Tuesday 3 January 2012

Interview with George Stover

George Stover has been a horror movie icon for decades. He is the star of such films as The Alien Factor and Nightbeast. As a lifetime fan of horror books and movies, I jumped at the chance to interview him. It was an honor to interview such a great actor and all around nice guy.

How did you get involved with acting? Did you do theater before film?

When I was growing up, I hardly ever went to see a play. But I had always been a movie buff. I never pursued acting in high school, but when I went to college I decided to take some acting classes. And I also appeared in some college plays. After graduating, I acted in several plays with some of the local theater groups because back in those days, acting opportunities in front of a camera in Baltimore were far and few between. This was before the invention of the consumer video camera when the only way to make movies was on film.

And John Waters was the only game in town on the independent filmmaking scene.

How did you get involved with famous cult director John Waters?

I first met John in 8th grade homeroom at Towsontown Junior High School. We were close to each other in the alphabet so we ended up in the same homeroom. For some reason, John didn’t go to a Catholic school that year, and we went to the same junior high school since we lived in neighboring communities. We didn’t see each other socially, but on Monday mornings we would often chat about the episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE that had been on TV the previous Friday night. The years passed, and we didn’t keep in touch but I would often read about a local filmmaker in the newspapers named John Waters. I wasn’t sure if it was the same person I used to know in the 8th grade but one day, I read an article that he was having trouble finding normal looking actors to play roles like teachers and parents because all of his friends had purple hair or weighed 300 pounds, or whatever. The article mentioned the street John grew up on so I looked in the phone book and called up the number. His mother answered the phone and said he didn’t live there anymore, but she gave me his new address. I sent him my resume and his assistant Pat Moran eventually called me about being in FEMALE TROUBLE. When I eventually saw John in person, I knew he was the same person I had known in Junior High School.

How did you get involved with famous cult director Don Dohler?

An article appeared in the local newspaper about me and my fanzine BLACK ORACLE. Don read it and tracked me down, and we began a long friendship. Don told me about his plans to publish a magazine called CINEMAGIC which would be a “how to” ‘zine for aspiring filmmakers. Don had previously only made 8mm short subjects, but he shared his dream about making a feature film. I told him about my acting aspirations and he cast me in one of his 8mm shorts. Eventually, things came together and we took the plunge to make an actual feature length film in 16mm sound. Don cast me as scientist Steven Price in THE ALIEN FACTOR. My character’s last name “Price” came from Vincent Price because Don knew I was a big fan of Vincent Price. STAR WARS was a great success in the theaters at the time, and TV distributors were clamoring for science-fiction films to release to television. Gold Key Entertainment bought the TV rights for THE ALIEN FACTOR for fifteen years, and the movie played all over the country on local stations and a dubbed version apparently ran in some Spanish-speaking markets as well. The film even played nationally on cable TV on Ted Turner’s SuperStation WTBS. Nowadays, a film of the quality of THE ALIEN FACTOR would never stand a chance for TV syndication!!!

Many folks think Nightbeast is Dohler's best film. Which Dohler film do you think is the best?

I think NIGHTBEAST is his best. I’ve met many other people who agree. Don’s personal favorite was always FIEND, however. Speaking of NIGHTBEAST, not too many people realize who can claim that movie as a film credit. A teenage Jeffrey Abrams contributed music and sound effects to that movie. He later grew up to become a major force in the film industry, and he now calls himself J.J. Abrams. If you look his name up in the International Movie Data Base and scroll down, you will see NIGHTBEAST listed in the “Composer” and “Sound Department” categories.

I consider Dohler an unappreciated genius. Do you think some day he will be recognized as such?

Well, that would be terrific if he could get more recognition. A good start in that direction is the documentary BLOOD, BOOBS & BEAST about Don’s career, which was released after his death. Troma released it in a two-disc set along with NIGHTBEAST, which the company had previously released by itself.

