Roger Watkins, Upstate Filmmaker

It was an odd occurrence that I'd meet Roger Watkins, an underground hero in the world of horror film. We talked about life issues, he being thirty years older had plenty to say and only by chance did he mention he was a screenwriter. When I told him about how I was into this Italian horror movie, Suspiria by Dario Argento, he shared that when he went to Oneonta State he made a horror movie that is on DVD now. Since I have a good memory for obscure stuff I asked him more about it to see if I could recall having come across it. He described it and I asked him if it was the one with the guy wearing the huge Greek Socrates-looking mask, and he said that was it and he had played that character. It just so happens he had directed an underground, thought to be urban legend, pseudo-snuff film called Last House on Dead End Street, which was released as The Fun House in the 80's, and originally entitled The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell in the early 70's.

Watkins grew up in Binghamton, making films from when he was a kid until he graduated high school and went to college. He was asked to leave Cornell, went into filmmaking at Oneonta State, became good friends with one of his professors -and made this crazy film about a pornographer who gets his revenge on people who've ripped him off. The film was edited and dubbed by Watkins at just under three hours when it was stolen from him, only to re-appear in theatres in the late 70's at a butchered hour and ten minutes. Released on home video in the 80's as The Fun House, the legend of the film only grew, supposively showing real murders on film. The imagery is impressive, including strange brutal murders, sadistic sex, abandoned factories, and a cow disembowlement at a local slaughterhouse. Finally in the early 21st century Watkins managed to get his hands back on the film and released it on DVD with the shortened film and all sorts of features telling the 30 year story of the film. His original is still missing.

During the 30 year period Watkins had directed and written a number of films as Richard Mahler, mostly a mixture of interesting stories with bad porn, where he directed the non-sex scenes. He wrote, Spittoon, a comedy which he was proud of until it was likewise butchered by its producers. All during this period he dealt with drug addiction and mental illness, living periodically in upstate, England, and throughout the United States. Watkins had become friends with many famous folks like Christopher Lee and Francis Ford Coppola during his life.
-written by joe

Editors Note: Here is a link to Roger Michael Watkin's profile on the Intenet Movie Database. Here is a link to his masterpiece, which IMDB refers to as "The Last House On Dead End Street" (1977). Here's a quote from a comment on the page:

"This movie is like walking in on someone's nightmare. I can best describe it as a mixture of Clockwork Orange, Last House on the Left and Bloodsucking Freaks. Sounds weird? It is."
I think that's a compliment. Finally, here's a link to purchase the film.
-Posted by Jesse


Jose CheezBorough said...

Yo, I don't think you'd call the movie on DVD now a 'masterpiece' since his movie is still lost. The one on dvd is the butchered one that was stolen from him.

Jesse said...

Well, I haven't seen the film, though, hypothetically a partial film can still be a masterpiece. Isn't every movie we see in the theaters only a portion of what was originally filmed? That is not, of course, to play down the crime of stealing a man's art work and playing it off as your own in a bastardized form. So while it may not be his intended masterpiece, I don't think it necessarily eliminates it from that category.

Anonymous said...

Roger actually grew up in Apalachin, NY and attended high school at Owego Free Academy in Owego. Roger died this week. Here is his obit as it appeared in the Binghamton Press.
Roger M. Watkins, 58, of Apalachin, passed away Tuesday evening, March 6, 2007, at his home. He was predeceased by his mother, Elizabeth. He is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth, New York City, and Jennifer, Nyack, N.Y.; his father, Leland, New York State Veterans Home, Oxford, N.Y.; two sisters and brothers-in-law, Donna and Doug Worden, Newark Valley, Nancy and Charles Kidd, St. Cloud, Fla.; special aunt, Honora Maloney; several nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be held Friday at 1:00 p.m. from the Coleman & Daniels Funeral Home, Inc., St. Rte. 434, Apalachin. The Rev. William Coffas, Parochial Vicar at Blessed Trinity Parish, St. Patrick's Church, Owego, will officiate. The family will receive friends at the funeral home Friday from 11:00 a.m. until service time at 1:00 p.m.

Anonymous said...

Roger Watkins memorial service was today, 3/9/07 in Appalachian, NY, right next door to Binghamton.