Kiss Of Death Productions
Kiss Of Death Productions is A film/video production company that was formed in 1979, previously known as Odyssey Films to produce movies in the spicy horror genre in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.
Interview by Mario Dominick for the book "Exploring The Underground:The Mainstream Viewer's Guide To Low Budget Horror Cinema
Mario Dominick: When did you two decide to form Kiss of Death Productions?
DAVID: The mid-nineteen-nineties is the area of time we formed Kiss of Death Productions together. Diana and I met in 1986 and immediately we formed a screenwriting team. We started to write short scripts at her mother's kitchen table, on Diana's old electric typewriter. At that time I was a community producer for the Pittsburgh Public Access Cable station, channel 21, where I had been broadcasting my early super-eight sound films. Diana was going to college for journalism and communications at Point Park College.
DIANA: We filmed one of our first short scripts, THE CARNAGE OF PIG ALLEY, so we could show it on Channel 21 on Halloween night. Later on I heard from people I didn't even know that they watched it. Some even recognized me on the streets because of it! That was funny! We made THE CARNAGE OF PIG ALLEY like an old fashioned silent horror movie, only in color. There was no dialogue. I played a "lady of the streets" who encounters an old witch, is terrorized by an ugly cannibalistic hunchback, handled by a Frankenstein/zombie, encounters a handsome stranger who becomes a Wolf Man, and I even had live tarantulas crawling on me! They were not from a pet store, they were caught in the wild by a friend who wrangled them. Oh, yes! I was poisoned by them! They left their little sticky residue behind on me and I was itchy and burning for days!! The 12 minute movie is a weird concoction of bizarre imagery and canned music with creepy sound effects.
DAVID: By the time the nineties hit, we were good working together and had the same vision. We decided to try our hand at making a feature-length movie. We wrote a script and assembled a cast from college drama departments and we filmed SUMMER SNOW in 1990 which went 80 minutes and it was the first movie made by independents to be shown on PCTV-21. We then received a local grant to film UNCLE WOLF, an Italian fairytale, for the station to broadcast. That was followed by a second feature project, a martial arts thriller, called BLACK RAVEN. That featured a local martial arts expert named Bill C. Kelley who had won many championships. We then had another grant to film THE TRICKSTER CAT, a variation of the "Puss N Boots" story with Diana playing "Puss." It was a sexier telling of the tale. In the meantime, between features and grant projects, we filmed a whole slew of short films; some for other producers. Titles that come to mind are THE HEADSTRONG NEWSPAPER WOMAN starring Diana in the wild west; THE LONELY SCHOOL LIBRARIAN, THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE PULP AUTHORESS, and A SALEM WITCH HANGING. That's just a handful. Together Diana and I became Kiss of Death Productions and we never stopped since.
MD: The pulp magazines of the 1940s and 1950s have been a big influence on KODP films. Which ones in particular would you say have had the biggest impact on the both of you?
DAVID: The ones known as the shudder pulps were the most exciting and the sexiest. They were the Grand Guignol of the pulp magazines. The best was "Terror Tales" and "Horror Stories" and back in the 1970's I owned at least 30 of them thanks to my grandmother who gave them to me to read. What possessed her to do that when I was so young I have no idea, but I was glad she did. Otherwise I would've never known that entertainment like that even existed. The stories in those pulps threw all taboos out the window and the artwork was amazing. Comic books didn't hold much interest for me after experiencing the freaks, fiends, and mad doctors who made off with the damsels in distress.
DIANA: The titles of the stories were definitely designed to grab your soul. They were strange and twisted and made you want to read them. Some of them were things like School Mistress of the Mad, The Monster Must Eat, Scourge of the Faceless Men, Lovely Daughters of Madness and Mates for the Morgue-Master.
DAVID: Those crazy titles grabbed me, too. So much so that the one title stayed with me for nearly 20 years after I first encountered it. One of those magazines of "Horror Stories" I had from my grandmother, and I don't have any of those pulps any longer, was the Oct./Nov. 1939 issue and it featured a story by Francis James called Meat for Satan's Icebox. That title held a special interest and fascination for me all those years ago, and even at the time I had no idea I would have a craving to make movies I wanted to make that title into something that I could be part of.
