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Features Is This End Of Mombo? (Interview)


An Interview with Stanley Sheff



I worked as Orson Welles' editor for close to a year. It was like having a private 12 month film course with Orson Welles as the teacher.
Lobster Man From Mars is a tribute to drive in classics. Part Two of Two.

Ziggy's conversation with Lobster Man From Mars director Stanley Sheff continues, with more reflections on the 1989 film, as well as thoughts on his time working with Orson Welles, and view of the drive-in genre in general.


Ziggy: Is there a bit of Stanley Sheff in Stevie Horowitz?
Stanley Sheff: Not a bit. Do you think I would make a cheap science fiction film?
Ziggy: Where did Stevie's thing for plastic toys come from, anyway?
Stanley Sheff: Bob Greenberg had a collection of weird plastic toys, so he wrote that into the script.
Ziggy: What do you think Orson Welles might have said about Lobster Man From Mars?
Stanley Sheff: Orson Welles was responsible for the title. He would often refer to his classic radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" as "the Lobster Man From Mars" show. I asked him if I could use that as the title for a film. He agreed. He also agreed to play the part of Shelldrake, but by the time Lobster Man From Mars got made, Mr. Welles was no longer with us. The role went to Tony Curtis, who did a fine job, but it was an entirely different take on the part. It's hard to say what Orson would have said, since it would have been a different movie with him in it.
Ziggy: What do you feel is the most valuable thing that you gained from your experience working with Orson Welles?

Stanley Sheff:
I learned a great deal about directing and editing. I worked as Orson Welles' editor for close to a year. It was like having a private 12 month film course with Orson Welles as the teacher. We would have long chats about film and his experiences in the golden days of Hollywood. He was quite a practical joker and some of that rubbed off on me!

The Lobster Man problem puzzles our heroes.
Ziggy:
Did you play any particularly memorable practical jokes on the cast and crew during the filming of Lobster Man From Mars?
Stanley Sheff: When you are directing a low budget film on a tight schedule, the producers get very upset if you start playing practical jokes. I did manage to squeeze in a few, though. One that stands out is during the motel scene with Deborah Foreman in bed with Anthony Hickox. Tommy Sledge is supposed to pop out of the closet at the end of the scene and delivers a few lines. The joke was having the whole crew pop out of the closet and serenade Deborah and Anthony --- they got quite a shock at the sight of the singing crew! I was always very nice to the cast and crew, which made for a fun shoot. I also made sure everyone had a delicious lobster dinner on the last day of shooting (paid for by co-producer Steven Greene and myself!)
Ziggy: Returning for a moment to Orson Welles, are there any particular words of wisdom imparted by Mr. Welles that stand out for you above the rest?
Stanley Sheff: The first thing I ever asked him was how he got such good performances out of his actors. He replied, "You hire good actors."
Ziggy: Do you have any particular favorites from the old classic "B movie drive in" set? What makes them so?
Stanley Sheff: Invaders From Mars - Splendid use of stock footage repeated/flipped multple times. Victims being sucked into the ground (also used in the current remake of The Time Machine). Balloons decorating the walls of Bronson cave. Visible zippers on the Mutants costumes.

The Brain That Wouldn't Die - Nice lab with a woman's disembodied head on a tray. Scientist hunts strip clubs for a replacement body - fun for the entire family!

Invisible Invaders - Ghouls in business suits roaming Bronson Cave

Robot Monster - Gorillas with diving helmets - how can you top that?
Ziggy: What do you feel it is about "drive in" movies that allows them to keep their appeal even now?
Stanley Sheff: Low budget, poorly executed special effects never go out of style! Visible strings on a flying lobster bat look just as tacky today as they did fifty years ago.
Ziggy: What do you think of the modern direct-to-video "B films" that are this era's equivalent to the "drive in" movies of old? How do you think these compare with the classics?
Bats on a string never go out of style.
Stanley Sheff: The golden age of classic "B" films can never be recaptured!
Ziggy: Might you have any favorites among these more recent films?
Stanley Sheff: Can't think of any. If you name a few I might be able to offer an opinion.
Ziggy: I would say not being able to think of any seems telling in itself. However, you did make mention of the recent remake of The Time Machine starring Guy Pearce. What did you think of that film, as a work by itself, and in comparison to the classic George Pal picture? Or even to H.G. Wells' original vision?
Stanley Sheff: In July of 2000, I produced a special "The Time Machine - 40th Anniversary" show at the Orpheum Theatre. Star Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan was the host with guests, Alan Young, Forrest J. Ackerman, George Takei, and the executive producer of the remake, Arnold Leibovit. There is a streaming video of the entire show available at my alter ego's web site at http://www.maxwelldemille.com/. The Time Machine is one of my favorites, and it was a thrill to produce this show. The remake has some great moments (the hanging Eloi village, the time travel sequences, the actual machine), and stands up on its own as a good action adventure fantasy. It was also good to see Alan Young make an appearance. The original and the remake are so different that it's hard to compare. I like them both. I prefer the original's quaint charm and the remake's sets and production design. You might tell I am a fan of the original. During the opening sequence of Lobster Man From Mars, John's head is hit by the Lobster Ray and undergoes the same transformation as the decaying Morlock at the end of The Time Machine, complete with the stop motion eye ball popping out of the socket. This is one of my favorite effects in Lobster Man. The sequence was animated by Anthony Doublin.
Ziggy: What is your favorite movie in general?
Stanley Sheff: I have three, and they all have Hollywood themes and start with the letter S.

Sunset Blvd.

Sullivan's Travels.

Singin' in the Rain.


Others favorites include films by Orson Welles, Buster Keaton and Stanley Kubrick.
Ziggy: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview, Mr. Sheff. Do you have any final thoughts before we go?
Stanley Sheff: Finally, let me thank you, Ziggy, for your fine web site and all of your efforts! You are a credit to the ideals and traditions of trashy science fiction!

And we're speechless with delight at Mr. Sheff's kind compliments. Once again, we'd like to thank Stanley Sheff for taking the time to conduct this interview. To learn more about his film, "Lobster Man From Mars", click on the link in the jumpstation below and visit the movie's official website. Or, if you'd like to go back and recap the start of our conversation with Stanley Sheff, click here to return to Part One of the interview!

Interview conducted online March 29-30, 2002.