Recent Reviews of The Deadly Spawn(PART 2):

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 from House of Self-Indulgence:

As anyone who spent any time lurking in a basement knows, there's always something disquieting happening down there. Whether yours is finished (complete with fake wood paneling and a rarely used sex chair), in a constant state of disrepair, or dungeon-esque (if this, by the way, is the case, then your sex chair will probably get used with a greater frequently, as dungeons and sex chairs go hand and hand), these subterranean lairs are literally crawling with alien invaders. And, no, I'm not talking about little green men from Mars or your freeloading cousins fromLithuania, I'm talking about house centipedes. Holy crap, just typing their name gives me the willies. Anyway, their frightening appearance combined with the unsettling speed in which they move will upset even the most hardened of basement dwellers. Well, these non-indigenous pests, who, I've been told, are actually quite beneficial (they apparently like to eat other insects), have nothing on the disgusting things that populate the dank basement featured in The Deadly Spawn, the film where even a vegetarian luncheon turns into an ankle-biting gore-fest. You see what I just did there? Did where? Using wonky yet sound logic, I was somehow able to tie together my own fear of house centipedes with the creatures in the film I'm currently writing about. It's a new technique I've been tinkering with. In that, I try to draw from own experiences when watching a film. In this low budget, intergalactic monster in the basement flick written and directed by Douglas McKeown, I couldn't help but make the correlation between the two entities. For one thing, it's the time of year when the predacious arthropods spawn (every so often you'll see a baby house centipede skitter across the wall), and that's exactly what the toothy monstrosity in this film does, except they multiply with a reckless form of abandon.

 One of the few films to disrupt the harmonic flow of my nightly existence, the early basement scenes in The Deadly Spawn were pretty effective when it came to creating an atmosphere of dread. Don't believe me? Well, check this out: My ability to penetrate dark passageways with my usual carefree confidence was severely hampered after watching this film. Part of me—the part that is clearly a whiny little baby who needs to have his diaper changed—kept half expecting to find a giant three-headed uncircumcised penis with teeth waiting to bite me around every corner.

Enough about the contents of my diaper, let's get down to business. Did you, like, see Jean Tafler's light blue knee socks? Weren't they awesome? Aw, man, why did you have to go and say that? Up until this point, you were coming off as a relatively sane person. Sure, the diaper thing was a tad off-putting, but at least you were talking about a baby's diaper instead of a grown man's diaper. A real step in the right direction, if you ask me. But then you had to mention the socks, didn't you? Why? Well, for starters, people don't come here to read about quality acting or breathtaking cinematography, they come to read long-winded soliloquies about fingerless gloves, scrunchies, pointy shoes, and, if they're lucky, an inexplicably homoerotic tangent involving a meaty set of succulent thighs encased in a pair of black silk stockings. Besides, are you telling me you didn't notice Miss Tafler's socks? Your brain must not work good if you were unable spot the subtlety of the sexy sock show being sewn byJean Tafler in The Deadly Spawn, or, either that, you're a damned fool who has completely lost his or her grip on reality.

Seriously, though, socks aside, let's head on down to the basement and find out what all the hubbub is about. Actually, you might want to stay upstairs. Not that, as we'll soon find out, it's any safer up there, it's just that everyone who goes down there seems to not come back up in one piece. On a rainy day in the middle of New Jersey, a mysterious alien creature who hitched ride on a meteorite decides to make itself at home in the creepy basement of Sam (James Brewster) and Barb (Elissa Neil). After they're both eaten (the walls and the ceiling are covered with their blood), it's up to their children, Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt), a monster enthusiast, and Pete (Tom DeFranco), a science major, to prevent their house from becoming overrun with ravenous space mutants.

