Cinema Junkie goes bonkers ass
EPISODE 221: Bonkers Ass Cinema
BETH ACCOMANDO Greg Dohler has fond memories of growing up on the sets of his dad’s movies…
GREG DOHLER Yeah, one of my earliest memories was helping my dad mix fake blood in the utility sink in our basement. That's not usually what people say about their earliest memory with their dad. That's what it is.
BETH ACCOMANDO Get ready for a bonkers ass ride through the wildest and most extreme horror and exploitation cinema as Greg Dohler and author Matt Rotman take the wheel to kick a new season of Cinema Junkie into high gear.
TRAILER TAGS MONTAGE: Beast of the Yellow Night, Night Train to Terror, Eat and Run, Shriek of the Mutilated…
Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (drums)
BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie, I'm Beth Accomando.
Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (Horns)
BETH ACCOMANDO Greg’s dad was Don Dohler, the director of Fiend, Alien Factor, and Blood Massacre. Greg chats with me about working as a teenager on his dad’s films and loving it. Then author Matt Rotman discusses his love for bonkers ass films like Don Dohler’s Nightbeast and his disgust for people who dare call films like that bad. So if you feel no guilt over your love for low budget exploitation films then this is exactly the podcast for you. But if you think Bigfoot’s Bride, Centipede Horror and The Mad Doctor of Blood Island, are undeserving of your attention then I hope you will take a listen and see if we can win you over to our bonkers point of view. (:38)
Music theme bump out.
Bonkers Ass Cinema is the new book by Matt Rotman, it is also an ethos he lives by.
MATT ROTMAN There are two types of people in this world and two types only, people who laugh at Plan Nine From Outer Space.
CLIP: They come from the bowels of hell, a transformed race of walking dead zombies guided by a master plan for complete domination of the earth. Plan Nine From Outer Space…
MATT ROTMAN: And the weird, crazed hermit uncles that genuinely love it. And my book is a manifesto for all those crazed hermit uncles.
BETH ACCOMANDO Rotman is a kindred spirit and I can’t wait to share these bonkers titles with you. So hold tight and I’ll be right back with both Greg Dohler and Matt Rotman.
CLIP Mad Doctor of Blood Island trailer
MIDROLL 1 [currently at 3:06/186000]
CLIP Terror is a Man trailer
Welcome back to Terror is a Man, Bloodsuckers From Outer Space, Easter Bunny, Kill, Kill, and Deadly Weapons…
CLIP Did you know that women’s breasts known to be the giver of life can also be deadly weapons…
These are the bastard children of cinema that author Matt Rotman embraces with the love, respect, and joyous celebration they deserve. Nightbeast, made by Greg’s father Don Dohler is also one of those films.
MATT ROTMAN It epitomizes exactly what the book is.
CLIP See the movie that will change the face of modern science fiction cinema. Nightbeast, terror from beyond.
MATT ROTMAN Like it's directed and written by Don Dohler, who was this just this true underground inspirational figure who lived in Baltimore. And so he made a series of the wildest, cheapest, most handmade science fiction action films. They always usually featured a crash landing of an alien.
CLIP What the hell was that?
MATT ROTMAN Never know what the motivation of the alien is. He just likes to walk around and kill people. And utilizing just the most hand made special effects you've ever seen, like he wasn't afraid to get gory. And Nightbeast is one of those films you can look at and you can make fun of. Sure. Like, it's very easy to watch Night Beast and make fun of it, but just to imagine it was made for like $30,000 of what they are able to get on screen, it's inspirational.
CLIP Shit what was that.
That was Nightbeast, made in 1982 by Don Dohler. The film boasts the first screen credit for JJ Abrams who is listed as Jeffrey Abrams and as one of the composers for the film. Dohler’s son Greg recalls how his dad got into filmmaking.
GREG DOHLER My father was a magazine publisher, independent filmmaker. Very early on, he published a fanzine that kind of featured a lot of artists that went on to be kind of notable figures in the underground comics. And he thought about being a comic artist, but decided he didn't have quite the talent level and it would have been too hard to try to sustain that. But he liked publishing, so he kept doing that. And he liked films and he liked special effects. And there was really nothing out there to tell amateur filmmakers how to do the things that they saw in movies like King Kong or whatever. So he started publishing cinemagic and started building a film community, which led to making his own films.
