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Off Hollywood

Off Hollywood - Stuart Gordon

His killer midnight movie "Re-Animator" features one of the most unsettling sexual encounters one will ever see with a severed head.

by Jennifer Juniper Stratford
Feb 28 2012, 5:00am

I set out with my Polaroid camera to photograph and interview disappearing Hollywood—the directors, actors, special effects artists, producers, even composers, who’ve had great influence but have since fallen under the radar. This is a record and a reminder of the true soul of the movies.

Stuart Gordon
Notable Films: Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987), Robot Jox (1990)

Stuart Gordon made a genius discovery the moment he updated HP Lovecraft by putting the Miskotanic University smack-dab in the middle of the 80s. His film Re-Animator was the first to do this and is the epitome of weird fiction cinema. It's a killer midnight movie full of humor and gratuitous gore, featuring one of the most unsettling sexual encounters one will ever see with a severed head. His second film, From Beyond, takes Lovecraft even further when some scientists build a device that emits a resonance wave that stimulates the pineal gland to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. It gets really twisted and slimy when dimensions start to overlap. That film is a masterwork of weird cinema, and one of my favorites.

Knowing he worked in experimental theater for 15 years before he made any movies, I was looking forward to meeting with Stuart Gordon. What I love most about his films is how much theater he carries over to celluloid by using primitive stage and make-up effects. Last year he revamped Re-Animator into a small stage production musical that created quite a buzz around Los Angeles, and it was curious to see what elements of the film he decided to put on the stage.

When I shot his Polaroid, I’d been working as a production designer on Odd Future’s forthcoming Adult Swim show, so my car was full of coffee cups and bizarre props. When I pulled up to Stuart Gordon’s office, I remembered he directed Dolls, a 1987 horror movie about relentless killer dolls, and I happened to have a large doll about the size of a six-year-old girl in my backseat. It was never used on the television show so this could be the doll's big break. 

Thinking it would make a great portrait, I grabbed her and walked into his office.

Unfortunately, I was also a half hour late because of traffic so we were not off to a good start. As soon as I opened the door to his office, he told me that today wasn’t going to be a good day to shoot. I apologized profusely until he said, "OK, let's make it quick." He ignored the doll.

We moved into his main office to take his picture at his desk. My friend who was with me grabbed the doll out of my arms and put it in a chair facing him. Suddenly, the energy in the room changed. As soon as Stuart sat down, I said "Smile," and pressed the button.

As the Polaroid came out, he looked over at the doll and sternly asked, “What’s she doing here?”

“You know, because of Dolls,” I replied in a nervous tone, realizing bringing the prop was a really bad idea.

“I thought maybe we could do something fun, like take one of her biting you?”

“No,” he said. “I hate dolls. I think we're done."

Was he referring to his film or was he admitting he suffers from pediophobia? Unfortunately, the doll is definitely on the downward slope of the uncanny valley. It was not my intention to offend or scare him. I hurried out of there as fast as I could. As for the doll, I apologized to her as I put her back in the car. She may never make it big in Hollywood.

Previously - Off Hollywood - Eddie Deezen

Some of Jennifer Juniper Stratford's portraits are currently showing in ”Instant Revolution” at Polaroid’s Impossible Project Gallery with other Polaroids by James Franco, Maripol, Mary Ellen Mark, and Gary Baseman. She also created that weird, amazing epic music video play with Geneva Jacuzzi called Dark Ages for us. And we did an interview with her here.