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COME ON IN TO THE NIGHT BASEMENT! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Nov 21, 2004 at 07:00 PM
An interview with Mike Legge about his hilarious new feature!!


Dark Gallery: What is "The Night Basement?"
Mike Legge: Originally, I wanted to put out a few short movies on an anthology, particularly Sick Time. But I needed a framing device that could show that this wasn't a bona fide "horror" anthology, but a collection of comedy stories. After putting together my own version and showing it to Ron Bonk at Sub Rosa, he liked the framing concept and wanted to apply it to a series of shorts he was putting together. So, it would seem that the Night Basement went from a one shot deal to a series. Although, I do not have anything thing to do with the subsequent short films; I only supplied the title and the host character's intros.
DG: How did each segment develop and when where they shot?
ML: The first segment, The Lemon Man is quite old. I made it in the mid 80's, but it was always one of my favorite short comedies, and audiences have always liked it a lot. It's certainly one of the silliest films I've ever made. I took a look at it again, and it's really held up over time, in my opinion, so I decided to include it. Stage Blood was brand new. I decided not to put out an anthology without something new in it, and I had the idea for that story a while back. Originally I wanted to do it for Kevin Lindenmuth's Creaturealm series, but that didn't pan out. Seeing as Night Basement was a recycled movie to begin with, a recycled idea seemed right at home. Stage Blood might seem out of place sandwiched between the two loony films at each end of the anthology, but it is NOT meant as serious horror story. I run my own theater company, and I unfortunately see some over inflated egos and the petty bickering that occurs. It can be like a zoo. It didn't seem like overreaching to insert a werewolf into that milieu. Although most people I've dealt with in theater have been very nice, you do run into the predators. I also wanted to spoof the more recent representation of werewolves which show the human transforming into a full fledged animal. I find the older movies where the cursed are basically human with wolfish makeup are easier to accept, because the other extreme looks as scary as Teddy Bears to me. Anyway, even though Stage Blood isn't jokey or outlandish like my usual stuff, it still is a satire of the dog eat dog nature of theater. Sick Time, of course, has been in release for a while, but being a short has not the visibility of my other films, which is a shame, because I really liked the idea of the movie and the satire contained in it. Unfortunately, real life is catching up with some of it, which is really scary, especially the idea of arming school children so they'll be safe.
DG: Your host is obviously a direct ode to Rod Serling - how big of an influence did Serling and his shows have on you growing up?
ML: Tremendous. I watched the Twilight Zone when it was really on the air, and had some creepy nights as a child after watching them. I still love the show, and also like Night Gallery, which Rod hosted and wrote for but didn't have creative control over. The thing about the Twilight Zone and Boris Karloff's Thriller, (another great and overlooked anthology show), was they would make comic/horror episodes. The Twilight Zone, in particular, injected social comment and satire into the plot. That appealed to me tremendously, because it mixed my two great loves, comedy and fantasy. It seemed inevitable that my own work would be a mixture of these two genres.
DG: Have any of the shorts been submitted to film festivals or won any kind of awards?
ML: The Lemon Man has been around in it's time. It won the Best Super 8 at a film Festival in Florida back in the eighties, and was screened at the Ann Arbor Film Fest. It wound up on the USA network's defunct late night program, Night Flight. It was shown several times that way on national cable. I sometimes run into people who remember seeing it on TV, which is always fun.
DG: This movie showcases a wide spectrum of your work - from some of your earliest to your most recent. What do you see as your greatest change from those early days?
ML: Mostly I hope I've become more technically proficient. I've certainly run through enough cameras the past twenty years. Video is still relatively new to me, but it has offered much more flexibility on a technical level. I can't say with a straight face that I've "matured" as a writer, because all you have to do is look at my last feature, Braindrainer, to see I still have the mind of a silly twelve year old. (And someday I'll give it back to him.) I would hope that the stories have become a little more involving and complex over the years. One movie of mine, Cutthroats, has received the most praise in terms of the layers of satire in it, and has been a movie which many people involved in office politics have felt a kinship with. The greatest compliment I can receive is when people feel they have to see my films more than once. Initially it's to get all the jokes, (or get over them), but I hope they see that underneath all the lame puns and idiotic humor is really some trenchant observations about the most fucked up creatures on earth, human beings.
DG: You used to shoot only on film - why did you change and do you miss that format?
ML: I got out of film for two major reasons. One, I financed my own films, and the cost kept jumping up out of my range. For a while I coasted on two grants from the NEA, which partially funded Loons and Cutthroats. As an aside, when I applied for the grant, I had to send them a sample work. I sent them The Lemon Man. When I got the call that I got the grant, the guy on the phone, whom happened to be one of the panelists, told me how relieved they were when The Lemon Man came on after seeing a slew of stark documentaries and artsy dramas. They were so glad just to laugh. The second reason was the medium of Super 8 itself. The equipment broke down constantly, and the wait for the film to be processed seemed interminable. I was cautious to enter into video, but I'd never go back now. The ease of using it, the immediate gratification of seeing what you've shot, the myriad ways you can manipulate the image have pleased me greatly, and as digital becomes more and more common, I'm sure the video image will eventually rival the film image.
DG: Will we be seeing more of the Night Basement?
ML: I think that depends more on Ron than me. I have no plans for another anthology myself, but I'll be glad to host the Night Basement as they become available. I owe it to Rod!


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