Gary Gerani is one of the writers of (Pumpkinhead 1988, creative consultant on Pumkinhead II Blood Wings 1993, writer on Vampirella 1996, the short story Convention 2017, and Trading Paint 2019 with John Travolta)
PUMPKINHEAD combined gritty verisimilitude with the landscape of a dark evocative allegory. “I loved the demon creature Stan Winston and his guys created so much, I actually have him created from the original mold standing in the corner of my living room!” … listen once a MonsterKid always a MonsterKid” says Gary Gerani to this MonsterGirl!
“Gary Gerani is a screenwriter, author, noted film and TV historian, and children’s product developer. He is best known for his contribution as co-writer of the Stan Winston-directed horror classic “Pumpkinhead,” and his groundbreaking 1977 nonfiction book “Fantastic Television.” This book is a real treasure, and there was and still is absolutely nothing like it out there as a bountiful of info for us nostalgic fans of vintage fantasy, sci-fi and horror television!
Over the years he’s created various comic books and a record number of trading card sets, working for the famous Topps Company. His graphic novels include “Dinosaurs Attack!” (inspired by his own Topps cards) and “Bram Stoker’s Death Ship,” an untold story of the Dracula legend. He also has his own publishing unit, Fantastic Press, in partnership with the popular comic book company IDW.”
Gary Gerani also contributes his humorous and thoughtful commentaries on several television anthology Blu-ray editions for The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Boris Karloff’s Thriller.
From Top 100 best horror films intro. What makes a good horror film special?
“Let’s look at the genre itself, and how our most imaginative filmmakers have approached and defined it. Whether an artist is working in color or black and white, silent or sound, widescreen or the latest version of 3D, he faces an infinite number of creative ways to involve and ultimately terrify a movie audience. Sometimes viewers are rudely jolted by visceral shocks, as with Terence Fisher or William Friedkin thrillers, other times they are gently escorted into darkly unsettling, dream-like environs that confound, intrigue and captivate (think Roman Polanski or Val Lewton) What all these approaches have in common is that they somehow manage to replicate the fragile, visceral quality of nightmares, transcending reality and touching us intimately in a way that no other genre can.’’-Gary Gerani
From the intro by Paul H. Schulman-“As a writer of science fiction articles and a collector of television art. Gary is recognized in New York Sci-Fi circles as the last word on the subject…(…)… Fantastic Television is the most complete and detailed treatment of the occult and science fiction TV shows existing anywhere. If you caught these shows the first time around, this book will be a visit from old friends. If you were too young to stay up that late, Fantastic Television will introduce you to a world of new friends!”
Incredibly concise and informative. Gary lists the credits for each of the series episodes. Extensive and valuable to any fantasy, sci-fi horror fans. There is nothing quote like this book released at that time, nor currently. Gary Gerani’s incredible book published in 1977 Fantastic Television -A Pictorial History of Sci-Fi, The Unusual and the Fantastic from Captain Video to the Star Trek Phenomenon and Beyond is filled with wonderful images. It is a complete overview of a precious world so many of us feel a longing and nostalgia for.
This fantastic book, covers some of my favorites The Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, Irwin Allen Productions, Batman, Star Trek, The Invaders, The Prisoner, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Kolchak, The Night Stalker, Made for TV Movies, British Telefantasy, (The Avengers ) American Telefantasy. (Dark Shadows)
Highlighting concise backstories and filled with descriptive plot summaries for each episode! Gary has added his voice to some of the most enigmatic, innovative and engaging television shows of fantastical historical relevance. Since it’s publishing in 1977 there has been nothing like this collection in print…
FANTASTIC TELEVISION -A Pictorial History of Sci-FI, The Unusual and The Fantastic from Captain Video to the Star Trek Phenomenon and Beyond…
With an introduction by Roger Corman!
Top 100 Horror Movies by Gary Gerani (Nov 9 2010)
THE STRIKING RETRIBUTION OF PUMPKINHEAD (1988) Fairy Tale vérité
“That old woman scares the piss out of me!”
“For each of man’s evils a special demon exists…”
Directorial debut by creature creator & special effects guru Stan Winston (Winston who passed away in 2008 was a frequent collaborator with director James Cameron, owned several effects studios, including Stan Winston Digital. Winston’s expertise were in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and owned his studio which branched out to include digital effects as well… creating work in the Terminator series, Jurassic Park films, Aliens, the first two Predator movies Iron Man and Edward Scissorhands. Winning four Academy Awards for his work.)
With a screenplay by Gary Gerani and Mark Patrick Carducci, based on a story by Carducci, Winston and Richard Weinman. The origin of the story was a poem written by Ed Justin. Film Editor Marcus Manton. Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli (Body Snatchers 1993, Kalifornia 1993, Sugar Hill 1993, The Ring 2002), set direction by Kurt Gauger and music by Richard Stone. Creature effects designed and created by Alec Gillis, Richard Landon, Shane Patrick Mahan, John Rosengrant, and Tom Woodruff Jr.