BETH ACCOMANDO And here in San Diego, we just showed Nightbeast as part of a book signing event because the author, Matt Rottman, chose Nightbeast. And you were in the film. So were you one of the children?
GREG DOHLER Well, my sister and I were in the film.
CLIP Why are we stopping, Uncle Dave? You two can stay put. I'm just going to take a minute.
GREG DOHLER And we played the niece and nephew of the guy, David Donaho, who was actually the Pyrotechnics guy. So any explosions that you see in Night Beast, any of the fog, which we didn't have a budget for a fog machine. So David had this he was a sort of amateur chemist, and he would soak newspapers in God knows what. Some sort of chemical that would make them sort of smoulder slowly. They wouldn't catch fire. So any smoke you see in any of my dad's films is a result of like 15 people placed around the woods holding smoldering, chemically treated, rolled up newspapers. So that's the guy who played our uncle. And so we were brother and sister and riding with our uncle until we have an unfortunate meeting with the night piece.
CLIP Damn. What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack? That's not very funny…There's somebody up there… I've had enough of you kids at night. Get back in a car.
[BETH ACCOMANDO And how old were you on that?
GREG DOHLER 16.
BETH ACCOMANDO And I think I saw you also credited as a sound recordist.
GREG DOHLER Yeah, well, the adults who were on the crew volunteered. My dad volunteered, my sister and I, but we also were into it. So maybe I was a little more into it than my sister, but she was good, too, on the set, so I was eager. When I was really young, of course, they wouldn't let me do anything except maybe carry things. And then once I started getting old enough to kind of understand some things, my dad would say, okay, well, I'm going to teach you the basics. Make sure the needle doesn't go into the red when you record it. Like really basic stuff. And then I would just fixate on these few things he told me. So I guess I was a sound recorder. But, yeah, it was a different job each film, but I was always happy to do anything that he wanted.
BETH ACCOMANDO And you are a photographer now, and I believe you credit your dad for kind of getting you into that.
GREG DOHLER Well, yeah, well, indirectly, because I was on his film set. So the cameraman for Fiend, Richard Guywitz, was also a still photographer, and he let me play with his camera on the set occasionally, and I just loved it. And then eventually got my own camera and just snowballed from there.
BETH ACCOMANDO Now, we showed this film in a micro cinema, but it was packed. And one thing that Matt said when he introduced the film is he said, you know, this is the kind of movie that is very easy to watch and make fun of.
GREG DOHLER Sure.
BETH ACCOMANDO But when you think about how this film was made for just tens of thousands of dollars and what is on the screen, you really have to appreciate what it does. And so I'm just wondering, what was your experience like on the film? Because I imagine this had to be kind of a family communal kind of thing, like with friends and family coming together to make this because it did have such a small budget.
GREG DOHLER Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when you're in it, it's like everybody just wants it to happen. And so you've got a small group of people, but everybody's eager to do whatever is necessary. And there were some of the same people on all the films. But each film there might be a different one or two people who were part of the crew. But they were always just either really serious amateur filmmakers. Budding professionals who would then go on to do other stuff. More professional stuff. But everybody wanted to be there and just was willing to work really hard to kind of get it done. It was not uncommon. Like 14 hours, days on the weekends, sometimes all night, sometimes my sister and I would pass out in the backseat of our car, and my dad would wake us up at six in the morning, like, okay, we're done, or something. But just craziness. It felt normal because that's all we knew as kids. But yeah, just enthusiastic people who wanted to do something, and they got it done.
BETH ACCOMANDO And what do you remember of your dad's kind of attitude towards filmmaking? Because one of the things I love about these kind of movies is you feel like the people making them just have to make them, and they have a passion to do it.
