The next two days are special ones in Austin, Texas as they’ll be presenting Maniac, Maniac Cop 2 and Vigilante with director William Lustig live in house! The 35mm screenings take place @ The Ritz Tuesday and Wednesday night (full details and tix).
For this special event we’ve teamed with Badass Digest and Cinematical to each display an exclusive new Mondo poster that will be on sale at the screenings (remaining prints will be sold online at MondoTees.com on Thursday, February 10). In addition, all three sites had the opportunity to revisit each classic movie during an exclusive Q+A with Lustig!!
Beyond the break you’ll find our exclusive interview with Lustig, along with the poster for Maniac Cop 2.
William Lustig is undoubtedly one of the brightest lights of low-budget action-horror filmmaking to emerge during the 1980s, and Tuesday and Wednesday of this week Austin’s famed Alamo Drafthouse will be screening three of the director’s most well-known films at their Ritz Theater location: 1980’s Maniac, 1983’s Vigilante, and 1990’s Maniac Cop 2. Lustig himself will be there in person to present the films, all screening in 35mm [you can buy your tickets here]. B-D reporter Chris Eggertsen recently hopped on the phone with the legendary “exploitation” director to discuss Maniac Cop 2, the go-for-broke sequel which is screening as part of the Alamo Drafthouse’s “Terror Tuesday” series. You can read the full interview below (and also check out an all-new Mondo poster created specifically for the screening!), where Lustig talks about creating the legendary action sequences in what he considers to be his greatest film.
In anticipation of the Alamo Drafthouse’s upcoming screening series that will feature three of director William Lustig’s finest films, B-D recently got on the phone with the old-school director to discuss Maniac Cop 2, which he believes to be his greatest achievement as a filmmaker. If you haven’t ever seen the movie, here is Alamo Drafthouse “Terror Tuesday” programmer Zack Carlson’s colorful description [you can skip past it to get to the full interview]:
Let’s look at the facts: MANIAC COP 2 is quite truly The Greatest ’80s Horror-Action Movie Ever Made. Violent, whiplash-paced, supernatural and completely insane. It was written by horror legend Larry Cohen and stars Robert Davi, Robert Z’Dar, Bruce Campbell and even the lady who played the indestructible dancer in THE HIDDEN. You don’t need to have seen the previous installment as the basics are quickly recapped and this film definitely stands on its own.
I know it’s my job to tell you that movies are good, but this is coming from my heart: DO NOT MISS THIS. Especially because monumental director William Lustig (MANIAC, VIGILANTE) will be there to present it and he’s amazing himself. He told the funniest story I’ve ever heard about making a movie, involving a hospitalized cameraman and a stunt driver wearing blackface in Queens.
But I digress. Here’s what I’m gonna do: If you somehow don’t LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie and feel like you got ten times your money’s worth in entertainment, I will personally refund your admission price from my own damn pocket. And I’m one broke-ass jerk. But I’m a broke-ass jerk with the ultimate confidence in MANIAC COP 2′s power to entertain you beyond all reason. This is for real. If you like horror movies or just enjoy having fun in any way, BE THERE.
Bloody-Disgusting: So, this is really exciting that your work is getting a retrospective at the Alamo Drafthouse. How does that feel?
William Lustig: Oh, I love the Alamo Drafthouse. What filmmaker wouldn’t want to have his…15, 30 year old movies…screened in front of an audience?…But I’m excited. I love the Alamo Drafthouse. I love the audiences there, their enthusiasm. The love of cinema that the Alamo has is just amazing. It never ceases to amaze me.
BD: Particularly for underappreciated films. They really bring attention to more underground films that not a lot of people know about.
WL: Yeah, they do. And they should be applauded for it.
BD: I saw the Mondo poster for ‘Maniac Cop 2’. It’s really cool. Have you seen it yet?
WL: Yeah, I saw it. It’s great.
BD: Is having your work screened for a younger generation nerve-wracking at all? Is there any part of you that’s like, ‘what if they don’t get it?’
WL: No, my experience has been that there seems to be an increased enthusiasm for people seeing these genre films that were made…the access to films, the digital downloading and things like that. These are films that they really appreciate. So I don’t feel nervous screening the films, because I’ve had nothing but an enthusiastic response.
BD: Well, there is a bit of a revival of these sorts of films, even films made as homages to old grindhouse cinema, which started with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Grindhouse’. What are your thoughts on these throwbacks, and if you’ve seen any of them?
