During the Dark Ages, Satanic leader, Father Estaban, and his followers are approached by a church official on the shore of Spain, telling them that they are banished from Spain and denied God’s grace unless they renounce Satan and their evil ways.
In the present, Stanley Coopersmith is a young cadet at an American military academy. He remains as a social outcast who is bullied by his classmates due to him being an orphan and treated unfairly by his instructors who believe him to be inept at everything. When he is punished for no clear reason by cleaning the church cellar, he finds a room belonging to Father Estaban which contains books of black magic along with Estaban’s diary. He then uses his computer skills to translate the book from Latin into English. The translation describes Estaban as a Satanist and the book contains rituals for performing the Black Mass along with a promise by Estaban citing “I Will Return”.
Waking up the late the next morning, Stanley finds his alarm clock unplugged and his clothing tied in knots, courtesy of his belligerent classmates. This causes him to be tardy for morning classes, and his teacher writes him a punishment note to be taken to the school’s Colonel headmaster Kincaid’s office. He is sent to the office, where he accidentally leaves the diary on the desk of the school secretary who hides it. While Stanley is being made to clean the stables as punishment for no reason, the office secretary begins to finger the jewels on the front of the diary. Trying to pry the jewels out of their settings causes the pigs in the stable to attack Stanley.
Stanley returns to his dormitory room to find his belongings scattered again, and cannot find his book of black magic. He assumes that his classmates stole it, and he confronts them about the supposed theft at a local roller rink, but they deny knowledge of the book and he leaves. Stanley then goes to the school’s computer lab to perform more general research on Satanism, even though his book is still missing. His allotted time in the lab runs out, and he is forced to leave with his research incomplete.
Stanley appears in the church cellar with computer equipment, which is assumed to be stolen from the school’s computer lab. He sets up the computer and runs some inquiries into the requirements for a black mass. Searching through various bottles in the cellar left by Father Estaban, he attempts to initiate a mass but the computer informs him that he is still missing crucial ingredients, namely blood and a consecrated host. He is nearly discovered by Reverend Jameson, the church’s current pastor, who sends him off to the mess hall to eat dinner. After arriving at the mess hall too late for lunch, he befriends the school’s good-natured cook who makes a meal for him and shows him a litter of puppies that his dog just had. Stanley takes the smallest pup for himself, names him Fred and hides him in the church cellar.
Stanley steals the host from the church and then notices Estaban’s portrait on the wall. Using the translation he attempts the ritual and is suddenly attacked by his classmates wearing masks and robes. After knocking him unconscious they leave. Stanley, thinking he has successfully performed the ritual is told by his computer that the ritual was incomplete and a pentagram appears on the computer screen. Stanley accidentally wakes the drunken caretaker, Sarge, who accuses him of being a thief for stealing a crowbar. Sarge attacks Stanley, who screams for help. The computer flares to life with a red pentagram on it. An unseen force then takes Sarge’s head and turns it completely around breaking his neck. Stanley discovers a catacomb filled with decapitated skeletal remains and the crypt of Father Estaban. After hiding Sarge’s body, he leaves.
The school’s secretary is shown at home where she attempts one last time to pry the pentagram from the black magic book she stole from Stanley. She fails, injuring her finger which bleeds. She undresses, begins to take a shower and is fatally attacked by demonically spawned boars. After watching a beauty pageant at the school’s pep rally, Stanley is attacked by his classmates who tell him that if tries to play in the big game tomorrow they’ll find and kill Fred. After witnessing his beating at the hands of his classmates, the hostile and unfriendly school principal Kincaid kicks Stanley off the soccer team instead of punishing the bullies.
After a night of drinking, Stanley’s classmates make their way into Estaban’s hidden room and find his computer program. After killing Fred, the computer says that the blood used must be human blood. After finding Fred’s mutilated body, Stanley becomes enraged. The diary appears laying on Estaban’s casket. When a teacher catches Stanley in the church stealing the host, he follows him to the catacombs where he is translating the rest of the diary. Stanley pledges his life to Satan then kills his teacher on a spiked wheel and collects his blood.
