Friday 30 November 2018

Goof on the Loose: The Films of Ray Dennis Steckler - Part 1 - the 'Hollywood' Years

Ray Dennis Steckler in later years
It's the first time I've split a single post into two parts, but there's a lot of characters in this story and I want to do them justice.

A while back I wrote a piece on the movies of Arch Hall, father and son. Loosely intertwined in Hall Sr and Jr's cinematic story was another genuinely independent but arguably way more talented film making oddball: Ray Dennis Steckler.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1938, Steckler was raised by his movie loving grandma, who no doubt would have exposed him to The Bowery Boys, The Three Stooges, Monogram and Producers Releasing Corporation westerns and the spookshow movies of the 1940s, all of which would find themselves informing his work. And one of the things I love about Steckler is that he never forgot these influences, which, combined with a profound sense of family and home - his earlier films were all located in his LA neighbourhood and often featured friends and acquaintances - gives a real sense of someone in love with film for its own sake rather than for commercial reasons.

Following the inevitable production of 8mm films with his mates as kids, using a camera bought for him by his grandma, and with the taste for visual arts fuelled by the study of photography as a military cameraman between 1956 and 1959, after army service Steckler headed for Hollyweird USA. Cutting his teeth working behind the scenes on TV shows handling props (including a stint at Universal where, employed on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he quit before being fired following a near miss with Hitch while pushing a wheeled A-Frame down a corridor way too fast) his first gig - as Raymond Steckler - was replacing fired cameraman Ron McManus on the eccentric Timothy Carey's 1962 little seen vehicle The World's Greatest Sinner (aka Frenzy) - according to Steckler, at one point Carey threw a boa constrictor at him. Here he worked alongside one Edgar G Ulmer and a twentysomething Frank Zappa on music duties, who went on to describe the movie as 'the world's worst film.' Now where have I heard that before?

The same year he also shot Secret File: Hollywood, his non union status ensuring that he remained uncredited on that movie - it was here that he met Arch Hall Sr for the first time. As well as working on commercials and TV series for Warner Brothers like 'Wide World of Sports' and 'The Professionals,' in 1962 Steckler lensed Rudolph Cusamano's slightly less obscure Wild Ones on Wheels aka Drivers in Hell, but this time he also appeared in front of the camera for the first time in the role of 'Preacher Man', a bespectacled hep cat character described by one critic as 'a beatnik petty criminal with a crazy patois and a sports car he calls "Baby".'

Wild Guitar - Steckler's first directing credit
Later in 1962 Steckler hooked up with Arch Hall Jr and his dad - the first of his two collaborations with the father and son film making duo for Hall Sr's company Fairway-International Pictures. Steckler took on (uncredited) camera duties, and also appeared briefly - as Mr Fishman - in the Hall Sr directed Eegah, unceremoniously dumped into a swimming pool by a resurrected caveman in the shape of seven foot plus Richard Kiel; his girlfriend - and future wife - in the scene was one Carolyn Brandt, destined to be a pivotal figure in Steckler's life. A story from the shoot recalls that the crew were filming, without permission, on land owned by one Harpo Marx. When Marx turned up to ask what the hell was going on, Steckler reportedly told him that they were shooting an educational film for UCLA, although it's unlikely that he was believed. Rather bruised by the experience of directing, Hall Sr took a back seat with the next vehicle for his son, giving rise to Ray's first directing credit - the movie was Wild Guitar. You can read more about both those films here. Steckler also had a small speaking part in this movie as a villain called 'Steak,' and it was the first time he used his alter ego name Cash Flagg, a pseudonym whose origin related to Steckler's legendary penchant for hard currency over cheques, which had a habit of bouncing in Tinsel Town.

Goof on The Loose (1964) Filmed in and around the Steckler family home and nearby Echo Park, Los Angeles and utlising friends and family (which he would continue to do in future films), this 8 minute silent independently made 'home' movie - "dedicated to the laugh makers of long ago" according to the intro card - was actually filmed in 1959, but released immediately prior to Incredibly Strange Creatures...). Its title possibly inspired by the 1953 Three Stooges short Goof on the Roof, the movie features Rick Dennis (who'd appeared in both Wild Guitar and Wild Ones on Wheels) as a drunk, and his goofy friend (Bert Leu Van) messing around in a series of visual gags and pratfalls. Carolyn Brandt turns up in beachwear as does Steckler in a cameo wearing a skirt!

