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James Bickert of ‘Dear God No!’ (Interview)

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‘Dear God No!’ was one of the most entertaining films I saw in 2012. With it’s potent brew of bikers, Nazi scientists, gore, nudity, and Bigfoot, it struck a chord with some and horrified others (especially in the UK, for some reason).

Here’s a Q and A I did with writer/director/Man About Town, James Bickert.

1) Joe Bob Briggs used to rate films on three categories-Blood, Beasts, and Breasts. Your film ‘Dear God No!’ delivers in all these! Was it your intention to show people how a Drive-In / Exploitation movie is supposed to be done?

Joe Bob is an American hero. Exploitation & Horror films have always been a religion for us that worked on the film and the Starlight Six Drive-in is our church. You always want to see the Bs. I wasn’t necessarily showing people how it’s done, I was trying to make the film I’ve always wanted to see. It was designed to entertain my sick friends while sharing cold beer in my backyard drive-in on a hot Georgia summer night. From script to edit, a great deal of care was put towards ‘Dear God No!’ being as authentic as possible to the early 70s to create the type of lost film we are always trying to find on some obscure Greek VHS or in a budget DVD box set. Shane Morton, Shawn Murphy, Dusty Booze and myself have seen many of sunrises while feeding our cinema addiction. We have a whole clan of folks that join in and sometimes my lovely wife makes an appearance. She prefers the Roger Corman produced nurse and teacher flicks. (laughs) I just wish everyone who bought a copy of ‘Dear God No!’ could watch it in my yard while we served them some of my smoked pork. I do one hell of an injection and rub. No sauce needed.

2) What were some of the difficulties shooting on 16mm film? What other difficulties did you encounter during the shoot?

Ask any filmmaker and I’m sure they will agree it’s time and money. Never enough of each. I don’t find shooting on film difficult and I actually prefer it over digital. It’s sad that it will be gone soon. We did almost burn down the local drive-in. Our pyrotechnic guys decided to fill a sawdust cannon with flower. Why? I have no idea. It wasn’t discussed with the production heads. It turned an explosion into a rain of flaming napalm that caught a large patch of kudzu on fire and we all had to scramble for extinguishers and water hoses. It was really out of control for awhile. It almost destroyed my favorite place on earth. Jim Stacy (Bigfoot) and Richard Davis (Score Composer) live there so I would of never heard the end of that one. (laughs) I learned a valuable lesson. Always pre-hose the kudzu and watch the pyro guys closely. Then there was Bigfoot crashing through the window! We had this flimsy pre-scored window frame we inserted into place. The FX team assured me it would break if you just breathed on it but no matter what we did Bigfoot couldn’t crash through that damn thing. It broke our fake Bigfoot battering ram so we stuck giant pipe wrenches into the gloves of our stuntman Nick Hood to smash through it. That didn’t even work so we ended up faking the whole thing. That damn window wasted a lot of film and gave us our longest night. Hate that window. (laughs) The only really difficult thing is missing being on set with everyone. How soft and cuddly of me. Awwwww…. (laughs)

3) Does Pabst that’s been sitting around since the 70’s taste any different from one made recently?

Yes! (laughing) We had some old Pabst Blue Ribbon pull tab cans that were from a beer can collector. They had been opened from the bottom using a church key so we could fill them from the bottom and pull the actual tab like in the 70s. Jett said it tasted awful. My character only drank bottles! (laughs) That was all Yuengling Lager with our fake Corman’s Malt Liquor label. They had the most authentic bottles and didn’t have a stamp across the neck. Something I never noticed until making props.

4) I read somewhere that in filmmaking, nudity is one of the best production values. Did you have any trouble finding so many young ladies willing to ‘add value’ to your film?

It is and women look really nice on actual film. We needed girls with no tattoos so that was difficult. Very hard to find in Atlanta. You can cover up tats with make-up but the skin will appear splotchy and I wanted to get up close and personal on some bodies like ‘Mantis in Lace‘. My wife knew some models so she took them out drinking and convinced them to be in the film. The masks were to protect their day jobs but a few ended up taking them off anyway. I catch a lot of shit from critics for the go-go dancer sequence being to long. (laughs) They obviously don’t watch the films Something Weird Video distributes. It’s authentic and who bitches about free tits? I’ll send you my 160 minute personal cut. (laughs)
The other great production value is gore and Shane Morton delivered that in buckets. Guns add it also but yeah… naked women is the best bang for the buck.

