I was browsing the shelves of a local video store when I ran across a campy looking title entitled “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.” When I saw the title I remembered seeing a trailer on-line for a send-up of the old 50's sci-fi flicks and thought, “what the hey.” Having sat through more than my share of unintentionally horrible movies, it was refreshing to see a film that actually did what it meant to do without pretense and knee-deep in cynical self-referential slop. Upon further investigation I tracked down the writer, director and star of “The Lost Skeleton” and found that he was already working on the follow-up to the film, promoting a dark mob comedy and developing an action-adventure film with steamers. Mr. Blamire was kind enough to swap some A's to my Q's and the result is informative and charming and builds healthy bodies twelve ways. (These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and could be complete BS.) So sit back and enjoy the Joe Mammy interview with Larry Blamire…
Joe Mammy : First let's get a brief overview--where you're from, big influences and how you managed to get into the strange world(s) of writing and filmmaking.
Larry Blamire: I grew up in Massachusetts so, like many New England sports fans right now I'm both ecstatic and afraid I'm going to wake up. In my formative years I played baseball every day--actually one of the first things I wanted to be was a ballplayer. My major influences were movies, movies and movies. After art school I drifted through some blue collar jobs, published a couple underground comics, got into SF illustration, then acting, writing and directing theatre. But film was always my main inspiration so it's no surprise I'm here.
Joe: Now I was first introduced to your work through "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" but you've also built up an impressive resume of writing credits. Tell me about your writing process--how does a play/project come together for you?
LB: Out of the blue. Inspiration is still a mystery to me. There are a lot of different styles/moods I tap into: I've written dark comedies, a dark western, a violent Irish gang melodrama, a comedy western, horror, adventure and so on. Sometimes I'll find inspiration in music: movie soundtracks (Bernard Herrmann is great for opening some mental doors), classical (20th Century is more pictorial), avant-garde, and good ol' dark ambient (especially evocative for the really weird shit). Some pieces, however, like JUMP CAMP (play, now screenplay) are entirely language-driven. I found the bizarre dialogue in that script plays out like its own music, so listening to music would be detrimental. Sometimes a piece starts off musically inspired, but once the characters start talking, you have to let that become the music, and see where they lead you. The character-driven, dialogue-based stuff.
Joe: For me, one of the biggest surprises about "Skeleton" was how affectionate it was about its source material--not condescending or overly cynical. With "Skeleton" and its upcoming sequel and "Steam Wars" you seem to be drawing heavily on pulp comics/novels and B-movies from the days of yore. What about them do you find so appealing/inspiring?
LB: So glad you found LOST SKELETON to not be condescending--that was important to me. Very gratifying that most viewers find it affectionate. The influences for SKELETON and its follow-up TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD (no sequel at this point) are quite different than the influences for STEAM WARS. The latter is more inspired by the big adventure movies of the past (like WHERE EAGLES DARE, swashbucklers, etc.), with a touch of Jules Verne, and originated in some paintings I'd done years ago--a real visual hook there. The gritty look and feel and smell of those steam engines was important to me in that world--real nuts and bolts stuff. As to SKELETON and company, you're right of course about the 50's low budget and B-movie influence. There's something quite appealing about their charm and simplicity, their ingenuity with such limited resource. And sure, we laugh at many of them, but that's okay. As long as we enjoy them. I think they're appealing to more and more people in these cynical times because they're so unjaded (not a word, but it fits).
Joe: You've also done work as an artist/illustrator in the past, how does that compare to writing/directing/acting--and how do they compare to each other, for that matter? Is there a medium that you prefer over the others?
LB: Film, without a doubt. Painting is so solitary--I much prefer the collaboration, working with people. Illustration drove me nuts after a while. Theatre is collaborative too, but I found myself trying to create movies on stage. I enjoy acting, but having to choose I prefer writing-directing--it's the storytelling thing I guess. In fact I think filmmaking for me combines the best of illustration and theatre: it's telling stories with pictures after all.
Joe: I have to admit I find "working class" Hollywood to be interesting—that is not the Brad Pitt's, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg types, but the army of folks out there who plug away--often quietly and largely unnoticed (in comparison to the huge mega-star types, at least)and do their jobs. What's your take on being involved in the surreal world of entertainment in light of the sheer absurdity of its expectations and scale?
LB: It's really compartmentalized. So many move in a kind of rarefied air out here. I think it's tough to stay grounded. You know, one guy who just "plugs away" quietly doing terrific work is Frank Darabont. Here's an A-list writer-director but with a real "working class" mentality. He doesn't draw attention to himself, seems to remain grounded. Plus on top of that, he's a really nice guy. An admirable thing I think.
