Monday, January 6, 2014

INTERVIEW: Filmmaker Dan Golden talks about his '90s thrillers NAKED OBSESSION and SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL

Dan Golden's been around the B movie block. He's worked on almost every single movie that Fred Olen Ray has released. He worked on HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988), WIZARD OF THE DEMON SWORD (1991), WARLORDS (1988), BEVERLY HILLS VAMP (1989), and BAD GIRLS GO TO MARS (1990). He even worked on Rusty Cundieff's cult comedy classic, FEAR OF A BLACK HAT (1993).

Moving into the director's chair, Dan has created some of most visually interesting B films of the last twenty years. Teaming up with Roger Corman, Rick Dean, and Maria Ford Golden directed such under-the-radar must see B gems as, NAKED OBSESSION (1990), SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL (1994), the Corman remake of THE HAUNTED SEA (1997), and the greatest B film of all time, STRIPTEASER (1995). Golden adds such depth and style to anything he does, that he produces a exceptional dark and sexy atmosphere, a naked noir state-of-mind. As a fan of B films, you don't see this type of signature existing any other place than on the celluloid that captures the work of Dan Golden. Released during the pinnacle of the VHS boom of the mid '90s, Golden's films hit direct-to-video via release by Roger Corman's company, New Horizons. 

It was Golden's film NAKED OBSESSION that stirred controversy, as it was singled out as the theory example in the misdirected, trouble making and participant lambasted documentary, SOME NUDITY REQUIRED (1998).

The documentary directed by Roger Corman outcast, Odette Springer attempted the theory that B movies, in particular the films of Dan Golden were hateful towards women. Offensive perverted cinematic mess that solely existed to materialize women. In addition, Springer's film stated that fans of such films eventually gestate thoughts of sexual deviance, molestation, and even murder. Search out NAKED OBSESSION for starters, it's brilliant.

The film troubadour; a cinephile scouring their video store shelves back in the mid '90s looking for something important missed Golden's very high end strip club film noir due to bad disguise. These films lay quietly under many's good noses due to horrible VHS cover art. This remains a huge cinematic error of justice to date. Had Golden's films been seen by the right people at the right time, his work perhaps would have been in retrospect by now in film classes or drawing the arthouse elite at museum screenings. It's been almost twenty years since Golden made his stamp on the B movie, but yet, he hasn't received the accolades he rightfully deserves.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get into the film business?

GOLDEN: I grew up as a horror film fan. I loved Shock Theatre in Chicago. That was hosted by this guy named "Marvin," and they would always show those old Universal monster movies. I loved those. It wasn't until the end of high school that I really started to take an interest in pursuing film as a career. I moved to California in 1979 and enrolled in the U.S.C film school.

Before I left for U.S.C, I got interested in photography. I needed a job when I moved to California, so I started doing "headshots" for people. Eventually that landed me onto a few film sets as a still photographer. That lead me into doing some 2nd unit stuff, and then I transitioned on from there. I've even had some acting credits, which is funny, cause it just sorta happened.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get involved with Fred Olen Ray and Roger Corman?

GOLDEN: Fred actually was partnered up with some Italian gentleman in the Los Angeles area who owned a chain of strip clubs. So Fred said, "We can use these, if you can come up with anything." At that point, I had already done some 2nd unit stuff for Fred.

So I got together with a friend of mine, Robert Dodson, and we started on this script. It was just an idea I had based on an actual case from 1986 that was dubbed "The Preppie Murder". Robert Chambers murdered this girl named Jennifer Levin. Chambers defense was basically, "rough sex, gone wrong." So that got me thinking, "What if that really where the scenario?"

So we finished the script, I took it to Fred and he liked it, but by that time the strip clubs weren't available to us any longer. So I took it over to Roger Corman's. They wanted to produce the script. I signed on as director, based on the 2nd unit stuff I'd done for Fred, and that's how NAKED OBSESSION came about.

TV STORE ONLINE: So how long did NAKED OBSESSION take from script to screen?

GOLDEN: Not long actually. I guess about six months. Once I had Corman on board, it when fast. Corman's company actually had another production ready to go, and they bumped that for NAKED OBSESSION. It was called Red Silk. That's how Bill Katt's tie ended up being red silk in the movie. We figured, that way, if they really wanted to use that title, they could. Originally we were calling the film DARK OBSESSION. Somehow it ended us as NAKED OBSESSION.

TV STORE ONLINE: So what prompted the decision for you to cast Rick Dean and Maria Ford?