“A pleasant surprise is the characterization, which are well-developed for this genre… Even the teenagers, usually little more than cardboard monster horror fodder in horror movies, have shades of performance…”Louis B Parks, “Pumpkinhead brings new life to Spook Shows-The Houston Chronicle, October 14, 1988
“It does have heart. If you like your monster movies with a touch of sweetness, Pumpkinhead may be just your cauldron of blood … Henriksen has some affecting moments as the bereaved father.”–Philip Wuntch “If You Dig Homespun Horror, Check Out Pumpkinhead”-The Daily Morning News, October 14, 1988
Cast: Lance Henriksen (The Right Stuff 1983, The Terminator 1984, Aliens 1986, Millennium 1996-1999 ) as Ed Harley, Jeff East as Chris, John DiAquino as Joel, Kimberly Ross as Kim, Joel Hoffman as Steve, Cynthia Bain as Tracy, Kerry Remssen as Maggie, George Buck Flower as Wallace, Brian Bremer as Bunt, Billy Hurley as little Matthew Harley, Lee De Broux as Tom Harley, Peggy Walton Walker as Ellie Harley, Richard Warlock as Clayton Heller, Devon Odessa as Hessie, Joseph Piro as Jimmy Joe, Greg Michaels as Hill Man, Madeleine Taylor Holmes as Old Hill Woman, Mayim Bialik as Wallace kid, Jandi Swanson as Wallace kid, Mary Boessow as Mountain Girl, Robert Frederickson as Ethan and Tom Woodruff Jr. as Pumpkinhead.
IMDb Trivia fun facts:
The dog actor, Mushroom, who played Ed Harley’s dog, Gypsy, also played Barney in Gremlins (1984).
Lance Henriksen gathered all of the silver dollars himself by visiting several pawn shops. He said that most of them fell through the floorboards of Haggis’ shack, where they may still lie.
Lance Henriksen had a set of dentures made to give him a more rural look. He also gathered all of his own props and wardrobe, including a WWII pump-action shotgun, his cap worn throughout the film and the silver dollars which he gives to Haggis.
The costume Florence Schauffler wore as Haggis weighed about 65 pounds.
The one scene that made Lance Henriksen most want to take the role was where the deceased Billy sits up and asks his father what he’s done.
Because of Stan Winston‘s request, the screenwriters made both Pumpkinhead and Haggis (the old woman), much darker than in the original script.
Stan Winston‘s two children can be glimpsed as members of the Wallace clan.
Pumpkinhead doesn’t really resemble a pumpkin. It gets its name from the fact that summoning it involves digging up a corpse that’s been buried in a pumpkin patch.
‘Fun’ was, in fact, the prevalent mood on the Pumpkinhead set. Despite many additional burdens and responsibilities, Winston brought the same sense of humor and lighthearted spirit to directing Pumpkinhead as he had to his creature effects assignments. “Stan was a blast as a director,” recalled Alec Gillis. “He was fun and completely relaxed on the set, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. I remember one day when we were in this cramped cabin set, and I was very tense and tired because Shane and I had just spent three hours applying makeup to the actress playing the witch. But then I looked over and saw Stan standing across the room, staring at me, with his glasses cocked at a weird angle on his head — just to make me laugh. There was my director, making an idiot of himself for nobody’s benefit but mine. That isn’t something most directors would do!”
From the sculpture, studio artists and mechanics created a suit and head, which was worn on the set by Pumpkinhead performer, Tom Woodruff Jr., To avoid wear and tear on the suit, Woodruff was glued into it at the start of the shoot day, and remained in the foam rubber construct for up to eight hours at a time.
“For each of man’s evils, a demon exists. You’re looking at vengeance. Cruel, devious.. vengeance.” Haggis (Florence Schauffler )the witch introduces Ed Harley (Henriksen) to the demon
The legacy of the demon of vengeance to be reborn with each time it’s called upon. Pumpkinhead is a meditation on vengeance, tragedy and loss within a darkly spun fairy tale.
Pumpkinhead is merely the hand of retribution and fate and a lesson in “be careful what you wish for”. Pumpkinhead is a well written, Americana Gothic mountain magic mythology, and if you love Boris Karloff’s Thriller episode – The Hollow Watcher– you’ll be mystified and moved by this contemporary telling of a rural boogeyman!
Pumpkinhead is a beautifully crafted story that merely illustrates what happens when the humble and quiet lives of innocent people who inhabit a world far from the city, and whose lives are shattered by the sudden intrusion of irresponsible and rude outsiders, who happen to be teenagers.
