Thursday, March 22, 2018

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things: Winns the Zombie

Sometimes you become so familiar with something that you don't even really see it anymore. I had an unusual moment like this last night while watching my Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things VHS tape for like the 25th time this week. Don't panic, I don't literally sit down and watch the movie 25 times in a row, I just put it on in the background while I go about my other daily business.

What happened that caused me immediate distress is I saw in the credit an actor name Bruce Solomon got a top billing as a character named Winns. But there is no character named Winns in the movie, I thought to myself. Certainly not a main character. 

So, I did what any rational person would do in a situation like this: I found Alan Ormsby's profile on Facebook and wrote him a message asking who Winns was, then I watched the movie three more times almost frame-by-frame to see if I had missed a character named Winns.

It turns out I had. It was a You Tube video that gave me the answer. Winns is a zombie. Specifically the zombie whose coffin is broken open by a root. I confirmed this by reading the headstone.

Winns the Zombie

The name is far more easily visible in the movie than in this screen capture, but it says Winns.

Also, the actor who played Winns, Bruce Solomon, went on to work more than any other actor in the movie.

Actor Bruce Solomon

CSPWDT was his first role, but he played roles in Barney Miller, Love Boat, Mary Hartman, Eight Is Enough, and was in Night of the Creeps. 

So, if Alan Ormsby reads this, please disregard my email. Although I may write you with a question about the shotgun later. 

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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Working titles interest me, because whenever I assign a working title to a book it always ends up being the final title. I wonder if this is just from familiarity, laziness, or knowing what I really wanted in the first place. 

I wonder what a production schedule of 14 days and $50,000 would get you these days? I have a friend who just raised $4,000 for his latest film through crowdfunding. I appeared in one of his zombie shorts he used to do every year a long time ago. 

I always thought it was cool that directors like Bob Clark would work with the same people over and over. It's conceivable if my friend became famous I might be in one of his movies. You can really see in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, even in Porky's, and many of Bob Clark's other movies that these are people who liked working together and were being treated right. 

Aside from Zreaks, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things was also known as Revenge of the Living Dead and Things From The Dead. I think there are probably at least a couple of other movies titled revenge of the Living Dead, but I've never heard of one called Things From the Dead. I wonder what the deciding factor in titling the movie CSPWDT was.

I see on IMDB Jane Daly is the only actor from the movie who has an IMDB picture. I also see that this movie was shot back to back with Dead of Night as a two picture deal, using many of the same crew. This might be sacrilege, but I didn't care for Dead of Night very much because the central character was cruel, and it was just a mean movie. I'm not fond of movies where people are systematically tortured, like Cape Fear. 

Two more tidbits I just dug up on IMDB. The tombstones were made of styrofoam, and had the names of various crew members on them. I now have to go check that out by watching Zreaks again.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things Gorgon Video VHS

Instead of watching The Monster Club two or three times tonight while I work I think I'm going to put in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things on Gorgon Video. I received this copy of the Gorgon Video release last week.

                    Gorgon Video Children Shouldn't Play With Dead                                                            Things Gorgon Video VHS

I would love to watch this movie with Jenny one time, but unfortunately she's deathly afraid of zombies, so I've never watched any zombie movie with here. I got my burrito ready and sat down to watch, and sadly there was a Faces of Death preview before the movie. Put me off of eating altogether, and now the sound is garbled. perhaps it will stabilize, but it seems doubtful.

I've never see the movie in this release format, so I was a little excited. The Bee Kind, Rewind sticker is slightly ironic, as the last viewer did not rewind. I imagine this video being rented hundreds of times at the mom and pop video store, Coral Video, in Florida, and probably dozens of times being returned in anger when the viewers saw that Faces of Death promo, which is completely uncensored and as grotesque and disturbing as I remember. 

The sound is still garbled, although the picture seems much clearer than even the DVD releases I've seen. That Faces of Death preview sort of through me for a loop. Also, my bean burrito has freezer burn. An inauspicious start to this viewing party. This is the description from the back of the box...

While preparing themselves for an upcoming play, five aspiring actors are led to a deserted burial island by their bizarre director/mentor Alan. (Alan Ormsby-Deranged, Cat People, Porky's II).

     Alan, a "Manson type," seems to exert strange control over his group who he calls his "children." 

     At Alan's urging the "Children" dig up a rotting corpse and Alan attempts a revival with various occult incantations.

     After his apparent failure, the harried children are forced to take the corpse back to their cabin to party.

     Unfortunately, in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, the dead do rise-and they are hungry.

     Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things thrust its unwitting performers into a nightmare of madness and murder in a gruesome movie that follows in the infamous tradition of Night of the Living Dead.

     Occasionally campy and always terrifying- don't see this one alone.

VHS boxes were really interesting because most of the time it was readily apparent that the person who wrote the description for the distributor either never saw the movie, hated the movie, or was incredibly high when they saw the movie. This is an example of that. Also, one was often left wondering why the person who created a cool video box wasn't the person who directed the movie, especially when the movie wasn't half as interesting as the box.

