UPDATED Aug. 19, 2003

Director Tom Doran's comments on my review of Spookies:

 

Dear John,

My name is Tom Doran, one of the (3!) directors of Spookies.

I am stunned that there is a favorable review of it!:)

I agree that the DVD is pretty sad - what with the "extra" still shots seemingly chosen at random. Though there were thousands of still shots taken during the initial production.

Just to clear up a few things however. The original ilm was made in 1984. The script, sadly, was dictated (or rather a lot of the "ideas" were) to us by the backer of the film. It was a matter of accepting these concepts, or not getting to make the film at all.

The film was indeed finished (as Twisted Souls), and editing progressed through February of 1985. The main problem was that the optical effects man was screwing up big time, and none of the shots he did (which were few in number) were usable. This started to cause huge strains in our relationship not only with him, but with the backer. Some of the effects were a legion of flying ghosts (ala Raiders of the Lost Ark), who fly out of the graveyard (there were originally no zombies, and were expressly forbidden to use them - a problem, imaginary or not, of British video censors: or so we were told), and other things: demons coming out of the ouija board, etc.

The film was put into a very rough cut when we parted company with the backer in a legal dispute. Since the effects could not be finished, and suddenly with that, the final cut, he (the backer) decided to re-shoot scenes to replace the effects shots still undone. No actor would return to that "re-shoot", or rather 2nd shoot, hence the other scenes which bear no relation to the other action. The other action in this case being the carloads of nincompoops who stumble, willing, into the mansion. Brendan Faulkner and myself directed all of that footage with those actors, and all the effects (floor effects mainly) relating to it. This included the muck men, spider woman, snake demon, hallway demon, split-head monster, etc.

What we did NOT do was anything involving the kid in the beginning, cat person, old sorcerer and his bride, or zombies. The "final" director is wrong in stating that the only footage she used was the effects shots - she never directed any of the footage with our actors - two of which were out of the country, and many of the others engaged in another film directed by Brendan Faulkner at the time.

All that said, it is unfortunate that there is no existing cut of the original film - though while not good, was at least coherent :)

The film was shot more or less in the ratio of the the video and DVD - it being seen "wide" would only cut a bit of the top and bottom out. In fact if you look at the scene just before the fist fight, you will see the tops of the lights in the frame just below (they are on the balcony).

In any event, nice to see a kind word about the film - regardless of the shape it ended up in.

As I said, it was completely finished except for the opticals - in fact, at the end, when the chemical vial is tossed at the split-head Carol, the couple un-ages, and escape the house - the flying ghosts are sucked back into a now glowing house, which explodes. The tombstones melt as well (some tests were done of that, as well as light pouring and burning through part of the mansion). The character played by Joanellen Delany dies however, and the last shot has the "hero" and his girlfriend standing among the melted tombstones as the sun comes up.

Also missing is the opening - which featured a hobo wandering through the graveyard - he decides to sleep the night in the mansion when he is attacked by invisible spirits which tear his clothes and face (these effects by Jennifer Aspinal, now with Mad TV), and he is hurled (via stuntman) 20 feet into the air and into a wall - he escapes, screaming like an idiot.

All character motivations and nuances (really, there were some) is now missing, but what can one say. Lots of other shots, bits and pieces mainly are gone as well.

Again, my thanks.

Sincerely,

Tom Doran

 

My follow-up email I asked Tom about some of the more elaborate effects and how he was able to pull together such a large crew of special effects make-up artists. Here's his reply:

 

Hi,

As for the effects crew - it originally started out with Arnold Gargulio as main man. He had Gabe Bartalos as one of his main assistants (who very quickly graduated into something better). I am not sure where Jennifer came from, but I presume through some contact with Arnold or Gabe, or something like that. I remain great friends with Gabe, so I will give him a call to see if he remembers. We had earlier used Arnold, and Gabe, on a show-reel for another film (Hellspawn) which sadly we did not raise funds for - though when we started with the Twisted Souls project, we tried to convince the backer to go ahead with that, seeing as how we had shot 20 minutes of it already, etc. But in order to control us, he said no. Too bad, it was actually a pretty fair script.

