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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Richard W. Haines on cutting Troma, Technicolor Space Avengers and What Really Frightens Him

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.

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