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Warren F. Disbrow's Influences.

Directors that Warren admires and why.

The feature film directors I like include George Romero (naturally) , David Cronenberg, Fredrico Fellini, James Whale, George Waggner, Terence Fisher, Freddie Francis, Roy Ward Baker, Jack Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Roger Corman, Roman Polanski and James Cameron.They have all made movies that I love.
FREDDIE FRANCIS  is an Academy Award Winning Director of Photography, and has done big movies including David Lynch's THE ELEPHANT MAN. But the movies he did as director are the ones I think are fantastic.
He did a movie in 1966 for Amicus starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee called THE SKULL which I think is great. He also did one of my favorite Hammer Dracula movies starring Christopher Lee, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GAVE(1968). His other movies include DR.TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS(Amicus 1965), TORTURE GARDEN(Amicus 1967), THE DEADLY BEES(Amicus 1966), EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN(Hammer 1964), TALES FROM THE CRYPT(1972), LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF(Tyburn 1974), THE CREEPING FLESH (1972), THE GHOUL (1973), TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS(1972) and others. Though I enjoy many of his other movies, THE SKULL and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE are my favorites. Freddie Francis took the genre seriously and knew he was making adult fantasy movies so never played down to his audience. He respected his audience and the material.
TERENCE FISHER is an excellent director and has made lots of movies that I think are some of the best in the genre. My favorite Fisher movies are THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (Hammer 1958) starring Peter Cushing, HORROR OF DRACULA(Hammer 1958) starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF(Hammer 1961) starring Oliver Reed, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA(1960) starring Peter Cushing and David Peel, THE GORGON (Hammer 1964) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (Hammer 1969) starring Peter Cushing. Fisher has done many others including THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA(Hammer 1962) with Herbert Lum, DEVIL RIDES OUT (Hammer 1968) with Christopher Lee, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (Hammer 1974), but the ones I listed first are the ones that I think are his best. Terence Fisher took the genre seriously and did his best to make quality movies and it shows.
ROMAN POLANSKI is an excellent filmmaker. The movies that he made that I like are KNIFE IN THE WATER(1962) and FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), his homage to Hammer Horror movies. REPULSION(1965) was good too, but his most famous movie I don't really like - ROSEMARY'S BABY(1967); it bores me to tears. I haven't seen all of his movies but I have read lots of interviews with him on the others and have read books on Polanski movies. Someday I hope to see more of his movies.
JACK ARNOLD was brilliant directing one movie, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON(1954). CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is my absolute favorite monster movie of all, but his other movies, like TARANTULA(1955), THE REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955), SPACE CHILDERN (1958), IT CAME FROM  OUTER SPACE (1953) and the INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957) just didn't have the magic for me that THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON did. Jack Arnold only directed half of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Two units were filming it at the same time and he directed all the scenes with the main cast in LA that took place above water. Anytime the action shifted to underwater (and thats almost half the movie), those scenes were filmed in Florida at Silver Springs by another director who got shafted as far as proper screen credit. All those fantastic 3D underwater shots that Jack Arnold took credit for he didn't shoot - he was thousands of miles away in LA while they were being shot. Still, the scenes he did direct were approached very seriously and the whole movie works great.

