POPATOPOLIS

In December 2009 I reviewed the classic softcore B-movie THE WITCHES OF BREASTWICK. A few years ago I heard about this documentary, which is a behind the scenes look at the filming of Witches of Breastwick. For some reason it’s hard to find on DVD. I originally tried to buy it on Amazon, which at the time had one third party seller selling it, and I placed the order and nothing happened for like two weeks. The order wasn’t shipping, and I tried sending messages, but didn’t get any response (thankfully I wasn’t charged for it yet), so I just canceled the order and forgot about it. Then last week I was looking for something on Ebay and this popped up in my “suggested” items, so I bought it. And I finally got to watch it.

Clay Westervelt directs this documentary, which is just a little over an hour long. Jim Wynorski has been making so-called B-movies since 1985. As the opening credits in this documentary state:

For over 20 years he’s directed more films than Scorcese (more than 75), he’s produced more profitable movies than Jerry Bruckheimer, and he’s infuriated more actors than Alfred Hitchcock.

The film opens with Wynorski standing outside of some building waiting to meet with actress who is already 40 minutes late. When she finally shows up (she looks familiar, but I don’t know where I’ve seen her before, and they don’t mention her name) she’s woefully unprepared, all she has is a head-shot with her, no resume or phone number to give him, and Wynorski isn’t happy about this. That sort of sets the stage for his dealings with many of the actresses on this film. He does get angry and impatient. He shows us around his nice but modest house, which has posters of his many films on almost all of the walls and he looks like every shelf and cabinet he has, including in his kitchen, are filled with DVD’s and video tapes. The man loves movies. That is clear. He talks about some of his other films, including his very first film, The Lost Empire. He says he didn’t know if he’d ever get a chance to make another film after that, so he decided that he’d put everything he ever wanted to put into a film into this one. That includes “ninjas, Dirty Harry police shootouts, busty women, magic, sci-fi, & gorillas.” And he’s been making movies his way ever since.

What’s not clear is why exactly he’s making this new film in just three days, I’m not sure if he has a deadline or just wants to see if he can do it (apparently, he originally wanted to make this film in 2 days), but he’s determined to do this, and so we see him discussing the steps he needs to take to make this happen. Step 1: a small crew. He’s got a cinematographer (Andrea Rossotto) and a sound mixer (Langston Ball). Also coming along are Bill Munroe, who co-wrote the script with Wynorski and his co-producing the film, and we later see a guy named Daniel Fast, a production assistant. Step 2: Reduce equipment costs. He just gets a couple of lights, cameras and microphones. Step 3: Economize your location. He’s got a cabin in the woods, that sleeps 12. So the whole cast and crew can stay there and that’s where they’ll film the whole movie. Step 4: Maximize your day. Wynorski’s planning to shoot all day long, 7am to 10pm if they can. We see a pre-production meeting the night before, where’s he’s going over the plans with everyone, and wants to shoot 13 scenes in the first day. Step 5: Eliminate unnecessary personnel. No hair, make-up, or wardrobe people, the ladies are just bringing their own clothes and doing their own make-up. Step 6: Eliminate “expensive” luxuries. We see the various cast members complaining about the lack of food and towels.

And then it’s day one, which gets off to a bad start when one of the stars, hardcore porn star Stormy Daniels, in her first non-porn film, is late arriving to the cabin. The rest of the documentary goes over the shooting of the film, showing several key scenes, along with interviews with cast members including Daniels, Joe Souza (who used the name Matt Dalpiaz in the film), Monique Parent, Julie K. Smith (who has the longest working relationship with Wynorski and therefor seems to be able to handle him the best), and Glori-Anne Gilbert. There’s also interviews with Antonia Dorian, who only has a brief appearance in this film, but talks about working with Wynorski in an earlier film, Dinosaur Island. Strangely there’s no interviews or even shots of Taimie Hannum, who has a significant role in this film (she plays a mysterious woman who sneaks in to Souza’s character’s room and has sex with him while his wife sleeps). I guess she didn’t want to be in the documentary. Likewise, no appearance from Jay Richardson or Jodi Moore, who appear in the opening of the film (Moore’s character performs a strip-tease for Richardson’s character on a desk in a conference room), before the action moves to the cabin.

In between segments of Wynorski shooting various scenes of this film, and the difficulties that entails (the funniest parts are when he’s directing sex scenes, and a later scene where Smith can’t get a simple line of dialog right and has to do a dozen takes), we get appearances and comments from other notable figures in Wynorski’s career. Fellow filmmakers Roger Corman and Andy Sidaris appear, as does actress/model Julie Strain. We also get some very touching interviews with Wynorski’s mother Theresa, who just looks like the sweetest old lady you’d ever meet. Along the way there are also many scenes from previous Wynorski films, and I must say that you get some really fascinating insights into Wynorski and the world of small budget filmmaking.

Needless to say, Wynorski succeeded in his goal of making the film in 3 days, and the closing credits state that the film made it’s money back after its first showing on Cinemax. It also said that the experience was so taxing for Julie K. Smith that she retired from acting after this film, and never wanted to see Wynorski again, although I know that she has since un-retired and has made several more films with Wynorski. I think this documentary explains my question as to why the sequel THE WITCHES OF BREASTWICK 2 was basically a remake of the first one, just with a mostly new cast. I assume he had longer than 3 days this time, and so now he got the chance to do it over and make a better picture, with less of a rush.

My only real critique of this documentary would be that I don’t think Monique Parent was interviewed enough here. She’s been in approximately a bajillion B-movies in the past 20 years, so I feel that she would have some really deep insights into how filmmaking has changed over the years. Really, she’s worthy of a whole documentary just chronicling her career.

Other than that I’m pretty happy with the documentary, and glad that I finally got it. I’d actually recommend this documentary to any new director who is just starting out, and any fan of these types of films.

Check out Popatopolis on iTunes or Netflix

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