WL: Yeah, I did. I mean, I saw the movie ‘Grindhouse’. I thought it was ok. I think that really the interest has…I don’t think [Tarantino and Rodriguez] created the interest for these films. I think what created them was when Anchor Bay began putting out DVDs of some of these lost films. There seems to be an enthusiastic audience for them who saw them on video and told their friends and want to see them up on a big screen with an audience.
BD: Yeah, I think maybe they brought a bit more of a mainstream attention to it perhaps. But yeah, you’re definitely right about Anchor Bay. They definitely had a big impact.
WL: Yeah, that’s where I think it really came from…I can’t think of any other films that are throwbacks.
BD: Well, there was the ‘Grindhouse’ spin-off ‘Machete’ with Danny Trejo.
WL: I haven’t seen that yet. It’s on my Netflix Blu-ray queue.
BD: There was also one at Sundance this year called ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ with Rutger Hauer, which is very much a throwback to films of that earlier era.
WL: What really makes…a film from that earlier era? I just don’t understand. It seems like what made the films interesting was there was a desire to do things that were original. How is something that is effectively trying to replicate films of a certain period original? You know what I mean? To me, they’re kind of [unintelligible] films. They’re not really truly what was interesting about the films that were being made in the ’70s and ’80s. They were low-budget films that pushed the envelope and had basically originality to them.
BD: I think the newer films I’m speaking of kind of focus a lot on what are seen as the campier aspects of old 42nd Street grindhouse films. I think that what you’re saying is that they don’t really capture the spirit of what those movies were all about.
WL: Well, they seem to be superficially trying to replicate things like the font and color of the titles, the scratches and the imperfections of prints that have been run repeatedly. You know, those kinds of things I see, but as far as content-wise, they don’t really feel like films of that period. I’ll give you an example: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’. That would have never worked as a grindhouse film! Because it had interminable dialogue. That would have been cut in a second, you know? It just would’ve. The best of the grindhouse films were visual, they were fast. They were plot-driven, not dialogue driven.
BD: At least they get a younger generation to seek out these older films. So there’s some kind of a silver lining there.
WL: Alright, I’ll take that!
BD: So ‘Maniac Cop 2’ is considered one of your best films –
WL: Actually, I consider it to be my best film.
BD: You do?
WL: Yeah, I do consider ‘Maniac Cop 2’ to be my best film. It was the film [where] I felt as though myself and my crew were really firing on all cylinders. And I think we made a terrific B-movie.
BD: Oh, I agree. I actually think it’s superior to the first one. I really like ‘Maniac Cop’, but I think it’s an all-around better film.
WL: Yeah, oh definitely. That’s what we tried to do. We tried to make it a better film. Take the ideas and concepts and first and improve upon them.
BD: Which is what sequels should be, right? You should try to improve on the first one.
WL: Yeah, without a doubt! That to me is the challenge, especially if you’re the same filmmaker. You don’t want to make the same thing over again.
BD: Well, I like the addition of the serial killer of the strippers in the second one. I think that kind of brings another level to it.
WL: Yeah, that’s was what I call our Ygor. That’s what I refer to the character as, our Ygor from ‘Son of Frankenstein’. You know, we gave him the beard of Bela Lugosi from ‘Son of Frankenstein’.
BD: film is also known for some really stunning action sequences. Some of these action sequences you shot are the equal of something in say a James Cameron movie. Those must have been really tough scenes to shoot.
WL: They were. They were very tough to shoot. And they were aggravating. We didn’t have CGI that we could rely on, so it was done totally in-camera. It was tough but I had a great stunt coordinator, Spiro Razatos, who has since gone on to a big career. And by that point we had done three films together, so we were all talking shorthand. I don’t think we could’ve accomplished what we did in ‘Maniac Cop 2’ if all of us were working together for the first time. What made it work was having a crew who were really good at their jobs, and everybody talking shorthand. That was the only way we were able to accomplish what we accomplished.
BD: Do you have any memorable tidbits from shooting any of those sequences?
WL: Well, I’ll tell you a couple of things. One is, in order to push the financiers into getting the film started, I told them that we needed to start shooting in New York prior to Christmas or it would become impossible afterwards with snow and the cold and everything. And it turned out the period that we shot in New York between Thanksgiving and Christmas turned out to be the coldest, snowiest period ever. So that really made all those nighttime sequences doubly difficult because we were all freezing to death shooting them!
What I recall about the film was also we had to have the film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May. So we finished shooting on the film sometime in late February. And when we finished shooting we had this enormous action film which required an incredible amount of post-production that we had to have finished, and this was prior to digital, where all the post-production was on film. We had to have it completed in two months. So it was an enormous undertaking. We had three sets of editors working 24 hours a day. And I just loved the challenge of getting it done. It was really an accomplishment, I felt.
