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Interview with Chris Kruize
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Image Chris Kruize was one of the original writers for Mutant. He was kind enough to give some interesting insights as to what went wrong.

Read on brave b-movie fans.

Interview Date: 7 June 2000

Andrew: How did the script for "Mutant" come about?
Chris Kruize: The script for MUTANT came about this way: In 1980 Mike and I were working in the mailroom at the former MGM Studios (now the Sony lot). We'd become friends there, sharing an enthusiasm for horror films. We'd both individually tinkered around a bit with screenwriting, and decided to collaborate on a horror script. We wrote together on our lunch hour and after work, usually at Mike's apartment. We finished the script in a few months.

Our original title was THE PESTILENCE. The genesis of the story concerned secretive and illegal germ warfare research being conducted by the U.S. military in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains. A lab worker is infected by some type of mutant flu virus and carries the contagion to an isolated town. Admittedly, some of this was inspired by Stephen King's THE STAND, which I'd read a few years before.

Mike and I wanted to write something that was truly scary. We wanted the plot to be logical -- even if it started off from a rather implausible premise -- and we believed strongly in atmosphere, not violence, providing most of the chills. Of course, we did write some shock moments, too. There wasn't a lot of blood, but there were some unsettling elements related to the transformation of the victims. There was a lot of slime! One of the things we tried to do, as well, was not have characters doing any of the standard, stupid stock things, like going down into the basement alone to see what the strange noises were.

Image "One of the things we tried to do, as well, was not have characters doing any of the standard, stupid stock things, like going down into the basement alone to see what the strange noises were."

Andrew: While writing you must have had an idea of what the infected humans looked like, perhaps even a sketch, could you give us a good picture of your monsters?
Chris Kruize: Our original conception of the monsters, which didn't change even when the storyline was revised from a virus outbreak to toxic waste poisoning the water supply, was that they became feral, incredibly strong and fast, and ravenous. We felt they shouldn't be seen much in full light, as part of the tranformation involved them becoming nocturnal creatures who couldn't stand light. For this reason, in our drafts there was never much detailed description of the monsters.

NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS were they intended to be pasty-faced, shambling zombies!

Andrew: Literally thousands of scripts must be written every year, but this one was purchased and produced. Was it a personal crusade to make the film a reality?
Chris Kruize: As far as how the script was sold, it was a total fluke. We'd taken it to a few agents who would look at new material from untested writers, but found little interest. Then a friend of ours, who'd read our script, was at a party where he happened to meet one of the producers, Igo Kantor. Igo had produced, among other films, the William Shatner-starring KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. Our friend asked him if he was still looking for horror scripts. Igo said yes and gave him an address. Mike and I sent Igo the script and a week or so later he called us and told us he wanted to buy it!

Andrew: Mike and yourself wrote the script on your off time, so who is the writer "Peter Orton?"
Chris Kruize: After Mike and I sold "THE PESTILENCE" to Film Ventures International, we were contractually obligated to deliver a complete rewrite within 30 days. We actually did it in 2 weeks, by taking time off from our regular jobs, working late at night and through the weekends, and basically busting our asses. We were bound and determined to be professionals. All for nought. After we turned in our new draft -- revised with the assistance of Mark Rosman, the original director -- we heard no reaction from the producers for several weeks and after numerous phone calls, found out we'd been replaced by Peter Orton. Presumably he didn't have a real job and was able to go the Film Ventures offices and essentially take dictation from Ed Montoro. (More on that to follow.)

Image "NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS were they intended to be pasty-faced, shambling zombies!"

Andrew: Were most of the changes made before or after it left your control?
Chris Kruize: Mike and I enjoyed revising the script with Mark. He was young and enthusiastic (like we were at the time), coming off the success of "House on Sorority Row" which he'd written and directed. Film Ventures had distributed it effectively and made a mint.

Once Mike and I accepted the major change in premise -- from germ warfare to toxic waste poisoning -- we had no problem with the rewriting process. Mark was very visually oriented and really wanted to make a scary film. Some changes he asked for Mike and I might have disagreed with, but mostly we made them without complaint, unless of course we could talk him out of it.

The producers were a different story -- at least, one of them. Igo Kantor, a very pleasant and gentlemanly type, stayed out of the revision process completely. Trouble came from Ed Montoro, who ran Film Ventures. How well I remember his "philosophy," which he told Mike and I when we first met him: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Those were his words, repeated often. And initially Mike and I were led to believe the script was, fundamentally, unbroken. Boy, were we wrong. Ed took over the rewriting process and began to change EVERYTHING. In fairness, some of his ideas were good ones. Most of them weren't. But, again, Mike and I were neophytes, and we wanted to do a good job for these guys. We bit our tongues to a large extent, and pretty much went along.

During the rewrite process, the title was changed to "Night Shadows", which Mike and I thought was a little weak, but hey, whatever the producers want.

Andrew: Did you ever visit the filming location?
Chris Kruize: The film was shot in Norcross, Georgia, not far from Atlanta. Mark invited Mike and I to come to the location to watch filming, telling us we could crash at his place, which was very kind of him. But by then Mike and I felt like persona(s) non grata, so we were reluctant to take time off from work and pay our own airfares to get to Georgia. As it turned out, that was pretty smart, as Mark got fired after the first week of shooting and was replaced by Bud Cardos.

Andrew: One final question, are either of you still working in film, or have you gone on to different careers?
Chris Kruize: Mike and I are still employed in the film industry. Mike works in the Story department at 20th Century Fox, and I'm a production accountant, currently working on a "Murder She Wrote" TV movie.

I would like to thank Chris for taking the time for this interview and express sincere regret that the final product was such a departure from their original vision. Watching Hauser battle feral creatures would have been so much more entertaining, plus the germ warfare plot might have kept my reality meter from exploding.

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