The Fanzine of the Bizarre, The Beautiful & The Fantastic


by Elisar Cabrera

Writer/Producer/Director Matt Devlen has just finished traveling around the world for the first time and I caught up with him at the Swiss Center in Leciester Square where this "rabid" vegan was pulling one of his infamous salad scams, getting a big salad for the price of a small by piling the greens as high as they can go in the bowl. In this exclusive interview, Matt travels back to his early career, some 17 pictures ago, when he made low budget horror films with lots of blood and gore. Matt even caught the praising eye of the Godfather of Gore himself, Hershell Gordon Lewis, back then. But, alas, Matt's given up on the likes of directors like Lewis for first time 'arty' directors like Crispin Glover and the scream queens like Julie Strain are now a distant memory for this filmmaker who's aspiring to make films that say something and make difference. But, it wasn't always like that as you will soon see for yourself.

  I started out as an actor in the business, getting a full scholarship to Emerson College. I came from a Rah-Rah high school in southern Florida and ended up in collegiate Boston with the strangest group of people I'd ever met. The freshman orientation film was ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Well, everybody knew the words to this movie and I hadn't even heard the title of the film yet. I was bombarded that week with all kinds of other stuff like film, writing, cameras, etc. I switched majors without telling the scholarship committee. I guess I got away with it. I still act though whenever I get the chance.

When I left Massachusetts, Houston was supposed to be the next hot spot of film production. Within 10 minutes of getting off the bus, someone tried to chase me down with a knife, so I went to Dallas instead. I spent about two years working in commercials, a year of which I languished doing craft service which involved serving snacks and drinks all day long to cast & crews. I did it so well that no one would hire me for anything else until I priced myself out of the market. It was crazy. I was making as much as the grips and D.P.'s.

I then hooked up with two friends and we made our first epic, TABLOID! It was a really weird takeoff on the National Inquirer. My story was about a mad scientist little girl who supposedly had this gift of predicting tornadoes. Her dad was the only one who knew her secret and he used the information to turn himself into one of the hottest sought after meteorologists in the weather business. Only thing was, she was really retooling vacuum cleaners which attracted tornadoes whenever they were turned on. Her real intent was to knock off her wicked stepmother which she does in the end. What a finale. The evil mother gets sucked out a window, courtesy of 7-11. I had talked the Southland Corporation into giving me a building they were tearing down to maximize the special effects.

And Lisa Loeb starred in it. She's now the famous musician Lisa Loeb. You never know when a movie will breakout. We auditioned a guy named Brad Pitt for the lead in Soulmates. We ended up casting Tyrone Power Jr. instead. What a mistake. Just imagine if we had Pitt in the movie.

We got ripped off on the distribution of TABLOID and my business partner and I decided to make two films for $10,000.00 a piece. At the time video companies were buying any piece of crap that was made. You could have filmed you sister's slumber party, thrown blood all over it, called it Suzy's Slumber Party Massacre and made fortune.

We made two films. OZONE ATTACK OF THE REDNECK MUTANTS and THE ABOMINATION. They were bloody as hell with gallons, no barrels of blood. We presold the rights to Japan ourselves but they backed out at the last minute. OzoneThe market for gore films was over. I guess it took us too long to complete the films because we had little money and had to go really slow in post.

OZONE was an environmental horror film about a bunch of hicks who turn into mutant when the Ozone hole disappears. ABOMINATION was about this ugly little blob this woman spit up which turned into an even uglier blob with big white balsa wood teeth. It ate everything in sight.

There was about a crew and cast of six on each of these movies. But, if you look at the credits, you might think 3 dozen people or more worked on them. I have a least a dozen or so pseudonyms. I mean when someone wasn't acting, they were doing make-up and if they weren't doing lights, they were standing in as one of the mutants.

I left Texas, having exhausted my creative potential. I understand that my former business partner is still making movies there. I wish him well. But, my sights were on L.A. where they made movies, lots of them. Only thing was when I got there, no one gave a shit I was there.