I did some of the make-up designs myself for Twisted Souls, though only did one of the heads of one of the "muck men" (who did not fart in their original conception). Why and where I found the time, God only knows. We brought on John Dodds, mainly because of the work load on Arnold (during pre-production). During the first couple of weeks of production, Arnold left - he couldn't handle the enormous amount of work, and we elevated
Gabe and Jennifer to take over (Jennifer at first was doing all the glamour make-up, and continued to do so, as well as doing a lot of the old age make-up for the final scenes, and retouching a ton of the other stuff).

When the backer decided to re-do the finished film (as I said before, to take care of the lack of optical effects, and the scenes with the actors that required them), he brought back Arnold, and some of his friends. Neither Gabe, Jennifer, or to my knowledge John Dodds went back to help. On those other scenes, Arnold, I presume did all the zombies and the
catman (and the little blue "dwarf" boy). As I probably mentioned as well, no zombies, catman, old sorcerer, blue boy were in our film, and these were done by Josephs.

I also designed, but was altered by many, what we called the Hallway Demon - that's the pile of pulsating goo that has its spinal cord wrap around Charlotte Seely. That was also worked on by one of my art department people Tom Mollinelli (a terrific artist, who also helped to reconceptualize that design - he also designed and built the Reaper - costume and all - though not the head which was made by Arnold, and extensively redone by Jennifer - same with the demon face of Carol - done by Arnold, reworked by Jennifer). John Dodds designed and built the Snake Demons (face based on a design of someone else who's name escapes me, but was made for an abandoned English film - I'll get back to you on that); The Spider Woman (monster only). The small mechanical spider(s) were engineered by Ken Walker (there were supposed to be a couple of spiders which attack the actor Pete Iasillo, but one of the attack scenes was cut out - that whole scene was butchered. Jennifer did the extention, at the very last minute, that shoots out of the spiders mouth). Nicky Santaramo worked as an assistant on it as well. CineMagic had a very big article of it way back then.

One book wrongly claimed the film was nothing more than various special effects show reels that we put together, with a story tagged on. It may certainly seem like that, but there were no show reels previous to the film - all is original to it. Where do they get these stories? One book even said the film collapsed during production. Well, as you know, there are various and distinct parts that make up a finished film: pre-production, production, and post-production. I can't say this enough however, the film did not collapse during production (defined by all standards as the period encompassing the actual shooting of the film). We had assembled a rough cut of the film (we were months into post
production), when the special effects man screwed up, and legal/financial issues came to play between us and the backer. He couldn't replace the opticals (being done at a bargain price), so decided (with coaxing by the other director) to reshoot those scenes - when the actors refused to do so (and two were back in Europe), he had little choice: find someone else to do the opticals, or re-shoot. He choose the later.

I am not sure what Arnold, John Dodds, and some of the others are up to, but Gabe does tons of things as you know, and Jennifer is now on Mad TV.

It was a crazy and disturbing experience, and I have been working on a book myself about it all (or a book that encompasses at least part of the making of the film, along with others I have worked on. Though whether anyone will want to read or publish a book on such a wretched, obscure film is anyone's guess.:)).

I will give you some more stories next time - have to run now, as I have been engaged to write a play about Watergate, and need to get back to digging up research.

Glad to hear from you, and will write again soon.

All the best,

Tom

 

Visual Effects Supervisor Al Magliochetti wrote in to comment on some of Doran's statements:

 

Dear John,

Permit me to introduce myself . . My name is Al Magliochetti and I am, to use Mr. Doran's terms, the optical effects man on Spookies who was "screwing up big time" in his interpretation of the events.  I find it a little sad that after 19 years Mr. Doran is still using me as the scapegoat for the failure of his opus, so I thought I would take the opportunity to enlighten you to some of the details that Mr. Doran conveniently left out in his letters on that subject.

To begin with, Spookies (as you no doubt are aware) was originally titled Twisted Souls and the writing credit is shared by Mr. Doran, Brendan Faulkner and Frank Farel . . in that order.  The budget for this film was $ 300,000.00 - Total.  To put that in perspective, a low-budget 35mm film with a fair amount of effects at the time was generally slated at $ 800 to 900,000.00; so we were essentially operating at one-third of the industry minimum from the outset (although, to be fair, Troma films were indeed in the $300,000.00 budget range - although their projects were always far less ambitious than the Twisted Souls script.)