The fact that we never see the parents interact with their children did lesson the impact of their deaths; I initially thought the kids were merely tenants, especially when you consider the fact that Pete seems to be pursuing a post secondary education. However, thanks to the genuine nature of the horrified look on Charles' face when he sees his mother's severed head being slowly devoured by the alien's tadpole-like offspring, the film manages to regain its emotional core. The parents go from being random victims to cherished loved ones the moment Charles sets foot in that basement. While it might seem like he's just standing there, Charlie is actually gathering information on the fiendish beast(s). Regurgitating his mother's head in order that its icky progeny can feast on her flesh, Charles notices that the creature, who is basically three large tooth-laden mouths with a wormy body, is completely blind and finds its prey (lumpy electricians and middle-aged couples in ugly bathrobes) via sound.

Oblivious to the space monster learning symposium that's taking place in the basement, Aunt Millie (Ethel Michelson) is busy upstairs preparing to attend a vegetarian luncheon at her mother's house. Even though the bulkiness of her salmon-coloured dressing gown undermines the exquisite shape of her womanly girth at every turn, Aunt Millie still manages to turn heads. On the surface, she seems like your typical kooky Aunt (unlike the rest of the family, she respects Charles' morbid hobby), but underneath that wholesome facade lies a woman, a sensual woman, one with needs. Since it's obvious to anyone with a half a brain and a pocket full of unauthorized gumption that Uncle Herb (John Schmerling) is not fulfilling these needs, I feel that it's my duty to rub my consecrated tentacle juice all over her various nooks and crannies until she quivers with irregular ecstasy.

Speaking irregular ecstasy, just the mere thought of being in a threesome with Aunt Millie from The Deadly Spawn and Aunt Martha from Sleepaway Camp is enough to make your average orgasm seem like a colossal waste of time.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Pete's friends, Ellen (Jean Tafler) and Frankie (Richard Lee Porter), come over to study, and Charles, well, he's still in the basement, observing the creatures (who are multiplying rapidly). This is the point in the film where Pete's scientific method goes up against Charles' more fact-based technique. You see, Pete tries to confront the problem from an analytical point-of-view (he outright dismisses the notion that the dead baby spawn Ellen and Frankie found on the way over to his house could be from outer space), while Charles, whose way ahead of Pete in terms of spawn knowledge, takes a more hands approach to figuring out what makes the nasty critters who currently call their basement home tick.

Trying his best not to stare at Ellen's knees (the way they gingerly poked out from underneath her tartan skirt was enough to drive even the most rational of men insane with lust-filled desire), Pete's got romance on his mind as well.

While Charles is collecting intelligence, you'll notice that one of the basement windows is open, and that some of babies are using it as an exit. Where could they be going? If you were a newborn space slug with a voracious appetite, where would you go? You have no idea? Well, I know where I would go, I'd follow Aunt Millie to that vegetarian luncheon. You'll notice as Aunt Millie is admiring her mother's new porcelain giraffe ("I've never seen this giraffe before," she coos with a hint of jealousy), that she's wearing a no frills white shirt. But when her guests arrive she is clearly wearing one with lots of frills (in fact, it was only three or four frills away from becoming a full-on puffy shirt). Anyway, as her guests (an odd collection of old biddies and tupperware junkies) are about to start consuming their vegetarian meals, the spawn strike. Since they're still relatively small compared to their massive mother, it's the feet and ankles of the vegetarian luncheon attendees that bear the brunt of the spawn's assault.

I don't exactly remember who invited her ("meanwhile, back at the house"), but Kathy (Karen Tighe) shows up just as all hell is about to break loose in the upstairs portion of the house (the college age youngsters take refuge in Charles' B-movie poster adorned bedroom). At first, I was a tad dismissive of this Kathy person. I mean, for one thing, she wasn't even wearing pastel-coloured knee socks. Oh, sure, she could have been sporting a pair underneath her drab trousers. But unless I can see your knee socks, you will not be credited as a knee sock wearer. At any rate, Kathy manages to get in my good graces when she utters the line, "what the fuck was that?" after seeing the three-headed uncircumcised penis monster for the very first time. Her reaction was totally justified, as the main creature in The Deadly Spawn is probably one of the most fearsome movie monsters I have ever seen.