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies !!? (1964) By 1963, Ray had become fed up with being on the payroll of other movies. As he said in an interview in 2000, "I really hated working for other people."

Back in Reading, Pennsylvania, a young Steckler would spend hours at the local funfair befriending the carnival workers, a group of people who he came to love but who also taught him the art of huckstering, a talent he deployed throughout his career. It also gave him the setting for his most well known feature film, in glorious Eastmancolor, called The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies !!? which he started filming in January 1963 (apparently it's important to get the punctuation right at the end, an issue that wouldn't have occurred if the team had continued to use the film's working title, Face of Evil). This is a movie that's probably more famous for its title - changed, according to a popularly recited story, at the request of Columbia Pictures who felt that the original - The Incredibly Strange Creatures, or Why I Stopped Living and Became a Mixed-up Zombie - was too close to Stanley Kubrick's then latest picture Dr Strangelove...or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The idea of Kubrick's legal team suing Steckler for $3 million would be rather outrageous had the director not loved the story so much (Ray's movie cost $38,000 to make and, save for a donation of $300 would probably not have been completed, as it allowed Steckler to keep a roof over his head). For a long time Incredibly Strange... was rather caught up in the 'trash films you may not like' category. Well I love it. It's far better put together than its detractors would have you believe, part of the reason being that the camera team included fledgling cinematographers Lazlo (Easy Rider) Kovacs - who also did a behind the camera stint the previous year on the Arch Hall Jr 1963 vehicle The Sadist - and Vilmos (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) Zsigmond.

Some of the Incredibly Strange Creatures...
In Incredibly Strange Creatures... Steckler (again as Cash Flagg) plays slacker Jerry, who thinks that paid work is a downer and just wants to hook up with his girlfriend, fairly posh Angela, whose folks think Jerry is a bum. Elsewhere dipso dancer Marge Neillson (Brandt) is drinking - literally - at the last chance saloon as she's told to lay off the sauce and stop fluffing her routines. Seeking her fortune, she happens on Madame Estrella's tent and learns of her impending death (a ripe performance from Brett O'Hara as Estrella - previously Susan Hayward's stand in and who also appeared in Wild Ones on Wheels - her natural beauty disguised by a gypsy outfit and hairy stick on wart). Jerry and Angela, together with their friend Harry, also have their fortunes told. Jerry ends up being hypnotised by Estrella, who turns him into a zombie. Jerry is forced to carry out murderous acts (including killing Marge and attempting to murder Angela) - it turns out that Estrella has been converting a number of the men working at the carnival into murderous beasts - and Jerry is the latest. They're all ugly bugly because the fortune teller chucks acid into their faces to disfigure them. However the zombies have the last laugh, breaking free from their place of imprisonment and exacting their revenge on Estrella. Zombie Jerry, who's only a bit of a zombie, presumably because he's running the show or was better at dodging acid, is shot dead by the police while making a heartfelt speech to Angela.

What's not mentioned in this summary are the show tunes which pepper the movie, with titles like 'Choo choo, ch'boogie' and 'Shook Out of Shape,' and a number of dance routines featuring lines of girls who've been given seemingly little or no rehearsal time. Truly the first monster musical, this is a freewheeling movie with more than a hint of being made up on the spot - and that's not a criticism; Steckler was proud of this approach to filmmaking. The exteriors were filmed at the Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California, tapping in to Steckler's fairground past, whereas the interiors were shot on sets built in an abandoned Masonic temple in Glendale, California (used the same year to shoot Vic Savage's The Creeping Terror). Steckler apparently fended off union intervention by shooting on an upper floor of the building and putting up fake signs that the lifts were out of order - nifty!

The movie was released by Fairway-International Pictures, which gave Arch the ability to sneak the flick onto the lower half of a double bill, with one of his own films as the A picture (maybe The Nasty Rabbit?). Steckler subsequently bought back the distribution rights and cued the movie up with Coleman Francis's 1961 Tor Johnson vehicle The Beast of Yucca Flats (Francis would later turn up in some of Ray's features). He maximised the shelf life of Incredibly Strange Creatures... by re-titling the film several times for re-release, including Diabolical Dr Voodoo, The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary, and The Incredibly Mixed-up Zombie. Steckler also advertised the movie in a number of different viewing formats, taking a leaf out of William Castle's huckster manual. According to Steckler, his film was shot in in “Bloody-Vision,” “Terrorama” and “Hallucinogenic Hypnovision,” the latter of which involved Steckler and his team running out into venues wearing monster masks. Whew!

The Thrill Killers (1964) "I just wanted to make another movie," said Steckler in an interview when asked retrospectively about his next film. Completed a year after filming Incredibly Strange Creatures...  and just after his stint as camera operator on Phillip Mark's nudie cutie Everybody Loves It (credited as Raymond Steckler) Steckler wrote, produced, and directed The Thrill Killers, apparently inspired by his exposure to Psycho with which he was so impressed that he saw it twice "to make sure it was a movie." But in its intensity and amoral lawlessness, not to mention the down at heel country locations, it more closely resembles Arch Hall's The Sadist (1963).

Steckler maintained that he wasn't initially to be cast in the movie, but inserted his character into it to lengthen the running time. The original story focused on the escape of three inmates from a secure facility. Having made their getaway, the prisoners, all insane, terrorise the local community. Meanwhile the brother of one them, also a crazed killer (Steckler), is called on to assist the fugitives, until the police intercept and take out the bad guys. This plot summary is purposely brief; there's a lot more to this movie than those few lines.

After a faux historic card announcing that the events in the film took place back in 1965, The Thrill Killers opens with what will become a Steckler standby - some fascinating shots of Hollywood Boulevard (which have become more so with the passing of time) including footage of Mann's Chinese Theatre, showing Mary Poppins, which had been released in August of 1964. The movie was shot in black and white by Joseph V. Mascelli (later author of industry bible 'The Five Cs of Cinematography') and an uncredited Lee Strosnider. We're introduced in voiceover - by Coleman Francis - to Joe Saxon (Joseph Bardo, onetime boyfriend of Mae West), an out of luck actor trying to get work. Back home his wife Liz bemoans his unrealistic expectations (neither are in the first flush of youth) and the lavish industry parties he throws, hoping for a casting break. Liz was played by Liz Renay, who had just got out of prison after spending 27 months incarcerated in Terminal Island, California, for perjury - laundering money for her boyfriend, the racketeer Mickey Cohen. Renay needed a job and Steckler was happy to offer her one (as subsequently did Arch Hall Sr). Her acting career never took off; she had a role in John Waters' 1977 movie Desperate Living and turned up in two of Ted V. Mikels' later works, but she successfully toured with her daughter in a joint strip act, and infamously did a streak along Hollywood Boulevard in 1974, the first grandmother to do so. Incidentally her 1992 published autobiography was entitled 'My First Two Thousand Men'; Renay's daughter Brenda, who shows up in a party scene later in the movie along with a rather tipsy looking Arch Hall Sr and The Thrill Killers' producer George J Morgan, took her own life at the age of 39 in 1982.

Ray Dennis Steckler and Liz Renay in The Thrill Killers
The trio of escaped prisoners, whose character first names are all the same as their real ones, were played by claustrophobic Gary Kent, axe wielding Keith O'Brien (sadly his only acting credit) and Elisha Cook Jr alike Herb Robins (as Flagg's brother). Robins had been very badly beaten up shortly before shooting was about to begin. Worried that Steckler wouldn't be able to put him in front of the camera because of the bruising and stitches to his face, the director went ahead and used him anyway. In close ups of his face on screen, he looks authentically messed up in a way that make up alone (on Steckler's budget anyway) just couldn't achieve.

The Thrill Killers also included Carolyn Brandt again as newly engaged Carol, young, in love but sadly despatched by one of the killers. The film also announced the arrival of Ron Haydock into Steckler's story; Haydock performed additional dialogue services on the movie and also played one of the cops at the film's climax. He was a fascinating figure in his own right (in 1977 Haydock tragically died in a highway accident after being hit by a truck at the age of 37, ironically walking home after an evening at Steckler's house - although Ray confessed in one interview that it may have been suicide). Atlas King also turns up, briefly, as a guy who is killed, and whose car is commandeered by Mort "Mad Dog" Click (played by Steckler in his Cash Flagg nom de cinema) early on in the movie - King was the donor of $300 to Steckler during the making of Incredibly Strange Creatures...which ensured that the movie got completed, and which gave King his first acting role.

