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Interview with Fred Olen Ray
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Image Fred Olen Ray is a name known to many cult movie fans, though the gentleman has also made films under a number of other monikers. His director credits on the IMDb list almost one hundred titles. I have always associated him with "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" and "Bikini Drive-In," but his favorite type of movies are not gore fests filled with naked women.

Interview Date: 12 October 2007

Andrew: What started your interest in making movies? Did you suddenly realize, "Hey, I have some ideas that involve monsters, robots, and girls. Nobody else is going to make them, so I had better get to work."
Fred Olen Ray: I initially wanted to work in make-up and special effects, probably from all of those years of reading FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine...but it soon became apparent that you would always be between jobs and I was looking for something that would actually earn me a living. I think I became a director because that was the fastest way to get a film made on the independent side of things.

Image "I think I became a director because that was the fastest way to get a film made..."

Andrew: I have watched a lot of your films and they really do lean toward monsters and scantily clad girls, quite often mixing the two. Is there any favorite kind of film you like to make? Are you a "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" or "Bikini Drive-in" type of guy?
Fred Olen Ray: Actually I'm a CRITICAL MASS kind of guy. I like to shoot things and blow stuff up. I also like comedies. Don't like erotic thrillers.

Image "...I'm a CRITICAL MASS kind of guy."

Click here for a scene from CRITICAL MASS. Udo Kier is driving an armored battle truck as he chases after Treat Williams & Lori Loughlin.

Andrew: What are some of your favorite films?
Fred Olen Ray: ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN is one of my all time faves, same goes for FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN and HOUSE OF DRACULA. Also like the AIP 1950s style sci-fi flicks - the Poe films and stuff like THE GREEN SLIME and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.

Image "ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN is one of my all time faves."

Andrew: For your own films, is there one you are really proud of? Either the script came together just right, the actors and actresses all clicked, or some of the scenes turned out to be exactly what you were imagining.
Fred Olen Ray: I will always have a soft spot for ARMED RESPONSE as it had a great cast and was one of the first times I had more than two nickels to rub together. I'm very fond of my western, THE SHOOTER.

Image "I will always have a soft spot for ARMED RESPONSE..."

Andrew: In keeping with the last question, are there any movies that made you wish things had turned out differently? There must have been times when the availability of a location or of those involved was frustrating you. Heck, budget must be a limiting factor at times. Some directors can afford to blow five million dollars on an action scene. Have you ever wished that money was not a barrier?
Fred Olen Ray: Money is always a barrier. The more they give you, the more they expect, so you're always caught short, regardless. I don't think anything I've done was ever budgeted properly for what was expected of me, but that's just the nature of the business, I guess. There certainly are films I did because there was a paycheck attached. It's a working man's world and it doesn't pay to get too idealistic about things like directing low-budget movies if you have a family to think about. I usually try to find something that interests me in each and every project. It's not really possible to phone it in. Making a film with no money or schedule is ten times harder than it is to make a big budget show where you're surrounded by a gang of super-talented people.

Image "It's a working man's world and it doesn't pay to get too idealistic about things like directing low-budget movies if you have a family to think about."

Andrew: You are 52, nearly 53, and a grandfather. Despite how that may sound, you are still making films and a pro wrestler. Do you ever feel older, compared to being 30?
Fred Olen Ray: It certainly feels different the next morning after taking a back suplex off the top turnbuckle. I think I'm definitely aching a lot more and of course the years of punishment catch up to your joints as you get older. While I might be a (very proud) grandfather, I take a certain pride in the knowledge that my granddaughter is only one year younger than my youngest son! The grandkid plays very well with her uncles. They're almost all the same age!

I think I enjoy life more now than I did back when I was desperate and trying to raise a 4 year-old alone and working in a factory and trying to be a filmmaker. No matter how you cut it, life is a lot easier now.

Image "I think I enjoy life more now..."

Andrew: You have made a number of films with special effects. Sometimes those can surprise you more than was intended. The guy wearing the heavy monster suit accidentally falls into the pool and sinks or the pyrotechnics result in a huge explosion that catches everyone off guard. Have you ever run into a situation where something unexpected happened?
Fred Olen Ray: The stories surrounding COMMANDO SQUAD are legendary, but would take a bit of time to actually was really something! Pyro, cars, commandos and some really dangerous stuff going down!

On ALIENATOR we accidentally set no less than five people on fire in a single day, including Dan Golden, who really burst into flames!

Image "On ALIENATOR we accidentally set no less than five people on fire in a single day..."

Unfortunately, Mr. Olen Ray's schedule cut the interview a little short, but he is definitely a "working man" in a business that demands a lot, and it is only those people with a focus on the goal, making movies, that continue to do so. I would like to thank Fred Olen Ray for taking the time to answer the interview questions and wish him the best in the future, and the same to his children and grandchildren. For more on Fred, please see his Personal Homepage, his IMDb Profile, and Retromedia's Website.

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