Ray Dennis Steckler, R.I.P.
Beloved cult movie director Ray Dennis Steckler passed away on Jan. 7, 2009. He was 70 years old.
Steckler is probably most famous for the two most weirdly titled films of all time: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964) and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966). Although, according to IMDB he directed twenty-nine features, some of them adult films made under various pseudonyms. He also acted in other directors’ films as well as his own under the name Cash Flagg. Fangoria has an excellent obituary up.
Steckler was more of a cult director than an “underground” director and I don’t want to pass myself off as some kind of expert. I only recently watched his two most famous films for the first time a few months ago when TCM Underground ran a double feature. The movies are of the typical “bad movie” variety, but what really amazed me about both of them is that after long, slow build-ups, Steckler knew how to pull out the stops and deliver a slam-bang ending. Mixed-Up Zombies!!? concludes with a terrifying zombie rampage at an amusement park, while Rat Pfink is notorious for starting out as a straight thriller then ending up as a superhero spoof with one of the longest fight and chase scenes I think ever filmed.
Also, embedded above is the beautifully freaky dream sequence from Mixed-Up Zombies!!?. The clip begins with Steckler as Flagg stabbing to death his real-life wife Carolyn Brandt, then having nightmares about it since he’s been put under a curse by an old gypsy woman. The nightmare is an elaborate dance number that seems weirdly inserted into the film, but looks fantastic.