TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND, Feb 21st - 24th 2008 (Dallas, TX) Report and write-up by Beth.
Ok, let me start off by saying it was an amazing feat that they managed to get all the possible cast members from Night of the Living Dead to not only attend the convention, but the 40th anniversary screening of the film. Thursday night preceding the convention, it was like being in Hollywood , but on a smaller scale. There was a short, red carpet with an advertisement backdrop for photographers to snap photos of the guests.
Most people were dressed in suites and fancy dresses and there was a cash bar so everyone attending the screening could drink while viewing the film. Malcolm McDowell introduced George Romero, the director, who after stepping up on stage to thank everyone for coming, shed a few tears in happiness that after 40 years the film is still being honored.
The movie was actually shown not in digital, but in the original projected film form, making for a genuine experience not felt since it's original release.
Afterwards, each cast member received a 40th anniversary plaque commemorating the event where Malcolm McDowell started the Q&A.
They discussed the copyright of the film and how they lost it when the original title was changed from "Night of the Flesh Eaters" to "Night of the Living Dead" and how none of the original cast is actually making money off of the film today because of the copyright mistake. However, they said that with the new world tour celebrating Nights 40th anniversary, they intend on going before the senate to reclaim the copyright of the film.
They talked of the people that have passed since making the film, and how they wished they could have been there, two of whom were mentioned were lead actor Duane Jones and his opposite in the film, Karl Hardman. (photos below taken of the screen during screening)
At the end of the Q&A Malcolm McDowell said "I've been to several screenings, honorings and Q&A's, including Stanley Kubrick's and Alfred Hitchcock's, but nothing has ever been as good as this."
Sadly at the end of the night, Romero and the rest of the cast weren't able to stop and talk to fans. Although they looked like they really wanted to converse and sign autographs with the attendees, their security and agents dragged them away quickly.
Doors open to Texas Frightmare Weekend,
and the zombies start rolling in.
I'm in the vending room early thanks to my press pass, but the guests have yet to arrive. I walk around and take a look at all the vendors setting up, not too many here. There's a decent T-shirt vendor and a few art stands, it was hard to find a good DVD vendor or any really impressive keepsake vendors.
Once the guests are in place they're all pretty busy signing autographs.
This guy (Joe Pilato) never stopped eating the whole weekend! Seriously, every time I saw him he was stuffing something into his mouth.
Sadly, of everyone John Russo, Tom Savini and Scott H. Reiniger were the ones that got the least attention.
In my opinion, John Russo is THE most over looked contributor of Night of the Living Dead and as the writer, deserves more notoriety! He and I had an awesome "bonding" moment when I told him I always looked up to him and cried after I met him at Chicago Wizard World Comic Con...I'm a nerd, I know.
At night we watched a screening of Chopping Mall, with live commentary from director Jim Wynorski and actress Kelli Maroney, whom, by the way didn't say a word the whole time so...we didn't learn much from this film except that murdering robots cause a lot of destruction.
The panels were really good, it was a shame more people didn't attend them.
On this particular panel, Tom Savini explained that the re-make of Night of the Living Dead was actually made to try and salvage what they could from the un-copyrighted Night from 68'…he explained he always hated his 90's remake but recently watched it again and enjoyed it. "The actors did an amazing job" said Savini, who was a very nice and open man who charged next to nothing for his autographs…he gets a bad rap but I think it's just because he has a strong personality that intimidates a lot of people.
Also I asked the guests of the "I was a Romero zombie" panel how each one got their role in the film…a few had just been onset already as camera men or sound crew and just filled the zombie shoes…but Kyra Schon (the little girl of Night) said her father (Mr. Cooper) was her real father, and he suggested his own daughter for the role of Karen.
But the best story of this panel goes to Eugene Clark, who said that when he auditioned for his leading role as "head zombie" for Land of the Dead, Romero had a telephone sitting on a table in the audition room and told Eugene "Ok, you're dead, you come back to life and there's a phone sitting here and you don't know what it is…go" Eugene said he stared at the telephone for a long time, acting confused until Romero said "Are you OK?"