BD: How was the film received at Cannes that year?
WL: Great. The sales were enormous. The sales on the title…[were] four times more than the first film. Yeah, it was really big. In this country, it kind of fell into the abyss because there was a company that offered them a lot of money to put it straight on video. So it never got the theatrical distribution many of us felt it deserved.
BD: Speaking of the home video release, originally a lot of the violence was cut out to get an ‘R’ rating –
WL: Which film?
BD: ‘Maniac Cop 2’.
WL: No, nothing was cut. Nothing. We didn’t have to make one cut for an ‘R’ rating. What you see is what it is…
BD: Oh, I heard differently.
WL: Nope, nope.
BD: Well, one of the scenes that really impressed me in the film was when the man was set on fire in the jail sequence.
WL: That was an incredible scene to shoot. We shot it with multiple cameras, and it was shot in chunks. I think we used four or five cameras on it. And it was shot, as I recall, in like three or four chunks. So what you’re seeing is basically the guy being lit up four times, excluding when they fall out of the building. But [in] the interior of the prison I think he was lit up four times. And each of those four times he only has a limited amount of time that he can be on fire, the stunt person. So it made it very challenging to prepare everything, coordinate everything so that we could get as much accomplished in the short time that we could have him on fire.
BD: How much time was he allowed to be on fire?
WL: As I recall, it was 30 seconds.
BD: There were some unbroken shots where I was like ‘Man! I can’t believe he’s been on fire for that long!’
WL: Yeah, that’s because he wasn’t. We were overlapping shots.
BD: How long did that sequence take to shoot in total?
WL: I think it was probably two days. Because it’s one of those things you can’t rush.
BD: Did you shoot that in a real prison?
WL: No, that was shot on a standing prison set in Culver City, California.
BD: Also one of the most memorable sequences for me was when Claudia Christian’s character was handcuffed to the steering wheel. That’s really amazing. That stunt woman must have gone through it!
WL: Actually, the most dangerous part of it was that she was secured to the side of the car and she couldn’t actually fall off the car. Which protected her in one way, but in another way when the car is going out of control, it didn’t give her anywhere to escape. If say god forbid something should happen, she couldn’t get away from the car. And the other thing that was most dangerous about it was one of her feet was kind of close to the back wheel, and we were always worried about it because she did have enough pull on the safety wire that her foot could have gone potentially under the back wheel of the car. So I recall that always being a scary thing. But that scene, by the way, was inspired by a Jackie Chan movie called ‘Police Story’. At the beginning of ‘Police Story’, there’s a major police bust in a hillside shanty town. Do you recall this?
BD: No, I actually haven’t seen ‘Police Story’.
WL: Oh, it’s the first Jackie Chan ‘Police Story’. Anyway, what happens is the cars were going down the hill, going through the buildings…you know, it was really a spectacular scene. And what happens is at one point, a girl is handcuffed to a steering wheel of a car. And I made the assumption that that car was gonna somehow get hit and she was gonna go down the side of the hill handcuffed to the steering wheel of the car. [But] it never happened. So I basically did what I thought was gonna happen in Jackie Chan’s film and used it for ‘Maniac Cop 2’! [Laughs]
BD: So you kind of one-upped the sequence from ‘Police Story’.
WL: Well, yeah, that was what I was thinking, you know? It was kind of a ‘what if?’ So in watching movies and you imagine something, you could wind up having a better scene than what you saw in the film that inspired it.
BD: Is the film going to be re-released on DVD? I think it did have a DVD release a few years ago.
WL: It did. A very bare-bones DVD release by a company that’s since gone bankrupt. I’m trying to work out a deal to release a special edition of it. I still haven’t gotten it signed and everything, but I’m working on it.
BD: That’d be great to see. Would you do a commentary track and everything?
WL: Oh, all that. Everything. It’s really a passion project.
BD: Given that you’re such a master of filming action sequences, which modern directors do you like? Whose movies do you enjoy?
WL: Well, I liked a whole lot the movie ‘Taken’, the Liam Neeson film. I thought that film was terrific. I thought that was one of the best action films I’ve seen. So many of the action films…I mean, I saw a film that was just absolutely horrible day before yesterday. ‘Green Hornet’. I’ve never seen action…it was so dreadful to watch. Because it was just…did you see it?
BD: No, I haven’t seen it.
WL: It kind of epitomizes everything I hate. That movie epitomizes everything I hate. Yeah. So I’m trying to think of some other action people…maybe you can remind me of some good action people?
