Joel Bender on singing Gas Pump Girls and violent Tenements

Making his directorial debut with the 1979 sexploitation comedy favorite “Gas Pump Girls,” Joel Bender has worked in Hollywood as a writer, director and editor for the past 40 years – during which time he also wrote the remarkable urban action-exploitation film “Tenement” (aka “Game of Survival.”) Mr. Bender was kind enough to chat with me about these cult classics and other highlights of his career.

The following interview was conducted in August 2014.

How did you decide to work in the movies?

I just fell in love with films when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My father had a candy store and there was a movie theater down the block, in the 50s. And I’d pick up a bag of candy and go to a movie, which was 25 cents. And I saw the great movies of the 50s in that theater, and it was usually empty. Rebel Without a Cause, A Face In The Crowd, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, pictures like that. A Face In The Crowd, I don’t how how I “got” that at 8 or 9 years old, but I did, I enjoyed it.

How did Gas Pump Girls (1979) come about?

A Rabbinical student friend of mine named David Davies whom I met on a film, a Joe Zito picture about Patty Hearst (Abduction, 1975 – ed.) this guy was a partial money-raiser and he and I became partners. We went out and wrote Gas Pump Girls in a few days and brought it over to the original Cannon Films. They bought the script and suggested we go to California to make the picture. They allowed us to do that and we went into Raleigh Studios, which was a dilapidated place at that time. Raleigh is now a big studio with a lot of money – but that was 40 years ago.

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