July 18th, 2009 13:32:00


Lee Demarbre, the Ottawa-based talent behind Canadian cult films JESUS CHRIST, VAMPIRE HUNTER and THE DEAD SLEEP EASY turns in his most self-reflexive work to date - a tribute to pioneering exploitation director Herschell Gordon Lewis set in the unsympathetic world of contemporary independent filmmaking!

Grindhouse titan David Hess (THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK, HITCH-HIKE) stars as Able Whitman, a down-on-his-luck horror filmmaker subject to relentless mockery from obnoxious critics and jaded audiences alike. It seems that nobody likes his latest film Terror Toy, or finds its killer – a foot-high clown named 'Bobo' – very believable. After a car accident with no witnesses leaves a stripper friend dead and in pieces, Whitman is struck with a revelation - he'll use real body parts in his film! No one will complain about the special effects now! But when her sister (adult film star SASHA GREY, seen recently in Steven Soderbergh's THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE) comes looking for her, one murder leads to another as Whitman’s attempts to finish his film and cover up his crimes leave a neverending trail of carnage.

But SMASH CUT isn't just an entertaining genre film; as with all of Lee Demarbre's films, SMASH CUT is also a tongue-in-cheek profession of love to the history and culture of exploitation cinema, its heroes and losers alike - and its constant uphill battle for artistic credibility. We were fortunate to have Lee share his thoughts with us on the making of SMASH CUT and it's particular homage to the talents of HG Lewis.


This WORLD PREMIERE screening of SMASH CUT happens on Saturday July 18th at 12:15 (midnight) in the Hall Theatre, and will be hosted by actress Sasha Grey, actor David Hess and director Lee Demarbre, who will also participate in a Q&A after the film.

Full details on the film including description, images, trailer and more on the SMASH CUT FILM PAGE HERE.


This is your most star studded cast to date – David Hess, Sasha Grey, Michael Berryman - what was the casting process like?

Definitely! The casting process was thrilling - and a dream. Sasha Grey was the first on board. I met her when she was 19; and had been discussing this project with her for over a year before we went to camera. She’s an amazing inspiration – she had a ton of amazing ideas that all went into her character. I had a feeling watching her adult work that she could do anything; and I was right. Herschell Gordon Lewis was someone I always wanted to involve on camera in the film. Since the film is dedicated to Herschell I knew he had to have a part. Also Ray Sager who appears in many of Herschell’s films just had to have a part. I was so lucky to involve them both. Originally we thought we had to cast an American lead in our film. We approached David Cronenberg because I thought it would be cool to have a filmmaker play the role of a filmmaker. Cronenberg liked the script but had other commitments. Then one of the producers said that we could get away with an American lead for the film. The first person I thought of was David Hess; the most intense American actor that came to mind. I believe two weeks later I was in LA with David discussing the film - amazing! Michael Berryman was suggested and was interested the moment I was on the phone with him just because Michael wanted to work again with Hess. It was a complete thrill to involve all these amazing talents.

The sight of David Hess doing yoga is something I never expected to see in my lifetime. What is the significance of this scene?

It was Hess who thought of this scene. It wasn't in the script. You should have seen the looks of the producers faces when he suggested it. I thought it was funny as hell and gladly shot the scene. We wrapped production filming that scene. Once Mike Dubue scored the scene with outrageous music it became a standout bit and was in the picture.

The film is an homage to HG Lewis – How did you approach Lewis (and Lewis veteran actor Ray Sager) about appearing in the film?

I approached Herschell about the film around 2002. He invited me to his house in Florida twice to discuss the project. He was always on board; very supportive. He once said in passing that he thought Rag Sager was living in Toronto producing movies. Not only was Herschell right but Ray was one of the most successful Canadian film producers living in Toronto and had been for quite a while. It took me years to make contact with Ray, and just two weeks before filming Smash Cut did I heard from him. Lucky me.

As an independent filmmaker working with genre cinema, are many of the obstacles Able Whitman comes up against autobiographical – such as unsympathetic critics, arts council funding, the proliferation of video artists making pretentious commentaries about the role of cinema in society when none of them have seen a film before, etc?

Sure. Not so much the critics – that never really bothered me. I always had a hard time convincing arts councils that I too was making art. Genre films never are perceived that way; I was always losing out to non-narrative video artists. The kinds of frustrations that I've dealt with over the years the really impacted the film were the ones that came out trying to make films that never saw the light of day. Ian Driscoll (the writer) and I tried to make an action film in Jamaica for years; it was those dealings with investors and producers that gave us tons of inspiration for the kinds of people that Able should kill to get his film done in Smash Cut. A ton of the scenarios in the film were based on real situations that compromised the making of the film in Jamaica. We used our frustrations to craft Smash Cut.

The film opens with the HG Lewis quote about how filmmaking is a business, not an art form – what are your feelings on that?

Herschell never felt like he was making art - to him it was all business. For years I tried to convince him otherwise. Smash Cut is my explanation to him that he did indeed make art – that his entire body of work was an inspiration to me and the others who worked on Smash Cut.

Do you think there is such a thing as “protecting the world from bad art”?

No. I would never deny the world of bad art. Imagine a world without Plan 9 from Outer Spaceť, or Troll 2 or Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Some forms of bad art are as entertaining as anything considered 'good'. Give me Troll 2 any day of the week over Transformers 2.

what do you think Lewis brought to horror cinema that is still relevant to younger fans accustomed to today's standards of gore?

Herschell was not only the first to put blood and guts on screen in a close-up, he was the first to depict blood and guts in a humorous light. He made funny films, entertaining cinematic blood baths. His concepts for his films are miles beyond what anyone is doing today. It's in his concepts for violence that are still relevant today. Most gore films are violent of the sake of being violent; Herschell never did that. Herschell's splatter films were more high concept. They had their shortcomings, but were so clever, so original - still even today.

Are there other low budget exploitation filmmakers you really admire?

I admire many of Herschell's contemporaries, like Doris Wishman, Harry Novak, Russ Meyer, etc. And I really love Ed Wood still. Oh - let's not forget Andy Siddaris and David A. Prior. More recently I'm enjoying many of the Nu Image films coming out of Bulgaria. Shark Attack 3 is easily the greatest shark movie to ever come out of Bulgaria, and believe me, there have been many.

I heard you opened a theatre in Ottawa – what was the transition like from filmmaker to programmer?

It's fun. Stress free. Exactly what I need while waiting for my next film to go into production. I'd turn into Able Whitman in a heart beat if it weren't for the Mayfair.

- Kier-La Janisse


This WORLD PREMIERE screening of SMASH CUT happens on Saturday July 18th at 12:15 (midnight) in the Hall Theatre, and will be hosted by actress Sasha Grey, actor David Hess and director Lee Demarbre, who will also participate in a Q&A after the film.

Full details on the film including description, images, trailer and more on the SMASH CUT FILM PAGE HERE.

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