Unaware of the ritual being performed, Stanley’s classmates, the coach, Kincaid, and Jameson are all in attendance at a service. After successfully performing the ritual, Estaban’s soul then possesses Stanley’s body and takes up a sword. Meanwhile, a nail from the large crucifix hanging over the church’s altar is pried out by an unseen force and flies across the room and is driven into Jameson’s skull. Stanley then rises from the cellar below engulfed in flames and wielding a sword. A pack of large black boars pours out of the hole in the floor, where Stanley now hovers above everyone else. He then decapitates Kincaid and his coach. His classmates try to flee from the church only to be devoured by the boars. In the catacombs, the lead bully, Bubba, tries to escape only to have the caretaker come back to life and kills him by ripping off his heart. The church burns to the ground.
The epilogue text states that Stanley survived the attack, but after witnessing the fiery death of his classmates, he went catatonic from shock and was sentenced to Sunnydale Asylum where he remains. Stanley’s true fate is revealed, as his face appears on the computer screen in the cellar with the words “By the four beasts before the throne. By the fire which is about the throne. By the most holy and glorious name, Satan. I, Stanley Coopersmith will return. I WILL RETURN!”.
Evilspeak began life as The Foundling, a Horror script written by Joseph Garofalo (later executive producer on Flesh Gordon and the Cosmic Cheerleaders) that found its way to former actor Eric Weston. The Long Island native had just produced a pair of comedies for actor Tim Conway The Billion Dollar Hobo (1977) and They Went That-A-Way & That-A-Way (1978), and was in the market for new properties when he found Garofalo’s screenplay. “I wasn’t looking for any genre,” recalls Weston, “just something that interested me. Joe’s script was great, but it needed a little work.” Weston’s rewrites with Garofalo streamlined the dialogue and structure, but more importantly, put a modem spin on the traditional satanic-bargain plot device. “In Joe’s script, Stanley conjured the deil with a book, but I wanted to make a movie that was more state-of-the-art for the time,” says Weston. “I was becoming interested in computers, and I thought that Stanley could take the black arts and process them into a computer to conjure Satan.” The premise, while offbeat, wasn’t entirely fanciful; keep in mind that in 1982, computers were not the familiar household items that they are today.
“The computer revolution hadn’t begun yet,” explains Weston. “No one really knew how to use one. We had to take a crash course on the set. I believe we used one of the original Apples, and it was still pretty much DOS.” Even the relatively primitive “graphics” that appear on Stanley’s computer as it translates Esteban’s diary had to be created via simple animation that was later burned onto the monitor.
Weston also understood that his plot twist not only distanced Evilspeak from other devil-themed movies, but also gave the film a hint of tongue-n-cheek humor that he saw as essential for its mass appeal. “The intent with Evilspeak was not to denigrate the genre, but to have fun with it, and the computer was an attempt to do that,” he says. “We didn’t want a heavy reality, because it would get too dark and serious, and I didn’t want to turn everyone off, especially when it started to get violent.” It also helped provide him with a new title: “We combined the computer with the incantations Evil-Speak.
With completed script in hand and himself attached as director, Weston set out to find investors for the project, which he had budgeted at just over $1 million. He found half of it through a business manager for a group of doctors: “They were making so much and had no idea where to put their money. I told him to talk to them about the movie, and strangely enough, they were willing to come up with half.”
The remaining funds came from an equally unexpected source. “I had a Mend at one of the studios who was doing a film , and he asked me to come in and read for a small pent,” says Weston. “At the time, I wasn’t acting, but I went in and read on a whim. As I was leaving, there was a young woman there, Kathryn Petty she was an actress, but was interested in production. We started chatting, and I told her what I was doing. She wanted to read the script, and I gave her a copy that I had in my car I always carry my scripts in my car.
“This was on a Thursday. On Friday, she called to say she knew someone who might be able to come up with the rest of the money, and on Saturday, Sylvio Tabet called and said he wanted to make the movie.” Tabet, whose credits include Fade to Black, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Tusk, David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers and the Beastmaster series, gave Weston the green light. Two weeks later, pre-production began.