5) What are some of your favorite films? What are your favorite beers?

Let me answer your beer question first. My go to beer is Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s kind of like Southern water that you drink to stay hydrated. I’m pretty sure Jett hasn’t drank anything besides PBR or Dr. Pepper in 20 years. I like to supplement my PBR with beer from some of my favorite breweries like Jailhouse Brewing Company and Southern Tier. I’m a big fan of Boulevard‘s Rye on Rye. I also really like porters, stouts, wheat beer and German smoked beers like Aecht Schlenkerla. I’m not an IPA hophead but I’ll drink it in a pinch. We’re at the height of an American beer renaissance right now and I’m doing my best to take advantage of it.
Movies…. Hmmmmm…….
‘Sin in the Suburbs’, Joe Sarno’s seedy tale of bored housewives oozing sexual frustration from behind suburban doors. It’s a wonderful reality kick in the crotch to the marital bliss baby boomers thought society owed them. ‘Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!’ While it may not be the first “Roughie”, it’s hands down the best. Nothing even comes close to the quotable rapid fire dialogue, sexy performances and wood inducing innuendos. This is the prefect film wrapped in a dying American flag for which all others should be judged. Throw it’s plot elements in a blender with Jack Hill’s brilliant Spider Baby and you have the groundwork for The ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. ‘Orgy of the Dead’. What more could you want from a Nudie Cutie turned Ghoulie? Here are a bevy of the top go-go strip club circuit performers before they entered into porn. Scripted by Ed Wood and featuring Pat Barrington dancing to gay old Criswell in a graveyard! While not as kinetic as ‘Mondo Topless’ or seedy as ‘Mantis in Lace’ these wonderfully preserved horror themed teases never fail to steam up my moon shades.

‘The Wild Angels’, Roger Corman was the first to exploit the general publics fears of the 1% and the success of ‘The Wild Ones’ by creating this blueprint for the genre’s anti-heroes. I have a mad-sick love for this genre from ‘The Savage Seven’ to ‘Werewolves on Wheels’.

‘Monster & The Stripper a.k.a. The Exotic Ones’, Ray Ormond’s jaw dropping tale of a captured Bigfoot creature put on display in a New Orleans strip club is one weird geek fest that doesn’t really figure into his career of Jesus pandering. It’s almost like watching Hee Haw on LSD. This head slamming knee slapper is truly unique and American to the bone.

‘I Drink Your Blood’, Damn hippies! One year after the Manson murders, David E. Durston goes over the top with this gore filled shocker featuring a fed up little boy who turns satanic long hairs into rabid rat eating psychopathic zombies. Not a dull minute in this gem.

I adore, ‘The All American Girl’, it’s a raunchy tale of a sexually frustrated young virgin trying to save herself until marriage. It becomes a real hoot when she meets the sex deviants next door. Watching young little Debbie is like viewing a horny cat rub up against a pack of rabid dogs. It’s always a treat for my seeing holes. My all-time favorite, ‘The Cheerleaders’, Paul Glickler’s masterpiece on horny youth gone wild is not only a subversive film but contains enough blood to bone pumping moments to inflate a field of footballs. Nothing quite cheers U.S.A. like the bouncing assets of Stephanie Fondue, Denise Dillaway and Jovita Bush. Its hilarious eye candy with the same strokes of horny brilliance he displayed in ‘Hot Circuit’. Glickler really deserves the credit for kicking off the Cheerleader, Nurse, Teacher and Stewardess crazes New World Pictures and others delivered to the American Drive-in.

‘Soul Hustler’, there is nothing scarier then Jesus loving folks. Essentially this is a remake of A Face in the Crowd but switches the story from country music to evangelism with Fabian playing a darker boozing womanizer who goes from rags to riches and eventually becomes the victim of his own self indulgences and narcissism. Wonderful ending. ‘Black Caesar’, the 30s gangster film gets a 70s update in Larry Cohen’s gritty blaxploitation saga. Fred “The Hammer” Williamson delivers more bite and badassary to an incredible James Brown soundtrack than all the Godfather films combined at a fraction of the running time. ‘Welcome Home Brother Charles’ featuring a condemned soul brother unleashing his vengeance on crooked cops by strangling their wives with his 10 foot penis! Can’t forget that one.

