Horror Icon Mini-Marathon: CHARLES BAND
It’s hard to create a horror movie that will connect with audiences enough that the property is seen as a potential franchise starter; and even if that happens, it is unlikely that the director or writer is brought back for subsequent installments, because the producers aren’t interested in paying higher wages to the people who made them a success. So when a single writer/director/producer is in some way responsible for no less than fourteen different film series, he must be noted, regardless of the quality of all the franchises. And that producer is Charles Band.
A producer of low budget films with a decidedly sleazy bent to them (and , in fairness, a genre which he revisited many times over the many years he has been producing films), he worked with a couple of different production companies before he founded the company for which he had become most well-known, Full Moon Entertainment.
The company, which became a very lucrative venture for Band in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when the video boom was beginning and there were no other movie companies producing films for the direct-to-video market. Band, through Full Moon and his other companies (as well as a few uncredited works), has produced over 250 films, with 44 directing credits and over 35 writing credits.
Among his list of film work are entries in franchises such as “Dollman,” “Demonic Toys,” “Prehysteria,” “Josh Kirby… Time Warrior,” “Oblivion,” “Femalien,” “The Brotherhood,” “Witchouse,” “Killjoy,” and his two most recent franchises, “The Gingerdead Man” and “Evil Bong.”
Always on the cutting edge of the marketing and distribution world (though not always on the technological or quality front), Band is responsible for three of the mid-90’s most fondly remembered low-budget direct-to-video movie series.
The film that made Tim Thomerson a household name (in households that loved cheeseball low-budget Phillip K. Dick rip-offs), “Trancers” was the film that essentially founded Full Moon. While the first film was technically not a Full Moon movie, all the sequels were, and it is the longest running of Band’s Full Moon franchises. Following the exploits of cop Jack Deth, who travels into the past to stop a time-traveling creature from destroying humanity, the series also has a hilarious early appearance from Oscar-winning actress Helen Hunt.
Produced in 1989, and clearly influenced by the release of “Child’s Play” one year earlier, Full Moon’s “Puppetmaster” (from a story idea by Charles Band) borrows elements from Egyptian mythology and World War II history to tell the story of a toymaker who created living puppets and killed himself in order to prevent the Nazis from gaining his secret for creating life. With an appearance from character actor William Hickey as the titular character Toulon, this film is the highest point in the series, and would begin a long and lucrative run of films whose last installment was just last year.
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Based on an idea by Charles Band (which one can only imagine was influenced by the fact that he found incredible tax breaks for shooting in Romania) comes this tale of Romanian vampire brothers and the human girls that come between them. With an appearance from the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm, and a surprisingly effective performance from Anders Hove as Radu (who, along with director Ted Nicolau, returned for all four entries in the series), “Subspecies” is a nearly perfect example of the direct-to-video entry of the early 1990’s, a new version of the grindhouse and exploitation films of the earlier decades with perhaps a slightly more innocent and humorous take on the subject matter.