Horrorhound Weekend Indy '11 Wrap-Up: Part 3- The 80's Slasher Panel Kills!

Ted White, Derek McKinnon, Peter Guilano, Wayne Doba, and Bob Elmore
While Friday was filled with getting to Horrorhound and the Laid to Rest 2 Panel, Saturday was the full day and the most important of the Panel discussions I wanted to attend was the 80’s Slasher Panel featuring a varied group of actors spanning across a number of well known and not so well known slasher films.Attending the panel were Bob Elmore (Texas Chainsaw Massacre II), Wayne Doba (The Funhouse), Peter Guilano, (The Prowler), Derek McKinnon (Terror Train) and Ted White (Friday the 13th Part 5). In fact, nearly forgotten, is that the main page of the Horrorhound site featured the '80's Slashers as a main theme (although Dick Warlock and Bill Mosley who are also shown on the poster to the left did not participate on the panel.) While it was (to me) surprisingly not well attended, the panel was extremely interesting, and the stories the actors had to share were well worth passing on. So, it's about time I get to passing them on.

The panel started off with the moderator asking each of the men how he landed the role as the slasher in their respective films. Ted White began his career in 1949 taking both small acting roles and performing as a stunt man. White recalled how he was called in to read for a part, but when offered the part of Jason in Friday the 13th Part 4, he turned it down as it had no lines. However after giving it some thought he reconsidered and, “made it and killed a lot of them.” Derek McKinnon was just hoping for work as an extra before getting a call only days before shooting letting him know he would be facing off against Jamie Lee Curtis in Terror Train. Peter Guilano, who was working as Assistant Director, was thrust into the part of The Prowler after (the very recently dearly departed) Farley Granger proved to be too old to realistically attack the slasher’s prey. You’ve got to like any story that starts off, “I was working as a tap-dancing mime disco act in Miami.” as does Wayne Doba’s. After being hired to portray the mechanical residents of Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse, he was bumped up to the part of the Frankenstein masked killer. Continuing a theme, Bob Elmore is not the name you find listed if you look up Leatherface in TCM II, there you will find it credited to Bill Johnson. However Elmore was the stunt double for Johnson, and Johnson was unable to wield the 70 lbs chainsaw. So for all but a small handful of scenes, Mrs. Sawyer’s baby boy is played by Bob Elmore.

Savini: Douchebag?
Moving on from the strange similarities of their casting, the discussion turned to the co-workers they had in common. Ted White, Peter Guilano, and Bob Elmore all worked with Tom Savini, and as usual opinion on the special effect maestro was mixed. Ted White clearly had some grudge against Savini calling him, “kind of a thief” and mumbling out a story about Tom selling some kind of memorabilia from Friday 4 that did not belong to him. Bob Elmore also seemed reticent to say much calling Savini a “strange person”. Only Peter Guilano had anything positive to say about him recounting a time Savini disguised him up for a lunch with Peter’s wife and The Prowler’s crew, and no one knew who he was at all. While it was a funny story, it wasn’t really a glowing endorsement of the man. White and Guilano also shared director Joe Zito in common as he directed both Friday 4and The Prowler. White continued in a grouchy vein dubbing Zito “not one of my favorite people”. This was a sentiment echoed in Guilano’s story. When filming the scene where The Prowler sneaks up on a girl in a pool, Guilano’s helmet was filling with water. After a couple of failed takes where Peter couldn’t see what he was doing, he swam over to ask Zito’s advice. The director cared not for his Assistant Director/actor’s predicament and kicked him in the helmet telling him to get back to work.

Hooper: Crazy Wild Man?
Tobe Hooper directed both Bob Elmore in Texas Chainsaw II and Wayne Doba in The Funhouse, and some of the best stories of the panel were about the Texan auteur. Doba recounted on how Hooper had a habit to destroying rental cars and how he (like Werner Herzog) liked to shoot off blanks all around the set to keep everyone on edge. Doba also recalled watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Hooper and having the director explain how it “was a comedy”. Doba also saw how Hooper saw the bigger picture while he was filming. During a scene where Doba’s slasher kills a girl in an air vent, Hooper yelled down to the actor, “Now, hump on her like a mad dog.” Doba followed the director’s orders, but later found out that Hooper had just filmed it as something to cut in order to satisfy the ratings board. Bob Elmore had less to say about Hooper, but he called Texas Chainsaw Massacre II “the hardest job and worst conditions” of his career. Of Hooper he noted that, “he was crazy when we started and crazier when we finished.”

Spottiswoode: Dick with a Crazy last name?
Derek McKinnon was the lone star on the panel whose movie, Terror Train, didn’t have a connection to any of the other films. His film was intended to be directed by Carol Wickman, who had formally worked as a sound editor, but she passed directing off to her the beau Roger Spottiswoode who was trying to make the leap from being Peckinpah’s editor to feature director. Unfortunately for McKinnon, Spottiswoode was a cruel taskmaster segregating him from cast and crew and emotionally torturing him to get the performance he wanted out of the young actor. (This is all, of course, as McKinnon recounted.) McKinnon said he was more directed by Wickman who was on the set as dialog director and legendary cinematographer John Alcott (Clockwork Orange, The Shining) who told him simply, “Don’t listen to Roger.” Overall, McKinnon gave the impression that his first experience with film might have been scarier than the movie in which he was appearing.

