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HOLLYWOOD MORTUARY:
BEHIND THE SCENES
By Special Guest Columnist Ron Ford


Hollywood Mortuary, written and directed by Ron Ford (Alien Force, Mark of Dracula), spearheads the first installment of Kevin J. Lindenmuth's (Vampires and Other Stereotypes, Twisted Tales) new "Creaturealm" horror anthology project, Creaturealm: From the Dead.)

Hollywood Mortuary tells the tongue-in-cheek story of arrogant monster make-up king Pierce Jackson Dawn who, in 1941, is ousted from Cosmopolitan studios when they decide to stop making horror films in deference to the reality-based projects that the public demands. So Dawn decides that the only way to resurrect his career is by making horror stories a reality, so that the studio might be convinced to make films about them. Using Brazilian Macumba, Dawn resurrects Pratt Bororkof (whom Dawn also murdered) and Janos Blasko, Hollywood's two greatest horror stars, and two of the most bitter rivals in Tinsel Town. The two zombies go on a mad killing spree, and Dawn comes very close to achieving his dream. But the bitter rivalry of the two late stars threatens to destroy even the most evil of plans.

The association between producer Kevin Lindenmuth and myself began when I played a bit role in Lindenmuth's vampire tale Addicted to Murder, and later when I wrote and directed a segment a segment of Lindenmuth's anthology project The Alien Agenda: Under the Skin. Those were both very pleasant collaborations. So when Lindenmuth approached me to do a segment of his new horror anthology project Creaturealm, I was happy to comply.

I wanted to come up with a project which could star my good friend Randal Malone (Sunset After Dark, the upcoming George's Auto), whom you might know from his work as a regular on MTV's Singled Out. Randal had been in all of my previous movies, but we had been talking about looking around for a starring vehicle for him. Creaturealm seemed like the ideal forum for the collaboration. As it turned out, Randal himself had an idea for a project which he had been mulling around for some time. An idea which played right into my love of old horror films and my sense of camp, which I think invades all of my movies except for one (Riddled With Bullets). What I basically did was to fuse Randal's idea with the legendary rivalry between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff -- A rivalry which I had long thought could be the basis for a very funny movie.

"With Hollywood Mortuary," adds Film Star Randal Malone, "I knew I was in the very best company I could possibly be with because I had worked with Mr. Ford in a movie previously called Alien Force, and I can't tell you how impressed I was by him. He writes so beautifully, and is a masterful director. He's a wonderfully kind, creative, talented man. I loved the project, it was a dream working on it. Ron credits me quite unfairly for coming up with the story for Hollywood Mortuary, but I really didn't. It was just an idea about a mortuary in Hollywood where a guy keeps old stars alive through supernatural means, or whatever. But I had nothing to do with the story. He is very unselfish that way. He wrote it entirely."

Sure, sure. Butter me up. Okay, sure, what Randal had was just an idea, to which I attached a character. A character for which Randal would be most ideally suited: an egotistical make-up artist, famous for his monster make-ups in the old days of Hollywood, Pierce Jackson Dawn. His name is an amalgam of the two greatest make-up artists of the thirties, Jack Pierce and Jack Dawn. But anyway, I still think Randal deserves the credit. It was his idea which inspired the movie. I wrote a movie called The Fear, which was released in 1994. The credits of that movie say it was based on a story by Ron Ford and Greg Sims. Sims was the producer of the film, and his basic idea, which I developed into a screenplay, was certainly no more developed or no less sketchy than Randal's idea. He didn't feel reluctant about taking the credit, so I don't think Randal should, either.

The farcical, gory tale is framed by interviews with actual Hollywood veterans who supposedly had some connection to the late, evil make-up artist. Among them were screen legend Margaret O'Brien (Meet Me in St. Louis, The Canterville Ghost), silent film queen Anita Page (While the City Sleeps, Jungle Bride), cult movie star Conrad Brooks (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Ed Wood) and horror film director David DeCoteau (Creepozoids, Puppet Master III).

"It was a joy working with Anita Page. She's like family to me," says Malone. "This was me second time working with Miss Page (the first time was in Mark Gordon's Sunset After Dark). And of course working with the wonderful Margaret O'Brien was almost more than I could stand. She overwhelms me."

Margaret O'Brien had this to say about the project: "It was a cute story. Sort of a spoof on the horror films, which was kind of fun. I always enjoyed the Bela Lugosi and the Boris Karloff movies. I grew up with them. It was fun to do this, and I think it will become sort of a cult spoof on Hollywood horror films.