In the 1980s it is the given aesthetic that teenagers are the fodder in the slasher film or monster movie, they make for fun victims. Once again the teenagers wind up being the victims here as well with no differentiation between accountability or innocence. It is Pumpkinhead’s mission to purge the menace of outsiders.
When Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen who is a marvelous and underrated actor) was a boy in 1957 he caught sight of a mythical folklore creature called Pumpkinhead, a thing of local legend that can be summoned up in the name of vengeance. In the present, Harley wishes to call up this vengeful demon to exact retribution against the reckless teenagers who accidentally kill his little boy. When the irresponsible dirt biker Joel (DiAquino) runs down Harley’s son Billy, all hell will break free from the top of a rustic hill.
Harley pays a visit to the old witch Haggis (Schauffler) to help her bring his boy back to life. Haggis rasps and whistles as she incants using Harley’s blood to resurrect the demon, for she cannot raise his dead son, Haggis: Who are you? Ed Harley: Um, Ed Harley. I’ve come… Haggis: I’m afraid raising the dead ain’t within my power.
But she sure can conjure up the spirit of retribution in the form of Pumkinhead, who manifests the rage and wrath Harley feels. Haggis tells him to go to the old graveyard in the pumpkin patch and dig up the corpse of the body that is buried there, which she can use to embody the vengeful demon. Be careful what you wish for, as Harley unleashes a creature that is unstoppable and leaves bodies in the wake of it’s ire. It’s a bloody night of fate coming to bear when Pumpkinhead begins to kill everyone in sight. And because Ed Harley’s blood has been infused with the creature, he feels it in his soul every time it kills, he is doomed to a sorrowful fate. Ed Harley: God damn you! God damn you! Haggis: He already has, son. He already has.
It’s too late once Ed Harley realizes that he has become transformed himself, a certain symbiosis has occurred between him and Pumpkinhead, and that his actions have consequences. Once summoned Pumpkinhead cannot be sent back to the pits of dark justice and and the hell fire of reprisal makes no distinction between the teens who are truly guilty of killing the young boy and the others who are complicit by proximity.
Not unlike a Grimm Fairy Tale or a great rendition of backwoods boogeymen and American folklore does Pumpkinhead evoke a nightmarish landscape of cause and effect. Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead is a superb cautionary tale that warns against being thoughtful of others but moreover not allowing our blood lust for revenge to take control of our moral guidance Lance Henriksen is a good father and mild mannered until the swell of hatred takes hold and he develops an appetite for retribution. The film contemplates the unacceptability of death and a parents inability to mourn the loss of their child. The loss becomes a monster itself that inhabits Ed’s consciousness. In that way Pumpkinhead is just a manifestation of Ed Harley’s grieving. Like Walter Pidgeon’s Dr. Morbius in Forbidden Planet (1956) Ed Harley has unleashed his rural id.
The early scenes show him as kind and gentle, quiet and peaceful, almost living a dreamy life far away from the fast pace of the city –the torrid and declining American morality of urban living. This can seen when Ed and his son Billy are sitting at the kitchen table a poignant scene that sets up contrast from the brutality to come. When it comes to invade their quiet space, it sparks the series of events that spiral out of control.
Pumpkinhead is fatalistic law, not really about evil, or a demon, that is why he took on the face of the person who chose to raise him up for their purpose. Ed Harley has a psychic connection with Pumkinhead. The colors are a fairy tale palate of vibrant strokes. The set pieces are extremely well thought out. The film is painted with the coldest blues and the hottest reds, that lend to the grim atmosphere and fantastical alternative surrealism. Gary Gerani was truly inspired by the work of the maestro director Mario Bava!
The sets designed by Kurt Gauger are perfectly creepy and effectively moody as with the old cemetery with it’s backwoods Gothic ambience. Pumpkinhead rises from a mound of putrid grass, his rustic grave covered pumpkin patch with its gnarled torment of trees and decaying earth lend to the moodiness of the film.
About GARY’S ANTHOLOGY COMMENTARIES:
The TV SERIES commentaries, being monster kids AND Gary Gerani sounds just like Gary Gerani
Jo: I figured I’d just ask you a few things and then you called me and I thought WOW he sounds just like Gary Gerani (having listened extensively to his commentaries on dvd box sets–We both Laugh hysterically)
Gary: And we determined that’s a very good thing…
Jo: And we determined that’s a very good thing. And I get to continue to listen to you (as he referred to himself as the living commentary) talk when I just re-watch the episodes. That’s the beauty of these anthology shows is that you know you can watch them over and over again you always get something else it just brings you back to a place that just makes you feel, you know, good and familiar.
Gary: that’s probably where it starts right… we want to be in a place where we feel comfort and at home and what ever peculiar person we are we find that place for ourselves. You know all of us who found our way into horror and monsters, let’s face it we were mostly outcasts.
Jo: We’re outsiders yeah.
Gary: We related to the monsters cause they were outcasts.
Jo: That’s exactly it.
Gary: We got Frankenstein immediately.
Jo: I sympathized with him, I knew his pain. I knew we were both ‘the other’ You know when you become the other, then you start to relate to the characters that are outsiders and that’s why we start to fit in and we put ourselves in those stories, those spaces. You know because we belong there. We found a place for ourselves so….
Gary’s enormous knowledge has a way of cutting through any extraneous detail and manages to bring you not only into the story but provide so many interesting background tidbits, making history and insight accessible. With Thriller I never knew the staff of the show used to call the graphics that open the show “The Sticks” I hadn’t read that Douglas Heyes had doubts about Boris Karloff hosting the show initially because the first episodes were more crime based. It wasn’t Richard Widmark’s Thriller it was Boris Karloff’s Thriller. And they were competing with Alfred Hitchcock’s formatted suspense series. I knew from reading Stephen Jacob’s incredible authorized biography of Boris Karloff that Alfred Hitchcock was not too happy about Thriller that much I did know.
Douglas Heyes either based episodes on Robert Bloch’s stories or episodes he wrote. Hr told them it wasn’t working (the show) because the first episodes weren’t hosted by Richard Widmark. That’s when they brought Douglas Heyes in to make the show work. To get away from Hitchcock’s province of crime/suspense. They transformed Thriller into creepy tales and it evolved into the show with it’s original macabre vibe. 1) Hitchcock was pressuring the studio. 2) Twilight Zone at the time was perhaps fantasy 3) and ratings were suffering and no one was happy with the original approach.
There was such a confusion about the identity of the show, that they producer Hubbell was upset and embarrassed. Finally they brought in Robert Bloch and what they decided on was horror tales with a supernatural underscore and violent crime thrillers. The first was produced by recruiting Maxwell Shane for the crime stories and William Frye for the horror tales. And it worked…
Boris Karloff’s THRILLER: anthology television series that aired during the 1960–61 and 1961–62 seasons on NBC
Gary added his commentary to the following Thriller episodes…
The Prediction with Lucy Chase Williams, The Hungry Glass with Marc Scott Zicree, Well of Doom with David Schow, Trio of Terror with David Schow, Mr. George with Lucy Chase Williams, Pigeons from Hell-solo commentary, The Grim Reaper with Ernest Dickerson, Tim Lucas and David Schow, The Weird Tailor with Daniel Benton, The Return of Andrew Bentley with David Schow, Waxworks with Ron Borst, La Strega with Steve Mitchell and Craig Reardon, The Hollow Watcher with Larry Blamire and David Schow and The Incredible Doktor Markesan with David Schow.
In talking about THE CHEATERS...
I love referential commentary and analysis. Gary compares the story of The Cheaters with Winchester ’73 in the way that both stories center around an object that flows from one character to the next and their individual outcomes. How we follow those peculiar glasses and how we follow the trail of the gun in each person’s possession. It’s a fascinating point and I love how he picked up on that. You can watch a beloved episode 100 times and you’ll always find your own slight slant on it at times, but commentaries imparted to us by historians like Gary Gerani help bring an even wider perspective.
It’s obvious to me, that Gerani is a huge fan of writer Robert Bloch. But who isn’t right. So another interesting point that Gary Gerani brings out, is that Robert Bloch’s story didn’t have the alchemist in the opening, the way Thriller adapted it showing veteran character actor (with the unusually carved rock features), Henry Daniell as inventor/alchemist Dirk Van Prinn creating the lenses that would become The Cheaters. The glasses that give the wearer the ability to see the truth about themselves. They also give the wearer the power to hear the thoughts of those around them. Which winds up being not only problematic but murderously fowl!
In Bloch’s actual written story, there’s a series of accounts by the people who wore the cheaters who met their deaths by wearing them. Their accounts are virtually told from beyond the grave. Again Gerani in his artful insightful way compares it to Joe Gillis (William Holden) in Sunset Blvd. Thriller changes this perspective by working in these graveside accounts by allowing Harry Townes the writer Sebastian Grimm to tell the story. He discovers the true powers of the cheaters, and writes a book about the origin and the ultimate end to the journey of these magical lenses marked Veritas on the bridge. He tells their stories to his wife surmising exactly what happened as we see it on screen.
In addition Gary Gerani mentions that people compare The Cheaters to Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Essentially because Gray’s painting told the real story of what was lying beneath the surface of the man who never ages. It shows the truth about yourself. “And that truth isn’t very pleasant”- as Gary Gerani says. But Gerani says one of the main differences between this teleplay and “Bloch’s original story was even “bleaker” There is the same suggestion that the glasses and the painting tells the true nature of the person. “In Bloch’s story it’s much more universal, it’s made very clear it’s not just like Dorian Gray where there’s just one sinner–this is in all of us… It is perhaps the most dire perception of the human condition ever done, during a prime time show certainly here in this period…It seems to suggest that knowing thyself is knowing evil… within yourself or even the people around you…. Pretty much what Block is saying is that WE ARE THE MONSTERS… That’s essentially what The Cheaters is about-and There is no hope!
