The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels

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Who is Ted V. Mikels?

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.

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Press 2008 - 2009, Dec. 11, 2009

Indie DVD review 'The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels'
by Terra King

As one who had the good fortune to see a few of Ted V. Mikel's (pronounced Michaels) films at a drive-in, I am proud to review this documentary of his films.

'The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels' is not only the history of Ted's films, but a history of Indie filmmaking. It is also the history of society as many of Ted's films reflect the times they were filmed

Narrated by filmmaker John Waters, this film is a must see for fans of campy, good movies.

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Screem Magazine #17, late 2009

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The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels
Interview by Kevin Sean Michaels
(Excerpts from two-page feature)

"Ted V. Mikels puts the 'exploit' in exploitation films. He's pretty amazing." --John Waters

Ted V. Mikels is an American filmmaker and has been producing independent films for over half a century. Famous for his eccentric home life (he once lived with a harem in a castle with secret passageways), promotional gimmicks (he was known for having nurses and ambulances on hand to assist "scared-to-death" moviegoers), and creating The Astro-Zombies, one of the first slasher films, Mikels is now considered a pioneering master of low-budget movie making. Mikels' film The Doll Squad not only inspired the television series Charlie's Angels, but many years later was cited by Quentin Tarantino as one [of] the many influences for Kill Bill. Mikels is the subject of a new biography called, Film Alchemy: The Independent Cinema of Ted V. Mikels as well as my new documentary, The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels.

SCREEM: Why was the timing right for a documentary on yourself?

I would never have guessed it would come into being. I guess I figured that I would be making movies for about a hundred years, but time has a way of running out on people. A documentary on myself is a tribute to sixty years of hard work. Developing my first roll of black & white 16mm film in my bathtub is one of my first memories. The chemicals leaked out because there was a hole in the soldering of the developing tank and all the footage got ruined. When you develop film yourself you better have watertight containers (laughs). There were no laboratories of any sort in Bend, Oregon.

. . .

How did you get into making genre films?

I didn't know what a genre film was. Wayne Rogers like my story about Astro-Zombies but he wanted to make a spoof out of it. We didn't have enough money to do the movie as I wrote it so we made it as a spoof. To this day, I haven't seen any money from it. After that came Girl in Gold Boots, totally different because it was a musical drama. Then right after that was the Corpse Grinders, totally different again. Corpse Grinders was so popular and had fantastic grosses everywhere, so the trade papers began calling me "the king of horror." Different again was a supernatural movie called Blood Orgy of the She-Devils about witchcraft. The Doll Squad was more like Strike Me Deadly.

Why is it that other directors feel the need to make the same kind of films over and over again?

I am an all-genre movie-maker. My motto is that I do anything that can be seen and heard and entertain people. It may be that other directors feel secure making the same movies or maybe they have gotten pigeon-holed along the way in their careers. I've always wanted to avoid the mold. I always wanted to be different. I don't want to do what everyone else is doing.

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Screem Magazine #16, mid-2009

page from Screem

Tura Satana: The Original Pussycat Doll
Interview by Kevin Sean Michaels
(Excerpts from three-page feature)

If you've ever seen Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, there is no denying that Tura Satana is the ultimate super hero. Born in 1938, Satana's father was a silent movie actor of Japanese/Filipino descent, and her mother was a circus performer, who was American Indian and Scottish Irish. Early in her career, Satana made a few television appearances and became a star attraction on the burlesque circuit.

Beside her landmark role in Pussycat, Satana is best known for her work with film director Ted V. Mikels in The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Doll Squad (1973), and, more recently, Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002). She has a lot going on these days: a new resin statue coming out, a feature film called Sugar Boxx, and an appearance in my new documentary The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels.

. . .

What do you think a documentary about Ted will tell people about him?

They will see what a multi-talented man he is. A lot of people miss that because he works so quickly. He can make up a script in two months or so. He has an idea and he builds from there. I was privileged to work with some of the best talent around, Ted included. They would see through this documentary how truly intelligent this man is.

. . .