First on the list of production hurdles were the film’s locations. Weston’s vision for the military academy required that the building look “like it had been built 200 years ago” in order to justify the presence of Esteban’s journal and crucifix-shaped tomb in the chapel basement. After some scouting, a mission in Santa Barbara was chosen to serve as the academy’s grounds and chapel. “It was in disrepair,” recalls Weston. “So we talked to the monk who ran it and told him about the script. Strangely enough, he didn’t have a problem with it. He said, ‘Go ahead it’s only make-believe!’ We paid him some money not a lot, but enough to help him with the day-to-day expenses.”
The film’s budget also allowed for Weston and crew to build an appropriately creepy set for the chapel basement, where Stanley finds Esteban’s journal and later conducts his Black Mass. “That $1.2 million was a pretty decent amount of money back then, but it still wasn’t a lot,” Weston notes. “I wanted to maintain a certain production value, but we didn’t have the luxury of going into soundstages, so we found a warehouse in Chatsworth [in the San Fernando Valley] and built our set there. One problem remained, though where to set the film’s fiery conclusion, in which Stanley bums down the academy chapel in an explosion of Satanic fury. Explains Weston, “We couldn’t build a church and have it look right, and I said, ‘What church is going to let us do the things we need to do in it?’ ” Once again. Petty came to the rescue. “Somehow she found a church in South Central LA that had been condemned for freeway construction. It was boarded up and in a very bad, gang-infested area. I said, ‘Are you nuts?’ But the California Transit Authority board gave us permission to go in.”
The last location issue involved the film’s prologue, set in the 18th century, which establishes Esteban’s evil doings and his vow to wreak vengeance. The script called for a Black Mass, conquistadors in full costume and a human sacrifice, all on a rolling, windswept beach. Weston recalls this scene as the toughest of the entire feature, primarily because it had to be shot in a single day.
“Getting permission to shoot on a beach was very difficult,” says Weston. “We filmed in Malibu on the only beach we could, and they only gave us a small portion of it to work on.” The shoot was so frenzied that the on-camera decapitation that ends the scene had to be shot elsewhere with the beach in deep focus. “We staged the effect right on top of a grip truck,” recalls makeup FX creator Allan Apone with a laugh. “It was crazy.”
With the funding and locations in place, assembling the cast became the next task. Casting director Karen Rea found Howard through auditions. “Interestingly enough, they had already decided on another actor for Stanley, but when they saw me, they thought I would be a really good fit,” Howard reveals. With an astonishing two decades of credits as a juvenile actor to his name prior to Evilspeak, the then-22-year-old Howard brought considerable professional experience to the role, as ‘well as a degree of Stanley’s insecurity.
“I knew my character well,” he explains. “Like a lot of young guys, I had the underdog thing, at least in my head people may have looked at me as a 18, 19, 20- year-old guy and thought that I had my crap together; but the fact was that I had an extreme number of insecurities, and I brought those to the table to play Stanley.”
What bolstered Howard’s confidence was the bond he formed with Weston and cinematographer Irv Goodnoff. “Eric and Irv realized right away how much experience and insist I had, and they included me in the creative team,” Howard says. “It made me feel really good and involved. We did rewrites of scenes together, worked out some shots and even some effects. I had a blast.”
The majority of the supporting cast Don Stark as Stanley’s sadistic nemesis Bubba, Claude Earl Jones as his soccer coach, Richard Moll as Father Estaban, Haywood Nelson as Stanley’s sole friend Kowalski, Hamilton Camp as Hauptman and Lenny Montana as Jake, a kindhearted cook. To play the decidedly unkindly Reverend Jameson, Weston called in his friend Joseph Cortese.
“I knew Eric from when we were both struggling actors,” recalls Cortese. “It ‘as an interesting role. A lot of people in meson’s position are looked upon as holier-than-thou, but as we’ve seen in the Catholic Church, that’s not true. I saw the character as being lecherous, not by-the-book and there was a little humor in there too. Eric was very supportive, so I stuck with it”
Rounding out the cast were two veteran character actors Western regular R.G. Armstrong as the bullying janitor Sarge and Charles Tyner from The Longest Yard as the academy commander. Colonel Kincaid. Their past credits and years of experience impressed everyone who worked with them. “I had a wonderful time with R.G. Armstrong,” says Howard. His character was kind of what I do now the crusty guy in the movie. And he’s got what is still one of my favorite lines in the film ‘There’s my f’kin’ crowbar!’ There are lines that, once spoken by an actor; are repeated by all crew members and that was it ‘There’s the f**kin’ craft services table!’ ” Weston echoes Howard’s sentiment about these two acting legends. “They always play bad guys, you expect the worst from them, but they were sweethearts,” the director says. You forget that they’re actors because they’re so convincing.”
