Mr. Ben VS. Christopher Lee

Opening the Mind marks the end roads for the mountain of in-house productions that have weighed me down for most of my adult life. It was just the third time I filmed with Mr. Ben. But it will mark the final feature experience completed of our era of work.

Mr. Ben was a portal of stories from his roller coaster of a life within the entertainment industry. One significant tale always puzzled me. Mr. Ben was once replaced by the legendary Christopher Lee. The film had gone through a title change and we knew not what came of it. Any chance I get, I will dig around looking for the various known productions Mr. Ben was involved in. This one remained a mystery. Today on the seventh anniversary of Mr. Ben’s passing I was finally able to place my eyes upon this mystery.

A very special thanks to Madeline Mythos (of Guillotine Girls Horror Podcast) who recognized a very reminiscent image. I had posted a shot of Mr. Ben on set of what was once known as de Sade. She forwarded the same shot back of Christopher Lee standing where Mr. Ben had. The same exact promotional shots recreated with Lee. A little more noodling and we discovered the release shared below…

Early on, someone recommended to Mr. Ben he keep a diary and write a memoir one day. This way all these wild stories they were moved by, could remain fresh and well captured. It was his last wish to see it published and we all hope to see that realized one day. For now, I would like to share an excerpt from his book on the anniversary that he left this mortal coil. Below you can read a tidbit of THE DREAM NEVER DIES: The Life of a Working Actor

Mr. Ben VS. Christopher Lee

 

“A featured role was offered me in the movie de Sade. The job came up because of a sick wife and was lost because of the European quota system on co-productions.

The Spanish director, Jesus Franco, phoned me.

“I’m doing a picture called deSade, and I’m wondering if you can come to Barcelona to play a role. The actor who was originally cast has to fly home to Germany. His wife has been in a terrible accident and I need someone to replace him. Your friend, Jack Taylor, who is in the movie, recommended I call you. Do you think you can do it? Jack has assured me you are a good actor.”

There was no audition; just a desperate call.

The first flight out was at six in the morning, and on arrival at the airport there was a limo waiting to drive me to the studio. On the way they handed me a script of the first scene to be shot that day. Learning the lines on the way to the studio, they rushed me into makeup and costume as soon as we got there. They outfitted me almost entirely in black, complete with a voluminous, flowing cape; the trademark of every depraved scoundrel. With my dark hair and penetrating eyes, the time came to play the man who taught deSade’s philosophy of life and kinky sex. After meeting all the other actors on the set we shot the first scene. It went beautifully. There were no flubs and we did it perfectly in one take.

It was the best role anyone had ever offered me in a movie. deSade was a semi-porno film. But since it was still the Franco years it was necessary to shoot on a closed set. In the first scene there was no nudity or sex, but there was plenty in other parts of the picture, and the women were stunning. We shot my scene a second time for safety purposes, when the director was told Harry Alan Towers, the producer, was on the phone from London. He was calling to tell Jesus the actor doing the role must be either German or English.

In Europe, when they do co-productions there is a quota system they must adhere to. deSade was a Spanish-English-German co-production so they had to use an equal number of actors and technicians from each country. In spite of the good job done that morning, the perfect shoot and the satisfaction of the director, this actor was out. They had placed me in the Spanish quota.

“But we just shot the first scene with our actor. He’s perfect for the role,” yelled Jesus.

“I’m sorry,” replied Towers, “the actor has to be German or
English. I’ve already spoken to Christopher Lee and he’s agreed
to do the part.”

Christopher Lee was famous for his Dracula films. He hurriedly flew in from London the next day. We watched him practically sleepwalk through the same scene that had been done so well the day before. Jesus apologized but said there was nothing he could do. They paid me in full for my contract and then drove me to the airport for my return flight to Madrid.

It had happened again; but as an actor learns early on, life is full of disappointments. Yet when everything falls apart, actors pick themselves up and know someday it will happen. The dream never dies!” – Ben Tatar, 2002

Eugenie …the story of her journey into perversion

Töte Mich Noch Einmal

  • An exciting addition to the special edition of OPENING THE MIND is the experimental German film, Töte Mich Noch Einmal.

Below is a breakdown of the talent involved. Including Thomas Goersch who makes an appearance in OTM as well as The Profane Exhibit.

Töte Mich Noch Einmal

Daniel Hadrović is a writer and filmmaker. He has Croatian citizenship and lives in Germany. 2019 he was nominated for the Croatian Artist Award “Većernjakova Domovnica”.

Antonio Putignano is an Italian actor known from cinema and television. He was an integral part of the most successful German daily soap ever.

Thomas Goersch is mainly known to the German audience as a TV host and gained a solid fan base through extreme underground film productions.

Shirley Hermanick is a German model who takes now and then roles as an actress.

Advisor on the set was the horror author Robert Odei.

Gabriel dos Santos Dias, from Portugal, is responsible for the editing.

The music score was composed exclusively for the film by the English Band TWO WHOLE QUAILS, who specialized in setting up music to surreal silent films.

