Ray Dennis Steckler, 1939-2009
January 8, 2009 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Here's to Ray Dennis Steckler, the independent filmmaker who wrote, starred (as Cash Flagg) and directed influential films including The Thrill Killers, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, and his masterpice The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. A visionary artist whose influnce is clearly seen in contemporary cinema, Steckler was prolific (producing movies from 1963 until last year), economical (his films were self-produced, shot on 16mm film and later Hi-8 video), and brilliant (as clearly evidenced in this dance sequence from Creatures, "The First Monster Musical"). It hasn't been widely reported yet, but fans are mourning his passing. He died in his sleep yesterday, January 7th, aged 70.

I hesitated to post about a death without an obituary to link to (especially since I posted another obituary 24 hours ago), but Ray Dennis Steckler was an important creative influence in my life. I saw Rat Pfink a Boo Boo as a film student, but not at school; my professors were only interested in "serious" cinema like Casablanca and similar crap. It was a revelation. I saw clear artistic vision and high production values in spite of miniscule budgets and volunteer crews.

My first e-commerce purchase on the World Wide Web, probably in 1996 and with much trepidation, was a VHS copy of Rat Pfink a Boo Boo from Sinister Cinema. I still keep a VCR hooked up so that I can watch it.

On our second date, I took my future wife to a screening of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies at the old UC Theater in Berkeley, CA. They screened it in Terrorama -- costumed actors (actually the cast for that evening's showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) "terrorized" the audience by shrieking and running through the aisles. It made an impression on her.

I highly recommend Steckler's films to anyone with an eye for cinema. I mourn his passing.

Disclaimer: The YouTube link to the Creatures dance sequence is a self-reference. I posted that clip a few years ago.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, no! What a bad day for weird movie people. :-(

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:01 PM on January 8, 2009

An autographed Cash Flagg tape of Incredibly Strange Creatures is one of my very few possessions with any claim to fame. It worked its way to the bottom of a jumble of old tapes and I'm going to rescue it right now. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie when it appeared on MST3K. I can't put my finger on why the film was memorable. It was murky and cheap but somehow it pushed the right buttons and made an impression.
posted by crapmatic at 8:10 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

For providing a name for the Incredibly Strange ethos in film and music, he certainly influenced a lot of my aesthetics, but I still like the guy anyway.

posted by jonp72 at 8:11 PM on January 8, 2009

posted by jtron at 8:15 PM on January 8, 2009

Anyone who was in a MST3K movie deserves a . So, I . . like the wind.
posted by the dief at 8:15 PM on January 8, 2009

you forgot the !!? after the The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies Also, I am saddened by this loss
posted by joelf at 8:19 PM on January 8, 2009

Aww, man.

posted by dirigibleman at 8:23 PM on January 8, 2009

And let me add something.

Artists like Steckler did more with pennies than Hollywood today today with tens of millions. The budget for a typical Steckler film probably is the same as the budget for the coke spoons for a typical film. We should be thankful that people like him exist - he's certainly an inspiration to my work, even though I haven't yet made a movie (but I've done all sorts of other low budget art fun things).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:31 PM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

he is not dead. he lives on in every dark glimmering heart of movie maniacs; his soul flickering across the surfaces of corneas and psyches scarred by the brilliance of his fiendishly bloody, brilliant cinema.
posted by lapolla at 8:48 PM on January 8, 2009

Jeebus. This has been a bad week for my clients. First Ron Asheton, now RDS. Rest in peace, you maniacs.
posted by queensissy at 10:16 PM on January 8, 2009

He set a standard. And I don't mean that as a joke.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:26 PM on January 8, 2009

Trivia: he also produced a music video for "Big Red Balloon" (covered) by Spell (Boyd Rice & Rose McDowall) that was never properly released.
posted by K.P. at 10:44 PM on January 8, 2009

First Wilkins, now Steckler. Jeez.

Thanks for the post Chinese Jet Pilot - and for the mention of the old UC Theater - it was a real refuge for me - I practically used to live there!
posted by jettloe at 11:17 PM on January 8, 2009

posted by MythMaker at 11:37 PM on January 8, 2009

TISCWSLABMUZ is not what I'd call a very good movie, but it was his movie. (And it gave MST fans the character of Ortega, a.k.a. Torgo 2.0.)

posted by JHarris at 2:15 AM on January 9, 2009

posted by Faint of Butt at 3:55 AM on January 9, 2009

posted by El Brendano at 4:22 AM on January 9, 2009

posted by JoanArkham at 5:35 AM on January 9, 2009

Ortega drops ash in Mr. Steckler's honor.

posted by SansPoint at 6:10 AM on January 9, 2009

I don't want to live in a world without Cash Flagg.

. you magnificent maniac.
posted by SPUTNIK at 6:27 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

rest easy you feelthy peeg.

posted by The Whelk at 10:53 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Turner Classic Movies actually showed Rat Pfink a Boo Boo last year. I DVR'd it on a whim. It was so, so strange. Yet, oddly compelling and authentic.

posted by Heminator at 11:11 AM on January 9, 2009

posted by Snyder at 12:33 PM on January 9, 2009

huh, Arch's face eventually took on human form. Good for him.
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 PM on January 10, 2009


Steckler is the guy who got thrown in the pool in "Eegah".
posted by mike3k at 8:20 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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