After a shocking death, the action moves to the attic, and Charles finally gets to utilize the knowledge he's been gleaming for the past eighty or so minutes. Blood spattered light bulbs, torrential rain, cannibalism, fire pokers used as weapons, egg plant preparation, the word "misshapen" is used, a human head is devoured, a salmon bathrobe is worn, and, no, I'm not just randomly listing things I saw in this movie. What I'm awkwardly trying to do is make a point pertaining to the amount of amazing stuff that takes place in The Deadly Spawn, as it's a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness. 




 The Deadly Spawn, along with The Quatermass Xperiment, is one of the coolest monster movies ever made, and I say this for several different reasons. For starters, its only eighty minutes long. It definitely doesn't wear out its welcome. The film goes about at an engaging, yet not rushed, pace, the characters are likable and fun to watch, the monster itself is actually scary and extremely dangerous, and the film is completely scary and shocking. The visual effects are minimal, yet a lot of the time they are effective in a strange way. The film starts off with a meteor hitting earth and a monster comes out and devours a couple of nearby campers. Afterward, a family wakes up in their home early in the morning during a nasty rainstorm. The entire sequence is incredibly realistic in a way that a lot of films aren't. We see the entire process of the family awakening and their tired expressions. I don't think I've ever seen a more realistic wake-up scene in a film. Then slowly things start not going as planned. The bloodthirsty alien monster has ended up in the family basement. It isn't long before the monster starts to eat everyone who comes into contact with it. The family itself consists of a mother, a father, and two boys. Visiting the household are their aunt and uncle. The older brother, Pete, invites a couple of classmates over for scientific experiments to pass the time and to maybe get a little bit more ahead of the curb in his high school class. Pete's younger brother Charles is obsessed with horror movies and likes to dress up as monsters and do magic tricks. Soon the monster in the basement becomes an enormous problem and the situation grows increasingly desperate as they all try to figure out a strategy.

This was one of the films that got me so interested in filmmaking and in the process of it. To me, it showed that film could evoke all sorts of feelings that we've all experienced at one point or another. To me, this film brought a lot of early memories to mind. I saw The Deadly Spawn when I was pretty young, and I always thought it was scary and awesome. I still think it is an incredible achievement for what it is. When I was really little, I used to wake up about an hour early in the morning before school to watch television. I watched everything from Bobby's World to X-Men. I also watched Grave of the Fireflies when I woke up even earlier and switched to another channel, and that traumatized me. I'll save that story for another day, however. There would be times when it would be raining, as I would be doing this over and over again in New England back in 1996 through 1998 and would end up doing this during the springtime when it would be at it's rainiest and most damp. The early scenes in this film where the family was waking up and turning the lights on totally evoked that feeling for me and still does. I'm sure everyone can remember a time in which they were awake in the morning with the lights on, and they'd look outside and it would be dark out and there would be so much reflection appearing on the windows and it would feel weird because it would be happening and it wouldn't be nighttime. Also, when I was younger, I loved horror movies. It wasn't a lifestyle like it was for little Charles in this film, but him and I definitely exhibited the same kind of perverse creativity. I totally saw myself in him, and because of this and because of the fact that he's basically the main character and one of the major heroes, I kind of have always idolized this kid. I certainly did when I was little, and now as an adult I still do because he represents everything that I was when I was his age. I hope to one day meet actor Charles George Hildebrandt just so that I can shake his hand for being such a hero to me for playing that role. That kid is just so friggin' cool and is my favorite child character in a horror film.

The Deadly Spawn is also just a lot of fun to watch. People shouldn't be afraid to laugh, because this film is also really quite cheesy. There is no attempt made for the story to be entirely convincing, and I'm glad. This is a throwback to classic monsters on the loose drive-in films of the 50s and 60s. People who loved The Blob will absolutely adore this film. The film, to be honest, feels a lot more real than The Blob did, but that doesn't make it any more cheesy and fun. All of the effects in this film are done completely practically, and even the effects that look like shit still look better than any CGI made today. Honestly, this is the kind of film that the Sci-Fi (SyFy) channel was made for. The Deadly Spawn is basically just pure horror, gore, and shock much like Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, Darkness, or Phantasm. It's a shot-on-video picture that isn't shot-on-video. One of the best aspects of it is the way everything just blows up and comes together. There's nothing more satisfying to me than watching people discover that the outcast was right. The idea of a sane man in an insane world is prevalent here. The film also features characters who die very suddenly and with no warning. We don't entirely know for sure who is going to die, and that's really what horror should be all about. True horror should shock us, scare us, and make us fear the unknown. This film pulls it off better than most films of it's kind. It manages to bring the same kind of atmosphere that Alien did, despite the fact that it takes place on land.

