Tommy Lee Wallace is well known as an accomplished writer, producer and director in television as well as film. Although he has written and directed television episodes for series from The Twilight Zone to Baywatch and memorable movies from Stephen King's IT (1990) to Vampires: Los Muertos (2002), he is forever immortalized as the one who created the mask worn by Michael Meyers in the film that launched a new era in horror. It has been three decades since the legacy of Halloween began, and this year, Tommy Lee Wallace comes home to celebrate 30 years of terror.

Tommy Lee Wallace was born September 6, 1949 in Somerset Kentucky and grew up in Bowling Green. He was from a close family and has remained close to his childhood friends. Early role models, according to Wallace, included, "My own parents, two of the most decent people you could ever know, who were exemplary Christians without ever once preaching about it. Also Robert and Pat Markle, my second set of parents, who managed to raise my lifelong friend and farming partner Rick, without killing him. Or me."

He was an active youth, participating in Boy Scouts and the church league basketball team. "Scoutmasters Homer Parent and Bob Wall taught me to camp and take care of myself without pretending I had to think or act like a soldier." explained Wallace, also naming as an influence "Doc Wilson, who taught me that church league basketball was a lot cooler than it sounded."

In high school Wallace was part of the privileged few who attended College High where he was greatly influenced by his freshman and sophomore English teacher, Mary McCombs. "It was a great school. Very small, but blessed with a distinguished and dedicated faculty and an intelligently designed curriculum. The standards were high. It was a remarkable learning environment, and very progressive for its time. I think being smack-dab in the middle of a college campus also had a very positive effect on the experience." said Wallace.

He also names another influence in "Reverend Fred Pfisterer, who, by suggesting that he thought God was going to call me to the ministry, scared me all the way to Hollywood."

Tommy's first band experience was Tomorrow's Children with his friend John Carpenter and Carpenter's girlfriend and fellow College High student Elizabeth Solley. "We were all-acoustic, Peter, Paul and Mary-esque, [with] odd folk tunes and a few originals composed by John, [played] in the occasional coffee-house/church basement setting." said Wallace.

The next Wallace/Carpenter collaboration would become an inspiration for many area musicians. The Kaleidoscope was made up of Wallace (keyboards, lead vocals), John Carpenter (bass, vocals), Gary Huff (rhythm guitar), Tim Hulsey (lead guitar) and Vic Beach (drums). According to Wallace "It was a rich time musically, and we reflected that with some style. We introduced southern Kentucky to psychedelia, complete with black lights and strobe lights and love beads and dayglow-painted amplifiers and wacked-out costumes, and silent movies projected on the kick drum."

In a 2006 Amplifier interview, with Mike Clark, Clark recounts standing outside the prom to hear The Kaleidoscope because he was too young to go in. Mike Hildreth (Slickrock, Skip Bond and the Fugitives) was also among their younger fans. "When I was thinking I might learn to play music he was a real influence. He knew every song that you could ever think of - I think if he'd stayed with music he'd be successful with it."

Dr. Tim Hulsey recalls his days with The Kaleidoscope and members Wallace and Carpenter, saying "All of us wanted to be as talented as they were." He added "They were just a little more advanced musically and artistically with more sophisticated imaginations than most of us at that time… Tommy and John were a little less ordinary, John was already making 8 millimeter movies by the time he was 8 or 9. I think there were early indications they were special. I've enjoyed everything Tommy has ever done."

According to Hulsey, one year The Kaleidoscope played every Sigma Chi party. "Tommy was a bit of a hippie. He liked to wear army surplus shirts and beads or strings of seeds." Hulsey recalls an Alpha Gamma Rho party where upon arrival one of the brothers saw Tommy and exclaimed "Beads, are you kidding me?!" Hulsey recalls some of those parties as being quite perilous and having to protect their equipment from drunken party goers. "We never resorted to chicken wire though" he laughed. Another trademark of The Kaleidoscope was the showing of Chaplin and Keaton silent films from Carpenter's collection on the kick drum.

Wallace, shed some light on what made the band so influential, saying, "In the summer of '66, the band made a big effort to separate ourselves from the pack by actually rehearsing, long and hard." He recalls, "We created four 'blocks' of musical arrangements, each of which linked our repertoire together into one long, seamless number of about 45 minutes to be followed by a fifteen-minute break, much needed, for both band and dancers. This was a departure from the norm of the time, where your average band would play a song, then stand around a few minutes and decide what to play next. We made pretty good money, for teenagers living at home. $250 a gig, split five ways, and each of us kicking in something for Sue Muntz, Tim's girlfriend, who operated our lights (an important job, since we had strobes and blacklights, and colored floods which Sue would 'play' in time to the music.) All in all, it was high times. In some weeks, we were grossing more apiece than grown men with full-time jobs.

So, my pockets were jingling when I happened through the WKU student center that fateful day. I'm talking about the Garrett center, up on the hill (where the real heart of Western lies, any time the powers that be are smart enough to re-discover it.) At that time, there was a record shop in there, a really hip and happening one, featuring all the popular LPs of the day, and a heaping helping of adventurous, progressive stuff I had never even heard of. it was well worth a regular stop, especially for a music-mad student with a little extra spending cash.

On this particular day, while riffling through the bins, my eye fell upon a peculiar-looking album with a circular photo on the cover. Shot with a fish-eye lens, it featured a trio of weird-looking dudes, an exotic-looking black guy flanked by two willowy white guys you knew had to be British — I mean, the Invasion was in full swing, and we'd all developed an eye for That Look. Moreover, all three of these cats had the Dylan finger-in-the-socket hair-dos that gave the phrase "blowing your mind" some visual punch.

Five bucks. I'd been burned many times before on glitzy covers containing insipid music, but I got a special tingle out of this one, so what the hell.

Back at home, at the turntable of my trusty portable, I put the record on for the first time and sat dumbfounded through what is widely acknowledged as one of the premier debut albums in the history of rock and roll. I'm pretty sure my mouth was hanging open for every bit of it. I had unearthed something like the Rosetta Stone of psychedelia, which was, after all, The Kaleidoscope's stock in trade.

This warranted an emergency meeting of the band.

Hands trembling, I picked up the phone and called everybody. We met, I played 'em the album, and they were as deeply impressed as I was. Then we did something unprecedented — we learned several of the songs right then and there, and shoehorned them into our carefully choreographed sets.

Later that winter those songs started popping up on the radio. By that time, our fans already knew "Fire" and "Purple Haze" backward and forward. A lot of them thought they were tunes we'd written ourselves. Almost none of them had ever heard of the Jimi Hendrix Experience."

The Kaleidoscope continued from 1965 to the summer of 1968. During his senior year at College High, Tommy Lee Wallace discovered visual art.

"It was probably Art's newness for me that focused my passion for it, as well as a talent I hadn't yet cultivated, but wanted to. Graphic design was a great place to be in the late 60s. Like every other art form, it was just exploding with new possibilities. So while John was entering the world of cinema on the west coast, I was learning about color and form and texture and typography and printing and packaging, back in the heartland. But I was also taking film courses, and animation, and learning to make my graphics move."

However, Wallace changed his course. He says "A summer job in a Cincinnati ad agency convinced me that, as a designer, instead of doing Bob Dylan's next album cover, I would more likely wind up paying the bills doing double-page layouts for Goodyear tires, or the local grocery chain, unless I moved to New York, so it became an issue of which coast to choose."

He had graduated Cum Laude from Ohio University in 1971 and after receiving letters from Carpenter about how wonderful LA was he applied and was accepted to University of Southern California Cinema for grad school.

"Naturally our happy reunion involved plenty of music. John was by then in great demand in the cinema department among other students because he could come up with original stuff for people's films, so I fell right into that. Nick Castle was a classmate, a great vocalist, pianist and composer. John got both of us involved in recording a couple tunes for another student, and after that we just kept on making music together whenever possible, as the Coupe de Villes. Our trademark was tight three-part harmonies, making the sort of sound that put the Bee Gees on the map. John and Nick wrote lots of songs for us, and I contributed a couple. All were half-funny, half-serious, frequently parodying Elvis or other greats."