Thematically The Thrill Killers is a world away from Incredibly Strange Creatures... As well as being more structured it is in places a very nasty film. Steckler's scenes, including menacing a prostitute in her room before killing her, still pack a punch today; and the arrival of the fugitives, particularly Keith, with his manic love for the axe, provides for some very disturbing moments. "Poor old Frank," muses Keith on examining the blade that's been used to behead him, "he had dandruff." (I can't help feeling that the trio might have been an inspiration for the escaped lunatics in Alan Birkinshaw's 1978 British movie Killer's Moon). The film's final reel chase, utilising the arid locations of California's Topanga Canyon - beloved of many makers of horror and sci fi films - builds a level of excitement that arguably makes this Steckler's most conventionally successful film.

The Thrill Killers was subsequently revived and shown around the country in the early 1970s at theatres and drive-ins, retitled The Maniacs Are Loose! Cashing in on the success of the 'live in the theatre' monsters stunt pulled when Incredibly Strange Creatures... toured the US (with Steckler himself as one of the 'zombies' let loose in the auditoria), it was decided to repeat the idea. A new prologue was added to the movie - in colour - with stage hypnotist Ormond Magill informing the audience that a whirling 'hypno disc' at points during the movie would prompt Cash Flagg-a-likes (recruited by theatre managers at each venue wearing masks designed by Don Post) to enter the audience wielding rubber axes.

Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1965) After The Thrill Killers Steckler was asked to be camera operator on the soft core sex comedy Everybody Loves It (1964) and Director of Photography on an adults only movie called Scream of the Butterfly (1965) by Bill Turner and Alan Smith, who had been choreographers on Incredibly Strange Creatures... The director, Argentinian Eber Labato, had never made a film before, but was married to Nelida Labato who just happened to have a leading role in the flick. Interestingly it was the first time that Steckler had shot a film in Las Vegas. He was already growing tired of Los Angeles, and the city smog wasn't doing much for his allergies.

But his next project was the movie where Steckler famously got bored half way through making it, and decided to change tack story wise. Rat Pfink a Boo Boo starts off as a gritty stalker flick, with a gang of chain-wielding hoodlums mugging a streetwalker, then, needing more money, turn their attentions to one Cee Bee Beaumont (Carolyn Brandt, whom Steckler married during filming). They find her name rather randomly in the telephone directory, abduct her from her home and require a $50,000 reward from her boyfriend Lonnie Lord (Ron Haydock, credited in the movie as Vin Saxon, a name that Haydock would later use as the author of a number of rather extraordinary pulp books with titles like 'Ape Rape' and 'Caged Lust.'). Lord and friend, local gardener Titus (Titus Moede), seem powerless to find a way out, but once they disappear into a closet together they emerge to pretty much everyone's surprise as comical superheroes Rat Pfink (Haydock) and Boo Boo (Moede) and zoom off in their motorcycle/sidecar combination to beat up the hoodlums and free Miss Beaumont.

Apparently Steckler got the Rat Pfink and Boo Boo idea as a result of failing to secure the rights to the Batman and Robin characters, which he'd hoped to turn into a musical. Although that bid failed, he decided to use some superheroes anyhow - this was before the 1966 TV series about the Gotham City superheroes - Steckler's thoughts were harking back to the 1943 Columbia serial. His friend Haydock had written a song called 'Rat Pfink' (a popular slang name at the time for the putz in your life) and Steckler decided to use it, assembling a couple of decidedly dowdy costumes to complete the crime fighting duo's rather down at heel look. And Boo Boo was named after the colloquial name for a softball team in Reading, Pennsylvania - come on you Boo Boos!

Haydock's payment for this rather unglamorous role - he also co-wrote the, ahem, script and was Assistant Director - was to have some of his songs featured in the movie, namely 'You're Running Wild,' 'Rat Pfink' and 'Big Boss a Go Go Party'; footage of all three show Ms Brandt and others frantically frugging to the beat. Haydock also gets to sing a slower ballad 'I Stand Alone.' The rest of the movie's score is once again down to Henry Price, but there are a couple of spaced out surf numbers (including an opening theme over Thomas Scherman's brilliant titles) by Charles B Tranum, of which little is known apart from the fact that he may also have had a career as an ad man.

