This October’s Chiller Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo at the Sheraton Hotel in Parsippany, NJ was one of the best and biggest yet. Kevin Clement’s “Spooktacular” has been going on for over twenty years, and in addition to the rooms of dealers selling everything unimaginable, the convention brings together an ecletic variety of film, television, music, literary stars and more like no other convention of its kind. And this one had a plethora of extremely ghoul and noteworthy guests.
Perhaps the highlight of this season’s event was a reunion of some of the principle people behind one of the greatest films of all time, Jaws. Carl Gottlieb, who wrote the script, Joe Alves, the production designer behind “Bruce” the shark, stars Jeffrey Kramer (Deputy Hendricks) and Susan Backlinie (1st victim Chrissie), plus Roger Kastel, who did the iconic movie poster, were all on hand to meet fans. They also (minus Kastel) took part in a wonderful panel to discuss some classic behind the scenes stories of what went on with this very difficult shoot. Gottlieb, who also wrote what may be the best making of a film book ever, “The Jaws Log,” had some especially interesting tales regarding the riveting “The Indianapolis Story” in the film.
Basically, this unusually long speech for a film went through a number of rewrites (not a word by John Milius to make it into the film, contrary to his claims), lastly by Robert Shaw himself. When it came time to film it, Shaw was noticeably hung over from the night before, and they weren’t able to get it done. Steven Spielberg assured a contrite Shaw they still had one more day to work on it, and Shaw gave his word he’d be ready. Sure enough, Shaw nailed it the next day. However, the magician that editor Verna Fields was, she was able to seemlessly use some takes from both days. However, Gottlieb said that with the recent pristine presentation on blu-ray, you can see that if Shaw’s eyes were watery, it was from the first day of shooting the scene, if they were clear, it was from the second. Classic.
On display in the room where all the Jaws’ guests were signing pictures and taking photos were a number of props from the movie, from the infamous barrels used to weigh down the shark to Ben Gardner’s head found by Hooper in the hull of the fisherman’s boat. Joe Alves also had original ‘sharkwork’ he was selling. All the guests were very friendly and more than happy to reminisce about this classic film.
But the Jaws crew only scratched the surface of the incredibly wide range of guests. Peter Fonda, Lou Ferrigno, Weird Al Yankovic, Ralph Macchio, Tahnee Welch, in her 1st ever convention appearance, 2001’s Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, Star Trek alumni Marina Sirtis and Terry Ferrell, Son’s of Anarchy’s Kim Coates, plus musicians Ace Frehley, Keith Emerson, Robin Zander and NJ’s own Smithereens were just a fraction of those appearing. Nastassja Kinski made a rare appearance and said she recorded a new interview for the upcoming blu-ray release of her 1982 film, Cat People.
One of the most welcome guests was Scott Wilson, aka, Herschel from The Walking Dead. When told by The Gore 4 that they only hoped he was taking a short break from filming the show and that they worried about him, Scott replied, “I worry about me too.” As any fan of the show knows, the characters’ lives are precarious to say the least, but we hope Herschel is around for a long time. And maybe the Emmys will recognize his amazing work next time too.
As Saturday night approached, it was time for the costume contest. As always, Chillerians don some amazing and creatively designed costumes. This 9-year old girl dressed as Medusa was one of the best.
Next up was the evening’s musical performances. The Smithereens headlined the night with their power-pop, including their first hit, Blood and Roses. The all-female Japanese rock trio The 5, 6, 7, 8’s, from Kill Bill, Vol. 1 played their rockabilly surf music. And the one and only Zacherle, the Cool Ghoul, at an incredible 95 years young, took the stage to sing as he’s been doing for many years. Certainly, Chiller would not be the same without him. Zach was joined by The Dead Elvi, Chiller’s mainstay surf-punk, horror-billy rock band, who did their monster-mash-up of The Munsters/Peter Gunn theme and some of their great original tunes. Led by guitar virtuoso Chris Palmerini, singer Jason Fresta and Chiller’s own Kevin Clement on rhythm guitar, the band was even joined by original members Skullhead and drummer De Blurrr for a song or two.
Over the years, The Dead Elvi have shared the stage with a number of incredible musicians-The Doors’ Ray Manzarek, 3/4 of The Monkees, Wings’ Denny Laine, Lita Ford, Cherie Currie of The Runaways, The Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba to name a few. They were joined this time by keyboardist Keith Emerson of ELP. Hearing Keith and The Dead Elvi play the theme from Jaws into ELP’s Fanfare For the Common Man was truly a Chiller highlight and one of the coolest things you could ever imagine hearing.
The music went on late into the night. And Sunday, mostly everyone was back once more to accommodate those who couldn’t make the previous two days. Chiller Theatre will be back again in the Spring and we can’t wait to see who Kevin has lined up next time!
For info on upcoming Chiller conventions, check out their site here: