• Rock! Shock! Pop! Presents An Interview With Filmmaker Bill Rebane!

    When it come to low budget filmmaking, Bill Rebane really has done it all: writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, cameraman – you name it, Bill’s done it. Responsible for cult classics like Monster-A-Go-Go, The Giant Spider Invasion and the infamous Blood Harvest, Bill was gracious enough to talk to R!S!P! about his work.

    Rock! Shock! Pop! - How did you get your start in the film business and what kind of training did you have before you started directing?

    Bill Rebane – I had no special training, I didn’t learn any special ways of shooting, I just had the passion to succeed and that’s what drove me!

    R!S!P! - Your first credited feature as a director is Monster-A-Go-Go from 1965, which the late H.G. Lewis is reported to have finished after the production originally ran out of money. How did this collaboration come about and what did Lewis do to get the film completed?

    BR – Herschell and I had offices in the same studio, it was United Film & Recording Studios in Chicago. I hired him as a camera man and production manager. When we ran out of money, H.G.L needed a picture for a double feature to play at drive-in’s. He took over the post-production on the movie and finished it, in return he would become exclusive distributor… it was a relatively simple and sensible deal at the time.

    R!S!P! - Monster-A-Go-Go was also featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater, as was 1975’s Giant Spider Invasion. What are your thoughts on the whole MST3K phenomena, do you see the humor in this or do you find that it degrades the work that you and other low budget filmmakers of the period accomplished?

    BR – I think it is a very clever and now also very successful entertainment concept. As to how it treats the movies, it’s all in the way you take these things in my opinion.

    R!S!P! - Giant Spider Invasion was a pretty huge hit in its day. Was it your most profitable film at the box office?

    BR – No! The distributor, Group One Films, robbed us blind with creative accounting. After that, it later became one of the most pirated movies in history.

    R!S!P! - How and why did the decision to make giant spiders out of Volkswagen Beetles come about?

    BR – It was an issue of desperation. The distributor wanted bigger and bigger spiders but the budget didn’t get bigger, so the Volkswagen idea was just a brain fart, an experiment. But it worked! It was and is the silly VW spider that made the movie a hit. Volkswagen Germany should have paid us a million dollars for it, they still get name recognition from this insane idea.

    R!S!P! - You’ve worked with some interesting actors over the years – Alan Hale Jr., Leslie Parish, George 'Buck' Flower, and of course Tiny Tim. Who was the best that you worked with and who was the worst? Any interesting stories about the talent you employed in your films?

    BR – All of them were great people to work with. They were also friends and were very professional and supportive of the primitive ‘no script’ conditions that we were working under.

    R!S!P! - Speaking of Tiny Tim, in 1987 you directed him in a rare feature starring role in Blood Harvest. How did this come about and what was he like to work with – was he as eccentric and strange as his public persona makes him out to be?

    BR – Tiny Tim… what can I say? He was a really good human being. He was a little strange, but still just great to work with. And unlike the popular perception of him, he was actually a real ladies man. Women flocked to him!

    R!S!P! - Blood Harvest saw a tonal shift in your work. Your earlier films had all been reasonably kid-friendly but this one had stronger carnage and nudity in it. Was this just a response to the slasher craze that was popular at the time or was there a different reason for this?

    BR – The producer and distributor demanded more blood, more guts and more flesh because that was what the audience wanted back then. Yes, it was a departure from what we were doing before that and I really didn’t like these kinds of horror movies.

    R!S!P! - The movie was obviously made on a pretty low budget but you still manage to get some creepy atmosphere up on the screen thanks in no small part to the location photography. You shot this and a lot of other films in Wisconsin. What do you feel WI locations can bring to the table for filmmakers?

    BR – Wisconsin offers a variety of beautiful terrain and a lot of great cooperation from the local communities.

    R!S!P! - Was Blood Harvest always intended to go straight to video or were there hopes that it would get a theatrical release? Given the popularity of slasher films at the time, why didn’t it get theatrical play?

    BR – The first distributor for Blood Harvest wound up going bankrupt, which is why it was straight to video. The movie was never designed specifically for that market.

    R!S!P! - You’ve worked almost exclusively in the sc-fi/horror genres – what drew you to these genres in the first place and, just as importantly, what kept you coming back?

    BR – The marketplace dictated it, it’s as simple as that!

    R!S!P! - You’ve worked as a writer, a producer, a director, an editor and even a distributor – what aspect of filmmaking appeals to you the most and why?

    BR – My favorite aspect is cinematography, because that is what makes it all seem real.

    R!S!P! - How do you feel about the cult movie fans and horror movie fans that have embraced and celebrated your work over the years and the special edition treatment that some of the boutique labels have given your movies?

    BR – I am very grateful for all of the fans and sincerely thank them!