The best thing about this film, however, is that it never once pretends to be more than it is. The film manages to pull together it's own little world with it's own set of rules and logic, and it never once comes across as far-fetched. It does come across cheap, sure, but so what? Just because a film is cheaply made doesn't mean it isn't worthy of our respect. Some of the acting may be bad, but why does that have to be a problem if they're clearly having fun just being in it? This film is just as good as The Evil Dead in evoking fear, blowing our minds with hideous imagery, and making us laugh as hard as we possibly can. Most of all, it is simply one of the most entertaining horror films ever made. It also features a really scary set-piece with a really scary monster in a dark and dingy cellar that is leaky, creaky, and probably full of rats and cockroaches. Charles treads into this darkness with absolutely no fear. His mental and physical constitution has been strengthened and enhanced by watching disturbing horror movies like this one. Even when he watches a loved one die in horribly painful and grotesque fashion right in front of his face, he still descends and makes big and bold choices. This is one of the few films of it's kind that is both a celebration and a representation of what horror is and what horror should be about. Shock, horror, gore, intelligence, suspense, atmosphere, intensity, humor, and most of all heart. 

INTERVIEW with the director

From Dr. Gore's Funhouse:

Shot on an extremely low budget, The Deadly Spawn would become a cult classic amongst fans of 1980s creature features, a regular attraction at the drive-ins and late night movie theatres. Marking the debut of independent filmmaker Douglas McKeown, The Deadly Spawn told of a meteor that crashlands in the woods, prompting two campers to go and investigate. A creature emerges from the wreckage and begins to lay havoc with the locals, some strange alien monster that is more deadly than anything man has ever seen.

With the movie set to be discovered by a new generation of horror fans, Douglas McKeown reveals his filmmaking background and his experience shooting The Deadly Spawn

How did you first become interested in cinema and how did you come to create special effects yourself when you were younger?

“[Who told you I created special effects when I was younger?] My first exposure to cinema, or shall I say movies, was through television – King Kong and all the old Depression-Era Universal horror pictures, which were telecast for the first time ever when I was still a pre-teen. My interest in special effects came from watching King Kong over and over again when it was shown nine times in one week. But my first real interest as a director, even though I had no camera, stemmed from the giant monster films of the 1950s. I would re-enact the films I saw at the local theatre in my neighborhood by casting a bunch of kids as terrified extras and instructing them how to look up at nothing and pretend it was a giant octopus or dinosaur. I spent some childhood years directing countless horror scenarios with me as the monster – always with the camera in mind, if not in hand (I still didn’t own one at that time).”

Did your amateur filmmaking career begin when you were given a Bolex 8mm camera and what were your early experiments with directing films like?

“Right! I got that while I was still in high school. The Bolex had single-frame capability, and at that time what really mattered to me was model animation. I wanted to make dinosaurs. My first effective model was a 13-inch Tyrannosaur I made out of Plasticine sculpted over a copper wire armature and coated with liquid latex. I named her “Parkhurst,” after an ancient professor I had Freshman year of college. Her first movements were just about as unsteady and jerky as the old teacher, mostly because I shot double frame exposures thinking to save time. Never made that mistake again. Later on I made a far more convincing dinosaur film using a 16 mm Bolex.”

Having been rejected from UCLA, did you feel that become a real filmmaker was unlikely and how did you eventually become involved with ABC-TV?