GREG DOHLER I think that's right, yeah. I mean, my dad was a quiet guy, a very introverted guy, but a super active mind. I obviously know him really well, and a lot of people just thought he was just quiet guy with maybe not if you didn't know him, like, not a lot going on. But I knew when he wasn't talking, he was thinking about something that might manifest itself a month from now or something. He was working out a scene or whatever. So I always wonder why, because as an adult, when I look back on the whole thing, it just seems so crazy, this whole life that he led and that my sister and I were there for and I struggled with, like, well, why did he do this? He gave up a good nine to five job. He put our family's finances at risk, lots of fights with my mother who did not understand why this life was happening to us. And I think, why did he do it? And a friend of mine finally said, did ever occur to you that he had to? He's an artist, and you could put him in a traditional box for a while, but he's going to go crazy and jump out at some point. And that's what he did. Yeah, he had to do it. And obviously, filmmaking is so much easier now with digital and computers. But when I think about the amount of work that was involved and just the stress of shooting with film, and if something wasn't right, and he always had these sort of credit deals with the film labs. Okay, we'll process x number of feet, basically for a percentage of profits that may or may not ever materialize. And if you went over that, you'd have to negotiate another deal, and you'd have a business owner who might not be so happy about extending more credit. And so there's a lot of stress. And then obviously, editing the film was just insane amount of work. I mean, he would rent a flat bed editor that took up half of our basement, and he would sequester himself for three weeks, and he would work around the clock with giant cups of coffee. Chain smoking. Well, everyone's seen our basement. Who's watching the films? It's the basement in the movie fiend. That's our basement. The unfinished with the cinder block walls. Imagine my dad sitting there in the scene basement, big editor, and the walls lined with little clips of movies, all organized with every inch of the wall, taped with film clips labeled. And he would go through this thing and it was just amazing amount of work. Like you said, somebody who had to do it.
BETH ACCOMANDO And on Nightmare, what do you remember about the creature?
GREG DOHLER I don't know. What do I remember about the creature? A lot of teeth, I think more about the creatures. Creator. John Dodds. Friends called him Bruce. I'm not sure if he still goes by that. Another sort of incredibly driven and dedicated makeup artist who did The Night Feast was just obsessive about the details. I remember we had this jar of saliva, some sort of thick, whatever concoction. Probably like a gelatin thing. We were always having to sort of lather up the night beast's teeth. That's mostly what I remember. The back of the creature's head is always sort of popping out of the space uniform and stuff. Like mostly just like wardrobe malfunctions and saliva. So I guess that's about it.
BETH ACCOMANDO Well, then I guess your dad spared you a brutal and gruesome death on the set.
GREG DOHLER Right. I just got to spoiler alert. I just got to be zapped into oblivion. Yeah. My uncle did not have a similar fate. He was the boyfriend with the shotgun, wearing the white shirt and had his intestines ripped out. That was the most consistent actor on all the films is George Stover. And he probably wins the prize for the most gruesome and most torturous death scene in any of the films, which was Blood Massacre. At the end, he is strung up by his feet, hanging upside down while zombies hack at him with knives. And it was frigid. It was three in the morning. He's hanging upside down while my dad saying, throw more blood on him. More blood. More blood. Well, we got to reshoot. We got to reshoot. And George is hanging upside down in like 45 degree weather with covered in blood at three in the morning. I think that's the one that I most remember thinking, I'm glad that's not me.
BETH ACCOMANDO And as a kid, what was that experience of being on the set like, because if you get a glimpse behind the curtain and you know, like, these are the special effects that go into these really gruesome effects, it becomes kind of this fun thing.
GREG DOHLER It's fun, but it's also like a job. Like you're not even right. But if I watch a horror film, even though I understand, obviously what went into it, it still scares the heck out of me. So when I watch it, it works. But if you're working on it, it just feels like you have a job to do, and that's what you're doing. It's fun.
BETH ACCOMANDO So you're a photographer. You have a very kind of surreal quality to your photos. And I was just wondering, do you feel that kind of working on those films as a kid, or your dad's presence kind of influenced how you approached photography?
GREG DOHLER I was enamored of the creative process because of him. And I remember as I got a little older, he would start bouncing ideas off of me, and I remember this look in his eyes. I could tell that there was an idea that was just bursting to come out of him, this intensity that I remember thinking, God, I want to feel that someday. That looks amazing. To just be like, so bubbling with creativity that it's got to come out and you just can't wait to talk to somebody about it. I think that was the bigger influence, the biggest influence was just the magic of making things.
BETH ACCOMANDO And how did he look back on his films? I mean, did he feel satisfied with them? Did he feel that people were appreciating them? What was his kind of feeling about them?
