Cult Z-Movie auteur David "Rock" Nelson talks about his films and the 2010 documentary on himself, DAVID "ROCK" NELSON: ED WOOD OF THE 21ST CENTURY.
David "Rock" Nelson gets no respect. He's the Rodney Dangerfield of really bad movies. He's been compared to Ed Wood. His films have even been called, "Unwatchable Crap". Since '91, The Rock has made over twenty-five short films and ten features. All homemade do-it-yourself tributes to the famous monster films of the 50's and 60's. Nelson's films feature religious and morality undertones, cameos by genre film celebrities such as Roger Corman, Forrest J. Ackerman and Conrad Brooks, even meta commentary over the film's dialogue and action by The Rock himself.
The Rock's films have all been shot on second hand camcorders made in the 80's, edited VCR to VCR, and his monsterpieces are rounded it via a Radio Shack video title machine, [not quite a Kyron] that is older than anyone reading this. To appreciate the films of David "Rock" Nelson is to truly understand and admire the man behind the camera. The Rock is hyper kinetic, consider a speed freaked 1980's Robin Williams and the Tasmanian Devil all in one being. Yet, The Rock's films are auteur loveable. They are each personal and epic. Each is a tribute to a genre that Nelson has been obsessed with since he was a young child growing up in the Chicagoland area. The cinema of David "Rock" Nelson was created with tender loving care deep in the depths of his parents basement.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Nelson has an interesting story that everyone should know. He was a one time serviceman, spending time in the Marines. He was an up and coming boxer as a young adult becoming a three time Gold Glove fighter in the Chicago area.
As a child, he was obsessed with monster films. Yet, The Rock as a teenager moved away to go to a bible college to become a preacher. It wasn't until 1984, when he attended a midnight screening of James Cameron's THE TERMINATOR
that he decided to leave bible school and follow his childhood dream of making monster movies. He's been doing just that ever since. Now in his mid 50's, David "Rock" Nelson continues to live in his parent's basement in suburban Chicago. He often stays up all night watching monster movies on Chicago television. He loves Java aka coffee and staying in shape. He's a natural bodybuilder as well.
Along with selling his catalog of films at horror conventions like Monster Bash in Pennsylvania, Nelson makes ends meet by appearing as a extra in various Hollywood productions that make their way to Chicago. Since 1991, Nelson has appeared in over thirty films as a extra. He's been in everything from, GROUNDHOG DAY (1993), FOLKS (1992), THE BABE (1992), GLADIATOR (1992), and LET'S GO TO PRISON (2006) to date.
To see a film written and directed by David "Rock" Nelson is a truly profound and defying cinema experience. The Rock doesn't make bad films, just perversely misunderstood ones. Nelson plays many of the characters himself. When the camera is recording, a first take on a Rock production is the only takes needed. Nelson doesn't sweat the small stuff - like plot, flubbed dialogue, continuity and editing. In his own method, The Rock has redefined cinema and how we understand it as a medium. His films often go into the two-and-a-half to four hour duration each. His films are very original, fun, passionate, entertaining and energetic, however difficult they actually are to many an audience.
Given all the criticism Nelson has received over the years in regards to his work, there is something to be admired in regards to his passion, effort, and persistence. Even though he has been told to "throw his films into a fireplace" a hundred times, The Rock continues on creating his mad-cap brand of crazy home made monster movie. As Norman Mailer would say," That's a signification of a great artist". 2010 saw the release of a documentary introducing viewers into the 100 MPH vortex of weird that Nelson lives in. DAVID "ROCK" NELSON: ED WOOD OF THE 21ST CENTURY was released by November Fire Recordings. The documentary is a wonderful and very human look into the life of a very original film artist that continues to create work on his own terms, even if no-one wants to watch it. ED OF THE 21ST CENTURY is a wonderful introduction to the insanity that is David "Rock" Nelson. It's highly recommended.
Setting up this interview, Nelson makes it clear that he'd like me to showcase a list of his favorite films. He's a mega fan of the following films: NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951), ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), THE DEVIL BAT (1940), THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959), FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER (1958), ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS (1966), RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1944), TEENAGE ZOMBIES (1961), THE GIANT GILA MONSTER (1959) , PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959), THE WEREWOLF (1956), FRANKENSTEIN (1931). He's also a big fan of all the sea creature films from the 50's and his favorite director is, Roger Corman. What follows below is a heavily edited 2 hour conversation with Nelson.
TV STORE ONLINE: How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?
NELSON: I probably have around three big cups in the morning. And then some more later. I really don't count them. I'll drink as much as I want though.
TV STORE ONLINE: What were you like as a young kid? Did you have a lot of friends? Did you get picked on at all?