The Outer Limits original series 1960s (broadcast on ABC from 1963 to 1965)
Gary Gerani’s commentaries include:
The Architects of Fear, The Man with the Power, The Man Who was Never Born, The Zanti Misfits with David J. Schow, and The Special One with Michael Hyatt.
The Twilight Zone original Series (anthology television series created and presented by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964.)
One For the Angels, The Lonely, The Four of Us are Dying, A Stop at Willoughby with Marc Scott Zicree and A Passage for Trumpet.
Gary Gerani and I had a pleasant conversation on Sep 18th after I watched Pumpkinhead, I emailed him and we instantly hit it off, carrying on an exchange. Gary commented on a piece I wrote at The Last Drive In about one of the episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, in which Gary has done numerous commentaries as you now know, he’s added his voice to some of the BEST television anthology box sets. We share a mutual love of Thriller as well as The Outer Limits.
A hell of a nice guy with a very keen mind and wonderful sense of humor. I wish we had known each other as little monster kids we could have enjoyed the same kinds of fantastical indulgence without me getting called MonsterGirl said with a pejorative connotation and being locked in a basement all day by a neighborhood bully! Don’t get me wrong it helped mold me into the sympathetic person I am who developed empathy for others. It’s always nice to discover another person out there who could wear Monster Kid as a badge of honor!
Gary Gerani had stumbled upon my blog by accident. and told me he was struck by the intelligence of my piece on The Cheaters. I of course was extremely flattered by this. He told me Pumpkinhead was influenced by Thriller, with the rural spookiness and atmosphere. Also The Outer Limits’ episode The Galaxy Being as Pumpkinhead also sort of gave off “psychic turbulence” very much like The Galaxy Being, with his electro magnetic windstorm.
Both are creatures who are what they are. One accidentally falls out of it’s orbit which is forbidden on his planet, as he winds up being transported on earth by radio basement scientist Cliff Robertson. Pumpkinhead however is summoned by the pain and lust for vengeance by Lance Henricksen after a band of outsiders riding their dirt bikes kill his beloved little boy. The local witch knows how to raise up Pumpkinhead who’s job it is to exact the law of revenge and judgement. He is a creature who serves the cosmic law.
I private messaged Gary on Facebook after I saw his lovely comment on The Last Drive in. I told him that I was a HUGE fan of his 1988 Pumpkinhead a moody atmospheric rustic boogeyman morality play. It had traces of our mutually inspired The Hollow Watcher for Thriller. A bucolic Boogeyman who exacts vengeance on the sinners of a small minded and tucked away rural town with it’s own creepy mythology.
I suspect Jeepers Creepers (2001) was influenced by Pumpkinhead which I believe is one of THE best dark fairy tale, cautionary tales of the 1980s. Pumpkinhead is a self contained dark little Americana Gothic story with it’s color filters that frame scenes that are at times a cold cold blue or a fiery red.
I stumbled onto the outrageously unusual film Pumpkinhead (1988) as most of us Monster kids do, we are lured by the uncanny on film since we were wee Monster folk. One of the true statements that can be said about Gary Gerani’s somber and atmospheric film, the American Gothic arcane back woods allegory is that it still embodies what made classical horror films work on an empathetic level and unlike today’s films that are like a buzz-saw to the synapse & sympathetic nervous system with all it’s pageantry of various body violations and torture. Back in the day even the gore somehow managed to set apart the artistic narratives with a story and at times the kernal of the moral message that lies withing the tale still came through. Pumpkinhead, attracts the monster lovers in us. Though Lance Henriksen regrets his brand of punishment, which cannot bring his little boy back to life, we somehow still cheer for Pumpkinhead as he acts as cathartic release for us.
I remember feeling excitement when Pumpkinhead coming to life as a little Pumpkin baby then rose out of his dirt hill grave, Stan Winston imbues him with a sort of gargoyle like smile. Does it look like Gary Gerani and Lance Henriksen or perhaps Stan Winston — Gary supposes!
Gary-“We got really lucky with Pumpkinhead, in that everyone was on exactly the same page about what we wanted to achieve. “Deliverance in the daytime and Mario Bava at Night. Was our idea an attempt to combine gritty reality with evocative dark fairy tales. I loved the demon creature Stan Winston and his guys created so much, I actually have him made from the original mold standing in the corner of my living room!’ Once a Monster Kid, always a Monster Kid!