GREG DOHLER He was definitely proud of the work. I think if he had one big regret, it said he just never could land that budget that he felt like would allow him to really. I think he always felt like he was a good he came up with good stories. I think he felt like he was a decent script writer. He didn't really like directing because he was too introverted, and he didn't feel like he was able to necessarily bring out the best in people. But he usually directed because there was no one else who stepped up to do it. Occasionally, toward the end, his later films, he had a partner, Joe Ripple, who did some directing, and my dad was happy to step aside for that. He felt like he had a lot of elements in place that could have made really great films. And if he just got out of budget to hire professional actors, I think, and to give more money. He had friends, certainly talented enough to do all the special effects, and he had some very good special effects. But I think if he would have had more money, he could have made them even better, I think if he just would have had that one and he had a couple of deals fall through the years, and it was always so disappointing. But he was proud of his work, but I think he always just realized he just regretted that he couldn't have a little more production value. Now, having said that, who knows if they would have had the same charm if he would have had the money to do exactly what he wants. I'm a big believer that restrictions are good for the creative process well, and.
BETH ACCOMANDO I do think that the do it yourself quality of a film like that, it is charming. And it is like you just respect how people can pull things together with so little, like, at their disposal.
GREG DOHLER Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, it's nice. Every month I get a couple of emails from fans just talking about, he was an inspiration. And they just wanted to reach out and just let me know that it's amazing. I always joke that there's like two don doler fans in every city in the world because the Alien Factor, this first film, we had worldwide TV distribution. So, yeah, you get people from all over. Oh, my God. Something is not quite right.
BETH ACCOMANDO Well, and I'm wondering too, if Baltimore kind of helps foster a certain kind of creativity and kind of like an outside the box creativity. You also have John Waters laying claim to Baltimore, and it just seems like there is a certain quality to the creativity in that area.
GREG DOHLER Yes. I don't know what it is, but maybe it's because we're close to more bigger and more cosmopolitan areas. We're very close to New York, but we're not considered a big destination or a big city. And so we're kind of left to do our own thing. People just sort of forget about us, and we're very provincial. It's not uncommon to have generations of family that have lived here. Well, John Warriors always jokes that trends hit Baltimore, like, five years after they've peaked or something like that. And that's pretty much true. So, yeah, I think the fact that we're just kind of left alone to kind of do our thing, I feel like it's kind of hard to shock people from Baltimore. You could pull a stranger off the street and be like, okay, we're making this monster film, and we're going to cut your arm off. And here's the scene. I feel like they would be like, okay, all right, let's get it. Let's jump in and do this. It's just a kind of quirky place.
CLIP Hi. Hi. I'm here about the room for rent.
BETH ACCOMANDO That was a clip from Blood Massacre, directed Don Dohler. Thanks to Greg Dohler for commenting on a post about Nightbeast and then agreeing to do this interview. Now that’s how social media should work. I need to take one last break and then I’ll be back with author Matt Rotman to discuss some Bonkers Ass Cinema.
CLIP Night of 1000 Cats trailer
MIDROLL 2 [currently at 23:03/1383000 ]
CLIP Disco Godfather trailer
BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back. In 2018, Matt Rotman decided to start a blog focused on the genre films he loved. Now the San Diego-based author and filmmaker has a book inspired by the blog called Bonkers Ass Cinema: A Guide to the Wildest of Horror and Exploitation Cinema. We began by talking about why he doesn’t like to call these movies bad or hates the label so bad they are good.
MATT ROTMAN A lot of people think of me as like a bad movie guy, things like that. I find it a little offensive. You know me, I know you. I love all of film, but I obviously gear myself towards genre film, horror film, exploitation films, and in the mode of traditional criticism, they kind of get the lower end of the rung. They get denigrated a lot. And in my opinion, that has a way of making films disappear. They obviously got buried due to the time period they were in. They are lost on all formats. And then in the meantime, you've just had a generation after generation of film critics that just beat these films in the ground. And that way films just disappear outright. As long as they're not talked about, they're not watched. It's my goal to bring that with my blog, the Bonkers Cinema blog. And the book is to bring these films, give them a little life, bring them into the mainstream a little bit. I approach each film on its own terms. This is like the Ethos that I'm talking about on its own terms, in the context of its time period. It's genre, the filmography of the filmmaker itself. I just treat it with respect. The book is a work of humor. I sold it to the publisher that way. I have a background in comedy writing, but I don't do any sardonic handwriting like Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. I have a little fun with it, but I don't poke fun at the films themselves. And I think that's what the Ethos is. I think a lot of people who are into this type of cinema, they approach this with an ironic lens that I absolutely despise.
