Friday, October 21, 2016

Ted Mikels, The Forgotten Prime Mover Behind Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

A lot of time is spent at this blog giving credit where credit is due to the two prime movers behind Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby. After all they wrote, directed, did the make up, and starred in the movie, but there was a third guiding force behind the movie, and one who might have made the movie as possible as the other two.

Ted Mikels was a self-taught movie fanatic who produced, wrote and directed dozens of ultra low bidget horror and schlock films in the 1960's and 0's, including  The Astro-Zombies, The Corpse Grinders, Dr. Sex. The Black Klansman, Ten Violent Women, and Orgy of the She Devils. 

Ted Mikels, Producer of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

At 87 Mikels was still working on various projects when he died earlier this week.

So, how did Mikels, a West Coaster, end up in Florida working with a group of Hippies from The Florida State drama department?

As an uncredited Executive Producer, Mikels had put up a large amount of money and was responsible for the film's release, but when he arrived in Florida he demanded to see the week of footage that was already shot, and realized to his horror that it was all unsuable and demanded it be thrown out. They were apparently shooting it all wrong, using stage lighting for outside scenes, and Mikels literally had to give them an on the spot lesson in how to shoot outside. 

Mikels explained that he took no credit for the movie because it just wasn't his style. It was released by his production company, Genini, and that was enough for him. Mikels also helped in promotion, advertising, and dealing with theaters, but sold his interest back to Producer Gary Goch when he became impatient about receiving payments from theater showings. 

On IMDB Ted Mikels is now credited as an Executive Producer of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, but if his own words can be believed, he had far more to do with the look of the movie than just investing a few dollars in the beginning. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Alan Ormsby, Star of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

Almost everyone knows Alan Ormsby portrayed the role of the detestable Alan in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, but it is less known that he also wrote the script, and did the make-up effects. Ormsby teamed up with the movie's director Bob Clark again twice in 1974 for the films Deranged and Death Dream, then again for Porky's II, where he again wrote the script. 

Here is Alan Ormsby having a goofy moment on Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. He is quoted as saying about the three movies he made with Bob Clark in the early 1970's: "They were fun to make. There was a kind of communal experience about the process I haven't experienced since." That feeling comes across clearly in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. I have several friends who make films, and on occasion I get asked to stand in as an extra or just to fill in on set, and knowing that you like the people you are working with makes a lot of difference. Even though the subject matter is grim, it really comes across that these people liked each other and were having fun.

I remember this book from Scholastic books when I was in grade school. Movie Monsters: Monster Make-Up & Monster Shows To Put On. It instructed children how to do monster make up, make fake blood, and stage shows for their neighborhood as he had done when he was younger. 

Ormsby remained in demand as a make up artist throughout the 1970's, doing the make up effects for the Toten Corps zombies in Ken Wiederhorn's classic NAZI zombie movie Shock Waves in 1977.

Shock Waves Zombie from the 1977 Nazi Zombie film by Ken Wiederhorn, make up by Alan Ormsby. This was to be his final make up credit, which is a shame, because I find his work to have been impressive in two classic zombie movies. 

But Ormsby was multi-talented and continued to work as a writer of the screenplays for My Bodyguard, Cat People, Popcorn, The Substitute, and eventually for the television series Nash Bridges and The District.

Although clearly capable of sparkling as an actor, as his electric performance in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things Proves, Ormsby only appeared in one other movie, Dead of Night, and one cameo in the 1974 film Lenny. 

Ormsby met Bob Clark when both were in the drama department at the University of Florida. The pair were responsible for CSPWDT as well as the early 70's classic Death Dream and Deranged, where they helped introduce a young Tom Savini to the horror movie genre.

The Great Masquerade 1974 directed by Alan Ormsby

One film of his I have not seen but will soon is the 1974 movie The Great Masquerade, about a cop who goes undercover as a drag queen on a cruise ship in order to infiltrate a gang of drug smugglers. I almost refuse to accept this is the premise of a real movie until I see it. When I do I will report back. There are no user reviews on IMDB. I may remedy that later tonight if I can find it. Also known as The AC/DC Caper and Murder On the Emerald Seas. I think this movie needs a blog entry of its own. More later.