We are unashamed Len Kabasinski fans here at the ISCFC. With small budgets and whatever time he can grab, he’s made a series of extremely entertaining genre movies, from “Swamp Zombies” (which we loved) to “Fist Of The Vampire” to “Apocalypse Female Warriors” (brilliant), among many more. “Angel of Reckoning” is out now – not in the UK, sadly – and he’s currently shooting “Hellcat’s Revenge”, a sleazy-looking 70s-style biker-exploitation film. His work ethic makes me feel even lazier than I am, and he’s agreed to answer a few of my questions.
Hi Len! We’ve got an obligatory boring movie reviewer question first, but could you tell us a bit about what sort of films you grew up watching?
Hey Mark! thanks for having me. I grew up with martial arts in my life so it was only natural for me to gravate towards those types of films, back in the early to mid 80s the “straight to VHS/home video” boom hadn’t really happened yet. So, for alot of films I really loved early on i went to a friends house who had HBO and watched films like REVENGE OF THE NINJA, ENTER THE NINJA, SILENT RAGE, etc etc. I LOVED the tv show KUNG FU and was and is a huge David Carradine fan. i would race home from school as KUNG FU played on a local TV channel at that time. Once we got into the period from about 1987 to around 1994 this was my absolute favorite time period, especially for martial arts/action films….horror had a lot of good ones too but horror films have a rich history going waaaaaaay back in film whereas martial arts really didn’t. amoungst my favorite actors growing up were David Carradine, Michael Dudikoff, Loren Avedon, Don “the dragon” Wilson, Jeff Wincott, and more….so lots of movies from these actors, plus directors like Kurt Anderson, Sam Firstenberg, Ciro H Santiago, and of course a shit-ton of stuff coming out of Roger Corman’s companies, etc
Your most recent release is “Angel of Reckoning”. The IMDB description sounds awesome, and it’s already out in the US. Was it fun to make?
ANGEL OF RECKONING really marks as a big turn in my filmmaking, as it really had absolutely no horror elements to it at all and was more a straight action picture. As a whole the production went smooth, except for a few hiccups as we delt with soft boxes, gels, time consuming stuff….overall it’s a film I’m happy with but I really don’t watch my own works. But I learned alot during this film in many more ways than one. My Mother was dying as I was writing/developing the film and I decided (and I got to tell her these things before she passed) that I was going to make a vigilante style picture/revenge style picture ala films like DEATH WISH and she was happy I went for something like this. She would always tell me when I was bummed out about how one thing went or another…”Len you have nothing to prove anymore”….she is missed. but not only will I always feel I have something to prove, I’m about to put the gas pedal down on a film called BLOOD PRISM that I think people will be surprised with the direction. Just when people think they know the answer to my filmmaking? I change the question (wrestling reference, extra credit to who gets it).
From your casting choices, it seems we share a love of pro wrestling. How did you go about getting “The Genius”, Lanny Poffo, to act for you, after so long out of the public eye? And are there any other pro wrestlers you’d like to work with?
Oh sure, there’s a ton. Lanny Poffo I worked with twice and hope to again. Super nice guy and great sense of humor. I really want to work with him again, as now I’m making better and better things, and have advanced my skills in alot of areas (imo). I’m not sure i have anyone in particular I’d like to work with….it would have been Roddy Piper (as I’m a big THEY LIVE fan), so that sucks he passed but yea….I dont know. I’d have to really think about it….it’d probably have to be someone I feel I could create a very unique character for, I could see CM Punk being successful in some kind of horror picture or maybe someone like Shawn Michaels in an action/martial arts picture….but hell….I’d work with anyone that comes in, treats my cast & crew well, isnt an asshole to people, and believes in what we’re trying to accomplish.
I loved the re-edited “Apocalypse Female Warriors”. Would this re-editing and recording commentary be something you’d like to do for any of your other movies?
Of course. I’d love to do new commentaries to some of my older films, especially CURSE OF THE WOLF which has a decent sized fan base. APOCALYPSE FEMALE WARRIORS special edition and new cut was done by Chris Young, who also served as my editor (amoung other duties like Lighting Coordinator) on ANGEL OF RECKONING. Super talented, incredibly film knowledgeable, and a really meticulous hard worker. He also understands to a T what I’m trying to accomplish with a given film and can speak the same “on-set language” that I do. Camera angles, lighting, editing cuts, etc…we’re on the same page an extremely high percentage of the time. He’s editing HELLCATS REVENGE and BLOOD PRISM and is really developing into a co-partner for me at KillerWolf Films….but that’s a development for another time. I highly recommend him to anyone trying to make better pictures, a better website, overall better production values, and more….he can do it all and at a high level. There is NO ONE I have met so far in 10 or 11 movies I’ve done that is more intelligent than him. www.cyoungmedia.com for more….you won’t regret it.