MD: What horror movies do you consider to be your biggest influences?
DAVID: When I was 10, my mother took my brother and I to see the movie HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. It had a good deal of blood and gore in it for being based on a daytime soap-opera! Bela Lugosi's DRACULA(1931) was a big influence. I would watch it every time it was on "Chiller Theater" and I audio taped it just to listen to it again and again. In grade school I wanted to put on a stage version of DRACULA using friends as actors, but it never really got off the ground.
DIANA: I love MARK OF THE DEVIL! I love THE WOLF MAN! There's a lot of suffering in both of those films. I love conflicted and tragic characters. One of the saddest things in MARK OF THE DEVIL is how much faith Christian puts in Lord Cumberland. He sees him as a good and honest man, worth following and emulating; then everything he thought was real is shattered when he realizes Cumberland's just as evil as what they're fighting against. On a side note, you'll never believe this, but my all time favorite movies are the beach movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. I love the quirky humor, the dance scenes and the random breaking out in song. I would love to do a musical comedy some time in the future like those American-International classics. They were so cool!
MD: Who originally came up with the idea for the Nocturnal Web Series and what type of storylines do the webisodes center around?
DAVID: For years, Baywood Films producer, Joseph J. Bondi, has been after me about doing a web series and I was reluctant because I really didn't understand at the time what exactly a web series was supposed to be. Then in the fall of 2006 Joseph cornered me at a coffee shop and explained it in such a way that I would get fired up about the idea of actually creating one. The first thing we both thought of as an influence was DARK SHADOWS. I looked at a web series as a 21st century soap opera so we said we'd go for a concept similar to DARK SHADOWS with vampires and other supernatural things. I thought of calling it simply NOCTURNAL and then I quickly wrote some scripts and plotted out the storyline to develop the rest of the scripts. The great thing about a web series is that you can change the plot as you go along just like DARK SHADOWS. Sometimes actors aren't available so you just write them out until you can get them back and you write in other characters or write in new ones. It can get complicated as well as increase your chances at acquiring a small brain tumor sometimes. The plot begins with the introduction of a vampire named Von Der Linn (Michael M. Burkett) who poses as a hypnotist to cure people of bad habits. These people become his victims and don't know they're paying him with their own blood. Von Der Linn becomes entangled with members of the wealthy Hawthorne family who practice witchcraft and black magic. The head of the family, Jebediah Hawthorne (Tom Leturgey), seeks the power of a Crystal Heart that he believes will give him ultimate control over whomever he wishes. Of course, he must be stopped at all costs! As webisodes evolve there are many other fun characters introduced into the mix.
MD: When did you two first start production on Meat for Satan’s Icebox?
DIANA: We were writing the script in 1999. We wanted to test the waters for a cannibal-themed movie before we started and so we filmed a 20 minute version first called "Welcome to the Slaughterhouse" which had a somewhat different script, but using some of the same characters. We tried out different actors, too, to see who would work out best in what part. We completed the script for MEAT FOR SATAN'S ICEBOX in the spring of 2001 and began filming on September 9, 2001. We tried to film as many times a month that schedules and weather allowed. All in all, it took 32 days to shoot, ending on September 7, 2002 with Lloyd Kaufman's scene. We were really lucky to get an actress like Crystalann to do the starring role; she was very dedicated. If it weren't for her, the movie would've taken longer and would've easily fallen apart. In the beginning before we met Crystalann, David and I considered the idea of breaking the script, the storyline, in half and using two actresses just in case one actress couldn't pull through the entire length of the project. In other words, we were thinking of doing a Hitchcock stunt like in PSYCHO where Janet Leigh's character dies in the middle of the movie and her "sister" takes over the rest of the story. We took a chance with Crystalann for the entire shoot and she was simply marvellous! Some of our other actors were sort of veterans from our previous productions. Al Torcaso, who played Sheriff Hogg and his twin sister Mrs. Hogg, acted in many other roles for us.
DAVID: He was a vampire, an ogre, an executioner, a detective. He's an actor of many characters. In NOCTURNAL Al plays the mystic-man Cristillo.
MD: When you started filming the movie, was there a consensus that you would be making a campy gore film and one that you would be serious about submitting to distributors?
DIANA: We wanted to make a film that pleased us first. We knew that we wanted to try to have it distributed in some way or another after it was done. If we had to do it ourselves, we were willing to tackle that problem somehow. We did talk about the idea of Troma as a distributor from the very beginning. We used the Troma dream as a goal to achieve when the time came when the movie was ready. It made us and the whole cast enthusiastic throughout the duration of the shooting schedule. We were glad the opportunity to meet Lloyd presented itself at the right time and we didn't have to go out of our way to chase after it.
DAVID: During the entire process of making the film we were aware of our limitations with equipment, locations, effects, and even the experience of the actors so we did realize that it would come across as somewhat campy, but we decided to keep the tone of the whole thing serious. I didn't want to try to make it comical because I don't think in terms of "funny" and I figure that funny just happens in real life, so any humor would be in the eye of the beholder. Actually, I think the whole movie is pretty funny in a very dark sort of way. As for gore, that was a given. It had to have a certain amount of gore for a distributor as well as nudity. There should have been more of both. Sex, blood and violence are big selling tools and I don't mind using them all. The movie is also a catalogue of fetishes. I like that because those are the forbidden fruits of low budget film making. A fetish gives your movie a zesty twist.
MD: When did Lloyd Kaufman and Troma express interest in distributing the picture? Were they your ideal distributor from the beginning?
DIANA: In April, 2002 we were going to meet Lloyd at the first Pittsburgh Troma Fest at a video store run by Bruce Lentz called Incredibly Strange Video. We made several test trailers for MEAT FOR SATAN'S ICEBOX just for that occasion. Bruce let us play the tape while Lloyd signed autographs and everyone was watching the trailers and getting excited about them. Lloyd took notice and later asked if we had a distributor in mind. I said we didn't and he said when the movie is finished, we'll talk. During that summer actor Daniel W. Baxter volunteered his time to Troma at another convention in another state and when he spoke to Lloyd, Lloyd said to him that he'd like to act in MEAT FOR SATAN'S ICEBOX. When we found this out, we immediately wrote a scene and made arrangements to bring Lloyd back to Pittsburgh in September.
DAVID: We had Lloyd for a weekend. On the set, Lloyd was a great actor to work with. He didn't have any problems with his lines or anything. He just fit right into how we went about the shooting process. Everyone was so happy to be working with him. We actually have him in a scene for I, THE KILLER where he plays an undertaker at a funeral home who is prepping a nude female body played by actress/model Antietam. I would love to arrange to work with him again one day soon.
MD: When Troma released the film on DVD, they put it out as a double feature with the film Wiseguys vs. Zombies. I can imagine this probably split the profit among the filmmakers. Did you guys see any money from the release?
DIANA: The filmmakers don't really see any money for a while. Troma has to clear their expenses first. That's fine with us; we didn't do it for the money. A movie by us put out by Troma is a great calling card.
MD: You had worked with Pittsburgh actor and filmmaker Michael McGovern in Meat for Satan’s Icebox and he also starred in Fetish Dolls Die Laughing. When did you two first discover and meet up with Michael?
DAVID: Bruce Lentz asked us to go to one of Michael's plays to do a video interview with him for a local cable show we were doing called "The Schlock Shop" and we really enjoyed the play. We stayed in contact with him and went to more of his plays and thought he would be ideal to play a small role in MEAT FOR SATAN'S ICEBOX. Michael wrote the script for FETISH DOLLS DIE LAUGHING and asked us to produce it as our next film. The original title for the movie was THE TICKLE MONSTER. Then it was changed to DIE LAUGHING and we finally decided to add FETISH DOLLS to it. Right now the movie is being edited by David Dietz who is also an actor and a writer, producer, director in his own right.
MD: How did the idea for Fetish Dolls come about and is it at all comparable with Icebox?
DAVID: It was an original script written by Michael McGovern. I wanted to tackle it because I wanted to work with McGovern and I thought it would be quite an experience to direct from a script Diana and I did not write ourselves. It was challenging for me because it wasn't as personal as what I had been use to. This was a different animal when you are putting someone else's story in front of the camera and the writer himself is playing the lead! All through the shoot Michael was the best! I didn't know what to expect from him since he was a director, writer and actor of the stage and I had the most pleasant time working with him and directing him. There were virtually no clashes on the set between us.
DIANA: I think the differences between MEAT and FETISH is that they come from two distinctly unique writing styles and subject matters. FETISH also had more crew working on it than we ever had before.
MD: You had worked with actor Aaron Bernard on Fetish D olls who has also worked with Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best of Happy Cloud Pictures. Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys, another Happy Cloud regular, also had a part in the film. Did you meet them through Mike and Amy around the time you both shot your parts in Severe Injuries?
DIANA: Bernard sent us a resume for FETISH DOLLS and we had him do a screen-test, which we really liked. Stacy came to us through McGovern who knew her from his plays.
DAVID: Both actors were great to work with.
MD: When did you two meet up with actress Tiffany Apan who had been in Meat for Satan’s Icebox and Fetish Dolls as well as Slashers Gone Wild (which was shot in Ohio by Rob Avery)?
DIANA: Tiffany sent us a resume; we gave her a screen-test and we put her in the movie. She was later in one of McGovern's plays because he really liked her performance in MEAT. She did an outstanding job in FETISH DOLLS. She also is in I, THE KILLER playing a really wicked femme fatale. I think she did her best work in that.
MD: Bruce Lentz who used to run the store Incredibly Strange Video in Pittsburgh had a cameo in Fetish Dolls as a grandmother. How well did Bruce handle the part?
DIANA: He was creepy and the make-up Michael Burkett put on him made him even creepier. I would be scared if I had a grandmother like the way he played it. He came up with little ideas to make his character more interesting and he came up with a strange gravelly voice that works well.
MD: Your most recent film, I, The Killer, I understand is supposed to be done in film noir style. What do es the story center around and how does it compare with your other two films?
DAVID: It's about a respected doctor, played by Angelo Bruni, who is also a serial murderer. Because of who he represents in his community he is protected by the corrupt officials. He's allowed to do as he pleases and what pleases him. A young newspaper woman, played by Crystalann, confronts him about his Jekell/Hyde persona, wants to write his story, and he begins to train her as a student in murder. He's looking for someone to "share" his pleasures of death with. In the meantime a private detective, played by Daniel W. Baxter, tries to use the newspaper woman to bring the doctor to justice for more personal reasons than just the crimes he's presumed to have committed. It seems to me that all my films are about forbidden obsessions and the secret thrills that one gets from practicing them.
MD: Are you in the process of exploring distribution options for Fetish Dolls and Killer? Would you consider letting Troma distribute one of your films again or are you considering other companies like Brain Damage Films or Tempe just to name a few? Have you also considered the option of self-distribution?
DAVID: I think we'd like to try some new ground. We are so grateful to Troma for what they did for us. We will look into different options. But things always change as time goes on and you never can tell what you might do until you're ready to move on. When FETISH DOLLS DIE LAUGHING and I, THE KILLER are ready for release we could go with something new that just happens to come along at that intersection of time.
MD: Video-on-demand distribution has become very popular over the past few years and provides filmmakers with another venue to have their films shown while waiting for theatrical and DVD release. Will any of your new films be available on VOD?
DIANA: Well, that's an option to look into. Actually I've explored some companies that offer that to filmmakers. I don't know too much about video-on-demand right now, but I like the sound of it. It's obviously a good way to reach more viewers of your material and maybe get some feedback and comments. When FETISH DOLLS DIE LAUGHING and I, THE KILLER are ready for release, I can see them being available through VOD. I love DVDs and CDs, but it seems the way to go for the future of movies and music is instant gratification for viewers, especially young ones. The DVD and the CD will always be close to my heart.
MD: What other projects does KODP have in the works at the moment?
DAVID: We're still fleshing out a script for a sort of companion piece to MEAT FOR SATAN'S ICEBOX. It's not really a sequel in any way because it's not going to continue where the other movie left off at all. There will be no references to the first movie in any way. This one's called 13 CANNIBALS. It will have similar themes, but that's it's only connection to MEAT. As soon as we're ready we'll start production. That could very well be the summer of 2010. Also, I'm filming a new webseries called KNIGHTS IN DARK ARMOUR about a detective who has to clear himself from a murder charge and at the same time solve other cases as a livelihood. It'll star Daniel W. Baxter, Michael M. Burkett and Lenell Jones. We have several webisodes in the can already and hope to put them up on the web in October on a site at www.crimeerotica.com which will have info up really soon.
MD: Are there any low budget/B-movie actors you two hope to work with in the future?
DAVID: Barbara Steele is my first choice. She was great in the revival of DARK SHADOWS. I loved her all through her career. I think it would be really neat to work with Tom Savini.
DIANA: My aspirations are for Udo Kier, Reggie Nalder, Adam West, Bruce Campbell. I admire their work.
MD: Before we conclude, do you two have any words for the folks who have supported KODP and your films?
DIANA: We really appreciate the people who enjoy our films. I hope they continue to watch our films in the future especially when we get more out there whether on DVD or through the Internet. We're working hard to put product where it can be viewed.
DAVID: We can also appreciate those who don't necessarily like our brand of horror and humor because their feedback via critical reviews helps us to grow stronger in what we do. I really believe we are a part of a 21st century movement, and I know Lloyd would "back" me up on that for sure; we're the new mavericks. All of us underground filmmakers who struggle to do what we love to do. All of us in every city all over the country. We all work other jobs, but we will strive to make our art by any means possible until the day we die.
Couple flirts with bounds of taste
ERIC HEYL Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003
Diana and David Silvio have a hearty appetite for the macabre.
The Overbrook couple is the team behind Kiss of Death Productions, an independent film company that churns out ultra-low budget, locally produced horror and suspense videos. For the Silvios, it's a labor of love -- and of blood.
Unless you have caught the features that occasionally air on PCTV, the city's public-access cable television station, you probably are unfamiliar with the Silvio oeuvre. Using a stable of local actors, they have made such grisly offerings as "Curse of the Boneyard," "Mistress of Blood" and the memorably titled "The Incredible Atomic Melting Vampire."
The Silvios are fond of the dark side. Even their answering machine sounds sinister. "If you should hear a scream," an ominous voice intones after instructing you to leave a message, "it's just the fish being visited by the cats."
Yes, I know, fish don't scream. They're fish. Still, the effect is vaguely unsettling. If you don't believe me, give the Silvios a ring sometime.
When not pulling stakes out of vampiric hearts, David Silvio, 44, is a central processing supervisor for UPMC Presbyterian. Diana Silvio, 37, insists she is a typical homemaker -- "I'm a PTO, Cub Scout mom type of person, all the way" -- except for the occasions she is sliced or diced on camera.
"We're completely normal people most of the time," she said. "But sometimes, you know, the gremlins kind of creep up on us."
She writes and acts in most of the features. He is behind the camera, directing. They teamed up artistically 17 years ago and have been married for the past 12.
Their works are in the vein of the various pulp magazines of the 1940s and '50s, and Diana Silvio readily admits not everyone is a fan of the gory fare. "The people who see our stuff either go, 'That was great!' or they go, 'Well, uh...," she said.
After a-year-and-a half of effort, the Silvios are about to give area horror fans something they can really sink their teeth into. They just completed the full-length feature "Meat for Satan's Icebox" and hope that one day this could be the movie against which all future cannibalism pictures are measured.
"It's about a secret black market where the rich buy the meat of teenagers who keep disappearing -- kind of like a deli from Hell," Diana Silvio explained. Imagine the potential marketing tie-ins that might be available from some of the nation's leading mustard producers.
The movie is set in the fictional town of Satan Place, "where you either become one of 'them,' or they end up eating you," she said. "Sort of like working for a large corporation."
In some truly delicious timing, the movie is scheduled to premier at the South Side's Rex Theater on Nov. 28.
That happens to be the day after Thanksgiving. What better moment for the city's most ghoulish filmmakers to debut "Meat for Satan's Icebox" than a day most people spend raiding their own refrigerators for leftovers?