Though Wallace never finished his Masters degree, he spent five semesters between 1971 and 1974, at first in animation and later film production. His student film Starman in November won multiple awards.

During graduate school Carpenter produced his own award winning film, Dark Star. The movie would be later expanded into a full length feature that propelled the friends into the film industry. Dark Star (1974) was written by John Carpenter and fellow USC student Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead). A black comedy, it tells the story of four astronauts traveling across the universe destroying unstable planets. Like Alien, the computer's name was Mother and the plot involved a crew dealing with an alien loose on their ship. Tommy Lee Wallace served as Associate Art Director. Bandmate Nick Castle was the Assistant Camera man.

According to Internet Movie Database, "Dark Star resulted in Carpenter being approached by investors who gave him carte blanche to make whatever kind of picture he wanted, albeit with a very limited budget. Although Carpenter wanted to make a Western, he knew he wouldn't have the resources to make a period piece. He wrote this film as a highly stylized, modern-day western, essentially remaking Rio Bravo (1959), which was directed by Carpenter's hero, Howard Hawks."

The film, 1976's Assault on Precinct 13, is generally considered one of the best action films of the 1970's. Wallace served as Art Director and in the Sound Effect Department for it.

Two years later Tommy Lee Wallace would work with his Coup de Ville bandmates John Carpenter and Nick Castle again in creating a film that would change the landscape of horror, Halloween. For the 1978 film Tommy Lee Wallace served as both Editor and Production Designer.

In his capacity as Production Designer for Halloween, Wallace was sent shopping for the mask to be worn by "The Shape" as the masked Meyers was called in the script. He was the faceless embodiment of evil. "I wanted everything but the mask to kind of fall away and not be noticeable, so I went with a neutral colored set of coveralls, and nondescript boots. For the mask, I had to go out and find it, or make it myself. John was open to the idea of me bringing back a couple choices, so I went and found two: One was the classic Emmett Kelly "sad clown", with the downturned mouth. The other needed to come close to the script, which, as I recall, described the mask as a blank face. There were several human faces for sale, Richard Nixon and others, but most were cartoonish and recognizable. Then in the corner, next to Mr. Spock, I saw Captain Kirk. It didn't look especially like William Shatner. It was really just a blank face! I took it home and doctored it a little, cut the eye holes bigger, yanked off the sideburns, darkened the hair and spray-painted the whole thing dead white.

We had a little audition of the two masks at the production office. The clown mask came first, and we liked the effect. It was spooky and strange, and so we knew we were home free, that the whole idea of a masked killer was going to work. None of us were ready, though, for the effect the blank mask had on us. From the minute it appeared, it was just stone cold TERRIFYING. There's no explaining exactly why. But all of a sudden we knew Halloween was going to be a very scary movie."

Tommy Wallace talking about finding the mask for The Shape

Nick Castle played Michael Meyers in most of the scenes and is credited for that role in the film. However several others donned the mask including Wallace. A dog trainer played The Shape when he murders a dog, and a stuntman for the stunts. However Wallace is the one pictured in many of the action scenes and promotional shots in the mask. As the set designer, he knew the best position for the camera as Michael burst through walls and other set fixtures.

In Carpenter's next hit, The Fog, Tommy Lee Wallace served as Editor, Production Designer and played one of the ghosts. He was nominated for a Saturn Award along with Richard Albain and James F. Liles for the special effects in The Fog.

Wallace had turned down the chance to direct Halloween II, citing disappointment with the script. However when the opportunity came to write and direct Halloween III he jumped. According to Wallace, "Halloween 3 got set up on the premise that we were going to originate a new story each Autumn on the subject of All Hallow's Eve, each one of which would have the potential of creating its own franchise.

Universal Pictures was enthusiastic. It sounded like a gold mine. Unfortunately, what was needed was an ad campaign to explain all this to the potential audience, and that never happened. The studio just kind of tossed H3 out there, with a tiny little 'all new' banner in the corner, and the audience felt ripped off — justifiably so.

The backlash was pretty brutal, but in the intervening years, the fans have stepped up, and H3 has pretty much found a loyal and sizeable audience. The vindication is sweet, after such a disappointment back in the day.

Looking back, it's easy to second-guess. We should've just called it Season of the Witch, right? But then, you've gotta remember, under that title, it wouldn't have gotten made at all."

Wallace's next project was writing a prequel, Amityville II: The Possession. Then in the mid 80's he directed three episodes of The Twilight Zone (The Leprechaun-Artist [also Writer], Little Boy Lost, Dreams for Sale).

The Coupe de Villes continued to enjoy playing together and were used in two films in 1986. Nick Castle's The Boy Who Could Fly featured a scene with the band and for John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China the band filmed a video which made a short appearance on MTV. "How cool is that?" said Wallace of the experience. Wallace was Second Unit Director for Big Trouble. He also had a small hand musically in Carpenter's Escape From New York.

Coup de villes performing Big Trouble in Little China

"We did an album called Waiting Out the Eighties. More or less a vanity record by John, with Nick and me on board as sidekicks, but under the Coupes imprimatur. Never officially released, but professionally finished, complete with nice cover design (by me) and liner notes. We handed them out to our friends just for fun."

After Directing two episodes of television's Max Headroom (The Blanks, Security Systems) and the movie Aloha Summer in 1988, Wallace was invited to contribute to Fright Night Part 2. He both wrote and directed the follow up which reprised the role of Roddy McDowell in the lead. In an Icons of Fright interview Wallace said "I went to see Tom (Holland). I wanted to get his blessing. And kind of get the torch properly passed. I think the only advice you gave me, Tom was something like, 'Just don't get too serious about it. Make sure it's fun. It's got to be scary, but it's got to be fun too.' I took that seriously. And that was it."

Working with the legendary McDowell was an experience for everyone involved. Wallace remembers well one phone call he received from the actor. "Roddy McDowell had a great sense of humor. We had finished Fright Night 2 and the two of us had a rather unpleasant lunch with the man who was going to be responsible for distributing the movie, a man named Menendez. We weren't happy with his game plan, and we made that clear to him, and his response was kind of negative, and when the lunch was over the whole thing seemed shaky and dark. That very night Mr. Menendez and his wife were shotgunned in their beds. It turned out that their two sons committed the crime, but nobody knew that the next morning, when the news hit the headlines. My phone rang. It was Roddy. All he said was, 'well, I didn't do it. Did you?'"

Fright Night 2 was followed by directing more television episodes in 1989 including: Tour of Duty, CBS Summer Playhouse and Baywatch. That year he also wrote the screen play for an early Drew Barrymore flick, Far From Home. It remains a script that is close to Wallace and he would like to direct a remake of it someday.

In 1990 Tommy Lee Wallace would stop the hearts of the nation when he wrote the teleplay and directed Stephen King's IT, a made for TV miniseries. Along with Halloween, it remains on most top scary film lists. Like other miniseries of the days before cable, few people missed IT and the experience was shared by a generation of television watchers who would never look at clowns the same way again.

"On IT, I was frankly intimidated by the idea of working with all these stars we were casting — John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson and the others. They turned out to be the sweetest people, generous, no egos, well-prepared, totally professional. The punchline is that their childhood counterparts, the kids, who were pretty much unknowns at the time, were little demons! Haggling over their dressing rooms, disruptive on set, kind of backstabbing each other, harassing the producers — really, they were just young, rambunctious kids, but what a pain! I sure didn't see it coming."

In the commentary track the actors credit their performances with two things, the casting of the parts against type, and the directing style of Wallace which gave them the space to explore their characters.

Tim Curry is unforgettable as Pennywise, the clown. Originally Wallace had intended this character to have several prosthetics to change the shape of his face. However Curry wanted to take a minimalist approach. After filming him both ways, Curry got his way and all appliances were dropped except the bulbous forehead.

Like Carpenter's The Fog and Halloween, IT pays homage to Bowling Green with mentions of Chestnut Street, Lampkin Park, the Barrens and the massacre at Drakes Creek.

After IT, Wallace finally got his chance to collaborate on a western, writing El Diablo with John Carpenter. Wallace would like the chance to direct a remake of this film. "El Diablo was going to be a classic Western with a sort of infusion of the thing that Pirates of the Caribbean picked up on — swashbuckling, lawless pirate-cowboys, holed up in some Tortuga-like cavern down on the Gulf coast south of Texas somewhere.