BETH ACCOMANDO Well, and if people want a point of reference, sort of for you, it's kind of the Joe Bob Briggs approach to films.
MATT ROTMAN Yes. No, I mean, he's probably the major influence on my blog and the book. He's like a hero of mine because, I mean, I caught him I'm 36, so I caught him in the late eighty s and ninety s, and it kind of guided my film taste in general. He was the first one to really take these exploitation films seriously as a film critic.
CLIP JOE BOB BRIGGS: What have we been watching tonight? Nothing to do with zombies, that's for sure. It's a love letter to filmmaking and filmmakers, and especially low budget filmmakers. And it's about how even the corniest, underfunded concept requires a miracle of teamwork to pull off. It's about what we call our mutant family. The audience and the filmmaker, the people who get it, the people who are there every time somebody like Shin'ichirô Ueda or Lloyd Kaufman come out of nowhere and create something that corporate filmmaking just could never achieve.
MATT ROTMAN Obviously, he had fun and did a stick, which is what I do, too. I have fun and I have my stick. But he took them seriously. He championed films that would otherwise not been championed. His ethos guides my ethos.
BETH ACCOMANDO So what does the film need to have to be considered Bonkers enough to be included in your book?
MATT ROTMAN That's a great question. I went a lot back and forth with myself for 15 months on that very question. It has to have a certain quality. It doesn't have to be crazy or wild or anything like that, but a certain quality that I haven't just seen before. And that's what I always look for. That's what's entertaining to me. Usually the films I picked are like singular visions of a filmmaker that only makes sense to the guy who made the film. And that's what draws me to it. I'm drawn to the most extreme things. Either extreme metal, extreme punk rock, extreme filmmaking. I'm always looking for that next high, looking for that next piece that juice me up. And just watching this weird, just singular vision of a weirdo who had $10,000 is all I need to get through the day sometimes.
BETH ACCOMANDO So what can people expect to find in your book in the sense of how do you break the films into categories? Is it just films? Do you include filmmakers? What can they expect from this?
MATT ROTMAN I chose nine film genres just to focus on, to guide me through animal attacks films, sexploitation, black exploitation, monster films, alien films, even a bigfoot chapter. There's a whole action chapter. And I deal with your favorite film of all time, Dangerous Men. And then there are certain filmmakers I wanted to focus on. So I have little sub chapters, director spotlights for the likes of, like, Doris Wishman and Renee Cardona Jr. And then I usually tie those subchapters into the actual chapters I'm talking about. So the Renee Cardona junior sub chapters and the animals attack. So I talk about Tinterara, Cyclone and things like that.
BETH ACCOMANDO Well, I wanted to ask you about Dangerous Men because I feel like if you talk a little bit about Dangerous Men, it may give people a better sense of what defines bonkers ask. Because it's not simply sometimes what's on the screen, but also what went on into that whole process of bringing these films to life.
MATT ROTMAN Yeah, so Dangerous Men is a hilarious example of, as you say, what we're talking about, the ethos, the bonkers. I sent him the guiding force of why I would pick a film to be included in the book. And it's directed by a guy named I believe john S. Rad. But basically he started making Dangerous Men, I believe, in the early eighty s and finished it in the mid ninety s. And it just got released a few years ago in a theatrical and bluray release. So, I mean, we're talking about a process of 30 plus years to get where we are now. Dangerous Men guaranteed. It's like nothing you've seen before. If you've seen this movie, I mean, you would have no idea that John S. Rat thought he just was spending 30 years making his masterpiece. And it's all the better for it. It's over the top. It aims for an art house stick while being firmly grounded in action cinema. It's wild, man. I feel like I made it sound way more sane than it is. It's just a guy with no budget spent ten years on the bulk of the production with different actors playing different parts and people that are fatter, hair loss, older. In the meantime, it doesn't address it at all. And it probably has one of my favorite scenes of all time, which is a guy just walking through the desert for ten minutes.