About Stan Winston, Lance Hendricksen, and the colors of Mario Bava:
Gary: “Basically when we did Pumpkinhead originally Stan Winston wasn’t involved we had Armand Mastroianni director (He Knows Your Alone 1980, the Clairvoyant 1982, Tales from the Dark Side 1984-1987, Friday the 13th 1989-1990) he did a few other movies including several horror movies and he was our direct and it was like okay um, and one day the producers decided to go with Stan Winston partially because it was like Stan wanted to direct, we’ll let you direct this it’ll be your directorial debut just give us a state of the art monster that would normally be in a big budgeted film and if you can pull that off that would be great, well, that was part of the reason why they really wanted Stan is that they knew they would get a creature on the level of an alien or what ever. But Stan had shot second unit on Aliens and demonstrated his ability so we kind of felt oh okay he’s a great monster maker and he knows how to film too so oh so great so and then the next thing we heard was that Lance was gonna play Ed Harley. And Mark Carducci and I were ecstatic as I said anyone from The Right Stuff (1983) astronauts at any rate he was one of them and he had just been in Aliens and he made a real impression in that film so we were really ecstatic to get Lance. Uhm after that it really was finishing the script working with Stan Winston we really didn’t interact at all with Lance and not only that we were New York based at that point and uh so were our producers they were New York producers who did Pumpkinhead so we worked with Stan and he came out and we flew out and he came to see us and and we did all that and the next time that we got involved with Lance on the set of this film. Um Mark had come to L.A. to spend more time in L.A. to be around the production of the film I still had my full time job at Topps so I was limited in my time so I finally got out there at least for a week or how ever the hell long it was to at least be on the set and that’s when I met Lance and again a very very warm friendly complimentary empathetic kind of an individual.
We spent time just kind of walking with him around the set and he said uh “guys I wanted to congratulate you on the script I see a lot of scripts and this one I felt had something that really spoke to me and I wanted to tell you it doesn’t happen that often” He was saying all kinds of stuff like that. And we were so like Oh Thank you!! We were so so flattered So he instantly established himself with us as a guy that we really liked as friends and of course his performance was spectacular. Here’s the thing with Pumpkinhead this is something that has come up a few times uh there are people the people who have, the people who have problems with Pumpkinhead who have issues with it don’t really get it what we wanted and what Stan delivered was kind of an almost pseudo documentary kind of flavor and overview and almost objective and emotionally detached overview of an event of what happens when a crime occurs out in the “sticks” how do people deal with it, what goes on in this other little world? We almost wanted a procedural so we wanted the camera or the soul of the movie as it’s looking at these events to almost be impartial otherwise whenever you have a story of a man losing his son, it’s always very sentimental heavy with the emotions I said no no no no we wanted it almost to be dry that way it doesn’t slip into the pathos of the over sentimental plot it’s so easy to happen to a picture it will retain it’s dignity and be special.
And Stan, was a perfect director for that because Stan god bless him Stan was something of a cold fish in a lot of ways he was he was kind of a dry guy okay and it was perfect! for Pumpkinhead Ironically the second movie he made he was exactly the wrong guy emotionally he did the Gnome Named Norm aka Upworld which was an E.T rip off warm and fuzzy and (emphatically) he was the exact wrong guy and that’s exactly what we didn’t want in Pumpkinhead we wanted to be like I say an overview and let those emotional events just happen as you observe them and you can be able to react to them. We didn’t want to push that sentimental angle so Stan was perfect. And in keeping with that Lance played it that way too it wasn’t a big blubbery “oh my son” no he internalized all of that stuff and that’s why it’s powerful. When his son dies in his arms it’s really could have been an opportunity to be John Williams type music soar and the sadness to hit you over the head and no no it’s underplayed and the little boy just dies in his arms and says ‘daddy’ and he just kind of dies and ya know Lance caresses the body and you see his eyes looking outward and you say this is exactly right, it’s just what you need to feel, what you need to feel without being overdone or sentimental and Lance kept it that way all the way through and I think in my opinion that’s why the movie is good. Because of that angle it could have just degenerated into a Charles Band emotional over done or one of these other movies but because Stan wasn’t a guy like that and because we wrote it that way.
We sat down and discussed that with Stan because that’s what we had in mind. Originally in the script Ed Harley was out of the story in the first third after the accident happened he goes to witch sets it in motion and then it’s just a procedural you almost wanted it to be that detached . Finally I said no no it’s about this guy it’s about a story we got to bring him back and this will be about him. Uh but yeah and Stan was right on the same page with us, and that’s the movie being made. And we’re grateful to Stan in sense for being Stan you know every movie that’s being made is the director’s soul and persona and essence that comes out. I have a theory that the story, every time you see a movie that what ever personality or tone of the movie is, not only is it the director coming through but if he’s doing his job right I always felt it’s the id of the main character that determines the personality of the movie.