I had an idea about a young schoolteacher in a Texas border town, whose little sister gets kidnapped by a legendary pirate-cowboy named El Diablo (ref. the ZZ Top song by that name). John loved the arena, and we collaborated. The schoolteacher's not a gunfighter, but he goes looking for his sister anyway, picking up a rasty-assed bunch of outlaws along the way, who agree to help him for various reasons.

Based on John and Debra's success (this popped up while we were editing The Fog) we got a deal with an English company, my first professional writing gig, and away we went. It was a traditional, mythical Western with a fresh feel to it, and our expectations soared.

The script came out splendidly, but it was very ambitious. It budgeted out at $25 million, which sounds like small potatoes now, but was a big number at the time. That scared everyone off, so the project languished. Years later John took another crack at it with a new writer, and sort of turned it into its own opposite, a death-of-the-west Western — but it still couldn't get a green light.

Sometime after that, HBO picked it up and made it on the cheap, ($5 million, I think) with Lou Gossett and Anthony Edwards. The result was OK, maybe even good, but a far cry from our original vision."

Through the 80's and 90's Wallace was married to actress/artist Nancy Kyes (Annie Brackett, Halloween, Halloween II; Linda Challis, Halloween III: Season of the Witch; Julie, Assault on Precinct 13). As their two daughters grew, Wallace faced a dilemma. "Fact is, when my daughters got to be a certain age, I had doubts about creating nightmares as entertainment, since I didn't feel I could show my work to them. You'll see, on my filmography, a streak of projects like Flipper and Born Free — both TV remakes — which I did, primarily, for them. Ironically, the movies they seem proudest of now are the big horror titles, the Halloween shows and Stephen King's IT — though my younger daughter recently asked me to dig up And the Sea Will Tell and Final Justice for her — both of which are straight-up dramas with lots of courtroom scenes."

However, when age appropriate, to horror critics he says, "If one is to try to create cause-and-effect scenarios between on-screen violence and real-world problems, then one also has to give movies credit for averting just as many tragic episodes by creating a safe venue for catharsis, wherein a potential troublemaker's need to act out is mitigated by the visceral participation in the events they experience on-screen."

Throughout the nineties Wallace experimented with other genres from comedy to NASCAR (1997's Steel Chariots which included Butler County native Andy Stahl in the cast). One lesser known film that warrants mention was Danger Island (aka The Presence) in 1992, which bears a striking resemblance to the current series Lost. When asked if his movie was the blueprint for Lost, Wallace replied "It certainly looks that way from where I sit. However, to give credit where it's due, even if they cribbed a little from Danger Island, they've done some great scripts for Lost, I have to say, so very smart and fun and mysterious. They did all the right things, and they've reaped the benefits. More power to them."

Despite the wide variety of genres he has covered Wallace still has aspirations to tread new ground. "Untried genres? Oh, of course. Like every other director, I'd like to do a Western. A musical. An erotic love story. A noir detective potboiler. Loads of sci-fi, especially an alien invasion scenario. An arch Hitchcockian suspense thriller, like North By Northwest. The list is long."

In 2002 Tommy Lee Wallace would once again embrace the horror genre as Writer, Director and Actor for Vampires: Los Muertos, a sequel to John Carpenter's Vampires. The original launched a new sub genre, the vampire western. James Woods plays a modern day vampire hunter, complete with a new venacular and tools of the trade. He hunts "suckers" with a cross bow. The wooden arrows are attached to a cable on a car wench to reel the vampires out into the sunlight, where they burst into flames. Jack Crow (Woods) and his crew search for and destroy vampires for pay.

Wallace's version concerns itself with a younger, less experienced hunter who must assemble a rag tag crew to locate and exterminate a particularly bad infestation in Mexico. Jon Bon Jovi plays Derek Bliss, the lead hunter accompanied by an inexperienced priest (Cristian de la Fuente), a young boy (Diego Luna), a tough guy (Darius McCrary) and a girl (Natasha Gregson Wagner, daughter of Natalie Wood/Robert Wagner) who has been infected but is taking an experimental aids medication that successfully holds back the infection and allows her to move about in the day, as well as retain her human personality and will.

Both movies follow the basic formula set forth in films like The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven, focusing on the assembly and interactions of unlikely heros.

Los Muertos introduces new weapons in the hunter's arsenal including a scope for reading body temperature, thus distinguishing vampire from human and a rifle with wooden bullets.

Wallace's directing is especially successful in a scene where slow motion shows the vampire queen's bloody assault on a cafe full of patrons in the time that the hero throws away a paper towel after washing his hands.

In the plot, the vampire queen (Arly Jover) has a psychic connection to the infected girl's character. The queen is on a quest to find a way to walk in the daylight through an ancient ritual, when she discovers the experimental drug. This theme is further explored when the hero opts to use a blood transfusion to infect himself in preparation for battle.

"Every storyteller who takes on the vampire myth wrestles with the 'vampire rules,' and is certainly ready to break them when it's convenient, necessary or shocking. In this way, the myth grows and broadens, and becomes richer.

And yet, as filmmakers and storytellers, look how we mostly respect the rules, because they represent a common, cultural bond, and we know better than to stray too far out of bounds.

In Vampires: Los Muertos I wasn't so much fascinated with the idea of a vampire who walks in daylight — I think that's cheating unless you can explain it logically — what was compelling to me was how you might change the whole game with transfusions, making day-walking possible for the suckers, but also giving mortals a chance to take on temporary vampire skills as well. Vampires are all about the blood, after all, which also calls into play all kinds of issues around HIV.

Truthfully, in the end I think it was the Keith Richards urban legend about massive transfusions pertaining to his heroin addiction — that really sparked my imagination."

Wallace laments over his battle with the studio concerning humor's place in horror movies during making of Vampires: Los Muertos. Their disagreement on the subject left most of Wallace's comic relief on the cutting room floor. Moments he felt were crucial for reducing tension and preparing the audience for the next scare. "The studio head didn't understand how useful humor is in scary movies. He didn't get me or my movie. He took every shred of humor out, and it hurt the picture." said Wallace.

In the commentary track, like the stars of IT, Jon Bon Jovi commented on Wallace's willingness to allow actors to go through their process and have input, remarking "Thank you for letting me dare to suck".

On the same track, Wallace distinguishes his preferences from John Carpenter's, as Bon Jovi's character is telling his young helper that he should return home and finish school now that the job was complete. In contrast the young man in El Diablo opts to ride off to become a wild man. Wallace also remarked that in addition to an old fashioned message, he still believes in the end they should ride off into the sunset, which the do in Vampires: Los Muertos.

When asked if Vampires were his favorite movie monsters, Wallace replied "Oh hell no. Give me the Giant Gila Monster any day. Or the Killer Shrews."

In 2004, Wallace wrote 12 Days of Terror for the Discovery Channel. The story is based on the 1916 account of shark attacks in New Jersey that inspired Jaws. The film is entertaining and puts you on the edge of your seat without relying on high tech special effects.

When asked about the current state of horror, and the lack of good scares, Wallace responded, "First: Bigger budgets do not automatically make a movie scarier. I believe the opposite is probably closer to the truth. The scariest movies out there, Halloween, the original Chainsaw, Night of the Living Dead, Psycho, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers — all are movies made on very low budgets. That condition, in some ways, imbues such pictures with a taste of realism, urgency and veracity that may be compromised when more money is applied and the product gets slicker and more self-conscious.

Second: Many filmmakers and studios today are confusing 'scary' with other elements such as 'gorey' and 'visually spectacular.' I see a lot of 'wow' scenes these days, and a lot of 'eeeuw' scenes — but not very many scary ones.

Remember, to have a scary movie, you first need a scary script. Filmmakers today come more frequently out of commercials and music videos — both media are better known for style than for content.

A hot-shot MTV guy can make a movie look really cool and atmospheric, and when the bad guy does something awful to somebody, they can make it look spectacularly grisly, but most don't get the part about what it takes to make a shot, or a scene, or a whole movie, truly scary.

