KISS OF MEDUSA was the last big crazy thing I did
at Jersey City State College before graduating. Ambitious as usual, I once again bit off more than I could chew finances-wise.
Everyone was shooting 16mm Plus-X or Tri-X black-and-white stock. Everyone was
shooting 1 or 2 or 3 minute things. I would shoot 10, or 15 or 25 minute movies instead. With KISS OF MEDUSA I shot in color
too which was unheard of.
The story was set in ancient Greece and we built costumes and prop swords and
even a cave. We rented a horse so my Greek hero, dressed in Greek armour, could ride around with his bright red cape flowing
in the wind.
I guess all short films tend to be arty and with a message. KISS OF MEDUSA was
about the birth, growth and death of male sexuality.
It opened with the hero's son's birth, "You have a son".
We see the young solider in battle doing sword fights, but he gets
older and older during the sword fight until he is one old man.
He goes into the desert and comes upon the grim reaper sitting calmly watching
a stone sun dial. The reaper directs him to the cave of the Medusa. While he is talking to the reaper the soldier doesn't
know it is death he is talking to, and as he walks away, the reaper raises his hooded head to reveal his skull face.
The soldier finds the cave. Enters. Finds a very beautiful nude young woman dressed
in a flowing see through gown that we had float ghostly towards him like a dream instead of walking.
Medusa and the soldier make out. As they passionately kiss, Medusa's hand lowers
the soldier's hand holding the sword and it drops to the cave floor.
"I love you more than anything in the whole world" she says to him - just before
castrating him with her sharp fingernails!
The soldier pleads with Medusa for love. Medusa turns ugly and savagely attacks
him and throws his body back out of the cave. The soldier finds himself in a graveyard of stone white male corpses. As he
struggles to pull himself out of the stream he turns to stone like the others.
What we were shooting was a big deal at the college. The fog machines, the dolly,
the nude girl and the violence. Students and Professors alike looked into the foggy, blood soaked TV studio in amazement.
The fake penis was lying on the floor surrounded by pools of blood as Jay and the actress laughed themselves silly. The actress,
nude, soaked in blood, walked out of the studio down the hall to the bathroom leaving shocked (and probably horny) guys looking
after her. She was, as I said, very beautiful and naked.
KISS OF MEDUSA was the best thing I did at college and the most ambitious. And
I spent a few thousand dollars on it but ran out of money before I could
complete it. I bought a 6 pack and started getting very drunk in the Media Arts Department. Along
came the head of the Student Film Club and asked why I was drinking. I explained I had shot this 25 minute movie in film in
color and couldn't afford to finish it. "Stop drinking" he said and went away for awhile and when he came back he said he
had arranged for me to get the couple of thousand dollars more required to complete the movie - provided after looking at
some of my footage they felt it was worth investing in. I showed them the lush color scenes of the Greek soldier riding
his horse and got the completion money! I was back in business.
Shooting had it's share of fun too. The Greek soldier star of the movie was an
old friend James Andriani who for awhile appeared in nearly everything I shot including INVASION FOR FLESH AND BLOOD as the
power plant boss who get torn in half.
James, or Jay as I call him, spoke with a heavy Bronx accent and walked
with city attitude but that wasn't the real fun part. The fun part was Jay vs Bromwin the huge horse we rented in Colts Neck,
NJ. Jay had never been on a horse and Bromwin hated Jay. We got all these great shots of Jay riding the horse around lush
fields and forrests and suddenly the horse escaped taking Jay with him! They rocketed out of sight around a far away corner!
After a period Bromwin returned without Jay. Then Jay appeared on foot walking back. What had happened is the horse deliberately
went under every low hanging tree limb it could until is knocked Jay off his back. Bromwin was a very big horse so Jay
fell pretty far to the ground which must have hurt. Jay walked up to bromwin and punched him in the nose! From that point
on Bromwin was nicer to Jay.
Jay, being the star, had to endure all kinds of crap. Like being in the dead
of winter dressed in fake Greek armour with exposed arms and legs and having to fall in a stream of ice cold water! We tried
to heat it with kettles of hot water but...
And I remember shooting the castration scene in a cave set we built in the studio
of the TV department at Jersey City State's Media Arts Building. We had fog machines going, the actress was nude and we floated
her towards Jay on a dolly and Jay had to stand there with this fake penis pointing at the actress which was rigged to spurt
blood as she torn it off. After he was castrated Jay said, "Ok Warren, he's dead!" But then I shot her attacking him after
which Jay, covered in blood, said"OK Warren he's dead", then Jay had to flop into the icy stream and turn to stone after which
Jay said, "I give up!"
Another funny side note is Jay's "Stunt Penis" went on to become Gary Hoffman's
"Stunt Penis" in his castrations in "Flesh Eaters From Outer Space" and "Invasion For Flesh And Blood". Wow even the penis
has a track record...
Prof.Herz, my dad, appeared as a wise old Greek man. We gave him a beard. I'll
include the names of other actors in this write-up as I remember them in future updates. Michael Wright played a wise man
too who gave the young soldier advice in a very beautiful scene we shot in winter as they walked through a snow white forrest
dressed in bright yellow and blue robes. Visually it was beautiful.
While I was editing KISS OF MEDUSA on a wonderful 6 plate Steenbeck in one of
three editing rooms at Jersey City State, they were editing the independent feature film THE DEADLY SPAWN (I guess without
official permission) in one of the other editing rooms and it was even being edited by an NYU student, not a Jersey City
State student, with the guidance of Ted Bohus and his brother. I remember they were all excited about this one shot of
an older woman who was wearing an almost see through top. It was really not a nude scene and they were acting like kids over
it. Then they started looking at what I was editing, with a beautiful young girl playing Medusa fully nude, and all of
a sudden the stuff they had shot wasn't that special anymore. I had got more than they had and she was prettier too.
The movie premired up on a big screen at the Hoboken Arts Festival in 1982. Parents,
despite all the warnings, still brought their kids!!! I tried to get them to leave but they wouldn't so I just ran the movie
nudity and violence and all.
KISS OF MEDUSA is not perfect but it has very good things in it and I am proud
to have made it. It was a good final 16mm film as I graduated. Someday I'll release it along with the other shorts
on a DVD for those interested in collecting them and maybe they can still be submitted to current film festivals.