"I played myself. It was kind of a little bit different. Getting into a different role and a different person is what I'm used to doing. It's much harder to play yourself, I think. Oh, I've done interviews and things, but this is the first time that I've played myself in a fictitious movie. So it was fun. And I was playing myself talking about somebody that supposedly I knew who had pretty much the same name as a make-up man at the MGM studio when I was a little girl, Jack Dawn. I knew him very well, so it was really almost like talking about a person I knew.

"I enjoyed working for Mr. Ford very much. He is a very capable director and a really nice person. Very easy to work for, and I hope that we can do it again very soon."

The great Anita Page has worked with some of the biggest leading men of her day -- Ramone Navarro, Lon Chaney, Sr. and Clark Gable, among others -- yet, when asked who her favorite leading man of all time was she stated, simply: "It would have to be Randy Malone. If all my leading men would have been like Randy, I could have just relaxed. I'd have to say that I had the most fun on this production. It felt like we were one big, happy family, working well together."

Malone has been billed in all of Ford's films as "Film Star Randal Malone." When asked about the lengthy handle he had this to say: "Kevin Indigaro, who is the creator and head writer for MTV's Singled Out gave me that title. He said he wanted me to be set apart from the other cast people because I am apart from them. 'I'm going to give you something different,' he said. He thought and thought, and he said because of my history, being in so many bad pictures -- that was before I knew Mr. Ford, of course -- he said, I'm going to call you FILM STAR Randal Malone. And because the show became such a big hit on MTV, it stuck. So every job I do I'm billed as Film Star Randal Malone. I think I'll keep it."

When asked what elements of Pierce Dawn were like himself, if any, Malone replied: "Maybe his ego. I guess every actor has an ego whether they will admit it or not. Also, we both love Hollywood. We both are torch carriers of the golden era of Hollywood. We both really couldn't bear to see the old monster movies die. We both love the horror genre. And we both wanted to kill Tim Sullivan. So I guess we have quite a lot in common. It was the dream part."

Tim Sullivan, the author of several science fiction novels ("Destiny's End," "Lords of Creation"), the star of two features (The Laughing Dead, New Genesis: Twilight of the Dogs) and the writer/director of the upcoming Vampire Femmes, plays the Boris Karloff-like actor Pratt Borokof -- who is murdered and then resurrected in Hollywood Mortuary. "In spite of Randal's tongue-in-cheek comments," says Sullivan, "we all had a great time making Hollywood Mortuary, and we all are very good friends. This part was a great thrill for me. I've been told many times that I somewhat resemble Karloff, and of course I've been a huge fan of his since I was little. It was a secret ambition of mine to someday play the great one, and I guess now I've come pretty close to accomplishing just that. And there is nobody I'd rather have smash my head into a dripping pulp than Film Star Randal Malone."

Were there any problems during the shoot? "Some of it was hell," Malone answers. "The last day of shooting, it was 112 degrees on the set, and there was trouble getting some of the shots. Special effects make-up was melting in some cases, and the physicalness of my final scene, walking on my hands and knees for the special effects sequence, was hard to bear. I felt like I was about to melt into the floor. I had to do this particular stunt over and over. Finally, after about the tenth take, I said I can't do this anymore. Mr. Ford said, 'I need you to do it one more time because the director of photography said your hands weren't in the shot.' I said, 'I can't do it anymore. I can't.' And Ron looked at me in a very disappointed manner and I said, 'all right, I'll do it again.' And that time it was perfect. Eleventh time is a charm. But most of the shoot was a pure joy. Another of the special effects is when I smash Pratt Borokof's head with a shovel. I can't believe how real it was. And how gory. And how much fun it was doing it. A strange thing happened. Several people slipped me a five on set that day. I guess they were hoping I would miss and hit Tim's real head. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. So I guess it could have even been more fun if I had slipped, but all in all, this is my favorite movie I've worked in so far, and it was the best working experience with Mr. Ford ever. Although, I have to say, it's always a pleasure working with Ron."

Sure, Randy. Whatever.

Hollywood Mortuary should be a treat for all fans of old Hollywood and old horror films; and to fans of over-the-top gory films, as well. It is definitely not your typical horror film. Look for it in its short form under the title CREATUREALM: FORM THE DEAD. Or you can wait for the feature-length version later this year. That's right. I plan to shoot new scenes in the coming months, re-edit the entire movie, and turn it into a feature-length movie. That's how much I enjoy this story. Look for it in late 1999 -- HOLLYWOOD MORTUARY: THE MOVIE!!


Ron Ford is the writer/producer/director of such low-budget fare as The Mark Of Dracula and the upcoming Dead Time Tales.