As the first part of our inter­view with Daniel Griffith should have estab­lished, he’s quite the indus­tri­ous young man.  However, if you think you know what his fil­mog­ra­phy is just based upon what you can find on cur­rent DVD’s and blu-ray’s, think again.  He’s got a whole ream of projects going at any given time, like a long-in-the-works K. Gordon Murray doc­u­men­tary.  You can read all about that doc­u­men­tary here as well as some infor­ma­tion about the extras he’s done for Shout! Factory’s line of Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD’s…

You’ve been work­ing on a fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary about the career of b-movie mogul K. Gordon Murray — how did you become inter­est­ed in his work and what inspired you to trans­form this inter­est into a doc­u­men­tary?

Well, I was first exposed to K. Gordon Murray at a very ear­ly age, I just didn’t know it until much lat­er. One blus­tery December after­noon, I turned on the tele­vi­sion to watch my favorite Saturday mat­inée movie pro­gram. And behold! It’s a rather sur­re­al Santa Claus film. And what’s this? It fea­tures a dev­il, too. Now, I grew up in a semi-reli­gious house­hold, where I was assured that Jesus was ‘the rea­son for the sea­son’ and Santa Claus was mere­ly a myth. But appar­ent­ly, Jesus was going to sit the hol­i­day out and let Santa Claus take care of busi­ness. I was shocked and amused, all with­in the same glee­ful moment. This film was not just for­eign, it was alien! And that was the only time (that I know of) that the film aired on one of my local sta­tions.

Now, flash for­ward to the ear­ly 90’s. A fel­low pro­jec­tion­ist at the cin­e­ma I worked at dur­ing my High School years brought me some VHS tapes of recent­ly aired Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes (my local cable net­work did not provide Comedy Central at that time). Well, hid­den on one of those beloved VHS cas­settes was the episode ded­i­cat­ed to SANTA CLAUS. When I saw the title card on my tele­vi­sion scene, I knew that it was the same per­plex­ing hol­i­day film from my child­hood.

I imme­di­ate­ly reached for a pen­cil and start­ed writ­ing down the names of the indi­vid­u­als asso­ci­at­ed with the film. And the first name on the list was a gen­tle­man by the name of K. Gordon Murray. Quickly, I reached for my copy of Halliwell’s Film Guide and looked up his name. Nothing. WHAT? That can’t be right. Then, I checked anoth­er source. And anoth­er. Still noth­ing. Remember, this was before the inter­net was in full swing.

But out of that frus­tra­tion was born a deter­mined young man who would even­tu­al­ly find out who K. Gordon Murray was and why he chose to inflict this hol­i­day film upon the unknow­ing pub­lic.

In the years that fol­lowed, I would dis­cov­er that K. Gordon Murray was one of the unsung genius­es of cin­e­ma his­to­ry. Not in the ways that would make Griffith or DeMille mem­o­rable but impor­tant nonethe­less. I think that is why I am par­tial to films and film­mak­ers that are over­looked. Like me, they had to fight hard­er to be heard. It wasn’t just given to them. And like me, they have a nat­u­ral pas­sion and enthu­si­asm for cin­e­ma. Sure, their point-of-view and busi­ness prac­tices may be skewed or mis­guid­ed. But at their core, they were their own type of arti­sans in the world of film. You have to respect that.

I’ve heard a sto­ry about how you put togeth­er an elab­o­rate his­tor­i­cal-recre­ation scene for the K. Gordon Murray doc.  Can you tell us about this scene and how you assem­bled such a mas­sive amount of pro­duc­tion val­ue?

Well, a large por­tion of Murray’s sto­ry takes place again­st the back­drop of the 1950’s and 1960’s… prin­ci­pal­ly, aging dri­ve-ins and movie palaces of that era. But, when I start­ed look­ing for images and/or footage to help visu­al­ly illus­trate the­se seg­ments, I kept com­ing up dry. I slow­ly began to real­ize that, in order to con­vey some of Murray’s wild and wacky pro­mo­tion­al exploits, I was going to have to recre­ate them, myself. So, I scout­ed out a few loca­tions, con­tact­ed two local ‘car’ clubs, and had the local news­pa­per post a cast­ing call. Surprising, it all came togeth­er, and the footage looks pret­ty authen­tic. Especially when you con­sid­er the bud­get I was work­ing with, which was basi­cal­ly enough to feed a fam­i­ly of four at McDonalds. But I couldn’t have pulled it off with­out the assis­tance of sev­er­al friends and the coöper­a­tion of an entire town. I will always be thank­ful for their col­lec­tive sup­port.

A lot of ele­ments came togeth­er on that doc­u­men­tary. I tracked down all the indi­vid­u­als I need­ed to help tell the sto­ry. I was for­tu­nate enough to get vet­er­an actor ROSS HAGEN to serve as host and nar­ra­tor for the doc­u­men­tary. Everything came togeth­er per­fect­ly. It is shame that, in the end, the release would be stalled.

The K. Gordon Murray doc has been in the works for a few years now.  How long have you been work­ing on it, how close is it to com­ple­tion and what are the future plans for it?