‘The Candy Snatchers’! Hell, a year before socialite Patty Hearst was abducted into this SLA, General Film Corporation released this wonderfully exploitive film about an abused autistic boy who is the sole witness to the kidnapping of a teenage heiress named Candy Phillips. A sinful inspired performance by Tiffany Bolling and a downer ending are highlights of this raw unashamed time capsule. Pure magic. Obviously ‘Death Race 2000’. Paul Bartel’s satirical sci-fi exploiter throws blind patriotism under the wheels of a tricked out race car for a bloody good burnout. David Carradine, Mary Wornov and Sly Stallone add the right amount of camp to push this into classic status.

I can’t forget ‘Teenage Twins’!!! Carter Stevens upper decks family values in the ultimate piece of filth as Brooke and Taylor Young perform actual lesbian incest. These satanic ladies beat off with the bible and deliver one-liners like Lu-Lu Fishpaw from ‘Polyester’. It’s a joy to behold when American smut was actually disturbingly dirty. Which brings me to ‘Nightdreams’ & ‘Café Flesh’. It’s been called the anti-porn but I call Stephen Sayadian’s (a.k.a. F.X. Pope, Rinse Dream) apocalyptic nightmares visionary. Who can ever forget the torment of the sex negatives or the gaggle of cowgirl lesbians going down to Wall of Voodoo’s cover of Ring of Fire? Not me. With cigarette smoking fish, greedy crotches banging Satan’s pitchfork and the cream of wheat man getting blown while a piece of toast plays the saxophone, these films are a must see. Whoever thinks we can’t achieve the surrealism of Bunuel, Jodorowsky and Fellini needs to witness the last shining moments of stars and stripes porn before it was flushed into the video age.

‘Humanoids from the Deep’. Female director, Barbra Peters takes the nature gone awry genre to the absolute extreme by turning the mutants from Horror of Party Beach into slimy bikini snatching rapist. Although the script heavily borrows from mainstream films, she managed to turn every monster suit lover into a bonafide pervert. If anyone has found the uncut version of her Star Hops with Dick Miller please contact me! Oh man I need to wrap this up and I haven’t even gotten to Eddie Romero, Vic Diaz, Fukasaku, Spaghetti Westerns, Hard Times for Archie, Three way Weekend, Eurocrime, Eurogore, Coffin Joe, Thai Crocodiles and Indonesian Flying Head movies! Ugh! Don‘t get me started.

6) Cake or pie?

Pie. Pecan and peach. Fresh peaches. Not that canned shit.

7) Some experts claim your film has set back Human/Sasquatch relations, while some say it represents a step forward. Your thoughts, please.

It’s obvious humans can’t get along with these bipedal monstrosities. (laughs) We got along with Bigfoot just fine.

8) How did you go about casting ‘Dear God No!’? Did you already know most of them, or did you find them through casting calls?

We pretty much knew everyone except Madeline Brumby, Paul McComiskey and Olivia LaCroix. We found them from an online casting service and had them audition. They all fit the roles very nicely. Madeline captured me right away with her big eyes. They were almost anime size! I knew that would be on very appealing on screen. She’s very open minded with a terrific laugh. Paul was just a wonderful human being and added the perfect amount of nervous energy to Dr. Marco. I’m not sure he quite understood the appeal of what we were doing but he was very encouraging nonetheless. The house we were shooting in had inspirational quotes written all over the bathroom walls and I remember him always being in there, between set-ups, writing the words down. I admire his ability to see the beauty in life and knowing him will greatly effect you in a positive way. It’s really special. Olivia was pretty conflicted with the production but in her defense she had the most obscene role. If you read the initial script and didn‘t understand the genre, you would probably think it was the world‘s least erotic porno. (laughs) She really got into her role and gave a creepy performance that had everyone’s hair standing on the back of their neck. I hope she auditions for more genre work because she’s talented.

