Exclusive Interview: Brinke Stevens On Terror Toons 3, Naked Gun and Scream Queens
When I was a kid in the ‘80s, I actually had vivid dreams of meeting Brinke Stevens, who I had seen in horror movies on video. At the time, going to a horror convention seemed like a wild fantasy so meeting her would have to wait until I was older. It would take 26 more years for my career to cross her path. I saw her name in the credits for Terror Toons 3, on iTunes today, and asked for an interview with her.
Brinke Stevens was one of the reigning scream queens in the golden age of low-budget horror movies. Her credits include Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity, The Slumber Party Massacre and even the shower scene in the credits for The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Wait ‘til you see her cameo in Terror Toons 3 and it turns out there’ll be even more of her in Terror Toons 4.
How did the special effect in Terror Toons 3 work?
It was fun. The effect was me levitating. We shot it in Joe’s backyard. I only have a brief appearance in that one. I also appear in Terror Toons 2 as an evil witch in a Hansel and Gretel sort of story. Terror Toons 4 is going to be pretty much all of my work, a movie called Personal Demons.
Did you do these all at once?
We actually shot Terror Toons 4 before I made my appearance in Terror Toons 3 as kind of the same character. So Terror Toons 3 will introduce the character, even though that was shot after, time wise.
What is she? She’s this floating giant who terrorizes victims?
Well, in Terror Toons 4: Personal Demons it’s the story of a down and out actress who, when she gets out of rehab, can only land a low budget horror movie. It involves as demonic incantation. So she accidentally conjures up a demon that no one else can see and goes through some transformation as a result of this demon’s influence.
Did you know Joe or Herschel before?
Yeah, Joe and I go way back. In the mid to late ‘80s, I was editor/mascot of Monster Land Magazine. I was a character called Evila and I was all throughout the magazine. They had a contest: win a trip to Hollywood and meet Evila. Joe happened to win it. He was living in Texas at the time. I think he was 12 or 14 years old. So he came out to California. We did a photo shoot. He met John Buechler. He went to the editorial offices of Monster Land. Then later, when he grew up, he moved to Los Angeles and pursued his dream of being a special effects makeup artist.
And look at him now!
I know. He actually worked on some films I was in like Teenage Exorcist. I wrote the script on that one. Then he gave me my first opportunity to direct a movie. I’ve been wanting to do this forever and that was Personal Demons: Terror Toons 4.
So you’re directing it too?
Yes, the way it came about, he mentioned to me that he was accepting ideas for stories for what was then Terror Toons 3. So I submitted a synopsis of Personal Demons. He got back to me and said, “I really like it. Why don’t you go ahead and write the script?” So I wrote the script and he wanted to call me over for a meeting. I was a little bit nervous. I was afraid he would hate it. He said, “I like your script so much that I wonder if you’d like to direct it, because I want to stay true to your vision.” And I said, “Well, you know I wrote the lead character for myself. I was hoping to play her.” He said, “Fine, you can do it all. You can write, direct and star in it.” You’ve got to love this guy.
When will we see Terror Toons 4?
We were hoping for a Halloween release. The whole thing was green screen. Every single bit of the movie, and this is a feature length film, green screen. It made it easier to shoot it and direct it. Instead of moving the camera, you just had to turn the actors. I gave Joe some images from Google of a creepy old house, creepy old gas station, the woods so he would get an idea of the look I wanted. Every once in a while he’ll send me a finished frame and it’s absolutely gorgeous. He totally nailed it. It’s a very gothic kind of Victorian horror story and he’s doing a wonderful job on it, but it’s painstaking work. It’s going slower than anticipated.
Going all the way back to when you started acting, why did you add an E to your stage name Brinke off of your real name Brinkman?
I just thought it looked better. Forry Ackerman described “brink” as the sound of breaking glass. So I thought the E just made it a little softer.
When did you get comfortable with nudity?
