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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Gunnar Hansen and Make It a Double



I've met and talked with a lot of filmmakers over the years, at screenings, festivals and conventions. In and amongst those conversations, I've come to realise that the films with which we generally associate them are not necessarily the ones that they would prefer to be remembered for.

That's not to say that they're not proud of the titles that made them famous and wrote their names in the annals of popular culture. Those pictures usually did well because the people who made them did memorable work, but that's never the only reason why films are successful. There are so many other reasons that they can't be counted, but often the most important one is that they were simply the right film at the right time to touch the right nerve.

Sadly, that often means that many far worthier titles are unjustly forgotten, relegated to obscurity by the sheer quantity of films that are made and the overwhelming power that is generated by the publicity departments of the major studios.

Back in 2012, at Phoenix FearCon V, I decided to start asking each name I met to select two films from their careers that they would like to see reviewed at Apocalypse Later. I left the reasons entirely up to them, very deliberately to see what they would come up with. They could pick their personal favourites, the ones that they feel are most unjustly neglected, those which were most memorable to make. They could merely be movies which were special to them for reasons that they may or may not wish to disclose.

The first person I asked was Tiffany Shepis, but the list gained momentum in 2014 and I have no doubt will continue to do so. Very few people decline to take part. Thus far, 32 filmmakers (mostly actors, but with a few effects guys) have given me their doubles and I've even had doubles picked for four others who are deceased by their descendants. Only three have said no and one of those decide to join in a couple of years later. The other two were clearly not happy with critics in general and so foresaw the worst.

Shepis made her two choices quickly and surely, while I've found that many have one title ready on their tongue but have to ponder on the second. I've found it fascinating to see their minds conjure up a pair of titles from often expansive filmographies, especially as they don't always explain themselves. Sometimes I can only figure out why the films were important to certain actors by actually watching them. I hope you find their choices as interesting as I have.

And the reason I bring this up now is because we lost Gunnar Hansen at the weekend.



He died on Saturday, 7th November, 2015, leaving behind an interesting body of work that was dominated by one film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

When I met Hansen at Mad Monster Party in 2014, he was a gentleman. Not only did he sign 8x10s for my better half and I, he also signed one for her ex. Way back before I ever came along, my wife's first date with the man who would become her first husband was to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Hansen kindly dedicated it with the words, 'What were you thinking, taking a 15 year old girl to this movie?'

During our brief chat, he picked his two choices for my Make It a Double project. Like many, he didn't go for the one everyone knows, selecting instead a couple of odd comedies from 2007 that tie to the horror genre but don't really fit within it. He didn't have a large part in either film, but he made both of them count, the first with an odd monologue and the latter with some glorious overacting.

Gimme Skelter




Gimme Skelter appears to be a horror movie because it revolves around the arrival in a small New Mexico town of a man who believes himself to be the bastard son of Charlie Manson, complete with five followers. Eager to get noticed, he plans to take the population of Banion's Cross down from 67 to zero.

Regardless of how many boobs and how much gore director Scott Phillips puts on screen, this is a character study of a small town rather than a horror movie. Eventually we realise that at least Charlie Jr is honest about what he wants to do, while the townsfolk all put on faces when they leave their homes and take them back off when they get home. They're not exactly the nicest of people either.

For more, visit my review at Apocalypse Later.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy




Brutal Massacre: A Comedy is a mockumentary in the This is Spinal Tap style, in which an interviewer follows Harry Penderecki as he attempts to make his new movie, Brutal Massacre against all the odds, capturing all two months of the three week shoot.

It's a clever script, full of little details that make this funnier the more we know about the movie industry. It also has a killer cast, led by David Naughton, who also chose this for his double, Ken Foree, who didn't, and two of the ladies from The Evil Dead, Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker.

For more, visit my review at Apocalypse Later.

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