Evilspeak’s approximately 22 days of filming were divided evenly between the Santa Barbara and Chatsworth locations, an additional week devoted to the church finale in downtown LA. All parties, however, recall the shoot as being typically hectic for a low-budget production, I but the camaraderie between cast and crew and Weston’s guidance helped to smooth over any rough spots. “It was a very quick, intense shoot, with 18-hour days,” says Cortese. “It was rushed, but Eric Weston is a good director he’s I underrated, to be honest.”
“It was a lot of shooting, but I had a blast,” says Stark. “I really liked the people who worked on it and have remained friends with a lot of them, like Lorne Lester, Claude Earl Jones and Allan Apone. We became friends afterward. It was one of those film s where I ended up seeing a lot of the people who were involved with it for many years afterward.” Though the majority of cast and crew I were chummy offscreen, two actors deliberately kept each other at arms’ length.
“Don came up to me right away and said, ‘We’re not going to socialize. I’m not going to be your buddy,’ ’’ Howard recalls. “He did a really wise thing. Stanley and Bubba have a classic bully relationship, so we kept our distance. It never got physical or serious, but there was a coldness while we were shooting. But toward the end of the film, there was a hug and an understanding and a thank you.”
BEHIND THE SCENES/Interview with Director Eric Weston
Where was the title EVILSPEAK derived from?
ERIC WESTON: When I first read the script written by Joe Garofalo, it was called THE FOUNDLING. The narrative was about bullying, its effects on Coopersmith and his ultimate revenge. He conjures the devil and creates an unholy alliance, but to do that, he must use ancient chants and prayers dedicated to summoning demons, especially the devil. He does this when he finds the monk’s [Esteban] black magic and satanic how-to book. He speaks to the demons and the devil, and spouts the secrets of evil divination . . . EVILSPEAK.
Didn’t Clint Howard’s father talk him into the role of Coopersmith after he was initially gun-shy about the part?
ERIC WESTON: As I recall, Rance gave Clint his fatherly advice. As the true professional he is, Clint felt that the role of Coopersmith would break him away from the children’s roles that he had been playing, and he could step into the adult stage. It was a very demanding role both emotionally and physically, and Clint proved he was up to the task.
Anton LaVey, the late founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan, was a big fan of the film and considered it to be very “satanic.” Perhaps that’s because in the film, Old Scratch is not made out to be the bad guy.
ERIC WESTON: Antoy LaVey was an unexpected addition to the film’s fan base. I like your “Old Scratch” reference; I guess evil is in the eye of the beholder. Coopersmith has nowhere left to turn. Even the chaplain at the academy can’t and won’t come to his rescue. I never intended to give the devil a hero turn; he was just the opportunist when Coopersmith called. Evil has a way of doing that.
What are your thoughts on EVILSPEAK being categorized as a “video nasty” by the British Board of Film Classification during the 1980s?
ERIC WESTON: It was a curious thing when I first heard about it, that a law would be passed to ban my film. Considering it was just a movie, it was quite humorous. It was just fiction. Then, of course, there was the realization that there were financial implications of it being labeled that way. A whole market had been taken away, and that didn’t go over very well. The UK was the last place I expected that to happen. I had received an MPAA X rating here in the States, which, in some ways, was more understandable. And that was a crazy thing.
A number of versions of the film have been released on home video over the years. Just how much was trimmed from your original vision? Will we ever see a true director’s cut?
ERIC WESTON: True enough more cuts than a deli meat counter. It started with the MPAA demanding edits, then TV and syndication edits happened. The domestic distributor considered the running time too long, and a number of worldwide distributors wanted their requirements fulfilled time and content. After a while, you lose control, even if you never had any. Most filmmakers can understand that. I don’t think there will ever be a “true” director’s cut. But we are as close as we’ll ever be.
What problems arose with the infamous decapitation scene?
ERIC WESTON: Yes, the young girl. It was meant as a transitional moment to take us into the present time. We were at the beach, and we had only one day to shoot the opening; that’s all the permit allowed. That included Esteban’s arrival with his followers and the girl’s sacrifice on the shores of the New World. The call time was before daybreak; I wanted every second of daylight I could get. By the time we got to that scene, the sun was diving into the west. It was a complicated setup involving makeup FX and a mechanical body double. Then there was the issue of the actress’ safety. It was a very large sword being swung near her head. The FX shot didn’t work as well as expected. We had a very dedicated and talented team, but that doesn’t always guarantee 100 percent success.
There’s a classic story about the condemned church in South Central Los Angeles that underwent refurbishment for EVILSPEAK. Can you share the details of that?
ERIC WESTON: I wanted to reach as high as I could with production values. I didn’t just want four walls, a cross and a few pews to represent the chapel. It was a challenge with our budget. The person up to that challenge was Kathy Petty, our production coordinator. She went scouting with a vengeance, even though it wasn’t her job. She had a great commitment to the film. Lo and behold, she traveled onto what is now the Howard Hughes Parkway. The city was preparing to build it, and a long strip of homes and businesses were being demolished, including a church. She found that, and it was basically a crackhouse in the middle of a very dangerous area. How she got in and out alive is still a wonder to me, but Kathy was fearless. The city gave us unfettered use; they didn’t care what we did. And, boy, did we do stuff! Our art department redressed it, and it looked great. The marble floors were still intact, and they brought in pews and statuary, and built a raised pulpit with a life-size Jesus on the cross above it. The altar had a 30-foot cross dominating it. Stained glass replaced the blown-out windows. It was an incredible feat for a small-budget film! Word got around the neighborhood, and one day the church’s previous minister dropped in, saw what we had done, dropped to his knees and with clasped hands declared, “Praise the Lord, my church is back!”
The next day, we dug a tunnel under the altar where the devil’s pigs appear and Coopersmith floats up behind them. There was a large explosion that followed and sent a 40-foot fireball into the ceiling. It rolled toward the cameras, and we had to abandon them and flee. They kept rolling and captured the action. Jesus on the cross and the pulpit were burned to ashes. Pews were burned, statuary was smashed and the stained glass windows exploded. I felt bad for the minister; he never knew what our intentions were. I didn’t have the heart to tell him.
What was the budget on EVILSPEAK, and just how well did it do at the box office?
ERIC WESTON: The budget was a shade under $1 million. We did very well; we were #1 at the box office when we opened, and we sold well on the foreign market. The VHS sales and rentals were spectacular. Worldwide, the film did over $10 million, and this was before DVD or cable. And a movie ticket in the U.S. was $2 back in ’81. Years later, it was released on DVD, then Blu-ray. It keeps rolling along!
I have read reviews that claim EVILSPEAK is a “gender ripoff of CARRIE.” For a debut flick, you knocked it out of the park.
ERIC WESTON: Thank you for that! Yes, it’s a gender spin. But Clint created a memorable character. Teenage misfits have been a staple of horror film s since Sissy Spacek torched a high school gymnasium in Carrie, and Evilspeak’ s maligned Stanley Coopersmith (Howard) shares more than a passing similarity to Carrie White. Like Stephen King’s heroine, Stanley is a shy, awkward outsider adrift among the social cliques at his school, but the stakes are set higher in Stanley’s case recently orphaned after the deaths of his parents and sent to live at a military academy, Stanley suffers constant abuse at the hands of not only his fellow students, but from teachers, coaches and
With all the technological advances over the last few decades, right now would be an opportune time to reboot EVILSPEAK. Have you thought about remaking it?
ERIC WESTON: Listen, I am still around and keeping up with the latest and greatest. In 1981, it was “do it practical” on set, and we did. I have relationships with some very talented filmmakers. Things could be done today to enhance the narrative and production of EVILSPEAK that we couldn’t even imagine back then. I have written a script that works very well for that. There’s a young, talented director, John Lechago, whom I would like to see direct the film. He would do a spectacular job! We are just completing a film he directed called FEAST OF FEAR, and I know what he can do. As a practical matter, it would make sense financially, given the number of fans who want to see a remake and the new ones it would attract.
