Ray Dennis Steckler: A Video Primer
The following list of films is in no way intended as definitive, nor is it based on any criteria other than personal recommendation. This is merely a guide for those unfamiliar with Ray Steckler’s films to give them an entry point into the career of a unique film maker. All titles included in this list are available on VHS and some on DVD, directly from Ray Dennis Steckler at http://www.raydennissteckler.com. Readers of Crazedfanboy.com can mention the website to receive a free autograph with any order.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (1963) – In addition to having one of the longest titles in cinema history and being the world’s first monster musical, this film is considered by most to be Steckler’s magnum opus. A young slacker named Jerry (played by Cash Flagg a.k.a. Ray Steckler) runs afoul of a carnival gypsy and becomes her mindless and murderous pawn. During the films climax, the gypsy’s acid scarred human menagerie escapes to wreck havoc on the midway. This film is available on DVD from Media Blasters.
The Thrill Killers (1964) - More maniacs than you can shake a stick at! Mad Dog Click escapes from prison and goes on a murder spree in route to meet up with his homicidal brother and his insane pals. This stark black and white picture is loaded with murder and mayhem and features some of Steckler’s best production values. Thrill Killers was recently released on DVD with the hypnovision footage from “Maniacs are Loose” as a bonus. Also included is an Easter egg of behind the scenes footage narrated by Ray.
The Adventures of Rat Pfink and Boo Boo (1965) – If ever a film had to be seen to believed, this is it. What begins as a straight forward gritty crime thriller about kidnapping whiplashes into a poverty row Batman spoof complete with a Rat Pfink cycle and a marauding gorilla! Rat Pfink features an enjoyable rockabilly style soundtrack from star Vin Saxon (a.k.a. Ron Haydock). This film is available on DVD with a great director’s commentary track and interview footage.
The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (1966) – This film consists of three separate vignettes (The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Green Grasshopper and Vampire Lady from Outer Space, The Lemon Grove Kids Go Hollywood, and The Great Race) that pay full color tribute to The Bowery Boys. Gopher, Slug, Pee Wee, Marvin Marvin, and the rest of the gang have adventures involving aliens, vampires, kidnappers, gorillas, and mummies as they try to work odd jobs and keep the peace on Lemon Grove Avenue. Watch for a cameo appearance by Ron Haydock as Rat Pfink and Kogar the Swinging Ape! This film is available on DVD with a great director’s commentary track, trailers and interview footage.
Body Fever (1969) – A twist of fate put Steckler back in front of the camera playing the world’s most low budget private eye. Carolyn Brandt co-stars as a cat burglar in this tribute to film noir.
Blood Shack (1971) – A tale of grisly murders possibly caused by a vengeful Indian spirit haunting an isolated ranch. Steckler stepped up the gore in his take on straight forward horror films and Ron Haydock stars as The Chooper. Media Blaster has released both “Blood Shack” and its alternate version “The Chooper” as a single DVD. The Steckler commentary is top notch as usual but avoid the Joe Bob Briggs one unless you want to be made to feel like you just wasted your money.
Ray Steckler at the York Theater, San Francisco (1988) – This two volume video set features a frank and candid presentation Steckler gave to an audience filled with receptive fans. The videos also feature previews and excerpts from many of Ray’s films. This is an honest and informative look at the world of cult films provided by one of its pioneers.
Ray Steckler at the Fine Arts Cinema, Berkley, California (2002) – In 2002, the Fine Arts Cinema did a three day tribute to Ray Dennis Steckler featuring a marathon of his films. This two tape set captures the highlights of the festivities including Steckler mingling with fans and recreations of the “live” monsters gimmicks. Volume one also features Academy Award nominee Keith A. Wester in his last filmed appearance and volume two has long-time Steckler collaborator, the hilarious Herb Robbins. Highly recommended.