Dana Fredsti, Stories From A B-Movie Actress

Plague Town By Dana FredstiI love B-movies. As a kid, I’d watch Science Fiction Theater and Creature Features (both hosted by Moona Lisa), which showed such gems as Attack of the Mole People, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Them, and Night of the Lepus (giant killer bunnies, oh noz!) Another channel would run the same horror or sci-fi movie five nights in a row every week, usually Japanese monster movies like War of the Gargantuas, Son of Godzilla, and Attack of the Mushroom People, just to name a few. So as an actress I had no problem with movies that were less than A-list.

My first B-movie acting (and I use that term loosely) experience was as a Slave Girl in a truly bad low budget movie called Legion of Iron. I’m talking MST3K bad. The title conjures visions of robot armies, but the movie was actually about illegal gladiatorial games held in a secret compound for the amusement of decadent rich people. The hero, a budding all American athlete named Billy is kidnapped along with his girlfriend, who will be killed if he doesn’t fight. Billy juggles a busy schedule of boffing Diana, the beautiful evil genius behind the games, while fomenting rebellion among the fighters and saving his virginal girlfriend from the sweaty clutches of Rex, undefeated gladiator champion and all around bad guy. Wacky hijinks ensue, punctuated by such dialogue as “I’ll kill you, you scum!” (Billy) “Hahahahah!” (reply from Rex) “You don’t have the guts to kill me. But soon I’ll have your guts skewered on the end of my sword while your pretty girlfriend watches! And then I’ll skewer her with my other sword! Hahahahah!” Or something like that.

The slave girls were really only glorified extras. The only time the director talked to us directly was during one of his never-ending attempts to bribe one of us into taking our tops off. “Sweetie,” he’d say to each of us in turn with an accent as indefinable as Christopher Lambert’s in Highlander, “I’ll give you an extra twenty five today if you show your tits in dis scene.” Since all of the extras placed a higher market value on our naked breasts than twenty five bucks, the answer was always no. This didn’t stop him from making the rounds again the next day, but he never thought to raise the price. After Legion of Iron came Princess Warrior. I had the dubious honor of playing the villainous, Curette (yes, the writer named the character after a surgical tool) who spends the film trying to kill her younger, sweeter, blonder sister Ovule. Other character names were Rickettsia, Bulimia and…er…Badnamia! Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Check out that big hair!  At any rate, $25 a day for twelve-fourteen hour filming days, playing a character that might as well have had a handle-bar mustache for all the subtlety in her villainy, and lots of dialogue with the word “balls” in it.  I had a blast. I’ve been told my acting style in PW is a cross of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror, and William Shatner as Evil Kirk.  Someone else compared it to a rock-bottom budget Showgirls and I’m the only baddie in history to threaten something with a white hot spoon (I kid you not).  PW has the longest and dullest wet T-shirt contest in cinema history (no one told the hapless PA who bought the shirts to go for thin cotton; he brought back thick polyester  tees, impervious to water); an equally long and pointless car chase scene; and the silliest light saber battle ever.

For brevity’s sake, I’ll skip past Cause of Death and Time Barbarian (although oh, the stories I could tell) and talk briefly about Bloodbath, which I wrote and ended up acting in as well. Bloodbath was written as a present for my friend Dan Speaker (also the head of the Academy of Theatrical Combat) about vampires in running a film studio in Hollywood. It was written very tongue-in-cheek, a fact that doesn’t translate as well as I’d have liked it to in the actual film. It had little to no budget, a six day shooting schedule with a director who (and I love this man) is not a morning person, so we didn’t always get started as early as we should have (about a quarter of the script didn’t get filmed), and the executive producer insisted a: on a B-story where one of the characters is obsessed with vitamins and b: that the vampires can only be killed a magic sword wielded by a werewolf.  I play Maggie the Cop (too stupid and stubborn to live) and the best part of the film was working with Joe Pilato, who has a gift of making any scene he’s in come to life. I love love love acting with him and we had two scenes together. Heck, the whole experience was fun and so what if some of the production values are reminiscent of the original Dark Shadows TV show?  Yeah, you can actually see a microphone hanging down in one scene and people reflected in a mirror when a character is supposed to be all alone.  I got to work with friends, everyone involved had a good time, and it kept us off the streets for a week.

I worked on a couple of other projects with Joe (one, a short film where he played a noir style detective and I played an assassin called The Mangler, both of us hunting for aliens) and that was a hoot.  But my favorite project of all time was filming the trailer for a movie called Pale Dreamer (humorous horror/sci-fi) that I co-wrote with Brian Thomas.

We had a dream cast for this movie and I have never had as much fun working on any other production (even Army of Darkness).  The cast included Joe Pilato, Brinke Stevens, Ken Foree and me (yay me!), along with a truly lovely actress whose name I don’t remember (she replaced Angel Boris at the last minute).

Original cast of Pale Dreamer: Brinke, me, Ken, Angel & JoeKen and I play Jake and Jeanette, the two-person crew of a deep space salvage ship. Stuck together for months on end, they spend their time finding ways to irritate the other when not actually doing their job. Angel was our original Zoe, an android found by our heroes onboard a derelict ship … along with a lot of dead bodies and other horrors.   Brinke and Josef play Rheyza and Shaad, the last of the Morganti, a race of homicidal space Goths. The derelict ship is theirs and they are delighted to have new playmates … and a new ship.

The chemistry of the cast was perfect. Ken and I had pretty much the same sarcastic yet (mostly) respectful banter in real life that our characters had in the script, so it worked out well. His nickname for me was Spaghetti Arms, in reference to the fact he thought I should “bulk up” for the part.  I humored him by getting up at the ungodly hour of five or something like that to meet him at the gym, where he made me lift weights in between offering me encouragement such as  “Damn, girl, you are a wimp!”  Joe and Brinke (every nice thing you’ve ever heard about Brinke Stevens is true) made a great evil duo, and both our Zoe actresses were perfect for the part in their unique ways.  My only regret about this project was that the financing for the actual film fell through, the fate of many projects in Hollywood.

Sigh.  Good times.  I may never have that waistline again, but I have some great memories.

Plague Town By Dana Fredsti

In the small university town of Redwood Grove, people are succumbing to a lethal strain of flu. They are dying—but not for long.

Ashley Parker and her boyfriend are attacked by these shambling, rotting creatures that crave human flesh. Their lives will never be the same again.

When she awakes Ashley discovers that she is a “wild card”—immune to the virus—and is recruited by a shadowy paramilitary organization that offers her the chance to fight back. Fatally attracted to her gorgeous instructor, and bonding with her fellow wild cards, Ashley begins to discover skills she never knew she had.

As the town falls to ever-growing numbers of the infected, Ashley and her team fight to contain the outbreak—but will they be enough?

Plague Town  Published By Titan Books

By The Book

Adam Akers