STARBURST: You’ve had a long and productive career; but what is your primary focus at present?
Charles Band: We are working on an aggressive release campaign for a lot of past and present titles and have managed to get the 35mm negatives out of various labs, including titles like Dark Angel and over the next 4-5 months we are releasing several franchise titles like Evil Bong - High 5 and the latest Puppetmaster film, which is being released at the end of the year. We are also focusing on DVD and Blu-ray releases as well as Full Moon Streaming, as the days of the VHS and video libraries are long gone.
Let's go back in time now to Trancers, which this magazine championed back in 1985. We remember fondly things like the watch and the special effects, particularly the matte of the submerged LA where Jack Deth goes scuba diving. How does that film stand up today for you?
It was a textbook example of what can be done with passion and talent, not to mention a tent-pole idea done on a meagre budget. Trancers 2 and Trancers 3 have also stood the test of time. What I do remember is a lot of the cast and crew have gone on to bigger things. Helen Hunt has won Emmys and an Academy Award. Interestingly, we had a little Trancers reunion (in May 2016). I didn't go, but my brother went and Tim Thomerson showed up and even Helen Hunt showed up.
A lot of UK fans were introduced to your work not only through Trancers, but via the VHS deal you had with Entertainment in Video in the UK, which also distributed the likes of Zone Troopers, Eliminators, Troll, and Re-Animator. Could you tell us a little bit about how the deal with EiV came about?
Well, I have had a good relationship with Entertainment, with the Greens. We met at one of the film markets. I can't remember specifically what film it was for, possibly Dungeonmaster, but Nigel Green was a visionary when it came to the deal and it was a case of him being in the right place at the right time.
Let's talk a little bit about Parasite and Metalstorm, two films that came out at the time of the 1980s 3D boom, which were films that were released alongside the big studio offerings like Jaws 3D, Spacehunter and Friday The 13th Part III. How did those come about and when did you want to go 3D on them?
Well, Parasite predates the 3D boom of the 1980s and we were lucky enough to have a deal with Universal to release that movie wide through an exec I knew from Avco-Embassy. It was because of the success of Parasite (which introduced Demi Moore to the world) that I was able to do Metalstorm.
There wasn't any major thinking behind doing Parasite in 3D, other than the fact that it hadn't been done for a long time and I always like films like Bwana Devil, so it was a case of going with the idea. To be truthful, I am not a great fan of 3D, it is nothing more than a gimmick. After about ten minutes of wearing the glasses, you are just watching another movie. I always tend to prefer watching non-3D films.
Tourist Trap got a rare theatrical screening in London as part of the Cigarette Burns event along with Halloween III, Salem's Lot, and Zombie Flesh Eaters at the Regent Street Cinema in October 2015. Are there any plans to bring a festival of your films to the UK? Cinemas like The Prince Charles Cinema in London would welcome such an opportunity.
I haven't got any major plans at the moment to do anything in the UK. I have been to the Prince Charles (some years ago) , but I understand that there isn't really any room for a major convention type set-up where people can congregate and people can get things signed. Also, there are several horror conventions in the USA and there are local opportunities for me to come to this type of event, but I would love to do something.
Another popular title in the UK was Zone Troopers. How did that come about and where did the concept come up?
Well, I had Danny Bilson and Paul Le Meo, who wrote Trancers and the stars of that film Tim Thomerson and Art La Fleur on board. I also had a wonderful Production Designer and Art Director and it also gave me an opportunity to go back to Italy as I grew up there. Some people don't realise that the likes of Crawlspace and Troll were, along with Zone Troopers, filmed in Italy rather than the USA. It was a great set-up for about three years as we got some good films made, but then things changed and the dollar and lira value changed, so it became difficult to continue to film there, but we are very proud of those films.
The Alchemist was your first directorial effort, how did that come about?
Well, I wasn't the director when that film first started. The guy who was responsible for the trailers on VHS was producing the film at the time and after about three days of production, he called me up and said that the current director wasn't working out and could I parachute in to help finish the film. The original director had shot about 2-3 days of work and I then finished about 6-7 days of shooting. I have no memory of the director.
The late Robert Ginty was the star of The Alchemist and at the time was coming off success with The Exterminator. What was he like to work with and what was his appeal as a leading man?
I had no input in casting Ginty. He was already on board. What I do notice is that with a lot of leading men there is no simpatico in them. Ginty was a very human actor with simpatico and it was sad that he left us so soon. He did come across as an Everyman-sort of guy.
On Ghoulies, you worked with the late, great Stan Winston. It was made around the time when Winston's star was rising with The Terminator. Did you get him before then or afterward?
Well, Stan and I went back to Day One, around 1974, when we were working on a film called Mansion of the Doomed. I had Stan as my effects person and John Carpenter as my editor. When we were working on Parasite, I asked Stan to come on as FX person, even though we didn't have any money and he came on board and did it. When he fell ill, we remained friends throughout until he passed away.
What can fans expect from the new film Evil Bong - High 5?
Well, we have been doing these films for eleven years now, right from the first film with Tommy Chong. The stoner crowd are underserved as an audience in my view and we have done six films over the last decade or so. We have done it as a lark and it is a stoner film with horror elements in it like the others, so it more or less follows the template of the earlier works and is a very fun offering which fans can look forward to.
Find out more about Charles Band and order films at his website.