Texas Schlock: B-Movie Sci-Fi and Horror from the Lone Star State – article

My name is Bret McCormick. Less than a year ago, at my 58th birthday party, my collaborator E.R. Bills became fascinated by the table conversation – reminiscences of bygone days in the bottom-of-the-barrel film industry of Dallas, Texas. “This needs to be a book!” he exclaimed. “It’s got historical significance!” My other good friend, Glen Coburn (of Bloodsuckers from Outer Space fame) and I laughed it off. But in the following weeks, E.R. persisted in encouraging me to put the history of Texas’ schlock filmmakers into print.

 

After my crash and burn from the cloudy skies of my schlockdom twenty years before, I wanted nothing to do with the movie biz. Most of my memories seemed to be bad ones. I was disappointed and for years I did not even watch movies. When people brought the subject of cinema up, I excused myself from the conversation as politely as possible. It took me many years to get enough distance from the betrayals of past partners and distributors to take a more philosophical approach.

However, in Spring of 2018, I released my book, Texas Schlock: B-Movie Sci-Fi and Horror from the Lone Star State.

In some ways, writing the book has been cathartic, an exorcism of old demons. Hell, I can even laugh about those days now.

Let’s step back first. I graduated from Brooks Institute in 1980. Always a fanboy, I began contacting the old school B-movie Texan directors I knew of and gathering interviews for a proposed book. This was by way of staying at least peripherally involved in the business while I figured out how to go about making a film of my own. Over the years I became friends with some venerable schlockmeisters; guys like Larry Buchanan, S.F. Brownrigg, Larry Stouffer and Russ Marker.

Larry Buchanan

Larry was an early influence on me. When my best friend Herb Hays and I were shooting 8mm monster flicks on the east side of Fort Worth, we saw his movies on late night TV and reveled in the fact that the guy had been able to secure financing for stuff like It’s Alive! When Herb’s dad told us the guy was from Dallas, we felt encouraged. With a 16mm camera and some actors we believed we could outdo Buchanan. And we fully intended to!

The Naked Witch (1961)
The Eye Creatures (1965)
Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966)
Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966)
Creature of Destruction (1967)
In the Year 2889 (1967)
It’s Alive! (1969)
The Loch Ness Horror (1982)

S.F. Brownrigg

Brownie was the closest thing to a real mentor that I ever had in the movie business. I spent countless hours drinking with him in Dallas spots like The Wild Turkey, picking his brain, gleaning what I could from his wealth of production experience.

Over the years Brownie gave advice and rented me equipment to use in my own productions. We never seized on the right combination of financing and enthusiasm that would have enabled us to work on a film together, but he was a huge influence on my career.

Don’t Look in the Basement (1972)
Don’t Open the Door (1974)
Keep My Grave Open (1974)
Scum of the Earth aka Poor White Trash II (1974)

Robert A. Burns

One of the first filmmakers I attempted to contact in the early 80s was Robert A. Burns, art director on seminal horror genre flicks such as Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling and Re-Animator.

I got onto Bob through Mary Church, the lady who’d been production manager on his 1982 directorial debut Mongrel.

Though I tried many times over the years to establish contact with this very talented man, it just wasn’t in the cards. Sadly, he passed away in the early 2000s. His influence on indie horror lives on in a big way!

Larry Stouffer

I was a big fan of Horror High! When I learned the guy who’d directed that movie was appearing in a play at White Rock Lake, I waylaid him and tried to get him to agree to an interview. As I myself would later become, Larry was very bitter about the disappointments he’d experienced in movie production. In no uncertain terms, he told me to f*ck off.

 

A few years later, we worked together at Allied Film and Video in Las Colinas. Gradually, Larry warmed up to me and we spent a great deal of time on breaks talking about movies. He was particularly interested in screenwriting and went on to teach that at a school in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Horror High (1973)
Keep My Grave Open (1974) – assistant director

Russ Marker

While I was struggling to get my first project off the ground, a western movie town opened up south of Dallas. Some of my friends visited the place and told me the old guy running it was none other than Russ Marker, director of The Yesterday Machine and scripter of Night Fright (1967). I met Russ and chatted with him on a couple of occasions. His son, Gary Kennamer, wrote the screenplay for my fourth feature film, Highway to Hell.

The book I’ve written provides a lot of information on these guys that has never before appeared in print.

Pot Zombies (2005)

In addition, I have chapters on Justin Powers (Pot Zombies), Jacob Grim and Sal Hernandez (Dreadtime Stories; The Roommate), Jess Sherman and Mike Minton (CreepTales), Harold P. Warren (Manos: The Hands of Fate), Pat Boyette (The Dungeon of Harrow), Glen Coburn (Bloodsuckers from Outer Space) and others.

It’s the sort of book I would have loved to discover as a young fan. Who am I kidding? I’d buy this kind of book now if I happened onto it.

I’m grateful to Adrian J Smith of HORRORPEDIA and others in the fan community for expressing interest in and showing support for Texas Schlock: B-movie Sci-Fi and Horror from the Lone Star State.

Bret McCormick, HORRORPEDIA © 2017

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Related: 

The Abomination (1986)

Bad Movies = Great Trash – article

B-Movie Baggage: Filmmaker vs. Distributor in a Fight for Survival – article

Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants (1986)

Repligator (1996)

 

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