On the Set
By far, the film’s Everest was its final scene, which pushed cast and crew to the limits of their abilities and endurance. “It was one of the toughest days I’ve ever had on a movie,” says Weston. “Nobody slept.” Howard, who spent the entirety of the scene hanging from wires as his character slays his adversaries with a massive sword, says that the demise of Tyner’s character proved to be something of a struggle.
“In the shot. I’m supposed to roll up to him and whack him on the head. We did it the old-fashioned way I was stationary on a rolling board, and without a tremendous amount of leverage. So on the first take, I wheeled up, swung the sword down and it bounced off the skull! I took some serious ribbing!” Apone explains the problem: “We used a gelatin head, and it was too solid. What we eventually did was pre-score the head and patch it, and then took the head off with a monofilament.”
For Weston and crew, the scene nearly proved a finale for their lives as well. “We planned an explosion at the altar for when the pigs come out, and we had a really good effects guy, Harry Woolman [a veteran of many exploitation shoots]. I wanted a fireball, because they always look great. So the cameras were in the choir balcony, and when the explosion went off, the fireball hit the ceiling and rolled straight at us. We all evacuated the cameras kept rolling, though.”
One of Evilspeak’ s most startling FX moments appears just prior to the inferno. when Reverend Jameson’s rallying sermon is cut short by drops of blood that spill from a huge crucifix above the altar. As the assembled watch in horror, one of the nails in Christ’s wounds slowly worms out of His hand and flies across the chapel, impaling Jameson in the forehead. “That was one of my favorite effects,” Apone recalls. “We had designed that as an in-camera effect where we utilized a swish pan. The spike comes out, the camera whip-pans to Joe and in the next cut, the squib goes off like he’s been hit, but the spike was already there. It looked flawless.” Cortese agrees: “It was major quality. I’ve been squibbed before, but that was one of the more interesting occasions.”
Real Pigs & Animatronic Pig Heads
But the production was still a challenging one, and not only due to time and budget restraints. Weston and crew had to deal with the herd of enormous pigs (including several sharp-tusked Russian boars) that Stanley calls upon to dole out his revenge; in one scene, they break free from their pen at the academy and devour alive the Colonel’s secretary (who has stolen Esteban’s journal from Stanley). They later return for the film’s conclusion to tear apart Bubba and his cronies. The inclusion of the pigs was Weston’s idea. “I guess that pigs have always been thought of as minions of the devil,” he notes; pigs have been mentioned as witches’ familiars, and there’s also the herd of swine into which Jesus drives a swarm of demons in the New Testament, Mark 5:1- 20. “So I said, ‘Let’s use them’ which is nice, but I didn’t realize what I was get-ting into. These were big pigs they weren’t Arnold from Green Acres. They weighed 500 pounds, and were in a state of panic. They could have been dangerous.”
Three pig wranglers were utilized to keep the colossal porkers calm while they were on screen, but they still managed to find trouble, especially in the finale. “We had to be careful, because if they caught fire, they just stood there and fried,” says Weston. “We used rubber cement to create little areas of fire, and one pig rubbed against the cement and it stuck to it and burned. It didn’t hurt the pig, because they have very thick skin, but we had to watch it.” Stark recalls a different relationship with his porcine co-stars. “They’re a lot faster than they look,” he laughs. “So when they go, you go faster.”
In the scene where the pigs devour the colonel’s assistant, Apone and his Makeup & Effects Labs team, including Douglas White and Frank Carrisosa , created a full gelatin body of actress Lynn Hancock that could be devoured by the animals. “We filled it with crushed apples, which is what the trainer said they would eat,” explains Apone, “and a modified blood mixture of Karo syrup and food coloring that was edible.”
For the finale, in which the pigs break through walls to pursue Bubba and his pals, Apone and co. crafted animatronic pig heads. “That was a lot of work, “Apone notes. “We built all that stuff in the shop, and it was crazy, because we were still making stuff while they were shooting the film. We didn’t have a lot of prep time I believe we had four weeks.”