Now, I had nothing whatsoever to do with writing this script. And while I was aware that the backer did, in fact, insist on some changes, Mr. Doran's letter to you is the first time I've heard that the backer "dictated" the ideas of that script.  As far as I knew, the script was written in it's entirety by Mssrs Doran, Faulkner and Farel and the changes that the backer wanted were implemented later on - and were of a minimal nature (for example, changing the name of Peter Iasillo's character "Richard Talmadge" to "Richard Adams" because the backer's son was named Adam and he apparently wanted to immortalize his child on film in this fashion.)  One has to wonder, if the backer did dictate such an ambitious script, why Mr. Doran, Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Farel (who were the film's producers as well, by the way) told him it could be done for a mere $ 300,000.00.

In April of 1984 I signed a deal memo for my involvement in this film - the terms were 6 weeks of work for a total of $ 4,000.00 - at the time, the film was called Goblin (probably due to the backer's insistence on a one-word title which, for some reason, he thought was more marketable than a two word title … Go figure . . . ) The script was still evolving at that point and while I did know the total budget for the film, I had no idea how much was to be allocated to my end to produce the visual effects and animation.  When one budgets a film, the general rule of thumb when it comes to visual effects are to set aside somewhere between 5 - 20 % of the total budget, based on the amount of the effects involved.  Since Twisted Souls had somewhere between 60 and 80 visual effects shots slated to be done(to my recollection, anyway . .I do have the storyboards, still, and there's approximately 40 shots in the climax alone), I figured that I'd have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60,000.00 to create all the visuals they'd written. I discovered later that since the concept of the visual effects was so vaporous to the producers, they actually budgeted the entire rest of the movie first, and whatever money they had left over, they used as their visual effects budget . .  It wasn't until one of the final meetings before we actually started production that I found out that my entire working budget was a grand total of $10,000.00.  When I voiced a concern that it was FAR too low, Mr. Faulkner asked what I thought would be more realistic . .  my response was "add another zero," at which point, Mr. Faulkner literally shrieked "A HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ????!" as though I was some manner of insane man.  Please refer to your own letters from Mr. Doran as to the effects they had slated - - specifically "a legion of flying ghosts (ala Raiders of the Lost Ark)" and  "the flying ghosts are sucked back into a now glowing house, which explodes. The tombstones melt as well." It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that Raiders of the Lost Ark had somewhat more money and time to play with to generate such visuals . . .

Allow me to quote from the script, if you will:

"Suddenly - a horrific, ghostly apparition springs forth from the grave. Only inches away, it shrieks in his face and gravitates away from him. Then, one after another-ghosts emerge from the graves.  Horrible, inhuman creatures - twisted and distorted visages. There are DOZENS of the flying fiends.  They zoom about the air shrieking and howling."

And that's just the beginning of ONE scene . . . .

(and, once again, to put this in perspective, two years after Twisted Souls I supervised the visual effects and animation on another low-budget film titled Brain Damage, made by the incredible team of Frank Henenlotter and Edgar Ievins . . the budget for THAT low-budget film was $ 900,000.00 and my effects budget was approximately $ 15,000.00 - which was fine for that film, as they had modestly budgeted only 10 shots for optical effects and a few stop-motion gags to be executed on set.  In that case, everything came in on time and on budget, as that team knew how to make a movie..)

So, basically, here I was legally attached to a show whose producers had allocated roughly one-TENTH the required funds to do the job properly. My only alternative was to figure out ways to do most of the optical effects in-camera, rather than taking them to a lab to composite . . and this is what I attempted to do..

Another crippling blow to Twisted Souls was the cinematographer that was hired.  As the start of production got close, a number of individuals were interviewed for this position - including one that I supplied who had a very good track record as far as working under low budget constraints - but the producers decided to hire a rather bullying ex-green beret primarily because he owned his own lighting package and thus, on the surface, appeared to be more cost effective. To be fair, while this gentleman wasn't a bad cinematographer by any means, he didn't really care for the restrictions of low budget filmmaking and, therefore, took as much time as he wanted to light a scene and generally used as many lights as humanly possible.  (note, for example, any scene in the main ballroom when the mummy falls out of the closet . . .  there were 4 overhead wooden struts installed with a minimum of 8 to 10 lights on each one, and the room bore more of a resemblance to a disco rather than a film set, and you can clearly see evidence of dozens of individual spots of light, each focusing on a portion of the frame. Again, while this is not a big deal on a larger budget film, a low budget film generally requires 30 to 40 shots (camera setups) to be done per day.  In the case of Twisted Souls we were lucky if we got up to 15, primarily because of the time involved to re-light every time we changed a camera angle.  And, unfortunately, because this cinematographer was rather a strong willed, feisty individual, the producers (including Mr. Doran) were, quite frankly, scared to death of him.

