During my runs on Amos-n-Andrew* and Super Mario Bros. I developed friendships with some of my fellow extras. My main group of pals heading into the fall of 1992 were Jeff and his brother Dave; Bob; and Jeb. There were others who floated in and out and around but these four guys were the main chums I was hanging around with.
During Amos-n-Andrew I had been toying with the idea of shooting something feature length on video for cheap to sell to a company called Cinema Home Video which was run by filmmaker David DeCoteau - who'd impressed me with Pupper Master III: Toulon's Revenge for Full Moon. Cinema Home Video (CHV) regularly ran a full page ad in Fangoria and other magazines selling shot on video (SOV) features for about $10 - when most Hollywood features on VHS were $14.95 or $19.95.
|Here's one of the 95% interior movies released by Cinema Home Video.|
I called CHV one day, and lo and behold David DeCoteau himself answered! We chatted about some stuff, and I asked him - what are you seeing too much of in these SOV features people are sending in? He said almost everything was 95% interiors shot in one location, and that was getting old. So, I immediately decided that I would shoot something that was 95% exteriors, just to change it up.
I had been spending time in the nearby town of Kure Beach on the beach behind the Fort Fisher aquarium, and I had noticed that south of where I would go the beach curved back in, making it look like the land ended - in effect making it look like you were on an island - so I decided to shoot there, using that geographical quirk as a production value to appear as though I'd shot the project on an actual island.
Next I started thinking about the story - and decided a group of guys comes to the island for something. I knew the movie needed to be very episodic - that way bits could be added and subtracted to make the movie come out to feature length, plus these shorter bits would lend themselves to shooting a day here and two days there. Eventually after much thought I came up with a scientist who develops a liquid that brings anything to life when it is sprayed on. So, these guys show up looking for the scientist, but he's sprayed a bunch of stuff and the various newly animated objects proceed to kill the guys.
During this period my friends and were spending time hanging out at a restaurant called Hooters, which serves fried chicken wings served by attractive young women wearing a very iconic uniform. As we spent more time there, I thought it might be a very cool thing to get some of the Hooters girls (as they were called then and still are) to appear in the movie - so I came up with the idea of the liquid getting splashed on a picture of the Hooters girls, whereupon they would come to life out of the picture and kill a couple of people.
|Hooters girls in their natural habitat.|
As I spoke with the girls about appearing in the movie (after convincing them I was serious about making a movie and not just trying to get them on the casting couch) and finding some of them very interested, I started thinking that maybe I should rethink my plot to feature them more.
Eventually I decided to let go of the animating liquid and instead populate the island with a roving band of warrior women. Having at the time recently watched the Elvira's Midnight Madness VHS of She-Demons - I decided that could be a model for my movie - hot women in bikinis roaming the island and kicking ass.
|The actual tape I'd watched - still in the video vault.|
And if those women in that other movie were She-Demons - I'd promote mine up the hell scale - mine would be She-Devils. That's when the title fell in place. Island of the She-Devils.
|Doesn't it make a marvelous title on VHS?|
The script came together relatively quickly. I knew Bob and Jeff would be the two leads, and I named their characters after my favorite magazine editors - Bob Martin and Dave Everitt of Fangoria Magazine's heyday. Working off their natural chemistry together I could write stuff that played to their strengths.
The story has scientist Bob Martin and a team of researchers setting out on a quest - shortly all of the planets in the solar system are going to be aligned - a rare event - and when they do astrophysic energy is going to link all of the planets together - and Martin wants to find one of the two focal spots hitting the Earth and study the energy. They set out in a small boat to find the focal point somewhere out in the ocean, but a violent storm sinks the boat and the four survivors wash up on on "an uncharted island off the coast of Georgia." Bob soon learns the focal point is actually on the island - but the quartet of survivors also discover they are not alone - a tribe of scantily clad warrior women called She-Devils live on the island. The She-Devils are led by their queen Sabrina - and they don't take kindly to strangers. Bob and Dave then meet another scientist - Dr. James Hyphen-Hyphen - who also came to the island to study the focal point astrophysic energy. Together they realize that the energy is already starting to build up - and it's causing the natural order on the island to go wild - dimensional doors are opening up - allowing all kinds of strange things to appear on the island - including Nazis, monsters, and an Australian airplane pilot. Eventually the energy buildup is going to reach critical mass - and at the point the Earth will be torn asunder. Do these guys have what it takes to avoid or defeat everything that would like to kill them on the island and save the planet?