I went to the AFM (the annual American Film Market for Independent producers and distributors) and showed around stills from the pictures I'd made. So this guy from Chicago sees them and says "This is great!. We want to hire you Come meet us tomorrow." So I ask them for the title of the film and they tell me to show up tomorrow and I'll learn more. So I got very excited and called a bunch of people to tell them I'd probably gotten my first break.

So I show up in the lobby, not knowing at the time that only the idiots are in the lobby because they can't get in upstairs without a badge." We sit down ready to start talking about the film and I get around to asking about the title. "The title of the film is "RAPE DOG," the story of a German Shepherd dog that rapes women," they tell me matter-of-factly. I was speechless and quickly told them I'd decided to take another job. I was so horrified. I didn't need a producer credit that bad. These guys ended up doing another film later called THEY BITE, about women who had teeth in their vaginas.

So what I did is scope out the entire AFM and I found a company (Vista Street Entertainment) that was making a lot of cheap, exploitation horror films. I needed the experience, so after the AFM was over I showed up in their office one day and sat down and told them I was working for them. Jerry Feifer thought I was nuts. Underground"We haven't hired you" he said. I know, I responded. "I won't cost anything, but will make myself invaluable if you give me the opportunity. So within a few days I was working a lot of hours for no money. But within a few weeks they started paying me and within a few months, they were ready to make their next movies and I stepped in and took a producer position. I made two films there, BODY PARTS (not the famous one with Jeff Fahey) and UNDERGROUND. I really respected Jerry Feifer. He's one of the few people I met who didn't bullshit you by promising you the worthless points. He told you were going to get shit for working for him and that what you got.

BODY PARTS was a disaster. We did try and fix it with the likes of Michael Paul Gerard who had done a comedy called OVERSEXED RUGSUCKERS from Mars. He used the old footage and added his own. Now the Marilyn Monroe Lookalike who had been killing all the strippers at the club (The same strippers were in both movies), was no longer responsible for her actions. She was under the control of her poodle who was possessed by an old Egyptian spirit. This was hilarious, especially since the poodle was a puppy in the first and a grown dog in the second version. I even have a torrid love scene with Marilyn as a T.V. repairman and my butt shows. The film is just unbelievable. I think it barely made its' money back.

INVISIBLE MANIAC was next. This was another reprehensible film. I was sick about working on it. But, I needed the money and the experience, though I couldn't wait to get onto to something creative and non-exploitative. When we did these films, you were broke the day you finished wrapping it and needed to do another. Luckily, I got a writing credit and I helped make the film more palatable. If I hadn't help shape this film, it never would have been the blockbuster that it was. It was going to be bloody, really bloody with arms cut off and legs cut off. Now people got electrocuted or choked on a submarine sandwich. No blood. And that meant dollars for the home video market. Republic Home Video picked it up for a song. One investor bought a house in Beverly Hills with the cash. It also starred Shannon Wilsey (AKA Savannah) who became a porn star and later shot herself in the face. My mother also got a bit part of a scientist who got killed by the maniac with a skeleton.

With SOULMATES and LOVE IS LIKE THAT, I started moving up the ladder and getting into films with name actors and more quality scripts. We shot both of these films in the same house on Norton Street in Los Angeles. The neighborhood complained that the owner had turned his property into a film studio and we were banned from the area after the second film.

SOULMATES was about a 600 year old Don Juan in the persona of Tristan Rogers of General Hospital fame who longed for his dear departed wife. He could only be together with her in the body of another woman who was dead. So they carried on this romance each time until rigor mortis set in. It was sick premise, but no sicker than a lot of the crap that's out there today. I had a writing credit and again tried to give it some redeeming value within the confines of the premise, again aching to get on to something else. Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island is also in it, Paul Bartel has an hilarious scene as a boring professor and Griffin O'Neil is in a cameo. And, of course Julie Strain.

Julie Strain will take her clothes off at the drop of a hat which is what made her very famous and sought after in genre pictures. She walks around the room naked even when the camera isn't rolling. She's had a boob job, but most scream queens have. A lot of actresses are unhappy to do nudity and I don't blame them for avoiding it in these types of movies. That's why you need women like Julie to satisfy the requirements of the distributor who insist on seeing flesh. Julie will take her clothes off when the director says "take off your clothes."

