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.
Starting as an editor for Troma during their most creatively prolific period, Richard W. Haines debuted as a writer & director with the slasher film SPLATTER UNIVERSITY. He then developed their future classic, the original CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH. Afterwards he became a fully independent New York City based auteur whose filmography incorporated an array of cinephile influences, from the pulp Technicolor sci-fi adventure SPACE AVENGER (aka ALIEN SPACE AVENGER) to the postmodern horror of WHAT REALLY FRIGHTENS YOU. He is also a published author of multiple novels and film history books. Mr. Haines was kind enough to chat with me about his life in the movies:
How did your career begin?
I attended NYU’s film school from 1975-1979 and studied with Haig Manoogian (Scorsese’s early mentor) and film historians, William K. Everson and Leonard Maltin. I made 16mm student films in both black and white and Kodachrome. I even did the sound editing, mixed them and made prints. After graduating, I got a job as the assistant editor on the low budget exploitation film, Mother’s Day, and ended up as the sound editor on the movie since I was the only one who knew how to do it. It offered me the opportunity to work in 35mm. The film was directed by Charles Kaufman. He sent me to his brother, Lloyd Kaufman, who ran Troma, Inc which was an exploitation production and distribution company. They started in porns but then moved into R rated sexploitation and eventually horror exploitation. I cut trailers for them and some of their features. Since I gained experience in marketing movies there, I always edited the trailers for my later feature films.