Obviously Jett steals the show. The role was written for him specifically. He’s just a great dude. I also like Rachelle Lynn’s performance in the film. It has the right amount of camp and her death scene has them reaching for vomit bags in the UK. Nick Morgan was quite good as Spyder too.

9) Your film includes the killing of nuns, kids, babies, cops, and Kooky Karl, plus rape, torture, drugs, booze, Nazi mad science, Bigfoot, nudity…is there anything you wouldn’t put in a movie?

I’m not a fan of tennis in movies. Like Farley Grainger in Stranger’s on a Train. It just bothered me to go from Robert Walker’s great opening kill to a tennis match. The film “Getting Some” opened with a kid screwing off the bottom of a tennis racket and exposing a hidden flask. It never took us on a court so that’s ok I guess. I don’t think you’ll see British people enjoying biscuits and tea either.

10) What are the essential elements in a great wrap party?

Beer, Bands, Slopes BBQ , a gag real, a comic, awards and good people.

We were lucky enough to have some of the cast members bands like Gargantua and Truckadelic play. As well as The Forty Fives. The ‘Dear God No!’ soundtrack was the brain child of Bryan G. Malone and his band The Forty Fives. He also enlisted some bands he felt had that 70s sound like The Biters, The Booze and Syrup. For the theme song, he collaborated with Johnny McGowan and they came up with this kooky folk song that sounds right out of a Billy Jack film. Richard Davis composed the original score on my vague suggestions of scenes from obscure films and just ran with it. He brought in some excellent musicians from bands like Greasepaint and Ghost Rider Car Club. I’m still in awe of his contributions and talent. He was one of the hardest working folks on ‘Dear God No!’

11) What can we expect to see in the sequel, ‘Frankenstein Created Bikers’? What do you have in mind after that film?

Well, I can tell you the underlying theme is being trapped and the time period is going to jump a few years. Visually I’m looking to juxtapose gritty Southern exteriors with 60s Hammer Films interiors. Earth tones meeting heavily saturated colors with some flourishes of 70s Jess Franco. Larger in scope with more lens work and some dolly. The score is going to be 70s arena rock turning into a bastardized version of Goblin. I want the experience to be like watching Carlos Aured remaking ‘The Savage Seven’ meets ‘Frankenstein’. Hopefully we can afford an extra week of filming this time out and some production assistants would be nice. (laughs) Don’t worry it will be full of nudity, explosions, good music and go great with a case of beer. It’s all about fun.

12) You’re given a pantload of money to make a film, the only catch is it has to be a remake, otherwise everything else it totally your call. What film would you remake?

Wow, that’s tough. I’m not sure if I would re-make something great that not many people have seen like ‘Red Roses of Passion’ or make something that failed to deliver like ‘Return of the Living Dead 2’. Hmm… I probably won’t ever do witches or zombies so I’ll go with Jess Franco’s ‘Barbed Wire Dolls’.

13) Weapon of choice?

F-22 Raptor

14) If you owned a BBQ joint, what would it be called and what would the theme of the place be?

The Three Little Pigs Drive-in Tiki Lounge and Water Park Motel. I think it would have a 70s Evel Knievel daredevil theme like Evel Knievel with an attached minature golf course and bumper boats. Billy Ratliff and John Collins would have a still somewhere on the property.

15) In conclusion, is there anything you’d like to say to all your fans out there in Internet Land?

Thank you for supporting us and other Independent filmmakers. We’re out on the “we make what we mant to see” fringe.There are so many good people and films out there. If the latest risk-free Hollywood CGI blockbuster leaves you cold, then please seek out the work of Richard Griffin (The Disco Exorcist), Drew Bolduc (The Taint), Vito Trabucco (Bloody Bloody Bible Camp), Stuart Simpson (El Monstro Del Mar!), Lindsay Denniberg (Video Diary Of A Girl), James Balsamo (I Spill Your Guts), Craig McIntyre (A Few Screws Loose), and Astron-6 (Bare-Backin’ Rump Rangers 7), just to name a few of the many talented fimmakers out there doing it for the love of the genre.

16) Thanks for your time, James!

!

Written by Scott Hall

I live in Texas, love horror and the works of Robert E. Howard, and have a large Yeti-dog