Leonel VHS Talks WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? With Camille Keaton

cropped-spitclear (1)Every devoted horror fan at one time or another has sat down and taken the time to jot down his or her “bucket list” of people – actors, directors, etc. – who have all appeared in or helped helm horror films they love and have grown an attachment to. When I was a horror “newbie” back in the early-to-mid-80’s, there were films that shocked and terrified me and the more I watched them as years progressed, the more I became curious about the people who put these films together. I dreamed of getting to meet and hang out with those fabulous individuals that comprised their casts. The first one I ever put together was in the tenth grade sometime in 1990 while sitting in Physics class, staring at Mrs. Gooch and longing for the bell to ring to let us go. I had just started to educate myself on the popular (and at the same time, not-so-known) horror fare of the previous decade and already had my mind captivated by five people that I knew absolutely sure I wanted to meet someday: Zach Galligan of Gremlins, Amy Steel of both Friday the 13th – Part 2 and April dotdFool’s Day, Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp, John Saxon of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Caroline Munro of both Starcrash and Maniac (of which the latter three I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to cross off that list years later!). I kept that list to myself as the people who surrounded me on a daily basis already thought I was weird enough to begin with, keeping it in a safe spot in one of the drawers in my bedroom only to pull it out every so often to daydream. Even though I was watching more and more films, familiarizing myself with as many of them as I possibly could, the roster didn’t change much for a few years until I sat in front of the 1978 exploitation and cult-horror classic I Spit on Your Grave for the first time. Viewing that film would immediately increase my list by 1. The beautiful Camille Keaton would immediately be added to that exclusive register of people I had the desire to meet in person; not only for her fantastic portrayal of young Jennifer Hill, but for having the major cojones to take on a role so brutal and so genre-defining as the film was extremely controversial and gained notoriety among horror fans. Many years later, I would finally get the chance to sit and enjoy Massimo Dallamano’s wonderful and mind-bending What Have You Done to Solange? after learning that Camille had made her cinematic debut in that 1972 Italian giallo.

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Days of the Dead horror convention held at the Marriott Airport Convention Center in Burbank, California (accompanying Icons of Fright editor-in-Chief Jerry Smith) where Camille, along with a fantastic list of horror personalities, graced fans with their presence. This would by my very first DOTD show and I was excited to finally attend one, especially with the additional attendees that were scheduled to appearDOTDcam that included Reggie Bannister of Phantasm, PJ Soles of Halloween and Carrie, Fairuza Balk of The Craft – who I was very thrilled to have gotten the chance to meet that weekend, the fantastic Bill Moseley of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – part 2, the always-amazing Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp (my third time getting to spend time with her!) and surprise guests director David DeCoteau (Voodoo Academy) and Angus Oblong. But, what I was most excited for was finally getting the opportunity to meet the lovely Camille Keaton in person! It’s always a treat – and an absolute privilege – for me when I get to cross someone off my horror bucket list and I prayed that I would be able to get the chance to talk with her for more than just a few minutes as with as many fans that were speculated to attend this year, I would be cutting it really close.

The opening night of the convention brought about a sizable – but not overwhelming – mixed crowd of folks (many of them, as I, dressed in their favorite horror t-shirts) and I was able to sit in on the awesome Women in Horror panel comprised of Jennifer Banko (Friday the 13th: The New Blood), my favorite girl Felissa Rose, Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Rejects), and Camille Keaton. Though this panel was an absolute indulgence all its own, my heart wouldn’t stop beating as I got to hear Camille (and Felissa) speak! After getting to hear them discuss their positions on and opinions of modern horror, talk about both the projects they are most known for and hinting on projects currently in development, and after getting photographed together with both Ms. Rose and the wonderful surprise that was Beverly Randolph of Return of the Living Dead in the crowd (!!), I knew that the night was going to be more than memorable. It reached its pinnacle while walking around the main area, I stopped in my tracks and saw Camille out of the corner of my eye sitting [alone] at her table. Quickly taking the opportunity to walk over to her and introduce myself, I hoped again in the back of my mind that I would be able to spend more than just a few minutes with her. This, my friends, was a once-in-a-lifetime chance! After daydreaming about this moment during my late teen years and well into my early adulthood, my heart was beating rapidly to the point of light-headedness. As I approached her table, she beamed in my direction when she saw me and I was thrilled to the point of fainting when she stood up, welcomed me and shook my hand. Behind her were gorgeous full-sized posters for I Spit on Your Grave and What Have You Done To Solange? I had to pinch myself on the backside just in case I was dreaming this fantastic moment of finally meeting the actress who had been in both films!