Now, before this man came on board I'd given the producers a set of guidelines to follow. I told them that the effects could be completed on time IF they stuck to these rules and did what I told them to do.  When this cinematographer came on board, one of the very first things he did was to establish himself as being at the top of the pecking order and, thus, any guidelines that I suggested to keep things on schedule were immediately thrown out.  This action virtually destroyed the ghost sequences quoted earlier in this letter.

Our main shoot began in mid-August, 1984 and was to continue for six weeks - finishing at the end of September. The idea was that we'd shoot the ghost sequences FIRST so that I'd have background footage to manipulate and composite while the rest of the movie was being shot - and then move into the film's climax which was slated to be shot near the middle of the schedule. Our cinematographer, unfortunately, had other ideas. 

His strategy was that, since the ghost sequence was a night-exterior, it'd be foolish to shoot it in August when the nights were shorter and he insisted on shooting it LAST when the nights were longer so he could squeeze off a few more setups in an evening. Well, fine . . . unfortunately that pretty much killed the schedule as far as my workload was concerned because now I had virtually NOTHING to do for most of the shoot, since my backgrounds wouldn't be shot for weeks.  Again, Mssrs Doran, Faulkner and Farel made this decision in spite of my protests.  As it turned out, this cinematographer took so long to shoot this movie that we weren't done in September . . or October, for that matter.  In fact, we wound up shooting these night-exterior scenes in NOVEMBER where the temperature hovered around the freezing point (you can clearly see breath coming out of the actor's mouths on quite a few of the night shots . . needless to say this wouldn't have occurred if it was shot in the balmy evenings of late summer.) The problem with it being so cold was that nobody worked as fast, so even LESS got done, in spite of the extra few hours of night available to us.

You will note, by the way, that in the credits to Spookies there is no separate listing for anyone providing practical effects (sometimes referred to as floor or stage effects, or more generally "special effects".) Basically, there's three different categories that effects fall into . . . makeup effects, which were handled by Gabe Bartalos and Arnold Garguilo on this film (and to a degree, Jennifer Aspinall and John DODS - not Dodds - as Mr. Doran insists on calling him . . .. more on this later) optical effects, which is what I was supposedly hired to provide, and the aforementioned practical effects . . which generally encompasses breakaways, explosions, pyrotechnics and anything not covered by any specific department.  I was, in fact, very surprised when I discovered that apparently my hiring as a visual effects animation specialist required me (in the eyes of the producers) to be responsible for ALL of these on-set effects as well. Mind you, I was not licensed nor insured by any agency to provide any of these pyrotechnics.  I didn't even have the paperwork to lawfully purchase the detonators and chemicals required for such effects. But, again, in trying to be accommodating to these producers (it was, after all, my first feature film and I was TRYING to do everything that was asked of me by those in charge.)

What became painfully apparent was that there was no end to these practical effects as many of them were not listed in the script.  In fact, what I supplied on set was approximately quadruple to anything that was listed on those pages, but I gave it my best shot . . . even when I was told one day "oh, by the way, we need those 10 torches to ignite and burst into flame magically" for the next day's shoot.  I spent the entire night cobbling together dozens of pyro charges out of the few materials I had available which, because they weren't the Proper materials caused misfire after misfire on the set, spoiling each take (after which, the green beret cinematographer would declare us shut down for an hour while I reset each charge . . and so he could take a break and go windsurfing at a nearby beach…)

Also, due to Arnold Garguilo's abdication as the makeup effects supervisor I also wound up jumping in to help Gabe Bartalos out with the massive makeup effects workload.  (Arnold was indeed overwhelmed by these producers . .  and was particularly incensed at the military-like attitude our cinematographer had on the set.  In retrospect, he was the only one with brains enough to walk away…)  In fact, I find it kind of interesting that most of what Tom Doran credits to Jennifer Aspinall was actually work that I accomplished. Jennifer, to my recollection, did not "rework" ANY of Arnold Garguilo's work, although she did provide the old-age makeup on the principle actors at the film's climax.