Do you feel you have more movies to do with Ted in the future? Maybe another Astro-Zombies?

Absolutely. I think he and I are going to go back into the horror stuff. I told him that he has to do another Doll Squad. He and I were talking about that my character could be running a school for female assassins. There would be a whole new wave of Doll Squad girls. I would be teaching them how to kill. You know the little subtleties of life. (laughs)

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Las Vegas Review-Journal, October 20, 2008

SHOOTING STARS: Return of the 'Astro-Zombies'
by Carol Cling

You can’t keep a good astro-zombie down.

The same goes for grindhouse auteur Ted V. Mikels, at right, who recently premiered his latest horrorfest, "Demon Haunt," at the Clark County Library. (The debut was accompanied by a preview of the documentary "The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels," narrated by another cult fave, John Waters.)

Mikels, a longtime Las Vegan, begins production this week on "Astro-Zombies M3: Cloned" as a "sprawling ranch" in the southeast valley, where he can indulge his Area 51 fantasies to his heart’s content.

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SF360, September 18, 2008

Baloney Sandwiches with no cheese: Ted V. Mikels' wild world at the Clay
by Matt Sussman

It is only appropriate that Mikels’ life and work is being honored this weekend at the distinctly American forum for cinema’s lone wolves: the midnight movie. Landmark Theater’s Midnights at the Clay series is bringing Mikels to town, with his muse and partner Shanti, to screen his cult classics Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1972) and The Corpse Grinders (1972) as well as Kevin Sean Michael’s new, John Waters-narrated documentary, The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels.

As evinced by Blood Orgy and Corpse Grinders, Mikels has a knack for titles. Scanning the list of over 20 movies he has directed, produced, written or been involved with in some way since 1963’s Strike Me Deadly, one comes across such fonts of imagistic suggestion as The Black Klansman (1966), The Astro-Zombies (1968, which horror punk band The Misfits named a song after), Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), Apartheid Slave Woman’s Justice (1997) and Cauldron: Baptism of Blood (2004). The titles also speak to the breadth of genres Mikels’ fervent imagination has covered: supernatural horror, science fiction, animals run amok, women-in-prison (Ten Violent Women, 1982), rape-revenge dramas (War-Cat, 1987) and Rambo-style shoot-em-ups (Mission: Killfast, 1991).

Mikels' vision has at times been prescient, even beating Hollywood to the punch—though often without receiving due credit. In Kevin Sean Michaels' documentary Russ Meyer vixen and Astro-Zombies star Tura Satana recounts bringing Aaron Spelling to a screening of Mikels’ buxom secret agent romp The Doll Squad (1973) at 20th Century Fox. Three years later "Charlie’s Angels" would sweep the Nielsen ratings and become a pop cultural force.

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Vampira The Movie

AllMovie, September 18, 2008

The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels
by Jason Buchanan

Vampira: The Movie director Kevin [Sean] Michaels explores the remarkable career of independent cinema pioneer Ted V. [Mikels] (no relation) in this documentary that manages to squeeze sixty years of cinematic innovation into one informative and entertaining film. The director of such beloved cult classics as The Astro-Zombies, The Worm Eaters, The Doll Squad, and The Corpse Grinders, [Mikels] gives his fans a tantalizing glimpse into his tried-and-true filmmaking techniques by demonstrating how to shoot a scene with actresses Masuimi Max and Black Betty, and then inviting the viewer into his studio for a look at his editing facilities. Additional conversations about the film industry, the fine art of showmanship, and his time spent living in an enormous mansion with a small harem of women reveal the true essence of this maverick filmmaker, and interviews with various actors who have worked with [Mikels] over the years highlight just what a formidable creative force he truly is.

Las Vegas Weekly, September 10, 2009

When life isn't a movie
by Steve Friess

If you've ever before heard of the man I'm writing about this week, I already know what you've heard. Every article and interview available online refers to Ted V. Mikels as a savant of sorts, an indefatigable and perversely genius filmmaker with a cult following of folks who adore his no-budget flicks and revere him as a surviving visionary of the Ed Wood School of Campy and Bizarre Cinema.