BETH ACCOMANDO It's the best what that film? Kind of points to, which I think is what attracts me to the films that are in the book is these people may not be considered artists by a lot of the mainstream, but these are people who really had a passion to make the films they made. I mean, there was that series, the Incredibly Strange Film Show, which every time I watched an episode, I want to go out and make a movie because you just feel like these people had to make movies. There was no other choice.
MATT ROTMAN Yeah, no, same here. Every film in the book really pumps me up. It just juices me and wants me. It just makes the art of filmmaking itself seem more accessible, which it really is, especially in this day and age. I mean, filmmaking is about as easy as can be compared to 30 years ago, especially when these guys are doing it. These guys had to deal with real film. There were no cell phones. All that stuff cost so much money, and they still did it on a micro budget when you could do the same thing here. And there are modern examples in my book, too. One of my favorite films of the book is a film from 2021 called Bigfoot's Bride, and again, a weirdo entry into any monster bigfoot genre. For some reason, there's just not a filmmaker out there who makes a bigfoot movie, can just make a straightforward A to B monster movie. It's always the weirdest film they've ever made. Bigfoot brings that out in everybody. And this is like Bigfoot's Bride is that weird? But it aims for more of an arthouse sensibility where it's more like the anguish of bigfoot. It's an existential crisis. Like, he's like a loner. It's almost like Bride of Frankenstein. It has lofty ambitions, and he realizes how ugly and monstrous he is, and he's lonely. And then he finds a girl in the woods who he falls in love with, but he can't approach her. And it's very weird, very singular, and it takes a really sadistic turn that I won't give away here. But films like that, you can see the cheapness on display. And what people usually call cheap is usually I don't know, it rubs me the wrong way usually when people say that lower budgets obviously look different than higher budget. Just do the technology and the talent you can get. But to me. I think for certain people out there, the weird, crazed hermit uncles, there's a certain aesthetic to this lower budget, I think, that draws a lot of people like me to it. It's not as polished, isn't it? You can feel the work and you can feel the passion. And Bigfoot's Bride is a great modern example of how you can use the tools of the digital age and make something on the cheap. And it's still, I think, weird and powerful and unique.
BETH ACCOMANDO We're talking about the passion of these filmmakers. Is that part of what attracts you the most to these kinds of films, or is there also something else?
MATT ROTMAN Well, blood, guts, boobs. I mean, all those it's a great enticement for this type of cinema that's Joe Bob's back the Three Bees, blood, Breasts and Beasts. I don't know. I would make an argument people like me, people into this sort of genre cinema, people who are still in the comic books and things like that, there's a sort of adolescence they never grew out of, and I think that ties into it. But as I've grown older and trying to make films myself, trying to do a lot of writing myself, there's just so much admiration that I get watching these smaller films because these guys are heroes to me. They may be like a punchline to a lot of people, but they are heroes to me for the most part. And so they really want me to really just make me want to pick up a camera and get out there because that's what they did.
BETH ACCOMANDO Well. To kind of get into this notion of these filmmakers having a passion to do what they do and not always being recognized for their art. One of your filmmaker spotlights is on Doris Wishman. Who made what we're called nudi cuties back then. But talk a little bit about her.
MATT ROTMAN Oh, man. I love Doris Wishman. We did a film geeks event with Doris Wishmen. Noodle on the Moon, one of my favorites. But again, a filmmaker who's like, basically again, for maybe the last 40 plus years, it's just been denigrated as a punchline, something weird. Releases that released all her six floatation, the Newty QT and the roughies that she did, just having that put out there simultaneously help keep her at least as a topic of conversation among cult film weirdos like myself. But it also created this punchline for her, too. She just made these campy, laughy films that you just go and laugh at, which, again, is just a mindset that I despise. Because when you get into her filmography, this is another person who wanted just to make films. She saw it as a business opportunity initially, but she also felt like she was making real films for the most part. And I think some of that because she started with the nudie cuties. No one's going to say those are intellectual in any regard, but she did. Transition a little bit more into the darker roughies, which are more film tinged. And I feel like some of those are really outstanding. Especially Bad Girls Go to Hell, which AGFA, the American Genre Film Archive is going to be putting out, I believe this year, if it's not already out already. So you're going to see that in pristine HD here very soon. But she just had a long, decades long career, the early 60s going with the nudie cuties, the late 60s with the roughie. Actual hardcore pornography in the then by the time the late 70s rolled around, after Halloween kicked off the horse cycle, she did a horror film, A Night to Dismember, and she continued making films. She did a hiatus until I believe, the 90s or 2000s, but she was making films right up to her death, like in her 90s. Just a very inspirational figure with again, a singular mind, a singular aesthetic. At a certain point, you know, you're watching a Doris Wishman film because there are so many nudie cuties are a dime a dozen, roughies are dime a dozen, but if you put on one by Doris Wishman, they do stand out from the other. I don't want to say dreck, but dreck.
