Bright Lights Film Journal

The Incredibly Strange Ray Dennis Steckler (1938-2009)

Bright Lights After Dark pauses to remember Ray Dennis Steckler, denizen of Hollywood and Las Vegas, a truly independent filmmaker who was anathema to the studios, but who nonetheless managed to produce, direct, and often star in a series of mostly self-financed and self-distributed horror/noir/comedy/rock ‘n roll films with titles like Wild Guitar, The Thrill Killers, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, and The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher.

His film career began auspiciously enough with a credit as Director of Photography on Timothy Carey’s The World’s Greatest Sinner. His best known film was The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1963), directed by Steckler at the age of 24, and promoted as “The World’s First Monster Musical.” In the clip above, we see Steckler, acting under the name”Cash Flagg,” as a hypnotically controlled assassin murdering a showgirl played by his beautiful and leggy wife, Carolyn Brandt. The murder is followed by a remarkable dream sequence featuring Steckler (doing ballet leaps), Brandt (with her face painted red), and a bevy of chorus girls.

According to ReSearch’s Incredibly Strange Films, an indispensable reference book whose title is an homage to Steckler, Zombies was shot on a budget of $15,000 for lab costs, $6,000 for editing, $5,000 for cast, $5,000 for crew, $1,000 for score, and $6,000 for rentals. László Kovács (Easy Rider) and Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter) were the cinematographers.

Roughly two dozen feature films later, Steckler’s last completed project, according to Wikipedia, was Incredibly Strange Creatures: One More Time, a sequel to Zombies shot on Digital 8 video at a cost of $3,800. This was a guy who loved films and filmmaking.

Check out his “Girls Only” MySpace page.