It's clear from the first half of the movie that Steckler was aiming for another The Thrill Killers - the photography is quite noirish and, if you ignore the Haydock musical interludes, the mood is rather grim. But perhaps in anticipation of his next movie, Steckler feels the need to lighten the tone, and the second half of the film is one long chase scene with pratfalls aplenty, some amusing lines (Rat Pfink warns Boo Boo that the only thing that can kill them is bullets) and Carolyn Brandt being a lost damsel in distress, at one point being abducted by Kogar the ape ("Put me down, you big ape!" cries Carolyn) played by prop collector and part time actor Bob Burns, who would play the role on no less than nine different occasions in his career - now that's typecasting!

One other crew member of mention is future multiple Oscar and Emmy nominee Keith A. Wester. This was only his second sound credit and because Steckler shot on a Bolex non sound 16mm camera, Wester was responsible for adding all the dialogue, score and sound effects post production. Well, as Steckler has commented while rather chuffed at the leg up he gave Wester, you got to start somewhere! Oh and the reason why this title is Rat Pfink a Boo Boo? Well the lettering guys loused up in the opening credits - it may have meant to have been an ampersand instead - and Steckler couldn't afford the extra bucks to fix it.

Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (1965-1969) Steckler's love of old Bowery Boys movies, and his emotional links with home, family and friends coalesce in this slight but fun slapstick film which includes just enough weirdness to remind you that Ray's still at the controls. Like The Thrill Killers and Incredibly Strange Creatures... before it, Lemon Grove Kids is a lovely time capsule of a past age; although the area near Hollywood where it was filmed hasn't changed that much, a quick Google maps trip shows that the neighbourhood still feels bright and airy, and full of possibilities for a young film maker.

Lemon Grove Kids was originally conceived as a feature but, with the usual limitations of money and film stock - but never enthusiasm - it became a series of three shorter films packaged together (a fourth was planned but never completed). Steckler had apparently tried to sell to TV but his production standards weren't high enough to sustain much interest. Ray pays tribute to Bowery Boy Huntz Hall in his role as 'Gopher' (as Cash Flagg, natch) - in fact it was so good that Hall's wife threatened to sue him - and the rest of his cast are made up of various friends and family plus regulars from his previous films, including Mike Cannon as 'Slug,' (who also does a fair takeoff of the Bowery Boys' character 'Slip' played by Leo Gorcey) and Keith A. Wester, playing Marvin Marvin.

The three shorts making up the movie are 'The Lemon Grove Kids,' 'The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Green Grasshopper and the Vampire Lady from Outer Space' and 'The Lemon Grove Kids Go Hollywood!'

In the first, the Kids face off a rival gang, but are persuaded to settle their differences via a local cop (producer George J Morgan in dress up) and to compete in a cross country race, which the other gang fix by using a shady character called 'The Saboteur.' Steckler spiced up the proceedings by including a rather meta sequence towards the end, featuring Kogar the ape abducting Carolyn Brandt (as Cee Bee Beaumont, in the exact scene that was reproduced in Rat Pfink a Boo Boo) and a mummy (Bob Burns playing both creatures); the footage seems incongruous until the camera pulls back to show that the whole thing is a film set for a movie being made by a local amateur company, and onto which 'Gopher' has accidentally blundered. When screened at kids' shows, this part of the movie would be the cue for auditoria staff to invade the theatres dressed as mummies, a gimmick which apparently once again effectively gave paying audiences the wim wams.

In 'The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Green Grasshopper and the Vampire Lady from Outer Space,' Steckler makes use of a prop flying saucer - which he'd just acquired - for a story involving the Kids running across a human grasshopper and Carolyn Brandt doing her best Vampira impersonation. The grasshopper (who has arrived in the flying saucer) and the vampire abduct little kids and adults while they're doing odd jobs for Mr Miller (Coleman Francis again). There are some witches too. None of it makes any sense, but it's bright, fun, and everyone seems to be having a good time.

In the last of the three films, 'The Lemon Grove Kids Go Hollywood!' (the only one of the three not to have theatrical distribution and actually completed in 1969), Steckler takes a sideswipe at the movie industry. The Kids arrive at the house of movie star Cee Bee Beaumont (Brandt) to do a little housework, while she rehearses for an audition. Some hoods kidnap the star for a ransom but her director doesn't think she's worth paying for. The kids eventually beat up the hoods and the director changes his mind about the star's value when he sees all the free publicity that Beaumont has generated, subsequently casting her in his next production, 'Cleopatra.'

