Legendary horror/sci-fi producer/director Charles Band’s Full Moon Features, now on Night Flight +

By on May 19, 2016

You might not recognize his name, but Charles Band — the legendary and prolific producer/director of over 300 horror, sci-fi and fantasy features and founder of Full Moon Features — has certainly made a name for himself for several decades now by running successful independent film companies that operated outside of Hollywood’s restrictive studio system. Watch some of his more recent Full Moon films now on Night Flight Plus.

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Band grew up in Italy in the 60s and 70s, spending time with his father Albert Band on movie sets, where the elder Band was writing scripts and even directing b-movies like 1978’s Dracula’s Dog, aka Zoltan, Hound of Dracula.

Band’s earliest interests actually led him towards the Italian art films being directed by Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, but he was an avid reader too, and spent much of his free time as a teenager reading Marvel comics, as well as read fantasy, horror and sci-fi pulp paperbacks. The combination of all of these elements provided him with a direction for the types of genre movies he wanted to make.

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Band was 21 years old when he directed his first feature in 1976, The Eyes of Dr Chaney, re-titled Mansion of the Doomed by its US distributor, The Terror of Dr Chaney by his UK distributor, and released in the UK as a VHS rental bearing the title Massacre Mansion. The film starred a couple of well-known Hollywood actors, Richard Basehart and Gloria Grahame, and also gave us Lance Henriksen’s first on-screen appearance (his eye-gouge make-up was applied by a young Stanley Winston, and the film’s editor was Band’s friend John Carpenter).

Band learned early on how to work quickly, with minuscule film budgets, in order to have a finished product to promote and distribute within just a few months. He also relied on cheap SFX (miniatures and models, rear projection) when CGI was already the industry standard, but today many of his films have a charming “movie magic” quality that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

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By the late 1970s, Band was already making his best-loved films, many with small living creatures or inanimate objects that came with the will to kill. Many of them were also largely memorable for being the earliest film appearances of up-and-coming actors and actresses. Demi Moore, for instance, appeared in his 1982 3-D film Parasite, just a few years after she’d posed — nude, and secretly underage — for Oui magazine. 1984’s Trancers, arguably one of his best films, starred a young unknown Helen Hunt. It spawned five sequels.

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He segued more a into producing, churning out film after film (under the banner of Charles Band International Productions) and that company’s output became so prolific that most of his features were barely or rarely even seen in theaters. This was years before there was a profitable DTV (direct-to-video) marketplace set up for low-budget filmmakers like Band.

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In 1983, unhappy with his film’s continual poor distribution, Band formed a new film company, Empire Pictures, and began shooting overseas after acquiring a film studio in Rome. They also distributed titles Band picked up from other filmmakers and small studios.

Empire lasted just five years (before the lira collapsed and Band was forced to sell the company in 1989), but this would be the most profitable and memorable period in his massive filmography, producing something like 65 titles.

Many of them — including Ghoulies (1984), The Dungeonmaster (1984), Re-Animator (1985),  From Beyond (1986), Troll (1986), and Creepozoids (1987) — are among the most beloved 80s horror and sci-fi films.

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After Empire collapsed, he focused on a new company, Full Moon Productions (1988-1995), teaming with Paramount Pictures (for theatrical distribution) and Pioneer Home Entertainment (for direct-to-video releases). At some point Full Moon’s best-loved films became a bit formulaic in his proliferation of creating film franchises, but even the less-successful films have their fans.

Two of his features, 1989’s Puppet Master and 1992’s Demonic Toys, were turned into financially-successful franchises, spawning many sequels and prequel films (and merging together for the 2004 TV movie Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, directed by Ted Nicolaou).

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Band has worked with a lot of directors at Full Moon, like Ted Nicolaou, David Schmoeller, David DeCoteau, Stuart Gordon, Renny Harlin and future “X-Files” TV director David Nutter.

He produced Schmoeller’s Tourist Trap, which Stephen King has said is his favorite film. It was shot — simultaneously — one block from where John Carpenter was filming Halloween, on a shady street in Hollywood.

DeCoteau’s Sorority Babes in the Silmeball Bowl-O-Rama, which was given a limited theatrical distribution in January 1988 by Band’s Urban Classics company. It also aired on the USA network’s “Up All Night” in the early 90s and was released on Band’s Cult Video subsidiary in 1999.

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After returning to the United States in the early 1970s, Charles Band’s father Albert produced and directed Ghoulies, Prehysteria and Trancers III.

Band also created numerous Full Moon sub-labels, each focusing on a different sub-genre within the horror and sci-fi worlds. Torchlight, for instance, focused on exploitative softcore sci-fi fantasy films like Beach Babes from Beyond and Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000, while Moonbeam was a new imprint for children’s movies.

By the late 90s, Band was hugely successful running Full Moon, but his day job was now doing everything he could to move Full Moon forward — approving artwork, overseeing budgets, buying and commissioning new titles for distributors and overseas buyers, etc. — but he missed actually working on films, and so, after taking a lengthy hiatus, he returned to his first love: directing. With upwards of twenty releases per year, Band has built a reputation as a prolific and frequent director of entertaining low-budget genre films. Band also ran Shadow Films (2002-2004), and we are currently enjoying the second Full Moon Pictures era (2004-Present).

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Head on over to our Night Flight Plus channel, where you’ll see we’ve recently added a handful of titles from the Full Moon catalog — Demonic Toys (1992); Seedpeople (1992); Netherworld (1992); Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (1993); Mandroid (1993); Huntress: Spirit of the Night (1995); Murdercycle (1995); Witchhouse (1999); Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000); Prison of the Dead (2000); Horror Vision (2001); Deathbed (2002) — and we’ll no doubt be rolling out a few new Full Moon movie posts soon too, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Check out their Facebook page too.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.