Why is there so much gratuitous nudity in Three On A Meathook? There's more skin in Meathook than in any other Girdler movie ...
It was just a gimmick for that film. At the time Three On A Meathook was made, it was customary that if you wanted your low-budget film to make money without a big star, the film had to be R-rated, and it had to include some gratuitous nudity.
To be honest with you, in Three On A Meathook during the scene where the girls were swimming in the water, I think I suggested, "Hey Billy, if you're gonna have girls swimming, they might as well be nude." Most actresses who really want to be in a movie and want to get ahead as an actress, they posed nude as a matter of course. Hardly any of the girls in Three On A Meathook were self-conscious.(1)
The opening scene with the nude woman in bed was shot at Billy's studio. In fact, that was shot on the same stage where Dr. Specter's office was in Asylum Of Satan. Then of course there's the very tail end of the movie, where Sherry Steiner opens the smokehouse door and sees the bodies. In the final version, it's just a flash. But that scene was also shot in the studio.
I filmed Invasion Of The Girl Snatchers in the same farmhouse we shot Three On A Meathook … in the summer of 1972. Probably about a month and a half after we did Three On A Meathook. When we finished my movie, the owner tore the house down. He'd planned to knock it down for a while, which is why we shot there. He'd given us permission to repaint the walls and stuff.
For Invasion, I was director/producer as well as editor. I eventually handed the editing over to Bub Asman, though. I also did the camera work. Really, the only things I didn't do involved putting up the money and writing the script. In retrospect, I wish I had written the script. But you see, the guy who wrote the script also put up the money for the film.
I must admit, at this point in time, I am embarrassed for people to see the movie. It is the WORST. Somehow Invasion Of The Girl Snatchers got some notoriety. I sold the video rights to a fellow who sold it to someone else. And it turned up in Blockbuster Video's Le Bad Cinema section during the early nineties.
Were you involved in the making of Zebra Killer?
That's the one with James Pickett, right? Well, there were several movies of Billy's I had nothing to do with. And that was one of them. I lived at Atlanta at the time and was involved in other projects. When he was working on Zebra Killer, I stopped into his office once, and Billy was like, "Lee! Lemme show you the new stuff! Bub! Grab the latest cut for Lee!" He always did stuff like that.
I know some of Zebra Killer was shot at Bowman field. As a matter of fact, Bowman field is infamous for other things, too. If you remember Goldfinger, there was a scene where Pussy Galore's lady stunt pilots taxied their plane. That was also shot at Bowman field.
Did Girdler enjoy his own films? What did he think of Grizzly?
I don't think he sat and watched them over and over, but he did enjoy watching his movies. Grizzly was kind of a turning point for Billy. He was about ready to break his relationship with AIP. They were going into litigation with Abby. Billy was ready to move onto bigger and better things. I got the financing deal together for Grizzly through Ed Montoro for Billy.
Film Ventures International (Montoro's company) was originally based in Atlanta. It was from the money Ed made off of Grizzly that he moved his operation back to California. Ed was from Cleveland originally, then he moved to LA briefly, where he made some low budget skin flick. He moved to Atlanta to start Film Ventures.
When we shot Grizzly, we filmed in Clayton, Georgia at the same locale where the movie Deliverance was shot. In fact, one of the girls who appears at the end of Deliverance - the young nurse in the hospital -- was also one of the early victims in Grizzly. I think her name in Grizzly was June; the girl who gets killed in the cabin. Her real name was Kathy Rickman. She was the daughter of a jack of all trades in Clayton who owned a construction company. We paid him $600 dollars a week to be our liaison to the companies of Clayton. Rickman also performed the same function for Deliverance, which is probably why his daughter appears in that movie, too.
(Click Here to see Kathy Rickman die by way of mismatched camera angles. Mpeg movie: 481 KB)
Anyway, we needed a fire tower built, and he got a gang of men to build the tower in a single day. Not only one fire tower, but they built another half of a tower for the shots where the bear is bouncing his front paws against the structure to knock it over. That was actually just a half-scale mock-up we filmed in a totally different location. The complete fire tower was built high on a mountain. You had to hike a half a mile just to get to it. Then they rigged the tower with ropes, a pulley, and a wench so that at a signal, the whole thing would collapse.
(Click Here to see the tower fall. Mpeg movie: 1.5 MB)
After Grizzly, Billy and Avis moved to Atlanta for a little while. I helped him find an apartment. He was only there for six months, then he moved to LA. When he and Avis first moved to LA, Leslie Nielsen put them up in his guesthouse. The first time I visited Billy in LA, that's where the were. Leslie had a nice house at the very top of a hill which was almost impossible to get to. I didn't get out there too much to see Billy during The Manitou.
You said previously that you were involved in a lawsuit against Montoro because he walked away with all the Grizzly profits, leaving you and Girdler with little or nothing. How did the lawsuit affect the filming of Day Of The Animals?
I'll have to ask Joe, but I don't think the lawsuit actually got hot until after Day Of The Animals. But it wouldn't have mattered one whit to Billy. I mean, he didn't care if he made any money off the films or not. As long as he got to make movies. And he would have made a deal with the devil himself if the devil had financing for Billy to make a movie.
(1) As told to me by Tobin Fields, one of the girls who skinny-dipped in Three On A Meathook was sixteen at the time, and thought the film would be her big break into acting. Her mother found out she posed nude, and flipped out. After the "starlet" thought about the film, she hoped no one would ever see it. She herself never viewed the film until only recently.