Scare-power is generated first from content, from building up various expectations, dreads and fears which you then pay off, usually a little at a time, in an unspooling of information the audience wants and needs because they care about the characters. Then you can ratchet up expectation and suspense tighter and tighter until it's released — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot — and the process starts again.

Comedy works in the very same way, but instead of tension and dread, you're creating a sense of good will, and instead of screams, you're generating laughter.

A scary script is constructed like a piece of music. Such a thing isn't easy to come by, and most movies today go out with poorly written scripts, expecting the MTV guy to solve the problems with style. The usual result is we all might be kinda impressed, but we won't often be scared.

Also remember, 'Halloween' is 30 years old this year. It kicked off the modern age of horror, and, after all this time, you've got to go a long, long way to impress a horror audience, or get their attention. There's not much we haven't seen, at this point.

Which sets the stage for a return to basics. Light and shadow. Simple situations. Simple sets. A few characters. A perfectly frightening idea. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?"

When asked what he thought were the scariest movies, he responded "For me it's always been Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the original) 1956, in black and white, directed by Don Siegal, script by Daniel Mainwaring from the novel by Jack Finney. A brilliant and scary idea which used the concept of Alien invasion to critique the lockstep mentality of Joe McCarthy and the Red-baiters without ever coming right out and saying so. It was the other side of the same street Arthur Miller was working in The Crucible but lots more fun and genuinely scary.

I'd like also to mention the much-neglected Seconds 1966 [see Glances at Undervalued Classics], directed by John Frankenheimer, script by Lewis John Carlino from the novel by David Ely. Not a perfect movie by any means, but a great example of what I'm talking about, where this twisted idea really gets inside your head, allowing genuine horror to take root and grow. Somehow I think it's the sort of thing E.A. Poe would have been cranking out had he been around in the 1960s."

Wallace enjoys sharing his experiences with others and has appeared on multiple documentaries, particularly concerning Halloween. He also attends horror conventions, most recently in Norway. "Everybody wants to be wanted. It's nice to have people interested in my experience, to value what I might have to say. Most of all, I must say, it's a great way to re-establish contact with some old friends, and to make some new ones.

My favorite horrorfest moment just happened, in southern Indiana, while attending Fright Night in Louisville. They took us to an antique drive-in movie theater situated on a spooky little hill, where thousands of eager fans were waiting. They played the Halloween theme through those metal speakers-on-posts as we drove in to cheers and applause, and then, while we signed autographs, they showed a pristine print of Halloween. Best of all, they fed us deep-fried red velvet Twinkies. I don't think you can top that."

Tommy Lee Wallace will be appearing at Skeleton's Lair on Cemetary Road on October 17th and 18th. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Halloween Skeleton's Lair is incorporating special scenes throughout the month and working in conjunction with the BG Area CVB on their Reel Sites, Real Scary. Wallace will also be appearing at a three day horrorfest, 30 Years of Terror October 31 - Nov. 2. According to their website it is "A fan run and organized celebration of one of the greatest horror franchises ever, Halloween"

When asked about his future plans, Wallace said "To keep doing what I'm doing, which includes writing and directing movies and television. I'm also working on some print pieces, including a Christmas story, a men's guide called "Shopping Sucks", and a collection of stories from my boyhood called "Tales of 'Tuckysee." Beyond that, it's all about rock and roll and farming."

He has several film projects he is interested in pursuing. "Helliversity is a supernatural thriller co-written with Steve Langford, about a group of students terrorized by the ghost of a long-dead sheriff. A group has approached us with the idea of shooting it in India. Clearly, some adjustments would have to be made, but we are in negotiations even as we speak, and dying to go into production soon. Obviously, we're excited. Bollywood, here we come. Scaryland, is a script of mine which will warm the hearts of all fans of Skeleton's Lair. It's an epic haunted house movie. I'm looking for a backer. Potential investors can reach me through this publication." Wallace has also recently completed a script with his daughter Winnie called Vellenwulf. The story takes place in Russia and according to Wallace, "It would appear we've got Russian financing in place — we're in negotiations now."

Wallace is also producing a film due out in 2009 called Dark Horse. Not yet cast, the film is being called a teenager's think piece. It involves a girl who is jailed after having orchestrated a massacre at her school. Upon further scrutiny one reporter discovers the story of the rise and fall of the Third Reich in a small American town.

And as for the Coup de Villes… "Although it's been a while since the last Coupe de Villes event, don't count us out. As we grow older and more bored with everyday life, we will probably, one day, get around to our next record (yes, people in the know still call them 'records') entitled 'Dare To Be Cool.'"

Wallace also is a member of a vocal group on Los Angeles called the HumDogs. When he is in Nashville he often plays with former The Kaleidoscope drummer Vic Beach. In Bowling Green he has attended some of the Jambodian Bash events hosted by the SonRhea Foundation each December on the 27th.

"On other musical fronts, I am proud to tell you I'm a card-carrying member of a local band, Skip Bond and the Fugitives. The boys are kind enough to let me sit in with them when I'm in BG. Let me tell you, there are not too many things in life better than being an honorary Fugitive." admitted Wallace.

Kim Mason is the Content Manager of the Amplifier which was founded by her in 1995. She serves as Executive Director for the BG International Festival and designs websites. www.kimmason.ky.net


Complete Tommy Lee Wallace Interview with Kim Mason, The Amplifier 9/17/08:

KM: Did I hear you went through Skeleton's Lair on a previous visit? If so, What did you think?

TLW: I've passed Skeleton's Lair like a zillion times going back and forth between B.G. and my farm in Monroe County. I've always been curious but never stopped. Actually, I didn't know what it was, other than a cool-looking logo. I guess now I get to rectify that situation and see inside.

KM: What is the significance of Coup De Villes. Noticed it was a characters name in the Boy Who Could Fly & also the name for the band. Also other than Big Trouble in Little China is this band an ongoing thing?

TLW: I'll give you the long-winded answer, and you can sort it out:

John left WKU after two years and headed off to LA and Cinema School at the University of Southern California. By then, he and I had collaborated in two Bowling Green musical groups. First was Tomorrow's Children, which included Elizabeth Solley, John's girlfriend at the time, another College High student. We were all-acoustic, Peter, Paul and Mary-esque, odd folk tunes and a few originals composed by John, in the occasional coffee-house/church basement setting. Then John and I formed a rock and roll band, and, after one year and several forgettable names, came up with The Kaleidoscope, which coincided nicely with the advent of Psychedelia, circa 1966. We were basically a Top 40 cover group, and, like all other southern bands we had a repertoire rich in Soul and R&B — James Brown, Sam & Dave, Motown, Stax/Volt and Chess — but we interwove that with Jimi Hendrix,Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds and Doors and all the new west coast stuff, plus all the British Invasion hits, and the Monkees, Paul Revere, the Rascals, Procol Harum — it was a rich time musically, and we reflected that with some style. We introduced southern Kentucky to psychedelia, complete with black lights and strobe lights and love beads and dayglow-painted amplifiers and wacked-out costumes, and silent movies projected on the kick drum.

I am getting to the heart of your musical question, but in a very roundabout way which I hope you'll find intertaining. I headed to Ohio University after only one year at Western. This is not a slam on Hilltopper country; you've gotta remember, we grew up on Western's campus, at the Training School/College High. Going to the actual University after all that time on the hill seemed like, basically, thirteenth grade for me (fourtheenth for John) so I think each of us just finally had plenty and needed to move on.

After my graduation from Ohio University (BFA Design, cum laude) I followed John to USC Cinema. Naturally our happy reunion involved plenty of music. John was by then in great demand in the cinema department among other students because he could come up with original stuff for people's films, so I fell right into that. Nick Castle was a classmate, a great vocalist, pianist and composer. John got both of us involved in recording a couple tunes for another student, and after that we just kept on making music together whenever possible, as the Coupe de Villes. Our trademark was tight three-part harmonies, making the sort of sound that put the Bee Gees on the map. John and Nick wrote lots of songs for us, and I contributed a couple. All were half-funny, half-serious, frequently parodying Elvis or other greats. It was mostly just us goofing around, but we had our moments, the high point surely being our video for the "Big Trouble in Little China" theme song, which was in MTV rotation for a few days. How cool is that?