“I suppose I did take the grad school rejection as a verdict on my ability at that time – after all, it was UCLA, and they should know, right? [an ironic note: in 2004, the UCLA Film and Television Archive invited me to their screening of The Deadly Spawnas part of their horror film series!] I got a job with ABC in New York right after college from an employment ad in the newspaper. But I was stuck in the commercial editing department pretty far from production, so I eventually quit. I wasn’t really interested in TV at that time – I was into great big-screen classics and modern imports. I had spent my college years in art cinemas soaking up Bergman, Fellini, and Kurosawa films.”

After some time as a high school teacher, you finally managed to direct a feature film with The Deadly Spawn? Was the budget difficult to raise and how did the project first come about?

“Raising the money wasn’t my department. I don’t really know how Ted Bohus, et al., managed to finance the project. I do know no one was paid anything – at least not until some time after the film was distributed. Film stock was donated, I think. The idea of making a cheapo horror-sci-fi picture was hatched by Bohus and Dods, who had met at one of the horror conventions, as I understand it. They called me in because of my expertise working with actors. Dods also well knew my background in horror effects and horror make-ups, not to mention film directing, since he had seen at least one of my films. They didn’t have anyone to write the screenplay either so I volunteered for that job as well since I had a lot of experience writing scripts.”

How did you first make the acquaintance of Ted A. Bohus and how would you describe your professional relationship?

“I met Ted for the first time when John Dods invited me out to New Jersey to hear their pitch. I thought Ted and I got along very well for most of the shoot. He was very supportive and involved every day. Anyway, I would say we worked together well. All three of us met frequently just to get up to speed on the storyline – since I was writing the screenplay as we went along. And contrary to some reports, I wrote all the dialogue during the year we shot principal photography – as well as mapping out the plot we agreed on.”

Was the picture intended as your homage to the old b-movies of the 1950s or was it closer in spirit to the low budget monster flicks that had appeared during the early 1980s?

“Well, it had similarities to some pictures of the 1970s. I was aware of the most recent horror and sci-fi movies, of course, and the three of us actually talked about the huge success of movies like Alien and Jaws, but my real passion was for the movie style of my formative years, the 1950s. So I would say that was where my spirit was. We did know we would have to be “modern” in terms of a getting an ‘R’ rating, though – if only to put Ted’s company on the map. Certainly the film was going to have to show more violence than there was in The Blob, say, or It Came from Outer Space.”

One master of cheap horror and sci-fi was Roger Corman, as was Larry Cohen. Were either of these an influence on you and which movies in particular inspired the style or story of The Deadly Spawn?

“I was inspired by Corman’s pictures to do a better job! I remember being disappointed by It Conquered the World because the “monster” was laughable. The campy, tongue-in-cheek films like Little Shop… and The Raven I only now appreciate; they were too silly to me then – I took my horror very seriously when I was young. And I never really connected with the period stuff Corman did with Vincent Price – with those brightly lit, too-colorful, fake-looking sets and recycled props – I didn’t buy the 19th century costumes with 1960s coifs and makeup on the women. I was a stickler for realistic detail. But I definitely ate up the idea of low budget. That’s because when I had made props myself as a kid, I took pride in making things look real and evocative on NO money – a convincing army tank out of an old refrigerator box or a spaceship out of cardboard tubing and oak tag or paper maché. I loved small transition scenes in even some big budget Hollywood movies where a door would open and close and the painted backdrop outside could be glimpsed for a second. For instance, I remember realizing that a flat studio interior that suddenly appears in The Grapes of Wrath was a budgetary consideration, and it was up to Gregg Toland to light and photograph the brief scene to match the exterior location. This fired my creative instincts like nothing else. It’s one reason I admired – and still admire – production designer-showmen like Edgar G. Ulmer (The Black Cat [1934], The Man from Planet X) and William Cameron Menzies (Things to Come, Invaders from Mars [1953]). And don’t forget Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur (The Cat PeopleI Walked with a Zombie). That was a wonderful collaboration – chills and thrills on a shoestring.”

How difficult was it as the director to find the perfect balance between suspense, gore, humour and character?

