Found out earlier today that one of my all-time fave low-budget exploitation filmmakers, Ray Dennis Steckler, passed away in LA last night....I knew he had recently been in hospital for a heart operation but his death still comes as a shock as all indications had been that he was on the mend.
Steckler's reputation was based primarily on a bunch of unique backyard productions which he made throughout the 60s, such as Wild Guitar, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (a brilliant Batman and Robin spoof starring the great Ron Haydock, who also provided the film's killer rock & roll soundtrack), The Thrill Killers and the beautifully shot (by future Oscar winner Vilmos Zsigmond) The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!
As Cash Flagg, Steckler often acted in his own movies, as did his then wife, the leggy Carolyn Brandt. He continued to make films into the 80s and beyond, and I recently posted a blog on some of his better films from the 70s (which you find via my profile page).
In the mid 1990s, I remember talking to Ray over the phone several times, when I was ordering copies of his films on VHS from his shop in Vegas. He was always very friendly and chatty, happy to discuss his films and he always included a couple of signed photos with every order, sometimes he'd even throw in a free video if there was spare room in the package. And I'm sure just about everyone else who ever met or talked to Ray would have similar stories...he was one of the genuine nice ones.
Ironically, I only this week upgraded all my Steckler films to DVD (which I'd bought as a big lot on eBay) and I was considering throwing out all those old VHS tapes I bought from him, in order to save space. But now, I think I'll hang onto them for sentimental reasons.
Steckler was 70 years old.