Wait a minute, about a half an hour in the sound is starting to stabilize. I've never seen this on Beta, but maybe I'll even find an 8mm film print some day and watch it. 

Geez I'm glad I didn't ever make the mistake of putting in this tape when Jenny or the kids were around. 

I'm always struck by a few things every time I watch this movie. 

-The island cemetery isn't on an island at all. It's the same one used in Porky's II, and clearly is not on an island.

-I always wondered why almost none of these actors worked very much after this. They all seemed rather competent. 

-This crew just seemed to be having a lot of fun and liking each other. This seems to be born out in that many of them worked in various capacities in future Bob Clark/Alan Ormsby productions. I'd really like to interview some of them and ask if they truly were having the good time it appears they are, maybe get a few stories from that era. 

I guess my final question is if there is any material after the movie. There doesn't appear to be any difference in this cut from any other I've seen. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Two Incantations To Call Forth Satan and Raise the Dead

The Satanic incantation Alan utters after the offering of baby blood

Oh Great Diviner, Master of the Three Worlds, disciple who became master, Lord of the netherworld, Lord of night, Prince of Darkness, despoiler of light, diviner of powers, redeemer of passions, crucible of flesh. By the power incarnate, by the flesh made prowd, by the soul devoured of itself, by these words we do implore, by these deeds we do supplicate and call upon the grace of thee Lord almighty of the underworld to release the souls of all thy servants who lie here unredeemed, to release them to serve thy servant, to bend their wills always to his, thus to thy own. By the blood of babes unborn, by the iversion of the savior, by the bond of thy own hand we do entreat thee, deliver them up to us, to command in thy name, to serve our will and thine own. By Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Arcades, and all the underlords we do entreat thee let them rise, let them rise up spriritus aquitanes await thee let them rise, rise up, Satan, God of all.

They Must be out to lunch.

Shut up, Jeffrey.

Looks like a no show. -Val

Fraud. Cheap plasic fraud. Satan? You phony. You liar. You sorry sot. I paid my money and I expect my merchandise. You cretinous clown. You don't have any power. Petty panderer. Cheap, chisling con artist. Two-bit, penny-ante potion peddler.

You lose, Alan, you lose. Your summation is a bummer. A silly little ghost story. You should have stuck to the clown act, it suits your talent. And your villification of Satan is rice pudding. Soggy oatmeal. Stale goods, Alan, like all your creative efforts. You're a clerk, Alan, a bookkepper- you better accept that. And you know why? Because it takes an artist to deal with the Devil. Not an insurance man with delusions of grandeur. Get out of the grave. Get out of the grave, Alan, let an artist show you how to call a curse down on Satan.

Val's derisive invection against Satan. Which gets The Horned One's attention?

Hail Satanic majesty. Hail mighty master of evil. Tormenter of lost souls. Paragon of perfidy. Antichrist. Vilest of the vile. Respected foe of Jehovah and the Archangels. Usurper. Seducer. Panderer supreme. Hail! So, what's with this little thing we're asking? A few rotting corpses to serve out meager needs. So, what's the trouble, hmm? You got the blood you were asking, right? You got Orville, right? You've got the warlock and his warchest, right? Is that a bargain, I ask you? A wizrd first class. So, where's the goods? Satan, you tweaker of puppy dog tails. You bilious bag of bombast. You paltry purveyor of potions. You half-witted halogon of horse manure. Mighty master of evil? Ha! Your most terrifying trick is growing warts on old ladies' noses, scaring scarecrows, snitching buttons, ingrown toenails, corns, and chicken pocks. 

That's your speed. 

You rang?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things Cast and Crew

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things is a movie about Orville. Orville Dunworth. A man just trying to ride out eternity in peace. Until a pesky theater troupe of young punks digs up his corpse and uses him in a black magic ceremony to celebrate Satan and raise the dead. But nobody messes with Orville Dunworth.

Orville Dunsworth
Portrayed by actor Seth Sklarey, whose only other acting credit was Porky's II: The Next Day, Orville is the main character in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things.

Movie synopsis: An eccentric theatre director, Alan (Alan Ormsby), leads his troupe to a small island that serves as a cemetery for deceased criminals. They proceed to situate themselves in the caretaker’s abode as Alan prepares for some unknown deed. The group marches to the graveyard where Alan begins a seance of sorts to call forth the dead from their slumber. This experiment appears to fail, so they trek back to the cabin, bringing one of the ‘stiffs’, Orville, for their amusement. Tensions soon begin to flare among the group regarding the morality of their recent actions, and, as soon as the troupe decides to depart, with or without their director, the dead rise from their graves to enact their revenge.

My favorite performance in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things is by

 Valerie Mamches. Although Mamches didn't pursue a career in movies, she is considered a great stage actor who has been a coach to many since CSPWDT. Here diatribe against Satan here is one of the best moments in horror movie history. 

One of my favorite things about this movie is you get the feeling these people liked each other and were having fun making it, even if the lead character was supposed to be a dictator everyone disliked, you got the idea they all liked each other. Not many of these actors worked very much after Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. Jeffrey, played by Jeff Gillen, had few other notable performances after CSPWDT, but one of them certainly is remembered every Christmas.