If you watch a Star Trek episode it’s Captain Kirk’s souls his id, it’s like a dream that the Captain is having in that particular adventure. So I always felt the main character in any story kind of determines you’re almost in his head and that determines the personality the story. And with Lance with this character it all fit together perfectly. And you have the right director, his personality was so right for it, so that was kind of lightning in a bottle. It isn’t like it hit the whole world in that way, you know people who love it, love it within the context of a fairly limited kind of universe but we’re very very proud of it. After we saw it we thought, we got so lucky, that we had all that in place in that point in time. We had the essence of the James Cameron troupe those guys when they were hot as a pistol. When they were the thing that was happening. Back then those were the guys within a horror picture a supernatural story, they’d been doing their science fiction stuff Aliens and Terminator. Here is the horror version of that whole flavor. And the fact that our creature even resembles the alien kind of idea. I loved that I said look he’s a life form we didn’t want anything melodramatic or phony or the devil in a traditional way, no he’s a creature, it’s suggesting that he comes from a different environment and maybe Hell art of rules but there’s a physicality there you can recognize as opposed to just a demon with the horns or usual bullshit. It was Lovecraftian having a creature like that walking around farm houses. How cool is that!”
Jo: It’s very cool. I love him (Pumpkinhead) And the interest thing is you know there’s a sympathy, you know, we cheer for him. When I first saw the film I fell in love with him. I said, you know I really like this guy. It’s true he’s picking off these teenagers but who cares! (laughs from the guts, Gary howls) They’re invading this quaint space. They’re intruding on this very closed universe , they’re invading the world. They came in and they brought their noise and their disrespect and they invaded this beautiful quaint little world and now they’re gonna pay for it. It doesn’t matter who ran Billy down. It really just mattered that they were all there in the way. And Pumpkinhead was just a manifestation of the rage. And it’s like a fairy tale. To me it’s a fairy tale. But I do see what you’re saying.”
Gary: You’re absolutely right that fairy tale thing it’s kind of interesting because on the one hand we really wanted a sense of reality in the daytime, we tell people we wanted deliverance in the daytime and Mario Bava at night. Where that whole otherworldly fairy tale beautiful horror kind of stuff can shine. But in the day as real and gritty as possible, so it winds up being a dark fairy tale and that kind of what it is and yet it was a nice mixture of gritty realism and also the way our cinematographer ( Bojan Bazelli )lit the film, our cinematographer lit the witches hut with oranges and all that.
Jo: Oh yeah the hottest reds and the cold blues they were beautiful.
Gary: Ohhhh god isn’t that beautiful! We had said listen our big influence was the tv series Thriller and The Outer Limits. If you can give us Conrad Hall’s photography in color we’d be so appreciative. That’s why you got those episodes that were noir, Orson Welles type compositions you know the beautiful black and white– all that kind of thing. And then The Outer Limits flavor comes through too because it was kind of like The Galaxy Being who brings his own lightning by accident sort of having a little bit of that flavor.
Jo: Right he comes out of an alternate space.
Gary: (after running into Lance at the florist in L.A.) –The next significant thing that happened with Lance he was giving an interview with somebody and they were talking and he mentioned that the thing that convinced him to do movie was one particular scene, okay, that when we wrote the picture when you’re collaborating with your writing partner in the script you’re both constantly pulling ideas back and forth and the end result is a combination of your thoughts and your partners thoughts. Some scenes he came up with, some scenes you came up with.
The scene that convinced Lance to do the movie happened to be a scene that I came up with I was so tickled. And the particular scene we’re talking about is when Ed Harley is driving back and he sees his little boy sit up, his dead little boy sits up in the car and says “What’d you do daddy?”
You know it’s a little hallucination and then he looks and of course the body of the boy is, and all that his conscience is rearing, it’s like his little boy is saying what have you done you know and that was my idea you know what ever and that was the scene that convinced Lance to do the picture. Good old Lance I’m so happy it was a scene that I came up with… And I remember coming up with it thinking how cool it would be to show his guilt by having a little shot of his son like that and the fact that that made the difference in Lance’s mind was like how cool is that.
And this is funny, the whole thing where the kids, the boy and the girl are getting into a car and what ever they’re doing they’re and the guy shows up with the shotgun. And basically tells them that they’re marked and that’s when they first think “marked” what do you mean whatever and then all of a sudden Pumpkinhead shows up, yeah it’s the guy with his dog right okay yeah the guy with his dog he fires a shot you know and says something like ‘empty your hands son’ or what ever which is he line he stole in reverse from True Grit where John Wayne say’s “Fill your hands you son of a bitch” I don’t know if that’s ever been said (laughs) but anyway, that guy with the shot gun no matter how many times like a dozen takes the gun wouldn’t fire and the gun expert was there and it just wouldn’t work and finally it finally worked and it’s amazing when you make a movie like half a night can be taken up with problem’s like this. Actually Lance comes into that scene and he fires at the creature but he wasn’t in that particular scene.
Jo: Where was it filmed?
