GARY GRAVER PROFILE

When low-budget filmmakers need a director of photography, Gary Graver’s name is usually on the top of their lists. A filmmaker since the early 60’s, Graver understands the business, thanks to his varied and unusual background in the business. Gary Graver graduated from Los Angeles City College in the early 60’s. He studied acting with Bruce Dern, Jeff Corey and Lee J. Cobb, where he learned what went on behind the cameras as well. The non-acting aspect of filmmaking intrigued him and he decided to pursue a career in directing and cinematography, occasionally acting to pick up some loose change. What better way to hone his craft than in the field of exploitation and sexploitation? Graver’s first film as director of photography was on THE GIRLS FROM THUNDER STRIP (1966) for notorious badfilm director David L. Hewitt (he would later act in, edit and photograph Hewitt’s clunker THE MIGHTY GORGA - 1969). He then went on to direct his first film, a nudie called THE EMBRACERS (1966). Graver’s name became well-known in the low-budget circle and became very much in demand. In the late 60’s and early 70’s he worked for the late Al Adamson (acting in and photographing both SATAN’S SADISTS [1969] and DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN [1969]), exploitation legend Harry Novak (directing ERIKA’S HOT SUMMER [1970] and acting in WILD FREE AND HUNGRY [1970]) as well as making his own films, including THE HARD ROAD and SANDRA, MAKING OF A WOMAN (both 1970). During the early 70’s, Graver caught the eye of none other than Orson Welles, who used Graver as director of photography on most of his later film and TV projects, many of them unfinished due to Welles’ huge ego (and even larger girth). What does survive can be found in the Welles-directed documentary F FOR FAKE (1973) and the Graver-directed documentary WORKING WITH ORSON WELLES (1993). Graver was also much-in-demand 2nd unit director, working in that capacity on such A-titles such as ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), THE DRIVER (1978), THE WARRIORS (1979) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1980). His heart was still planted very firmly in the exploitation field though, as he photographed many B-movies of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Films he shot include: INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS (1974), THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (1978), MORTUARY (1981), DEMON WIND (1990) and many, many others. During the mid-80’s Graver hooked-up with modern-day exploitation king Fred Olen Ray, for whom he photographed many films, including THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (1986), COMMANDO SQUAD (1987), DEEP SPACE (1987), THE HAUNTING FEAR (1990) and MIND TWISTER (1992). All this work did not deter him from making his own films, even though most of them are not very good. He was a much better director of photography than a director. His directorial efforts include: THE BOYS (1980), the actioner TEXAS LIGHTNING (1981), the horrible horror TRICK OR TREATS (1982), the whodunit MOON IN SCORPIO (1987), the unfunny PARTY CAMP (1987), the incomprehensible MIDNIGHT INTRUDERS (1973) and his best horror film EVIL SPIRITS (1990). If you think Graver’s output is staggering, consider this: All the while he was working on A and B type films, he also had a successful career as a director of hardcore adult films, directing scores of pornographic titles using the pseudonym "Robert McCallum". Graver started making porno flicks to finance his legitimate films, since they could be made on the cheap in just a couple of days and bring back a hefty profit. His first hardcore film was THREE A.M. (1975) and many more followed, right up to this day. Graver had a knack for making porno films and many of his earlier stroke flicks have won many Adult Film Awards, the porno equivalent of the Oscars. Films such as GARAGE GIRLS (1977) 800 FANTASY LANE (1979), AMANDA BY NIGHT (1980) and PEACHES AND CREAM (1982) are considered adult film masterpieces and have been lauded with awards, giving Graver more recognition than he will ever get in the mainstream filmmaking community. But he had to hide his true identity from the mainstream so he would not be blacklisted from participating in making "normal" films. Ironic, isn’t it? His early porno films are extremely well made. They have good stories (remember when they had stories?), nice photography (usually done by Graver himself) and are shot on film. His later hardcore efforts, with titles such as EAST L.A. LAW (1991), THE BLACK DOORS (1991) and SILENCE OF THE BUNS (1992) are generally run-of-the-mill, shot-on-video porno pablum. But hey, it’s a living! You’ll have a hard time finding a personality that is more hard-working or has a more varied career. Staying in a business that is as fickle as it is and to keep on working in it for more than thirty years is a testament to Gary Graver’s talent and ambition. He has worked with some of the best and some of the worst and even though most  of the people he worked with are either dead or no longer in the business, he is still around and still going strong. Who else can say that they worked with both Orson Welles and John Holmes? Although Gary Graver may get a paragraph here and there in publications, he has never gotten the recognition he rightly deserves. This article is my tribute to him as a real artist. UPDATE: It is my sad duty to report that Gary Graver died of cancer on November 17, 2006. The world has lost a very talented cinematographer. R.I.P. Mr. Graver.