Oh, I had to start doing that right away. The first movie I was in was Roger Corman’s Slumber Party Massacre and they made it clear that everyone would have to do a shower scene and do nudity. So that was the beginning. Then when video came into play in the mid-80s, it was lurid box covers and crazy titles like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-rama and a lot of nudity. So you’d tend to get comfortable with it right away if you were going to play in that field.
The scene that stands out to me the most is the paddling scene in Sorority Babes when you’re being hazed. You have a look about you that you’re just taking it and you’re over it, but it doesn’t phase you at all. Do you remember that look?
That was actually a very popular scene with viewers, the paddling. In fact, people were saying, “It looks like it hurts. Are they hitting you really hard?” No. In fact, they weren’t even making contact with the paddle. I had to ask, “Can you hit me just a little bit so I know when to react?” But yeah, it was a cute little scene. It was harmless. I didn’t realize that everyone would really like that scene. I think I was caught up reacting to the situation of having to do this for the sorority to get into it.
Were Scream Queen Hot Tub Party and Nightmare Sisters like the Expendables for horror queens with all of you in the same movies?
Yes, actually Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley and myself were sort of the triumvirate of early scream queens. And we still work together. We’ve done a number of movies lately like Cougar Cult and 3 Scream Queens for Dave DeCoteau. We were also in The Trouble with Barry and a documentary called Screaming in High Heels. So we’re sort of the grand dames of scream queendom.
Hot Tub Party ended saying you’ll be back in Scream Queens Spring Break. Were there ever really plans for a sequel?
Maybe they intended it but it never happened. And Hot Tub Party was a parody obviously. I talk about the perfect movie shower. You never ever get clean. You just have to keep scrubbing and washing. So it was totally intended to be a parody. It was a bright idea that somebody had and got all the girls together.
You did do a lot of shower scenes in your career. How long do you end up having to film soaking wet?
I don’t remember specifically. Generally they go as long as they can. There was a bathtub scene in Nightmare Sisters with me, Linnea and Michelle in the tub. I remember that went on for hours, and it seems like it in the movie. It just never ends because the boys are peeping at us through a keyhole. I remember it must’ve been four hours that we were sitting in that water.
Was your scene in The Naked Gun filmed for that movie or taken from another one of your films?
That was filmed for that movie, and being a bigger budget movie than I normally do, that scene actually took three days to shoot, amazingly enough.
Was it complicated because they were driving through the shower and you had to get out of the way?
Yes, they had to do that. They had these lights mounted in front of the camera and pushing the camera. Everybody had to be coordinated to jump out at the same time.
You’ve only worked as a screenwriter a few times. Was that something you’d always wanted to do?
Yes, I’ve probably sold six screenplays, Personal Demons being the most recent one. Teenage Exorcist was not quite the first one. I got started in the late ‘80s. I really enjoy doing it. I’ve got a couple that I’m trying to sell right now. One is a big budget Sinbad sort of movie that could be animated or live action.
Teenage Exorcist was a comedy. Did you get as many chances to do comedy as you wanted to?
Some of the low-budget horror movies have been horror comedies, especially in the 1980s. I love that about them. That was predating all the gore and torture porn we got later, but I do like the comedies and I’ve written several. Teenage Exorcist is kind of an interesting story. It began with Fred Olen Ray. He had come up with this title and a poster. He was pitching it at AFM to try to raise money for it. He had asked me if I would be in it to use my name to promote it. I said, “Sure, no problem.” Some time went by and I said, “Are we going to shoot Teenage Exorcist?” He said, “I’ll be honest with you. I don’t even have a script.” I said, “Well, is it okay if I write the script?” I wanted to do this job and he said sure. Later on, he ended up selling the script to another filmmaker, Grant Waldman, who read it and said, “No, I really can’t picture Brinke in this role.” And I had written the role specifically for myself so I was rather surprised that he couldn’t picture me doing it, but I ended up starring in it anyway.
There were obviously a lot of movies I saw on video in the ‘80s, but by the ‘90s the video and digital output really exploded. Did you work a lot more when that happened?
