Thursday, September 12, 2013

Interview With Dennis Daniel

Dennis hangin with Dario Argento

Howdy Gore fiends, it's your grouchy host Crankenstein once again, donning the skinned carcass of Morely Safer and doing my journalist impression! Today we're interviewing one of the last original Deep Red writers to be featured on TOG, Mr. Dennis Daniel. He's an actor, radio personality and editor of Famous Monsters Chronicles, Film Threat, Gore Zone, Psychotronic Video and even appeared in Tom Savini's remake of NOTLD as well as Roy Frumkes Document of The Dead, his voice has been featured in Troma film trailers. Let's get this interview going already! 

Dennis interviewing Forry
Having written for Deep Red and complied FM chronicles, Do you see a kinship between Forrest Ackerman and Chas Balun?
 Well, yes and no. Both were certainly innovators who influenced countless people. FJA was speaking to a much younger audience at a time, when finding anything at all about horror or science fiction films was extremely difficult, if not impossible, on any newsstand. Chas was speaking to a more ravenous crowd of hardcore horror lovers, at a time when those kind of extreme gore films were making their mark on the culture. I guess the kinship would be that they both found a way to speak to their audience in a unique and memorable way. The were both certainly very innovative and original.

Daniel's Deep Red column
How did you meet Chas Balun?
 I was working as a producer and DJ at a rock radio station in Babylon, Long Island called WBAB. On Sunday’s, I hosted a show called People, Places & Things and I asked Chas to be a guest, via phone, from California. I had first heard about THE GORE SCORE from an article in FANGORIAI was a rabid horror film fan and his style of writing and scoring the films was not only informative, it was a cool Chas-like way.  So, I called FANGORIA and spoke to editor Tony Timpone (a real swell guy) about getting in touch with Chas.  Of course, we hit it off immediately and it wasn’t long before he asked me to contribute to this new magazine he was editing called DEEP RED. I was flabbergasted!!! He not only asked me to write for him, he offered me a column!!!  That’s when I came up with the idea for HERE’S BLOOD IN YOUR EYE! Chas was a wonderful editor too.  I don’t remember him changing one word of anything I wrote for him! He invited me to visit in him in California, so I set up some interviews (With Thom Fox (producer) and James Karen (actor) from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.)  We also went over to Forry’s house to interview him and take the tour. That was so cool! I was in the Ackermansion!! A place I only dreamed about as a kid. Forry was just superb. I spent some time with screenwriter Mark Patrick Carducci (PUMPKINHEAD) as well, who showed me around Hollywood.  I was so sad to hear that he had died of a suicide. He was a great guy! Man, that town will kill ya!

some highbrow eurotrash exploitation flick
I've read that you have a film history background I've always felt that DR had more in common with the high brow Criterion set than Fangoria, are you in anyway responsible?
Well, I don’t want to take any credit or say I was responsible for anything…but I will say that my film history background (I studied film in college) gave me a good base to work from when writing about horror films. DEEP RED had an attitude all its own and all of us who wrote for Chas adapted his modus operandi. I love all the Criterion releases because they give the films their due in a very reverential way.  
   DEEP RED may not have been as high brow as Criterion, but we spoke directly to our readers in a way they understood and appreciated. Like Criterion, we also tried to teach them something about the films. Fangoria was a more mainsteam type of publication that I’m pretty sure was in cahoots with the studios to help promote films…so it was a bit more watered down and PC. In DEEP RED, you could let it fly!!!!!

The Guinea Pig conspiracy once again
What are some rare gore films you were exposed to by way of Deep Red?
Chas really got me into Lucio Fulci at a time when not all of his films were available in their full, unedited and letterbox format. Anything by Dario Argento was fine by me…even if he missed the boat sometimes. I met Steve Bissette through DEEP RED and he sent me all kinds of wacky VHS tapes, including a film called IN A GLASS CAGE that is really hardcore. (check out the TOG trailer here). He also had a version of COMBAT SHOCK in its original workprint form, when it was called AMERICAN NIGHTMARES. I guess the most famous film that Chas sent me that caused a lot of trouble was a film called GUINEA PIG. It was a Japanese horror film series, shot direct to video, that has all kinds of nasty dismemberments and gore FX that looked WAY TOO FUCKING REAL!!!!! So real, in fact, that I found them hard to watch…but in those days, before CGI, all hard core horror fans were into the gore makeup and how real it could look. Well, when I finished with it, I sent it to my pal Chris Gore at FILM THREAT. He ended up lending it to a friend who watched it with Charlie Sheen, of all people!  Sheen thought the shit was REAL!!! He contacted a friend of his in the FBI and before you know it, I got a call from an FBI Agent saying that it was a federal offense to send snuff films through the mail! We’re talking 20 years in prison!!!!  I had remembered that Chas told me there was a tape called THE MAKING OF GUINEA PIG, so the FBI said I had to give him the contact info for the person who sent me the tape and they needed to send that “MAKING OF” tape as well. So, I had to call Chas and tell him all this. Needless to say, he was not pleased. I actually called him on his birthday and he was having a fucking grand old time till I called him with the info. Remember, Chas was a California hippie dude of epic proportions…the fact that I gave “the man” info about him was not too cool…but I had no choice. He was my only hope to prove it was fake. It all worked out in the end but it really sucked at the time.
Mad Ron's Prevues ad: Starting from the left Redneck Zombies Director Pericles Lewnes, Buddy G, Dennis, Nathan Shiff next to Chas Balun

Tar man's inferior cousin Herman
What are some of the worst films you reviewed for Deep Red?
I didn’t like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD II.  I remember writing a scathing interview about that, which sucked because I knew the producer and actors…but I had to be honest.  I don’t have my old issues of DEEP RED available to me so it’s hard for me to remember what I wrote almost 25 years ago! (Laughs) I liked almost everything I saw in those days.
Xerox Ferox, the must own book, out now!

Talk about the new book documenting the heyday of 90s horror zines Xerox Ferox?
One day, I got a call from John Szpunar. I don’t remember how he got my number.  When he called and I answered he sounded gobsmacked that he was talking to me. It seems I was one of his favorite writers. Well, 25 years down the road, to hear someone say that was just amazing! I was so honored that he wanted to talk to me about the old days. I had no idea the stuff was as influential as he said it was. You know, you just do it, put it out there, and hope people like it!  It’s a situation that just doesn’t exist anymore. These days, you can find anything you want at the click of a button, but back then, fans were ravenous for any and all they could find about horror films, and the DEEP RED gang delivered. We were just like them…we just has a forum. So for John to say that we all influenced him was very humbling and wonderful.  The book is going to be fabulous.  It’s over 800 pages!!! John talked to practically everyone…including the late great Chas Balun! I think it’s a great concept for a book and it preserves something we won’t see the like of again because we live in a whole different world.  What I love is that something I did with all my heart somehow entertained people and gave them memories worth remembering. What greater achievement could a writer hope for? XEROX FEROX is out now and Fantacon 2013 is happening now! So support all those involved by buying Xerox Ferox and all related projects connected to Deep Red

Dennis Daniel today (pic taken by Lynda Daniel).

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