Various other people would be helping out behind the camera, and playing small roles on camera. One person who was going to play a big role was a gentleman named Lewis. We had met on Amos-n-Andrew and in addition to playing a big supporting role as Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen; Lewis told me he could definitely raise a big chunk of the $2000-$3000 we needed to make this movie by contacting people he knew with some disposable income and getting them each to contribute a small amount. (Look, we invented Kickstarter too!)
|Because you can literally find anything|
on the internet here's Lewis as he
appeared in a play last year. Yes, I
am that creepy.
So while I was writing the script, Lewis left town to travel about on some business - during which time he'd also be scooping up money, bringing it all back with him in a couple of months. I continued writing, and the script came together, with Bob and Jeff coming over every few days to take a look at what had come out of my electric typewriter. And they were enjoying the script pages, which encouraged me to keep going. Finally, I had a completed script.
It was time to start casting - mainly for the female roles. I had met two young ladies - Renee and Chantelle - who seemed perfect physically to play the two lead She-Devils - but I auditioned another four or so girls for the roles - and then ended up casting Renee and Chantelle anyway. They were the perfect contrast to each other - both gorgeous - Renee tall, blonde, and willowy; and Chantelle short, brunette, and curvy.
I also met an actress on the set of SMB who seemed to be perfect to play the part of the Big Villain - Sabrina, Queen of the She-Devils. Michele was by far the most accomplished professional actress I approached to play a role - and she tentatively agreed, pending reading of the script. While she was reading it I auditioned two other actresses - just in case - but neither were right. Michele was exactly who I was looking for. Luckily, she loved the script - and signed on.
The deal I made with the cast and crew was this - they work for free so that any money brought in could be used for production - hopefully $3000, but possibly less. Upon the sale of the movie - which I was hoping to be $10,000, but would have been thrilled with $5000 - the investors would be paid back with a small profit, I would take a piece as the main driving force, and the rest would be divided among them. I warned them it might take a couple of years. They all agreed to the deal.
|Not the story of this movie, but the title|
was true to the tale.
While we waited for Lewis to return, we worked our bill paying jobs - whatever they were - and once a week or so got together for script readings. These rehearsals really worked to the movie's benefit - as we really honed in on the group's chemistry with each other and banged out the script to a pretty funny and cohesive piece. It was telling to me that we were still chuckling at the script in the last couple of these readthroughs - after going through it more than a dozen times - that we could still find the humor was really cool.
During these readings we had the main cast - Bob, Renee, Jeff, Chantelle and Michele - and I handled the remaining roles - and it was fun to "play" a part in the cast - so I started thinking about a cameo somewhere in the movie.
|Just like Stan Lee in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk!|
We continued hanging out and doing readthroughs for several weeks waiting for Lewis to return. Eventually - Lewis returned. I don't even remember how we got back in touch - whether he called me or I called him or we ran in to each other - but when we did speak - with not a hair out of place or his usual jaunty manner affected - he told me he'd gotten no money for the movie. Worse, he just didn't seem to realize how much I was depending on him, or how far we'd taken the script and the readthroughs - nor did he seem to care.
Now I had to tell everyone that it was looking very much like all our work was going to have been for nothing - and shelve Island of the She-Devils.
|Damn it! I want to make Island of the She-Devils!|
TO BE CONTINUED
We'll pick this one up a week from tonight - regular posts will appear in the meantime...
(and until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!)
*I'm using -n- instead of &; because of Blogger's annoying habit of replacing & with &. *sigh*