Ted Nicolaou was an essential contributor to Charles Band’s Empire Pictures and Full Moon Entertainment studios, editing and directing many of their most iconic and popular films throughout the 1980s and 90s. His film TERRORVISION (which he can be seen directing the monster in the above photo) is a personal favorite. I was honored to chat with him recently about his prolific career.
Where did you grow up, and how did you become interested in filmmaking?
I was born in Poughkeepsie, New York and I grew up in Dallas, Texas. My dad used to take me to see science-fiction monster movies and stuff every Saturday afternoon. And I gained a real love of movies, especially fantasy films from that. Then I went to University of Texas, thinking I was going to be a doctor, and saw a couple of films that kind of changed my whole direction in life. A friend took me to see Fellini’s film, Juliet of the Spirits, and another film that I saw was Bergman’s Seventh Seal. Those two movies just kind of showed me what artistry could be in film. Because before that I had been kind of a writer and rock-and-roller. I loved writing music and writing stories, and from those two movies I saw that you could kind of combine all of those arts into one incredible storytelling medium.
A New York City based actor since the early 1980s, Matt Mitler’s charisma and humor landed him many memorable roles during New York’s last great era of independentexploitation film, including “Deadtime Stories,” “Basket Case 2,” the slasher favorite “The Mutilator” and several films for b-movie auteurs Tim Kincaid and Brett Piper. Mr. Mitler was kind enough to speak with me about his life and career:
When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?
I don’t know if I can really pinpoint that, but what I can say is that – and I actually have a radio program that’s premiering right now – it’s my first radio program since I was a little kid, because I grew up on the radio. My father owned a station, and my mother had a live show that was broadcast from our kitchen in Newport, Rhode Island. That started when I was born, and I was on the air as soon as I could talk. I was on the air with that program for five, six years, and then off and on the radio station until we moved out of Newport, when I was ten. So I had this whole experience with radio. And it was very compelling for me, but I didn’t have any sense of “Yeah, I want to be an actor.” But because of the radio and because my mother’s program was fairly humorous – she was very improvisational, very cutting in a sort of Lenny Bruce type of way – she would improvise with me, a little kid who didn’t really know what he was saying, but it was all impromptu and live so whatever I said she would just kind of riff on. It got me into this world of comedy even before I understood what that was. I would listen to her comedy albums, memorize them and recite them at cocktail parties and then be sent to bed. I’d be doing a Lenny Bruce routine, standing there as a five or six year old, then “Okay, go to bed now!”