The Coupe de Villes name was consciously retro, a tribute to a great Cadillac and reflective of our fabulous sense of fabulous humor. You pronounce it the ugly American way, not French.

Although it's been a while since the last Coupe de Villes event, don't count us out. As we grow older and more bored with everyday life, we will probably, one day, get around to our next record (yes, people in the know still call them "records") entitled "DARE TO BE COOL."

KM: Saw a mention of two projects you'd like to do named HELLIVERSITY. And the other called SCARY LAND - any news there?

TLW: "HELLIVERSITY" is a supernatural thriller co-written with Steve Langford, about a group of students terrorized by the ghost of a long-dead sheriff. A group has approached us with the idea of shooting it in India. Clearly, some adjustments would have to be made, but we are in negotiations even as we speak, and dying to go into production soon. Obviously, we're excited. Bollywood, here we come.

"SCARYLAND" is a script of mine which will warm the hearts of all fans of Skeleton's Lair. It's an epic haunted house movie. I'm looking for a backer. Potential investors can reach me through this publication.

KM: What are your immediate/long term future plans or goals?

TLW: To keep doing what I'm doing, which includes writing and directing movies and television. I'm also working on some print pieces, including a Christmas story, a men's guide called "Shopping Sucks", and a collection of stories from my boyhood called "Tales of 'Tuckysee." Beyond that, it's all about rock and roll and farming.

KM: You were (are?) married to Nancy Kyes who took part in several early films. You have 2 children?

TLW: Nancy and I were married in 1979, divorced in 1999. We have two wonderful daughters.

KM: To what degree to you censor the movie your kids could see when they were young? Were they raised on horror?

TLW: They were not raised on horror at all, at least, not in the movies and TV we let them watch. They were, to some degree, exposed via behind-the-scenes experiences, but anyone who's been on a movie set knows that even the grizzliest stuff has no scare-power with cameras and lights and tech people all around, so I think they learned a lot without trauma.

Fact is, when my daughters got to be a certain age, I had doubts about creating nightmares as entertainment, since I didn't feel I could show my work to them. You'll see, on my filmography, a streak of projects like "Flipper" and "Born Free" — both TV remakes — which I did, primarily, for them. Ironically, the movies they seem proudest of now are the big horror titles, the "Halloween" shows and Stephen King's "IT" — though my younger daughter recently asked me to dig up "And the Sea Will Tell" and "Final Justice" for her — both of which are straight-up dramas with lots of courtroom scenes.

KM: How do you respond to people that blame horror films for copy cat crimes, delinquency & violence rates in general?

TLW: They're very likely the same people who blame teachers for unruly, illiterate kids, and "Liberals" for all the other ills of the world, now that they don't have Communists to kick around any more. I don't respond to them at all except to say, Relax. Take a nap. Or go to a movie.

If one is to try to create cause-and-effect scenarios between on-screen violence and real-world problems, then one also has to give movies credit for averting just as many tragic episodes by creating a safe venue for catharsis, wherein a potential troublemaker's need to act out is mitigated by the visceral participation in the events they experience on-screen.

Or to paraphrase the NRA: Movies don't kill people. Guns maybe, but not movies.

To flog this subject a little longer: We have lots of crazy people running around this world, especially since the Reagan 80s, when they were turned out into the street wholesale, to wait for the "trickle-down" effect to spontaneously cure them. Sooner or later, one or another of these folks snap and do crazy things. What "causes" that? Voices in their heads? Movies, TV and devil music? Voices talking to them through the fillings in their teeth? Maybe. That, and a whole lot more: The movies are no more culpable than the nightly news. Or the general violence endemic to our culture, including the idea of hitting people as a problem-solving skill. Or the war policies of our government. Or the too-easy availability of guns. Or a society that thinks the way to get people to stop killing other people is to kill other people who kill. What is that, if not setting an example?

KM: Vampires: Los Muertos - You mentioned liking that the vampire in Fright Night II could hang out in the daytime. Was that part of the inspiration for the plot of Los Muertos?

TLW: Now that you mention it, it probably was. Every storyteller who takes on the vampire myth wrestles with the "vampire rules," and is certainly ready to break them when it's convenient, necessary or shocking. In this way, the myth grows and broadens, and becomes richer.

And yet, as filmmakers and storytellers, look how we mostly respect the rules, because they represent a common, cultural bond, and we know better than to stray too far out of bounds.

In "VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS" I wasn't so much fascinated with the idea of a vampire who walks in daylight — I think that's cheating unless you can explain it logically — what was compelling to me was how you might change the whole game with transfusions, making day-walking possible for the suckers, but also giving mortals a chance to take on temporary vampire skills as well. Vampires are all about the blood, after all, which also calls into play all kinds of issues around HIV.

Truthfully, in the end I think it was the Keith Richard urban legend about massive transfusions pertaining to his heroin addiction — that really sparked my imagination.

KM: Are vampires your favorite movie monsters?

TLW: Oh hell no. Give me the Giant Gila Monster any day. Or the Killer Shrews.

KM: You commented that filming in Mexico & the international cast in Los Muertos would lead to interesting horror fest appearances in obscure countries - has it?

TLW: In a word, no. I'm getting quite a few opportunities to do horrorfest appearances, some in some faraway places — but none, so far, because of "VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS."

KM: You seem to be on lots of horror fest panels as well as horror documentaries - what do you like about doing those? Any particularly memorable horror fest moments?

TLW: Everybody wants to be wanted. It's nice to have people interested in my experience, to value what I might have to say. Most of all, I must say, it's a great way to re-establish contact with some old friends, and to make some new ones. Funny though, I haven't really done that many.

My favorite horrorfest moment just happened, in southern Indiana, while attending "Fright Night" in Louisville. They took us to an antique drive-in movie theater situated on a spooky little hill, where thousands of eager fans were waiting. They played the "Halloween" theme through those metal speakers-on-posts as we drove in to cheers and applause, and then, while we signed autographs, they showed a pristine print of "Halloween." Best of all, they fed us deep-fried red velvet Twinkies. I don't think you can top that.

KM: You've made mention of liking old fashioned aspects of story telling, like the moral & driving off into the sunset. Horror today gets bigger budgets, stars & notice, but seems to be missing something the classics had that made them great - Do you agree - what is it?

TLW: I do agree, and I think it's a due to a couple of very simple facts.

First: Bigger budgets do not automatically make a movie scarier. I believe the opposite is probably closer to the truth. The scariest movies out there, "Halloween", the original "Chainsaw", "Night of the Living Dead", "Psycho", the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" — all are movies made on very low budgets. That condition, in some ways, imbues such pictures with a taste of realism, urgency and veracity that may be compromised when more money is applied and the product gets slicker and more self-conscious.

Second: Many filmmakers and studios today are confusing "scary" with other elements such as "gorey" and "visually spectacular." I see a lot of "wow" scenes these days, and a lot of "eeeuw" scenes — but not very many scary ones.

Remember, to have a scary movie, you first need a scary script. Filmmakers today come more frequently out of commercials and music videos — both media are better known for style than for content.

A hot-shot MTV guy can make a movie look really cool and atmospheric, and when the bad guy does something awful to somebody, they can make it look spectacularly grisly, but most don't get the part about what it takes to make a shot, or a scene, or a whole movie, truly scary.

Scare-power is generated first from content, from building up various expectations, dreads and fears which you then pay off, usually a little at a time, in an unspooling of information the audience wants and needs because they care about the characters. Then you can ratchet up expectation and suspense tighter and tighter until it's released — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot — and the process starts again.

Comedy works in the very same way, but instead of tension and dread, you're creating a sense of good will, and instead of screams, you're generating laughter.

A scary script is constructed like a piece of music. Such a thing isn't easy to come by, and most movies today go out with poorly written scripts, expecting the MTV guy to solve the problems with style. The usual result is we all might be kinda impressed, but we won't often be scared.

Also remember, "Halloween" is 30 years old this year. It kicked off the modern age of horror, and, after all this time, you've got to go a long, long way to impress a horror audience, or get their attention. There's not much we haven't seen, at this point.

Which sets the stage for a return to basics. Light and shadow. Simple situations. Simple sets. A few characters. A perfectly frightening idea. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

KM: You've named many westerns as well as Son of Dracula as favorite movies. What do think is the scariest movie? Favorite director?