A Karyus Character

John Karyus is an eclectic character actor and Jack of Any Trade on an indie film set. We met at the B-Movie Film Festival in Syracuse, NY in 2000. He overheard a conversation and asked if he could chime in. Below he reflects of this, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget. He asked if I had any copies left of my film. I opened my book bag and offered him a VHS of MY CREPITUS. John inquired what they cost, I stared at him dazingly. He urged me to ‘get used to it’ and shoved a $20 bill in my hand in exchange for my film. John shook my hand and shared a personal anecdote of thriving to survive as an artist. Believing in ones skills. He was the first to buy one of my films. Then he asked how he could reach out to me, so that we could correspond. He did write back after watching my film. Over the next six years, we kept in touch. Then as he was nearing a crossroads and about to make the dive toward his cinematic dreams and move to LA. He said I was on his bucket list of artists he wanted to work with before he made the move. John drove straight from the set of TROMA’S POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. He arrived directly on set of …AND THEN I HELPED. We were shooting a massive blood bath and he jumped right in and helped puppeteer the faux victim. Once we broke, we had a chance to catch up and he eagerly popped open the trunk of his car to show the prop ass from the Troma film. He had played a gravedigger who gets his ass reamed literally…

 

We shared many a laugh and filmed a plenty… Below is John’s own personal reflection:

John Karyus on set of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.

“Hot on the tail of announcing that the nearly 6 years in the making PIGSTER (formerly FEAST OF FEAR) is finally available, another long dormant project has surfaced. This one dates all the way back to 2002…the long anticipated OPENING THE MIND from Michael Todd Schneider.

I first met Michael in 2000 or 2001 at a genre themed film festival. I am not sure if he sensed I was of a similar mindset or what, but he came up to me saying his film was too disturbing to play at this festival. He then opened a backpack full of VHS tapes, somewhat covertly like a drug deal was going down. The movie was MY CREPITUS and the cover was himself in homemade but very creepy demon makeup. Of course I bought one of these bad boys. $15 I think.

Over the next couple of years I kept in touch with him online. I was doing movies and he was doing movies. He was starting to get known in the weirdest corners of the underground for some of his movies and music projects. We traded tapes back and forth. At some point, he offered me a role in his avant garde epic OPENING THE MIND, which he had been working on for a couple years at that point. He showed me a trailer for it, which I couldn’t make heads or tails of. It was all weird eyeballs and screaming. But I liked it. A lot. I said yes immediately. I didn’t know what this movie was ABOUT (still don’t!) but I did know it would be INTERESTING.

A couple of years went by before we would shoot it. In the summer of 2006, I drove from Buffalo to Pittsburgh and shot not only my bizarre scene in OPENING THE MIND, but a brief cameo in another movie he was making at the time ( called …AND THEN I HELPED) as well as an impromptu short film. 3 films in one weekend, not bad!

And then a week later I packed my car and moved to LA. And gradually fell out of touch with Michael. I worried here and there about OTM, and it didn’t help that it seemed to disappear from IMDB. But then, just a few days ago…I saw him posting that pre-order was available on this film that had become an urban legend. It existed!

I read a blog on his webpage that went into some detail about how hard the project was to resurrect. The tapes were impossible to play on any deck or camera he had. A whirlwind of other issues. And other films to make. But somehow, some way, after 17 years, he carved this beast. I still don’t know what to say about it, but not quite knowing what it is is the joy of it. I can guarantee it is very, very far out there.

OPENING THE MIND is available for pre-order on his website, in two collector’s edition versions. One that’s $40 with all sorts of extras like documentaries….and one that I think is just the movie for $25. Also, listed right underneath, is …AND THEN I HELPED also for $25. These are pricey I know, but keep in mind they are very independent releases….as well as collectable packaging and such that all those collector types seem to love!

I haven’t seen either of these yet. But I can say both are pretty extreme and force you to leave your sanity at the door. I know I did!” – John Karyus, 11.6.2019

A Requiem For the magGots

Requiem live!

Below is the first of the magGot Clan to chime in on the Opening the Mind journey. Without this crucial crossroads it may have forever been left in limbo. Creepies n’ Crawlies here is the master behind the aural assault Requiem, David Graham:

 

“In 2002 my good friend Michael Todd Schneider started writing a film entitled “Opening the Mind”. Since then, Michael has made many features and short films that I have worked on to varying degrees, however he shot and filmed the majority of “Opening the Mind” before we ever met. The 80 (!) tapes that held the footage were thought to be unplayable. Michael tested many cameras and decks, but nothing would work. I don’t remember exactly when he told me about this debacle, but when I heard, I told him he should try my camera. He didn’t even know I had one of these cameras. I bought one a long time ago thinking I would use it all the time, but it barely got used. This would end up being my biggest contribution to this film, because my camera magically played all of the tapes, and Michael was now able to painstakingly capture all of the footage and start editing the movie.

This film is the end of an era and not only “Opens the Mind” but opens the door to the next chapter of his career.

17 years later the slate has been wiped clean!!!

The trailer features spoken word from the one and only Bryan Lewis Saunders and has cameos from major key magGot players and supporters from over the years. Time to get weird.“ – David Graham, November 5, 2019

David on left, magGot on the right. Bryan Lewis Saunders dead center.