After gushing fan-boy style for a few minutes (which I will openly admit), I presented myself as a contributing writer to Icons of Fright and that I had been the one to recently review Arrow Video’s new Blu-Ray release of What Have You Done To Solange? (you can read it here) to which she happily reacted and inquired, “What did you think?” I smiled back and immediately took this chance to tell her the story on how I came across the film, my memories of watching it for the very first time – and my honest reaction to the film’s twist – and how it’s found a permanent place in my endless collection. She smiled and blushed, laughing coyly as I admitted to her that I’d had a crush on her since my teen years in the mid-90’s (yes, I went there). I then proceeded to express my disappointment that she hadn’t taken part in the special features of the Blu-Ray – and was candid with her about how I felt regarding her absence and how it took away from the overall feel of the release itself – as the titular character she boldly portrayed had been essential to both the plot of the film itself and the fantastic (and astounding) reveal in the final act. I then held my breath and proceeded to ask her if Arrow had asked her to participate, as that was the only major complaint I had about their version and honestly wanted to get the T directly from the one person who would DOTDcam2know the real answer. I thought that I would be crossing the line – and actually started to sweat a bit as I stood there in front of her – but I was pleasantly surprised (and in fact, overwhelmingly relieved) that indeed, she had been asked by Arrow to participate and give her thoughts on the film, participate in an on-camera interview, and be featured on the film’s commentary soundtrack exclusively for their release but reluctantly had to turn the invitation down due to several projects she was working on at the time. Though yes, it was a shame that she wasn’t able to participate (as her contributions would have made the entire package even sweeter), she guaranteed me that had she not been tied up with prior engagements – and insisted that I understand that was the only reason – she would have shared plenty of memories and anecdotes about her time on the film, what it was like to work with both director Massimo Dallamano and the legendary Fabio Testi, and her take on the film’s highly controversial themes of teenage sex and abortion. Yes!

As we continued to exchange in conversation, I brought up something she had mentioned during the panel when she was asked about some of the projects she’d been working on recently as it sounded so fantastic that I had to hear it directly from her before jumping to any conclusion(s). She was happy to confirm that very soon and after 38 years, horror fans everywhere will be able to indulge in I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu, the legitimate – and extremely anticipated – sequel to the 1978 shocker! She went on to say that the film is in post production and that the film will take place many years after the first film ended with Jennifer (Keaton) writing a novel about her ordeal and going to trial for the murders she committed in the film. Jennifer is accused of taking the law into her own hands and brutally killing the men who assaulted her. What is most interesting about this entire premise is that the relatives of the men she disposed of after violating her and leaving her for dead are steamed-off that Jennifer has gotten off scott-free for their murders and are coming for their revenge! Though on the surface that plot could be labeled as “predictable”, “uninspired” and done just to “cash-in” on the remake (and its surprising –and unnecessary – second and third films in that franchise), I am going to make sure that I sit in front of it as I – as I know most people who have seen the original film over the years – are curious to know just what happened to Jennifer when she sped away on that motorboat at the film’s unsettling final scene. But what all of us can unanimously agree on is that we have always wanted to know the events that unfolded after she stepped out of that boat. With what has been revealed about the plot thus far, I have always thought about the scene in the first film just after Jennifer has castrated Johnny when his wife and children (both played by Meir Zarchi’s real-life kids, who, coincidentally are going to appear in this sequel) stand around waiting for dad to show up while the viewer is the only one to know exactly what has just taken place. The scene always makes my stomach turn and it’s one of the most effective non-violent scenes of the entire movie. I am excited to see just what Déjà Vu has planned to bring to the table and I’m hoping that this new sequel will evoke those same feelings of dread and horror that the first film is now famous for (or infamous, depending on how you look at it).

Not only do I feel blessed and fortunate that I was able to spend a good amount of time with Camille (forty-five minutes to be exact), but I’m ecstatic to know that she is still enthusiastically giving to the horror community and even more thrilled that I Spit on Your Grave, a very important and monumental film in horror and exploitation cinema history, is still getting the recognition it deserves and finally getting the sequel that horror fans have been dreaming about for decades. Thank you, Camille, for your graciousness and for being willing to spend some time with me. If I could go back in time to get to talk to myself as a naive teenaged kid, I would tell him that his future was bright, that he would one day to get to live his dream of writing about 80’s horror, and that on one random April Fool’s day in the second decade of the 21st century, he would get to cross off getting to talk to – and be photographed with – Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, the lovely and talented Camille. Dreams can come true and I am living proof. I will never forget my short, yet memorable, time with her and can’t to see her on the big screen for the first time when Déjà Vu makes is premiere. All my love to you, Camille! XO

2 Responses to “Leonel VHS Talks WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? With Camille Keaton”
  1. Lori Garcia says:

    That was a great article Leonel…you sounded like a stalker at one point j/k it was super enjoyable!

  2. Matt Garcia says:

    Yes awesome article!!! My eyes teared up a little on the part where you were about to approach her. I did not know she was Buster Keaton’s grand daughter.

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