CYXORK 7 , the hilarious and inventive movie about making a movie in a fading sci-fi franchise, coming May 15 from Monogram Releasing, is one of the Best Movies of 2008 you’ve never heard of, according to Popmatters and according to me, too. Prolific and amiable writer/director JOHN HUFF gave us the lowdown on this artful satire, and much more…
Will the Thrill: You wrote 3 episodes of the classic series Kolchak: the Night Stalker (“The Sentry” “Mr. R.I.N.G”. and “Bad Medicine”); can you talk a little about your experiences with that show (one of my personal favorites)?
JH: Thanks, Will, it was one of the luckiest experiences of my life to be able to break in on that show. Darren McGavin had seen a spec script I had worked on with my writing partner, L. Ford Neale. Darren liked that script enough to give us a chance to pitch for his new series being built around the wildly successful Nightstalker TV movies. We worked with Paul Playdon, David Chase and ultimately Cy Chermak but always under the guidance of the McGavins. We were lucky. McGavin could dismantle and reassemble a script idea with the best of them. It was always better after his transfusions. “Bad Medicine” was the first. We got to go on a Nightstalker set at Universal and, of course, we were like fools going to the circus the first time. Neon signs above us that said, These dorks are new!
I, like the giraffe at the party, opined to Cy Chermak that Richard Kiel (I only knew him from his Thriller appearance and the “To Serve Man” episode of the Twilight Zone) would make a neat Diablero-witch-monster for our upcoming episode. Cy crisply informed me casting decisions weren’t the prerogative of writers, which I knew, but, interestingly enough, Richard Kiel got the part. That was a lesson to me. Make the pitch. All they can say is, No. But then they still might do it anyway.
“Mr R.I.N.G.” was re-concocted in the home of the McGavins, Darren and Kathy. I remember somebody holding a brandy snifter the size of a volleyball. Since we were doing Frankenstein, Darren, asked if we knew what the original Mary Shelly novel named the monster. He had asked that question for years, he said, and no one ever knew. “Adam,” I blurted. McGavin held me in awe for a nano-second. I didn’t reveal I had learned that literary fact from Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland. (I recounted this incident to Mr. Ackerman years later. He laughed.)
“The Sentry.” Ohhh, what it’s like to write the last episode of a canceled TV series. Jump the Shark my ass. One P.A. openly drank vodka from a bottle. He then said, in perfect French, “Ou et le docteur? (sic) – (Where is the doctor?)” and chugged some more vodka. It wasn’t pretty. We had been invited to the set by Darren that day. It was part of his education for us. The respected Seymour Robbie came in to direct. The entire episode is done in the lobby and parking lots and garages of Universal. The Black Tower has never been so revealed in its nether regions. I wanted better makeup for the monster. But that really didn’t matter.
Thrill: Here’s an admittedly broad and simplistic question, but given the uniquely personal quality of the material, I gotta ask: what was the inspiration for Cyxork 7?
JH: It was this: Andreas Kossak and I met on the set of The Howling 7: New Moon Rising. That should explain everything. If it doesn’t, I invite you to view the film. But then I will truck no surprise or amazement from you. You either know the reputation of this movie or you don’t. It’s not my responsibility to shepherd you. I act in that movie. I’m in it for almost 30 minutes total. I’m no actor and I have The Howling 7 to prove it. Joe Bob Briggs called me the “Lawrence Olivier” of The Howling 7. When Joe Bob Briggs held forth with the Olivier assessment on the Nuctcracker Cable Network or whatever it was, some of my relatives immediately called me long distance. They hadn’t phoned in years and have not done so since then. When Ray Wise acknowledged he had seen Howling 7, I ran and hid. The profoundness of the Howling 7 experience defies words. It is a permanent tattoo on my soul. Somehow, the silent screen actor, Jack Huff, got listed in imdb as… me… acting in The Howling 7. After all those years. From working with Mary Pickford to Howling 7. That’s some career arc for old Jack. I confess, I approved this error in imdb and even perpetuated it. However, it didn’t fool Joe Bob Briggs nor did it fool the Phantom (Joe Kane) of VideoScope Magazine. What can I say? I owe everything to The Howling 7 because it was there that I met Andreas Kossak.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Howling 7…who knew?
Thrill: Did the filming of your film begin to mirror the film with the film?
JH: Only the night we were shot at by the neighbor over-dosed on Coors-Lite. Our whole team was cool. Beata Pozniak was very stout. “Small arms,” she said. “That’s nothing. We heard this all the time in Poland.” The night scene between Sonya Smith and Cassandra Creech is that night. Both actors were cool. We got the scenes. The rest of the time, it was almost like a big party. Sometimes it was called, “Club John.”
