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In the final installment (see parts one and two) of my conversation with SPINE
TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY’s producer, Jeffrey Schwarz, we talk about
the remake craze, PG vs. R-rated films, how cute Collin Farrell is, and porn
icon Jack Wrangler.
FANGORIA: What are your thoughts on the state of horror
movies at the moment?
SCHWARZ: I don’t mind remakes. I don’t have a problem with
people remaking stuff if they reinvent them, make it exciting and don’t just
follow the original slavishly. We don’t need to see another remake like the
remake of THE OMEN; the same thing, but bad. I enjoyed FRIGHT NIGHT. I was very
protective of FRIGHT NIGHT; it’s one of my favorites. But there were things in
that movie that I really liked. The state of horror? I just wish there was an
opportunity for another homegrown hit. It’s not hard to scare people – you can
make a great movie, but is anyone going to see it? I think film festivals could
possibly be the new grindhouse. Where else are you going to see these homegrown
movies on the big screen except film festivals? I encourage everyone to go to
film festivals and support these movies. And if you like the movie, buy the
movie on DVD.
I think the state of horror today is too corporate. I think
the big studios are making movies that are too safe. I understand that, it’s an
economic decision to make a PG horror film. They don’t want to alienate any
quadrant of the audience. I really was happy to see HUMAN CENTIPEDE get a lot
of attention, and I can’t wait to see the next one because it was completely
shocking, completely ridiculous, completely horrifying… I found that movie
FANG: I loved that movie from beginning to end!
SCHWARZ: I want to see more of that. I think that once in
awhile something comes through, but I wouldn’t expect to see the next great
horror film coming from a big studio just because they have to play it safe and
they’re usually made by committee. I liked THE ORPHAN. That was a studio movie.
FANG: I have to say, I think PG or PG-13 gets a bad rap as a
label. THE RING was PG-13, and I loved that movie, I thought it was really,
really well done. I think it’s what the MPAA has decided, or rather what
studios think the MPAA has decided should be in a PG rated movie. I think
that’s where the problem is. It’s not the rating itself, it’s the skittishness
of the studios.
SCHWARZ: Well yeah, they can’t cite precedent with the MPAA,
so you never know what they’re going to slap an R rating on your movie for, so
they probably hold back in fear of getting that rating.
FANG: Back to FRIGHT NIGHT, I really liked that remake. I
give it a B. I thought it was fun, and they actually did a few things better
than the original, which I know is sacrilege to say.
SCHWARZ: I thought it was really entertaining and fun. Colin
Farrell was really sexy and fun. [The original] was a really great movie, but
it wasn’t a bona fide classic. If you saw it now for the first time and didn’t
have the experience of seeing it back when it came out, it might leave a lot of
people cold. It was just part of being that age at that time and seeing that
movie, and it was a perfect blend of sex and horror and queer subtext. And I
think [the remake] has that, too.
FANG: Collin Farrell was so cute in FRIGHT NIGHT! Oh, my
SCHWARZ: [Laughs] He was kind of ridiculously hot in that
FANG: Regarding what you said about the original FRIGHT
NIGHT, I think there’s a lot of, especially for gay guys – if it’s your first,
it holds a special place in your heart regardless of how good it is. There’s a
whole generation of gay men who love BOYS IN THE BAND, and the generation that
came after them is all, “Are you f*cking kidding me?” And my generation loves
the movie MAKING LOVE, and when you see it now, it’s like, that’s ridiculous.
SCHWARZ: Yeah, well, that had Harry Hamlin in it…
FANG: And I think that goes double for horror movies. There
are so many that I can’t logically defend, but I love. Like THE HEARSE—I’m not
even going to try. Switching gears, and genres, yet again, I want to talk about
the Jack Wrangler documentary you did, WRANGLER: ANATOMY OF AN ICON, which is
really great. It seemed like you had incredible access to Jack and his wife,
singer Margaret Whiting. It surprises me they would want to be so open about
their relationship. Am I crazy?
SCHWARZ: They’re both gone, so it’s sad to talk about them.
Jack died just after the film came out on the festival circuit in 2009, and
Margaret just recently passed away.
For Jack, I think he wanted to just set the record straight.
There were so many people at the time who just thought [their relationship] was
a joke, that he was a gold digger, or that she was crazy, or that they were
both crazy, or that he was trying to pretend that he was straight, and it
wasn’t any of those things. They were very public about their relationship.
They went on talk shows, they both wrote books. They were very open and honest
about it, but still people never quite understood it. So, part of the reason
why I think Jack agreed to be in the movie is that he would get a chance to
really talk about that relationship, and what it meant, and why they were
together. And Margaret as well. I wanted to present it in a way that was very
fair, and compassionate and understanding.
I didn’t really know what to expect, either, but I came away
from that relationship totally getting it. I completely got why they were
together, and you can see why they lasted so long. Basically, they had so much
in common. It wasn’t about sexuality. It was really that they were fellow
travelers in show business. They just totally got each other, and that’s what
you really want in a relationship. So it’s ironic that someone who was known as
such a sexual icon ended up being with somebody where sex had nothing to do
with it. I’m really proud that the movie is out there in the world now, and
people can watch it and take away from it what they will. Maybe people will
come away from it still not really getting it, but hopefully it gives a pretty
accurate and sympathetic portrait of that relationship.
FANG: It’s interesting as you watch the film, and see the
clips of them on the talk shows—today if there’s even a whiff of gay in a
Hollywood relationship, it’s all over the place. But back then, when we were in
a supposedly more conservative time on that issue, their relationship sort of
SCHWARZ: I think they were kind of written off. Margaret was
really famous. Margaret had more to lose than Jack in that relationship. Jack
was a former porn star—every single talk show they went on of course referred
to him as “former porn star—but Margaret, she was a show business legend. She
had more to lose by people thinking less of her because she was with Jack. They
just persevered, and were just who they were and honest. They were kind of like
New York royalty. I went out to dinner with them a few times, and they were
treated like kings. At every party, every restaurant, every cabaret. It was
really wonderful seeing them out and about on the town. All the people who made
fun of them at the beginning, or said it wouldn’t last, they kind of had the
last laugh on all those people. They were together for 30 years. That
relationship outlasted most.
When I first approached [Jack], it took years for him to say
yes. He just didn’t think anyone would be interested. I don’t think he looked
at himself as important, and I think he is important, as sort of a sexual
revolutionary, and part of American pop culture, part of gay history, part of
porn history, and just a great, larger than life character.
FANG: So, in summation, what would you like the Fango
readers to know about your work?
SCHWARZ: The reason I make these films is I really want to
introduce a new generation to the kind of things I’m obsessed with. And the
best way to do that is through film. There’s something really immediate and
tangible and emotional about watching a movie. More so than reading a book or
an article or seeing someone on a talk show. If I can quote the great auteur
Cheech Marin, we go to the movies to laugh, cry, get scared, and get a hard on
– preferably in the same movie.
For more of Jeffrey Schwarz’s work, check out Automat
Pictures, I AM DIVINE, the I AM DIVINE Fundraising page, WRANGLER: ANATOMY OF AN ICON and SPINE TINGLER: THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY!
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