Fantastic Films Collectors Edition #20 (December, 1980): Interview with Tom Savini

FF CE #20 pg. 48

FF CE #20 pg. 49

FF CE #20 pg. 50

FF CE #20 pg. 51

FF CE #20 pg. 52

FF CE #20 pg. 58

FF CE #20 pg. 59

Tom Savini’s first makeup effects job, at the recommendation of George Romero, was Deathdream (a.k.a. Dead of Night), a brilliant 1972 film about a G.I. in Vietnam who dies in the war but returns to life—and comes home—as a vampire. After that, Savini did makeup for 1974’s Deranged (written by Alan Ormsby, who also wrote Deathdream), loosely based on the grisly career of Ed Gein. Martin (1976), another outstanding vampire film (kind of) written and directed by Romero, was next. Savini, already a theater veteran, wanted to play the lead. He did makeup and stunts instead.

After Martin, Savini returned to the theater, taking the part of King Philip in a production of The Lion in Winter. When that wrapped, Romero called him in to do effects for Dawn of the Dead (1978), the greatest zombie movie ever made, and easily in the all-time horror top 10. On to Friday the 13th (1980), whose realistic effects sent the American slasher film into the mainstream. (Bob Clark, who directed Deathdream, also directed the first true American slasher: 1974’s underrated Black Christmas. Clark is best know today as the director of A Christmas Story.)

No one in the makeup effects business did more to define the modern horror genre than Savini, not even Rick Baker or Stan Winston. His experience as a combat photographer in Vietnam gave him a unique (and terrible, I would think) insight into death.

Not at all the grisly brooder or the “deranged butcher” people expect, Savini emanates an easygoing affability in interviews. It’s clear that he loves life, and he’s giddily dedicated to his craft. All of that comes through when FF asks him if he had fun on Friday the 13th:

Oh, it was one of the greatest times I’ve ever had. The weeks in the Poconos, riding around without a helmet, taking my time and doing really elaborate things, and having a fortune to spend. Toward the end, I received a Dear John phone call from my girlfriend, which at the time seemed to destroy the whole experience. But as I look back on it, it didn’t at all. I just had a terrific time.

Despite his genius for illusion, Savini saw himself as an actor first. Romero finally gave him his chance in Knightriders (1981), a misunderstood movie about a jousting motorcycle troupe that’s also an elegy on the decline of the ’60s counterculture. Savini plays one of the leads, opposite a 30-year-old Ed Harris, and more than holds his own.

(The first and second installments of Fantastic Films #20 are here and here, respectively.)

8 Responses to “<em>Fantastic Films Collectors Edition</em> #20 (December, 1980): Interview with Tom Savini”

  1. 1 Jason June 21, 2013 at 2:33 am

    I met Savini at a horror convention about ten years ago. He seemed grumpy, I think he was having a bad day. I tried to cheer him up by asking about DVD special editions of Knightriders.

  2. 2 2W2N June 21, 2013 at 4:09 am

    Really? 10 years ago would put it right around the bullshit Dawn of the Dead remake! No wonder he was grumpy. Zack Snyder is not my favorite.

  3. 3 Jason June 21, 2013 at 4:27 am

    I’m pretty sure it was before that POS, which I’d mercifully forgotten about until now. Thanks for that. I can’t remember if he was hawking any current project at the time, but his booth was pretty empty when I went up to it. Maybe he was feeling ignored.

  4. 4 2W2N June 21, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Speaking of POS, I was watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower a couple of weeks ago (don’t ask), and up pops Savini as the smart-ass shop teacher.

    How could he be ignored at a horror convention? You’re making me sad. Tell me he wasn’t sitting with Bruce Campbell…

    • 5 Jason June 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      No, the convention I went to featuring Bruce had such a long line to the table that’s probably still in existence. Most surreal memory from my horror convention days: sitting at a hotel bar having drinks next to Michael Berryman, as he flirted with a couple twenty-something-year-old female fans.

  1. 1 Tom Savini on Livewire, 1982 | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on October 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm
  2. 2 John Boorman and the Making of Excalibur: ‘The Biggest Selling Game in America is Something Called Dragons and Dungeons’ | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on September 11, 2014 at 3:40 pm
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