Eugene nodded yes and decided to act as if he were a baby, assuming a zombie would do the same. He laid his head on the receiver and pretended to sleep and then put the phone in his mouth like a baby would, drooling on it and trying to eat it. Afterward Romero had the very tall, very built Eugene , lift some chairs and slam them down in anger…after seeing this Romero saw Eugenes diversities and said "you've got the part"
Malcolm McDowell's Panel was extremely entertaining as well, and funny! He spoke of his experiences on Caligula, saying that he and his fellow actor Peter O'Toole "Had never seen so much cock in all our lives!" He spoke of how he got "accidentally stoned while running lines in the trailer where another actor was smoking...well, you know" and he and his fellow actor found it hard to concentrate with not only being stoned in this one scene but the things that were around them on the set made it hard to concentrate. "I mean there were women swinging from 10ft dildos and disgusting naked men and women that looked like heroin addicts, small people that looked like donkeys"
On A Clockwork Orange he said that "I recently found out that Stanley Kubick actually spent years trying to find his "Alex" for A Clockwork Orange, and after seeing my face in the opening shot for "If" he played it over and over again, staring at my face and turned to his wife and said "We've finally found our Alex.". Stanley called me and asked me to read the book, which I did, but I didn't like it. I read it two more times and then I realized it was amazing."
McDowell said when figuring out what he was going to wear to play the role of Alex, he suggested he try out his Cricket uniform that was in the trunk of his car. Then Kubrick said "Wear the Cod piece (cup) on the outside of the trousers…I like it, it's very midevil." Then a few days later McDowell came across 30yards of eye lash in a store and decided to buy it as a joke, but Kubrick had him cut it into pieces and wear one piece over one eye, then they tried both eyes, then two pieces on one eye, and they took several photos. Finally, Kubrick said "I like both pieces of eyelash over one eye, it's very sinister"
In the opening shot, McDowell lifts his glass of milk to the camera and toasts the audience. He wasn't told to do that by Kubrick but when asked why he did he said "I was telling the audience, "Hold on to your chairs, you're in for a hell of a ride.""
Also, when asked about killing captain Kirk he said "I think I was doing the world a favor...we put up with his crap for 30 years and he should bow down and kiss the ground Shatner walked on! I'm glad my character killed Captain Kirk!"
On Saturday the place was packed,
lines for Romero autographs wrapped around the whole vendors room. By the time I got to him he looked exhausted but he was still very kind and talkative, as he was with all of his fans. While speaking to him he told me I needed to speak up because he didn't hear so well. He explained that while filming The Dark Half he was playing tennis one day and all of the sudden he went def in his right ear. He became dizzy and fell over. He hadn't been feeling very well and his balance and hearing has never been the same since. Now when he finishes a movie he has to bring in special sound people to help him mix the audio on his films.
He mentioned his daughter and I had told him I heard she was attending school to also become a filmmaker. He confirmed. And when I asked if she was going to make horror like her father he said "No, she's trying to up-stage me by making that artsy crap, haha."
here's a few pics of the rest of the guests, all of whom seemed very cool...
All in all the Convention was pretty decent. It was well thought out and planned but not executed in an orderly fashion. The VIP party was packed and for something that was supposed to be limited, I think most people from the convention were there. Guests left early from the party and at the end of each night they were carted away to a secret location… which I'm not used to. The organizers of the convention really kept the guests separate from the crowds as much as they could, even though I'm used to the guest mingling with their fans at other Cons, it appeared as if many of them wanted to talk to the fans but were taken away. George Romero's representatives particularly keeping him from interacting with the fans, unless of course they were paying for an autograph. There weren't many vendors, so aside from getting autographs there wasn't an abondance to do. They did have a parade of screened movies and the screening room was excellent! It was large and set up well, with consessions right outside the viewing room.
SPIRAL, that was amazing! Creepy and only rated PG13, it's hard to believe it's by the same director of HATCHET. It was very mysterious, creepy and made me jump a couple times.
Unfortunately, not many people were there to see SPIRAL because it played at midnight. It went unseen by almost the whole Con.
I gotta hand it to the Texas Frightmare staff for getting great guests and lots of them! And for supporting our web site by allowing us to check out their convention with press passes, for that they rock! I'm sure with each passing year it will get better and better. They pulled in a great crowd on Saturday and I'm sure after a bit of tweeking they'll pull in more vendors as well. Thank you for helping keep horror alive by feeding it to the masses!
Report by: Beth Puttkammer