No, this isn't going to be that kind of column. Although I had never heard of the guy prior to lunch last week with a journalist friend from Germany -- Mikels is evidently big in Deutschland -- I have been assured by my own Weekly editors that the longtime Las Vegan who created such Oscar bait as Demonheart and Corpse Grinders II has, in fact, enjoyed his local media close-ups several times.

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DVD Resurrections, Aug. 14, 2009

Ted V. Mikels Interview

Ted V. Mikels is a director, writer, producer, actor and an extraordinary man that takes on filmmaking with a passion and zest that sometimes is truly unequaled in the world of independent films. The director of The Corpse Grinders, The Astro Zombies, Girl in Gold Boots, and The Doll Squad and many others gave Shu a chance to interview him about his career in films. Find out here what Ted V. Mikels has to say.

When did your fascination with castles, weaponry, and your interest in a sort of Medieval lifestyle first come about?

My first fascination was evident when I was putting together castles with card-board, and making " knight's armor" with card-board wrapped around my shins, thighs, chest, and a cardboard mask. The buildup to my castle life near Hollywood was the fulfillment of those dreams many many years later. In the castle, I had collected hundreds of swords, medieval weapons, shields, etc.

In your opinion, what was the finest film you ever made?

As any artist will attest about his work, there is NEVER any satisfaction about the finished piece of art, whether it be a painting or a movie. I'd like to think my best film is yet to come. They all involve a tremendous input of blood, sweat and tears, so you always hope the next movie will be the best.

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Cinebeats, July 12, 2009

I Love You, Ted V. Mikels!
by Kimberly Lindbergs

I've expressed my admiration for B-movie maestro Ted. V. Mikels before when discussing the life of Mikels' starlet Tura Satana as well as Mikels' ode to go-go dancing, Girl in Gold Boots (1968). He's my favorite purveyor of no-budget movies and if you haven't experienced a Mikels film yet you should stop reading this and go visit his official website the Wild World of Ted V. Mikels. At age 80 Mr. Mikels is still going strong and you can find autographed DVDs of many of his films for sale there.

So why this sudden outburst of love for Ted. V. Mikels? Today is the final day of The Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon and Mikels career as a director, cinematographer, writer, producer and actor is comparable to Ed Wood's. Mikels even worked with Wood on the film Orgy of the Dead (1965).

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Press release, June 2, 2008

John Waters to Narrate Documentary Film "The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels"

[Las Vegas, NV] "The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels," a new documentary by Kevin Sean Michaels ("Vampira: The Movie"), is a rollicking look at the independent cinema of Ted V. Mikels, who has been producing films for over 60 years. Mikels is considered a maverick of low-budget movie making and is still making movies at age 79. In "The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels," Mikels himself tells his fascinating life story.

Way before low-budget action films were termed "grindhouse," Ted was wowing audiences with his own special brand of guts, gore, humor, violence, and -- most of all -- style.

Filmmaker Ted V. Mikels was born on April 29, 1929 in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a child, Mikels was selected and cast out of a group of three hundred boys to play the son of Merle Oberon and William Powell in a Hollywood film. The film never went into production, but Mikels got the show business bug. At fifteen, Mikels began doing professional magic, ventriloquism, acrobatics and accordion solos. In 1960, the enterprising young Mikels relocated his wife and six children from Oregon to Hollywood with the film-cans of his first movie, "Strike Me Deadly." Mikels began steadily producing. "The Black Klansman," "The Corpse Grinders," "The Astro-Zombies, " Girl in Gold Boots" and "The Doll Squad" followed, and challenged the major movie studios by setting box-office records. Audiences for a Ted V. Mikels production were treated to gimmicks such as nurses and ambulances on hand at the theaters to assist "scared-to-death" moviegoers. His private life became legendary. In the 1970's, Mikels lived with a harem of women in a castle with secret passageways. In the 1980's, Mikels moved from California to Las Vegas, Nevada and opened a studio, where he has been producing movies ever since.

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Vampira The Movie