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INTERVIEW WITH TED V. MIKELS PDF Print E-mail
Written by by Kevin J. Lindenmuth   
Nov 18, 2004 at 07:00 PM
Persistence and perseverance plays a major role in the creation of a B-movie. Without the huge budgets of your typical Hollywood production and with the shooting schedules more often than not determined by the availability of actors and crews, the director, who in fact may also be the producer and the writer of the movie, faces an almost insurmountable wall of problems. No one knows this better than veteran filmmaker Ted V. Mikels, who in the past thirty years has produced over twenty independent features of his own and dozens more for other companies. Recently, Mikels has been working on two more movies, DIMENSION IN FEAR and the long awaited sequel to his infamous CORPSE GRINDERS.
Mikels had first used the title, DIMENSION IN FEAR, when he was trying to get a bank loan for a movie twenty five years ago. Mikels explains "I was dealing with a bank on a loan for a picture. They had decided not to go with me on a different title for a different script so the next morning, before they gave me an answer, I said 'just a minute, I want to do DIMENSION IN FEAR'--and on the strength of that title they OK'd the loan. But I changed the name of the film to DOLL SQUAD after I got it going. So I consider DIMENSION IN FEAR my magic title."
This time around, DIMENSION IN FEAR is about an escaped serial killer who is pursued by the authorities across the country. Unlike your somber, "Henry" type killers, though, this character has a rather odd trait--before he kills someone he bites the back of his hand and slaps his face, covering it in blood. When he encounters the main character, a young woman he picks up hitchhiking after her car breaks down, he gets more than he bargained for. Before he can kill her she rakes his face with his car keys and escapes into the nearby desert. The next day, he is at the quick care center where he has his injured eye attended to. Coincidentally, he runs into the unconscious girl who was brought into the quick care center for revival by a group of dirt-bikers who found her in the desert. As soon as night falls, he breaks into the hospital and unsuccessfully tries to kill her again.
"A detective takes her under protective custody," Mikels continues, "And she stays with him until they get to Las Vegas." The killer catches up with them, knifes the detective and pursues the woman through the basement of a casino. "It's real cat and mouse," Mikels enthuses. "Meanwhile, the killer's good twin brother is trying to find him and when the police close in on him the woman is screaming that the twin is the killer--and the men shoot the brother believing they are shooting the serial killer.
The next morning, after she says goodbye to everyone, a hand comes from behind her, covering her mouth. The next shot is in the desert--we see her purse, a picture of herself and her mother blowing in the wind and we see one shoe and lipstick. We don't know what happened. You're the first to hear the whole story."
Mikels will finish shooting for DIMENSION IN FEAR in June of '97. "I'm dependent on when I can get people together. I'm also DP Cameraman on this. If I don't have any help I do it alone. With luck I use a minimum crew of six. Sometimes a crew of thirty is a disadvantage because you have to feed them and shelter them--it's like having a big tail on a little dog."
As for CORPSE GRINDERS II--it's a movie that Mikels has wanted to do for years. "I've had people trying to buy the rights but I rejected all offers because I wanted to do it myself." This sequel, which starts off on a war ravaged alien planet, concerns the descendents of Atlantean cat-people who return to present day earth in search of food. Ironically, the only food they find palatable is Lotus Cat Food--which contains ground up humans. "So the make a deal with the government to ship a load of that back," Mikels explains. "Meanwhile, the nephews of the original corpse grinders are being investigated by the MIB's and the CIA. I play a part of a professor who pretends to be a bird watcher while listening to the strange sounds of the spaceship as it lands. He ends up on the spaceship going back to the planet Sita to continue his research."
So far Mikels has gotten a small deposit against a half a million dollar budget. He has started building the gravestones, gone to Hollywood and found the inside of a spaceship for the cat people, and also begun designing the spaceship war that will be done via digital computer effects.
But why make a sequel to a film that was made over twenty years ago? "No film I've ever done has enjoyed the financial success and rewards of CORPSE GRINDERS, and this is probably due to several things," says Mikels. "When we made CG we had a fantastic campaign--we had ambulances in front of the theaters, flashing lights, a nurse on duty checking blood pressure and everyone had to sign a certificate of assurance that they were of sound mind and good health or they couldn't come into the theater." It worked.
People came in droves. "We created a triple bill--CORPSE GRINDERS, UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS and THE EMBALMER--that knocked them dead and wiped out all competition." Today, the whole industry has changed. There's no longer any regional distribution. "Unless you're doing blanket promotion, where you have 2000 prints released at the same time across the country, you don't stand a chance of making money. Now, with home video, everyone mistakingly believes that you get part of the rental fee from the video stores. You don't get a nickel of it. The only reason I'm forging ahead is because I think the industry will bring about its own change. I'm not sure what that is, but I've always been ahead of the direction that production was going."
The state of current distribution aside, Mikels is still enthusiastic about movie-making. "I love my work so much--I have a ball. I make sure everyone has a lot of fun. That's why we all do it. If I keep going I'll build a library of films--maybe someone will want to buy them all and I can go to the Bahamas. What can one say...if I was doing it for money I'd probably be doing something else."
Spoken like a true independent.

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