Ho. Ho. Ho. Jeff Gillen as Santa Claus in the classic A Christmas Story.

But if brawn is your style, Paul, played by Australian born actor Paul Cronin is your guy. He plays mighty Joe karate with a shuttered window, comes to the defense of his girlfriend terry when the evil Alan suggests he invoke the rule of primal juncture and "break her in" as a member of the troupe. Unfortunately, what Paul is probably best known for in the movie is...

Being eaten by this zombie chick. Cronin is one of the few actors in CSPWDT to have appeared on screen before, or after, the movie was released, appearing mostly in cop roles. 

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
Here is Jane Daly as Terry about to become fertilizer. She went on to appear on television many times, on shows like The X Files, ER, Matlock, Cold Case, and many others. Things to do in the forest. I can think of a few. But watch yourself with this seduceable Brownie. 

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
Anya Ormsby, who was married to Alan Ormsby at the time of shooting, is another one of the talented actors who suddenly decided to end their acting career abruptly after Children Shouldn't Play With Dead  Things. Her spacey, wide-eyed performance here is certainly indicative of someone with serious acting chops, but after only two more movies and one television appearance, her acting career was over. In this scene near the end of the movie, Alan offers her up to the zombies to buy himself a few more moments before he is munched to bits. The funniest part about this scene is when he pushes her down the stairs the zombies all stop momentarily and look up at him like "you're a real dick." At one time Anya Ormsby was a friend of the poet Lyn Lifshin. I don't recall how I know this information, but it seemed important to me at one time. 

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

Alan ormsby, who played Alan, and also did the make-up effects, literally wrote the book on make-up. At least The Scholastic Book version. Movie Monsters: Monster Make-Up and Monster Shows To Put On was published in the 1970's. Ormsby began work in feature films with the Bob Clark-directed Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972). In addition to writing the film's script, Ormsby played the lead, Alan, and provided the film's make-up effects. Two years later, Ormsby and Clark re-teamed on Deranged and Deathdream. Deranged, a horror film inspired by serial killer Ed Gein, saw Clark producing with Ormsby writing and co-directing the feature (with Jeff Gillen), while Deathdream saw Clark directing another Ormsby script.

The early 1980s saw Ormsby continue as a screenwriter with Ormsby providing the scripts for My Bodyguard (1980), The Little Dragons (1980), Paul Schrader's Cat People (1982) and Clark's Porky's II: The Next Day (1983). Ormsby returned to directing with Popcorn. Written by Ormsby, the film production saw him leave the director's chair early on, to be replaced by Porky's actor Mark Herrier. The only footage shot by Ormsby that remains in the final film are the scenes from the faux horror films shown in the theater. In 1996, he co-wrote The Substitute, which became a successful series of films.

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

The zombies in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, referred to as ghouls, had some of the best make-up of the 1970's, and although the film is often referred to as "campy," or "cheesy," they're pretty scary. Bob Sherman, Curtis Bryant, William Smedley, Debbie Cummings, Peter Burke, Chester Phebus, Thomas L. Vaultonburg Sr., and a dozen others played those zombies. 

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things appeared on Elvira's Movie Macabre, Season 5, episode 17. I happened to be in the audience that very night, and had a cross country meet the next morning. On the bus it turns out almost everyone had stayed awake to watch the movie. I ran poorly that morning at Stronghold Castle in Oregon, Illinois, but I was never a good runner. The course wended its way through the woods, and that morning I was so far in the rear no one was even close to me. I daydreamed about the movie and took my own sweet time running the course. It's one of my most powerful memories in this lifetime, and one of the reasons this is my favorite movie. Thank you Elvira Mistress of the Dark.

remake has been in the works for several years now, first with original writer/director Bob Clark at the the helm, but that project died when Bob Clark and his son perished in a tragic car accident a few years ago. Then rumors surfaced that Fangoria had taken up the project with Tom Savini slated to direct, but that project, too, has stalled despite reports to the contrary. Tom Savini would be perfect for this project as he worked with Alan Ormsby and most of the original crew doing make up effects for Deathdream.

Originally reviewed rather poorly, and referred to for many decades as campy, cheesy, and low-budget schlock, the recent resurgence of the zombie genre has brought a new generation to Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, and a whole new appreciation. This film holds up. It more than holds up, it gets better with age. 

Here's a zombie haiku written by Outsider Poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg

Zombie Haiku

With your Uptown brains
in my Downtown brawn, baby

we're unstoppable

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
Here in the final scene we see the undead boarding the boat, and we're supposed to imagine they'll head towards Miami. Since these zombies haven't transformed those they've attacked into zombies my guess is their time in Miami will be rather short. I would like to stand on the island where this was shot and look at the neon sign in the background of this shot one day, if it's still there. It's good to have goals.

Here's something few of you have seen before: a Beta Gorgon Video copy of the movie Children Should't Play With Dead Things