last house on dead end street.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
just typing this blog post's title (which by the way is a film released back in '77), made me smile a little. now, some of you might now that much of the past couple decades of my existence were spent appreciating bad movies and attaining a modicum of notoriety, along with my old chum Bro. George for this love of crapcinema. this particular film lingered in mystery and misery for years because no one knew exactly who had made the thing.
ome chap named Victor Janos was on the credits, it starred no one, it included a plot relating to snuff films and featured naked women, black face, deer hoof fellatio, you get my drift? when it was unfurled as a Last House on the Left ripoff, audiences got a little more than they bargained for. flash forward to about 2001 and out of the woodwork comes this Victor Janos. well, not exactly, out comes Roger Watkins. he had directed a film called The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell. this little student endeavor (with a $3000 budget--Roger later shared $800 went for the film, the rest for pills) was repackaged, chopped up and thrown into the grindhouse/drive-in film market.
okay, okay, that's enough about the film. it's been written about extensively in nerddom and Barrel Entertainment even put out a whopper of a double DVD and booklet and all that about it. none of that is what makes me smile. it's this Roger Watkins character. you see, once he came forward, he was still quite an under-the-radar-personality. i got his email from a friend who had met him in NYC and on the chance he might want to chat, dropped him a note. he did and in a couple days i was phoning him...some hours later, we had melded into something akin to really good phone friends. over the next few nights i recorded about 6 hours of interview stuff with watkins. i planned to put it on the web at my old brain on film site. but the more we talked, the more i realized that i really had no desire to tell all of watkins' secrets. he was an addict, had directed numerous top flight pornos, had lived in mexico and was for lack of a better descriptor, an true artistic scallywag. he was opinionated, abrasive and had no sense of why anyone cared about his grainy student project inspired by the Manson murders and his speed habit. over the next few months we continued to talk, every fan boy outlet in the US and abroad was abuzz with Roger Watkins' unearthing. he struck his agreement with Barrel and did commentary, a booklet, an interview with the great David Kerekes (a contemporary hero of mine) and all of this culminated with a chance for Watkins and me to actually meet and have a beer together in cleveland, ohio at something called Cinema Wasteland, where we would both be guests.
it did happen...but not before Roger showed up at the hotel, blitzed on ValiumTM and vodka and passed out in the hallway in front of his room door as he was trying to figure out how to open the door. the promoter of the show came and got me to ID roger and drag him safely to bed. we spent the next couple days with Roger being treated like a star of the underground, he sold the Barrel DVD along with the guys from the company, posed for photos with the usual horror geeks and generally seemed to have a good time. but you could feel the loneliness in the guy and as i hugged him goodbye, he stopped, pulled away and looked at the gaggle of folks who were surrounding us and uttered, 'all this attention, all these interviews and all that, but Tread here, he's got the definitive interview with me, i told him things that i didn't tell anyone else...he gets it.'
Roger and i spoke on for the next year. he had a falling out with Barrel over something to do with his girlfriend not being credited on the release and i think Roger thought somehow that the new attention might lead somewhere more than sitting at folding tables in midwestern town talking to fat kids dressed in black about a film he had made 30 years ago...i'd listen to his bristling about constantly feeling screwed over and i knew he was probably elbow deep in substances. eventually, i'd try to call and there wouldn't be an answer and my emails would come back to me. Roger Watkins died in March of '07. the Barrel Entertainment special edition of his film is out of print and is listed on Amazon this morning for $175. weird, i hadn't thought about Roger since the day i heard that he passed. i still have all those mini-discs of our conversations, i never transcribed a word of them...as Roger said. i get it.
happy post-halloween and if you like bad movies, photos and art, think about the unsung out there, just creating to create something. RIP Roger Watkins, Victor Janos, Richard Mahler, Claude Armand, Ray Hicks, Richard Joseph, Norman F. Kaiser, Brian Laurence, Steven Morrison, Brian Newett, Bernard Travis, Bernie Travis...yes, those are all Roger, but i just kinda knew him as Watkins and as a familiar stranger.
still doing the soft campaign about the 09 Photoblog Awards. if you are so inclined to enjoy this dot on the interwebs, by all means click and vote.
Last House On Dead End Street. Canon GIII QL17. Kodak TMax 400.
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