Ray Dennis Steckler

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Ray Dennis Steckler
Born (1938-01-25)January 25, 1938
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died January 7, 2009(2009-01-07) (aged 70)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Other names Cash Flagg
Occupation Director, producer, actor, cinematographer
Spouse(s) Carolyn Brandt (1963–1973)
Katherine (1986 – January 7, 2009)

Ray Dennis Steckler (January 25, 1938 – January 7, 2009),[1][2] also known by the pseudonym Cash Flagg, was an American film director, producer, screenwriter and actor best known as the low-budget auteur of such cult films as The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. In addition to Cash Flagg, Steckler was also known by the pseudonyms Sven Christian, Sven Hellstrom, Harry Nixon, Michael J. Rogers, Michel J. Rogers, Wolfgang Schmidt, Cindy Lou Steckler, R.D. Steckler, Ray Steckler, and Cindy Lou Sutters—the last being his "porn name".

Early life and career[edit]

Ray Dennis Steckler was born in Reading, Pennsylvania where his grandmother, who largely raised him, nurtured his love of movies. At 15, upon receiving an 8mm home movie camera from his stepfather, Steckler shot an amateur pirate film with friends. Ray served three years in the United States Army from 1956 to 1959, being discharged as a Sergeant.[3] He was an Army photographer,[4] and served in Korea and spent a year at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens with the Army Pictorial Service of the Signal Corps. In 1959, Steckler and a friend drove to Hollywood, California to enter the film industry.[4]

Steckler worked as a prop man before becoming assistant cameraman on the film, The World's Greatest Sinner, directed by and starring Timothy Carey. When the initial director of photography was fired, Steckler replaced him.

Continuing to work in cinematography in the Los Angeles area, Steckler acquired a union card and established himself at major studios, including Universal Studios. When he was reportedly[5] fired for almost knocking an A-frame onto Alfred Hitchcock, Steckler turned to the B-movie circuit. Working with Arch Hall Sr.'s Fairway Pictures, Steckler started as cinematographer and sometimes actor in the vehicles for Hall's son, Arch Hall, Jr. Steckler made his directorial debut in the Hall vehicle Wild Guitar. When Arch Hall Senior was worried whether his film would play when the original choice of the heavy was black, Steckler told his friend he had to go and took the role under his onscreen name, Cash Flagg.[6]

The Incredibly Strange Creatures[edit]

In 1963 he co-produced his first solo film, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, co-starring his then wife, Carolyn Brandt. Filmed for a budget of $38,000,[7] the film was photographed by cinematographer Joseph V. Mascelli[4] with then newcomers László Kovács and Vilmos Zsigmond as camera operators; both men acknowledged[citation needed] the film as their first major career break. Initially distributed on the lower half of a double-bill by Fairway, Steckler took Creatures on the road himself and made it a success under a number of titles, including Diabolical Dr. Voodoo and The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary. Falling into semi-obscurity past its eccentric title, the film gained notoriety once again in 1997, when it was featured on the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Steckler's next film was his answer to Psycho, entitled The Thrill Killers, released in 1964. The film marked the first effort between Steckler and Ron Haydock, who would be Steckler's creative partner up until the latter's death in the 1970s.

Steckler continued to produce a number of low-budget but fanciful films which soon attained cult status, including Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (a spoof of Batman) and Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (an homage to the East Side Kids films). By the late 1960s, he also directed the music video for Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", as well as "Open My Eyes" by The Nazz.

Steckler's low-budget often meant working for little to nothing, but his comradeship was often reflected in his productions. In his 1969 film Body Fever, Steckler created a bit part for then destitute fellow director Coleman Francis, who, by coincidence, also achieved belated fame via Mystery Science Theater 3000. Francis died not long after the making of the film.

Later life and career[edit]

With the decline of drive-in horror films of the nature Steckler was producing in the 1960s, and following his divorce from Brandt, with whom he had daughters Linda and Laura, Steckler produced softcore adult films during the 1970s and 1980s.[4] Circa 1986, he married his second wife, Katherine, with whom he had daughters Morgan and Bailey.[4]

Steckler named daughter Morgan after his partner George Morgan who financed "The Incredibly Strange Creatures." "The Thrill Killers," "Rat-Pfink and Boo-Boo" "The Incredibly Strange Creatures" and "Las Vegas Serial Killer" were first released on home video 1986–1987 by CAMP Home Video, a small independent company based in Los Angeles, CA.

In the late 1980s, Steckler opened Mascot Video in Las Vegas and sold it in 1995 to local businessman Dan Wayman. Up until his death in 2009, Steckler continued to sell videos of his works via the web, including six volumes of young actresses and dancers in nude auditions for Steckler's camera. Steckler says these auditions were shot in 1991 for The Hollywood Strangler in Las Vegas (a.k.a. Las Vegas Serial Killer), but that film was finished by 1987.

In 2008, Steckler announced production of his new film One More Time, which he described as an "extension" (as opposed to a "sequel") to The Incredibly Strange Creatures,[1] and launched two MySpace pages and a website for casting actresses for his upcoming films. Steckler completed post-production of One More Time shortly before his death. It was filmed on location on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Las Vegas on a budget of $3,800 using two Digital 8 cameras. The film was released direct-to-DVD via his website in 2009.

Death[edit]

Shortly after returning to Las Vegas, Steckler, who had been fighting heart disease for close to ten years, died of cardiac arrest on January 7, 2009, aged 70. He was buried at the Palm Mortuary and Cemetery Green Valley.

Filmography[edit]

Director[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Ray Has Gone To The Great Movie Set In Heaven". Official Ray Dennis Steckler website. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  2. ^ "Ray Dennis Steckler, 1939–2009". metafilter blog. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  3. ^ Walentis, All You Can Go Home Again Reading Eagle Jun 5, 2005
  4. ^ a b c d e Martin, Douglas, "Ray Dennis Steckler, Low-Budget Auteur, Dies at 70", The New York Times, January 31, 2009
  5. ^ p.11 Quarles, Mike Down and Dirty: Hollywood's Exploitation Filmmakers and Their Movies McFarland, 01/01/2001
  6. ^ p.12 Quarles
  7. ^ Ray Dennis Steckler official website

External links[edit]