Release/Conclusion & “Video Nasty”
Though they faced their daily struggles with good humor during the making of the film, the problems encountered after completion proved sobering to Weston and crew. “We got an X rating for two scenes when the secretary gets eaten by the pigs, and the other when R.G. pulls the heart out of Don’s chest,” says Weston, referring to Stark’s gruesome demise. “Interestingly, Spielberg did the same thing a few years later in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but he got a PG. Such is the power of the studio!”
The editing that followed the MPAA’s decision is a matter that all parties refer to obliquely, partly out of professional deference, and partly out of letting bygones be bygones. But in the end, Tabet supervised the final cut, and much of the film’s considerable gore was trimmed to earn an R rating. Reportedly, 11 minutes of footage was excised, including graphic close-ups of the pigs consuming Stanley’s tormentors, as well as several expositional scenes. “I don’t have a problem with that it was his money,” explains Weston. “What I miss is the humor that was removed. By taking that out, it emphasized the violence, and there was no balance. But overall the job got done.” Other principals echo Weston’s assessment. “I wish they had let Eric deliver his cut of the film,” says Howard. “I saw his version and thought it was really good. I felt that the film slipped a notch from mid-editing process to completion. But I’m not gravely disappointed in Evilspeak in any way.”
For Apone and the rest of the of MEL staff, which had scored its initial professional job as a production entity with the film , the end result had two distinct sides. “It was definitely disappointing, but it was also exciting because it was our first picture,” says Apone. “We got a lot of kudos for the work we did.”
Tabet’s decision to release the film through an independent distributor also confused some on the creative staff. “Warner Bros, wanted to distribute it [and did in some foreign territories],” recalls Weston. “But he wanted to go through Moreno Films, which he was working with. I didn’t agree with that between Warner Bros, and an independent, it was a no-brainer.” But despite this setback, Evilspeak opened in late February 1982 and easily bested its competition, including another military academy thriller, Taps, and Warren Beatty’s Reds, in some areas.
“It did $400,000 in 24 theaters in LA,” says Weston, referring to industry trade clippings from the period. “And that was with a $2 ticket. Today, with a $10 ticket, it would have made $2 million, which is not bad for an opening week in one town.” In the UK, however, the film’s graphic violence landed it on the notorious “Video Nasties” list.
What’s interesting to note is that despite Evilspeak’s Stateside box-office success, the sequel suggested by the film’s final on-screen crawl (a scene reportedly shot by Tabet, which intimates that Stanley, though locked up in an asylum, will return), no follow-up ever came to fruition. “Everybody went their separate ways Sylvio went on to do Beastmaster, Clint went off with his career and the idea of a sequel just went away,” says Weston. He recalls being offered other horror films after Evilspeak, but his own restless interests took him elsewhere.
For Apone and his crew, the film led to a slew of horror and fantasy vehicles for their work. “I believe we got The Sword and the Sorcerer as a result of that,” he says. “Eric Weston recommended us to a lot of people.” Their best-known genre credit is probably the 3-D gore in Friday the 13th Part III.
“It’s cool that there’s an audience for it,” says Howard. “I know that Evilspeak is a good picture. I’ve made it look really good, it was a strong role, it had some fine character moments, it rolled along it’s a pretty solid picture.” Weston, who has gone on to produce and direct a slew of independent features and TV, is excited by the film’s arrival on disc.
“It makes me remember what we went through while making the film, and the relationships that were created,” he says. “Overall, I’m pleased that Evilspeak is coming out and that we had some effect on audiences with it.” It seems that Stanley has made good on his promise to return after all…
Clint Howard as Stanley Coopersmith
R. G. Armstrong as Sarge
Joseph Cortese as Reverend Jameson
Claude Earl Jones as Coach
Haywood Nelson as Kowalski
Don Stark as Bubba
Charles Tyner as Colonel Kincaid
Hamilton Camp as Hauptman
Louie Gravance as Jo Jo
Jim Greenleaf as Ox
Lynn Hancock as Miss Friedemeyer
Lenny Montana as Jake
Richard Moll as Father Estaban