The world works in mysterious ways. We knew of one another. Ran amongst the same peeps. But weren’t meant to connect till it was meant to be. Never lose sight. Never forget the crossroads that lead to what makes the story of our life. Of our work. Our art. Whatever legacy that may be. It is ours. Thank you my friend!…

 

 

 

 

 

Double Bill of Tricks and Treats

The time is now! Opening the Mind is available for pre-order in the magGot Store: OPEN YOUR FUCKING MIND!!! HERE!

It just doesn’t get more exciting then finally closing the final two chapters of your life’s work thus far… on a single day. On Halloween night…

The Profane Exhibit has at various times, felt like a cursed production. What exploded in 2011, quickly became a journey of near fatal car crashes, and cities burning ablaze. The adventure we pursued behind the scenes, matches what is seen on screen.

One of a kind, Profane is an international extreme horror anthology film. Works created by abounding talent from across the globe.

Some thought it didn’t exist… Most thought it would never see the light of day.

On this day, we have been gifted by Unearthed Films with the official announcement that it is coming. In a big way.

A Devil’s Treat

On the eve of this very Devil’s Night, here’s a deadly little treat. The cover art reveal of Opening the Mind by magGot regular Nicholas Mears. He’s created the most cover art for this era of films. Nicholas is a multitalented creature of many mediums. A large background in special makeup fx. Underground filmmaking. Two dimensional and three dimensional animations. Painting and sculpting. You name it. Nick has made it, in his own strangely splatastic language.

The hours are nearing for all the tricks n’ treats…

Max to the Max

Some of the greatest moments during each stage of production were shared with Max Almeida.

His involvement with this era of work was incredibly prolific. To touch the surface he is a great idea man. Also his writing is top notch. We co-wrote …And Then I Helped with Nikki McIntyre. He fleshed out the skeleton that grew into the tree the film became. But it was a firm foundation we built upon.

The two of us also wrote an unseen script for a film called Good Times of 86’. Easily one of the most equal and rewarding of collaborations. It was originally a work for hire. But the production company we were penning for opted to make a Bigfoot film and not a slasher film (because they were now the hip thing). Upon learning this we stripped the slasher element and discovered a really unique tale. No longer a work for hire, we found something beyond monetary worth … an original script. We wouldn’t have created hadn’t the opportunity been offered to us. Yin and yang in full suit. One I hope will see the light beyond the page one day.

He never hesitated to jump in front or behind the camera. The very definition of unhindered enthusiasm and a reliable  blood mate. Great and crazy Afro hair and an eye for composition by nature, few achieve over a life time of dedication to the craft.

Having a background in special makeup fx we even enjoyed some bloody times on others sets throwing the grue. A highlight was on one of Alan Rowe Kelly’s grizzly tales A Far Cry From Home. Along with Nikki McIntyre and Benzy we got to dismember many with a gleeful grin. Knowing we all had one another’s backs and enjoyed every hurtle.

One of the all time best memories on any set was one that was shared with Max and company for Opening the Mind. It was pure anarchy and freedom of being in the moment. That group we shared filming with was in complete harmony and unhindered of the mundane. For me, that sequence is the core of the film. Beneath the chaos it holds a key to a larger picture of something beyond specificities of which words cannot achieve. Only possible with the right pieces of a larger whole being in place.

Today is Max’s birthday. Whatever he has in store, I hope he will continue to open his mind. Push further. Explore new ground. He’s one of the good ones. You meet few and are lucky to find yourself in their company for what time allows. The memories we shared on and off set are the stuff of legends.

 

Family Business…

Opening the Mind is heaping with family business. Some whom are still in my life, some whom have moved on and some who are no longer walking the soil we take for granted. Many in your art life you hold higher then some family. Many spend a lifetime seeking their film family. Some are actually legit family and support any crazy ideas you may have.

When I was 22 I cast my own Mum. That film was the first to open doors, win true and legit awards. Producers were after her when we were at the festival circuit. Voices published in the likes of Fangoria and Rue Morgue magazines asked how I cast Ellen Burstyn. The reality is my Mum’s name is actually Pamela Anderson.

To this day, I’ve only had enough guts to pester my Mum three times to step in front of the camera. Opening the Mind is her second ever performance and the final to be completed. Clearly our next film will be Oscar worthy and starring my very own Mum. But until then, we can celebrate the moments we’ve shared both on set and much more on the real life set. Reality. Often for artists like myself, those lines blur. But rest assured I do know that my Mum is Pamela Anderson and not Ellen Burstyn…

The Countdown Begins

The final in house magGot Film is upon us.  Spanning seventeen years and several other films, productions and near death experiences. Opening the Mind is nearly upon us. Pre-sales on the first slew of limited editions will launch on Halloween.

It was a massive moment of closure. Spending an evening with Eric James. A true ritual. We feasted, reflected and dove into a private screening of the final chapter. A surreal celebration of all that is our lives work thus far. Stay tuned as more will be revealed in the coming hours.