NELSON: Yep, I got picked on because I was so skinny. I got into bodybuilding because I wanted to be like Joe Weider, and Dave Draper. I was a little mischievous as a kid too. I used to make fun of people sometimes. I used to egg houses, toilet paper trees. We had what we call a "zitcher". A zitcher is a old wire you take from an old appliance, and you strip back the outside. So when I was kid we'd go around and stick it in the outside sockets on people's house, and it would make their house lights go out...I was bad kid. When I was 8, I started a monster club. I had a friend named Don Stillwell, and his dad had a camera, and he put me in my first monster movie. I was a zombie coming out of the ground with a monster mask on, that my mom bought for me back in 1954 at a Walgreens. Every Saturday, all of us would watch Creature Feature and we'd drink soda and eat cupcakes together staying up all night.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think you have the same personality as a kid, that you do now?
NELSON: Yeah I think so. Even now I'll be watching a movie by myself, and I'll start talking to myself or to the screen.
TV STORE ONLINE: Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago...What is your take on the whole John Wayne Gacy thing?
NELSON: He only lived a few miles from where I grew up actually. The very first bar I ever went to when I got old enough was a bar he used to frequent. I made a movie about him... FRANKENSTEIN MEETS JOHN WAYNE PAKEY.
TV STORE ONLINE: Back when you retired from boxing, what was your final boxing record?
NELSON: 5 wins, 19 losses and 1 draw.
TV STORE ONLINE: As a kid, how did you shift your interest from monster movies, to religion and bodybuilding and then back to monster movies?
I've went back and forth a lot. When I was around age 8 I started to get interested in bodybuilding. Cause I used to get picked on by this kid. He called me 'Chesty Popcorn." And I didn't like that. So I would often shift my interests from monster movies
to bodybuilding, and even as I kid I was a church goer. My brothers all had long hair, and my mom always made me get my hair buzzed. I think from early on, my mom thought I needed special attention. I wanted to look like Joe Pepitone...lol...
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you first appearance on The Daily Show (1996-current) happen? Did you know they were making fun of you?
NELSON: I was really excited when The Daily Show was at my house. A. Whitney Brown was forcing me to talk slow. I was so excited, but I couldn't show it. I felt like I was being controlled during that interview, even though it was cool that they were interviewing me. At the time, I didn't realize that they were there to make fun of me. In fact, I didn't even see that when it aired because I was just so happy to be on television. I really don't care. It was a cool experience. There was a bunch of stuff they shot that they didn't even use and that bothered me, because I really wanted a copy of that stuff they shot of me afterward.
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you think of the documentary ED WOOD OF THE 21ST CENTURY?
I liked it, but I thought it could've been better. I didn't like how they made fun of me, with what happened with that gay guy. I didn't go looking to pick up that gay guy. But they made fun of me with all those titles on the screen. 530am. BEEP. High crime area. BEEP. I didn't go out looking for those guys. I was just driving around. And they make me look like I was out looking for them in the movie. I was trapped in that situation. I didn't wanna give those guys a ride. They looked like trouble. To me. I just wanted to get outta there. I was trying to get outta there. I was trying to go to my twenty-four hour snack shop, and read my monster magazines.
One thing about the documentary that I really appreciate is how they put in there about religion and the stuff about my brother that we lost. I really appreciate that being in there. People don't like some people talking about religion, but it's really important to me.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you wanna clear the record here in this interview about the gay guy incident as it appears in the documentary?
Yes. I am not gay. I never set out for that to happen. He just approached me and asked me if I wanted him to suck my thing for ten bucks. I told him I only liked girls to do that, and he pulled a gun on me. He probably wasn't even gay. I didn't pick that guy up on purpose. I almost felt like I was being trapped and kidnapped. I figured if I didn't help them, they would hurt me. I was actually really scared.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think you're over examining the situation? Do you think you come off kind of crazy in the scene in the documentary?
NELSON: NO, I am not crazy. It was a bad situation. I didn't wanna give those guys a ride. They made me. I felt trapped. I didn't do it cause I was looking for a gay guy. I'm not gay. I figured I was in danger. So that's why I did it, they forced me. After it was over I prayed to God, that those guys get fried in hell. I wanted them dead. I'd wake up in the morning and pray, that I wished those guys were dead. To pull a gun on me. I had a Phillips screwdriver in my glove box that night, and I wanted to grab it, and stab him in his head. I wanted him to die. I mean, he robbed me. I gave him my money. So I wished for something bad to happen to them. But now, I've forgiven them. I pray for them that Jesus Christ will save their souls.
TV STORE ONLINE: OK.. So with that being said... Why were you out in a high crime area in Chicago at 530am in the morning?
NELSON: I was just driving around and they attacked me...
TV STORE ONLINE: What would you do if someone from Hollywood said, "David... Here's a bunch of money, here's a real crew, go make a big movie?" What kind of movie would you make?
Easy. I would make a sea monster movie out in Hollywood. But I'm not gonna tell you what it would be about. I would film it in Black & White. And I'd want it to be shown in theaters. And I'd want the right to have my friends in the movie. There is no need to have an audition. If you think a person is right for the part, you don't need to audition them. That's how I'd do it. I'll never tell anyone this idea. I've told people some of my other ideas, and they've stolen them.
Interview By Justin Bozung
For more with The Rock check out his official website HERE: