Director William Lustig Visits Gateway
The charming Bill Lustig, recovering from a foot fracture, spent an evening of B-movie fun at Gateway Film Center this weekend.
Lustig is best known for directing a slew of low budget horror and action films through the late 70s and 80s. This beloved output includes the Maniac Cop series, two of which screened with the filmmaker in attendance on Saturday to a near sell-out crowd.
Lustig’s as surprised at the series’ continued success as anyone.
“Every time I finish a movie, I always get depressed,” he said. “I look at it and think, ‘I could have done this better, I could have done that better. Oh God, it’s 90 minutes of mistakes.’”
It takes him some time and distance to develop perspective enough to enjoy his own movies.
“The other day I had this epiphany,” he said. “I’m watching a movie of mine that I hadn’t seen in well over 20 years. There was a screening of Relentless, and I’m watching the movie and thinking, ‘God, this is a really well made movie.’”
“I kind of recall making it, but when I made the film, my reaction was, ‘I think this will make a good HBO movie.’ But I’m watching it and going, ‘Boy, this is slick. It’s tight, it moves, it’s got some good jumps in it.’”
“And I recently dug watching the Maniac Cop films again,” he says.
The filmmaker hadn’t been to Columbus in nearly 25 years and loved the evolution of the city, seeing it as very Austin-like. He was also impressed with the horror fare GFC was bringing in – in particular, the Aussie flick Hounds of Love. Lustig said it’s the best film he’s seen in a long time.
“It reminded me of the first time I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” he said. “It was that same kind of twisting, visceral feeling.”
He’s pleased that small films like Hounds of Love get an opportunity at GFC. It means a lot to Lustig, who has championed the small film his entire career.
“For as long as I remember, I would invite people to my home on Sundays,” he said. “Part of them coming over was to show them a movie that they’d never heard of.”
Lustig spent a great deal of the time he was supposed to be in high school sneaking off to theaters on 42nd Street in New York, watching movies. As an adult, finding and sharing those hard-to-locate films became a bit of an obsession.
“I’d have to get VHS tapes from UK and from Australia – I would have to search out these obscure movies, and part of the fun was showing these to friends, exposing them to Daughters of Darkness or something like that.”
It led Lustig eventually to a gig with Anchor Bay, helping the home entertainment giant launch their first DVD collection. Then he moved on to his own company, Blue Underground.
“It’s always been about exposing people to something new, and treating those films I put out the same way Criterion treats Fellini movies,” he says. “That’s always been my goal, to treat them like Criterion films, because that’s the kind of respect these movies deserve.”
The filmmaker has been tangentially involved in remakes of two of his seminal films – the 2012 reboot of Maniac, and the upcoming revision of Maniac Cop. But has he considered helming another movie?
“I think about it occasionally,” he said, but he laments the way the market now relegates horror primarily to TV.
“I look at a film as good as Hounds of Love,” he said. “I’m sure you sat in an empty theater, and that’s just the reality. You’re making films for a tree falling in the forest, and that’s hard. You go through all that effort to make a movie and you’re relegated to eeking out a week at a time at theaters. And that’s not fun to me. The marketplace for the kind of movies I made is video on demand, and that’s not fun.”
“I think about it,” he says. “I like the process.”
The Maniac Cop event is one of many planned for the summer. Check out GFC’s Summer SciFi Sleepover, midnight, June 17. Tickets are $25.
Star Trek: First Contact (35mm) (1996)
The Omega Man (1971)
Robocop (4K restoration) (1987)
For tickets and information, visit gatewayfilmcenter.org