CAGE II happened because somebody hired me because they wanted to make a sequel to a 3 Million dollar movie for 10% of the original cost. Only think is they didn't want to tell the Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferringo, about it or his co-star Reb Brown. Reb Brown threatened to beat me in the Cage one day after coming back from a location shoot in a car that had no follow car. In low budget the camera goes inside, not alongside another vehicle. They also had gotten lost and Reb was ill that day. Anyhow both Reb and the director refused to come out of the dressing room So I gave them a half hour or I was going to start shooting the movie. I started calling in all my own fighters and planning shots, but in the end they came out.

Shannon Lee (the daughter of Bruce Lee) was great and her singing voice is terrific in the closing song. Her acting debut was right on. It was kind of delicate since she gets shot in the back in one scene. A real pro.

MAD AT THE MOON was directed by Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero) and was the black- haired youth in Felini's Satyricon which I really loved in college. I was honored to have a chance to work with him. Mary Stuart Masterson and Hart Bochner were exceptional to work with as they were aware of our budgetary restraints and didn't complain one bit.

The movie almost didn't get made. I had to put up money to get the film started since the real money bags on the film wouldn't risk even one cent on the picture. We had to get the sets started or we'd lose our window with Mary Stuart and she was the key to the funding. The other Producers Michael and Seth Kastenbaum and I put the $5,000 for the sets and luckily the paperwork got signed and money got flowing. I ended up forging a long time friendship with Michael and Seth which we continue to this day, a rare Hollywood occurrence.

As a period film, it was horrendous to handle budgetary wise. The deck of cards were stacked against us before we even got started. Martin hired certain key positions with people who didn't understand budget.

Upstairs NeighbourMeanwhile, I was ready to get out of Dodge. I had enough scars from the sharks that inhabit that sewer hole they call Hollywood. I was doing my damnedest to get to Europe where the people didn't seem to know the art of knife throwing when you turned your back. I thought Upstairs Neighbor was it. I raised the money for the film specifically to be shot in the U.K. It was all set to go and I was already looking for an apartment in Portobello road when I got the rug pulled out from under me. The word on the street was so bad about making low budget films in England, that the director got cold feet and refused to cross the Atlantic. I had to make it in L.A. and was I pissed off. The film really had a European sensibility. I decided after that, that the only way I'd get out of America was to pack up and leave and hope for the best.

When I was doing Upstairs Neighbor, my friend Christopher Coppola was talking to Crispin Glover(Doors, River's Edge) about movies and Crispin said he wanted to make a movie. So Christopher says, 'You should talk to Matt who makes low budget movies." Crispin called me and left a message which I ignored because people would leave messages all the time pretending to be famous people. Usually they were bad imitations. But, Crispin has this distinct kind of voice which you can imitate quite well. Christopher finally called me back and asked why I had ignored Crispin's calls. So, I called him up and invited him to the set of Neighbor and he really liked what was going on.

He had this real strange movie called "It Is Mine" which was to be almost entirely cast with Down Syndrome actors. David Lynch had attached himself as an executive producer. Very original. Crispin Glover is probably one of the most original people around. No one thinks like him. So we decided to do a short film to show investors what the feature length version would be like. I got Crispin a whole bunch of new stock to shoot on and Crispin ended up shooting an entire feature in 4 days instead of a short. So now we probably are the only people in Hollywood who will have made an entire movie to help the funding for another entire movie. The short/feature is wild and gives Eraserhead a run for its' money. it looks kind of like a film that made on another planet. (It has a lot of snails in it by the way.) It could easily have been discovered at the Roswell UFO crash sight and show us humans the first glimpse of an alien motion picture."

Matt DevlenMatt is currently raising finance for a slate of pictures to be hopefully shot around the world. He's heavily involved in the script stage of all of his projects and will be going back to directing in the immediate future. He has also given several seminars on low budget filmmaking. He's also really keen on getting his first pair of Vegan Dr. Martins.



© 1996 Elisar Cabrera.