Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Very Candid Conversation with Danny Steinmann

Danny and I catching the Phillies, Summer 2011
Danny Steinmann is best known for directing Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. Yet, because there is so little information about him, he is considered the most elusive of all the Friday the 13th directors. To this day, several people who interviewed him have told me they had trouble finding him. The only press he has ever done is when Part V came out with several horror trade magazines.

He does not have a large filmography, but all of his films have been remembered to this day. As long as the Friday the 13th series goes on, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning will not be forgotten. Savage Streets and The Unseen(a film he took his name off) are cult classics. The hard core pornographic High Rise is considered a classic of the porno genre.

There has been later information of Danny in recent years, such as Peter M. Bracke’s Crystal Lake Memories and on the DVD of The Unseen. Most of the information from the book and DVD is not very flattering as Danny is portrayed as a very difficult individual. Like most horror fans, I had read Crystal Lake Memories and thought Danny must have been a real crazy guy. I was a bit apprehensive when meeting him at the Texas Fear Fest. I realized the second I talked to him that he was very different from what I had read about him. I found Danny to be a very kind and intelligent man.

I was not the only one who thought so. Benson Hurst had done a documentary on pornography in the 70s and found Danny to be a very sweet guy. In fact, Benson mentioned that Danny was considered one of the nicest guys in the porn industry.

Despite what was written about Danny in Crystal Lake Memories, Peter M. Bracke shared my opinion of Danny. He had not interviewed Danny for the first edition of Crystal Lake Memories. When Bracke interviewed him for the upcoming edition of Crystal Lake Memories, he found Danny to be much different than what people told him initially.

As I talked to him in Texas, I realized there was so little information on him and what was there wasn’t very accurate. Someone had to tell his story and tell it straight.

Much more about Danny Steinmann is finally being revealed. Whether as an actor, directing porn, taking his name off The Unseen or little known facts about Friday the 13th Part V, we cover it all. Some of the criticisms that were made about him in Crystal Lake Memories and The Unseen DVD are answered.

While many people will expect Stephen Furst, Linda Blair and John Shepherd to be supporting players in Danny’s story, readers will be surprised to discover that others include Charles Bronson, Telly Salavas, special effects wizard Stan Winston and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

To make things easier for the reader, I have broken it up into 7 chapters. While reading the entire story is recommended, I realize there are some readers who just want to read about the films he did, therefore you have the option to jump to each film such as Friday V and read about it.

For this interview, I thank Benson Hurst and Peter M. Bracke for taking time out of their busy schedule to either email me or chat and for giving very helpful advice. But most of all, I want to thank Danny.

Chapter I: The Early Years (Acting-TV Commericals)

Chapter II: High Rise

Chapter III: Working with Gene Roddenberry

Chapter IV: The Unseen

Chapter V: Savage Streets

Chapter VI: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Chapter VII: After Friday V

Chapter VII: An Afterword (after Danny's death)

Chapter I: The Early Years(Acting-Directing TV Commericals)

There is very limited history on Danny Steinmann. Just about all the biographical information have indicated that his career started with the hard core pornographic High Rise. Actually, Danny’s career began long before High Rise. In this chapter, Danny discusses the very beginning of his career as an actor and TV commercial director.

Jeff Cramer: Just for the record, when and where you were born?

Danny Steinmann: 1-7-42, New York City. That would make me 67 years old. It's hard to believe. I never thought I'd live this long: James Dean/ 24, Buddy Holly/ 25, Marilyn Monroe/ 37, Martin Luther King/ 38, Elvis/42, JFK/ 44, Bobby Berglass/ 25. Bobby was my best friend who died from a heroin overdose in 1966. Knew me better than anyone and I still think of him often. It’s all gone so fast.

JC: When did you decide entertainment was your calling?

DS: As a young boy, I was often taken to plays, movies, concerts and operas by my parents. In school, I acted in as many plays as I could. I was a pretty rebellious kid and was kicked out of quite a few schools, for fighting mostly. I never liked to take shit from anyone. Still don't. How I graduated from high school and college, I have no idea. I always loved to read and still do. Maybe that's how I sneaked by.

I had an older sister who became an accomplished author and screenwriter. She wrote many of the Cagney & Lacey scripts. My older brother, who has always been there for me, is a brilliant lawyer with a beautiful family. I am the youngest and was bitten by the entertainment bug at an early age. I acted in many plays in summer stock with names you will not recognize, but I'll list a few anyway: Pat O'Brien, Dody Goodman, Faye Emerson, Eddie Bracken and Joe E. Brown. I feel so fucking old.

JC: How'd you get started in the industry?

DS: Okay. My mother was a psychologist who lectured and did studies around the world. My father dabbled in the movie business after selling his pharmaceutical company. He would go to the Cannes Film Festival each year to buy a foreign film for US distribution. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was his most profitable acquisition.

A group of film investors asked him if he would care to participate in a very low budget movie to be shot in Spain. The script was called Hallucination Generation. He told them about me, that I might be right for a part in the movie. A few days later, I made a screen test for a fine director, Ed Mann. I guess it was okay and off I went to Madrid to shoot the film. While there, I was told that the picture was not fully financed and it might be a while before principal photography began.

I met a few Americans who told me that they were part of a stock company that acted in the many films being shot in and around Madrid. Spain had become a little Hollywood because of the much lower costs to shoot a movie compared to the States. I became part of this group of actors and was cast in a few films. In Beyond the Mountains, I played a Russian officer tracking down Maximilian Schell. In The Battle of the Bulge, I was a German one day and a GI the next.

JC: In the Savage Streets commentary, you mentioned you were friends with Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas. Tell me about them.

DS: One night, I noticed that a decent sized poker game was going on. I had played poker all of my life. And though I'm my own worst critic, I've always felt very comfortable about my abilities at a poker table. On second glance, most of the players looked familiar. Henry Fonda, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, Robert Ryan, Ty Hardin, a cowboy actor and an empty seat.

I asked if I could get in the game and for the next month and a half, a game was on at the Hilton Hotel in Madrid. This was decades before Texas Hold 'em. We played Jacks or better or low ball. Luck and a bit of skill made me the dominant player at the table. I would not have lasted more than one night if I had lost that first night.

I became good friends with Telly and Charles. Life was good. Never felt so alive. Girls, great food, money, bullfights, youth, and a picture to shoot. On top of the world Ma!

Finally Hallucination Generation was fully financed. George Montgomery, a pretty famous Western movie star was cast in the lead. The story was basically about a young guy trying to find himself. He gets talked into taking acid and comes apart. George played the heavy. His character was loosely based on Timothy Leary, the man who preached the wonder of LSD and told the youth of the '60s to "drop out."

The film was shot in black and white in Barcelona and a tiny island off the coast of Spain named Ibitha, which supposedly gave birth to the hippie movement. Although I was in a relationship back in the States, I was thunderstruck by the leading lady who was cast as my love interest, a German actress named Renata. We immediately were lovers and suddenly life became extraordinarily wondrous.

During the filming, a tall, thin man would hang around the set; drink in hand. He would show up faithfully every day. He spoke to the director about his experience as an actor and tried in vain to have George Montgomery fired so that he could replace him. He was finally ushered off the set and warned not to come back. This man was Clifford Irving, soon to be the guy who claimed to be Howard Hughes’ biographer-the ultimate conman.

Principal photography was almost over. Renata and I went back to Madrid and found ourselves unable to get a hotel room. The city was packed solid for some reason. I bumped into Charles Bronson and told him about our situation. He told me to take over his suite at the Ritz hotel. I said I couldn't do that to him, but he insisted. He had an apartment that he could use.

Three weeks later when I went to pay the bill, the concierge told me it had already been paid by Mr. Bronson. Most people think that Bronson must have been this hard, fuck you type of guy. But in fact, he was one of the nicest, sweetest men I've ever known. He would get me an agent back in LA and always insisted on picking up the restaurant bills when we and our wives would dine out. When his wife Jill Ireland was dying of cancer, no words exist to describe his agony.

Finally, the film was completed. Renata and I had to leave each other. We promised to write and call often and planned to get together in two months. The separation would be brutal, but I would never see Renata again.

JC: Was Hallucination Generation ever released? Were you happy with the product?

DS: It was bought by AIP and shelved. They were producing a film called The Trip starring Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern. The story was about a troubled youth who was talked into taking acid. AIP didn't want any competition. Hallucination Generation made a modest profit, but was never seen. I saw a trailer for the film recently on the internet 45 years later. Thank God the film was never released. I'm totally embarrassed and profoundly apologetic.