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GEORGE WAGGNER  was a Hollywood Producer and Director and he made three movies in the early 1940s with Lon Chaney Jr that I really enjoy. The first one was an old Title originally written in the 1930's for Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi called THE ELECTRIC MAN, which was rewritten as MAN MADE MONSTER with George Waggner Producing and Directing. It was Lon Jr's first horror movie and was made at Universal Studios where his famous silent star dad had made a legend of himself as The Man of a Thousand Faces. MAN MADE MONSTER was a hit, so Waggner hired Chaney again and hired writer Curt Soidmak to come up with a werewolf story and Soidmak was given a title - THE WOLF MAN - and a list of the actors who were hired to be in it and within a few weeks Soidmak created one of the best horror movie scripts ever written with intelligence, psychological sophistication and well developed story and gave the all star cast meatey roles to play. THE WOLFMAN was a huge hit in 1941 and is considered a classic today. While shooting Soidmak's script Waggner made changes to make Chaney's werewolf an actual literal monster and not, as Soidmak had written, a psychological mystery where the audience was left guessing if Chaney was really a werewolf or just mentally ill. This "literalness" made for errors in the movie like why did Chaney become a combination of man and wolf while the other werewolf in the movie played by Bela Lugosi transformed into an actual four legged wolf? Chaney transforms while in a T-shirt at Castle Talbot, but when seen walking through the foggy forrest in the next scene he is dressed in a shirt...oops. Still, it is a fantastic movie. The third Waggner movie he only Produced but was a sequel to THE WOLFMAN(1941). FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WIOLFMAN(1943) isn't as well made or written as THE WOLFMAN had been, but its a fun movie made by basically the same people who made THE WOLFMAN. And chaney gives a very good performance in it. Since I saw THE WOLFMAN(1941) as a young kid I always wanted to own the silver wolf-headed cane from it that was the key prop handled by Claude Reins, Chaney, Ralph Bellamey, Evelyn Ankers and Bela Lugosi and a few years back I was able to purchase a recast off one of the original four canes that are still in existance at Universal Studios and in private collections. So werewolves beware!  
JAMES WHALE  was a wonderful, wildly creative, smart-ass director who did the best horror movies of the 1930s - FRANKENSTIEN(1931), THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) and his best movie, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN(1935). His movies were clever and defiant and full of imagination and dementia. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE INVISIBLE MAN  were actually ghoulish comedies, much like I tried to make with my first four feature films. Whale relished evil and filmed symbolic attacks on the church for BRIDE, some of which were edited out before release, some made it to the theaters. The one character that was Whale's counterpart on screen in any of his movies was BRIDE's Dr. Pretorius played by Ernest Thesenger. Pretorius is a very appealing dark character who just loves his macabre individuality, which is at war with polite society and the church. Pretorius wants to find the secrets of creating life and will do whatever it takes. Whale did such a superb job on these three classics that they over shadowed all his other movies to follow so he retired to paint pictures instead. He had, in reality, created his own personal Frankenstein! 
DAVID CRONENBERG is a canadian genius horror filmmaker who made quite a few very good movies like THE DEAD ZONE with Christopher Walken, SCANNERS with Patrick McGoohan, THE BROOD with Oliver Reed, THE FLY with Jeff Goldblum, SHIVERS, RABID with Marilyn Chambers and others. His first couple of features that he wrote and directed had a very distinct, intellectual, original approach to the horror material. Watching his movies you know there is thought behind the gore. I think of him as an "intellectual savage" because Cronenberg is a very smart, deep thinker who tries to make him movies much more than simply a roller coaster ride and yet his taste is for blood and the macabre. In SCANNERS, by force of mental energy, a victim's head explodes in gory splender. Cronenberg says he sees the exploding head as a thing of beauty. I can actually understand that, because gore and violence is part of what human beings are about; this is why so much of our entertainment and art is erotic and violent. We humans are NOT appalled at violence, we are drawn to it and relish it. BUT we are not suppose to according to the bogus rules of civilized society and so in public we condemn it while enjoying it privately. A little more honesty would be nice. Cronenberg has added a new demension to horror movies while sedating our primal needs for violence, death and sex. Its too bad he has left horror behind in the last 5 or 6 movies, which have dealt more with simply twisted sexuality, like CRASH and NAKED LUNCH.

FREDRICO FELLINI  made a roughly 40 minute segment/short film back in 1967 which is one of my all time favorite European art films,TOBY DAMMIT. Yes, its based on Edgar Allen Poe's TOBY DAMMIT, which Poe also titled NEVER BET THE DEVIL YOUR HEAD. The Fellini version of the Poe story is an artistic nightmarish dream-like translation that I think Poe would have appreciated. Lush in colors, weird in lighting and camera movement, bizzare in set design, it is very dream-like and yet Fellini manages to connect us to the tormented soul of poor Toby Dammit in a very concrete, real way. We feel his pain. Toby Dammit was played by a very good British actor, Terence Stamp. Stamps face was perfect to convey the deep sadness of Dammit, which is at the heart of the piece. Fellini, an Italian, turned Rome into a strange world as if through the eyes of someone who has never been there. The story is about a self-destructive, very unhappy British actor who has been hired by Italian producers to shoot a western in Rome which is a metaphor for decadent western civilzation and at the same time a blasphemous re-telling of the life of Christ. Fellini is making fun of art movies with an art film. Stamp drinks and is drunk through the whole film, and is treated like a star despite his condition. Show biz is shown to be an insane world populated with bizzare people. He answers questions on a TV show with funny, clever responses until the interviewer asks if he believes in God. "No", he says grimly. When asked if he believes in the Devil and says yes. "To me the a little girl". Stamps character is tempted throughout the movie to join this creepy little girl (that only he can see), playing with her bouncing ball, but Stamp resists. At a Hollywood style ceremony Stamps character is asked to go up on stage and recite Poe. On stage he emotionally falls apart, exposing  his tormented soul before the silent staring audience: "Its not true. I'm not a very good actor. My last director said I was drunk. Why did you make me come here?" Earlier in the movie, at the TV station, he asks a woman "Will you marry me?" and Fellini has her turn into a statue. No love permitted for Toby Dammit. Before he went on stage a beautiful woman sits near him saying all the loving and romantic things Toby Dammit  deeply craves to hear, but she leaves him too, after saying that they will be happy together forever. Dammit escapes the festivities after his baring his soul before the cold audience and gets into a sports car and recklessly rockets up and down the dark streets of Rome at night. At one point his stops his car and slowly lets the emotional pressure inside him out by screaming. The movie ends on a bridge under construction with a section missing. The little girl devil appears with her ball and Dammit rockets his car at her to kill her. He fails to see a thin wire stretched across the road. It slices his head off. The girl devil, smiling evilly, puts her ball down and picks up Toby Dammit's head instead. TOBY DAMMIT is a must-see. Its fabulous filmmaking. I've only seen one other Fellini film, LAS STRADA with Anthony Quinn, which also had effective story telling. TOBY DAMMIT was included with two other shorts made by other filmmakers and released as a three story feature film called SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (AIP 1967). Vincent Price even provided an ending voice-over.