I wired up the glowing eyes in the Reaper and the Carol monster . . along with her glowing brain and ouija planchette. I dissolved the muck men.  I even designed the mechanism and dumped the 50 gallons of red water through Tom Molinelli's breakaway wine cask.  I did the pyro in the burning gravestone. I melted the demon statue. I made and detonated the fireball when the Reaper fell from the roof. I animated (with time lapse exposure of a penlight) the weird energy coming out of the hallway demon (which Jennifer Aspinall did NOT rework . . that was all done by Arnold for the face and tentacle and by Tom Molinelli for the body.)  I melted Adrian's face. I time-lapse animated sparklers around the Carol monster at the film's climax.  And, in excised sequences, I slammed a breakaway bottle into the hobo-character's face and even provided a cardboard version of a full moon to be reflected into a puddle as the film's original first shot.  Consequently, I find Mr. Doran's claim that none of my shots were included in the film to be patently ludicrous. There were also completed shots of gravestones melting with ghosts flying over them, beams of light blasting out of the windows of the house and the house being eaten away by a blinding glow. These were not used due to the confiscation of all my equipment before the completion of the sequence.

The effects sequences would've been completed, as they were well on their way,  but unfortnately the production ran out of money and expected me to work for free until everything was completed. And even THEN I tried to be accommodating and continue the work as best I could (although I did insist that there was no way I could continue for free.)  To supplement the few dollars they were able to pay me, I had to take on other work on the side and during one weekend where I was out of town on a location shoot, the producers of the film let themselves into my facility (breaking in is too strong of a term, but they did not, in fact, have legal access to that property) and confiscated EVERYTHING that they thought belonged to them . . including some personal items which have, to date, never been returned.

It was after this incident that I separated myself from any further contact with this production and sometime shortly thereafter, in February of 1985, the backer chose to do his reshoots with a new crew AND CAST.  (By the way . . Mr. Doran's claim that the original cast was busy shooting a new film with Mr. Faulkner is not quite accurate. That film "The Killer Dead" was shot LATER that year - in the summer, to be more specific. And as I recall Mr. Doran spent most of his time on that shoot sulking in a car with his arms folded.  I know this for a fact because I was there . . apparently even though I "screwed up big time" Mr. Faulkner asked me back to do another film with him.  Mind you, I was his second choice, as they'd hired another Twisted Souls effects person who bailed on them the minute the insanity started again.  To date, this film has not been distributed, to my knowledge . . although I did hear that the title was changed from "Killer Dead" to "Non-Vegetarian Zombies from Outer Space" and Mr. Doran's girlfriend, Cecilia Cosentini ("art director" for Spookies) supplied a computer-generated title sequence for it in recent years.

So, there you have a few details that were left out by Mr. Doran. Basically, they wrote a 3 million dollar script and had one-tenth of that money to actually make the film; and when it just didn't happen Mr. Doran chooses to blame the last person on the chain, rather than admit to his own mismanagement.  For the record, one more thing Mr. Doran conveniently leaves out is what I've done in the intervening years.  He notes that Jennifer Aspinall does Mad TV and that Gabe Bartalos has done "tons of things." But he neglects to mention that I'm probably the most successful person to come out of that crew, having supervised both Brain Damage and Frankenhooker while still in NYC following Spookies and supervising effects or contributing to very high profile feature films including Addams Family, Hook, Rocketeer, Star Trek 6, The Dark Half, Jason Goes to Hell, Bounce, Miss Congeniality, The Cider House Rules and the Dune miniseries (with whom I share a crew-Emmy award alongside Mr.Doran's girlfriend, Ms. Cosentini) among many, many others.


In closing, I find it very sad that Mr. Doran was so traumatized by this series of events that he's still trying to pass the buck to me nearly twenty years later.  All of us involved with Spookies have learned from our horrible experience and moved on - some with greater success in the industry than others; whereas Mr. Doran has never made another film and seems to look for any excuse to whine about his one failure, which he still maintains was all my fault.  As I stated, I'm getting a little weary of being the scapegoat for the mismanagement of those producers and as I've saved the script, contracts, storyboards and shot lists from that film, I can prove just about everything I've stated above.

