It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the passing of B-Movie auteur Ray Dennis Steckler. The independent filmmaker, who brought such titles as The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964) and 1979’s The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid-Row Slasher, passed away Wednesday, January 7th, in Las Vegas at the age of 70, following several short stays in the hospital.
Having worked as a cinematographer, following a brief stint in the Army, Steckler made his directorial debut in one of my personal favorites, Wild Guitar (1962), starring the unparalleled talents of Arch Hall, Jr., who would later go on to star in cult favorites Eegah! (also ’62) (in which Steckler makes an appearance) and The Sadist (1963), a wonderfully disturbing take on the Charles Starkweather killings.
Despite having virtually no budgets for his homegrown masterpieces, Steckler continued to make movies.
He produced some truly memorable (if bizarre) motion pictures like Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966) (a send-up of the 60’s Batman craze, complete with a typo in the title), The Lemon Grove Kids Meet The Monsters (1965) (his homage to the works of The Bowery Boys), The Chooper (1971) (aka Blood Shack), and the chill-inducing The Thrill Killers (1964), a creepy tale of a deranged murderer (played by Steckler himself, under his acting alias, Cash Flagg).
With a list that could have even rivaled Jesus Franco’s many nom de plumes, Steckler assumed many aliases throughout his career.
The monikers attributed to him include Sven Christian, Conrad Denk, Christopher Edwards, Sven Golly, Harry Nixon, Michael J. Rogers, Wolfgang Schmidt, and even Cindy Lou Sutters, the last of which was used during his “blue” period of making adult flicks in the 70s and 80s (which on several occasions he was said to have denied making).
Shortly before his demise, Steckler had just wrapped up on the much-awaited sequel to what many consider to be his finest work, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964).
The project, entitled Incredibly Strange Creatures, Part 2, is expected to be released to DVD in June. Most of his earlier works (sans the porn films) are available on DVD from Media Blasters and come highly recommended to B-Movie fans.
Ray’s fondness for silent movies (he adored Rudolph Valentino) was evident in much of his work. At times, characters would remain silent for long durations.
He even shot The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid-Row Slasher without sound – and only added dialogue to the film when his distributor demanded it.
His final public appearance would be in November at a screening of No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos, a documentary about acclaimed cinematographers László Kovács and Vilmos Zsigmond, both of whom started out their careers in America with Steckler and Hall’s producer/director father, Arch Hall, Sr.
Said his longtime acquaintance and friend, Arch Hall, Jr., “Ray Dennis Steckler touched many in his life and it goes without saying that his talent and wit shall be greatly missed. … God bless him.”
Arch Hall, Jr. (left) and Ray Dennis Steckler (right) in November 2008
(Image appears courtesy of Arch Hall, Jr.)
Services are expected to be held Sunday, January 11, at 3pm at the Palm Mortuary, 7600 South Eastern Avenue, Las Vegas.
“The world’s here to be enjoyed, not to make you depressed. That’s what work does…it makes you feel depressed.” – Cash Flagg (Ray Dennis Steckler), in The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964).
He’s been called many names (mostly bad ones by people who truly have no appreciation of B-Movies), but no matter what your opinion of Ray Dennis Steckler was, there was no denying that he lived his life doing what he loved the most: making films.
Good night, Ray…and thanks for the great memories.