Saturday, April 20, 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: R is for Fred Olen Ray!

You know the hardest part of this blogfest? These introductions! But then you get to feature people whose work you've really enjoyed, and it's not so bad! Like when

R is for Fred Olen Ray!

Fred Olen Ray is a filmmaker who got started in Florida in the late 1970’s, working as a production assistant on the cool Nazi zombie horror flick Shock Waves. Not long after that he wrote, produced, and directed his first film, The Brain Leeches - but that one never got released. He had more luck with The Alien Dead, pitting aging movie hero sheriff Buster Crabbe against zombies revived when a meteor lands in a Florida river. It was a very low budget movie, but Ray used it as a springboard to a career in film.

As the 80’s progressed, Ray turned out several genre flicks, each a little more polished as he honed his talents. One aspect that made Ray’s film’s so appealing was his willingness to hire older actors and genre favorites for his films. Actors like Cameron Mitchell, Ross Hagen, Carol Borland, Kirk Alyn, Michelle Bauer, Lee Van Cleef, David Carradine, Gary Busey, Henry Silva, Richard Harrison, Heather Thomas, Troy Donahue, Jeffrey Combs, Britt Ekland, Eddie Deezen, Jay Richardson, John Phillip Law, and Mako showed up in one or more of his films. Among my favorites of his films from this period: Scalps, The Tomb, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Beverly Hills Vamp, Mob Boss, Cyclone, Armed Response, Dinosaur Island, Phantom Empire, Evil Toons, and Bulletproof.

The VHS tape so tough IT rented YOU.

He has produced and/or directed scads of movies from the early 80's straight through today - the IMDB lists him as director on 129 projects.

Mr. Ray sometimes steps in front of the camera - especially when that puts him sharing the screen
with a legend like Telly Savalas!

Also, like Jim Wynorski (our "J" post in this challenge) - because Fred Olen Ray is a very prolific filmmaker - to keep from oversaturating the market with flicks all bearing his name - he often slaps a pseudonym on certain movies he makes. The names he uses include: Cappu | Bill Carson | Dr. S. Carver | Roger Collins | Peter Daniels | Nicholas Juan Medina | Nicholas Medina | Nick Medina | Sam Newfield | Fred Ray | Ed Raymond | Randy Rocket | Sherman Scott | Peter Stewart | Freddie Valentine | Freddy Valentine | Brian Wolfe.

Another tough day at the office...

And, because there's no end to his work ethic, he has also wrestled professionally - the "sports entertainment" kind - under the name Freddie Valentine.

Freddie Valentine's on the right.
I'm not sure who that is on the left
but I'll bet he's from Parts Unknown.

Into the 90’s Ray continued making films, most often direct-to-video. The hot genre in the early 90’s was the “erotic thriller” so he made several of those. When that cycle had run its course he continued with low budget action and horror films, science fiction flicks, family films, and even wrestling documentaries, as well as niche television efforts like The Lair.  At their best, his films are low budget marvels, with clever special effects and a definite feeling that the director is having as good a time as the viewer. It’s also cool that Ray is an unabashed Monster Kid and film buff himself.

Posing with Spanish horror superstar Paul Naschy -
in his legendary werewolf gear for their
film collaboration Tomb of the Werewolf.

Another fun aspect of Ray's movies - he uses all the old school tricks to beef up the production value of his movies - without breaking the budget. Take a look at some of the cool effects he has pulled off:

Shooting through a miniature to a real actor
placed far from camera...

And the finished shot in the film - Nuclear Hurricane. That's actor Jack Scalia back there.

From Attack of the 60 Ft. Centerfold - actress JJ North is shot close to camera - and with
no other post production trickery - below is the final shot - with the actor positioned far back.

I LOVE this stuff!

From Dear Santa - the same effect in reverse - this time Santa is close to camera - and the actress is positioned
far away - and I'm guess the car behind her is a miniature piece or mockup. Startling effect - look at the
"eye contact" - and this effect costs NOTHING except some setup time.

That's a $10 model that Mr. Ray paid a neighbor kid $25 to build - so for $35 he gets a big effect.
That's Daniel Baldwin running towards the plane up top - and below - check the plane's cockpit -
the pilot is a real person sitting in the background - being shot THROUGH the miniature plane's
windscreen. Awesome!

He does use computer effects sometimes - here's some digital flimflam adding a temple around
the full size set piece. Even the cloudy sky in the bottom shot was added.

Here's a shot from his earthquake disaster flick Ground Zero.

And here's how it was achieved.

And lastly:

From the film Sideshow - he's close to camera - she's positioned far back in the tent -
behind the small glass prop dome - no other other opticals or effects needed.
It's a startling shot - and again, it cost nothing but setup time.
Using this kind of effect, anyone can look through the camera and
see exactly what it is going to look like right there on set.

Those kinds of clever effects are why I love movies. Thank the heavens someone is still practicing them and not just turning everything over to CGI guys.

In addition to his own productions, Fred Olen Ray also runs Retromedia - a distribution company dedicated to putting out small, sometimes forgotten B movies and genre flicks that he loved as a youngster. They are about to release director Ross Hagen's Wonder Women very soon. (And Ross Hagen - an old friend of Ray's - was our H post in this blogfest if you want to know more about him.)

Ray continues producing and directing movies, with a long series of slightly-more-than-softcore movies with the word Bikini in the title - like Super Ninja Bikini Babes; Ghost in a Teeny Bikini (I'm credited on that one!); Bikini Frankenstein; and Bikini Jones and the Lost Temple of Eros. These are made to play on cable channels like Cinemax in the wee hours.

One of the Bikini films on the left and a little judicious retitling on the right...

Ray has also kept busy recently with movies like Super Shark; Hatfields and McCoys: Bad Blood and Jersey Shore Shark Attack.

And he gets PAID for this!

If you’ve never seen a Fred Olen Ray you’ve either never had cable and watched movies after midnight or apparently worked hard to avoid him – for which you should be ashamed. I highly recommend checking out some of his movies to those so inclined – you will have a good time!

My thanks to Fred Olen Ray for pernission to use the photos in this post.

"S" all I got for you today - if you come back tomorrow I'll have more! Until then, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Another name I'm not familiar with. Thanks for the bio, Craig. Amazing effects artist. 129 projects? Insane!

  2. Never heard of him, or any of the movies either; not my genre for sure. I sorta wondered if he used different names so people wouldn't associate him with terror all the time...to perhaps make his movies more popular? You know like Reagan being associated with B flicks vs a serious actor. Seems like he should have paid the kid more the $35.00 considering how much he probably made.

    I often don't remember names, but he doesn't look familiar either...though I do like that he's drinking a Dirty Martini, one of my specialties.


  3. "Attack of the 60 Ft. Centerfold" Brilliant Craig

  4. I've seen Scalps (pretty good), Biohazard (pretty bad), and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (quite funny). There are a few of his movies I still have to watch (Alienator, Deep Space, The Tomb).