It would be rather exciting if Don could receive the same posthumous notoriety that Ed Wood received. But there is much more competition in the low-budget arena nowadays than in Ed Wood’s day because of the invention of the camcorder! In the 1950s it still took a lot of resources to make even the cheapest of 35mm features. But today every teenager with a camcorder and a computer is a filmmaker!!

What do you love most about acting?

I like the part between “Action” and “Cut” the best!! I’m not a big fan of waiting around for hours and hours. I also like the “permanence” of being in a film---it’s not just a fleeting experience like being in a play. In addition, I like all the publicity that comes with being in a movie---reading the reviews of the film, or any references to it in books and magazines.

What is your day job?

I’m now retired from my official day job. I worked for the State of Maryland for thirty years. For most of that time, I worked in an office for the Maryland Insurance Administration. Nowadays, I mostly sell stuff on eBay, continue to act, and work on various hobbies. I’m a very hobby-oriented person since I don’t have a wife and children to occupy my time.

How do you reconcile your Christian beliefs with what others might call the occult? Horror movies?

A good question. I guess I just consider movies to be entertainment. As far as the occult is concerned, there may not be as much of a conflict as one might first think. I do believe that there are forces in the world that science cannot yet explain. That’s why the old TV series ONE STEP BEYOND always fascinated me---because the stories were supposedly based on true events. And a movie like THE EXORCIST also had its basis in a real event. The Catholic Church has performed lot of exorcisms around the world. I never felt the classic Universal movies, for example, were in conflict with my religious beliefs, mainly because I just watched such movies to be entertained and never really thought about religion when I would watch or reflect on these movies. I do wonder sometimes, why I actually enjoy gore movies---from the early films of H.G. Lewis and Dave Friedman to the more modern Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw massacre movies. In real life, however, I don’t like the site of blood. I turn my head away when a nurse takes a sample of my blood. I have a cousin who works in a hospital and can deal with real-life blood, yet she can’t stand looking at gory movies!!

What are your favorite horror movies and books?

I like the classic horror movies that I grew up watching on local TV and in the theaters. The classic Universals, plus Hammer movies, for example, as well as most of the stuff made in the 1950s and 1960s. However, I must admit that I do enjoy the FRIDAY THE 13th series, when it comes to more modern horror films. As far as books, I collect a lot of movie and television books. Plus, a lot of hobby-related books. I don’t have much fiction at all in my book collection.

Is it true you have a part in the Night of the Living Dead remake?

Yes, I have been cast in a cameo as “Lionel,” an ambulance driver who gets attacked by zombies. The movie is supposed to shoot in Virginia in 2012. I read about this remake on Facebook and saw that my friend Sarah Snyder has a role in it. I recently met Sarah on the set of GHOUL SOCIETY, so I wrote her and asked if she could contact the director and there was a speaking part of an old fart like me. The director Matt Cloude, wrote me back and offered me the role of Lionel. This project should be a lot of fun!

What are you most proud of in your acting career?

Oh, I suppose I’m most proud of ending up in some bona fide cult movies. THE ALIEN FACTOR and FEMALE TROUBLE first come to mind as two movies which most low-budget film buffs would agree are real cult films. I’m sure some of the other films I’ve been in are cult movies as well, but perhaps to a lesser degree. It’s nice that there are still people who enjoy many of the films that I made so long ago. It’s gratifying to have a lot of people write me on Facebook and tell me that they are fans of these films.

Novelist David Kempf

About the interviewer:

David Kempf has written over fifty short stories, many of which deal with themes of horror fiction. He has won several writing awards including first place in the short story competition of Millersville University's Lemuria magazine. Two of his short stories were selected in the 2007 publication of The Grackle, his graduate school's literary magazine. David is featured on two short fiction websites, one American and one British. He holds an M.S. from Chestnut Hill College and a B.A. from Millersville University. David resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife and his son. Dark Fiction is his first novel. His latest book The Petsorcist mixes humor and horror.

You can find out more about David Kempfs new book and also buy at the following links