The Blood-Splattered Bargain Basement Cinema Empire of Don Dohler
It’s Halloween and Baltimore or Less can think of no better time to celebrate the Triple B-movie (Blood, Boobs, Beast) filmmaking career of Perry Hall’s own horror/sci-fi master Don Dohler, who regrettably passed away in December 2006. Inspired by a 2003 City Paper feature on Dohler, MICA graduate John Paul Kinhart directed a documentary about his life, Blood, Boobs, and Beast, in 2007 (see City Paper editor Lee Gardner’s review here; see trailer here). Following is a reprint of that 2003 City Paper cover story by Michael Yockel.
by Michael Yockel (City Paper, April 23, 2003)
We took a five-cent story, a 10-cent budget, and a two-cent leading man, and we put it over.” — producer Kirk Douglas to director Barry Sullivan regarding their B-movie hit The Doom of the Cat Men in the 1952 inside-Hollywood drama The Bad and the Beautiful.
Not long into filmmaker Don Dohler’s 1987 Blood Massacre, a truculent Vietnam vet (George Stover)–who before the opening credits viciously garrotes a bar owner and repeatedly stabs the proprietor’s trashy girlfriend–and two cohorts case a mom-and-pop video store that they intend to rob. Attempting to look nonchalant, the ex-grunt browses through the shop’s merchandise, picking up two videotape boxes, the camera lingering perhaps a few seconds longer than normal on films entitled Nightbeast and Galaxy Invader. Then the hoods brandish their weapons, reveal their purpose, and order the customers to lie facedown on the floor. When a store clerk makes the inevitable move for a concealed gun, all hell breaks loose, with the clerk taking a slug to the chest and collapsing, her blood spraying across a tacked-up movie poster.
Standard action fare, to be sure, seen countless times in countless shoot-’em-ups on television and the big screen, but in this particular instance with a wink-wink fillip detected only by the most vigilant and devoted of B-movie cineastes, who recognize the video shop’s seemingly obtuse inventory–Nightbeast and Galaxy Invader–as the work of writer/director/producer . . . Don Dohler. A surreptitious self-homage!
Off and on for the past 27 years, Dohler, while failing to register on the mainstream movie-biz Richter scale, has been cranking out low-budget, no-stars horror and science-fiction fare: 90-minute features chockablock with decapitations, eviscerations, impalings, murderous nuclear families devoted to cannibalism or organ harvesting, thong-clad vampirettes, cleaver-wielding housewives, switchblade-flicking psychos, trigger-happy yahoos, marauding aliens, reanimated corpses, fog machines in overdrive, enough fake blood to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools, more running through woods than a battalion of Green Berets on maneuvers, and some of the scariest Baltimore accents in the history of cinema. All of them conceived–and several of them executed–at Dohler world headquarters in the Last House on the Left of a Perry Hall cul-de-sac, his home for the past 30 years.
“He’s found a niche, he’s stuck with it, and he’s been doing it a long, long time,” observes another Baltimore filmmaker, John Waters, who has seen one-third of Dohler’s oeuvre. “God knows I respect his defiant longevity.”
Continue reading “Fast, Cheap & Out of this World” at www2.citypaper.com.