BETH ACCOMANDO You also put these films, like you mentioned, into a context. So one of the things about explaining what these New Tunis were was explaining why they suddenly were able to make these films with nudity when before they were censored.
MATT ROTMAN Yeah. So for the longest time, other than the Hays Code, which started in the country and every locale, state, federal government had obscenity laws that kept nudity out of films. And by the late fifty s and the early 60s they were slowly and slowly being repealed and pushed back a little bit, but slowly at the time. And the films reflected how slowly these affinity laws were pushed back. And usually they were pushed back like locale by locale. So when these films traveled around, sometimes they're allowed to be shown, sometimes they wouldn't. And the filmmakers appreciated when they weren't because they just drove up publicity and ticket sales. And so each locale had their different macon, Georgia had a different affinity law than New York City, obviously. And then by the I would say late 60s, almost all of them were completely all on a federal level. The obscenity laws were completely repealed. So then we get hardcore pornography and things like that. And so each Doris Wishman saves like Nude on the Moon, she tried to pull a fast one because at that time you could show nudity but you could only do it in the context of a documentary film. That's why you get all these nudi cuties films that take place at nudist colonies. The film is like a documentary showing all the shenanigans they're up to at the nudist colonies. And so she wanted to branch out of that. And so what does she do? She's going to pull faster let's have a nudist colony on the moon, and let's have astronauts go to the moon after someone's uncle dies, leaving a fortune from fur. Like he's a fur salesman, I guess. He leaves a fortune to a scientist nephew and he builds a rocket, goes to the moon, and there's just a colony of beautiful nudists there. Well, semi beautiful nudists, sunburned, Florida style. It didn't actually work. It still got banned in New York and after that but again, that's the context we're talking about. Like, it's each filmmaker trying to push the envelope of what they're allowed to do. And I appreciate that. I wish more people would do it. Now.
BETH ACCOMANDO Some of these titles are hard to find, and I'm wondering, were there any films that you had read about or known about that you just couldn't find?
MATT ROTMAN The hardest film for me to find was a film which is one of my favorites in the book. And it's on YouTube now in a terrible quality. I actually found a guy to sell me a bootleg of this. So hit me up in the DMs if you need any if you need access to my source. But no. It's called Alabama's Ghost. It's in my black exploitation chapter. And I'm not quite sure if it's an actual exploitation film, but I can put it in there because I can't tell you what it is. I can tell you what it's not, but I can't tell you what it is. But it's directed by Frederick Hobbes. And so if anyone knows that name, it's probably because they live in a shack and they're really into sculpting. So he was made he was most famous as, like, this hippie sculptor in San Francisco in the who ventured out to make a couple of weird arthouse exploitation films. Alabama was a Ghost is one of them. But the one most people probably know is the one AGFO release, which is the god monster of Indian Flats, which is a pretty wild film in itself, which I highly recommend. But Alabama's Ghost is just him swinging for the fences again, some guy working completely within his own mind. And it's just this guy who's kind of a handyman at a jazz club in San Francisco, stumbles upon in the crypt of this bar. For some reason, the bar has a crypt, and he stumbles upon this old magician's equipment and he's like, yeah, you know what? I've always wanted to be a world famous magician. Okay? And he does. So it's cursed. And so he's allowed to become famous. But in becoming famous, he's now getting hunted down by Nazi vampires. Dr. Caligula there's voodoo in this. There's a lot of bikers and a lot of hippie dancing montages as well. So it's a film that it really depresses me, like how no one can see this film or probably never even heard of it, but the version that's on YouTube is just god awful. It's really dark. The sound isn't completely synced up. So you're going to have to see it tracked on a bootleg. I'm hoping someone like Agfa can get their hands on it. They obviously have access to this guy's filmography. But this is just a film. It's one I would start a label over just to get out, if I could.