JC: What did you do after Spain?

DS: Back in New York City, 1967. I and a few million other guys had a real problem, Vietnam. My parents explained that any day I could receive a draft notice from the army. I was thrown out of two military schools and knew that army life wasn't for me. My parents strongly suggested that I marry either Susie, my girlfriend in the city, or Renata. I told them I didn't want to marry anyone for any reason.

Luckily, a friend of mine was able to hook me up with an army recruiting officer who got me into the reserves. I was sent to basic training in South Carolina. Surprisingly, I did well and enjoyed the experience. After basic, I only had to be a soldier a weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. My unit was never called up, and thankfully, I never went to Vietnam. If I didn't have money or connections, I certainly would have gone.

My relationship in New York was over. Renata and I had not kept up with each other. The adage that there is only one person in the world who you are meant to be with is bullshit. I've been in love many times with many different women. Go figure.

Anyway, it was time to go to LA; time to become a true actor. I stayed at a hotel called the Sunset Marquis where many film people stayed. And there were many women. So many incredible women. I got an agent and worked on a few films and a TV series. George Montgomery and I became the best of friends. We went out to different clubs and strip bars all the time.

One night, we were eating in a restaurant on the strip and a guy comes over to our table and says to me, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" It was Sal Mineo, a solid actor. It turns out that he had seen Hallucination Generation at a screening and thought I was pretty good. George and I talked to him for a while. After he left, George said, "That kid's time is running out."

The next night, same restaurant, we were seated opposite Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate who was incredibly gorgeous and pregnant. Sadly, her time was almost over.

I also hung out with Telly. I got off on his bigger than life persona. He travelled with an entourage and enjoyed his newly acquired fame. Truthfully, this man was not close to handsome, but I've never met anyone who was as successful with women as Telly. He would meet a waitress, a secretary or an actress and five minutes later, he would excuse himself and take her into a backroom or a vacant office and return with her fifteen minutes later, the scent of sex on both of them. I witnessed this many times. Hard to believe, but true.

We went to Vegas quite often. He wouldn't fly; always drove. He invariably lost or broke even. Never won, at least when I was with him. His brother, George, constantly complained that Telly wouldn't help him until Kojak came along and Telly proved his brother wrong.

Years later, I saw Telly a month before he died. He was barely recognizable. As I was leaving, he said to me, "Who loves you, Danny?" I answered, "You, Tel. Only you."

I worked off and on, but never exerted or prepared myself for an interview or a part that I wanted. I was having too good a time. LA was like Disneyland to me -- always something going on: parties, women, gambling, golf, more women, and glorious weather. I should have studied, gotten serious, and committed myself to succeed, but I didn't. Truth was I really didn't think I was any good as an actor. I didn't really know this, but I felt it.

One night, I went to a party and met my first wife. Paula was breathtaking. We hit it off right away. She came from Brooklyn and was going to college. We had a lot of things in common and she was so damn sexy. We spent each day and night together. I was 27, and she was 20.

She went back to New York. I stayed in LA and became a basket case. I missed her so much. While talking to her on the phone one night, I asked her to marry me. She said yes and I considered myself a very lucky man.

We were soon married and living in New York City. I gave up acting and had to find an occupation that would support us.

JC: Talk about your transition from acting to direction.

DS: I was offered a job in Puerto Rico. I was hired by a small production company that shot commercials. They needed someone to help beef up the company and attract business. I would see what life was like behind the camera and start to learn the rudiments of the film business.

The company had a 10 year tax-free status. Their cost was about half the price compared to the States. We took an apartment in the heart of San Juan. The country was like Shangra-La; paradise on Earth. We lived very well for very little money.

I was enjoying the experience and working hard. After about 4 months, the head of the company felt that I could handle the job of directing commercials. I dove right in. I filmed spots for Fargo Trucks, Goya Food, Chase Manhattan Bank, Wesson Oil, and many others. I was shooting from the hip but doing OK. A good friend of mine was the head of marketing for the House of Pancakes. He came down, and I shot two 60-second spots for him. Later that year, they were both seen on the Super Bowl telecast(1971).

Unfortunately, my wife, being very pretty and sexy, would walk down the streets of San Juan and was aggressively accosted. We lived in Puerto Rico for over a year, and it was time to move on.

We moved back to New York and into a new apartment. I took a job in the Bronx working for a production company that only shot toy commercials. Kenner, Whitman, Mattel, Remco, and others were all clients. It was a smooth operation that produced quality commercials. It was to become my next film school.

The owner, Andre Durona was a crazy person and I loved him. He allowed me free access to learn and evolve as a filmmaker. His crew was wonderful. They gracefully answered my many questions. I was pretty much on my own. I worked and studied where I chose; with the DP, sound, lighting-all departments. I spent over two months in the editing room and a great deal of time at film labs. They shouldn't have paid me a salary. I should have paid them.

Chapter II: High Rise

High Rise is a porno film made in the early 70s. It is considered a classic of the era along with Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones. The film is the lightest and happiest film of Steinmann’s entire filmography. It is a very interesting and creative film.

Jeff Cramer: How did High Rise get started?

Danny Steinmann: While I was walking along Times Square, I spotted a long line waiting to enter a movie theater. The name of the film was Deep Throat. At the time, a movie cost $2.50. They were charging $5.00. The film was one of the first full-length porno movies. I had read an article about the film, calling it porno chic. It was now permissible for a middle class couple or even a woman by herself to be part of the audience.

I waited on line, paid the five bucks, and went in. The theater was packed. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. The film started, and for the next hour and a half, I watched a sophomoric attempt to bring humor to graphic sexual scenes, shot as hardcore as possible.

The gimmick was that the female lead, Linda Lovelace, could do to a cock what a sword swallower could do with a sword. I had seen plenty of hardcore porno reels at parties and card games with a bunch of guys, but never sat among a mixed group of men and women. This was something new and some people were going to make a lot of money. I walked home and wondered whether I could pull something like this off. I was working at a small film studio that had sets, film equipment and a full crew. Later I talked to pregnant Paula and she thought it was a great idea.

The next day, I met with Andre Durona. He said, of course I could do it and it would cost me nothing. I told him that I loved him. He hugged me and said, "Let's see if you've learned anything." What a terrific man he was. I next met with the owner of the World Theater and the distributor of Deep Throat, Sam Lake. He was very encouraging and told me if my film was any good, it would replace Deep Throat after its initial run was over.

All I had to do now was to come up with a thin storyline, hire the actors and finance the film. My father gave me $5,000.00 to get started. Two lawyer friends of my sister invested about 10 grand and I got another 13 from smaller investors. They all received a percentage of the film. I would retain 51 percent.

After I settled on the title of the movie High Rise, the story came quickly. I’ve always loved plays and movies that employed a story within a story device, so I threw that in the mix. I placed casting notices in various newspapers and magazines, and hired a topnotch female assistant. I had the crew in the Bronx building sets. I decided to shoot in 16 rather than 35 mm. Big mistake, especially in the editing room.

JC: The music is very good for a porno film. In fact, the music is so good that I would consider buying the soundtrack. Who did the music?

DS: I asked my really good friend, Jacques Urbont, a musical genius, if he would compose the score. He charged me nothing. I only had to pay the musicians. It's good to have friends.

JC: You used some big name porn stars such as Harry Reems and Jamie Gillis. Tell me about working with them.

DS: I rented an office in the city and began to cast the film. I instructed my right-hand girl to always be with me during auditions.

I interviewed scores of actors, but the pickings were slim until Harry Reems (Herb Streicher) showed up. He was a great guy who spread the word that High Rise needed actors. He would become my good friend for many years. Jamie Gillis popped in and also helped enormously.

Although the shooting schedule was only two and a half days, I prepped the film for a month and a half. This porno was not going to be thrown together. I wanted it to be shot professionally, all gears running smoothly. The crew was more than excited. Having spent many years shooting toy commercials, they couldn't hide their smiles. With less than a week away from shooting, I still hadn't found the leading actress.

Finally, she showed up. She had an almost pretty face, an almost plump body, and a quirky off-the-wall quality about her, which was exactly what I was looking for. She called herself Tammy Trevor. She said she had done some hardcore reels and was a "sexual plaything type person." PERFECT!!

I began shooting High Rise. I felt comfortable and confident directing this small picture. I would use one foot of film for every two feet shot. The cast were all treated with a great deal of respect. The crew worked smoothly and happily. No actor was self-conscious or complained except for Tammy. She had to lie down. She needed water. Could someone clean her feet? Could she go outside for a while?

I became more of a therapist to her than a director. Harry came over to me and said that he couldn't get in there. She’s got something stuck in her pussy. I asked her if she did have something in there. She poked around and withdrew a sponge saying, “I don't know who put it in there, and it’s not even mine.” Filming continued.

I didn’t shoot cum shots, I thought they looked messy. My mistake. And I didn’t shoot any extreme close-ups either. They reminded me of watching an operation. I understand that today’s porno actresses detest high definition technology. All their imperfections are clearly shown.

Jamie Gillis asked me what time we were wrapping. He had finished a one-on-one sex scene with Tammy, and was in the middle of a ménage à trois. He said he had a heavy date that night and didn’t want to be late. A male nymphomaniac is called a satyr. Jamie definitely was a member of that club. How these guys retained hard-ons all day amazed me.

In the orgy scene, a guy was eating this girl’s pussy. Suddenly, most of his face was covered with blood. The girl was having her period and didn’t tell anyone. Tammy ran over, raised her hand and asked if she could take the girl’s place. She was a trip. She did her very best and I think she was terrific!

In two and a half days, the filming was over. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience. Post-production began immediately. I started editing the film with Durona’s editor. Cutting in 16 mm is a bit more difficult than 35 mm. When we had a rough cut, Jacques Urbont began laying down the music. Opticals were chosen and sound effects added. The 16 mm film was blown up to 35 mm, which gave it an interesting look. A month after the completion of the movie, it was ready to be exhibited.

Trouble was that Deep Throat had not finished its run. It would be two more months until High Rise opened at the World Theatre in New York. It would be released nationwide in the next three weeks. The theater was always crowded. Business was sensational and the reviews were terrific; Variety, New York Post, Daily News, Playboy, and many others raved about the film.

Each week, Variety puts out a list of the top 50 films. When High Rise was released across the U.S., Variety had High Rise as the No. 1 film in the country. Not bad. Two and a half days. Less than $28,000.00. I was proud of myself and proud of the cast and crew; thankful to the investors and especially to Andre Durona, who believed in me.

I began to understand the complexity and wonder of how images spliced together could inform, entertain and even electrify.

I made quite a bit of money, as did all the investors. I sold my rights four or five years later. It was a bulk sum. This was about a decade before VHS. How the fuck would I know that a revolution was on its way; that people would be able to rent and buy tapes to watch in the comfort of their homes. All my ancillary rights were given away.

It was about this time that our son, Robby, was born. He was beautiful, and we loved him so. How could life be any better? That was 37 years ago.

JC: Although it disappointed some raincoat audiences who wanted to see more “generic” porn, High Rise still made a lot of money. Why didn’t you make another porn film?

DS: I had more than a few offers to shoot additional pornos. I turned them down because I wanted to film stories in different genres. Children’s films and Westerns interested me the most.

We were in our apartment one night and the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Renata. She was downstairs and crying. She wanted me to come down and see her. I told her I was married now and couldn't do this to my wife. We fumbled for the next two minutes on the phone, then said good-bye.

Chapter III: Working with Gene Roddenberry

Before directing other films, Danny got an opportunity that most Trekkies would kill for: working with the Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry.

Danny Steinmann: Back to LA, the three of us moved into an apartment on Halloway Drive. A few years later, Sal Mineo would be murdered in the garage of our building. Kind of spooky.

I was hired to work on a film entitled The Man in the Glass Booth, loosely based on the Adolf Eichmann trial. It was to be a big budget movie directed by Arthur Hiller.

To watch the filming of a movie and work behind the scenes was a great way to learn about the film business. I met the makeup man, Stan Winston (Note: Stan Winston would go on to do the makeup for Alien, The Terminator and Jurassic Park.) and we became instant friends. For the next ten years, we and our families would do just about everything together. Our wives were close friends, and our kids – best friends.

The shooting of the film ended and I was out of a job. One of the producers of the film was Mort Abrahams – probably the sweetest, kindest man I’ve ever known. He and Arthur Jacobs would produce all of the Planet of the Apes films. We tried to develop a film project together, but failed. Mort would become my mentor and I’ve always felt so lucky to have known him.

Over the years, Arthur Hiller could not have been nicer to me. He introduced me to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, who was looking for a right-hand man. We hit it off right away, and the next day, I had an office at Paramount. Gene was working on a few scripts and asking for my input. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had become a celebrity with a legion of fans. Truthfully, I was not a follower of Star Trek, but kept this to myself.

He would travel often, giving lectures and talks to thousands of admirers. He had a small company set up to deal with the fan mail and publish his monthly newsletter. He was a huge man physically and spiritually. He and his wife, Majel, were a loving couple with an adorable kid. They always held hands and hugged and kissed each other.

Finally, he got the nod to produce his script, Spectre, for 20th Century Fox. It was to be shot in England and directed by Clive Donner, starring Robert Culp, Gig Young, and John Hurt. Sort of Sherlock Holmes and Watson investigating the occult. Gene would produce and I would be the associate producer. We both took our wives and kids to London. I was surprised that the studio would finance the film because I felt the script was a piece of shit. But what did I know?

I felt fortunate to be around these gifted men, appreciated their abilities, and would learn and grow from the experience. Twice while filming, a large group of men and women would descend on the set. They were not dressed in costume, but all wore a nametag with a Star Trek figure on it. When Gene approached, they became silent and reverential. He led them off the set and filming continued.

Quite often, Gene and I went out together after dinner. Invariably, we would wind up in the neighborhood where porno shops were located. We would enter a store and Gene would rifle through the magazines, express interest in the sex toys and leave. He would never buy anything. We would then go into the next porno shop and Gene would repeat the same behavior. A bit odd.

Principal photography ended and Paula and Robby went home. Post-production was taking forever. I was anxious to get back to the States. I missed my family so much. Gene wanted me to remain in London until the end. Weeks went by and for some insane reason, I flew home. Gene called me after I got back, but I never returned his call. I’ve done some terribly hurtful things in my life – things that I can’t take back. This was pretty close to the top of the list.

Gene and Majel are gone now. Their ashes were launched into space. I hope they found each other. I’m sorry, Gene.

Over the next few years, I worked on some films produced by the BBC and HBO. I loved being an associate producer. It gave me the freedom, most times, to place myself where the action was, to ask questions, make suggestions and hopefully digest new information that I would use in the future. Two of the films were once again shot in England: Deadly Game with George Segal, Trevor Howard, and Robert Morley, directed by George Schaefer, and Separate Tables with Julie Christie and Alan Bates, directed by John Schlesinger.

Chapter IV: The Unseen

Code Red released The Unseen on DVD in August 2008. People involved with the project are on the DVD: Anthony Unger, Stephen Furst, Craig Reardon and Tom Burman. There is a lot of (mostly negative) talk about the director and the writer of The Unseen: Danny Steinmann, but no word from Danny himself on the project. Danny has not spoken about the project in any great detail since he took his name off the film and used a ‘Peter Foleg’ psuedonym. Until now.

Danny Steinmann: Back home, Stan Winston and I remained the best of friends. We were both great fans of Jerry Lewis and were constantly imitating him. We couldn’t get through a meal without both of us being overcome by hysterical laughter. Stan would secretly stuff food in his mouth and begin to tell me his opinions on the nuclear arms race while big chunks of food would fly out of his mouth. We acted like 12-year-olds and loved it.

On rare occasions, we got serious and talked about doing a movie together. He would produce and I would direct. The idea we came up with is about a middle-aged couple that pose as husband and wife who are actually brother and sister. They have an overgrown child who has not developed mentally and is kept in the cellar. Add to that three young women who become guests in their incestuous, secluded home and soon are targets by an unseen force. The Unseen, being the overgrown man-child who lives in the cellar and is sadly an innocent killer.

We hired a writer who we thought could do a formidable job, Michael Grace. A month later we received a script that ignored our concept, was not understandable and contained dialogue written by an idiot. We paid him in full and literally threw him out of the house. There’s more to be said a bit later about this no-talent asshole.

About this time, my marriage was coming apart. We went to a marriage counselor, which only made things worse. We were getting a divorce. Shit!

Stan and I decided to open up an office in Hollywood. He insisted that I could write the screenplay. I tried to work with Kim Henkel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) on the script but had accomplished nothing. So I was deposited in a hotel and told I couldn’t leave until the script was finished. A production assistant came by each day with notes on the pages that I had written. I completed a first draft in about ten days. Stan was pleased. It wasn’t half-bad. We now could look for investors and begin casting.

Stan told his friend Tom Burman (make-up man for Planet of the Apes) about our project. Burman liked the script and asked us to stop by his studio. I had cast Stephen Furst (Animal House) as The Unseen. His improv audition was impressive. Tom had made a small clay sculpture of Stephen in diapers. I thanked him and asked if he would think of any action or bits of behavior that The Unseen might do.

A couple of days later he gave me a page and a half of suggested movements for Stephen; hiding behind garbage, splashing water that was on the floor with his hand over and over again and playing with an electric outlet. We thanked him and appreciated his thoughts. But more about Tom Burman a bit later.

My father had invested some seed money into our work. He gathered a few of his investor friends and told Stan and I to come to New York for a meeting to help finance the film. We did but there were no takers.

Stan was very concerned about being unemployed and needed the cash back that he had fronted the project. He had a wife and two beautiful kids to support. My father gave him back all the money that he had spent. Now I was on my own desperately looking for backers. I met with studio executives, independent producers and financiers.

Eli Landau, a producer with major credits said he could package the movie if I would cast James Mason (one of my all-time favorite actors) and Claire Bloom as the brother and sister/father and mother. I said no. I said no? The reason being I only saw Sydney Lassick in the lead. I had written the script with him in mind. One of the dumbest moves I’ve ever made. Imagine turning down James Mason. His performance in Lolita is one of the all-time great works in film. Who was I? Nobody.

And along came Tony Unger, who had produced some decent films. He claimed he could raise the money and produce the picture. He thought I had a hot property that he could finance by pre-selling it to foreign markets. He and his partner only needed a name actor that was known throughout Europe. My dad, lovingly, was still in as an investor. Finally, Barbara Bach, she was one of the Bond girls. I forget which picture she was in.

Jeff Cramer: The Spy Who Loved Me.

DS: The Spy Who Loved Me?

JC: Yes.

DS: She would star, which helped secure the financing.

Tony and I put a cast and crew together and were finally getting ready to go. For some reason I felt secure. I never had any doubts I wouldn’t be able to direct this script into a decent horror film that audiences might like. I had lived with the project for over two years. Promises broken, expectations that were never met, and lie after lie. Anytime these two words are spoken to you, run away as fast as you can. “Trust Me.”

Principal photography began and things were going well. All departments were doing good jobs. The rushes looked excellent and the DP was super. Tony was pleased and the actors were performing nicely.

Barbara Bach was a sweetheart. She’s an intelligent woman and a wonderful mother. Her acting experience was minimal but she performed valiantly. She would often ask after a take, “Was that okay, Was it what you wanted?” And she’s drop-dead gorgeous. She was bruised and battered once or twice during filming but never complained. After being dragged down the cellar stairs quite a few times, she never objected and insisted on doing it herself.

The next day I was told that she was badly bruised and in considerable pain. I went to her trailer and asked to see the damage. Large portions of the skin on her back were blood red and inflamed. I was responsible. I wanted to shoot around her for a few days to give a little time for her injury to heal. She was quite adamant about continuing on schedule and was on the set in a few hours.

As The Unseen was being shot, I was going through a painful divorce and child custody case. My son was ten and a complete joy. He was on the set a few times and was stoked.

Meanwhile I began to have problems with Sydney Lassick. He was having trouble remembering his lines and looked and felt uncomfortable onscreen. I had a bunch of pep talks with him and he seemed to lighten up, gaining confidence. One time he pulled me aside and claimed he couldn’t do the kissing scene. He told me he was gay, which I obviously knew. He said he was repulsed by the kiss and begged me to find another way. I told him that the actress playing the part of his sister was really a man. I made him swear he wouldn’t reveal the secret to anyone. Overjoyed, he gave me a big hug and flitted away. After shooting the scene, the actress playing his sister told me that Sydney tried to French kiss her.

Shooting in Solvang was a bit awkward. The three young women played a news team covering the Solvang festival. We had to shoot the celebration one month before principal photography began. We only had this one day to get what we needed. The town knew that a feature film was there to shoot the parade and all other activities that were taking place. About midday, one of the town elders ordered us to stop shooting. Somehow, he had discovered that we were filming a horror movie and told us to leave. He was paid off and we finished shooting. Money always works.

My biggest mistake was not shooting the cellar scenes on a soundstage. I could have done it in half the time. Instead, I needed 14 or 15 days on location. The cellar was claustrophobic. The air was heavy and damp. There were pillars that we had to shoot around and it was very difficult to light the set. The cast and crew were not pleased with this environment and neither was I but we all worked hard and survived.

I tried to create enough suspense and moments of horror to satisfy the audience. I am an avid sci-fi and horror film buff. I knew that there were elements in the horror genre that, if executed well, would surprise and shock most horror fans.

Although this was soft-core horror, I felt the lack of blood and guts would not be missed because I put great emphasis on making the viewer feel at ease just when a shadow crosses in front of the lens. I spent time with and without actors, shooting enigmatic points of view to maximize the payoff. More on this later.

As the picture was ending and I reviewed the individual sequences that had been shot and included the sound and music to be added in my head, I thought that I had done alright. I believed that there were at least five or six moments of jolting horror that the audience would react to and more importantly, feel both rage and sadness toward the demise of this strange family.

As the picture wrapped, I was told by Tony Unger to take three or four days off and be rested for the most creative aspect of movie making, in which I felt the most skilled; editing. Anxious as I was to get started, I took Tony’s advice and crashed.

Three days later, I went to the screening room to see the last day’s rushes. When the lights were turned down and the first images appeared onscreen, my nightmare began. I was watching a fine cut of my film which I barely recognized. The producers had hired a European editor as I began principal photography and instructed him to cut the film scene by scene. Each completed episode would then be screened, commented on and then fine cut. This was done behind my back so as not to create an explosion which they knew was coming. As I watched silently, my only thought was, “Who do I kill first?”

When the lights were finally turned on, I remained silent. Unger quickly explained that the Cannes Film Festival was only a month away. They knew they had a winner and would cash in big time at Cannes where films were bought and sold to individual countries. He said my father had been consulted from the beginning and enthusiastically supported the decision. Tony’s partner claimed that the film was terrific and the editor had done a masterful job. I somehow didn’t react at all and left.

In the book, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, the main character, Howard Roark, was an architect who created innovative apartment and office buildings, which were turned into cheap, common, and unsafe monstrosities by greedy builders. Roark’s only option was to burn and destroy these abominations. I’m certainly not comparing his wonderful talent to mine, just that my film was turned into an abortion by greedy, lowlife cocksuckers. The Unseen became slow, bland and tame with no suspense, no scares.

For the next two nights until dawn, I sat in my car, heart racing, parked a block away from the editing room, small cans of gasoline riding shotgun. It’s truly some kind of small miracle when an independent film gets made. I had to let go or people would get hurt and I would spend the rest of my life in prison or worse. Believe me, these are not just words. I almost did some very bad things.

So I took my name off the film. Not being permitted to cut my own movie even now reeks of insanity. I had the answers, they chose to ignore that fact; instead the picture was left on the editing room floor.

I went to New York and got a call from the Writers’ Guild of America about three weeks later. It seems that when I took my name off the film, the WGA released this fact in the trades and were contacted by four people claiming to be the true writers of The Unseen.

Michael Grace, Kim Henkel, Tom Burman and a young girl who was a production assistant on the film all came to a meeting at the Writers’ Guild to make their case. Outside of Burman’s page and a half of behavior by The Unseen, I wrote every line, every word of the script. I’m not very proud of it. I think it’s an average vehicle with many flaws but I wrote every fucking word.

As a result of the meeting, they all received a writer’s credit. Ready for the punch line? Michael Grace, this low-life, piece of shit scumbag was awarded and paid $50,000.

I really should be on death row right now. Sadly, I trust noone. Always on guard and alert. These are memories that should have remained dead and buried. That the picture tanked is no surprise. I’ve never seen it.

A transcript of Unger’s comments on the new DVD was recently sent to me. This tub of guts better hope he stays deep in the shadows. Friends have told me that he and his partner have done very well with The Unseen and have received a nice paycheck recently from the sale of the new DVD with extras. Neither my brother nor I have received a check! For shame, Tony, you’ve been a very bad boy. Webs of deceit! Not nice. You need a good spanking.

JC: What does the pseudonym Peter Foleg stand for?

DS: Peter is my brother’s name and Foleg is Gelof spelled backwards and Gelof is my mother’s maiden name.

JC: What made you choose Solvang?

DS: I liked the idea of the women coming to a place that was full of life, fun and visually exciting and slowly entering a world full of nightmares and death.

JC: Why did you want Sydney Lassick so bad that you chose him over James Mason? Lassick has a creepy cartoonish look to him, but at the same time, he is a bit effeminate, so I'm curious why you saw him as a father figure.

DS: I don't think Ely Landau ever offered the part to James Mason or to Claire Bloom; though he thought they were available and would agree to do the picture. I can't think of any reason why I dismissed his offer; it baffles me. While I was writing the script, I kept thinking of Sydney Lassick for the role; I saw him as an innocent, funny character. Problem was that I had not seen any work by him playing an evil, sadistic psychopath. In time, I discovered that no matter how I prepared him for the role, he wouldn't be able to deliver. Sheer idiocy on my part.

As to Sydney's effeminate side, I believed at the time it would create another level of mystery for the audience to consider.

JC: Many people, including myself, wonder why Stephen Furst did this film shortly after Animal House. In other words, what attracted Furst to the film?

DS: I'm afraid you're going to have to ask Stephen. I suppose when a person is very good in a role and can perform a part so well- so effortlessly, you would want to display your craft to an audience. It was an extremely challenging part and that might have affected his decision.

JC: The reason Unger claims he took you away from the editing room were for two reasons. The first is that you had an agreement with them when he agreed to finance the film? Do you recall any agreement or signing a contract? The second reason is that you were taking forever to edit the film. They didn’t have the time and budget to wait. What happened?

DS: Motherfucker!! I never cut the film. I had nothing at all to do with the fucking finished product. Let me say it a little differently, I never cut the fucking film!! Their objective was to get the film to Cannes as quickly as possible. Unger and Goldfarb thought that they had a very saleable picture; they thought I was not needed to cut my own film. As far as signing a contract stating that I knew the film had to be released by a certain date, they're full of shit. Let me say in it a different way, they're full of shit!!

JC: Unger also claims that the actress Lois Young, who had the nude bathtub scene, had problems with full frontal nudity. Do you remember that?

DS: Yeah. Lois Young was eager to do the nude bathtub scene. She had a very cute body and gave me no indication whatsoever that she was unwilling to show it. As a matter of fact, after the dailies were shown, she asked me to please reshoot the scene; she wasn't happy about the way she looked. Was it the lighting? The make-up? I don’t know, but I found time during the next few days to reshoot the scene. She saw the dailies and was very pleased. Hey Unger, stay deep in the shadows pal.

JC: The first death; Junior jumps out of one of the grates and starts to drag the girl, Lois Young, into the grate with him. She resists and the grate door falls on her neck, breaking it and killing her. While this is going on, the film crosscuts with a chicken getting its head cut off. Was that your decision?

DS: Okay, you’ve hit on a big mistake that I regret. There's no way for Junior to exit that grate in the bedroom. He's just too big. You got me. Crosscutting between this scene, and what's taking place in the barn, is indeed in the script.

I wonder how the editor cut these scenes. I filmed a series of shots of chickens at rest. Then as the chicken is grabbed, individual shots of chickens beginning to cluck. Back to the girl being grabbed. We only hear the sounds of the chickens rising sharply. Back to the barn. Pan across a series of chickens flapping their wings. The sounds of them clucking wildly continue as the chicken is put on the chopping block. Back to the girl, the chicken noises are stifling, she is pulled down, and the grate severs her neck. Back to the barn as the chicken's head is cut off while the noise of the chickens are at its height. Cut to the exterior of the house. Silence. Just a few birds. Cut to the exterior of the barn. Silence. Only the wind.

JC: I’m curious to know the actor’s name who did the voice of the father.

DS: The actor who played the father – forgive me, I don’t remember his name, but when I was a kid in the '50s, this gentleman was on a TV series called The Millionaire. Each week he gave away a million dollars to some deserving family. It wasn't a game show; it was a fictional TV series. While writing the monologue, I thought of him as the father. His voice was unique.

That scene was fine cut in my head; I had a variety of tricks and jolts that would add to the impact of the history of this sick family. Remembering and commentating on this mess is not very easy. As a matter of fact, it's very painful.

JC: Stephen Furst has said people have come up to him and asked him to sign Unseen posters. Some people have told him that’s one of their favorite films. He’s also heard from a restaurant that has a “Junior” night where they only serve chicken. What would your reaction be if you met one of these fans?

DS: That I’m very grateful. Remember, I shot every piece of footage in that movie. But in post-production, in the editing room, you can possibly make a bad film fair, a fair film good, and a good film very good. The reverse is also true. So much of The Unseen is in the presentation; the sounds, opticals, and crisp editing add to the quality of the piece. Creativity and imagination are what’s lacking. The jolt-scare moments must be set up. A sudden eight-frame musical blare at the right moment can lift you from your seat. But it’s enough already for The Unseen. It was more than 25 years ago and you can’t change the past.

Chapter V: Savage Streets

Savage Streets is a revenge thriller starring Linda Blair. The film has lots of camp humor and brutal violence. Quentin Tarantino has claimed to be a fan of the movie.

Jeff Cramer: How did you become involved with the project?

Danny Steinmann: I was working on a miniseries for Playboy Television starring Britt Ekland, when I got a call from a good friend of mine, Billy Fine. He was in big trouble. The picture that he was producing with Linda Blair was to begin literally tomorrow, problem was, he’d just fired the director. Would I take over? Playboy understood. I was free to go.

About midday, I went to Billy’s office and it was mobbed. I was given a script of Savage Streets and told to read it. I went into a side office, and came out about 45 minutes later. I remember I felt challenged, but optimistic. Principal photography began the next day. The night before I didn’t sleep. I read the script twice more and made serious cuts and a few additions. The script would change over time, and then change again.

JC: What do you remember of the original screenplay before you rewrote it?

DS: The basic story would be the same. I got rid of whole scenes, dialogue, and characters. I tried to keep the film moving. There was a love interest that Linda had, a subplot concerning the police. Lots of gags that I thought wouldn’t work, scenes that would slow the film down. My main objective was to keep the audience involved and interested in this silly movie by eliminating clichéd dialogue and action. In the original writer’s defense, he wrote a low budget revenge exploitation film. It may have been one of the first movies starring a young woman as a Charles Bronson facsimile. I thought he did a good job.

The problem was you had a gang that viciously raped an innocent deaf mute girl and threw another girl off a bridge. To combine that with an innocent hackneyed story is not possible, at least not by me.

JC: A fired director would not be the only problem for this film. What else happened?

DS: As soon as I started filming, things were, surprisingly, going very well. Linda Blair was giving a solid performance and the rushes looked good. I felt in control and comfortable. I was having fun! Then, after two and a half weeks of principal photography, the cast and crews’ checks bounced. The shooting stopped. There was no more money. Two of the producers told me to hang in; we’d be fully financed shortly. That, unfortunately, would not be the case. I expressed my displeasure and told them I was offered another film and would not be available after week’s end. This was a lie but I was pissed!

Soon after, one of the many producers came to my hotel room, and gave me $10,000. He set me up in a two-story apartment right on the beach and gave me a new car for the duration. All he needed from me was to cut the footage that was shot and meet with investors who might finance the remaining production and post-production costs. I liked this deal. I cut the footage and met with a few investors. A month went by. I had time to rewrite and polish the remaining pages of the script. Finally, I was told that the film was fully financed.

I was asked to come to the production office and to meet with the new producers: six or seven of them. I was introduced to John Strong, who would act on their behalf. He would oversee the production to make sure the film stayed on budget and on time. I reminded them all that we were under budget and a day under schedule. Nevertheless, the decision had been made. John Strong was a big, powerful man. He was a funny, tireless guy, who assured me he would stay out of my way. I liked him.

JC: Around this time, Billy Fine wanted to fire you from the project. Why?

DS: When checks bounced and people took off, I tried to get in touch with Billy many times. Billy Fine was the producer who hired me to direct Savage Streets. We were friends for many years. I found out later that the other producers got into a huge argument with Billy. About what? I don’t know. When another producer, John Chambliss came and offered me the money, apartment and car, I accepted and was very pleased. Soon after I got a call from an outraged Billy claiming I betrayed and deceived him. I had taken sides. I told him I was unaware that he was fighting with the other producers.

He cursed me out and told me I was fired. Part of the money to finance the film had come from the mob and the very next day a dead fish was placed in front of Billy’s door. He left the film abruptly and I remained the director.

JC: In the film, there are a lot of colorful lines. You mentioned in the Savage Streets commentary that John Vernon’s line, “Go fuck an iceberg,” was adlibbed. What about these lines from Linda Blair, “Wouldn’t fuck him if he had the last dick on earth,” or “It’s too bad you’re not double-jointed so you can bend over and kiss your ass”? Ad-libbed or written?

DS: I asked John Vernon what he meant by his line, “Go fuck an iceberg.” He said it was a saying that many people used. Funny, I didn’t know that, but I thought I’d keep it in because it might get a laugh. Actually, if someone was trying to fuck an iceberg, it would be very uncomfortable, cause a lot of pain and frustrating because it would be almost impossible to get an erection. I believe Linda’s two lines were in the original script. If I had written them, I’d probably remember.

JC: How did Linda Blair react to doing her nude bathtub scene?

DS: Linda Blair is a true professional. She worked hard and never complained. She had no reservations about her scene in the nude. I used a skeleton crew and shot it quickly. Getting completely naked for her character was like the start of a transformation that would enable her to become a remorseless killer. You buy that?

JC: No. Nice Try. But anyway, there’s a certain tone that ranges from campy to very raw and gritty. The best example is when you show the catfight in the shower between Blair and the head cheerleader. While that’s going on, the film crosscuts with the gang rape of Blair’s sister. Was that tone intentional on your part as the director?

DS: I don’t remember if the two scenes were in the original script. Probably were. Also, I don’t remember if they were written to be intercut, but I do think it’s an effective device. I felt that the more harm and terror that the young girl experienced, the angrier the audience would be and their desire to get even would escalate. Linnea Quiqley did a terrific job and her performance holds up. The audience is torn between watching these two scenes happen at the same time.

They’re enjoying watching the fight in the shower, when they are abruptly witnessing a monstrous rape taking place, then suddenly back to naked girls in the shower. They don’t want to go back to this poor girl being raped but know that the act is not complete. Naked girls fighting juxtaposed with a vicious rape, I think it works.

JC: Why do Sal Landi and Bob Dryer kiss each other when they’re in the middle of the gang rape?

DS: Their action was not in the script or in rehearsals. It was totally unexpected and I was thrilled. It was completely in the moment and worked seamlessly. I was greatly impressed.

JC: The gang rape scene was cut by the MPAA. What was cut out?

DS: The girl’s torment was much more brutal. Each gang member took turns with her. It probably was overkill and what’s left is good enough.

JC: Sal Landi, who played one of the gang members, mentioned in the commentary that as a director, you often leave actors to their own devices, allowing them to improvise or add things to their roles. Stephen Furst and several Friday the 13th Part V actors pretty much said the same thing. Can you elaborate on that just a little more?

DS: I dealt with different actors differently. I allowed actors to use their skills and experiment. If I felt it wasn’t working, I’d ask them to try something else. Other actors are able to lock in a role and perform their part in exactly the same way on every take. Some needed line readings and others could dazzle you in rehearsals, but when the camera is rolling, they stiffen up and lose focus.

JC: The male gang works as a team when it comes to gang rape or throwing a woman off a bridge. However, the female gang almost does nothing together. It’s Blair alone who takes on the whole male gang. In fact, if you exclude the victims, you could eliminate the female gang and it would have no impact on the story. Was the gang a leftover from the original script?

DS: The female gang played at being a gang and were basically girls having a good time. John Strong convinced the producers to make Linda the only one who gets even. I disagreed strongly. You really have to be a bit naïve to think that she alone could take down the male gang, especially the two big guys. The girls working together as a team maybe, but many times more believable than just Linda. Towards the end of the film, I stopped arguing with John Strong. I was fighting a fight that was unwinnable.

JC: John Strong mentioned that he took a hand in script rewrites. Was there any truth to this?

DS: After principal photography ended, John Strong wrote two scenes and shot them. The first is when the gang members go to Johnny Venocur’s house to get him. He comes out, changes his clothes, and gets in the car. The second scene is when Linda comes to Johnny Venocur’s house and speaks to his father. They were both fantastic scenes that the Academy somehow overlooked.

JC: It seems there was a lot of tension between you and John Strong. Can you elaborate on it?

DS: Shortly after shooting started, he began to make his presence felt. He was involved in everyone’s business.

People came to me complaining. He was employed to protect the investors. I had agreed with their decision that John would act on their behalf and could do nothing to counteract them. John would look in the camera on most shots, talk with the actors, and always question me about everything. The reason that the producers were able to refinance the film must have had something to do with the cut footage and my vision of the ending. Why shackle me with this albatross?

Some of those remaining days were torturous. His ego was monumental and I struggled to finish the film. But my work with John was not over. He wanted to edit the film with me at his side. I think if John was able to write, direct, produce and star in a film of his own, all his dreams would come true. But I liked him and still do.

Part VI: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Friday the 13th Part V is the most controversial of the Friday the 13th series. Whereas certain entries in the series(Part I, The Final Chapter) are beloved by fans and certain series(Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes To Hell) are hated by fans, Part V has a mixed reaction from fans. A good number of fans dismissed it primarily for not having Jason as the main villain. (A similar fate happened with Halloween III when John Carpenter decided not to make a Halloween film with Michael Myers.) Other fans feel it is an underrated entry and if one overlooks that Jason isn’t there, it contains a lot of the elements that made the old Friday the 13th films special. Part V boosts the highest body count out of any Friday the 13th films. It also has an ending that left fans debating on what the final scene implies. This chapter focuses on the questions and issues fans have raised about the film and it also answers some of the criticism made about him in Crystal Lake Memories.

Jeff Cramer: What was your knowledge of Friday the 13th before you came on the film? Which of the films had you seen before directing Part V?

Danny Steinmann: I saw Friday I and Friday IV after I was hired. I told my son that I was offered to write and direct Friday V. He went ballistic. I didn’t realize how popular the series had become.

JC: Part V originated from a treatment that was originally written for Part III. What do you remember about the treatment before you rewrote it?

DS: Truthfully, I don’t remember seeing a treatment. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t given one, but I honestly don’t remember. It’s been 25 years. Katherine Hepburn said, “Growing old is not for sissies.” She was right.

JC: Were you allowed to use Jason at all in this film?

DS: Let me answer your question this way. I was doing a film called Savage Streets. They ran out of money about two-and-a half to three weeks into production. The producers frantically tried to raise the money by showing the cut footage to would-be investors. Phil Scuderi and Steve Minasian took a look at the cut scenes and were told the rest of the story.

They passed on Savage Streets, but said I should call them as soon as I was done working on the film. They told me to come up to Boston and meet with them. There they offered me a two-picture deal: Friday V and Last House on the Left Part II. I accepted their offer and was instructed to do two things on Friday V. I was to deliver a shock, scare, or kill every seven or eight minutes. Most importantly, I was to turn Tommy into Jason.

This was not a suggestion. These were orders. I complied and started writing the script. When shooting began, I wanted the audience to feel uncertain as to the identity of Jason. Had he escaped death or had someone else taken his place? Was it Tommy? Jason was not himself. He moved differently. His mask was not the same. The moments when Tommy saw Jason were the only times that the real Jason appeared. When the pretender assumed the identity of Jason, I felt that he became him, with the audience remaining skeptical throughout the film, I hoped for a bit of a mystery.

At the end of the movie as Tommy puts on the mask and is about to kill Pam, I felt I had delivered on the producers instructions to turn Tommy into Jason.

JC: Scuderi instructed you that certain people were supposed to be killed every couple of minutes. He even made a graph to illustrate this point. Can you elaborate on how you worked this idea into the film?

DS: The problem I had was that the Tommy/Jason story was really the essence of the film. Each time you cut away to strangers that had nothing to do with the halfway house and kill them, it dilutes much of the story. The movie’s purpose is to answer the question, “What the fuck is going on with Tommy?” Scuderi’s graph doesn’t give you much room to maneuver.

In Psycho, basically nothing happens for the first 45 minutes until you get into the shower. The Friday movies, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween audiences demanded for there to be as many kills and thrills as possible. The mood is carnal. The faster, more intense, crazed, and horrific, the better.

JC: Who were the two motorcycle people that appear in the film? They either look like they’re from the ‘50s or part of the Al Pacino film Cruising.

DS: They were two guys that needed to be killed. They had nothing to do with the story.

JC: In other words, they were fitting within the graph?

DS: In order to comply with Scuderi’s graph, you had to introduce some characters and kill them three or four minutes later. Remember, the only people left alive at the end are Tommy, Pam, and Reggie, and Pam was on her way out.

JC: You named the medical institution Unger which is an obvious reference to The Unseen producer Tony Unger. This is supposed to imply the institution is incompetent or that Tony Unger himself belongs in the institution?

DS: Both. The guy really got to me. He still does. Unger needs a good spanking. I’m counting the days.

JC: We see the handwritten sign “Fadden was here” when Demon goes to the bathroom. Is that a reference to Vic Faden, the guy who chopped up Joey?

DS: Fadden was a golfing partner of my brother’s. Its an inside joke. Hope this clears up any mystery for the fans.

JC: Fans of the film have asked me to ask you where we are exactly. The mother and idiot son appear to be rednecks, but noone in the film has the same accents or background as they do.

DS: A lot of stuff there are no answers for. I tried to keep the film moving, put as many scares and kills in as possible, make the visuals interesting and the action exciting. If there are places for humor, go for it. If they question a character’s dialect, the movie isn’t for you. There are so many things in the film that are questionable but the mother and son’s background shouldn’t be on that list.

I’ll tell you what their story is, anyway. They previously had been living in Kvelding, a small town 45 miles southeast of Birmingham. Junior had gotten into trouble with the law. He was caught at a farm near Route 8, giving a blowjob to a three-legged goat. It was in all the papers. The two of them, mother and son, high-tailed it out of there, and drove and drove on Junior’s bike until they found this small cottage up north, which they rented. I think it was a six-month lease.

JC: What happened to the goat?

DS: [Laughs]

JC: Tell me about the first day of shooting Debi Sue’s love scene. Some people were taken aback by what they saw, especially from quotes in Crystal Lake Memories. Can you give your own version of the story?

DS: I shot a soft-core love scene, never showing the male genitalia or insertion. The sex was loving and gentle. In any other movie that wasn’t horror, it would’ve been labeled ‘R’, but with the blood and guts it became totally unacceptable. They cut the whole scene. Debi Sue was terrific throughout, never complained once. She’s a very bright and wonderful woman. I’d like to comment on Bracke’s book all at once at the end of this chapter.

JC: OK, at the end, is what happening a dream, or is Tommy really intending to kill Pam?

DS: I never saw Friday VI, but I was told they brought Jason back from the dead and the whole Tommy to Jason thing was thrown out. That decision to just eliminate Friday V and pretend it never happened was questionable, but understandable. For the record, Tommy really intended to kill Pam.

JC: That answers a lot of controversy. Tommy in Part VI is a much different character than he was in Part V.

DS: John Shepherd’s not in it though, right?

JC: A different actor plays him. They did ask him to appear though. In fact, he, Melanie Kinnaman, and Shavar Ross were all asked to come back for Part VI, but it didn’t happen for various reasons. Were you ever asked to come back for Part VI?

DS: I was never asked, but at the time, I was involved with a different project with the producers of the Friday the 13th films. I had a two-picture deal with them –Friday and Last House.

JC: Several people have said this and I sense it as well. There seems to be a level of camp humor in the film, such as Junior and Ethel, and the leather bikers, and the scene where Melanie’s fallen in the mud and doesn’t get up, even though there’s a killer chasing her. Was all that intentional?

DS: I hope any humor in the film is intentional, but I disagree with your last example. Sometimes when someone is living their worst nightmare, the body may not be able to perform and muscle control might break down. Plus, not being able to rise and run brings Jason closer. I didn’t find anything funny in her predicament. Melanie really was terrific. She refused to let a stuntwoman do anything.

JC: Several people have mentioned that you hosed Melanie down when she’s running from Roy/Jason so you could show her in a wet shirt. Is there any truth to that?

DS: Absolutely, 100 percent. Melanie is a very beautiful woman. She was my only choice from day one. When she runs from the monster, her torment is elevated if there’s thunder, lightning and rain. If she happens to be braless and the rain helps accentuate her breasts, ka-ching. It’s a done deal. How many guys would object to these choices I made?

JC: The MPAA cut a lot of the murder scenes out. In fact, out of all the films you’ve done, this one seems to be the most heavily cut of all your films. What scenes do you specifically remember being cut?

DS: Ironically, the only scene that was entirely eliminated was the love scene. Every bit of violence was significantly cut. Today, compared to the popular horror movies, I bet Friday V would get a ‘PG-13’. It’s unbelievable. The Hostel and Saw films are so graphic. I’m surprised they don’t get an ‘X’-rating. Frank Mancuso must have submitted Friday V to the MPAA eight times. They refused to accept both picture and sound. I believe what they finally allowed hurt the movie terribly. The tone of the film was negatively altered.

JC: If the MPAA hadn’t intervened, what would the film look like? How might it be different?

DS: The film would’ve been much more graphic and horrific. Even leading up to the kills the MPAA showed no mercy, but the deed was done. I’ve seen the film recently and it’s not that bad.

JC: Why did you make Roy the ambulance driver the vicious killer in the movie? Do you think it made sense?

DS: While the audience is taking a good look at Tommy grown up, the killer is either Jason back from the grave, someone pretending to be Jason, or Tommy himself. Tommy in transition must be accompanied by scenes of the killer doing his thing. When it turns out that Roy the ambulance driver was impersonating Jason because his son was brutally chopped up, I quickly cut to Tommy in the hospital bed, hoping that the audience would accept the thin explanation, suspend belief, and move on. I apologize to the viewer if they feel that the Roy/Jason revelation lacks credibility, but it is what it is.

JC: Time to bring up the book. As you know, there’s been some criticism of you in Crystal Lake Memories. Would you care to respond?

DS: Friday V made almost $22 million. Some of the actors were given their first opportunity to display their talents in a feature film. I remember seeing the movie when it first came out. The audience reaction was tumultuous. The criticism I and the picture have received has been curious and unwarranted. The film came in on schedule and under budget. The producer and I never had a serious argument or even a spat.

Did other people contribute ideas for the film? Absolutely. My responsibility was to shoot a decent movie, the best it could be. I didn’t reject ideas or dismiss suggestions. I gratefully accepted ideas that were better than mine. Always have.

As principal photography ended, I was given a beautiful copy of the Jason mask on which the cast and crew signed their names with lovely messages. I gave everyone a clock radio. Frank gave each of them a $100 bonus. This was not a “troubled” production.

The cast and I got along quite well. In Crystal Lake Memories, I was described as a paranoid, tense, out of control sex pervert and cocaine addict; desperate, crude, incompetent and an asshole with no talent. Some people like the movie, believe it or not. Some people hate it. But there’s no way it would retain this amount of controversy and interest if the director was basically a madman. The two films I had done prior to Friday V had both gotten away from me. I would not let Friday be another casualty. I have many faults, too many probably, but when I worked on a film I gave it my all and expected the people working with me to do the same.

For some, it is the highlight of their career. For others, it helped launch them into bigger and better things. I won’t trade insults with those that inexplicably turned on me, but I do thank the people that remember their participation in the movie fondly and have only the nicest things to say. Don’t believe everything you read!!!

Part V was the first film Danny had complete control over since High Rise and it paid off! While fans did miss Jason, they still made Part V a box-office hit.

Chapter VII: After Friday V

Although Danny had his biggest hit, Friday V would be the last film he would ever make. If the saying “You’re only as good as your last film” is true, why did Danny never make another movie again? Why has he kept quiet till his most recent appearance in the Friday the 13th documentary His Name Was Jason? In this chapter, Danny breaks his silence and fills in what happened between 1985 and 2009.

Danny Steinmann: In NY, I took my mother out to dinner one night. A girl comes over to our table dressed beautifully and gorgeous and asks, “Are you Danny Steinmann?”

I said, “Yes.” And she told me who she was. When I was 16, this girl was my life. She was a cross between Natalie Wood and Ava Gardner. Not an exaggeration. We were inseparable for two years. She went away to college, and so did I. I saw her a few times, but the magic was mostly gone. She got married, and we went our separate ways.

Over 25 years later, she tells me she’s divorced and has two kids. I was divorced and had one son. She wrote down her address and phone number and left.

Friday was finished and the two guys from Boston had hired me to write and direct The Last House on the Left, Part 2. I began to flush out the story. I got together with Margie, the woman that now consumed my heart.

The two moneymen had gone to Cannes to pre-sell the film. A super-talented girl, Tina Landau, helped me write the script. I was being paid good money and anxious to get started. Although I was in my forties, I was experiencing life as I had when I was 16.

One of the producers asked me to go and look at some locations in Wisconsin. We went, taking my soon-to-be wife with us. After a day or so, I agreed that we could shoot there. About a week later, back in New York, I was told that there was a problem with the rights. It seemed that they had not secured permission from the original writer to shoot a sequel, and although they were paying me good money, their hands were tied and it couldn’t be done. So began a series of bad breaks and missed opportunities that eventually led me to a life without purpose, without hope, without the will to stay alive.

For the moment, no big deal; Margie and I got married and were madly in love. Friday V had done very well, and although not critically received, it was a good credit and I was getting offers.

I next signed on to write and direct a camp musical entitled Frankenstar. I met with the producers and music executives in order to coordinate a plan of action. I began to write the script and insisted on being paid each week. We went down to Baton Rouge and New Orleans to scout for locations. We met with the governor and various officials to secure locations and obtain permits. They made an offer to Ozzy Osbourne to star in the picture.

Back in LA with a finished first draft, I secured a crew and began pre production with everyone on board. I received a call telling me that one of the producers was arrested and the other had gone missing. The project collapsed and I was unemployed. I was super pissed, but could do nothing about it.

I was next offered to write and direct a feature film for Empire Films, a company with a track record for making small but commercially successful films – comedies, thrillers and horror. It was owned and run by the Band family, very nice to work with and financially sound. This time my agent made a deal with them that I would be paid in full whether the film was made or not.

The story was similar to The Descent. I was given an outline and began to write the script. A month later, they sent me to Italy to scout locations and begin to cast. I was taken to Cinecittà, a major studio in Rome where Empire shot many of their films. I was shown a bunch of caves in southern Italy and found one that would work nicely.

Back in LA, I met with Charles Band. He told me that Empire was out of business. They had declared bankruptcy. He implored me not to go after my unpaid salary. That he would make it up to me, pay and hire me as soon as he was back on his feet again. I acquiesced, and I’ve never been paid by, hired by, or spoken to Mr. Band again. What the fuck was going on?

Almost two years of marriage, it abruptly came to an end. We both discovered that we weren’t teenagers anymore and couldn’t handle life together as adults. It was my second divorce and I felt like a failure. Life tastes much better when you have someone to share it with.

I was next offered to direct a film that I had written called Caprice. It was to be shot in Seoul, South Korea. The story was about a girl who loved her father a bit too much. She kills her mother and sister ten pages into the script: a sexual thriller.

The moneyman screened two of his films for me. He traveled everywhere in his limo. He lived large. I hired three American actors. The rest of the cast would be Korean. I made the father the United States Ambassador.

Three days before I was to fly to Seoul, I met with my new agent who gave me the news. The film producer was a phony. He had duped a bunch of investors out of large sums of money. He was wanted in Europe for similar schemes. I was floored. I called the Beverly Wilshire, but he had checked out. Trust no one. Not a good time to go to Vegas.

About this time, I had been living in a nice apartment in the valley. I was thrown out of bed early one morning. The apartment started to come apart; the Northridge earthquake. It seemed to go on forever. Everything I owned was no more.

I moved in with a close friend, hoping my luck would change. I was on a horrible roll. I used to be a very physical person. If I didn’t run, play tennis, go to the gym, something each day, I had trouble functioning. One day I was riding a bicycle when for some reason a pickup truck slammed into me from behind. I flew through the air and landed on the back of a parked car. For some reason I didn’t put my arms out and took the crash full force with my head, crushing my cervical bones, No. 3 through 7.

I strongly advise wearing a helmet while riding a bike. Christopher Reeves’ fall off his horse obliterated all of the bones in his cervix. He was immediately paralyzed.

I was left with crushed knees and horrendous pain in my neck. I had successful surgery on my legs, but my neck was no easy fix. I saw many doctors, specialists and surgeons in LA. They came to no consensus and this was becoming expensive since I had no medical insurance.

I strongly advise to always have medical insurance.

I went to Miami and New York and back to LA trying to find the right doctor or surgeon to help me recover. My pain was becoming acute so I agreed to let a surgeon operate. He would take out the shattered bones and replace those with bones that he constructed from my hip, then sculpt and secure them with titanium plates and screws. He stated that after the operation I would virtually be pain free. That was not to be the case. Post-op I would remain in the hospital for 18 more days. I had trouble breathing on my own. After another attempt to correct my cervical spine, I was free to go and fend for myself. My pain had lessened, but had not gone away.

A good friend of mine asked me whether I was well enough to go to the Philippines and write and direct a documentary on the life of Imelda Marcos. I asked my doctor and he gave me thumbs up.

Less than a week later, I landed in Manila and was taken to a magnificent house with a huge pool, beautifully furnished, and quite a few servants. I was off my pain meds and feeling good. My luck had changed. That night I met with Madam Marcos at dinner and became entranced by her beauty and her spirit. I was anxious to get to work. The next morning I awoke in pain that I didn’t know existed; blinding, excruciating, stabbing. No words exist to express this torturous overwhelming feeling.

I was rushed to the hospital, given a shot of Demerol, and thankfully, passed out. I was to remain in this Manila hospital for the next 2½ months, given so many different medications, therapies, and tests; taking heavy doses of pain meds each day.

Gradually, I began to recover. I asked for any books or publications on the life of Madam Marcos. She also came to the hospital twice to be interviewed. I began to write. I believe it’s the best work that I’ve ever done. I underwent another surgery in the Philippines that they hoped would heal my condition.

The producer had gone back to the States and I was informed that the documentary was cancelled. When I was able, they put me on a plane back to LA. Mentally and physically, I was in a great deal of pain and now almost broke.

The next few months in LA are pretty much a blur. My only objective each day was to quiet the growing monster of pain as best I could. I was losing the battle. Almost every night was spent in different emergency wards around the city. I had no money to spend on doctors. My options shrunk. The pain continued to grow mercilessly.

I bought a knife. That night, I filled the bathtub with water, got in, and slit my wrists. Soon the water turned red. I closed my eyes and thought about my best friend who overdosed on heroin in the mid-sixties, that he had missed Neil Armstrong on the moon, Vietnam, Watergate, Monica Lewinsky, and I drifted away.

For some reason I hadn’t put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, which I had done every night. I was told that the maid had come in, saw me in the tub of this skanky motel, and rushed downstairs to the front desk. They called the police and five to ten minutes later there were over 12 people in my room. Talk about being embarrassed.

I was taken to the nearest hospital. There I was given a shot of Ativan and put into the psychiatric ward where I would stay for a week. The problem was I was not given any pain medication, not even Tylenol. I didn’t sleep the entire week. I begged, howled, and pleaded to no avail. They considered me an addict and was treated as one. Finally, I was discharged in a great deal of pain.

To this day, I don’t really know whether I was a pain pill addict or whether the pain came from a botched surgery or a combination of both. It didn’t matter. The agony was real and growing. I was still suicidal and super pissed that I was still alive. Each time I saw a bus or a truck coming toward me, I tried to throw myself in front of it, but I could never gather the courage. My mind was all over the place. I couldn’t retain any clear thoughts.

Somehow, I remembered I had an uncle who lived in Dover, Delaware; my mother’s brother. I hadn’t seen or heard from him in years. I found his telephone number, called, and told him my story. He said with no hesitation, “Get your ass down here.” That was thirteen years ago. Two weeks after my arrival in Dover, I had a wonderful doctor, Medicaid, and Social Security checks. I am virtually pain free now and have a life, not much of one, but it’ll do. Sadly, my uncle and his wife have passed away.

About eight months ago, strange things began to happen.

I was asked to do an interview for a book on the Friday the 13th series. Shortly after, I received an invitation to be part of a Friday V convention in Dallas and then did a radio interview for, then a commentary for the Savage Streets DVD, then was filmed for a documentary featuring High Rise. Shortly after that, I was asked to do a filmed interview for Friday V, a documentary on all the Friday films, shot in New York, I believe for Starz Cable. The Unseen, the picture I took my name off, has recently been released on DVD and a film I did as an actor in 1965 has resurfaced. I was invited to Cleveland by Cinema Wasteland the first week in April. (I had the best time. The people were wonderful.) A few weeks ago I went to LA to do a commentary and interview for Friday the 13th Part V. I went to a convention in Florida in mid-April and I was invited to NYC for Fangoria, June 5th-7th and then to Kentucky in August.

And that’s my story. My son is in LA trying to succeed as an actor/writer. He is so talented and gifted. The key, I think, is the ability to judge people correctly. It’s a tough business, lots of phonies and lots of good, honest people. Judge them correctly and always wear a helmet while riding a bike and always, always have medical insurance.