ROY WARD BAKER made Hollywood pictures from my understanding and in the 1960s he shifted to British films and made a few horror and science fiction pictures of merit. To me his best film is QUATERMASS AND THE PIT(1967) released here in the USA as FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH. The movie was the third feature film made by Hammer Studios based on Nigel Kneal's three brilliant British TV BBC mini-series: QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, QUATERMASS 2 and QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, all shot and aired on British TV before 1958. Nigel Kneal himself condensed his three hour 1958 TV script into an excellent 97 minutes for the Roy Ward Baker movie. The story is extremely intelligent. An alien space craft and missing-link type skeletons are unearthed in London while working on an underground railroad. The military think its an old German propaganda weapon, but Prof. Quatermass sees it as a real alien craft. Through his investigations he uncovers that the ship unearthed was one of many transporting apes back to earth from mars after they had been altered and martian souls and intelligence had been instilled in them; WE are the martians!!!
ESP, Telekinis, other supernatural human traits, are inherited from our Martian ancestors. The Martians themselves look like gargoyles and demons. At the end of the movie the space craft comes alive, glowing, and you can see blood vessels all over it. London is turned into a hellish battle ground as those most under the enfluence of the space craft, those most "martian", start purging the humans less under martian control by killing them using the power of their minds to cause physical damage. Quatermass and a friend watch as the space craft converts into a giant glowing alien that resembles the Devil and towers above buildings. Quatermass watches helplessly as his friend sacrifices himself by using a crane to destroy the creature and is electricuted in the process. Hammer Films of England have always produced lushly colored, extremely high quality fantasy and horror movies and FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH, even by their standards, is a knock out. Roy Ward Baker made three more movies for Hammer - VAMPIRE LOVERS(1970) with Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing, SCARS OF DRACULA(1970) with Christopher Lee and DR.JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971) with Ralph Bates. Whatever you think of the titles, the movies themselves were slick productions that put many American movies made on similar budgets to shame. Extremely well crafted movies can be stuck with expoitation titles which suggest cheap and poorly made movies. Most of the horror movies made in England in the late 1950's up until the mid- 70's were superbly done and often look like big budgeted movies with good directing, lighting, excellent sets, entertaining scripts and well rounded performances.  Don't let a cheap sounding title prevent you from watching and enjoying these wonderfully made  movies.   

TOBE HOOPER  made TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in 1974, in Texas, in Super 16 film format for blow-up to 35mm and with a reported  budget of $140,000. The movie made a fortune in returns and it is easy to see why. It's a very effective, go for the throat, "scare movie" that managed to be frightening with a combination of graphic violence and heavily suggested violence. After this classic was completed the real nightmare for the  filmmakers started as they got ripped off amazingly by the distributor, collecting a few thousand dollars out of the many millions of dollars the movie grossed (similar to what happened to George Romero with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1968). Court battles, lab rip offs, all kinds of corruption, fast sell offs to foreign markets, everything that could be done to prevent the filmmaker's from getting the money they were entitled to was done. It wasn't until the re-release, years later through NewLine Cinema, that the people who worked hard to make the movie and took all the financial risks, started getting honest accounting and proper royalty checks from a distributor. The movie itself is great and scary and fun and is perhaps Tobe Hooper's best movie to date. POLTERGEIST was awful and I am not a fan of the remake of INVADERS FROM MARS or LIFE FORCE. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 bombed in the theaters but made a fortune on the home video release - it is a weird business. SALEM'S LOT, the mini-series he directed based on the Stephen King best-seller was good too but a TV movie with all the limitations that CHAINSAW didn't have placed on it. 

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