Further, I submit to you that if Mr. Doran were the true talent he claims to be, and that if none of the misfortunes with Spookies were his fault, one would think that in the last twenty years he'd have at least one project to show for himself.


Sincerely,

Al Magliochetti
Visual Effects Supervisor
Eye Candy

 

Tom Doran Responded to Al's letter:

 

Just some short follow-ups to Al's letter.

Al says: "Now, I had nothing whatsoever to do with writing this script. And while I was aware that the backer did, in fact, insist on some changes, Mr. Doran's letter to you is the first time I've heard that the backer "dictated" the ideas of that script. As far as I knew, the script was written in it's entirety by Mssrs Doran, Faulkner and Farel and the changes that the backer wanted were implemented later on - and were of a minimal nature (for example, changing the name of Peter Iasillo's character "Richard Talmadge" to "Richard Adams" because the backer's son was named Adam and he apparently wanted to immortalize his child on film in this fashion.)..."

Al was of course not privy to this part of the process, and whetheror not this is the first time he has heard this, what I stated is completely true. I don't understand how he can comment on something that happened when he wasn't there and has not asked either Brendan, myself or Frank (who wrote the majority of it) about before he makes this statement. The backer insisted from the start for
specific concepts. We had given him two seperate scripts previous to writing Twisted Souls, and came up with at least a dozen ideas for other scripts. All of which he rejected. He then began to give us his ideas for what he wanted to see...and it was up to us to try and find a way to include them. Which proved to be impossible in the end...hence the rather rotten script. These included scenes of teenagers driving around in cars (we still don't know why). Lots of them. He insisted that some make-up done for a film that he had attempted to make in England be used - though in this case it only amounted to the head of the snake demon. Which was re-sculpted of course, and improved, but the original idea for these creatures came from that first film, though greatly changed by John Dods. The ideas for flying ghosts was to be a substitute for zombies. In England at this time, and indeed across all of Britain, there was a campaign against "video nasties"...one of the problems being a series of Italian Zombie films which were deemed a bit too gruesome for England (some of these "nasties" were blamed for various deaths in England. The government claiming they influenced some young boys to murder). The backer's company had released a number of these films through his video company, and was feeling the strain of the government's attack on the horror film industry (mainly in the form of films released on video) on him in England. It was indeed in a meeting with his lawyers in Manhattan that that particular dictate about substituting "flying ghosts" for zombies came
about. The backer had also seen a series of drawings done by myself and Brendan for other film ideas, and wanted those concepts (the "hallway demon" and Spider monster, among others), though greatly changed later on by others, incorporated into the film. We spent many days going over the script as it was being written with the backer...often sitting in his hotel in Rye Brook, reading aloud every bit of it, and then listening to his demands for changes. Al was not there I can assure you. We did not write a script, hand it to him, and then wait for his changes...though there were those that came later as well. Name changes were certainly part of that, but he went over the details in advance, then waited till we wrote a chunk of it, read it aloud to him, and he either went with that or made further changes. Once he okayed all of this, the final script was given to him, and little if anything could be changed (though some things were elaborated or changed during filming as could be done or not done. There are things in the film that aren't in the script, but are of a minor nature as far as re-thinking the script goes that is). The backer also insisted on the ouija board angle...a tired concept at best. He also insisted that one character's head had to split open and light pour out of it! Why or how was of no importance to him. And frankly, in the script it really made no sense. We indeed had to fight to keep his idea of a gorilla running around out of it! For Christ's sake, a gorilla! And not only that, according to Brendan, he wanted the gorilla to do very specific things...such as pop out from time to time from trap doors.

As to why one would take on such a project "knowing" it to be underbudgeted: Foolish good-will; plain foolishness, and perhaps the thought that it could be pulled off. After all, one doesn't often get a chance to be handed a film project. The budget was given to us BEFORE a word was written...and a simpler project would indeed have been a saner choice, but the determination to alter concepts as it was written was something no one could forsee...and though bailing out before it was ever filmed was certainly an option...we didn't do it. We took a chance and failed in the end to accomplish what we really wanted to do. No one got paid much money...certainly not the producers - in fact the sound woman made more money than me (though she and everyone else worked for their pennies and
then some). We owned nothing in the way of points to make up for it either.