JH: Total awe. The man is seamless. Always prepared. Always supportive of his fellow players. Once I knew Ray would riff with his icon status and thereby comment on franchise-acting in general, I knew we had a singular opportunity. One of Ray’s gifts as an actor is his awareness of “the little things.” His riffs on acting, as he plays a troubled actor, are remarkable for their insight and revelation. I felt privileged to witness it. When he said of Kommander 88, “I know that guy,” he wasn’t kidding. It was rare opportunity for Ray to comment on life in general and acting in particular. As a director, I just kept thanking him for what he was showing me.
Thrill: What’s next for you, film-wise?
RW: As we speak, Liz Jereski our casting director from Cyxork, is pitching a script in a preliminary casting test. We have finance but not enough for this person. It’s going to fly on the script or not at all. We are small fry. But we do have a bona fide deal with Troma and we have gotten some rave reviews and Bill Gibron in USA Today put us on his Ten Best List: “The Ten Best Films of 2008 You Never Heard Of.” Ryko working with Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz at Troma have done a valiant job. We have credibility from Santa Monica to Uzbek. We’re indie filmmakers and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thrill: I loved this film. It’s an honor, sir.
What the REAL critics are saying about CYXORK 7…
“WHAT’S REALLY IMPRESSIVE IS THE SHEER AMOUNT OF COMEDY THEY PACKED INTO “CYXORK 7.” ALL IN ALL, A FREAKING WOW!! IT’S A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE PACKAGE CONTAINING JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU COULD ASK FOR FROM A MOVIE.”
STEVE ANDERSON, FILM THREAT
“PART COMEDY, PART SOCIAL COMMENTARY AND PART TWO FINGERS UP TO THE HOLLYWOOD MACHINE. FUNNY, REFRESHINGLY ORIGINAL AND A DAMN FINE SCRIPT. “CYXORK 7” IS CERTAINLY AT THE TOP OF MY ‘MUST SEE’ LIST OF MOVIES.” – DARREN REA, EDITOR, SCI-FI-ONLINE MAGAZINE [U.K.]”
“HUFF’S HOLLYWOOD HATFUL OF HATE IS SMART, DARING, AND ACERBIC AS A RETIRED FILM CRITIC. A WONDERFUL CAST PERFECTLY IN TUNE WITH HIS TIRADE, AND A SUBTEXT THAT SUGGESTS THE CHEW ‘EM UP AND SPIT ‘EM OUT ASPECTS OF CELEBRITY, “CYXORK 7” IS SOMETHING QUITE UNEXPECTED. WHEN STAR RAY WISE GOES INTO FULL SMARM MODE, HE MAKES BRUCE CAMPBELL’S CLUELESS CHUTZPAH LOOK LIKE CHINBONE CHILD’S PLAY.”
BILL GIBRON, POPMATTERS
“CYXORK 7” IS A MOVIE THAT DESERVES CULT FOLLOWING. IT’S ONE OF THOSE RARE MOVIES YOU CAN WATCH OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND SEE NEW THINGS EVERY TIME YOU WATCH IT.”
BRIAN MORTON, ROGUE CINEMA
“JOHN HUFF’S SATIRE OUT-TROMAS TROMA!! A BRILLIANT, INTELLIGENT AND ENTERTAINING SUBVERSION ON FILM!”
LLOYD KAUFMAN, TROMA ENTERTAINMENT
“CYXORK 7” IS A DARK, DELIRIOUS, PROFANE SKEWERING OF FANDOM AND FILMMAKERS AND THEIR STEREOTYPICALLY INFLATED—AND– INEVITABLY FRACTURED—EGOS.”
MARTY BAUMANN, THE ASTOUNDING B MONSTER
CYXORK 7 opens May 15 in these select theaters, courtesy of Monogram Releasing:
Nova at Sabal Palms
2539 South Federal Highway
Fort Pierce, Florida 34982
340 Tanger Drive
Commerce, Georgia 30529
Studio 10 Cinemas
1624 E. State Highway 44
Shelbyville, Indiana 46176
Georgetown 14 Cinemas
3898 Lafayette Road
Indianapolis, Indiana 46254
phone: (317) 291-3456
4353 Merle Hay Road
Des Moines, Iowa 50310
Theatres of Georgetown
401 Outlet Center Drive
Georgetown, Kentucky 40324
Branson Meadows Theatres
4740 Gretna Road
Branson, Missouri 65616
Branson Meadows Outlet Mall
Movie Hotline: 417-332-2884
The Amp Oxford Mississippi
206 Commonwealth Boulevard
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Movie Hotline: 662-236-4080
1623 Chillicothe Street
Portsmouth, Ohio 45662
Lake Geneva 4
244 Broad Street
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin 53147