BETH ACCOMANDO Now, you've mentioned AGFA, which is the American Genre Film Archives a couple of times. What is it about that? It seems like we need distributors like this to kind of rescue some of these films from oblivion.
MATT ROTMAN Yeah, AGFA is great. Vinegar Syndrome is great. Severin is great. And then obviously some of the bigger ones, Scream Factory, Shout, Shout Select, all that stuff. Same company. But yeah, they're all doing like heroic work right now. Like I'm scared they're going to run out of films. But then they just keep finding films that I've never heard of before. It's quite amazing. But yeah. So, AGFA, if you're listening Severin, if you're listening, Vinegar Syndrome, if you're listening, Alabama's Ghost, please. Whatever is in my savings account is at your disposal right now.
BETH ACCOMANDO And were there any other films that were a particular challenge to track down?
MATT ROTMAN Yeah, especially when I was getting into like weird, like Taiwanese action cinema, things like that. Like Golden Queens Commando, another one I had to track down through bootlegs. But yeah, I appreciate the journey in trying to track down this. It's something you don't have to do too much anymore. I think a lot of us who got into this type of films or if you're into obscure music as well. For the longest time before the digital age, it was a journey to find all this stuff. And now it's a lot easier, especially getting with these labels, putting stuff out. Now they're not only available, they're available in pristine bluray, HD and 4K now. But yeah, I do relish the adventure trying to track these down. But I would say Alabama's Ghost, Golden Queens Commando, those two are definitely probably the two hardest ones to get.
BETH ACCOMANDO All right, well, I want to thank you very much for talking about your bonkers ass cinema book.
MATT ROTMAN Thank you. What a pleasure.
That wraps up another edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion of bonkers ass cinema and more importantly I hope you feel inspired to seek out some of these deliciously crazy films. You can purchase a copy of Matt’s book Bonkers Ass Cinema at Bear Manor Media and can find his blog at bonkersasscinema-dot-com. He also co-programs film with me as part of Film Geeks San Diego. So if you live in San Diego, follow Film Geeks SD on Facebook to find out about our next bonkers screening.
Remember to check out Cinema Junkie’s companion videos from the Geeky gourmet because I’ll show you how to make some food themed to my podcast. I’ll have a new season of videos up starting right after Comic-Con and we’ll begin with some bonkers themed cookies as well as Star Wars treats to go with my interview about the new docuseries Icons Unearthed: Star Wars.
You can find the videos and more podcasts at kpbs-dot-org-slash-cinema-junkie.
And please share the podcast with a friend because your recommendation is the best way to build an addicted audience. You can also help by leaving a review.
Till our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.
Greg Dohler has fond memories of growing up on the sets of his dad’s movies.
"One of my earliest memories was helping my dad mix fake blood in the utility sink in our basement," Dohler recalled. "That's not usually what people say about their earliest memory with their dad. That's what it is."
Get ready for a bonkers ass ride through the wildest and most extreme horror and exploitation cinema as Greg Dohler and author Matt Rotman take the wheel to kick a new season of Cinema Junkie into high gear.
Greg’s dad was Don Dohler, the director of "Fiend," "Alien Factor," and "Blood Massacre." Greg chats with me about working as a teenager on his dad’s films and loving it.
Then author Matt Rotman, author of "Bonkers Ass Cinema," discusses his love for bonkers films like Don Dohler’s "Nightbeast" and his disgust for people who dare call films like that bad.
"There are two types of people in this world and two types only, people who laugh at Plan Nine From Outer Space. And the weird, crazed hermit uncles that genuinely love it. And my book is a manifesto for all those crazed hermit uncles," Rotman said.
Rotman is a kindred spirit and I can’t wait to share these bonkers titles with you.
So if you feel no guilt over your love for low budget exploitation films then this is exactly the podcast for you. But if you think "Bigfoot’s Bride," "Centipede Horror," and "The Mad Doctor of Blood Island," are undeserving of your attention then I hope you will take a listen and see if we can win you over to our bonkers point of view.
Geeky Gourmet videos will return later this month (Comic-Con has proven too distracting) with some bonkers cookies and then Star Wars treats.