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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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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