GOLDEN: Maria had done a few films for Roger Corman. She was discovered by Katt Shea Ruben and her husband. Roger was really keen on her. Ultimately he had final word on who was cast. Rick Dean came about the same way. Initially, I was resistant because Rick was this big strapping guy. I had conceived of the Sam Silver character as almost [Charlie] Mansonesque, small in stature but charismatic and able to manipulate others psychologically, as opposed to physically. Rick just didn't look the part. We read him, and he was just great, so I tweeked the script a little for Rick Dean and it turned out amazing. And, of course, I did three more films with Rick.

TV STORE ONLINE: Was William Katt a first choice for you?

GOLDEN: We needed a name actor, so I think he was, but I can't recall. I don't remember talking to any other actors for that part. We actually talked at one time, about casting George Carlin or even Mick Jagger in the Sam Silver role. I guess if you're gonna dream, dream big!

TV STORE ONLINE: What influenced you visual wise in your direction on NAKED OBSESSION?

GOLDEN: My favorite director is Stanley Kubrick. He [too] started off as a still photographer, and I've always loved the visuals in his films. Comic books where an influence... and, especially, the old film noir movies. That whole genre I loved on a visual level.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you own the rights to NAKED OBSESSION?

GOLDEN: No, Roger Corman owns it. And there is no DVD release. I'm hoping that in the near future it see's a DVD release. Jim Wynorski is working closely with Shout! Factory right now on some of the Corman 80's sci-fi titles, and I know that he's suggested NAKED OBSESSION as a future release. So let's keep our fingers crossed.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get involved with WIZARD OF THE DEMON SWORD?

GOLDEN: Again, that actually goes back to Fred Olen Ray and Roger Corman. Back when I was first starting out, I did stills on Fred's film, COMMANDO SQUAD (1987). Shortly after that, Fred got wind of some sword and sorcerery sets that Roger Corman had on his lot, so he made a deal to go in during a weekend to shoot some pretty generic castle stuff that Ernie Farino had written. Fred cut it together and he had about 30 minutes. I wrote the balance of the script around that.

TV STORE ONLINE: How difficult is it for you to write a screenplay? What's your process like?

GOLDEN: Strangely enough, the stuff that seems like it's gonna be the most challenging is the easiest for me. It's like problem solving. I have the hardest time starting from scratch really. The fear of the blank page for me is just overwhelming. But if you've got some partial footage done, or someone wants something by a deadline or wants to write a movie around a certain prop or idea, then I just jump right in. I do wish I had more facility to develop my own spec ideas, but they just linger on for me.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did your film, SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL come about?

GOLDEN: SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL is really a remake of an earlier Corman film, KISS ME A KILLER (1991). Corman's people dusted off that original script, did a quick re-write, and asked me if I wanted to direct it. I did my own pass on the script as well. It was basically KISS ME A KILLER set in a Honky Tonk bar. We cast country music star Billy Burnette and brought in Maria Ford and Rick Dean.

TV STORE ONLINE: Why was there never a soundtrack released for the film?

GOLDEN: Well, Billy Burnette owns all that music. We wanted a Nashville star so we could have access to his catalog for the movie. Once he agreed to do the film, I went over to his record label and started listening to everything he'd done. I got to hand pick all of the songs for the film.

TV STORE ONLINE: On IMDb.com there is an alternate title in the SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL listing, called THE ABDUCTION OF CRYSTAL BLUE. I was wondering if that was the original title for the film?

GOLDEN: Before SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL, I wrote another screenplay with Robert Dodson called THE ABDUCTION OF CRYSTAL BLUE. We were talking with Corman's people about making the film. It's a totally different project, not related to SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL. I have no clue why the titles are linked together on the internet. I'd actually love to make THE ABDUCTION OF CRYSTAL BLUE, if the erotic thriller genre comes back someday.

TV STORE ONLINE: We here  think that your film STRIPTEASER is the most underrated B film of all time. It's quite possibly the greatest B film ever made. With that being said, I was wondering if you give us some more details on how the film came about?

GOLDEN: It was a spec script of Duane Whitaker's. I'm certain that he wrote it knowing we could make it at Corman's. He showed me the script, I loved it, and I ran it over to Roger. I tossed out Rick Dean and Maria Ford's names. He didn't even read the script. He said, "Go ahead." He read it later while we were in pre-production.

TV STORE ONLINE: STRIPTEASER writer, Duane Whitaker told me once that about 95% of the finished film, was in his script. So with that being said, what's the other 5% that you added or omitted?

GOLDEN: Well, that's probably just me doing some cutting and pasting, shortening some scenes here and there. Just simple stuff like moving lines up earlier, working together with the actors. Everything in the film is really Duane's. Corman's stuff was minor, just working in the full nudity and the killing of the boyfriend. All the changes, really, were minor.