I continued to work a lot. It changed in the mid-‘80s when video came back. There were factories like Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski and Dave DeCoteau, Roger Corman, Charles Band that were just churning out half a dozen to a dozen films a year. Then in the ‘90s, the equipment became cheaper and more available and easier to use, the lighting packages and the cameras. So it democratized filmmaking where a lot of young people were able to shoot movies in their backyard. So then I started traveling around the country and sort of mentoring young people, maybe it was their first movie or their second one. I would be the first scenes that they would shoot. I would be there for their shoot and I really enjoyed doing that, although a lot of those movies were not very good or they never came out at all. So perhaps I shot myself in the foot by doing that, but it kept me working and I’ve amassed quite a body of work. I’ve done over 150 movies at this point.
Teaching younger filmmakers certainly isn’t a waste. Look what you did for Joe.
Yes, exactly. Other people don’t get that. They’re like, “Oh, you’re doing these obscure little things” but I really feel like I’ve helped a new generation of filmmakers to feel confident and learn things from my experience.
Growing up, my biggest influence as a film critic was Joe Bob Briggs. I saw you on his The Movie Channel show. Was that a good interview?
Yes, and I had known a lot about Joe Bob prior to doing that. He appeared at some of the same conventions I did. He had a number of books, humorous books that I had read. So he did his show in Dallas and he flew a lot of people there, all the girls and also filmmakers like Fred Olen Ray and Roger Corman were on his show. He had this whole trailer park set and had adopted this persona as this redneck film critic so it was really a lot of fun. I thought it was very well produced.
That’s how I saw a lot of your movies too.
Oh really? Yes, it was this whole phenomenon in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s. It was just crazy, where all this stuff was coming out and all the magazines that were there to support it like Femme Fatales and some of the other scream queen magazines. And then the TV shows, Rhonda Up All Night and Gilbert Gottfried and Joe Bob. So it was jus the most amazing phenomenon that had its time and then kind of moved on. I don’t think there’s been anything like it since there.
I was actually able to write a few articles for Femme Fatales when I was getting started as a journalist before they got sold.
Good, yes, I was also a contributor. I had several dozen articles that I had written about films and actors, actresses. It was fun. It was good. I love writing. Now I write travel articles in magazines. I find that really fulfilling because I can pretty much take free vacations and I get to write.
Is it under your film name, Brinke Stevens?
Yes, it is under my stage performing name and my writing name. I’ve also started doing audiobooks lately. I’ve recorded two books under the Darkness Unbound label. It’s a trilogy and I’ll start recording the third book and last book of the series on Monday. So I have a sound studio that I built in my office at home and it’s really fun. I can just wake up in the morning and go in there with a cup of coffee and record these audiobooks. I really like it. Then I get the occasional job doing voiceover work and narrating trailers. I’ve narrated quite a few documentaries, like The Many Faces of Cleopatra and Women of the Wild West, stuff like that. It’s something that I very much enjoy doing and I’ve learned sound engineering as a part of that. So I can edit and master my own audio work. That’s another skill I’ve been able to add in recent years.
When the new Blu-ray of The Rocketeer came out, did people revisit the original comic books which had a character based on you?
Maybe they did. I hear that Disney is going to do a post-Rocketeer type of sequel called The Rocketeers. It takes place after the war and I guess Cliff Secord has gone missing. But Dave Stevens passed away about five years ago from leukemia. We had been college sweethearts growing up in the ‘70s. Then he moved to Los Angeles to take a storyboarding job for Steven Spielberg on Raiders of the Lost Ark. He sent for me, we got married, the marriage didn’t last long but I continued to model for him for another six years. So really I knew him for about 12 years and he shot thousands and thousands of photos of me as reference. So a lot of them were used as Bettie in the comic books and posters and things like that. I posed for the Perils of Gwendoline poster. I was Aurora and all of that so it was really fun working with Dave. He was a wonderful artist and he made women feel so beautiful with his glamorous artwork.
Has anyone continued The Rocketeer since he passed and are they still using those references?
Not that I’m aware of. IDW Publishing in San Diego has really been keeping his memory alive and they’ve put out a number of compilations of his artwork and I think the collected Rocketeer stories.