Gary: it was in the Hollywood hills somewhere We managed to find locations that looked rural enough I just remember at the time that we just went all the way out to the hills there. Actually it’s amazing cause it does it does seem authentic. I though we faked it pretty nicely.
Jo: And I love the set designer, whoever designed the mound with the pumpkin patch and the gnarled trees
Gary: Isn’t that great talk about something out of a Mario Bava movie. You have the swirling mists you have It’s like Black Sunday
Jo: Or Black Sabbath, the composition of colors in Black Sabbath
Gary -Oh yeah the colors in Black Sabbath. The cinematographer knew how to use color the way you use black and white with darks and lights and all that stuff we were very lucky with Bojan Bazelli our cinematographer who went on to do very important movies not that this isn’t important but you know what I mean…
Jo: Yeah, Pumpkinhead’s important!
Gary: I feel much of what makes that movie good is that look that he gave us. In all fairness to Stan you think about that mound that we’re talking about, the burial mound and the grave yard and all that the shot that introduces that is this fantastic shot that starts the camera on Lance and this was Stan right umm obviously the cinematographer is achieving this shot for Stan but you got Lance walking almost knee level you’re on the level with the ditch coming toward you and then eventually he comes into sort of close up looks up and then the camera which is following him then rises high high high high so you see what he’s looking at which is the mound and then it keeps rising until you’re almost in the trees looking down at the mound —all in one shot and it was Stan who wanted that shot. And the cinematographer gave it to him. Fantastic shot absolutely beautiful shot. And in the burned out church with the camera following Pumpkinhead as the kids are running out of the church as the camera remains and you see through the slats in the side of the building as something is entering as one beautiful long continuous shot there are a few of those gorgeous camera moves throughout the picture. And that I give credit to Stan.
I HAD A FEW MORE QUESTIONS!
JO GABRIEL — Question #1) Since you’re basically still a Monster Kid in an adult’s body like me, is there another interesting character, science fiction themed, mythological or fairy tale based that is burning a hole in your brain waiting for you to bring it to life on screen? A departure from PUMPKINHEAD of course but as potentially ICONIC in its design (although sadly Stan Winston is no longer with us.)
GARY GERANI– About fifteen years ago, I tried to sell an animated musical based on THE GOLEM, with music by Billy (DUEL) Goldenberg. The theme of oppressed people resonated, and the amount of black magic involved really made it a great supernatural tale… kind of like FAUST meets FRANKENSTEIN. The Golem itself gradually takes on demonic features the longer it remains in existence after fulfilling its primary function as a super-warrior for justice. The creature’s relationship with Rabbi Lowe’s little boy provided the story’s emotional punch. Another classic demon I wanted to re-visit was Guy de Maupassant’s THE HORLA, which had been adapted into a reasonably effective 1963 Vincent Price movie, DIARY OF A MADMAN.
JO GARBIEL — Question 2a) You’ve done commentaries for the groundbreaking 1960s anthology series The Outer Limits, Boris Karloff’s THRILLER and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. What is your favorite episode for each and what makes it special for you?
PUMPKINHEAD has that wonderful rural boogeyman atmosphere like The Hollow Watcher episode of THRILLER which you lent your insightful commentary to!
Question 2b) Would you ever take a story from either of those three shows and put your own spin on it or adapt it in a more contemporary manner using sock puppets (just kidding) or feature film?
PUMPKINHEAD is a self contained dark little Americana Gothic tale with it’s color prisms that frame the ethereal landscape at times –a cold cold blue or a fiery red.
I loved the way you talked about your vision of PUMPKINHEAD as ‘Deliverance’ by day and Mario Bava by night combined to make a gritty reality with a dark evocative fairy tale.’ So maybe you could expand on how that came together and/or working with Stan’s creation.
A Trailer a Day Keeps The Pumpkinhead Away! (1988)
This has been your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl saying it’s been an absolute gas getting to know Gary Gerani, a regular guy with an enormous wealth of knowledge and nostalgia tucked into that endearing voice. And say — this Halloween–don’t avoid that pumpkin patch… if you’ve got nothing to feel guilty about that is…!
3 thoughts on “MonsterGirl Asks Writer, Film & Television Historian: Gary Gerani 🎃”
Pumpkinhead was one of my favourite films growing up! I loved how it was filmed and the monster always scared me! I had no idea the other work Gary has done. Thanks for writing about him and getting me to finally buy the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits box sets!
Hi Sam! Pumpkinhead is one of the most underrated horror films of the 80s. So glad you agree. You’ll not regret getting those wonderful box sets not only re-watching memorable episodes without the commentary, but then listening to historians like Gary is an extra layer of entertainment while experiencing the shows again… Cheers, Joey
Great stuff, Joey. Very interesting reading. I enjoyed listening to Gary’s commentaries on some of the Twilight Zone episodes.