Matt Mitler on Mutilators, Mutants and Dropping Acid with Dick and Jane

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 independent exploitation 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!”

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Robert Prichard on bullying the Toxic Avenger, ruling Nuke ‘Em High & Surfing Reality

Anyone who has seen “The Toxic Avenger” or “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” will instantly recognize Robert Prichard as the face of two of the most hilariously over-the-top bullies in 80s cult movie history: Slug, the Tromaville Heath Club thug, and Spike, the Tromaville High School gang leader of “The Cretins.”

Mr. Prichard was nice enough to chat with me about his integral roles in these classic Troma films, and his formation of the influential New York City avant-garde theater group SURF REALITY.

(Originally posted August 2011 at Cinemachine)

When did you start acting?

Probably in grade school. I think the first thing I ever did was in French class, in grade school. It was to get us to learn French and that was fun. And then later in high school more. I came of age in the 70s, I was in high school in the 70s, college in the 70s, sort of too young to be a hippie, a little before punk rock, I was sort of in between the two things. So there was a whole “do-it-yourself” kind of thing about acting that I liked. I didn’t want to work for the man, you know? In my young crazy way I saw it as a way to be self-employed in a creative way and be master of my own destiny.

I sort of saw it as a way to travel a lot, meet girls, be creative. Also I thought if I could really just learn how to act well, and be in control of my expressions, my body, in touch with my emotions, then no matter what else I wanted to do, if acting didn’t work out for me I’d have a good base as a human being. So that was attractive to me. Didn’t really work out for me though. (LAUGHS)

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