Ted V Mikels is a legend. No two ways about it. From his earliest work through to latter day works he put his heart and soul into every film. Younger gorehounds should check out his entire back catalogue of films, we old bastards already know how cool and influential he is!!
Crimson Celluloid: Ted, in a couple of years time you’ll be 80. Yet you seem to have the vim and vigour of someone half that age, how do you manage it?
Ted: Strangely enough, a lot of folks ask me what it takes to have my kind of energy. Actually, with the book coming out in October, the Ted V. Mikels Signature six-pack of DVD’s from Alpha Video coming out also in October, the documentary on myself by Vamp Productions also due out in October (a lot shot in my studio recently) , and my editing day and night on my latest movie Demon Haunt also anticipating completion of all CGI and effects plus music by the end of October, I never have enough time to accomplish all I wish by the end of every day. Tonight, it’s only eleven p.m., so I’m early and now have some time to answer your questions. Never thought much about having or needing ” energy”, I just work hard to get everything done.
Crimson Celluloid: Looking back on your extensive career, what do you personally view as highlights and lowlights?
Ted: Looking back, I would say that a real highlight was the final mixing of my movies signalling that nothing more could be done, as of that time all was finished except the cutting of the negative and making the first answer print, etc. The screenings I had at Paramount, MGM Studios, 20th Century Fox, Samuel Goldwyn Studios or Producers Studios always were real highlight occasions. I always managed to have champagne and goodie foods after the screenings where the cast and crew were always present for the celebration after each movie completion. We still have “premiere’s” but here in Las Vegas, it’s exciting but not quite like at the major studios in Hollywood. There, the press would come, and a lot of agents, friends of crew and cast were always there adding to the excitement of the moment. Yet, I always look forward to the completion of each movie and the screening and party afterwards.
Crimson Celluloid: One of my favourite of your films is Girl in the Gold Boots, some great fashion, dialogue and frenzied dancing. Was this as enjoyable to make as it was to watch?
Ted: Making Girl in the Gold Boots was absolutely a pleasure. Yes, it was hard work, took eight weeks to shoot, we created rain, did a lot of shooting in Griffith Park in Hollywood, took a year in the making from writing to answer print,and to this day, I have people telling me, now forty years later, that it is one of their most favourite films of all time. When I took Leslie McRay on tour, we even shared the stage with The Beach Boys in Atlanta. The dancers were great to work with, and would you believe that last week, a girl from New York asked about the sweater that Chris Howard, the bandleader at the Haunted House Night Club where we shot had worn during the shooting of scenes. I told her that it was my personal sweater and I had loaned it to Chris when we filmed him. I had saved that sweater, preserving it carefully for forty years, and she asked me if I would ever part with it, and if I would could she buy it from me? I sold it to her last week, and she swears she will never part with it. I have had a lot of inquiries about the music soundtrack from the movie, but with so many songs in it, seventeen in all, and the score I had sent my composer Nicholas Carras to Germany to score, I have no way of putting it all together, what with copyrights to deal with, ASCAP, BMI, etc. There is still, even after all this time, a lot of activity on this movie.
Crimson Celluloid: Have you found over the years that there is a lot of support amongst other independent filmmakers? Or do you pretty much chart your own path?
Ted: Over the years, I have never thought about, much less looked for support from other filmmakers. I just did my own thing, never paid much attention to what anyone else was doing. I always did strive to make a movie that was different from what everyone else was doing, and hoped the world would like it.
Crimson Celluloid: Do you believe, as I do, that Ray Dennis Steckler couldn’t direct a child’s play or traffic, let alone a movie? Do you have any contact with him?
Ted: I don’t believe in criticizing anyone else’s movies. Everyone who makes one works hard, only some have more ability than others, and make better movies. I’ve just always hoped mine would be amongst the better ones.
Crimson Celluloid:You are a true pioneer, with films like Corpse Grinders (great ad campaign!), Astro Zombies and The Doll Squad making lasting impressions on me. Do you still love filmmaking as much as you did in the early days? What part of the filmmaking process gives you the most satisfaction?
Ted: Probably I believe in and love movie-making more than ever. It’s been sixty years since I first started putting shots together with a movie camera. I have never lost my love for it. Actually, the entire process of writing, directing, producing, shooting, lighting ,editing and marketing has taken my total awareness in the making of my movies, and even though my current movie Demon Haunt is not totally finished until sometime late October, I am already spending wee hours of the morning in bed, dreaming about what movie I will make next. I hope God gives me many more years as I have a lot of movies yet to make.
Crimson Celluloid: Do you sometimes believe, as many of your fans do, that you have never really received the recognition you deserve as a filmmaker? Don’t be modest!!!
Ted: I have never felt slighted about recognition, receiving or not receiving it. Last month in Phoenix Arizona, where I was the guest of honour for “An Evening With Ted V. Mikels” I left my table of DVDs, t-shirts, press-books in the capable hands of my lady Shanti, and stepped inside the theatre where the ending of the screening of the 35mm print of The Corpse Grinders was playing. No-one saw me at the back of the theatre, but I have to tell you that the clapping, screaming, stomping, yelling of the praises of appreciation for the movie when it ended actually brought tears to my eyes. What more could anyone ask for in recognition? The same thing happened just afterwards with the screening of The Doll Squad. I was also given a beautiful metal-faced plaque with my photo etched in it, making me a “lifetime award” winner of Independent movies by the Sci-Fi- Horror Motion Picture Association. What an honour that is.
Crimson Celluloid:What can you tell us about the upcoming book on you?
Ted: Well, the book about my life and movies, “Film Alchemy: The Independent Cinema of Ted V. Mikels’’ (now on pre-order from Amazon and McFarland Publishing plus others) covers only about nineteen of my movies, not all the hundreds of incidental credits I have garnered over the years. It does include a lot about my personal life, life at the castle with the ” harem” as they call it, and has a lot of photos. It took the writer Christopher Curry over a year to write , with a lot of communication with myself, and the foreword is written by Chris’s father, John Curry, who came to Las Vegas to work for me on Corpse Grinders Two, taking part in the cast while on summer hiatus. John Curry is a History professor at a University.
Crimson Celluloid: Your most recent films haven’t been released down here as yet, what can you tell us about them?
Ted: I feel badly that my most recent movies are not yet released there, but everything depends upon a distributor, and we have not found anyone there in Australia/New Zealand who will make an advance, and get them out into the market. I cannot do it myself.
Crimson Celluloid:Finally, thank you very much for all the great movie experiences you have provided over the years. Final words for your fans?
Ted: Well, as for fans, I guess without them there would be no motivation to get my movies made. I live and love to entertain. I usually find that most of my “fans” (and I feel silly and pretentious about calling them that when they are all friends) have only seen one or two of my many, many movies. Since all of mine are totally different from each other, I would wish that they would see what an eclectic array my movies are. I just hope to keep on entertaining folks forever, and hope everyone will see many more of them. AND, I love hearing from everyone, and answer each and every e-mail myself, every day, no matter what time.
Thank you for your many years of caring, David. I well remember and have to this day saved the letters and photos you sent to me at my castle in Hollywood.