Joe: I see that you've got a film that you're trying to get distributed called "Johnny Slade's Greatest Hits". Care to give an overview of the story and current news?
LB: Down and out lounge singer Johnny Slade is hired by a mob boss in hiding to sing these really whacked-out songs that turn out to be instructions to his boys. It's a dark comedy, lotta fun, and some of “the Sopranos” guys are in it. Way, WAY different from LOST SKELETON. It'll be back from the lab soon then we'll start entering festivals and screening for distributors.
Joe: Other than the projects already mentioned, do you anything in the works or that you'd like to work further on?
LB: I'm currently working on a mockumentary script (won't go into detail just now). At the same time I'm writing a horror adventure STRANGE WATERS from an extremely detailed (and illustrated) treatment I wrote a few years back. It's about a tramp steamer lost in uncharted waters, encountering unknown terrors as they search for a missing scientist and treasure. It seeks to create new myth--something I feel quite strongly about. So many movies rely on existing mythologies. Look at most horror movies. If it's not vampires, werewolves or zombies--forget it. How pathetic is that? THOSE myths had to start somewhere. We need new ones. Film can do that. I enjoyed HELLBOY because it brought me somewhere different, as does much of the Asian horror. Also in the pipeline, I have a realistic drama about bank robbers.
Joe : You feature your wife, Jennifer Blaire, in many of your films. Is part of the appeal of these independent projects being able to work with family and friends or is it more of a practical "who do we have available" kind of thing?
LB : More of the former. But "friends and family" is deceptive--I think it can sound like home movie time to some people. I'm fortunate to be in a group that's remarkably talented and versatile. In fact the same ensemble, plus more, will be in TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD only in quite contrary roles (it's fun to see a cast get a chance to stretch, show their chops). Plus, low budget filmmaking is so stressful, you really want to try and have good time while you're doing it, and we have a fun bunch.
Joe: Aside from a few folks that didn't "get it," word on "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" has been nothing short of glowing . Did the reception that "Skeleton" got (critically and popular) surprise you?
LB: Yes and no. Getting picked up by Sony was a total surprise--we never expected that. I had hoped that the genre fans would get it and indeed LOST SKELETON has a steadily growing fan base. I've talked with fans on the Yahoo message board and they're intelligent, really supportive. So I thought we'd have fans but didn't realize to what extent. We also have a ton of good reviews--which is really nice.
Joe: Free rant: take one topic of your choosing and run with it, brother.
LB: What--only one?! Why does every up-and-coming TV actress (and some film) have that same pseudo-Southern Cal accent that doesn't actually exist? I mean, this ain't no regional dialect, dude, it's this media-induced conglomeration. It's not sexy, not intelligent, so I'm not sure of the desired effect. I could also go on about sequels and remakes but what's the point? Too much bankrupt imagination out here, too few Brad Birds and Charlie Kaufmans. What the hell, here's a third rant: everybody seek out Roger Corman's THE INTRUDER on DVD. Anyone doubting the man could direct will have that quickly allayed.
Joe: If you had to dispel one misconception about the life of a writer/actor/filmmaker/artist/etc. what would it be?
LB : Distribution by major studio = success. Nope.
Joe: Any words of wisdom for the kids at home?
LB: Digital video is a great opportunity. EVERYBODY has access now. Great way to learn while you're shooting something. As to writing, don't just copy something. Agents are being inundated by SIXTH SENSE clones. Write from your imagination, something that excites you, something different. It'll show in the work and have a better chance of selling. Movies have a chance to transport us. Take us somewhere different. More Birds and Kaufmans please!
A couple days after finishing this interview, Larry e-mailed me and said (among other things):
Apropos of nothing, I Just heard that I won a Rondo Award. Don't know if you're familiar with them—these are annual horror/sci-fi awards, voted by fans from all over the world. LOST SKELETON got honorable mention behind SPIDER MAN 2 and SHAUN OF THE DEAD (1st place), but to my stunned surprise I won "Monster Kid" of the year. It's a very cool thing.
And thanks again!
Joe-Mammy.com would like to wish further congratulations to Larry and the “Lost Skeleton” crew on their continued success.
“The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” is available at fine retail outlets from sea to shining sea. More information on Larry's upcoming projects can be found at www.lostskeleton.com , www.steamwars.com , and www.johnnyslade.com . Check ‘em all out and be edified by the eternally shiny happiness of Blamire enlightenment.