GRAVER REVIEWS

MIDNIGHT INTRUDERS (1973) - Unbelievably bad softcore porn erotic thriller. A married woman (Francoise Darc) telephones her lover (Alexander Chapuies) to come on over after her husband (Alain Mayniel) leaves on an overnight business trip. When hubby comes home early and finds them taking a shower together, he hits the lover repeatedly with a seashell ashtray. Thinking him to be dead, the husband turns his attention to his wife. Trying to stick her hand down the garbage disposal, the husband is stabbed and killed by his wife. She hides his body in a closet. While trying to think what to do next, a pair of burglars (including a woman with the biggest hair I have ever seen!) break into the house. They inject the wife with heroin and proceed to sexually assault her. Enter her bloody, but still alive, lover who shoots the male burglar and chases the topless female down the street until she is struck and killed by a car. The wife and lover load her dead husband into her car and drive away. A cop chases their speeding car and during the pursuit they lose control of the car and perish down the side of a mountain. The end. What?! Although there is plenty of nudity (Darc looks great in the raw), this is still an unwatchable film. It is filled with post-synch dubbing which frequently doesn't match the actors' lips (especially during the lovemaking scenes) and is also chock full of headache-inducing zoom shots that Jess Franco would love. Director/screenwriter Gary Graver is also responsible for the equally weird films TRICK OR TREATS (1982), MOON IN SCORPIO (1987) and EVIL SPIRITS (1991). MIDNIGHT INTRUDERS runs 59 minutes. Thank God for small favors!  An Even Steven Productions Release. Not Rated

TRICK OR TREATS (1982) - Husband and wife Malcolm (Peter Jason; PRINCE OF DARKNESS - 1987, who is wasted here) and Joan (Carrie Snodgress; ED GEIN - 2000) are eating breakfast outside by their pool when two guys dressed in white (Dan Pastorini and Tim Rossovich) show up and strap a straitjacket on Malcolm (after a prolonged fight) and take him away to the loony bin while the callous Joan watches in the background, a strange smirk on her face. Several years pass and Joan has remarried to a guy named Richard (David Carradine) and they are about to go to a Halloween party. Yes, it's Halloween Night and Joan has hired aspiring actress Linda (Jackelyn Giroux; WALKING THE EDGE - 1983) to baby-sit her precocious son Christopher (Chris Graver), who likes to play annoying practical jokes using the many magic props in his collection. While Linda is handing out candy to the kids, Christopher makes her life miserable using his magic tricks and collection of rubber masks. Wouldn't you know it, Malcolm escapes from the insane asylum and vows revenge on Joan. He plans on returning to the only place he knows: The house where Linda is babysitting Christopher. Linda grows weary of Christopher's pranks and recites to him the cautionary tale of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", but Christopher doesn't seem to comprehend the moral of the story as he continues making her night with him a living hell, including faking his own death by making it look liked he drowned in the pool (When Linda revives him with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Christopher says to her, "Thanks for the kiss, baby!"). Christopher will soon regret his actions. When Linda begins receiving threatening phone calls from Malcolm (who mistakenly believes she is Joan), she believes she is being pranked by Christopher and ignores them. Christopher tries to tell her that he is not responsible, but he has been such an insufferable prick all night, she doesn't believe him. Malcolm, who is dressed like a nurse (complete with wig and red lipstick), begins his journey to the house, running into winos, drunks and street people who act crazier than him. He forces a wino (a cameo appearance by Paul Bartel) to strip, steals his clothes and then heads for the house, where he kills one of Linda's friends and then terrorizes Linda and Christopher (who may or may not be Malcolm's son). Christopher kills Malcolm with his homemade guillotine and he swears to Linda that he is finished playing practical jokes. The final shot shows that Christopher may, indeed, be Malcolm's blood relation, as he seems to have graduated from practical jokes to murder. This is a cheap-as-dirt horror flick (the Insane Asylum set is nothing but a bunch of tables and beds on a black backdrop) that actually got a theatrical release. It also tries way too hard to be funny and lacks any blood or gore. It seems deceased director/producer/screenwriter Gary Graver (MIDNIGHT INTRUDERS - 1973; MOON IN SCORPIO - 1987; EVIL SPIRITS - 1990) made this film to showcase the talents of his son Chris, who's such an annoying little twerp here, I wanted to reach through the screen and throttle him myself. If that was what Mr. Graver was going for here, he succeeded in spades, but I seriously doubt that was the effect he was aiming for. Mr. Graver was an expert cinematographer (he also photographed this film), but he's a very lousy storyteller. This film just plods along at an all-too-leisurely pace, as Christopher endlessly pranks Linda, who is way too patient with this kid (I would have tied the little fucker to his bed and called in an Exorcist!). The fact that hardly anyone dies (and when they do, it's in complete darkness, another fault with this film), coupled with absolutely no nudity, also makes this film a must-miss. The only enjoyment here comes when film editor Andrea (Jillian Kesner, who was also Graver's real-life wife. She appeared in a few films, such as EVIL TOWN [1985], before dying of a staph infection in 2007, a little over a year after Graver's death from cancer), a friend of Linda's, shows a clip of a lousy horror movie she is working on and proclaims that it is the film editor who is the real magician of horror filmmaking, because they can polish crap until it looks like gold. She talks about how editors put segues into films to pad out the running time and, damn, if that isn't what Graver does with this scene (Graver was also this film's editor). It's the film's only inspired moment. It's also apparent that Graver called in a lot of favors from his actor friends. How else can you explain the presence of Snodgress, Carradine, Bartel and even Steve Railsback (who plays Linda's boyfriend in a couple of scenes) in an impoverished production such as this? None of them have more than a couple of minutes of screen time and it's clear that Graver used them because their names on the marquees would draw more people into theater seats. The rest of TRICK OR TREATS is a tired "babysitter in peril" flick you've seen a thousand times before and done much better than this. Orson Welles, who was a good friend of Graver's, is credited as the consultant of the magic tricks used in this film. Also starring J.L. Clark, Catherine E. Coulson and John Blyth Barrymore as a mad doctor in a film-within-the-film. Released on VHS by Vestron Video. Available on widescreen DVD by Code Red. Rated R.