BD: Hmm…[I stumble about for a name]. I’m trying to think of some modern action directors…
WL: Yeah, that’s the problem I have. I don’t really…I can’t really think of any. When I think of a great action director, contemporary, it would have to be…Luc Besson…I think maybe he’s the best contemporary action director I can think of…’Taken’ was produced by him. So you know, that’s who I think of.
BD: I think Paul Greengrass, who did some of the ‘Bourne’ movies is really good.
WL: Absolutely, absolutely! You hit one right on the head. I think all his films are terrific. That guy is really good. I thought the ‘Bourne’ films were great, but you know, I’m trying to think of filmmakers who are making kind of what I would call B-movies.
BD: Well, I can’t think of any off the top of my head at the moment. So what’s the status on ‘Maniac Cop 4’? Are you guys still trying to get that off the ground?
WL: Well, it’s one of the things that Larry and I talk about. We really haven’t come to…we don’t have anything definitive on it, but we have the rights to it, and we’re kinda working on it. We just don’t have it set up right now.
BD: Is that something you’d direct?
BD: Will you ever go back to directing?
WL: When you say go back to it, I hope to direct a film someday. But it’s not like I wanna go back to being a full-time director, [looking] for work and stuff.
BD: So it would have to be something you’re really passionate about.
BD: So I’ve heard a bit about a ‘Maniac’ remake. Do you have any idea –
WL: There is. Yeah, there is a ‘Maniac’ remake that’s under option, but we don’t have anything…we don’t have a start date on it or anything to announce.
BD: How do you feel about remakes in general?
WL: I think most of them suck. I’m trying to think of one…there might have been one or two, I can’t think of the titles right now, that I thought had improved on the originals. But most of the time they just really suck, and at times [they’re] infuriating.
BD: As far as remakes of your films, how much control will you have as far as choosing a director and having any creative control over the production?
WL: Really, in practical terms, none. It’s simply a deal where we license the rights for the company to do it.
BD: That’s gotta be nerve-wracking.
WL: No, no. It’s financially rewarding, so at that point it’s up to whoever wants to do it. It’s a business.
BD: You have your own DVD/Blu-ray distribution company, Blue Underground. I love that you’re putting out all these old undiscovered gems out on those formats. Are there any upcoming releases you wanted to talk about?
WL: Well, we have ‘House by the Cemetery’ coming out, ‘Zombie’…in March we have ‘Inferno’, April ‘Deep Red’, in May we have ‘Cat o’ Nine Tails’, June we have ‘The Nesting’, July ‘Torso’…I mean, I can go on and on, but we have a full line-up of titles for this year.
MONDO POSTERS: Here are the details on all three posters. Each one will be available for attendees at the respective screenings.
“Vigilante” by Alan Hynes
18″ x 24″ Screenprint with Metallic Inks, Edition of 100
“Maniac” by Ken Taylor
24″ x 36″ Screenprint, Edition of 200
“Maniac Cop 2″ by Jason Edmiston
18″ x 24” Screenprint, Edition of 125
ABOUT MONDO: Mondo is the Alamo Drafthouse’s collectible art boutique, featuring designs from world famous artists based on licenses for popular TV and Movie properties including Star Wars, Star Trek & Universal Monsters. Championed for their limited edition screen printed posters, Mondo focuses on bringing art back to movie posters by working with artists such as Olly Moss, Tyler Stout, Martin Ansin and others. Besides creating stunning works for beloved classics and contemporary films, Mondo produces posters for featured Alamo Drafthouse events and recently inaugurated a “Director’s Series” that will focus on a celebrated filmmaker’s body of work, beginning with Guillermo del Toro.
ABOUT ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE: The Alamo Drafthouse is a lifestyle entertainment brand with an acclaimed cinema-eatery, the largest genre film festival in the United Sates and an online collectible art store. Named “the best theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has built a reputation as a movie lover’s oasis not only by combining food and drink service with the movie-going experience, but also introducing unique programming and high-profile, star studded special events. Alamo Drafthouse Founder & CEO, Tim League, created Fantastic Fest, a world renowned film festival dubbed “The Geek Telluride” by Variety. Fantastic Fest showcases eight days of offbeat cinema from independents, international filmmakers and major Hollywood Studios. The Alamo Drafthouse’s collectible art boutique, Mondo, offers breathtaking, original products featuring designs from world-famous artists based on licenses for popular TV and Movie properties including Star Wars, Star Trek & Universal Monsters. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is expanding its brand in new and exciting ways, including the launch of Drafthouse Films, a new film distribution label and plans to extend its theaters and unique programming philosophy to additional markets across the United States. More information about Alamo Drafthouse franchise opportunities are available on the official website.