Are there any films from other directors you’d like to remake? I can just see you as “Omega Cop”.
Oh shit, youve won my over for life with a Ron Marchini reference. WOW! I love KARATE COP and OMEGA COP specifically but love FORGOTTEN WARRIOR and JUNGLE WOLF as well. KARATE COP wold be high on my list as well as KING OF THE KICKBOXERS. if I had to pick a horror (ish) film I’d pick 1988’s DEAD HEAT with Joe Piscopo and Treat Williams (and an incredible all star cast…Key Luke, Vincent Price, etc etc). I of course would have to add AMERICAN NINJA and ENTER THE NINJA to that list along with a film I highly recomend starring the ALWAYS-awesome Cameron Mitchell called RAW FORCE. RAW FORCE would have HUGE potential in my opinion as a re-make. ( I hate remakes but I went along with your question here, 🙂 )
(ISCFC aside: seriously, “Raw Force” is amazing. Go and watch it immediately)
I think you’re a decent actor, and probably ought to headline one of your own movies. Any plans to do that in future? Or are you interested in acting for anyone else?
I would act for another project if I felt it was organized and worth my time (not trying to sound arrogant there at all). So sure, my door is always open to treat everything as a learning experience and grow in all phases of art and creativity. those who enjoy my acting for whatever reason will probably like the upcoming HELLCATS REVENGE, where I play the co-lead role of “Snake”, the leader of a criminal biker gang. So acting-wise, I’m in that film a lot. However, BLOOD PRISM, will be a lot like ANGEL OF RECKONING where I plan to stay behind the camera more and really try to show people improvements in my directorial skills, scripting improvements (I’m co-writing BLOOD PRISM and have taken the reins on producing the film as well). I didnt expect to film so soon after HELLCATS REVENGE but opportunities presented themselves and off we go. I was really fortunate for the people who kicked in on our gofundme campaign for HELLCATS REVENGE as it helped us aquire Lisa Neeld (great person and performer) amoungst othe production elements. Plus, I was very fortunate I had backing outside of Gofundme from a west coast producer who paid for my entire post-production (I’ve been working a long time to get to that point! It feels good!)
Would you have any advice for someone who wants to do what you did and make independent cinema? Maybe a few pieces of advice you wish you’d been given when you started.
First off, never get discouraged by what other people may say about your work. Do what your creative mind wants you to do or tells you to do. You dont need much of a budget to “get out there” (hell, I know this too well!). All my early films have been at Walmarts, Kmarts, Family Videos, Netflix, FYE, GoHastings….shit tons of places. but now? No-one cares if youre on a store shelf, its all about making money and doing your next picture. everything is VOD now. So, basically I look to push my films to VOD places as much as I can and don’t get caught up with pushing to video stores or retail chains anymore….because no one cares, lol. So be smart about things. Develop YOUR thing, YOUR plan, and go for it…truly. Story, lighting, acting will go further than any production aspect like shooting on a RED camera, or other super expensive equipment….fuck, use your phone if you have to lol. And lastly, and this goes back to how I started the answer to this question…fuck what other people say or think about you…be yourself no matter what and you know what? You can’t do anything wrong when you be yourself because people will love you for you.
I won’t be Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Kubrick etc…but you know what? They won’t be me either and I know more about MARTIAL OUTLAW, RETURN FIRE: JUNGLE WOLF II, ELVES, and FUTURE FORCE then they ever will….and I’d never want my life to be without films like these.
(ISCFC aside: I love this answer so much. If you’re not a fan of Len’s by the end of this interview, then me and you would never be friends)
Please let us know about “Hellcat’s Revenge”. How has filming gone so far?
HELLCATS REVENGE was being developed and script done, when I did a re-write just a few days before principal photography. The shoot was very smooth, if not my smoothest so far. It’s female bikers vs male bikers after a prominent member of the “Hellcats” is murdered….motorcycles, hot babes, strip clubs, fight scenes, so I hope it can keep people’s attention! But yeah, during production we had lot’s of break time for people in between huge scenes, lots of rest, finishing on time or early everyday but one, etc etc….alot of great things. but yeah, in case you didnt know…HELLCATS REVENGE is done with filming and already in post-production now. Hopefully it can hit DVD in Summer 2017. Lots of action in it, and a lot of great chemistry between the characters imo. hopefully people will check it out when it’s time….til then check out www.facebook.com/hellcatsrevenge , www.facebook.com/len.kabasinski or www.cyoungmedia.com and of course the brand new www.killerwolffilms.com
Thanks again, Len, and good luck with all your future projects!
Thanks for having me Mark! I hope everyone can check out ANGEL OF RECKONING which is out on VOD right now…Amazon Instant Video, itunes, Gravitas VOD, and more. the DVD for ANGEL OF RECKONING comes out 11/22 and is LOADED with cool special features if you’re into those things, some I have never seen before on other DVDs!