listening to a lot of people trying out for the voice and his was the clear winner. Having my own television series was an even bigger dream come true because I’d been watching cartoons a lot longer than I’d been playing video games. I went from animating other people’s characters to executive producing my own series. Suddenly, I was tracking Neilson ratings and monitoring a mass audience. I became aware of how a lot of people felt about my work instead of just me looking at an isolated image in my sketchbooks.

The Earthworm Jim series was animated by Universal, so I got to spend a lot of time on the Lot. I remember driving my beat-up pickup truck around the sets, sitting in on the record sessions, and reviewing scripts. I didn’t have a lot of input on the show, I just did approvals and designed any new characters that showed up on the series. I was mostly just watching and learning how to make a show by experiencing it from the front row.

Do you have a favorite episode?

I suppose my favorite episode was "The Anti-Fish". It’s just a really stupid, silly episode that I can’t believe exists!
Is there a medium you most enjoy working in?

I like comics best. No offense to the other mediums I work in, they’re all a wonderful experience, but when I make a graphic novel I get to write and draw the whole story by myself with little collaboration from others. It’s where my storytelling is best, and I think it’s the most powerful medium for my skill set.

Creature Tech is such a wonderful story - do you think Fox will ever move forward on production of a film adaptation since they obtained the rights?

I don’t know if they will, but they should if they want to make a lot of money and entertain the masses! Last time I checked that was Fox’s job, so let’s hope they get to it. That graphic novel is one where I just made something very personal and I thought I was the only one who would like it. Come to find out a lot of us are on the same page. It’s a broadly American sci-fi comedy with mile-long flying space eels, so how could it not work?

What is the last thing you drew?


What are you working on now that you are excited about?

I’m finishing up our last season of VeggieTales in the City for Netflix/Dreamworks and I’m excited about that. I’ve got a few pitches in the hopper I’m getting ready to take around to the studios this spring, and I am writing two graphic novels. I’m always excited about what’s next because that’s where I live.

What originally inspired you to get into animation?

When a drawing moves, it seems alive. It’s a study of life. I love life and it's a great magic trick to pull off. I like drawing, but the drawing sits there and someone needs to make that thing come to life!

What inspires you now?

All things that are true, good and beautiful. I find little patience in media that’s ugly, dark, or false… and there’s a lot of that.

How has working in the industry changed since you first started?

Well, the Internet happened. That changed a lot of problems that artists used to have with accessing a mass audience. The audience has a lot more power than when I started, as we are all digitally connected and we all consume a lot more media, so there is a bigger workforce required to create that media. Unfortunately, the quality of storytelling hasn’t progressed much. If anything, I’d say we’re moving backwards culturally.
(The creation of the cover art for THE MAKING OF EARTHWORM JIM book)

What advice would you give to those who want to follow in your footsteps?

Turn around and run away! Seriously, I think someone who works harder than the next guy and gets a few lucky breaks can do what I do. It’s not easy, and I still feel that unemployment knot in my gut, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m an artist, no matter if I’m successful or not. I can’t change that.

If you had to sum up your art in three words, what would they be?

Fun, odd, and thoughtful. That’s what I’m trying to do, anyways.