Trade Bill for The Lemon Grove Kids Meet
the Monsters
Although Lemon Grove Kids was very much a Steckler production, Ray only directed the first segment, the rest being handled by Ted Roter (his only mainstream credit before a career in adult movies). While the film is a lot of goofy fun, like Rat Pfink a Boo Boo before it, it's mainly interesting for the shots of suburban Los Angeles in the 1960s. It also showcased Steckler's spirit of fun for the first and last time - so maybe he'd got it out of his system.

Following this Ray went on to film short promotional movies for many of the counter culture music stars of the 1960s. Details on exactly how many he made are scarce, but it is popularly believed that he directed Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit' (1967) - which also featured Brandt as a dancer (Carolyn had previously danced in the 1965 movie It's a Bikini World, frugging to The Castaways playing 'Liar Liar') and The Nazz's 'Open My Eyes' (1968). More sketchy are the claims that he also made promo films for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Todd Rundgren and The Lewis & Clarke Expedition. Ray also assisted (uncredited) in the camera work for colour sections of the otherwise black and white 1966 witchcraft movie Incubus, directed by The Outer Limits' Leslie Stevens, which has the dual distinctions of featuring William Shatner in one of his first screen roles, and of the script being written in Esperanto. Sadly only one copy of the film survives in an entirely black and white version, so we'll never know precisely what scenes Steckler shot or whether they even made it into the finished film!

The same year he was cinematographer on the rape/prostitution drama The Velvet Trap, also filmed on location in Las Vegas. For this movie Ray went by the pseudonym Sherwood Steckler, a habit he was to develop for many of his future films. Around the same time he was co-producer of Curt Siodmak's comedy Ski Fever, under the name Wolfgang Schmidt. Made in 1967 but only released in the US in March 1969, it starred Dean Martin's daughter Claudia, a rather chaste story of hi-jinks and shenanigans in a ski lodge which feels in its chunky knit cosiness like a shelved Frankie Avalon project.

Body Fever (1968) In terms of features, Ray pops up again in 1968, trying his hand at the deadbeat gumshoe genre quite a few years after such movies fell out of favour with Hollywood. This one also went under a number of different titles including Deadlocked, Super Cool and, impressively, The Last Original B Movie. Body Fever was possibly Ray's most coherent film to date, and even had a script. Well, sort of - Steckler admitted that most of it was made up as he went along.

Wearing the toupee bought for the actor who was due to play the lead, but was sacked after three days of shooting, Steckler plays Charles Smith, a down on his luck private dick literally living off the grid on a boat. He's employed by Harris Ferguson (Alan Smith, the same guy choreographed the dance sequences in Incredibly Strange Creatures...) to track down cat suited burglar Carrie Erskine (Brandt) who has made off with a bag of heroin; although unbeknownst to everyone else, she's had the stash stolen from her by drug pushing Frankie Roberts (Gary Kent from The Thrill Killers).

Body Fever also features appearances from several Steckler regulars, including Ron Haydock as a photographer, Herb Robins and Joseph Bardo - even Liz Renay turns up in a party sequence filmed, like much of the movie, in Steckler's basement. There's a couple of scenes, tacked on to the movie only so Steckler can give a little screen time to his old pal Coleman Francis, who reportedly was in a very bad way at the time of filming (he died, aged 53, just a few years later). Ray contributes the obligatory laconic voiceover, and also has romantic interludes with a couple of girls in the movie as well as Brandt. Clearly influenced by some of the French nouvelle vague directors - there's some handheld photography and a bit of Bogart adulation which emulates Godard's 1960 movie Breathless and Steckler clearly views Brandt as his Jean Seberg - Body Fever's watchability is considerably enhanced by some splendid cinematography by an uncredited Jack (Top Gun, The Hitcher) Cooperman. But it's overall a darker movie than his previous output, signposting the tone of future projects, and is also the first of Steckler's movies not to be produced by George J Morgan.

So that's the end of Part One of the Ray Dennis Steckler story - in Part 2 we'll see him move to Las Vegas and in a number of different directions.


  1. Fantastic read, very much looking forward to Part Two.

    1. Thank you - part 2 is here:

  2. Thanks, I'll give that one a look-see this weekend.