"In fact, I find it kind of interesting that most of what Tom Doran credits to Jennifer Aspinall was actually work that I accomplished. Jennifer, to my recollection, did not "rework" ANY of Arnold Garguilo's work, although she did provide the old-age makeup on the principle actors at the film's climax."

Jennifer re-did the make-up on the reaper's head first done by Arnold (adding to it, as well as re-painting it, not resculpting from scratch), and applied the make-up to the actor's hands - which was also from time to time applied by Cecilia Cosentini, though I think Gabe sculpted those skeleton applicances; Arnold supplied rubber skeleton gloves which we did not use because they did not fit the large hands of one of the two men playing the reaper. The gloves were used on the dummy that was pushed off the roof, and a copy used on the "statue" version. Jennifer re-did, through added appliances and painting to the Carol monster face and hands - also originally done by Arnold. She had nothing to do with the mechanical effects of those creatures. A re-paint job was done on the mechanical head by Cecilia Cosentini. Jennifer, to my knowledge, also created the extension that comes out of the mouth for the Spider woman.

"Consequently, I find Mr. Doran's claim that none of my shots were included in the film to be patently ludicrous."

Al is correct, and I mis-spoke. I was refering to optical shots done during post which were not used and I did not make myself clear on this issue - these included most specifically images of the spirits depicted on the ouija board flying off in a blaze of light. The editor at the time complained about the
shots not being able to match because of the grain...which sadly caused the backer to go nuts. He went running around to optical houses in NYC trying to come up with solutions...even trying to hire other effects people (though I don't recall who these people might have been - in any event, it is what he said he did, while we were editing). His panic about this caused a huge problem, and that just escalated out of all proportion - he in fact re-edited the film himself (with the editor acting then merely as a cutter), while I was out sick for two weeks, and hacked it to pieces, leaving out all of the scenes that might have included the still-to-be-done opticals - of course the film made no sense in this cut with those things removed. In the end, since time had passed and the video "nasty" problem had abated politically in Britain, the zombies ended up BACK in the film.

"To supplement the few dollars they were able to pay me, I had to take on other work on the side and during one weekend where I was out of town on a location shoot, the producers of the film let themselves into my facility (breaking in is too strong of a term, but they did not, in fact, have legal access to that property) and confiscated EVERYTHING that they thought belonged to them . . including some personal items which have, to date, never been returned."

If Al is refering to his facility in Ct., then I certainly wasn't there, and can't disagree that it happened - though I am aware that the backer went up there, perhaps with Frank to get back the camera and other equipment. If Al is missing personal items as a result, then it is an issue he needed to have taken up with the backer and his corporation (which he may have done)...who owned everything. This included the script, props, equipment bought, etc. EVERYTHING. While we were the producing company, the backers company owned and controlled every bit of it from their position and contracts with our company. Payroll and production expenses were dolled out on a weekly basis from this corp, and into ours. We had to put in a weekly request for funding in order to continue from week to week...a maddening way to do things, which often resulted in the inability to buy or rent things in a timely manner. Never at any point in time was there anything other than a weekly allowance of the
budget in our bank account. This was done for his own legal reasons which I won't and can't get into here. Needless to say, as Al well knows, MANY people had many things vanish into thin air - props, equipment, paper-work, money,...everything under the sun. We all lost belongings, both personal items and items owned outright by the backers company - and not just lost, but things obviously stolen or misappropriated in various ways. This does not justify any of it, but it is a fact. We, "the producers" did not make any decision regarding "firing" Al, nor the confiscation of the equipment rented for the production. After all, we were also "fired"...which resulted in our legal action. The end of the original film came about, whether one likes it or not, because of the refusal of the backer to go ahead with finishing the optical effects - which he deemed un-usable, and as regards those specific shots, they were. If the backer had spent the money he used for the ridiculous reshoot to instead get the effects done, then it wouldn't have ended as it did perhaps. Al would have been able to get them done easily for the foolish amount of money put into the re-shoot. But who on earth knows what went through the backers mind (but I do have my informed opinions, which must remain silent).

