Grabbing Attention Fred Olen Ray

Since moving to Hollywood from Florida in 1981 with less than $1,000, Ray has been nothing if not prolific, directing 30 features, not including the dozen or so films he produced (including “Step Monster” for Roger Corman and the upcoming “Sorceress,” starring Linda Blair) and ghost-directed (“Save Me,” starring Harry Hamlin).

In his own inimitable way, Ray is blazing the trail pioneered so successfully by Corman, the proclaimed “King of the B’s.” Turning out films with the zeal of a movie buff (as a teen-ager, he edited his own horror film fanzine), he gets the most out of minuscule budgets, often shooting on discarded sets from other’s films.

He even populates his films with actors who haunted the B-films that enthralled him in his youth. The upcoming “The Incredible 60 Ft. Centerfold” will feature Russ Tamblyn of “High School Confidential!” (and “West Side Story”); Stan Livingston, who played Chip on “My Three Sons,” and former Disney kid Tommy Kirk, who starred in “Village of the Giants” and has not made a film in decades.

“I get a real kick out of working with people who I watched in the drive-ins in my formative years,” Ray says. “People who made great films or who were in films that I liked. I was probably the most excited when I worked with John Carradine and Lee Van Cleef.”

It’s “no big deal” that Ray’s films go primarily direct-to-video. Video stores, he says, are the drive-ins of our times. “The kind of movies that played the drive-ins never had coming attractions on commercial TV,” he says. “You saw the title in the paper, and it was buyer beware. That’s what video is like. If there’s no theatrical or word-of-mouth, you look at the box art and you have to make up your mind then and there whether you want to rent.”

Ray works in genres, whatever is hot at the moment. “I’m trying to earn a living and have a good time,” he says. He made horror films (“The Alien Dead,” “The Tomb”). When those became a glut on the market, he moved into action (“Armed Response,” “Commando Squad”) and then drifted in to erotic thrillers.

“I drifted right back out of those, too,” he says with a laugh. “I didn’t really know what an erotic thriller was when I did ‘Inner Sanctum.’ I watched ‘Wild Orchid’–fast-forwarded through it, actually–to see what was expected of me.”

In the last year, Ray has toiled in fantasy and lightweight nonviolent-type material. He might even do a family film one day. “I would love to do a movie that all my grandparents could see,” he says. “I go back to Florida and I get some friends who still look down their nose at me because of the type of pictures I’ve made.”

From the LA TIMES