Next up, the panel was asked about their favorite Scream Queen with which they’ve worked. White first assured the crowd that, “I know you want to hear something dirty, but I’m not going to tell you.” before launching into a tale about being called into Lana Turner’s dressing room during the filming of Portrait in Black in which he was doubling star Anthony Quinn. (He also told a rather hilarious, but rather lengthy tale about accidentally crashing Paramount executive Ed White’s suite during this shoot as well.) Derek McKinnon strayed from favorite Scream Queen memory as well, and instead he turned his attention to Terror Train co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. He first politely called working with her, “an experience”, but then after recounting how cold the actress was to him he commented, “if not for horror she wouldn’t be where she is today.” (So if not for horror, no Activia commercials? I might be able to make that deal if not for The Fog.) Peter Guilano again answered the question loosely with an answer about Annette Benning and the filming of Bugsy. Wayne Doba’s remembrance of Funhouse victim Sylvia Miles was “she masturbated me, and I strangled her. Then after we went to her trailer and had Chinese food. “. Bob Elmore once again echoed how horrible bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre II’s filming was and commented on Caroline Williams being “a trooper.”

The group turned their attention from co-stars to kills and their slasher’s best work. Ted White, who I suspect doesn’t kick back and watch Friday the 13th Part 4 on a Saturday afternoon for fun, summed it up by saying, “Well, I just had a bunch of those suckers.” Derek McKinnon cited his dispatching of Hart Bochner’s Doc Manley in a deserted railcar, and he also noted that many of the kills in Terror Train were filmed with the actors having no idea where, or how, he would be coming after them. Once again invoking his scene with Sylvia Miles, Wayne Doba bemoaned that every time he watches the film, but the scene always bothers him. They had planned for Miles’ last gasp to come at the count of three and Miles expires on four. (I actually watched it when I got home to see, and sure enough though I would never have noticed it if it wasn’t pointed out, Miles’ head snaps back just a little too late.) Bob Elmore talked about one of my favorite TCM II scenes. When Leatherface pops up in the back of the pickup and menaces the preppies with this chainsaw, everything was real there. The chainsaw was live, and between the Leatherface mask and the corpse strapped to his front, Elmore could only barely see where he was going. While cutting the top off the yuppies car, he came within inches of actually cutting off a stunt man’s head.

For a final question, the question of ‘80’s horror versus the horror films of today was put before the panel. Ted White seemed not to know exactly what to say finally stating that, “you guys come up and tell me about a lot of them, and they must be pretty good for you to like them.” McKinnon followed that up with bemoaning the graphic nature of today’s horror films saying, “Nothing is left to the imagination.” He also says that he has plans to produce films in the near future and he might have to get with the times. (Personally, I think anyone who shows up anywhere in a smoking jacket like he was wearing is with the right times.) Peter Guilano offered up the platitude, if it pleases you and you enjoy yourself then it’s a great movie” while Wayne Doba admonished movies for “losing the actor” behind CG dominated effects. Bob Elmore, after all his trash talking about Tobe Hooper and TCM II, stated somewhat contrarily “Texas Chainsaw Massacre started this whole thing and is still the best.”

In closing all the actors on stage thanked the audience and Horrorhound fans. This was Bob Elmore’s first convention appearance and he seemed genuinely shocked that anyone would know who he was much less want his autograph, and Ted White, for all his charming grumpiness, seemed genuinely touched when talking about the response he gets from fans. They were certainly an odd looking bunch (in a line-up they kind of looked like rejected incarnations for the lead in an American Doctor Who show), but each one added to the interesting tapestry that is the story of the ‘80’s slasher era. Of all the guests in attendance, I’m really glad to have seen these fellows tell their stories. Now when I go back and watch favorites like TCM II, The Prowler, and Funhouse, I’ll have a new appreciation for them, and believe you me, reviews of Terror Train and Friday 4 are right around the corner.

This brings to an end the bulk of my Horrorhound coverage. I have one more little treat up my sleeve, but you’ll have to wait to find out what that might be. To anyone out there reading who was at Horrorhound Weekend Indy ‘11, no matter if you’re one of my friends or if we never met at all, I want to thank you for a great weekend. It was my second Horrorhound and my first trip to Indy, and I had a great time. So until we meet again, this is the ever lovin’ blue eye’d Bugg signing off, and hopefully I’ll see you again in Cinnci this Fall.

1 comment:

  1. Hearts all around. Ted White chewed out a civilian who was walking around taking photos of celebs in the merch room, so while I do think he was right to do so, I also caught a good whiff of surliness.


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