“Well, it helped that I wrote the thing. A lot of that balance could be worked out in my head before arriving on the set with the actors. I will say one thing. Humor, gore, character, suspense are all elements to develop, for sure – but one principle guided me, the same one I always have – and that’s that the story is more important than any isolated effect, no matter how sensational, and it should be driven by character. As crazy or “insane” as the premise was – e.g., a weird and terrible monster from space is in the basement – the characters should all be completely “sane” in the sense of being as real and ordinary as the actors could make them. (They can go insane, like Pete, if the trauma drives them to it, but they shouldn’t start out that way.) H.G. Wells had the same idea, I believe: The more outrageous the circumstances, the more familiar the setting should be. Otherwise it would be too hard to suspend disbelief. I have seen so many supposedly scary movies that I just didn’t want to bother suspending disbelief for.”

What kind of instructions did you give John Dods on how you wanted the monsters in the film to be designed and how were these special effects achieved?

“Oh!! Ha! I have to laugh at the question. No one tells John Dods how to design a monster! He knew better than anyone how he wanted this particular monster to look – the mother spawn, that is – well before they even brought me on board, and he had pretty much designed the whole thing already. No, the creature was the reason he wanted to make the film to begin with, I think. He and Ted and I figured out together the idea of the spawning of little baby monsters, and we talked a lot early on about how all the creature effects would look and how they would be done, but John was the master of his domain. As to how the effects were achieved: all by live action, no camera tricks or animation. But some very clever live action, indeed.”

Apparently there was tension between yourself and Dods on set. What can you reveal regarding this?

“In fact, John and I did clash when I wanted his monster to be more agile, to move faster, etc. Now, if you ask him he might disagree with me here, but I think human interaction scenes really annoyed John, because it meant he had to cede some control of his creature. I was adamant about trying to get all action in the frame and not shoot humans and monster effects separately with the latter being inserts to be assembled later. I knew some later inserts were going to be unavoidable, but I tried hard to keep all the action together as much as possible. I even had quite an argument at one point with John about getting the mother spawn up the stairs to attack the kids in the bedroom. A few years ago, he told me we also fought over how to shoot part of the climactic attic sequence, but I don’t remember that.”

How did you cast the movie and was the role of the child hero, Charles, a difficult one to fill?

“We put an ad in Backstage newspaper (a trade paper) to audition for the younger parts, and I filled in some of the character parts with actors I knew and had worked with on stage in New York, both as a director and as a fellow actor. Charles was easy to cast. His father, the artist-illustrator Tim Hildebrandt, was one of the producers of the film and owned the house we shot in, and Charles’s actual bedroom was his character’s room! In short, he was always available. Not to mention smart and sympathetic. Just right for the part. He was great to work with.”

How long did principal photography last and with the film being shot on a relatively low budget how difficult were the conditions that you were working under?

“What I call principal photography – that is, all the dialogue scenes I wrote with the actors and some of the effects stuff that included them – were shot on weekends from the fall of 1980 through early summer of 1981. I don’t know exactly how many months more were taken to shoot effects inserts (and to re-shoot certain scenes!). The conditions were not ideal. For one thing, every time we arrived at the Hildebrandts’ New Jersey house from New York City, the rooms had to be rearranged – the “set” dressed, so to speak. This involved removing a lot of bric-a-brac from walls and surfaces, and then restoring them afterwards – very time-consuming, and since there was no one else to do it – since I had no personal secretary or assistant director – I had to do it myself. It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the scene to be shot while acting as production designer, set decorator, make-up man, my own assistant, and P.A. (This is not to say that people didn’t pitch in where they could. Ted’s then girlfriend, Kathy, for example, was a terrific general help.) I almost forgot to mention that the script called for rain throughout the entire film until the very end. Fine, except that it never rained that year – not one drop. It was the worst drought to date in New Jersey history, I believe. We used garden hoses when we shot exteriors – and they became illegal to use at a certain point, so we had to dodge the law as well! Also, late in the game, for some of the final scenes, it got extremely hot up in the attic. We shot these overnight to minimize the suffering, but still, without air-conditioning, it was almost intolerable.”

How come you were removed from the movie before filming was completed and how did the final cut differ from what you had intended?

