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.
Anyone who has seen “The Toxic Avenger” or “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” will instantly recognize Robert Prichard. During a decade when The Bully became a comedy cliché (“Back to the Future,” “The Karate Kid,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” etc.) Prichard stood out in creating two of the most hilariously over-the-top bullies in 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 later formation of the influential New York City avant-garde theater group SURF REALITY.
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)