That is indeed the ‘mil­lion-dol­lar’ ques­tion. Of course, if I had a ten­th of that as bud­get, there would be no need for you to ask that ques­tion. The ver­sion of the doc­u­men­tary that I edit­ed togeth­er exclu­sive­ly for the Turner Classic Movies tele­vi­sion pre­mière is com­plete and ready to go. Unfortunately, I can­not do any­thing with that, or any oth­er ver­sion of the doc­u­men­tary, until some rights issues are resolved. I am cur­rent­ly look­ing for a way around the road­blocks. But I am not giv­ing up on it, I assure you. I have invest­ed so much time and ener­gy into that pro­duc­tion. I real­ly want to share the fruits of those efforts with the world.

As part of your Ballyhoo oper­a­tion, you run some­thing called the “Young America Horror Club.”  Can you explain what this entails?

Ha! That is the fan club I orga­nized online for the K. Gordon Murray doc­u­men­tary. It is actu­al­ly based on a gen­uine sub­scrip­tion-based ‘club’ that Murray devised long ago. You see, in the ear­ly 1950’s, when Murray licensed and dubbed all those Mexican hor­ror titles for tele­vi­sion, he need­ed a pro­mo­tion­al edge that was com­pat­i­ble to the new medi­um. The idea fell through ear­ly on, but the gim­mick was a sound one. It was actu­al­ly based on the radio pro­gram campaign’s used decades ear­lier, like the ‘Little Orphan Annie Secret Society’.

Continuing on the Murray tip, you’ve done a fea­turet­te about SHANTY TRAMP that has not yet been released — can you tell us a bit about it and when it might see a release?

Well, the fea­turet­te was intend­ed for a future SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO spe­cial edi­tion of the film, but the project was scrapped. I don’t know why, actu­al­ly. In the end, I want­ed to give Mike Vraney (as well as the crew at SOMETHING WEIRD) some­thing in exchange for all their assis­tance on the Murray doc­u­men­tary. Mike has been a great sup­port­er of the project from the very begin­ning. So, this fea­turet­te was my way of say­ing, ‘thank you’. Regardless, the same infor­ma­tion dis­cussed with­in the fea­turet­te is high­light­ed in the ‘com­plete’ Murray doc­u­men­tary. Nothing is lost.

You’ve done a lot of work for Shout! Factory’s line of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 releas­es — what’s your favorite extra of this series thus far and why?

Again, this is an exam­ple of how the Murray doc­u­men­tary led to oth­er projects. Shout! Factory approached me with the idea of pro­duc­ing a ‘mak­ing-of’ fea­turet­te for the ‘SANTA CLAUS’ episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. That’s right, the same episode that sent me on this whole jour­ney in the first place. Well, I loved the series and was some­how drawn to the film, so I real­ly couldn’t say­ing any­thing but an very enthu­si­as­tic ‘YES’. Lets face it, when would there be anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a ‘mak­ing of’ doc­u­men­tary for a film like SANTA CLAUS?

Well, the suc­cess of that fea­turet­te led to my next project for the com­pa­ny, and prob­a­bly one of my favorite MST3K bonus fea­tures to date, the BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS doc­u­men­tary, enti­tled “NO DIALOGUE NECESSARY”. I real­ly had a blast putting this togeth­er. I even wrote a nar­ra­tion that resem­bled the ‘bro­ken’ voice-over found with­in the fea­ture, itself. Plus, it is a wacky con­cept from the begin­ning. A BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS doc­u­men­tary??? But there are so many wor­thy titles out there that do not get the same treat­ment! And that is what makes it charm­ing, I guess.

From there, I pro­duced and direct­ed doc­u­men­taries about the mak­ing of BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (CITIZEN WOOD), DEVIL DOLL, ROBOT MONSTER, GAMERA, JAM HANDY and THE BRUTE MAN (TRAIL OF THE CREEPER). The TRAIL OF THE CREEPER project is prob­a­bly the one that I am most proud of, though. It is not satir­i­cal, like the YUCCA FLATS pro­duc­tion. It is a trag­ic, human sto­ry about the b-movie actor, RONDO HATTON, and the ter­ri­ble afflic­tion that both cre­at­ed and destroyed him. I hon­est­ly think it is my most mov­ing doc­u­men­tary to date.

I con­tin­ue to work on projects for future sets. Just recent­ly, I pro­duced and direct­ed a doc­u­men­tary on produce/distributor ROBERT L. LIPPERT (THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIPPERT), as well as a fea­turet­te based on the tele­vi­sion career of SANDY FRANK (YOU ASKED FOR IT). And there’s much more to come in future install­ments of the series. I sim­ple adore work­ing for Jordan Fields and the crew at SHOUT! FACTORY. They real­ly give me carte blanche on the­se doc­u­men­taries, and for that… I am very grate­ful.

COMING UP NEXT… the mak­ing of the fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary based on John Carpenter’s DARK STAR, and the world of HAMMER bonus fea­tures.