“Well, I’ve already touched on this, but the short answer is, John Dods – if he will forgive me saying so – really wanted to direct the picture. The short answer, but it does need a bit of an explanation. Suffice it to say that John got so frustrated with my approach to his creature and to the film as a whole, that he engineered my removal without my knowledge (I only learned this in 2003 or 2004). It freed him up to take months more to carefully light and photograph his effects and to re-shoot some early footage. The cinematographers I had worked with on The Deadly Spawn – though very professional – did not have the luxury of time to do set-ups, nor did they have John’s particular skills – he’s a real artist with lighting, in my opinion. As a result, one of the longest sequences in the film – the basement confrontation between Charles and the mother spawn – is about twice as long as I would have wanted. I think it slows down the film story, even though the effects are marvelous and great fun, and it’s beautifully photographed. Apparently, to make room for this extended sequence and other effects, they decided to eliminate Pete and Ellen’s first “love” scene (John Dods has confirmed this) – really a flirtation scene that was maybe their best acting work and was important to setting up their kissing scene. I was stunned by its omission when I saw the final cut at the premiere. I felt their strong emotional connection was necessary to drive Pete to crack up so completely after what happens to her. There were many other minor details and additions I would have written or shot or edited differently. But hey, that’s also true for a lot of the stuff that I did write, shoot, or edit!”

The Deadly Spawn has been released under a variety of different names, including Return of the Aliens and Eating Machine. Which of all the titles do you prefer and how did the alternative names originate?

“Don’t know how for sure. That was all distribution. I’ve heard that a distributor decided The Deadly Spawn would be more marketable with the word “alien” in the title, and “Return of” would fool at least a percentage of the audience into thinking our film was somehow connected to Ridley Scott’s ground-breaker. So when they released The Deadly Spawn on video later as Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn and also Return of the Aliens’ Deadly Spawn, an unfortunate consequence of these title changes was that people apparently thought they were going to see a sequel not to Alien but to The Deadly Spawn. They were understandable annoyed when what they got was just a (truncated) version of the same film! Anyway, of course I prefer the original title, The Deadly Spawn.”

Were you ever tempted to shoot a sequel and how come you chose not to pursue a filmmaking career?

“No I wasn’t tempted to shoot a sequel. And I never chose not to pursue a filmmaking career. I still am a filmmaker, just haven’t yet got another opportunity to work on a feature.”

Do you look back fondly on the making of The Deadly Spawn and are you proud of what you managed to achieve?

“I’m certainly proud of having made a film so many people like, but I do still have mixed feelings, as you can probably tell. One thing I seldom mention now is my ambivalence at the time I accepted to direct it. See, I always had a dislike for the more gory movies of the horror genre. I believed as Karloff did, that the best horror films were really “terror” films where the bloody violence is left to the imagination. Nevertheless, once I actually decided to do it, I gave it my all. And I loved every single creative aspect of working on the film, except the severe limitations to our time, and, obviously, the unpleasant parting of the ways with Dods and Bohus. I did regret not being able to assemble more of the footage myself into a rough cut. I really was the only one who knew how it was to go together, and it hurt to have to abandon so much work to others – and then to have to see it in its final form with so much I had intended end up, well, compromised. I will say I enjoyed meeting the editor, Mark Harwood, at the big screen premiere on Broadway. I thought he’d done a heroic job without the benefit of my shooting script (he told me he never even knew there was a script!). I am proud that some of the sequences I shot so close to the bone – without “coverage” by alternate camera angles, etc. – that they couldn’t be messed with by anybody, and could only be edited exactly as I wanted. And I’m proud of some scenes throughout the film, like the one of Charles being interviewed by Uncle Herb, where the writing and directing have a bit more interest than is usual with this kind of film. But I’m most proud of the two “vegetarian luncheon” scenes – particularly remembering my time limitations, both in the writing and the shooting. I think that whole sequence of the wacky suburban “ladies who lunch” really holds up, flaws and budgetary restrictions notwithstanding. It’s still both funny and disturbing/scary. Exactly what I intended.”