Dennis Bartok, late of Los Angeles’ American Cinematheque gave Fango the lowdown on TRAPPED ASHES. A multistory supernatural horror film that he scripted and will co-produce, the movie is described by Bartok as “partly a homage to great anthology horror movies like the old Amicus classics TALES FROM THE CRYPT and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, as well as art-house chillers like SPIRITS OF THE DEAD and DEAD OF NIGHT.” Bartok’s 13-year run as the Cinematheque’s programming director (he’s pictured above with Claudia Cardinale at a recent tribute to the actress) also holds sway over the film, given his “experiences over the years working there—seeing the walking ghosts of Hollywood’s past and present drifting through this great mausoleum of movie history.”
Set to film in November and December in Los Angeles, Canada and Japan, the long-in-development TRAPPED ASHES will be produced by Bartok alongside husband-wife team Yuko Yoshikawa and Yoshifumi Hosoya. “They read the script about two years ago,” says Bartok, “when Monte [TWO-LANE BLACKTOP] Hellman was the only director attached. God bless Monte for having faith in us! Yuko and Yoshi loved it, and we worked together to attach the other directors and to raise financing in Japan.”
With funding secured, genre veterans Tobe Hooper, Sean Cunningham and FX wizard turned first-time director John Gaeta were soon attached, with each to direct one of the four segments (in addition to Hellman, who will also helm the wraparound scenes). “We really hit the jackpot,” says Bartok. “John Gaeta [who won an Oscar for THE MATRIX] is a creative genius and just incredible to work with.”
Fango readers will be pleased to learn that Bartok has also attracted well-respected talent when it comes to TRAPPED ASHES’ own FX. “Our visual effects supervisor and special visual consultant is Robert Skotak, who has won two Academy Awards [for TERMINATOR 2 and ALIENS]. I’ve known Robert for years, but never dreamed he’d work on a project like this; he’s used to working on $100-million-plus movies like TITANIC and X-MEN 2. [Robert and I are] both huge fans of fantasy filmmakers like Alexander Ptushko, Karel Zeman, and Jean [BEAUTY AND THE BEAST] Cocteau, so we’re hoping to bring some of that quality of magic and illusion to the film. It’s not effects-driven, but there will be lots of wonderful visual sleight-of-hand.”
FX-driven it may not be, but Bartok promises that TRAPPED ASHES won’t be a run-of-the-mill, homogenized horror film. “I don’t want to say too much and spoil the surprise, but the stories are all very wicked, erotic and extremely twisted,” he says. “There’s some bodily function-related stuff that will make people scream. There are lots of other things thrown in as well—decaying nitrate film footage, 500-year-old Basque witches, breast enlargements, intestinal parasites and more. Freaky stuff.” And, most assuredly to the delight of Fango readers, “Lots of sex and gore!
“The best way to describe it,” he adds, “is like one of those old medieval ‘cabinets of wonders’—you open it up and see all these strange shapes and creatures, weird sinewy forms. Things you really shouldn’t touch, but then your hand is reaching out and you’re picking it up…”
As he begins his new career in filmmaking, Bartok looks fondly back on his long time celebrating cinema of the past. “It’ll be sad to leave the Cinematheque,” he says, “although my wife will surely be glad to have me home on Friday and Saturday nights!” The Cinematheque, a non-profit cultural organization “dedicated to the public presentation of the Moving Picture in all its forms,” won’t lose its passion for genre films, however. “There’s no decision about who’s replacing me,” Bartok reveals, “but in the interim, my colleagues [Gwen Deglise, Chris D. and Martina Palaskov-Begov] will share programming duties at the Egyptian Theatre. If anything, they are even more hardcore genre fans than I am! So hopefully, that tradition will continue full force in the programs.”
Since 1992, Bartok organized truly outstanding genre-series screenings, retrospectives and reunions for both the Egyptian and Aero theaters. Over the years, he brought in a veritable Who’s Who of genre talent, including in-person sessions with such notables as John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Wes Craven, Stuart Gordon and Tobe Hooper. “I’m especially proud of all the amazing genre films we’ve been able to show, and all the incredible filmmakers who’ve joined us,” Bartok says. From kaiju bills to one-of-a-kind rescued prints and exclusives, as well the annual summer Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror series, Bartok’s direction has delighted fans and resulted in truly memorable moments. It’s unlikely that anyone in attendance will soon forget the Cinematheque appearance of giallo great Dario Argento, “who removed all his clothes at the end of his retrospective,” recalls Bartok, “and said, ‘Now you’ve seen my films, you’ve seen me—there’s nothing more!’ ”
Stay tuned to this website and FANGORIA magazine for more news and on-set coverage of TRAPPED ASHES.