TLW: For me it's always been "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (the original) 1956, in black and white, directed by Don Siegal, script by Daniel Mainwaring from the novel by Jack Finney. A brilliant and scary idea which used the concept of Alien invasion to critique the lockstep mentality of Joe McCarthy and the Red-baiters without ever coming right out and saying so. It was the other side of the same street Arthur Miller was working in "The Crucible" but lots more fun and genuinely scary.

I'd like also to mention the much-neglected "Seconds" 1966, directed by John Frankenheimer, script by Lewis John Carlino from the novel by David Ely. Not a perfect movie by any means, but a great example of what I'm talking about, where this twisted idea really gets inside your head, allowing genuine horror to take root and grow. Somehow I think it's the sort of thing E.A. Poe would have been cranking out had he been around in the 1960s.

KM: The MPAA threatened X ratings on several films. Halloween lost several kills. For Assault on Precinct 13 it's said that Carpenter gave them a version without the ice cream scene & then added it back for distribution. Is that true?

TLW: Where did you hear that "Halloween" lost several kills? Let's quash that rumor right away. Virtually every foot of film we shot is in that movie. Not literally, but you get my point.

On "Assault", I think there was a little fancy footwork in there somewhere, but I don't think it involved removal of the entire scene, just a few frames, maybe. I edited the action scenes in the police station, but John was the cutter of record, under a pseudonym, as I recall. You'd have to ask him to be certain.

KM: Have they become more accommodating or have ratings been a constant headache with your films? Got a funny/interesting tale about trying to deal with them?

TLW: The ratings board is made up of human beings, not robots. Like referees and umpires, they make a lot of fair calls, and they sometimes blow it. Overall, I don't have any complaints.

KM: Through the late 80's to the late 90's you directed or wrote a wide variety of television series episodes. What would you say are the difficulties/advantages in writing/directing/producing for film vs. a TV series?

TLW: Difficulties for a director on TV: TV is a producer's medium. The TV director usually has to play second fiddle, or third, or tenth, oftentimes to a whole roomful of producers. A good TV director develops incredible political skills, mostly by being really easy to get along with and compatible with wildly different personality types. Not a pushover, but supremely adaptable.

Advantages: On TV, everything moves faster, especially the agonizing process of moving from script idea to a production green light. Also, the money's usually pretty good.

By the way, your question glosses over the many different categories of TV directing. Without even considering live shows, news, sports and three-camera, there's still a world of difference in doing say, a cable feature, or a pilot, or a mini-series, versus grinding out episodes of an already-established series, which I think is the hardest job a director can have, if it's done well. My hat is off to those people with the unique talents to handle it. I've tried it, and I prefer longer forms.

KM: Also the genres varied from horror to sports, comedy & family fare - were there any surprises or things you particularly enjoyed about doing a genre you weren't known for? Any genre you'd like to try that you haven't yet?

TLW: Early on, I had the privilege of doing some unusual television — episodes of the "new" Twilight Zone, and "Max Headroom." Both were quite innovative, I was given an unusual amount of freedom and input, and it was really fun.

Untried genres? Oh, of course. Like every other director, I'd like to do a Western. A musical. An erotic love story. A noir detective potboiler. Loads of sci-fi, especially an alien invasion scenario. An arch Hitchcockian suspense thriller, like "North By Northwest." The list is long.

KM: And The Sea Will Tell, 12 Days of terror & even Amityville II were based on true stories. What, if any limitations does that add to your creativity?

TLW: From the director's point of view, the only limitation is the script itself. You work within its framework, and deviate like a jazz improviser when your instinct tells you to, or when a better opportunity presents itself (actors on a roll and ready to improv, weather changes, unexpected parades, sunsets, etc.)

As a writer adapting a true story, your only limitations are the obvious ones about veracity, and the specific desires of whomever's in charge. I mean, there's truth and there's truth. I can't know what Ronald DeFeo said to his sister before he killed her; I only have the facts. They were siblings, and he murdered her. We've all seen creative interpretations, and, in the movies, a movie "based on a true story" is likely to contain lots of fiction. A good writer working with facts is going to try hard to get at the essence of his subject, its deeper truths, even if he has to make up some stuff to get there.

KM: For 2009's Dark Horse you are Director & Co-writer. The film which at first appears to be about a small town school massacre where the beloved school president is killed, turns out to be one teenagers answer to the ethical question - if you could kill Hilter in advance of his rise to power would you?

TLW: First, a correction. I have shifted from Director to Producer on "Darkhorse." Dean Cundey, an old colleague ("Halloween", "Halloween 3") and a world-class cinematographer, has come aboard as Director. It would appear our financing is in place, but we are still working out the details.

The conundrum you present is touched upon within the film, but it is not quite the dilemma for the protagonist you suggest. She is merely a teenager caught up in events out of her control, trying to fight her way through great conflict to do the right thing as well as get out of jail.

KM: There is a rumor Tara Reid is the lead, any truth?

TLW: The film has not yet been cast.

KM: one writer claims this has been called a "think piece for teenagers" & what you hope to be your break out from low budget horror. Any truth? (I know in the past you have credited low budgets with being the mother of invention for many of your favorite scenes.)

TLW: We do promote "Darkhorse" as a think piece for teenagers. Kids get exposed to so much drek, we are proud to be doing a project that doesn't talk down to them, assumes they're smart as hell, and is actually ABOUT something.

I always keep an eye out for non-horror opportunities, while I remain enthusiastic about, and grateful to, the genre that has gotten me all this attention. Ironically, the reason I relinquished the director's chair on "Darkhorse" was a green-lit horror picture which has since fallen by the wayside. That's show biz.

As to crediting low budgets for some of my favorite scenes: I hope what I said was that it isn't the low budget itself that I celebrate. I'd have to be crazy to do that. Like every other director, I always wind up needing (and sometimes asking for) more money to get that extra shot, or that extra effect, that will make a scene more effective.

I do believe that lower budgets often sharpen the senses, and invite more clever solutions to directing problems, and that bigger budgets often make for a lot of waste, lazy thinking and greed.

So what kind of budget do I want for my next picture? Short answer: The biggest one I can find.

By the way, the Coen Brothers, arguably the best in the business, make calculated choices as to the size of their budgets, knowing full well that if the budget is big, there will be lots of oversight and possibly interference, whereas, if they keep the numbers low, they stay pretty much in control.

That was how John Carpenter had it on his early pictures — budgets so low he was able to insist on control. It set a precedent for him he has been able to maintain for most of his career. Very smart, indeed.

KM: I saw one blogger comment that The Presence/Danger Island was the blueprint for the TV series LOST, any truth there (I missed seeing this one).

TLW: It certainly looks that way from where I sit. However, to give credit where it's due, even if they cribbed a little from "Danger Island," they've done some great scripts for "Lost", I have to say, so very smart and fun and mysterious. They did all the right things, and they've reaped the benefits. More power to them.

Several of the early films in which you were involved have been remade. Were you consulted in any way for the remakes?

TLW: I know about "Assault on Precinct 13", "Halloween" and "The Fog." Were there others? No, I was not consulted, nor would I have expected to be. John created those movies, some with Debra Hill. I'm pretty sure he was consulted (and compensated) on all three. Those are great, simple, cinematic ideas. They may get remade more than once.

KM: What do you think about your work being remade?

TLW: I don't know that I've got any credits (yet) that warrant a remake — except maybe for an early Drew Barrymore picture I wrote called "Far From Home." Good script. I'd love to direct a remake of that one. And, of course, "El Diablo", the John Carpenter western that got away. I hear rumors about a remake of "IT" — I say go for it, and while you're at it, make it a thirteen-hour miniseries.

KM: Which is your favorite new treatment?

TLW: "3:10 to Yuma" impressed me a little. Everything else I've seen is pretty much junk.

KM: You have worked with several icons of TV & screen. Do you have a story that particularly stands out about one of the well known celebrities?

TLW: On "IT", I was frankly intimidated by the idea of working with all these stars we were casting — John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson and the others. They turned out to be the sweetest people, generous, no egos, well-prepared, totally professional. The punchline is that their childhood counterparts, the kids, who were pretty much unknowns at the time, were little demons! Haggling over their dressing rooms, disruptive on set, kind of backstabbing each other, harassing the producers — really, they were just young, rambunctious kids, but what a pain! I sure didn't see it coming.

Roddy McDowell had a great sense of humor. We had finished "Fright Night 2" and the two of us had a rather unpleasant lunch with the man who was going to be responsible for distributing the movie, a man named Menendez. We weren't happy with his game plan, and we made that clear to him, and his response was kind of negative, and when the lunch was over the whole thing seemed shaky and dark. That very night Mr. Menendez and his wife were shotgunned in their beds. it turned out that their two sons committed the crime, but nobody knew that the next morning, when the news hit the headlines. My phone rang. It was Roddy. All he said was, "well, I didn't do it. Did you?"

KM: I'd say my favorite that you've worked with is Roddy McDowell - I noticed somewhere that he had dinners every week. Is there an interesting story from one of them or involving him in general?

TLW: There are lots of stories about Roddy's dinners. He knew everybody in Hollywood, and, though the food was said to be generally lousy, he had no trouble filling those chairs at his table. I only know this second hand, however, since I never got invited up.

KM: I noticed that Carpenter & Dan O'Bannon are working on something called the Pain Clinic - are you involved?

TLW: Haven't heard a thing about it. John and I stay in loose touch, but it's been a long time since I've seen Dan.

KM: His classic Return of the Living Dead centered around Louisville - curious if yours & Carpenter's KY connection had anything to do with that.

TLW: You'd have to ask him. I think he came from St. Louis, so it certainly wasn't a home-town tribute.

KM: Halloween, The Fog & It all have many Bowling Green nods, Have you ever considered making a film in Bowling Green?

TLW: Oh, absolutely. It would be great fun. However, a lot of factors go into choosing a location. There are loads of picturesque small towns in states which are generally more film-friendly than Kentucky, so bringing a picture to B.G. would likely be a labor of love. Times are tough, and budgets are low, so it would probably take a much more powerful filmmaker than me to pull it off.

KM: Internet Movie Database claims that Pennywise was inspired by John Wayne Cacy. However in the commentary Tim Reid mentions that the actors & crew looked at several monster outfits & voted on the clown. I also heard that The Shape was almost a clown (emmett kelly mask). So where did this reoccuring clown monster idea come from?

TLW: You'd have to ask Stephen King where Pennywise came from. The "IT" cast certainly did not vote on whether it was to be a clown or not — that was a fact of the novel and the script long before they came on board. Tim was probably recounting a situation where I had some idea sketches for Pennywise's face, or some costume choices, or something. I have always enjoyed the collaborative nature of moviemaking in general, and it wouldn't have been unusual for me to show something around to get some feedback on it.

One of my assignments as Production Designer of Halloween was create the look of The Shape. I wanted everything but the mask to kind of fall away and not be noticeable, so I went with a neutral colored set of coveralls, and nondescript boots. For the mask, I had to go out and find it, or make it myself. John was open to the idea of me bringing back a couple choices, so I went and found two: One was the classic Emmett Kelly "sad clown", with the downturned mouth. The other needed to come close to the script, which, as I recall, described the mask as a blank face. There were several human faces for sale, Richard Nixon and others, but most were cartoonish and recognizable. Then in the corner, next to Mr. Spock, I saw Captain Kirk. It didn't look especially like William Shatner. It was — really — just — a — blank — face! I took it home and doctored it a little, cut the eye holes bigger, yanked off the sideburns, darkened the hair and spray-painted the whole thing dead white.

We had a little audition of the two masks at the production office. The clown mask came first, and we liked the effect. It was spooky and strange, and so we knew we were home free, that the whole idea of a masked killer was going to work. None of us were ready, though, for the effect the blank mask had on us. From the minute it appeared, it was just stone cold TERRIFYING. There's no explaining exactly why. But all of a sudden we knew "Halloween" was going to be a very scary movie.

Obviously, by coincidence, the scary clown thing got its day in the sun several years later, on "IT". I didn't originate the notion of Pennywise — that's Stephen King — but you can bet I was a hundred per cent behind it, and adding every detail I could think of to make it work.

For the Pennywise look, I worked with an illustrator and came up with some exaggerated features — cheekbones, chin, forehead. Tim Curry wasn't happy with all the appliances. He'd been in heavy makeup on several shows, including "Legend", and didn't want to cover up so much. He sportingly tried out the total look, once, but convinced me in the end to go without the big cheekbones and chin. Using just the bulbous forehead, I think we wound up with the right look in the end, don't you?

KM: Also IMDB.com says President of Don Post Studios suggested a William Shatner mask instead of the Emmett Kelly one, on a horror fest panel it's mentioned that you were just looking around a store & found those two choices. Which is correct?

TLW: The latter. Don Post played an enormous part in the masks for "Halloween 3" — the witch and skull were his, and the pumpkin was our collaboration — but on the original "Halloween", The Shape mask was all mine — mine and Captain Kirk's…

KM: You started out a graphic designer? What changed your course?

TLW: Evolution, idealism and geography. I'd spent my youth immersed in music. Didn't take an art course until my senior year of high school. It was probably Art's newness for me that focused my passion for it, as well as a talent I haden't yet cultivated, but wanted to.

Graphic design was a great place to be in the late 60s. Like every other art form, it was just exploding with new possibilities. So while John was entering the world of cinema on the west coast, I was learning about color and form and texture and typography and printing and packaging, back in the heartland.

But I was also taking film courses, and animation, and learning to make my graphics move.

A summer job in a Cincinnati ad agency convinced me that, as a designer, instead of doing Bob Dylan's next album cover, I would more likely wind up paying the bills doing double-page layouts for Goodyear tires, or the local grocery chain, unless I moved to New York, so it became an issue of which coast to choose.

John was writing glowing letters about life in LA, so finally I submitted my graphics portfolio to the animation department at USC Cinema, got accepted for grad school, and away I went.

KM: Are you still a visual artist outside of film work?

TLW: On every movie I direct, on every project of any kind, really, I use everything I ever learned as a designer. And yes, I often draw and make other kinds of art, for fun and for friends.

KM: Season of the Witch seems to have gotten more criticism than it deserves - I think largely because of Halloween fans' disappointment that it wasn't a Michael Meyers movie - why was it decided to use the franchise name but have an unrelated plot & in retrospect would you have done it?

TLW: After "Halloween 2", John and Debra had had enough of the sequel business. By the way, I was invited to direct "Halloween 2" but bowed out because I didn't like the script. "Halloween 3" got set up on the premise that we were going to originate a new story each Autumn on the subject of All Hallow's Eve, each one of which would have the potential of creating its own franchise.

Univeral Pictures was enthusiastic. It sounded like a gold mine. Unfortunately, what was needed was an ad campaign to explain all this to the potential audience, and that never happened. The studio just kind of tossed "H3" out there, with a tiny little "all new" banner in the corner, and the audience felt ripped off — justifiably so.

The backlash was pretty brutal, but in the intervening years, the fans have stepped up, and "H3" has pretty much found a loyal and sizeable audience. The vindication is sweet, after such a disappointment back in the day.

Looking back, it's easy to second-guess. We should've just called it "Season of the Witch", right? But then, you've gotta remember, under that title, it wouldn't have gotten made at all.

I have floated the idea of a re-release, without the "H3" part of the title. Maybe one day…

KM: People here speak highly of your musical abilities. I don't see credits, but have you been involved in writing and/or playing on some of the soundtracks of your films with & without Carpenter?

TLW: Being a lifelong musician, I'm always heavily involved in that aspect of my movies. I have popped in on John's sessions occasionally, though not recently. I had a modest hand in a couple of cuts on "Escape >From New York."

On other musical fronts, I am proud to tell you I'm a card-carrying member of a local band, "Skip Bond and the Fugitives." The boys are kind enough to let me sit in with them when I'm in BG. Let me tell you, there are not too many things in life better than being an honorary Fugitive.

KM: College High seems to have more than it's share of successes - was there something about the school that inspired independence and creativity?

