R.I.P. – Ted V. Mikels
Any way you look at it, Theodore Vincent Mikacevich, better known to the world as filmmaker Ted V. Mikels, was a legend. Whether you are a fan of his movies or not, he was able to produce features in the ever changing world of the movie business for over fifty years and make them exactly the way he wanted which is no easy accomplishment. The twenty plus features he directed ranged from gritty dramas like Strike Me Deadly and The Black Klansman to family films like Heart of Boy. He is most fondly remembered for his oddball horror offerings which are probably best represented by his quartette of Astro Zombies films.
Ted marched to the beat of his own tuba. There were probably more than a few movie goers stunned by the fact that films with titles like The Corpse Grinders and Blood Orgy of the She Devils had relatively low levels of the explicit violence their names implied. In fact, if you were looking for a phrase to describe the general tone of the typical T.V. Mikels’ horror film that could easily be “good natured”. While these fear fests have over shadowed the other entries in his movie portfolio, many fans feel that Ted was actually at his best producing female action epics like The Doll Squad and 10 Violent Women. It was a sequel to the latter film that he was working on right up until his death at the age of 87 on October 16th, 2016.
I first became aware of the films of Ted Mikels in the pages of the early issues of Fangoria Magazine. He was one of a hidden tier of filmmakers that included Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ray Dennis Steckler, Andy Milligan, and others of whom I was blissfully unaware until their articles enlightened me in the late 70’s and changed my life forever. I first met Ted in 2004, through our now mutual friend and Ted’s fellow Vegas resident Ray Steckler, and I wasted very little time setting up an interview with him to discuss his amazing career. I discovered that Mikels was not only a filmmaker but also a top notch promoter and businessman who knew how to market a movie to the masses.
We kept in touch after that but it would, ironically, be Ray’s death in 2009 that brought Ted and I together in a friendship that would last until his own demise. During those intervening years though, I had the honor of appearing in two of Ted’s films, plundering through his studio and garage in search of buried treasure, and even having him stand as my best man in 2013 when my wife and I renewed our wedding vows. This doesn’t include the countless phone calls and numerous dinners we shared discussing his current film projects – the ones he was working on at the time and the ones he had planned for years down the road. Ted once told me that he couldn’t imagine a time when he wasn’t in some phase of film production but if that day ever came, he would set up his camera in the back yard and film the snails because he loved filmmaking that much. Fortunately that day never did come and he died doing what he loved.
I saw Ted for the last time in March of 2016 on one of my just about annual pilgrimages to Las Vegas. The previous year he had undergone major surgery for colon cancer but he seemed to be bouncing back. It was obvious as we had lunch that day that he had lost weight and was having trouble getting around but his positive attitude and enthusiasm for life made you think he could overcome almost anything. I found out his beloved trademark boar’s tusk necklace had recently fallen apart on him so after we said our farewells that day and posed for a photo with his loyal friend Shanti to commemorate the event, I gave Ted my necklace so he wouldn’t have to be without one.
Ted Mikels had a long and fascinating career producing films that, whether you like them or not, are certainly unique. He made the transition from theatrical features to direct to video releases and never missed a beat. His gonzo, almost kitchen sink, approach to his later films endeared him to a new generation of fans who realized what the old guard had known all along, there is nothing else quite like a Ted Mikels’ movie. It doesn’t matter if you are watching one of his stark black and white suspense films or one with synthetic mutant zombies chasing people with machetes, you can always feel Ted Mikels’ presence somewhere just out of sight winking at you. You were a true original Ted and a true friend who will not be forgotten. Thank you for everything.