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Stephen Romano’s RETRO 13 – The Queen of Evil

What’s this? An Oliver Stone film at RETRO 13?!! Um, well, yeah. I didn’t make this up, people. It’s history. 1974, to be exact. Oliver Stone’s first-ever motion picture endeavor that year was a horror film — and a fairly darn good one, too. The hardcores among you already know what I’m talking about, but for the uninitiated, I have created this week’s swell poster, which you can see by scrolling down to the end of this article.

retro 13 - Stephen Romano's RETRO 13 - The Queen of Evil

Most people know this film by its far less awesome title, Seizure. I don’t. Let me explain.

In 1972, Ollie managed to mount his fledgling film project through Canadian investors, with a strange and heady home invasion script, written to be filmed in one creepy location. Stone and his producers secured a medium sized mansion estate, hired a cast of fairly respectable names—such as Troy Donahue and Jonathan Frid of “Dark Shadows” — and moved them all in. The idea was to have the actors and crew living together under one roof to cut costs and increase the level of authenticity in performances. Because the story is about a group of people spending one dark night together as they are besieged by a mysterious femme fatale and her lackeys, Stone felt the bonding under pressure would work for his story. (He  became notorious for similar “boot camp” conditions on later films.) But of course everything went horribly wrong.

ORIGINAL POSTER1 300x234 - Stephen Romano's RETRO 13 - The Queen of EvilThere were technical nightmares, weird fights among the cast, and lack of cash flow on an impossible schedule, leading to rebellion. According to Stone, one of the producers of the film was even tied up and thrown in the river by the disgruntled Canadian crew. “We should have just shot the thing in black and white with a cast of unknowns in Riverdale somewhere,” he told Video Watchdog journalist Tim Lucas in a legendary “lost” interview tape from 1974. “But instead the sickness set it—the sickness to be professional. We were way too ambitious.

The film featured the legendary former Bond girl and B-queen Martine Beswick and Hervé’ Villechaize (who would later become famous for his portrayal of Tattoo on “Fantasy Island”) as the main villains. In one of the most bizarre moments on set, Stone reported that the three-foot-two actor grabbed an entire chocolate cake from the catering table and dumped the whole thing in a producer’s face, screaming in the strangled voice of a demented elf: “YOU LIKE CAKE, SONOFABITCH!??” Apparently, the denizens of evil do not like chocolate cake all that much. Or something. (This story was the inspiration for one of the more shocking episodes in my illustrated book Shock Festival.)

The “curse” Oliver Stone perceived his film to be under continued well after its difficult filming and post-production period. The Queen of Evil was finally renamed Seizure by the U.S. distributor — much to the chagrin of everyone involved with making the film — and was dumped into the world on the second slot of a double feature with a far more traditional creature feature called The Beast Must Die. And it sunk nearly from human memory.

You’ll notice I said “nearly,” folks.

Some of us still remember. And we love it.

The poster you see below is based on Oliver Stone’s original vision. It is created, obviously, in the style of 70s Amicus and Hammer films, though the lower-budget Queen was far more visionary. The elaborate portrait approach allowed me to really present the souls of the characters — and the soul of the film itself. Compared to other freshman moviemaking efforts such as Night of the Living Dead and Halloween, Ollie’s maiden voyage is something of a unique marvel: creepy, uncompromising “intellectual horror” on a shoestring. Seek it out. It’s truly worth the effort.

This week’s RETRO 13 is dedicated to Queen’s two departed stars, Jonathan Frid and Hervé Villechaize.

Click here for the full-size image.

6. QUEEN OF EVIL 663x1024 - Stephen Romano's RETRO 13 - The Queen of Evil

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This poster is intended as FAN ART only and is designed to be shared, for free, for anyone who wants to own it for themselves. Download it, share it, spread the horror! And come see me at my website for more fun.

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