Psychotronic filmmaker Ray Dennis Steckler lost his battle with heart disease on January 7, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada; he was 70 years old. With his passing so goes Cash Flagg, his hoodlum alter ego and star of Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, The Thrill Killers, Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters and Wild Guitar. We also say farewell to Sven Christian, Wolfgang Schmidt, and Cindy Lou Sutters; other Steckler pseudonyms; there were 12 of them at last count and I am sure we will miss them all.
Steckler started his film career by finishing principal photography on Timothy Carey’s World’s Greatest Sinner. He then went on to capture Arch Hall Jr.’s delinquent delight in 1962’s Wild Guitar, and after that he was off and running, shooting films without ever a finished screenplay in hand.
Steckler always did the best he could with what he had, which was sometimes practically nothing but his passion. When he got a hold of some Las Vegas showgirl garb, he decided to throw together what would be one of the first horror musicals, 1964’s Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, a complete non-sequester of a film, complete with dance numbers, feathers, glitz and the undead. To enhance Incredibly Strange Creatures… cinematic experience, “monsters” would run into the audience during key sequences, terrorizing the audience. Monsters 1, Audience 0.
Steckler repeated these antics during screenings of 1964’s The Thrill Killers. The silver-screen (scream?) hypnotist tries to place the “live” audience in a trace, warning them of the possibility of characters descending into the crowd. Before the swirly, hypno-fu stops, ushers in rubber Cash Flagg masks run into the crowd causing havoc. Cash Flagg 1, Audience 0.
Rat Pfink a Boo Boo looks like a home movie with some sort of budget. Here our fearless superheroes, Rat Pfink and Boo Boo are seen waving to the crowds on a float during a parade sequence clearly high-jacked to sneak in some production value. Scriptless, like most of his films Rat Pfink, switches from a dark thriller to a goofy crime caper as our fearless director felt bored with the latter. Could this be Lynch’s excuse in Mulholland Dr.? The world may never know.
If all of these cinematic shenanigans don’t win him some sort of immortal fan base, his performance as Mr. Fishman will forever seal his cult status in Arch Hall Sr.’s 1962 film Eegah! Ray Dennis Steckler and Richard Kiel together at long last in this tale of prehistoric love.
Death hopefully has not stopped Steckler, before leaving us for more heavenly business, he had just wrapped up a sequel to the fan-fav Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies titled Incredibly Strange Creatures: One More Time. Let’s hope there is a push to put it in post and release it. Thanks Ray for everything, we will miss you.
Fans, and soon-to-be fans, check out “The Incredibly Strange Film Show”’s documentary on Ray, parts 1 though 4, below! You can also post your best wishes and thoughts to his family on the Review Journal obituary for Ray Dennis Steckler.
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