TLW: It was a great school. Very small, but blessed with a distinguished and dedicated faculty and an intelligently designed curriculum. The standards were high. It was a remarkable learning environment, and very progressive for its time. I think being smack-dab in the middle of a college campus also had a very positive effect on the experience.

KM: Who/what were some of your local childhood/youth inspirations?

TLW: Mary McCombs, of the aforementioned school. Freshman and Sophomore English.

My own parents, two of the most decent people you could ever know, who were exemplary Christians without ever once preaching about it. Also Robert and Pat Markle, my second set of parents, who managed to raise my lifelong friend and farming partner Rick, without killing him. Or me.

Boy Scout Troop 94, of State Street Methodist Church. Scoutmasters Homer Parent and Bob Wall taught me to camp and take care of myself without pretending I had to think or act like a soldier.

Doc Wilson, who taught me that church league basketball was a lot cooler than it sounded.

Reverend Fred Pfisterer, who, by suggesting that he thought God was going to call me to the ministry, scared me all the way to Hollywood.

KM: Besides Kaleidoscope & Coup De Villes are there other bands in which you have been involved?

TLW: Many over the years (see Fugitives, earilier in this interview.) I'm part of a vocal group in Los Angeles called the HumDogs, and any time I'm near Nashville, Vic Beach (drummer, Kaleidoscope) always has something going.

Every New Year in BG, sometime along about late January or early February, there's a local jamfest/charity event you've probably heard of called Jambodians, where I'm likely to bump into such local (national and international) luminaries as Bill Lloyd and Sam Bush.

Nothing better than that.

KM: Coming from Art/Sound of Precinct 13 - you served in many capacities in Halloween & The Fog & have been credited with coming up with the general look & feel of the films. Is this the case?

TLW: I made a significant contribution to each of those movies, including some of the look and some of the feel, but c'mon, John wrote and directed and composed those films himself. They're his. I'm just proud to have been a part.

KM: What is to you the most interesting question you've been asked about your endeavors & what was the answer?

TLW: At my tenth high school reunion, David Sims looked me in the eye and asked: "So Tommy, just how do you and Carpenter make those films, anyway?" That question pretty much beats any other I've ever heard.

I didn't have an adequate answer then, and I still don't now.

KM: And finally, you commented on the potential of Mexico for future films. Italy for a time had a great influence on American horror & these days many of the best stories & films are coming out of Japan. Are you aware of other countries that may be the next to step to the forefront of this genre?

TLW: Keep your eye on Norway.


Follow up questions 9/17/08:

KM: What is your best guess of the start and end year for The Kaleidoscope?

TLW: Basically, from sometime in late 1965 to about June of 1968.

KM: Were the silent movies on the drum ones that you guys made?

TLW: No, they were some classics that John had on 8mm. Chaplin and/or Keaton, as I recall. Maybe the Keystone Kops.

KM: What year would your graduation from Ohio University be?

TLW: 1971.

KM: From USC?

TLW: Never got my Masters degree. Five semesters of grad work between '71 and '74, at first in animation, then in film production. Came out of it with a multi-award-winning student film entitled "Starman in November" — and a buncha incompletes.

KM: When you say "next record" for Coupe De Villes is the first the single for Big Trouble in Little China or was there a full length recording?

TLW: We did an album called "Waiting Out the Eighties." More or less a vanity record by John, with Nick and me on board as sidekicks, but under the Coupes imprimatur. Never officially released, but professionally finished, complete with nice cover design (by me) and liner notes. We handed them out to our friends just for fun. I could probably dig up a copy of the vinyl, if I look hard enough.

KM: How many scripts would you say you have written over the years?

TLW: Probably twenty or thirty. Not a high number for a full-time professional.

KM: Is the Christmas Story to be a short story or book?

TLW: "One Christmas Eve" is not yet finished, so I'm not sure. It started out as a short story, but it's gotten longer and longer. In my heart of hearts, I'm hoping for something along the lines (and length) of "A Christmas Carol." I'm looking for a publisher right now.

KM: On Tales of 'Tuckysee - are we talking folktales or personal family stories?

TLW: A little of both. Semi-fictitious characters based on me and my friends, running around the southland, back in the day, getting into and out of trouble.

KM: "It's all about rock and roll and farming" - do you still spend lots of time on your farm? Do you plan on settling there someday for retirement?

TLW: I spend as much time as I can there, which, these days, means two or three trips a year of a week or two or three. Yes, I hope to retire there, but hopefully not for many years to come.

KM: Do you have an image of one of your favorite graphic designs or drawings that you could send?

TLW: Let me look around tonight. I have a dandy Christmas card from several years back — really graphic which would reproduce well and look very cool. Give me a few hours.

KM: Regarding the lost several kills. I looked through my notes & though it's written on my page from listening to the Fright Fest Halloween mask discussion video - it did not come from that & it’s written in different ink. It was from a commentary I watched which probably means it was referring to Vampires: Los Muertos. Some of the comments there were also about budget restrictions. Most of my notes are on that are about the comedy moments being cut. Where you fighting an X rating on it?

TLW: On "VLM" the studio head didn't understand how useful humor is in scary movies. He didn't get me or my movie. He took every shred of humor out, and it hurt the picture. I don't think we were ever in danger of an X rating.

KM: Are there any website you want me to include (besides the Dark Horse site, 30 years of terror & skeleton's lair)? Couldn’t find a page for HumDogs

TLW: I have two websites, TommyLeeWallace and Klutterbusters, but they're not active, so it's probably not worth mentioning.

KM: "the John Carpenter western that got away." - what did you mean by that? I unfortunately have not seen El Diablo & couldn't find it in our lame local video stores - since the giants specializing in new releases forced out all but one of the decent stores.

TLW: "El Diablo" was going to be a classic Western with a sort of infusion of the thing that "Pirates of the Caribbean" picked up on — swashbuckling, lawless pirate-cowboys, holed up in some Tortuga-like cavern down on the Gulf coast south of Texas somewhere.

I had an idea about a young schoolteacher in a Texas border town, whose little sister gets kidnapped by a legendary pirate-cowboy named El Diablo (ref. the ZZ Top song by that name). John loved the arena, and we collaborated. The schoolteacher's not a gunfighter, but he goes looking for his sister anyway, picking up a rasty-assed bunch of outlaws along the way, who agree to help him for various reasons.

Based on John and Debra's success (this popped up while we were editing "The Fog") we got a deal with an English company, my first professional writing gig, and away we went. It was a traditional, mythical Western with a fresh feel to it, and our expectations soared.

The script came out splendidly, but it was very ambitious. It budgeted out at $25 milliion, which sounds like small potatoes now, but was a big number at the time. That scared everyone off, so the project languished. Years later John took another crack at it with a new writer, and sort of turned it into its own opposite, a death-of-the-west Western — but it still couldn't get a green light.

Sometime after that, HBO picked it up and made it on the cheap, ($5 million, I think) with Lou Gossett and Anthony Edwards. (Or is it Andrews? I forget.) The result was OK, maybe even good, but a far cry from our original vision.

KM: Are you messing with me about Norway? lol

TLW: Oh well, they were nice enough to invite me over for a horrorfest this weekend, so why not give 'em a plug? Who knows? It could be prescient. Plus, it keeps the reader guessing.

Since you re-raise the question, I would like to say that when I shot in Russia (Comrades of Summer, HBO, 1992, I think) I found something amazing on nearly every street I walked — fantastic settings for horror, and for SciFi. So, keep your eye on Russia. And Norway.

BTW: My dauther Winnie and I just completed a script called "Vellenwulf" — which takes place in Russia. It would appear we've got Russian financing in place — we're in negotiations now.

KM: personal opinion - there are a couple of good remakes - I enjoyed The first new The Fly, The Parent Trap & the only one I know of that I liked better than the original - The Ring. [though the original Grudge smoked the horrible remake of it]

TLW: A couple years ago I wrote a new version of "The Fly" — for Fox and CBS. It was going to be a TV movie until Fox put the freeze on it because their feature division decided on yet another remake. Show biz is wacko.

KM: Thanks so much - enjoy your trip!

btw - Jambodians is Dec 27 - while everyone is in for Christmas.

TLW: THANKS FOR THE TIP! xxx T.

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