What Corman did prior to releasing the movie was trim out one big scene. I did manage to get that scene onto the DVD release as a special feature. I understand why Roger cut it out. It was talking heads for five minutes.

TV STORE ONLINE: Have you took notice to the regard that Quentin Tarantino has mentioned just how much he loved STRIPTEASER, NAKED OBSESSION and Maria Ford?

GOLDEN: Well, I've seen in print where he said how much he liked NAKED OBSESSIONS, but I haven't seen anything print wise where he mentioned STRIPTEASER. Duane Whitaker's told me that he and Tarantino have had personal conversations about how much he likes Maria Ford, but I can't recall seeing anything in print.

TV STORE ONLINE: With Corman's vast distribution channel, do you feel like your films have received the notice and attention they should have?

GOLDEN: Well obviously you want as many people to see them as you can. In the case of NAKED OBSESSIONS, I don't think they really knew how to market it. The box art was horrible, as was the theatrical one-sheet. STRIPTEASER did well on DVD. There are two different covers with different color backgrounds. One shows a nearly-naked Maria while the other shows her in a formal gown. One is "Unrated" and the other "Rated." It's my belief, though, that both versions are the same. I don't think either is rated, but I may be wrong.

TV STORE ONLINE: STRIPTEASER marks the end of the Maria Ford / Rick Dean / Dan Golden formula. I was wondering if you could just comment on the talent and performance of Rick Dean and Maria Ford in that film?

GOLDEN: It was a great combination. They had amazing chemistry. The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Both had their own unique quirks, and each could be a handful to direct, but they brought a lot to the finished film. I was impressed.

I really wish Rick Dean was still here. He continues to be my muse, actually. I recently completed a spec script I started years ago with Rick in mind. I finished it as though I were still writing for him.

TV STORE ONLINE: I was wondering if you'd like to comment on the documentary film, SOME NUDITY REQUIRED?

GOLDEN: In the case of that "documentary," you had an outside feminist influence imposing a viewpoint on the finished film. Odette's original intent was NOT to make an indictment of the B movie industry. I think she was pushed in that direction by her belated "co-director." Assuming, for example, it's true that Odette does have all these repressed memories about being molested as a child... how much of that [co-director's] outside influence helped her "remember" that? Regardless, there is no link between B movies and the molestation of children. [laughs]

When the film premiered at Sundance, I was there. I participated in the stage Q&A. I asked Odette point blank, in front of an audience, if the people who she claims molested her were fans of B movies. She said, "No." I mean, B movies are simple escapism. The whole documentary is just sleazy from the get go.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think what's been said criticism wise about Odette in regards to the film is deserved?

GOLDEN: My problem with it is that it's material that's been overly manipulated. Look at Maria Ford in the film. She comes across as a major feminist and it's not true. Maria loved doing sex scenes. I always had to tone her down when I was directing her in a sex scene. She's an exhibitionist. She was always pushing the envelope in those scenes. I actually cut a sex scene from the script of SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL and she got all upset. Once SOME NUDITY REQUIRED came out and it got all the press it did, Maria stepped in and sided with the documentary's producers. She thought she was going to get famous by doing this.

TV STORE ONLINE: How do you feel about the current B movie industry now? With the industry kinda gone, are you finding it harder to get projects off the ground?

GOLDEN: I've worked on a handful of stuff for the SyFy channel lately with the Cormans. They make a lot of money on these.   The stuff that you're seeing on late-night Cinemax, is sexploitation. Fred is doing his "Bikini" movies, even though there's nary a bikini in sight, [and] Wynorski is doing his thing. These movies do have their following, though I'm not quite sure why. Are they [softcore fans] interested in the nudity and the sex but don't want the stigma associated with hardcore pornography? Is that where they draw the line? Or is it that the viewer is responding to the humor? If this is the direction low budget is going... then I'm gonna be disappointed. I still think there's a place for [substantive] low budget filmmaking... but a lot depends on the paycheck.

TV STORE ONLINE: What do you think you'd like to be remembered for film wise?

GOLDEN: Well...How about a film I haven't made yet?   The thing that I am proudest of in my career so far is something that most people haven't even heard of. It was a niche thing. Fred Olen Ray and I did an instructional drumming video with Cream's Ginger Baker. It's a ninety minute video where he shows you his theories and techniques on drumming. It's an important document. When Ginger is gone... he's gone. So to have this guy instruct you on how to play the drums is just so cool, for people who want to drum. They can purchase it, and they can be taught by a master. That's the stuff that's worthwhile. On the fictional narrative side, I like NAKED OBSESSION and STRIPTEASER. They're flawed, but remain my best work. I wanna do one great film before I'm done. So you haven't seen the last of me.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung