American filmmaker Ted V. Mikels holds a unique position as one of the most unconventional directors of exploitation cinema. Famous for his eccentric home life (he once lived with a harem in a castle with secret passageways) and promotional gimmicks (he was known for having nurses and ambulances on hand to assist "scared-to-death" moviegoers), Mikels is now considered a pioneering master of low-budget movie making.
Examples of Mikels' influence can be seen everywhere: from music (punk band The Misfits wrote a tribute song called "The Astro-Zombies"), to Mikels' film The Doll Squad being the template for the television series Charlie's Angels, to inspiring the look of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.
Trash Compactor: John Waters on Ted V. Mikels
(Excerpts from two-page interview)
FANGORIA: How did you get involved with the Wild World documentary?
JOHN WATERS: I was asked! I get pitched to do a lot of voiceover work -- I've done it for the Discovery Channel -- and this was a project that appealed to me, obviously. It was fun to learn about Ted, because I didn't know all the things the documentary covered, and I thought anything I could do to bring Ted V. Mikels to the public was something I wanted to participate in. And Kevin did a good job!
FANG: Can you recall your first Mikels film?
WATERS: The Corpse Grinders was probably the first of his movies I ever saw, but I'm not sure; did he make nudist camp movies? No, I don't think so . . . well, I most certainly saw it at a Baltimore drive-in, possibly the Rex Theatre or the Bengies Drive-in, I don't remember which.
. . . But the Bengies drive-in is still there and open, and that's where we shot the finale of Cecil B. Demented and also where the ladies' room has urinals . . . not all of them, just some. But I don't remember which one I saw The Corpse Grinders at; it could have been any of the three, but that title was so great, and . . . when did that movie come out, again?
FANGO: Early '70's, '71 . . .
WATERS: Right, so I was probably on LSD or marijuana when I saw it, and that would have been the same with The Astro Zombies -- which probably helped -- but even so, when people saw those movies, the ones who were the core audience for them, they didn't go because they thought the movies were funny, they thought they were sexy and scary. I knew Ted from that Era, along with Herschell Gordon Lewis and that whole circuit.
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