"It was after this incident that I separated myself from any further contact with this production and sometime shortly thereafter,in February of 1985, the backer chose to do his reshoots with a new crew AND CAST. (By the way . . Mr. Doran's claim that the original cast was busy shooting a new film with Mr. Faulkner is not quite accurate. That film "The Killer Dead" was shot LATER that year - in the summer, to be more specific."

The backers reshoot was NOT in February of 1985, as we were still editing the film in Manhattan at that point in time. They went back to the mansion to film in May and perhaps entending into the very early part of June of 1985 - in fact he only started in ernest after a lawsuit instigated by us was finally settled in April. I believe, but am not certain, that the reshoot lasted 9 days of actual shooting (I don't know how long pre or post production lasted). The Killer Dead started filming in June. The backer did indeed call many of the actors of the original shoot trying to get them to come back. When they refused he went with a concept that could incorporate new actors.

"For the record, one more thing Mr. Doran conveniently leaves out is what I've done in the intervening years. He notes that Jennifer Aspinall does Mad TV and that Gabe Bartalos has done "tons of things." But he neglects to mention that I'm probably the most successful person to come out of that crew..."

I didn't go into what a LOT of the other crew members did after the film - he wasn't the only one - and frankly have not followed his career enough to comment should I have chosen to do so, though I did know that he did work on the Dune mini-series. The DP went on to a successful future in film and TV; script/continuity went onto a very successful career in TV; Sound woman continues to work to this day; and frankly I don't really know too much of what anyone else has done. Being the "most successful" of course is relative, and of course meaningless except to stroke one's own ego, but I guess I would have to put Jimmy Muro, the steadi-cam operator on Twisted Souls at the top - having worked on many major Hollywood films such as Titanic, JFK, Field of Dreams, Terimator 2 and most recently as the DP for Kevin Costner's latest film Open Range. I was recently told on very good authority that Cameron even put back the filming of one of his films by a couple of months in order to get Jimmy to work on it (Jimmy just started a family and wanted to spend some time with them).

On another issue, I did just speak to Brendan Faulkner who may or may not be writing to you...in any event, he did clear up one other assumption that was made regarding Brendan's film The Killer Dead. The quote is: "Mind you, I was his second choice, as they'd hired another Twisted Souls effects person who bailed on them the minute the insanity started again." Brendan has informed me that the original man they were talking to regarding doing effects, decided against working on the film when he asked the production company for a contract that would indemnify him in case anyone might be injured by his use of explosive squibs. Brendan brought the subject up to his attorney who informed him that no such contract was possible, as there was no way one could do such a thing. You just can't indemnify yourself against your injuring someone, even while doing your job. And certainly not in these circumstances. This effects person decided that since he could not be supplied with that kind of contract that he could not work on the production. He in fact never did. I remember him as a pleasant and considerate person who was highly skilled while working on Twisted Souls.

"In closing, I find it very sad that Mr. Doran was so traumatized by this series of events that he's still trying to pass the buck to me nearly twenty years later."

And I find it utterly amazing that Al refuses to take any of the blame for the things he did indeed do wrong, but goes out of his way to blame ME for not taking blame. So, it goes both ways. As for being traumatized, well, sorry, assume what you will. I have not spoken to Al in over 15 years, and if he heard anything at all it was hearsay...and meaningless in that regard certainly. If however he ever makes a film, goes through what we all went through, and came away with nothing, then perhaps he will change his mind about the effect something like this can have on one's career. Being a hired hand is a much easier way of life than trying to raise funds for a film.

"...whereas Mr. Doran has never made another film and seems to look for any excuse to whine about his one failure, which he still maintains was all my fault."

I have indeed made another feature which is now being edited (though of course Al couldn't possibly know this, yet claims with authority that he does), but my writing has taken precedence for the last 7 years. This includes two script sales; a commisioned play soon to be produced which I will be directing back east; and many other writing jobs of a nature that has nothing to do with film. That said, I have been 1st AD; 2nd AD; 2nd unit director on features and TV pilots; been storyboard artist on many features and movies of the week; designed props, storyboards and did special set designs for two movies of the week based on the Macgyver TV series; and been hired as historical researcher for a series upcoming on the History Channel.

Tom

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©2003 John Hand